OBAMA_MERKEL

More than ever before in the history of modernity, our cosmopolitan body politic, that is, us citizens of the world (in full throttle defiance of the crimes waged against humanity perpetrated by those who kill in the name of “Freedom”), thrice over, intuitively, deductively and inductively, apprehend the impasses and corridors produced by the chimera of globalization.  Nevertheless, the average citizen of any country that has the World Wide Web at its disposal—perhaps, only a third of the world, a rough estimation—is left with a redoubtable task: how does one take an entire legion, if not a series of googolplexes of URLs on the Internet, and find the information that truly corresponds to reality, and not only the appearance thereof?

 Case in point: I came across an article two days ago—one that changes geo-political coordinates—which left me with a suspicion that everything will be okay, as long as someone, on the margins, out there is telling not only the facts, but the truth about what’s taking place on the global stage. Information on its own is empty. It must be set within coordinates, which illuminate the truth and give the information meaning. Hermeneutics, a sub-discipline of phenomenology, where we apprehend phenomena, including political phenomena, even what we consider to be reality through observation, structures certain principles of interpretation to our reading of texts, whether these texts come to us in form of essays, books, journalistic articles, website content, and blogs.

  Thankfully, many people in the world now are, if not boycotting Mainstream Media (MSM), ignoring it with substantial force, and fact-checking and the like, reading a lot of meta-journalism: a journalism about journalism, or a critique of journalism, which, in fact, this selfsame article sets out to accomplish.

All people writing out there, either as a journalist or even as poet or fiction writer, in any capacity or genre have a take on the world and that take is reflected in the writer’s and researcher’s projects, which can both inform and/or deconstruct public opinion.

That which is invisible in the political world is the crux of what is really taking place. Every time I even try to read something off CNN, Fox, Forbes, New Republic, New York Times, LA Times and others, by the second paragraph of an article, one plainly sees more set-in-advance opinion over “just the facts.” Independent research is crucial to contraindicate the current state of affairs, where the State Department can amplify or diminish any nuanced point or aspect of a story by “kicking it up or down a notch here and there.” I can’t stress this enough. As Immanuel Kant put in his essay “What is Enlightenment?”

“Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage s man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. Self-incurred is this tutelage when its cause lies not in lack of reason but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude! “Have courage to use your own reason!”- that is the motto of enlightenment.”

Sapere aude! can also be translated as “Dare to know!”

This is precisely what is needed today.

Whereas the U.S. war machine and British financing of the machine can be summed up by the adage “business is usual,” it is not an accident that only two weeks before the ousting of Viktor Yanukovich on February 22, 2014 and events in the Maidan, Kiev, Ukraine, Germany was warning the United Kingdom that if the U.K. left the European Union, the results would be disastrous.  It would lead to political and economic instability. The E.U. could even collapse, not because of the U.K. alone, but because Chancellor Angela Merkel and over 3000 German businesses that work with Russia knew that they both needed Russia and the U.K. to secure its place in Europe as an economic force. The political, economic, and military commitments that Germany has made to the U.S. are fairly widely known. Yet what happens when Germany finds out that it is being spied on by its own “ally”? Perhaps, John Kerry and the State Department know. Perhaps, the spying is just “business as usual,” like putting puppet president Poreshenko into power in the Ukraine, so he can bomb his own country the first day he took office.

Even before the Ukrainian army began fighting with the pro-Russian separatists, leading to the quagmire that still remains today (one would think it would be over by now), there were other debates taking place: debates about money, financial markets, gold, the collapse of the dollar, the use of sanctions against Russia as an economic weapon, or even as other red flags started popping up that it made it probable that Putin could get away with a lot more than the U.S. thought. In fact, Russia is in such a position where it can ultimately make the European Union fail, making Frankfurt the new capital of finance on the continent, rather than that relying on London.

Before explaining how this could be done, it would be worth taking a look at what the E.U. really is.  One scholar, Peter van Ham, invoking Ferdinand Tönnies, insisted the debate about European identity could be summed up by understanding two distinct types of social organization, Gemeinshaft and Gesellschaft.

Gemeinshaft, or ‘community’ in German, “relates to a certain sense of belonging based on shared loyalties, norms, and values, kinship or ethnic ties. . . [an] organic association based on a priori unity” (59).  Gesellshaft, ‘society,’ on the other hand, “relates to the idea that people as individuals remain independent of each other, but may decide in a ‘social contract…to group together. . . ‘a convention’” (59).

Applying these definitions to the EU, then, Peter van Ham claims that the EU certainly is “not a truly European Gemeinshaft., a community.  “Contemporary Europe shows a diversity of peoples and communities with only marginally overlapping points of references” (59).  In other words, Ham insists that although the two types of social organization are, more or less, sometimes in discord, before envisioning a “European community’ one must primarily read the EU as a political-monetary ‘society.’

If the E.U. is primarily a political-monetary society, one must then consider how if one types in the current date and the word “Ukraine” one will surely get certain results that are appealing to the West: one, in fact, will receive newspaper headlines in the order of popularity, number of hits, and by extension the number of readers of one particular viewpoint: that the Ukraine is somehow a politically stable enough to enter the E.U. This is somewhat dubious, given that Prime Minister Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk resigned on Thursday, July 24, 2014, despite the hopes that Victoria Nuland (Assistant Secretary of State for European affairs) had for the Ukraine in tandem with the national interests of the United States of America.

Sometimes, however, one finds a jewel among the chaff.  On Jun 23rd, 2014 an article published in The Examiner, revealed that Germany—wary of sanctions on Russia, which it feels would cripple its own economy as well as Europe’s, and also wary of the discovery of two U.S. spies caught in Germany—will set out to bolster financial, if not political alliances with Russia, China and BRICS nations.  Even the aftermath of a downed  Malaysian commercial airliner that flew over Ukrainian airspace, which leads to an international investigation, the accusatory rhetoric on the part of President Obama left one with the impression that he was leading his opposing political party out of pressure to establish a “hawkish” stance on Russia, while diminishing the idea that that there is still great political instability within the Ukraine as a whole.

That article says:

“On July 23, Dr. Jim Willie, a well-respected statistician and founder of the Hat Trick Newsletter, was a guest on the USA Watchdog weekly podcast. During the 30 minute interview with host Greg Hunter, Dr. Willie provided an astonishing announcement from a high level source within the London banking system that Germany was on the cusp of severing its long-standing obligations to the U.S., and was ready to leave not only the European Union, but also the Euro currency and NATO to join then join up with Russia, China, and the BRICS coalition to strengthen the financial and economic power of the emerging global system coming out of Eurasia and the East.”

It goes on to say:  “Germany is already disgruntled with the United States for their aggressive tactics in trying to usurp Ukraine from their age old position in the Russian camp, and from day one, has been opposing the American superpower’s attempts to bring in Europe to solidify sanctions on Russia, which have been done outside the vote of the United Nations, and solely for the benefit of U.S. national policy and protection for the dollar.”

While the Ukraine allows Nazis, or to be more precisely, the Svoboda Party, which are literally the descendants of Ukrainian Nazis during World War II, to be part of the Ukrainian government, Germany remains the only European country where Holocaust denial is punishable by imprisonment, even “though neo-Nazi parties have been tolerated as long as they draw no explicit links with the Nazi regime.”

That being said, so then why does U.S spy on Germany?  To fight Nazism? Hardly.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin know fully well that there are over 3000 German companies that do business with Russia. The idea for more U.S and European sanctions against Russia as the latter is implicated in “destabilizing the Ukraine,” is based on U.S. accusations against Russia, not proof, that Russia was directly involved with the downing of Malaysian flight MH17.

It appears Germany is tired of lying for the U.S. and so is much of the world The Turkish Prime Minister Erdogon won’t even pick up the phone when the President Obama calls (he will, however, speak with Biden), so tired is he of being harangued by U.S. for applying more pressure on Russia, notwithstanding Erdogon’s stance on the what is taking place in Gaza.

Does the world itself want a unipolar world or are all tensions part of a larger process?

What about global security? If Russia has NATO on its doorstep, what then? What then are the interests of Russia? Global domination? According to who? Timothy Snyder?

    During Vladimir Putin’s speech 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy in 2007, he, in fact, expressed his position on the untenable consequences of a unipolar world. He, to be blunt, exposed the New World Order and Chancellor Angela Merkel, the most powerful politician in Europe,  who was in the front row listening as Vladimir Putin said:

“Unilateral and frequently illegitimate actions have not resolved any problems. Moreover, they have caused new human tragedies and created new centres of tension. Judge for yourselves: wars as well as local and regional conflicts have not diminished. Mr Teltschik mentioned this very gently. And no less people perish in these conflicts – even more are dying than before. Significantly more, significantly more!

Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force – military force – in international relations, force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts. As a result we do not have sufficient strength to find a comprehensive solution to any one of these conflicts. Finding a political settlement also becomes impossible.

We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. And independent legal norms are, as a matter of fact, coming increasingly closer to one state’s legal system. One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations. Well, who likes this? Who is happy about this?

In international relations we increasingly see the desire to resolve a given question according to so-called issues of political expediency, based on the current political climate.

And of course this is extremely dangerous. It results in the fact that no one feels safe. I want to emphasize this — no one feels safe! Because no one can feel that international law is like a stone wall that will protect them. Of course such a policy stimulates an arms race.”

The CIA is the spine of Europe. One nerve twitches and the rest of the body notices the oscillation plainly. Unless, of course, the body is under anesthesia. Then all the body feels is pressure and that pressure is unkind, regionalized, and ultimately political.

If Germany left the E.U., France would surely follow. France is also tentative about further sanctions on Russia. It trades with Russia, too. The Franco-Russian relationship, of course, runs deeper than the recent selling of French battleships to Russia.

   Here are some words Catherine the Great wrote in her famous Nakaz (Instruction).

6.      Russia is a European power. . .

The proof for this is as follows.  The changes which in Russia were undertaken by Peter the Great were all the more   successful because of the manners which prevailed at the time were quite unsuitable to the climate and had been imported to our land thanks to the intermingling of peoples and the conquest of foreign lands.  In introducing European manners and customs to a European people, Peter I then found facilitating factors such he himself had not expected.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The sovereign is autocratic; for no other power save that which is united in his person can act in manner commensurable with the extent of so great a
state.

Here, Catherine the Great’s rhetoric clearly reveals the conceptual inconsistency between a Western idea of Russia, which she entertained, and Western ideas for Russia, which she rejected. That is, while Catherine insisted “Russia is a European power” (because Peter the Great reformed “the manners which prevailed at the time were quite unsuitable,”) she remarkably emphasized the role of the sovereign, which in this case, “is united in his person can act in a manner commensurable with the extent of so great a state.” Before Catherine even codified the laws for Russia, it is clear she went on a full blown Asiatic conquest of Siberia with a “universal vision, (gaining meridian after meridian for the sake of Empire)” writing to Voltaire

“These laws, of which so much is being said at present, are not quite completed as of yet. . .consider only, if you will, that they are destined to serve both Asia and Europe: and what a difference there is between them in terms of climate, people, customs, and even ideas. Here I am finally in Asia; I have wanted so terribly to see it with my own eyes.  There are in this city twenty different people who do not resemble one another in the least.  We shall nonetheless have to design a garment that would fit them all. General principles can certainly be found, but what of the details? And what details! I was about to say: we will have to create, unify, and preserve a whole world.”

This is not unlike what Putin imagines for his vision of a Eurasian Economic Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan, which will be unveiled January 1, 2015, and also its linking itself up with BRICS nations, not to mention the huge alliance that Russia made with China, in an effort to systematically thwart the use of the Petro-dollar, which is making the Bilderberg Group extremely nervous.

Germany is at a crossroads.

Once the international investigation of the downing the Malaysian flight MH17, it will become clearer what the future holds and who is the true rogue state. Why would it be in the interest of Russia to down a commercial airliner over a warzone? Some U.S. politicians insist, perhaps, it was an accident, back paddling on their first, hardline reaction, which was that Russia in the bona fide aggressor absolutely (and without evidence). A test for war is not an act of war. It is mass murder preceding war or the belief that war will come. If the test for war reveals facts, but not truths about the enemy, the results of the test are contingent on public opinion.  All war is based on deception. Watch the stock market fluctuate. According to Jim Sinclair, Russia is one move away from collapsing the U.S. economy. But that is one view among many.

As journalist Kenneth Shortengen Jr, for example, points out “the United States becomes more isolated and the world slowly, but with an accelerating pace, dumps the dollar in favor of more stable and less restrictive markets for trade, control over the global financial system will invariably move East, and away from European and American domination.”

Rose Jacobs of The Irish Examiner, meanwhile, says “there is little delight in Germany over its dominion. “The last thing Germans want is to even have a view on these issues,” says Winder. In terms of non-Eurozone European relations, Chancellor Angela Merkel has tried to keep the UK engaged in EU politics rather than withdraw – the favored option of many people both within David Cameron’s Conservative party and outside it. In doing so, she’s won some praise for seeking a balanced EU in which the UK’s free-market tendencies serve as an important counterweight to more protectionist impulses elsewhere.”

That is why the article in The Examiner “buried” in the Internet—-about Germany leaving the E.U., dropping the Euro, and leaving NATO, is so alarming, yet not ready for mainstream media to even touch. No alarms, no surprises—those are marks of political and economic stability, and perhaps that is precisely how Germany wants to operate. It is seriously questioning its commitments to the United State while the Military Industrial Complex, all the same, will continue do what it can to keep the war machine a lucrative global endeavor lest it paddle back and give itself some time to re-think what America really stands for rather than what it says it stands for in slogans, in pledges, in quoted texts of the Forefathers, who certainly did not want London, at that time, to have dominion over its tea market.

The center of gravity today, however, is clearly shifting East.

NOTES

Van Ham, Peter.  European Integration and the Postmodern Condition. London: Routledge

http://www.irishexaminer.com/analysis/germany-on-top-of-the-world-after-victory-in-brazil-276729.html

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101681160

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2014/02/27/washingtons-man-yatsenyuk-setting-ukraine-up-for-ruin/

http://www.examiner.com/topic/brics

http://www.examiner.com/topic/euro

http://www.examiner.com/article/frankfurt-could-replace-london-as-main-financial-center-as-economy-moves-east

http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2014/07/13/Why-United-States-Spies-Germany

http://www.businessinsider.com/french-selling-warships-to-russia-putin-ukraine-2014-5

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-06-05/this-time-russia-china-alliance-will-last

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/12/AR2007021200555.html

http://www.examiner.com/topic/nato

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-07-22/turkish-pm-cuts-ties-us-mulls-de-dollarization-russia

http://www.examiner.com/article/jim-sinclair-russia-is-one-move-away-from-collapsing-u-s-economy

http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com/2014/04/02/western-freedom-eastern-orthodox-spirituality-and-the-coming-eurasian-economic-union/

© 2014 Paul Rogov

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

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*originally published in Global Research: the Centre for Research on Globalization

Whereas Western corporate journalists are claiming the fate of the Ukraine crises is the greatest geo-political catastrophe since 9/11, a recent Gallop poll shows that only 25% of the American people are satisfied with the direction of the United States. As our 4th amendment rights have been taken away—meaning that the police no longer need probable cause to search us because of the Patriot Act and similar policies set up by Congress—the American people no longer live in a country that is a constitutional republic.

Under current ideological conditions, particularly as it relates to the Ukrainian predicament, it is clear that the American people are politically impotent because the U.S. has become—due to its surveillance of every citizen—a soft totalitarian society.

 Western journalists write for corporate interests. It does not really matter who it is—The New York Times, The New Republic, The Economist, USA Today, CNN, or Fox— but the Western media itself is the entity that is aggravating the situation in the Ukraine.

By appealing to Western-led Eastern European, Eurasian and Russian scholars and American think-tanks and universities in hopes of the establishing lesser known “facts” about the Ukraine, corporate journalism often pounces on every opportunity or rumor or idea, so it can get its story out for the U.S.’s own benefit, having had met its deadlines.

 The media was originally intended to critique the government and serve the people by giving them accurate, unbiased information. All an American needed was the facts. Commentary journalism, however, is different. It is a meta-journalism: a critique of itself.

Meta-journalism is in grave crisis. More than ever independent and free presses are needed to keep mainstream media, which seems to have merged with the U.S. State Department, in check.

 A corporate journalist writes their article for their corporate sponsor—wanting to get their story off to his or her editor as quickly as possible— effectively perpetuating the U.S. Military Industrial Complex and explicitly propelling the idea of WWIII.

Now, with American academic-ideologues like Timothy Snyder, who writes articles like “The Battle of the Ukraine Means Everything” for The New Republic, it should be clear that this media dragon has many heads. Americans, in turn, have to lop off each one in order to deconstruct the propaganda that feeds the hysteria within the psyche of the average citizen.

 Why are U.S. corporate journalists not focusing on what is going on at home? Why are they not writing about American life and analyzing its domestic problems? Pardon the long list, but we have high unemployment, economic recession, the possible collapse of the U.S. dollar not to mention other social ills such as U.S. veterans’ transition back to civilian life. There is disillusionment with the current administration because it is out of touch with the American people.

Western corporate Journalists are the creators of WWIII because they choose to bifurcate everything for the American people. Hawk versus Dove. Democrat versus Republican. NATO versus Russia. West verses East. Is there no way to be multipolar and live in a multipolar world? Western corporate media uses split screen techniques on television and broadcasts about complex political topics that cannot be resolved by two talking heads. They present only two points of view for just two ways of understanding American culture in under two minutes.

 Whereas I do not remotely trust news coverage that comes from the Russian Federation, the Western coverage of the Ukrainian predicament is deplorable and dishonest, hysteria-arousing, sometimes pedestrian, uninformative, inaccurate and most of all, propaganda. Why? Because Western corporate journalists serve the U.S.’s Military Industrial Complex.

While the corporate media cynically giggles behind its readers’ backs and Senator John McCain smiles and tweets— “I’m proud to be sanctioned by Putin”—- it revels in every hot new angle to the story about “the Ukraine situation” and gets further and further sucked into the dichotomous “clash of the titans” logic in what it first dubbed a “New Cold War,” then slowly begins using the  term “World War III.”

 Coverage of the Ukrainian plight is cynical, if not insensitive. Many corporate journalists are simply uninformed about the region. Many of these journalists believe the war in the Ukraine will lead to “WWIII” and that it began with ousted former President Victor Yanukovych, when he fled on February 22nd. But this is incorrect.

The Ukrainian crises, an ethnic war of Slavic subjectivity, which began prior to the inception of the Soviet Union, extended through not one, but two World Wars, the collapse of a superpower and chaos of post-Soviet economies. In fact, it goes back to medieval times.

U.S. military analysts know, as NATO knows, that the entire Ukraine could be taken by Russian armed forces rather quickly. While the Ukraine conscripts its soldiers and security forces deteriorates in the Eastern region, the Ukrainian military are weak yet somehow mysterious “victorious” too—disembodied, yet possessing a well-guided singularity of purpose.

 According to one article released on May 4th Fars News headlined “S. Arabia Relocating Takfiri Fighters from Syria to Ukraine.” Saudi Arabia sent extremist militants against Eastern Ukrainian freedom fighters. An unidentified Arab security official told Fars News that:

“A large number of terrorist Takfiri fighters in Syria, who bear Saudi and Chechnian nationalities and receive financial and military backup from the Saudi intelligence agency, have been transferred to the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, on several planes to help the Ukrainian army in its fight against the pro-Russian population. The forces have been immediately dispatched to Kramatosk city in Eastern Ukraine, and are now fighting beside the Ukrainian army forces against the pro-Russians under the name of militias who support the government.”

On top of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the Ukraine (which no Western journalist talks about), Western corporate media bungled what happened in Odessa. There is no disputing that a Ukrainian extremist, right-wing group called Right Sector set the fires in Odessa of Trade Union buildings that senselessly burned alive and killed innocent people, while the U.S. State Department issued no statement that the deaths were due to Ukrainian fascists.

The Western corporate media is a collective failure as it constantly fails to realize that the Ukraine has never been a true European country.  The same Western corporate media always presumes the Ukraine wants to be in all of its articles, where Ukrainian independence is concerned. Just pick up any major U.S. periodical or rather read off the Internet the presupposed rhetoric the Western corporate media utilizes.

The only time the Ukraine was tied “gloriously” to Europe in any concrete way was by its collaboration with Nazi Germany.

Russia, not too long ago, proclaimed that Ukraine’s assault in Slovyansk ended the chance for peace. Heads of State, Putin and Obama, as well as journalists are issuing statements and journalists are not citing their sources. This brings us to the issue of how the mainstream media is going to spin us right into a world war.

The questions that should be asked are numerous, but some examples would be: Who broke the story first that the Ukraine was heading for war? Who shot who first? Who burned alive who first?  Isn’t it convenient how a right-wing coup occurred after “a democratically elected election”? Any form of slaughter in this case (and the prospects of U.S. or NATO involvement) is ridiculous and evil. How many more photos does one need to see of corpses for us to understand that the U.S. is in the shadows?

The Western corporate media have managed to evade talk of the money and the resources necessary for the Ukraine to even be considered a member of the E.U. and have totally hopped over the fact that the Ukraine’s ousted President Viktor Yanukovich secured “a $15 billion bailout from Russia in December 17th, 2013, offering respite for an economy heading ever closer to default but also drawing accusations he has sold his country out to its former Soviet master.”

The Ukrainian government is just as corrupt as its Russian counterpart, yet the U.S. government and the mainstream media does not seem to understand that the political and economic weakness of Ukraine itself. The Ukraine’s inability to put its house in order is a result of inner tensions within the political climate of the Ukraine.

The idea of Ukrainian independence began long ago. The capital of Ancient Rus (Russia) is Kiev, now Ukraine. The capital then moved to the medieval spiritual capital of Novgorod in the 12th through 15th centuries. Novgorod then became the epicenter of Eastern Christian Orthodox spirituality, which incidentally is aligned with the brand of “traditional Russian values” that Vladimir Putin’s wants for Russia.

 If the mainstream media knows how to do anything correctly, it knows how to demonize a dictator. It knows how to do full-throttle ad homimen, straw men, slippery slope, and non sequitur attacks of puppet dictatorships that the U.S. has installed all over the world, namely in Central and South America as well as the Middle East, as it funded leaders like Osama bin Laden and mujahedin during the Soviet-Afghan war, which was a proxy war between the CIA and KGB. Many heads of state, such as Georgia, Panama, Iraq in the case of the Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi in the case of Libya, Mubarruk in the case of Egypt. But then the media flips it around for the State Department. We go in militarily and clean up “the dictatorship,” using all means possible to illuminate American exceptionalism.

Now the Western corporate media has found a head of State who is not on the U.S. payroll, who refuses to be part of the NWO, who –as stated in 2007 speech in Munich– wants a de-escalation of nuclear weapons. The facts are this: the U.S. simply does not want to de-escalate nuclear weapons tit for tat with Russia. The U.S. government wants to remain exceptional.

History will tell us who won World War II and who liberated France.

Now the Western corporate media has founds its villain: Vladimir Putin.

The Western mainstream media loves Russian villains. They fascinate the public and make it easy to understand who is behind or appears to be behind a global problem. But hasn’t the U.S. been at war since 1945, with the dropping of the bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima? This was not even necessary. The Fourth Estate back then presented it as a political statement. It was an ideological statement at its purest. Millions of lives were lost on the Eastern Front. Tokyo was 60% already destroyed before the dropping of those two nuclear bombs. The Fourth Estate presented the droppings of those bombs as if we punctuated the finality of the sentence of WWII.  It was this journalistic event—the picture of the mushroom cloud—-that started the Cold War, not President Dwight Eisenhower warning the American people on January 17, 1961, about the establishment of a “military-industrial complex.”

Another aspect Western journalists have failed to mention is that after World War I, Ukraine was divided into three parts, not two halves: most of the Central and Eastern Ukraine became the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) in 1921—the ethnic Russian population of the Ukraine that wants to separate from Western part whose capital was Kharkiv, not Sevastopol, the latter which is a federal port city in the Crimea, militarily and strategically important to the Russian Federation.

Also, what many corporate journalists have failed to mention is that the majority of current Western Ukraine became part of the Second Polish Republic (which was Catholic). This Second Polish Republic included the city of Lviv, which was the center of Ukrainian Nationalist activity. This means that Poland’s support of Western Ukraine is not just a political statement, but is grounded in cultural and religious solidarity.

Also, what the Western corporate media never talks about, nor knows about is the small part of current far Western Ukraine (the population that hopes that NATO “saves them”), that is, Zakarpattia, was once part of Czechoslovakia. I have no doubt this will be a site of contention in future articles.

 Let’s face it: The coverage of the Ukrainian predicament is the worst journalistic failure since the Fukashima Disaster. Incidentally both journalistic failures involves nuclear power; the former in relationship to Russia’s nuclear arsenal against its foes and the latter, the aftermath of a broken nuclear power plant. The mainstream media–once called the Fourth Estate of the American Government and its allies–has not been straight up with its readers. The Ukraine is a country that is in a civil war because of political deadlock and/or failure of the propaganda war between the Western Media and Russian media. Why does the Western mainstream media need to obfuscate things and set Western agendas by generation of their propaganda? Because it has to fight Russian propaganda.

Moreover, the Western mainstream media has already demonstrated that it has next to no knowledge of the history of Russia, Kievan Rus, the Great Schism of the West and East Church in 1054 (a factor no journalists even touches), not to mention its weak understanding of anti-Semitism in the Ukraine, let alone Ukrainian Nazi collaboration under the auspices of one Stepan Bandera.

 After the capture Lviv, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists proclaimed an independent Ukrainian state as early as June 30, 1941, hoping the Nazi Germany would help them. During the German campaign against Poland, the Organization of Ukrainian nationalists were already “a faithful German auxiliary.” The 3rd paragraph of text of The Act of Proclamation of Ukrainian Statehood from the front page of the Newspaper “Samostiyna Ukraina” published in Stanislaviv, July 1941 reads:

“The newly formed Ukrainian state will work closely with the National-Socialist Greater Germany, under the leadership of its leader Adolf Hitler which is forming a new order in Europe and the world and is helping the Ukrainian People to free itself from Moscovite occupation.

The Ukrainian People’s Revolutionary Army, which has been formed on the Ukrainian lands, will continue to fight with the Allied German Army against Moscovite occupation for a sovereign and united State and a new order in the whole world!”

Why is this Ukrainian Act of Proclamation of Ukrainian Statehood never mentioned? Why?

Because the “analysis” and “treatment” of the Ukrainian predicament has now finally confounded the masses completely—with people making YouTube videos about “the coming of WWIII” and the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy— all the while the Western media meanders in its analyses of a Eurasian subject in formation and, instead, shoves supposed “facts on the ground” down our throats on a daily basis, so that we can remain satiated and startled.

The Western mainstream media itself sustains propaganda.

Case in point: U.S. corporate journalist flip-flop after getting the skeptical disapproval of the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) on the “authenticity” of the leaflets that demanded that Donetsk Jews in Ukraine were to identify themselves, their property, their assets, etc.  The story was an outrage, even brought up by Secretary of State John Kerry, then the skeptics came in, checked out the leaflet, decided it was not the real thing and called it ”a hoax.” Calling something a “hoax” is often in itself “a hoax.” Which does one prefer? Authentic propaganda or inauthentic propaganda?

 The Western corporate media amplifies Russian propaganda. Everything that is revealed is cloaked in the belief that if the “facts” come forth, then everyone will know the truth, but here “lies” are weaponized then held up on pedestals, so everyone can “cry wolf” in unison and say “wow, it’s really Russia, not the Ukraine, that hate Jews in the Ukraine.” Yet people tend to forget the greatest massacre of Jews in the history of WWII took place in a ravine in Kiev, Ukraine called Babi Yar on September 29–30, 1941, wherein 33,771 Jews were killed in a single operation by rifles and pistols, not gas chambers or bombs. The point is Jews have always been subject to revulsion throughout history, whether this was in Egypt or Babylonian Captivity or in Iran or in Germany or in the Soviet Union. The assumption that just because the leaflet debacle was a “hoax” that the Donetsk Jews in Ukraine were to identify themselves we can be now able to move on is morally repugnant and intellectually dubious.

Why is the U.S Military Industrial Complex using the media as its vehicle of propaganda? Because corporate interests are now part of the U.S. economy as geo-politics. I would not be surprised if the major news networks were briefed in advance as to what was about to happen in the Ukraine.

So for those Western journalists who are writing stories like the one in The New Republic, which exposes how the “the Ukrainian anti-Semitic pamphlets” are “a hoax,” one must consider how the propaganda machine of the U.S. Government, the mainstream media itself can take its “journalist points,” and bury their head in the sand for they have leaped over the Truth. Anti-Semitism is alive and well in the Ukraine and in Russia as well as in the U.S. Hating a people is easy and journalism is rather effective in making it more possible for it blurs the distinction between fantasy and projection, fiction and non-fiction, truth or lies, let alone injustice for justice.

 NATO should get out of Russia’s backyard and mind its own business. What country would not defend its own borders? The European Union and the U.S. are opportunists who are trying to economically pillage the Ukraine, given that the largest gas company in the Ukraine is headed by U.S. Vice President, Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.

 If one does not recall, NATO struggled in the summer of 1997 to decide who belonged to the “West” during the altered political economy of the 1990’s. Given that NATO, a militaristic alliance formed as a counter-force to Warsaw Pact countries—that Warsaw Pact no longer existed, and the fact post-World War II Europe had supposedly had enough of war—-political-economic solidarity as exemplified by the European Union seemed inevitable.  Nonetheless, many have claimed that the real risk for an enlarged European Union was certainly not the chasm between old European coordinates and Donald Rumsfeld’s New European coordinates.

Instead, amid a changing set of shifting alliances across different policy issues, Europe will fail to find strategic direction. Why?  Because it would be naïve to say that the NATO vision and European Union was simply a question of who was in and who was out.

A U.S.-EU led corrupt Ukrainian oligarchy wants the Ukraine to become part of Europe because of resources. The difficulty in arriving at a conclusion to the fate of Europe brings to the forefront three questions that have plagued Europe for thousands of years: ‘who is European, what does it mean to be European, and most importantly, what do Europeans envision themselves to be?’ If the crises in the Ukrainian teaches anything at this point is that skepticism towards binary logic, old and new, towards intellectual constructivism, towards tireless debates between the idea of Europe and the culture of Eurocentricism, even “reality” itself eludes the fundamental dilemma.  At the center of all such inquiry, subjectivity, drenched in a multiplicity of ideological, religious, conceptual, social, and economic factors, unflinchingly, ruptures into a series of political moments that are ambiguously correlative to those conditions that provoke them to exist. The West’s direct relationship to fascism is superabundant, well-known, and well-documented. Nobody one can stomach the coming slaughter except psychotic Western journalists from the United States.

 Human bloodshed is a loss to everyone on this planet. Russians and Ukrainians are brothers. Yet the Western mainstream media facilitates the propaganda of the U.S. Empire. Why?  Because the Ukrainian pipeline, natural gas and oil are resources for U.S. interests and the globalists and corporations fear the advent of New Science. That’s why billionaire Candy-Maker Petro Poroshenko is a Ukrainian puppet chosen by the United States.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

  1. paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

NOTES

“Collaborationism in World War II: The Integral Nationalist Variant in Eastern Europe,” by John A. Armstrong in

 The Journal of Modern History Vol. 40, No. 3 (Sep., 1968).

http://www.gallup.com/poll/169295/satisfaction-direction-remains.aspx

http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13930214000824

https://twitter.com/SenJohnMcCain/status/446681086979211265

http://www.thenation.com/article/179579/cold-war-against-russia-without-debate http://www.telusplanet.net/public/mozuz/ukrainophobia/oliphant20100125RussiaProfile.html

http://www.cs.toronto.edu/~mes/russia/moscow/history.html

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117415/relax-ukraine-not-ordering-its-jews-register

http://www.ibtimes.com/ukrainian-regimes-corruption-detailed-documents-dumped-yanukovych-he-fled-his-estate-photos-1557943

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/17/us-ukraine-idUSBRE9BF11U20131217

http://rt.com/news/156548-west-reaction-ukraine-odessa/

http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Photos+Ukraine+major+assault+Slovyansk+ends+chance+peace+Russia+says/9800532/story.html

http://www.history.ucsb.edu/faculty/marcuse/classes/33d/projects/protzion/DelaCruzProtocolsMain.htm

http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/blog/alexander-j-motyl/russian-threat-ukraine-0

http://www.zwoje-scrolls.com/zwoje16/text11.htm

https://www.academia.edu/6414323/The_Organization_of_Ukrainian_Nationalists_the_Ukrainian_Insurgent_Army_and_the_Nazi_Genocide_in_Ukraine

http://www.encyclopediaofukraine.com/pages/O/R/OrganizationofUkrainianNationalists.htm

http://www.tol.org/client/article/24195-a-rorschach-test-in-the-east.html

http://legalinsurrection.com/2014/04/jews-told-to-register-in-eastern-ukraine-facts-still-murky/

http://www.globalresearch.ca/how-the-western-media-decyphers-the-neo-nazi-code/5381849

A Quick Missive to All My Readers

Posted: July 24, 2014 in Writing

Immanuel_Kant_(painted_portrait)

I am pleased to see so many of my friends and colleagues boycotting MSM and fact-checking and the like, if not reading a lot of meta-journalism. To all the people writing out there, either as a journalist or as poet or fiction writer, in ANY genre, your take on the world MATTERS and as is reflected in your projects, which can both inform and deconstruct public opinion. If the “4th Estate of government,” the MSM, continues to fail us we have to take control over what is apprehended by our own consciousness. That which is invisible is what is really taking place. Our perceptions of world events are framed for us in sophisticated stylized machines. Every time I even try to read something off CNN, Fox, Forbes, New Republic, New York Times, LA Times and others, by the second paragraph of an article, one plainly sees more set-in-advance opinion over “just the facts.” Independent research is key to contraindicate the current state of affairs, where the State Department can amplify or diminish any nuanced point or aspect of a story by “kicking it up or down a notch here and there.”

I can’t stress this enough.

As Immanuel Kant put in his essay “What is Enlightenment?”…

“Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage s man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. Self-incurred is this tutelage when its cause lies not in lack of reason but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude! “Have courage to use your own reason!”- that is the motto of enlightenment.”

Sapere aude! can also be translated as “Dare to know!”

I’m setting the tone for my day with this in mind. I hope everyone is put at ease by the desire to think for themselves. In a sense, we are editing our collective self-concept as we continue to live in this epoch. The world’s on tenterhooks, but it is not hopeless. Everything will come out in the wash.

In our times, the bullshit detector should be as continuous as a echoing blinging sound inside a submarine.

Consistent.

Disciplined.

On time and poignant.

I remember Paris.

 In the Bois de Boulougne, there are frogs and streams and vines and estuaries. It’s where the hookers go—tousled-haired in vans converted into brothels; straggling through the darkness; wiping up their wet lips with rolled-up Kleenex, hobbling out of the sliding doors; stuffing wine bottles into the metal hole within the recycling pyramid atop a Pepsi-splattered trash can. This is not a film. It is not a dream. It is not a thought experiment. I munch on a jumbo-bag of Fritos, admiring the lunar wasteland; it’s a swamp married to polo course. A place where people go to smoke and get sucked. Where the living dead are animated by the desire of the bourgeoisie. A place where you see what the economy looks like, it’s face, its blinks, its stares, it’s hunger, its consumption. Where the quality of vision lends one to suspect all modern visions are alike—-for the Peripherique is not far off. In the valley of a concrete overpass, one can hear the echoes of rolling cars; the night wind; the yawning invitation of phosphorescent street-lamps. You go in there to watch the Christ’s pigs fly off the cliff. You know your sins are in them, as they plummet. It isn’t a pleasant site, though I do admit it’s interesting. No matter how I look at it—I was lucky to go with it—sign up, move along, get my gear, play the hand. I’d tramp downstairs, after she went to sleep; I’d kiss her on the cheek, left—and then in my boots and with my satchel filled with books, all the paperwork from the agency would go do research—saunter down the spiral staircase—a difficult staircase, one I had grown to hate, for it later became the actual setting of my downfall.I used to think I’d I conquered it—when I went down it, or up it—-though then I would step outside, into the sun, fling the door to the apartment building shut, and then see how the flowers would be in bloom, and how there by the newspaper stand—across from my café, the alimatation–I’d buy my 1664’s and Gauloises and would chat up the tobacco shop girl, slip Euros in a dish, wondering how the hell I had the gall to move to Paris with 300 dollars and my beautiful golden puppet.

Be your own puppet-master.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

  1. paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

TheTimeTraveler

I

JOHNNY Z

I heard the automated words blasted over the loudspeakers:

ATTENTION, CITIZEN 552-77-4201!  THIS IS NOT A WARNING! SURRENDER NOW AND THE LEADER WILL BE MERCIFUL.

     I see four TR-700’s rolling through the streets—their armor blasted, they are partially black, partially gray, partially fragmented. Some of them are missing their mechanical limbs; others are pure silver-colored with that Cyclops of a red eye in the center of their heads, which pan around and take in the machines’ environment.  I know how saffron, nightshade juice, mandrake root, and psilocybin, pulverized with mortar and pestle to a fine powder, then injected as a serum could institutionalize psychic slavery and make it possible to alter the coordinates of time and space.  These machines were their guardians. Yesterday, twelve innocents were executed via gun-shot for that knowledge, all of them apostles: experimental test subjects suffering from rapid cycling mood disorders. Time’s running out. As I run back to the hovel, back to the others, all I can think about is how, or rather if, the victory of the war will be ours.  It was the desire for an altered human experience that produced the dream-weaving machine: a machine whose program which re-situated Xavier’s research, the kind of research that brought us to India in search of forbidden archaeology. Where is the winding path? Where is the long and winding road? Where are the songs of old that lead us back to petri-dishes and the Vega star syndrome, which can destroy extraterrestrial demigods at will?  I am not old; I can still remember the invasion.  I can see the mass death!  Arrival in Paris, where the vile experiments ran as smooth a raven’s claws, where they taught us, after an initial bout of diplomacy, how to bend time and space in such a way the meaning of history become so altered we can no longer distinguish between tyrant and saint, bride and concubine, warrior and poet.  What tasks lay ahead of us, we thought!  New manuals and scriptures will be written; the nightmares of past generations in the minds of the living will produce a technology that controls human will and, in turn, perfect genocide.

I hear the announcement, again:

SURRENDER NOW AND THE LEADER WILL BE MERCIFUL.

    I run to the far side of the hill.  There can be no mistakes now: Al-Jazeera, Fox News, CNN interviews with the International Police Apparatus, shrinks, constituents of the right-wing think-tanks and paramilitary left-wing troops alike as well as R.W. Software, will never allow Xavier to die. They need him to live. I push the codes. My retina is scanned. I descend many floors. As a novelist and poetaster,  Xavier pours milk into a bowl of Cheerios for it is morning and he’s smirking at me, as if mocking me, as if he won a prize called the Recipient of the Sons of Heaven.

II

      As he slurps up his breakfast, I note how ordinary he looked.  Was he a hologram? No, this was the past. I know it to be true. I thought about the diets of other dictators: about Mao, about Stalin, Milosevic. The fine wine, rack of lamb, asparagus, buttered carrots, crepes, café crèmes—those luxuries merely reminded me of how this all began one Tuesday morning, when I met Ivan at a café by the Bois de Boulogne, and attempted to describe to him how the Chip Dementia syndrome has been re-sequenced. He hands me Xavier’s journal, which reads:

I sit on a throne made of bones

I tell you: I will show up on time and leave for your war I tell you: I will be born on time and I will die on time I tell you: I will even know the score.

For this is my place where I have no face: This is my chamber allotted by God.

No matter how the Old Hags sits, eyes in a slit:

She’s there; I sing of love, sing of sin. And remain a civilian, on this throne in this din.

I will show up on time and leave on time, yes. I will memorize the treaty before and await the Colonel’s death. I will sign those lines. I will define the times. I will snort them like lines of powdered spines.

For out shoots out our blood; we’re all devoured. By the only thing left in our heart at that hour, Which might be true love, or might be a lie, Or might be a love that can’t be defined.

For such is the death of each Abel ‘pon Abel Defensively bleeding from crown to navel.

Yet now you stand before the throne of Cain, Go away now and never look back or hold I throw away this attack, seven-fold back. It’s beyond the mirage of our plot we’ll stack

I freely give away these stanzas, and my erring ways: Signed, sealed, fulfilled with bitter tongue and relaxing days. On the taiga, and in the tundra, and in jungle and in the sea,

Embracing my Muse in Hell on our knees.

For this is my place where I have no face: This is my bone chamber allotted called Nod: Within this place I have a 2 x 2 space To trace the embrace of a vanishing God.

III

      Ivan and I talk about the latest issue of Le Monde, we talk about the nuclear bombs that destroyed Athens, as we tear open the fresh, warm, chocolate croissants that our server had given us in thin wrapped paper, right before I walked to the butcher shop and saw Miranda Meretrix.

     Miranda Meretrix loved Vissotsky.

     She blasted gravelly ballads loudly whenever she was at home, making up codes, wiping down circuit-boards, sauntering them, in an attempt to insert that Chip into Xavier’s son, Johnny Z, the Master’s brain, so that the son can find a way out of this for all of us.  Who would have thought the inventor would implant the chip with all that precious data, the files, the graphs, the algorithms, the matrices, the images, the sound files, the videos, just so his son could later extract the information and hand it off to Andromeda, his mother, the only one on Earth who can reconcile the difference between the memories of her son and the memories of his father.  Politicians cannot wage the wars that are now necessary to be get elected.  Opium, bio-chemical weapons and this, the Chip Dementia Syndrome is all that we have left.  How else will there be a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?  Let alone an end to the esoteric tradition found in the psychopathological voodoo associated with the mass rapes in the Congo?  There is no movie to distract us.  Here, in my colony and laboratory we are not afraid!  We uphold the principle of revolution:  the right to overthrow a government run by evil men.

*

JOHNNY Z

       We have a long way to go before they get a hold of our files and removable disks and learn how to undermine the weak-minded that desire to reset themselves over and over and over again, thinking they can live forever, just bouncing from one URL subjectivity to another, in an chain of identities.  I often break down, and see what happened to both my parents fifteen years ago, in Southern California, in an amusement part called Magic Mountain, where on a death-trap of a roller-coaster, the seat-belts malfunctioned.  My parents were ripped apart; I lived in foster home until I became an emancipated minor.  I lived with Gypsy Jokers.  I sold amphetamines; I became a rogue, a killer, a scientist, a score-keeper, shot caller.  I knew I wanted to find the secrets to immortal youth.  I did not know where to look at first and then I met Miranda.

     I can see my father’s memories; she in the shadows, pallid, trimmed, glorious, smudged upon the fractals of the darkness, when I lean against the cold, stone wall and look up at the transom, above me, in a cell I have come to know.  She tells me there is no water.  My muscles ache.  My skeleton feels as though it is comprised of magnets; for the dust in the room attaches to my skin, pulled by the electromagnetic forces, leaving soot upon my body, making me think it would be better naked.  I take off my clothes.  I embrace torture because I have already embraced the hepatitis and poisoned food and accepted the one possible salvation burned into my soul: that I could be rejoined with Andromeda, could lay, awake, on cold sheets, on a large bed, back in Phoencia, and stroke her naked body, which was bedecked with chain-mail and adorned with calligraphic spirals from henna ink, which made her look like some Salome in some vision of some poet’s mind, which, is my sole refuge as I breath in air, in this cell; as dust gradually creeps into my nostrils.  After my escape attempt they beat me and told me I was doomed: that my hopes of seeing Andromeda again were fictions, that I had to succumb to the idea that I was a shattered man, who thought of heaven for too long and had pondered the fate of Apollonius of Tyana too much, thinking about how forgotten he was in the narrative of history, despite the Aramaic-speaking Greco-Roman monstrosity that the populace had come to know.  I wanted my research to be preserved by Alexei.  Where is he?  Is he in this prison, too?  No, he is a freeman, they tell me, they will catch him.  Perhaps, he can find the combination in the drawer, by my desk, take the key and insert the key, find the manuscripts and wrap them in a blanket and take them to Australia and bury them in the desert just like we had discussed so many times before!

     What have I done?  I stood in my doorway, let them take me: stood in the doorway, mystified. I have lived forever in doorways.  I have lurked through a cold, unsuspecting world and had arrived at them, with my knowledge bundled up in my arms, in the books I have written, in the chips I have created.  Now I have it burned into my mind how I have thwarted governments.  Did the earthly powers know how much of my life was dedicated to the archaeology of ideas, to removable disks, to medicine, to nano-technology and to history?  Does my life have value, they ask.  Do you want to live, they ask.  “This is the fountain of youth,” I say.  How they know I hold the secrets to existence was a matter which the Trilateral Commission and Council of Foreign Relations and the U.N. Security Council and the Masons were all too well aware of.  They will see their end.  I can almost see Bulgaria from my window. I can almost see it and I can reason it must be safe there. That’s the place I will go when I escape. But when will I escape? When will I play with my children again?  When will I visit the grave of Andromeda and return to work, read my manuscripts, re-work them and finally expose the great lie plaguing humanity since its inception?  They are coming. I must shut my mouth. I must ponder the hesychastic tradition, the prayer of the heart, taught in the Philocalia. They have loaned my thoughts back to me. I have nothing and no one to speak with except the memory of Andromeda, who stands before me, naked, a milky apparition, unable to know pain, to know hunger, unable to know love.  Speak, angel!  Speak even in warbled words!  Ach!  She is cold; she is gone.  She has dissipated into a yellow, sulfuric cloud and hovers over me, oblivious to the whippings, force-feedings, tazering and interrogations, which leads to me suspect I will die here, fighting for my freedom.

*

XAVIER

     We came to the brink of a cliff to watch the horses plummet, and as they galloped—brown, or white, or black, patched, or clear as crystal—we stood untroubled, blinking at one another, face to face, ready for another kiss.  The authorities were coming. The sun had almost set; the air was warm and windy.  Our nostrils were filled the sweet smell of cacti and dandelions, our ears were filled with the sound of horses’ hooves, which were drowning out our heartbeats, as if hiding them, along with our land, which was made up of our house and rocks and dust and wild honey from our bee cages.  We, my wife and I, had been anticipating the end of a long summer, the coming of September and the running of the horses for more than an hour.  It was a ritual:  the sacrificial horses ran towards the cliff as if they had knowledge of their own lives: of being bred, fed, bridled, in order to die—surely they knew it, even as my mother would had known it,  and I . . . well—even I, would had known it: that the tradition, the running of the horses, the whole endeavor, had been placed within the hands of a madman, and we could only watch and pretend their collective death is neither interesting nor meaningful.  Perhaps, I should plead guilty.  For if my 21st century ethics should mean anything, then perhaps you, my son, should consider how freedom itself died in the 22nd century.  If it is true, what the scholars told us, how these horses run to their deaths independent of our cacophonous analysis, perhaps we would truly get somewhere.  Yet whatever the case is, you and I both know, that we remain oblivious to the paradiddles of our desires.  We have no idea where hope comes from. We know we have no nature, no logic, to claim as the Master of This World.  We, crude observers, think our measly thoughts.  Who knew your mother and I would be standing, staring at the horses’ death, holding hands, waiting for a sound, a rumble, for the coast to be clear—as if coming voices, human voices, the authorities, provoked an inner sense of peace before the arrest?

*

Andromeda

JOHNNY Z

    Ten, fifteen—no, let’s follow it logically—-maybe, twenty years ago, my father who, though very ill and proud, wrote extensively on the C.D.P. (Chip Dementia Phenomena), died and left me his research and his fortune.  We know since Second Enlightenment, once the genome was cracked, human subjectivity became institutionalized and a profitable affair.  Stored memories were the only way to leave anything behind of value.  Who knew it was the key to immortality, that you could create a chain of them?  We balked and thought the Chip of Immortal Youth was just a figurative expression, that what the scientists really meant by dubbing it so was that their aim was to preserve human life, and that we would be able to pass on Mind-Substance as a file—mobile, immortal, and indestructible.  They said, “let’s make something clear: Fountain of Youth?  Leave that to the poets, to writers.  What we propose is a way to prolong the spiritual experience of being human without the disadvantages of having corruptible bodies.”  Everyone was fascinated.  So here were are.  Prisons were constructed.  America wanted to construct an artificial army.  One-hundred and five years after Dolly and now look: the horses, every year, run like suicidal fascists.  Hell on earth has become a holiday from post-modernity.  The world is a fortress.  They had to put those files somewhere, didn’t they?  Here in the badlands, where the files are in the horses, where they are our sanitation system and our archives!  To think Giant Squids, with supercomputers implanted in them, in the ocean, are governing countries now.  To think they swim and catalogue all of our desires!  How will we find them, extract the hardware?  We will never have a revolution to call our own!  Everyone has become plankton, floating with idea of their I-ness, in spite of the flitting shadows that violently eclipse our hopes.

     Even though I am not always me and my mother, Andromeda, too, is sometimes someone else, I cannot forget my father in that cage during the second decade of the 21st  century before the Middle Eastern War.  I am the one with arms and legs.  I am the one with hands capable of using this primitive form of expressing thoughts.  When they (and you know who “they” are) tried to export American memories to the rest of the world who knew the production of American literature could become so easy?  The Chip was invented and everyone got hooked.  To test the Nano-Blanket Technology they had to hide it in Africa!  I had to steal back my father’s past.  And so I flew to Nairobi.  And I told them the chip was just a prototype, that it was worthless.  And the translator told me the warlord said he was going to keep the chip.  I killed him, shot him, shot the translator.  I am Elijah of the Ein Sof.  It is I who found the chip in the pocket of a fishing vest. It is I who has access to my father’s memories, which is the only way to understand the spatio-temporal paradoxes—how I was here and he was there, yet we were occupying the same space together.  I can feel everything my father feels; I feel his despair, his loneliness; I, his hunger, his thirst; and although I have an agile body, I am always reminded how his is older and is bruised from being beaten.  This Chip I put inside myself, and these plastic tubes running into my veins feeding the endeavor—do you think I like this chair?  I hate it, though it has become my friend.  If hadn’t gone to medical school and had that leave of absence, who knows how things would transpired.  Perhaps, I would have gone into politics.  But no—we were a family ahead of our time:  my father working on the Chip, flying back and forth, between Los Angeles and Costa Rica, with the help of funds that would trickle into the bank account every ninety days; and, me, writing poetry and studying for exams.  I all too soon learned how to upload memories,  how to link them, so a Sequencing was produced, all too soon learned I was to be part of the initial experiments.  My father is in prison in the past; I can see it so clearly!  It must be assumed he left this earth without a friend. His thought processes regarding his plans to escape were downloaded long ago, yet there is no trace of them save what I know from people my father once knew before the Great Transmigration.  Perhaps, Ivan knows.  I wait; the air is crisp.  I sit on the balcony, with the doors open, overlooking the Riviera: behind me, in the house, all the furniture is white.  I hate this world, this clean, pristine world that is run by Giant Squids, so I wait for fresh memories to come and I sit here and wait and I think. I think about a well-accrued time for the name “Andromeda” to resurface, as if I never learned my lesson, nor the point of why her name was so important, should I ever have come know it all.  Before I die, it is imperative to download all the anomalies of a person we could never trust, know what to do with them and never try to exploit then, but only use it as defense for our cause. Ivan is here. Ivan is on the screen. He is getting retina scanned.  In regards to my present consciousness then, let my father frolic through space: O,  Father, inventor of this strange, formidable existence.

#

      Miranda, after she quit dancing and working in those non-profits to rescue, rehabilitate and restore the lives of men, women and children who were the survivors of human trafficking, before she tinkered with underground supercomputers and nano-technology, showed me a jazz club named “The Cave,” which was in Costa Mesa, not far from where I grew up.  Over lunch, we talked about money. I always wanted to become a musician, but that dream died; I lived in a Bizzaro world for a while, where knowledge, esotericism and differential calculus became the subjects of my idolatry: an altar and dwelling place for a mind on fire, where disturbing modes of thought (strange-colored cubes, angularities, magnetic fields, Zero-Point Energy and quantum phenomena, lent me the impression that I was destined to become three things: an empath, a super-soldier and a herald of ESP.  From high school to my first marriage, I always found myself tutoring others—curious, disturbed and inquiring minds—and often found myself amidst groups of prostitutes, junkies, gangsters, straggling onlookers, some of which were club owners, rock musicians, comediennes, scantily clothed and/or with other tragic, aging hipsters who played the harp, the Jembe drum, the jigeredoo, spoke Russian, Catalan, or Swahili or had gone ahead and become a ghost writers that rendered the titillating sex-capades of the lost and famous.

     I fronted as if I was the owner of a music venue.  I saw frustrated musicians, get pissed drunk all day and night.  I saw them booking their shows alone with the help of promoters; I saw them post their bands’ videos on the Internet only to get flagged down by the principalities for inciting hateful speech or getting too political.  The World Wide Web, I find, at least by the 2050’s was a stupid, miraculous and abysmal opportunity to erase and resurrect people who should or should not ever exist.  And yet I also find that, like Xavier, who keeps telling me to fly to Costa Rica to work with the Russians, that I, too, am usually so put off by puffing on Bugler snipe-hitters of a rolled cigarette, that find myself suicidal.  There he is.  Diogesis. For several hours Cuban cigar smoke filled the room; I’m pissing off the venue producer.  Xavier, at least, in Paris and Berlin, not to mention, coming up in Brooklyn and in San Francisco and Minneapolis is going to be the next best thing.  We are going to put a chip in him; Xavier is in a coma.  One of his bucket-list wishes was to experience my memories.  Maybe, I myself as Xavier, gelled hair slicked back,  with rancor, so intimidating, can accept that raw and simple fact of his prognosis in the deepest recess of his being.  The words of the Doctor rang in his ears, as he would experience what I thought, felt what I felt, but that could have easily just disappeared.  He had constructed, or rather absolutely deconstructed  his “bucket list”—that this, things he might want to do before he expired, like how he ended on some 7th cornice of Purgatory Mountain, repenting for the extra-marital lust burning in his heart while he was married to his first wife, Suzanne.  He was so mystical, dogmatic: with his crooked metal cross scepter, with his situational  ethics with fallen Catholic girls in heat in public bathrooms as a teenager, thinking about the preposterous correlative of such profound sexology as he pondered the slave and nun wives, the concubines of Martin Luther.

     He was once a Jesuit that loved the Western Trinity—God, the Father coeval with the Son, bound up by the power Holy Spirit) and he loved all the celestially-induced genocide in the Bible, like the case of Sodom when desired angels, in the form of men, showed up, and the towns folk had their way with their orifices; or, perhaps, he liked the Psalms of the Bible, loved Mass, the hymns, the prayer beads, the swinging crucifixes, as if he were going every Sunday to talk directly to the a bleeding God, partake of the bread and wine, acknowledge the strange transmogrification and transubstantiation as if it was the core of his existence, his sense of wonder with the universe. He recalled how he became the protégé of Van Abramson, a man who, back in the Nineties, in Techeles, around the time of the Love Parade, showed him where naked women lie curled with their derrieres to the woofers of massive booming bass speakers, rubbing their clitorises towards the vibration, so as to start peaking from the LSD and Ecstasy, which always induced an orgasm.

     “Wake,” I whispered.  “Feast your eyes on a brave new world.”

     I looked down at Xavier, lying on a metal table, seemingly lifeless.

     His eyes underneath his shut eyelids twitched; it was clear to me he was dreaming.

XAVIER

     Xavier was a teenager once; he was on a film set once.

     Taking a break, after taking down film projectors and strobe lights, Xavier met up with his father in the back of a trailer, and popped open a Heineken and began talking again, as if no time had passed between them.  He thought he could unburden himself before his father, who was dressed in leather, with band insignias and pins jangling and jiggling off his black jacket; and, he had a fedora on, and a flower lodged in the fedora, like some Yankee, some Injun, or some Montezuma.  Xavier felt too unwashed for the world, too contaminated to stand up and walk around like a proud primate; he would rather hunch and walk like a creature devouring noodles while watching snuff films.  He like the scene in the movie they were filming; he very much liked the idea of a young prince dying from a sharp, thrown rock penetrating a fragile skull.

     Anyway, the dream became complicated; his father, also a record producer, booked a gig for his son’s band to play in India; they flew there; and, before long were wandering around the poorest part of the country.  Trash bags were sprawled all over the village like the bulky pods of insect-armor.  The air was commingled with dirt and carbon monoxide; it was night and it was hot.  They wandered from shack to shack, yet nobody seemed to be home.  “Knock, knock!  Anybody there?”  Nobody, nothing.

JOHHNY Z

     They looked through the windows, within the floor-plans of the homes:  woven rugs with straggling threads on the floor; cheap samovars on tables; boxes of empty Kentucky Fried Chicken, swarming with halos of spinning flies.  They saw a beggar child running across the room, cradling a tarantula in his cupped hands, who stared at them, motioned to the window; and, the band, the four of them, followed him.

      “You must eat,” the child said.  “Otherwise your muscles will atrophy.  Don’t you see my village has been destroyed?”

      They listened to the boy; they did not want to turn into skeletons.  They just wanted to make music.  “Where is this leading?”  asked the drummer.

     “This is leading to our destination.  Where else?” said the guitar player.

      They walked to the outskirts of the village, waited in a sinuous line to get onto a tram for hours, then shuffled onto the tram with their baggage and their instruments and their cases, yet had nowhere to sit.  While standing with raised arms to secure themselves from swaying, the villagers stared at them.  They held bulging bags stuffed with their worldly possessions; there were many trams—forty, perhaps—driving side by side, or in front of one another on the busy freeway.  “Holy Fuck! Look at the sky!”  said the singer. The sky was a gradation of tangerine, vermilion, crimson red; it was as if the gods were angry; it was sunrise; the mountains were monstrous, awesome, stark; the peaks were lined with snow; the tram took the road that began to curve through the Kyber pass; it kept rolling onward, kilometer after kilometer; singing was heard; a buzzing and ticking sound; the sound of a watch working in the universe, too; and as they approached their destination, slowing down, then to a halt, the band was told they were heading to a hotel in Malaysia.

     “Now. what?  Smile,” said the singer, who brushed back his hair over his ears.

     “Fuck the British,” said the guitar player, seemingly nodding off on pills.

     “What’s wrong?” said the fat, long-haired bass player.

     “Nothing,”  said the drummer, twirling a drumstick in his hand like a puppet master.

     “Nothing?”  said the singer, who was a teenage Xavier, looking over at his mates.

     “Smile? I said nothing,” said the guitar player, who leaned back in his seat.

     They were already there.  It was the way it was going to be, yet the drummer of their band realized he had forgotten his favorite drum. His heart started beating hard, with fear:  soon the rest of the band was made aware of the problem: they thought they were heading somewhere to do nothing for nothing—for if they did not have their drummer’s special drum, half of their music would be without a proper beat; nobody would want to listen to them only singing and playing the other instruments like amateurs or street-musicians.  Yet, there they were, within the architecture of a dream: standing on the foremost part of the tram, in the front, facing the open road.  The wind whisked and whipped passed their faces; they kept going down the road, then arrived at a resort beach and got off the tram, with all their music gear; and, soon enough found there was no place to play music; they were lied to.  They wandered through a marketplace where there were service booths. Nobody wanted to tell them where to go.  “Let’s go back,” said the bass player.  “There is no going back,” said the guitar player. “What do you mean no going back?  We got here didn’t we?  Take us back to where we came from,” said Xavier, the singer.  Yet there were only expressions of loss and sadness, and faces of anger, with arguments and rows awaiting them.  A man grinned with corn-kernel smile, and opal eyes, calling for the next inquirer.  People scurried passed the band.  The band felt disoriented, not united.  The drummer was getting anxious.  “I demand an explanation!  None of this makes sense!  If you don’t tell us where we can board to go on a return ride, then we are going to start an uproar!”  There was little hope for answers.  At the beach, people were playing with the sand, letting it sift through their fingers and throwing it around, carefree, happy.  The band decided to take the tram back.  Then they got back to the impoverished shacks and got on gas-powered scooters and decided to find a plane and get to Malaysia.  Televisions blared.  Control remote.  Remote control.

     The sky was lavender: lightning flashed, thunder grumbled.  The vessel shook.

     And they got to the airport, walked onto the street, with their band gear in the rain, wandered through foot traffic, observing taxis and buses.  People screamed American songs.  Castanets clicked and clacked.  Hare Krishnas were dancing and crying, “Hare, Hare.”  Yet before they could catch a taxi, or wait for a bus to take them to the hotel room, they looked up and saw the Petronas Twin Towers, majestically in front of them. They realized they had an appointment in one of those floors.  The drummer, anxious about his missing drum, told the rest of the band what he did not tell them earlier: there were drugs trapped in the drum that he had forgotten; people were hunting him since they left the U.S “What are you talking about?”  He told them the CIA and the Pakistani secret service had been on their trail during the whole trip, and were looking for a substance that looked like cocaine that was for the purposes of making bio-chemical weapons that could liquidate a whole city in thirteen seconds.  The other band members asked him where he got this substance from, yet he refused tell them.  He said that there were dark forces beyond their control; and, he was awoken in the middle of the night by flashlights, had a black hood put over his head and was told that he had to transfer the material to a remote location in Pakistan or be executed.  Yet they never made to Pakistan.  Instead, they went to India.  The drummer explained that, somehow, the people who planted the chemicals into the drum figured it was not going to reach its destination and had confiscated it in advance.  There was a problem:  they took the other drum.  For the drummer had three. And the one they took was the drum he had been given when he was young.

     So, now there was a search party hunting them to find the substance in the drum.

    They did not know what to do, save continue what they were set out to do.

     “Now we eat, so we don’t die,” said the drummer.

     “What does it matter if we eat or not, if we are to die?  Surely, we won’t die,” said Xavier.

     “I want to get piss-faced drunk,” said the guitar player.

     “We are piss-faced drunk on piss-faced air right now—yet sorry, mates, that’s how our livelihood is possible.  Fuck the British.”

After some philosophical gab over lunch, they roamed through Kuala Lampur until they got tired.  At night, they saw that several police officers were following them.  The drummer started freaking out.  The others told him to calm down, yet to no avail.  They went to their hotel to get their things, ready for the trip back home.  And before long, their hotel room was surrounded in police.  They were on the staircase in the hotel, and they opened the door to the floor of their hotel: police.  They went the other direction; and the same result: police.  They were closing in on them—yet the drummer ran into the room, took out the key, opened the door, ran into the room, then shut it behind him.

     The rest of the band was mystified, when the police apprehended them and they were escorted downstairs. It was night; people were all there watching the fiasco in the lobby; journalists were there; flashing cameras; barking dogs; hotel attendants; beautiful women in saris; and the CIA officials and Pakistani secret service.  They heard gun shots coming from upstairs; everyone got scared.  They walked outside, onto the street.  And before long, they looked up; and up; and up and at their hotel room—there was their drummer in the air: already having jumped, naked, hands tucked around his legs, in a canon ball.

     They turned away: blood splashed on them

     Their friend’s lifeless, mutilated body lie on the concrete.

     They never knew what he did wrong—yet they were sad.

     He was their drummer.  Their hearts beat in unison like music.

     Democracy.  A vote.  Their manager was through.

     And yet that was fifty years prior to Xavier donating his soul to poetry.

     Of course, he did it to live on, through his son, like the Western Trinity:

     He didn’t really like poetry, at all, however, especially if it was personal.

     He liked eternity—though, to him, it smelled like oil.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

  1. paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

OSIRIS

I

The pagan backdrop of monotheism in Ancient Egypt, a civilization that lasted close to 4,000 years, is worth exploring to understand why people fight over religion.

A wide span of time, whose partitioned periodization through 31 Dynasties, inclusive of a Greco-Roman Ptolemaic Egyptian Dynasty, wherein there was a cultural intersection ruled by the Roman Empire, confounds historians. archaeologists, anthropologists, theologians, mystics, as well as enthusiasts of Ancient Egypt to this day. It is Ptolemaic Egypt, with the Library of Alexandria still intact, which holds the key to understanding the birth of monotheism.

Before any Palestinian/Israeli conflict, Jews, Christians, Muslims co-existed and were bound by the spice trade, commerce—-and Mecca was a link between Constantinople and India. As travelers, Jews and Christians from the Byzantine Empire told stories of their beliefs to pagan Arabs. They shared not only goods, but had dialogues with each other about the nature of God and the universe.

There is a pagan substrata to the idea of One God.  It is no accident. Aside from Ancient Egypt’s contribution to the idea, it is a symptom of socio-economic necessity.

 In my view, the pyramids are the least interesting aspect of Ancient Egypt. The Great Pyramid of Giza has no writing in it,which suggests the IVth Dynasty is the last place to look for understanding Egyptian culture. (However, there are the other pyramids, which do have a lot of writing in them, which later went on to inspire the content of the Coffin texts).

The Middle Kingdom of Ancient Egypt is far different than the earlier Dynasties. I think once the cult of Ra, Osiris, Thoth, spread throughout Kem, the quality of life improved for the average slave. Each city had its own local deity. There were a pantheon of gods, yet with a higher concentration of people per capita, there were more wars, more words exchanged, more immigration and travels beyond what is known as the Levant (just East of the Sinai Peninsula, where now Israelies and Palestinians live).  The more insight the Ancient Egyptians had to their life-world, the more sophisticated their theologies; as the Nile River flooded and receded every year, they came to a belief in resurrection, renewal, return.

Because of a belief in an afterlife (Ancient Egypt being the first civilization to have such a belief) the artistry of sculptures became more refined. Then there were the temples. I think the temples after the rise of the empire—after Ahmose’s reign, were the most breath-taking. As far as XVIIIth and XIXth dynasties, things, of course, changed politically on account of the nuanced beliefs about the relationship between the Pharaoh and the gods, not to mention Pharaoh’s relationship to the priesthood of Amun and later the Divine Adortrice (the High Priestess).

 Ancient Egypt, during the Middle Kingdom, after what is called the “democratization of the afterlife,” which became applicable to not only kings, but any Egyptian—-when the belief was fortified—there was even a place to write one’s own name on the cover of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, which was read widely throughout Kem (along with the Book of Gates).

By the time Alexander the Great and the Greco-Roman influence penetrated Egypt, it had already had a complex theology as it progressed throughout the millennia. A reed in the wind had deity for it. A breath did, too. Every phenomena that could and would take place. A kiss. The scent of leeks. The sand powder in one’s hands. Holidays and festivals became more and more spectacular—so much so that the entire country participated in them. This was much different, I think, from the enclosed pristine political structure of the earlier dynasties.

It was the Pharaoh Akhenaton (Amenhotep IV) that “created” monotheism, the belief in one God.

This took place over the course of 17 years of his reign, which ended  in 1336 BC or 1334 BC.

He persecuted cults that paid homage to regional gods and literally enforced the belief in the sun, a god named “Aten”, the Sun-Disk, as being the source of all energy and life. The famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud in his book Moses and Monotheism conjectured that Akhenaton, in the XVIII Dynasty, was actually Moses, for as in the biblical account Moses was a Jew and an Egyptian and brought the Hebrews back to the belief in Yahweh. Freud’s theory, however, sharply criticized by many scholars, is not rooted in empirical fact. Nevertheless, I find Freud’s theory to have aesthetic value.

Regardless of what Freud said, monotheism was born out the womb of polytheism and paganism. Gods became pitted against gods. A monotheist would say they believed in one God. Yet another monotheist with a different theology would also say they believe in one God. The problem is that the argument that One God exists was put to the test in Mecca and on the rest of the Arabian Peninsula.  Abrahamic god versus Abrahamic god.  Judaic theology vs. Christian theology. Christian theology vs. Arab pagan theology. Judaism vs. Arab pagan theology. Then eventually Judaic and Christian theology vs. versus Islamic theology, which later itself splintered into many sites of contention.  So, what’s the issue there?

The issue is that this is a regression into polytheism, in fact. It reduces the belief in one God and pits one against the one God of another. This dynamic holds true to this day: when people argue about religion, they are really arguing about theology, the study of the existence of God and God’s nature. The dynamic repeats, again, because each Abrahamic culture—Jew, Christian, Muslim—fallaciously start arguing as if they are talking about three deities, to each its own, which is contentious and can bring about conflict not only in the area of debate, but in the marketplace and war, wherein religion is often used as a justification in spite the fact that all major wars were really not about religion or the imperial conquest. They were about identity. Depending on who one is, by birth, or by choice—this determines the side one is on during a military conflict.

I was asked once what the best period in Ancient Egypt was. I thought about it. The problem in answering the question of “what the best period of Ancient Egypt”, of course,  is difficult is because it’s subjective.  I said I liked the Middle Kingdom because it was the golden age of Egyptian literature.  Still though, the theology of the Ancient Egyptians—Europe being the intersection of Greek, Roman, Judeo-Christian culture—differs from the social history of Islam. This cannot be overemphasized or overlooked.

There are too many artifacts, political intrigues, wars, treatises, invasions, and social factors to make sense of to make blanket statements about which religion was right and best. The notion of “the Truth,” is not a modern term, yet what one really means is that one’s God is real and that aside from that Truth, there is no comparable deity.

So the circular logic of paganism returns with guile and with premises that have nothing to do with the character of a particular believer, but have to do with way in which we frame the talk of God.

For the Abrahamic religions share one God, the Creator of the Universe. Some take issue with that: because they insist that God must have a name; Jews however, if they are devout, refuse to utter the name of God; they say “Ha-Shem” —or “the name” as shorthand for the ineffable. Christians, of course, depending on their denomination or sect would consider Yashua Ha’Mashiach (Jesus Christ) as God. Islam would say that Allah (God) has many names, that there are a multiplicity of ways of attributing  glory to the Creator. Jews like Muslims, then, remember, do not equate God as man like Christians. Anthropomorphism is a controversial issue, was fought about for almost 1500  years in one shape or another, so feel free to have your own view or have no view at all!

II

Were the Ancient Egyptians Black?

I have had discussions about whether the Ancient Egyptians were Black with both Caucasians and Black people, which produces dubious conclusions.

Many Pan-African or Afrro-centric scholars believe the Ancient Egyptians were Black and that the glories of Ancient Egypt were actually one the first of great civilizations or, if you will, earliest Black Empires. That said, I held a discussion with a particular Black man on-line who’s name was Thinis, who argued for this position. The discussion was positive; however, I was not fully convinced by the historical revisionism. I had done some research on Ancient Egypt and knew for a fact that the Ancient Egyptians, both as they are depicted visually, and as they are described textually, could not have been Black—at least, not how we contemporaries use the word “Black” as a racial designation.

The Ancient Egyptians lived in a desert under a scorching sun. They are bound to have color, but are they Black? Let’s ask more questions to untangle the frames of presuppositions.

What exactly is Blackness? How is it defined? Is there a universal story of the origin of Blackness or is being “Black” a racial construct made up by European slave-drivers?

I ask all these questions because of I am the opinion that all life, ultimately, came from Africa and, one of the greatest global failures of the 21st century is the First World’s decision to consciously and subconsciously abandon the continent of Africa, which is as significant, if not more than the future of Christianity and Islam, and the future imperialistic endeavors to gather resources like gold, minerals and oil from foreign countries, instead of conceding that alternative energy is needed to fuel our homes and commercial centers (in the so-called “Free World”).

If a narrative of universal Blackness exists, presumably it would have come from sub-Saharan Africa. Ancient Egypt has a geographical placement on the globe.  Not to get trapped in geographical determinism, wherein an entire racial classification is allotted to one people, I believe it is worth talking about sons of Noah. Take a look at Genesis 5: 32, which indicates that Noah begat Shem, Ham and Japheth. He had three sons; each of the sons went into different directions once they came of age and started families. According to the Bible, Ham is the forerunner or primary ancestor of the Black race.

Let’s take a few Biblical genealogies from the Tanakh, superimpose them with ideas about what race the Canaanites were, then conflate the first person in those accounts with the entire Hyksos people (who  were a people who appear during the First Intermediate Period in Ancient Egyptian history and in later Dynasties overcame the Egyptians by military force).

As some believe, the Ancient Egyptians were Black, here, one might be keen on offering socio-historical reconstructions of Ancient Egypt, insightful interpretations, and a clearly levelheaded critique of Victorian Egyptologists. All it would take to refute the argument that Ancient Egyptians were Black would look at thousands of murals that depict various peoples of the Ancient Egyptian world.

Just because Ancient Egyptians had color does not mean they were “people of color” in the full contemporary sense of the term [born from the civil rights movement]. Yes, Egypt is African. This is true by what continent it is on. Yet there is no one, uniform African identity now. And there was no one, uniform African identity in Kem (Ancient Egypt). Language, religion, cultural practices, rituals, four thousand years ago were Ancient Egyptian, not “Afrocentric.” Kemites had no concept of their identity being linked up to a continent or to a skin color. In fact, most of their belief system about themselves, their world, or their gods, was linked up with the Nile River. There is little evidence that racial identity is the pivot by which “Ma-at,” or “balance” or “the order” of the Ancient Egypt, is established.

If one chooses, one can begin to make the case for a Nile-centered universe contingent on “people of color.” Nevertheless, if you read the Ani Papyrus, the Book of the Dead, even the Book of Gates, one will see what Ancient Egyptians thought about various peoples in the afterlife. It was racist by our standards today. Upon entering the Fifth Gate, the boat of Afu, comes to a region set apart for souls. The first region is occupied by Egyptians; the second by the Aamu, or the people who live in the countries to the east of Egypt and in Palestine and Syria; the third by the Nehesu, or the black skinned races of the Sudan and the fourth by the Themhu, or the fair-skinned Libyans. This shows the Egyptians did not believe in an international heaven. The explanatory text says the Remthu or ‘Men’ came into being from the tears of the Eye of Ra, and that the Blacks of the Sudan came into being literally by the self-spilled seed of Ra.

As racialist as the viewpoint expressed in the last sentence is, it is the Ancient Egyptians themselves who wrote that Blacks came from masturbation of the god Ra, in their hieroglyphics. For further reading on this topic, see “From Fetish to God in Ancient Egypt” by E.A. Wallis Budge. Or get a copy of the Book of Gates and read it for yourself.

Theories about “blackness”, in my view, were unstable then, Thinis (the Black man whom I was having a conversation with). I address him: “you yourself said you are probably fair-skinned compared to the “black” people indigenous to the area.  Your intellectual battles with the guy from Africa (another person in a thread), even in this post, suggests there is no set-in-stone, grand narrative to the “black experience,” and neither is there one for the “white experience” or the “Asian experience” or the Hispanic/Chicano/Latin American experience, let alone the Native American experience in North America.

I continued to write to Thinis in the thread:

I am aware of claim that Ham of the Bible is the father of “dark-skinned people.” There are references in Psalms to the land of Ham. Yet Mediterranean people can be dark, too. Semites, in fact, from any country, can be dark. We are dealing with some arbitrary, subjective ideas about race here. These adjectives, however, if used repetitively enough are destructive. One ends up taking for granted what racialism is, or ends up viewing race as a substantial construct that is more important than individual character. Is it physical features? Or a common culture? Or a common history?  Your upbringing and your personal history is far removed from Ancient Eygpt. Yes or No? Or do you want to link yourself, in the present, to another time period? We end up re-colonizing black people by giving passages like this any credence—pace Anta Diop:

“In Petrie’s study of the Egyptian race we are introduced to a possible classification element in great abundance which cannot fail to surprise the reader.

‘Petrie . . . published a study of the races of Egypt in the Pre-Dynastic and Proto-Dynastic periods working only on portrayals of them. Apart from the steatopygian race, he distinguishes six separate types: an aquiline type representative of a white-skinned Libyan race; a ‘plaited beard’ type belonging to an invading race coming perhaps from the shores of the Red Sea, a ‘sharp-nosed’ type almost certainly from the Arabian Desert: a ’tilted-nose’ type from Middle Egypt; a ‘jutting beard’ type from Lower Egypt; and a ‘narrow-nose’ type from Upper Egypt. Going on the images, there would thus have been seven different racial types in Egypt during the epochs we are considering. In the pages which follow we shall see that study of the skeletons seems to provide little authority for these conclusions.’

From what I understand, there is cultural anthropology and there is physical anthropology. There are many conundrums that arise as result of conflating two methodologies and start stealing claims from one in order to substantiate the other. As you mentioned in other posts, what is “fair” to you may not be to another people. I see the pun. You approach this topic as if Black people entire, of any variety, have been robbed of their Ancient Egyptian roots. Yet the African-American experience has little to do with Thutmosis III, Amenhotep, Seti, or Ramses II. It also has little to do with what’s written about in the Book of the Dead and what’s written in the Coffin Texts, or what’s written in the Pyramid Texts. Am I wrong or right?

This forum is called Egyptian Mythology!

Are you aware how many racial theories begin with three brothers?

There are similar stories of three brothers in respect to the origin of Slavs.

There are similar stories of three brothers in respect to the origin of Asians.

In fact, there are so many stories about three brothers, how each was the leader, or father of a people, one could have an impressive folklore book written with nothing but accounts of three brother stories!

The Ancient Egyptians were dark-skinned, plain and simple.  Black?  That term is racial term. I am not interested in Ancient Egyptian skin color. There is so much more to Ancient Egyptian civilization than skin color and any scholar with any integrity would not dig through for bones of an ancient civilization, wrap them in the pages of sacred texts, ignore textual evidence that supports the way that ancient civilization viewed the world and the people in the world around them, in order to illuminate the “hijacked identity of a contemporary predicament.”

“Race” is a term that was constructed during Renaissance during the “Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade,” the Maafa, the African Holocaust, and then further theorized about during the European Enlightenment. If you are applying this term to ancient history and/civilizations, no matter what the content is of your opinion, you are thinking anachronistically and repeating the structure of the Victorian crises-of-origins narrative brought on by Charles Darwin. Striving for our own numerical distinction and dignity, no matter the race, we may, in fact, be a modus operandi for political moments in our consciousness, wherein we want to identify with the past in order to justify the present. It’s self-romanticization or hyperessentialty.

Modern Egyptians, of course, are mostly Arabs today; the Egypt of today has little to do with Ancient Egypt. The “idea of Egypt” (the Egypt of the mind) has a modern history, through which, and by which various filters were appropriated by the various cultures that invaded Egypt—ones assimilated with it or drew from it to support political, cultural and/or religious views.

Moreover, as to the other comment (by another guy in the thread) I do not understand how a person can make the claim that Egypt was Aryan; Aryan refers to the fair-skinned people of India (Vedic civilization), who later ended up in Persia, near the Caucasian mountains. Egypt is African simply because it is in Africa. I do not understand claims which go beyond this simple fact.

III

Theology and the Inerrancy of the Qur’an: One Jewish Perspective

According to the Qur’an, the Qur’an is without error. It was verbally revealed from God to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel (Jibril), gradually over a period of approximately 23 years, beginning on 22 December 609 CE when Muhammad was 40, and concluding in 632 CE, the year of his death.

I am not here to confirm the Muslim faith, yet I came across a thread that said “Islam is a lie.” I read the entire thread. There was a lot of name-calling at first; Christian vs. Muslim mainly. The Christian argument was that the Quran does contradict itself because it says the Allah can do things, yet he does not have a wife; therefore, he is unable to have a son, which contradicts the claim that Allah can do all things.

 I failed to see how taking two verses from the Quran that seem logically unreasonable as some kind of broken foundation for faith in Islam. What was the subtext for the original argument? That Muslim theology is whack, hence the entire religion is false? Christianity, too, has its own textual inconsistencies, not to mention the fact that certain passages were inserted much later history as well as the fact that Biblical inerrancy belongs to those who believe in it. I think the Bible is a very human book; it describes everything that humankind is capable of; it is essential reading, instructive, disturbing, taboo-wrought, yet parts of it are undoubtedly sick, though beautiful, if not absolutely breathtaking and philosophical in the best sense possible.

How many Christian theologies exist today? Which one is agreed upon?  The one based on Roman Catholic Church? Or the hundreds upon hundreds of versions of Protestantism? The nature of God for Christianity has always had problems ever since the Apostle Paul traveled through the Greco-Roman world having to explain how his theology was unique in spite of the many similarities it had with other religions of the time. He also had to take a proper political stand in relation to the State, in light of Caligula’s purges/anti-Semitism, the appointing of Agrippa I as King of the Jews in Judea, the huge increase in Roman-Jewish hostilities (later leading to war and the destruction of the Second Temple).

The pagan world-view and mind-frame is bound up with the history of monotheism. It was always lying in the background as the false backdrop that is rejected, so that a singularity, or rupture from that context emerges as the Truth. This is the case for the verse about God (assumed to be male in that verse), as if He was some kind of pagan deity, that is, human with a wife (like Zeus and Hera). In this sense, you can argue that today’s debates between Jews, Christian, Muslims, in many respects, automatically assume pagan ontology by default, as if there are three versions of God competing for primacy as The One True God. This is like saying yes, “there is no God like mine; I acknowledge that your god exists for you, though that god is not like my God. You have made my God a ‘god'” If God is One, in this regard, a Christian attacking the Muslim faith by saying that the God of Abraham is false, undermines their own faith in One (Same) God. You can easily see there is a vicious circle produced; a believer is unable to reconcile two beliefs in the belief-system, first that “God is One; All-Powerful Creator over everything,” yet “The nature of my God is not like the nature of your god; there is no one like my God.” A person who cares about their religion concludes their point by reducing the other religion’s God to a false god.

Who cares if God is presumed to be male (rhetorically)? Pagans presume it. So do Christians. This is burned into their imagination: that the the image of God is worthy of worship.

Mind you when Antiochus Epiphanes put a massive statue of Zeus in the Holy Temple in 168 B.C.E., this event (the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION) thoroughly infiltrated  the Christian psyche and theology later. Someone had to be evil. And what is most evil, ironically, yet  also theologically for most Christians? A man with power who perverts or falsely adopts God’s nature by conceiving of himself as God.

Yet, I strongly disagree: the Quranic verse in question is not about “the impossibility of God having children because he’s male, and has no female to breed with.” Why? Because it is a rhetorical question posed right after God is said to be “the distinct Creator”:

Q.6: 101. He is the Originator of the heavens and the earth. How can He have children when He has no consort? He created all things and He is the All-Knower of everything.

God is one, itself-sufficient, not male, nor human, therefore has no equal by definition.

My Opponent, Graham’s Rebuttal:

God can do all things, Pavel. All things. Not some things, but all things. The Quran tells us so. Not the Bible, not the Pope, not Antiochus. From the Quran S65, 12: ‘.. so you may know that god is able to do all things..’ S24, 45: ‘.. god creates what he will, and he is able to do all things.’ How can god have a son, if he has no female partner? Here we’re supposing the impossibility of god having children. But something that can do all things will be able to have a son, regardless of the difficulties involved. You argue simply because you wish to spare Islam. There is no argument. That question contradicts the statements that god can do all things. The Quran claims to be a book that will leave no doubt in the reader’s mind about the truth contained therein. The Quran claims to be without error. But Pavel, this is an example of an error. The Quran cannot live up to its own claims, therefore. The Quran tells us, Pavel, that if it cannot live up to its claims, then it cannot be a narration from god. So, according to the Quran’s own standards, we conclude that it is whack. Christian theology may well be whack, but that is not the issue here. The Bible also makes no claims not to be whack, as far as I can tell. The Bible does not provide us with a test of its authenticity. The Quran does, and it fails the test, as Santa is trying to point out. And Caligula has nothing to do with it

Pavel, God can do all things. That is god’s nature. If god cannot do all things, then that is a negation of god’s nature. What do you say now? If god can do all things, then god can negate his nature, which is not logical, impossible, irrational, improbable, but if god cannot do all things, then that is itself a negation of his nature. Either way, god fails the logic test, I think. So let’s just forget about logic. The Quran is clear on this issue. We can’t imagine that the authors might have thought that god might be able to do all things except negate his nature, and imagined that it wasn’t necessary to state because we would understand that god could not negate his nature. What they said was that god can do all things. All things Pavel. On a command, his will becomes reality. To ask the question seems to show that the person responsible for this part of the Quran was not aware of what had been said in the other part of the Quran. Do you suppose that gives credence to the theory that the Quran has multiple authors and was compiled at different times, in different places?

My Counter-Rebuttal:

Yes, the Quran tells us that God can do all things. But let me bring you up to date. God cannot lie. God cannot die. God cannot cease being God. God cannot sin. God cannot learn. God cannot answer a prayer that is not in accord with His will. This is God’s nature. If God lied, He would not be God. If God died, He would not be God. You tell me to forget logic, yet you yourself use logic to tell me not to use logic.

A non-Christian can look at Christianity, see that it is trying to suggest that God died and would easily, through logic alone, reject it on the grounds that God cannot die. For if everything in the Universe is sustained by God; and if God died, then creation itself would have ceased to exist. Such is a point in Jewish monotheism. The transcendent, purely spiritual existence of God.

You can reject any religion because of some “logic-test.” Christian theology to Jews, for example, is foreign and strange. Not a single prophecy was fulfilled by Yashua the Rabbi, they would say, then move on.

Yet I do not move on from a philosophical debate until I am fully convinced of “what makes” a religious belief wrong or misleading, and also “where” that wrong or misleading belief came from. Deconstructing a religion is your business. I am interested in seeing how a religion develops, how it was formed, how it came to be the way that it is, how people became came to believe what they believe.

An issue summed up in one sentence does not do it for me. And in this respect, I do not understand God like you understand God.

The claim “God can do all things” is false, if it betrays His own nature. God cannot betray His own nature, for then He would not be God. God’s nature is Divine, not human. What he/she/it creates is independent of Its own nature and each thing has its own individuated identity in various life-forms, places, things, even though it was His Divine nature that was the basis upon which He created it.

Subsequently, God is more or less known as “the Creator”. Does that mean that a creature that God creates is His own son? Is God is a biological being? No. “The Son of God” is a biological being? Yes. Does a lemon tree produce oranges? No. Does a computer program with all knowledge of everything that exists produce wood? No. God does not produce sons and daughters. He/she/it made it possible for humans to produce sons or daughters on account of how He created human being themselves. Christians, of course, believe in a tripartite God, which is different from Jewish and Islamic theology. To Christians, God is a man and that man is Jesus Christ in most circles; therefore, it is open to debate what Christology entails and whether or not a finite being can be an eternal being at the same time that Christ is human.

Can God make square circles or two-sided triangles? No. Why? Because circles and triangles are known by their predicates, their definitions. God, however, does have some definitions what WHO He is. God has attributes; some of these attributes also have their definitions. And yes, they obey logic. When discussing miracles, for example, the theologian is always talking about them in the context of the logic of theology. Anyone from Augustine to Thomas Aquinas is a testament to Aristotlean logic.

God is alone. He is one. He has no equal. He is not human. He is not man. This is what the Quran is driving at—as both a cultural and theological reaction to Christianity. If you can accept these theological statements then you can understand why a Muslim would conclude for God to have a Son is contrary to “His Primordial Supremacy as the Creator the Universe. To call the ‘Son of God’ God is illogical and even blasphemous to both religions. God cannot have Son, if the Son of God IS God. For this is the contradiction. So this teaching is often downright rejected. To some believers, there is only one God, the Father, the King of the Universe. And then there is one Lord Jesus Christ who incarnates and walks the earth with the Spirit of God within Him. That would be a clearer way of describing what a Jehovah’s witness, for example, would believe.

What does Quranic verse in question say?

Read the two suras, again.

 Islam has a socio-economic context from which it was sprung; Arabs trading with the Jews and Christians influenced it. Yet you are cherry-picking two Quranic verses, as if the Bible does not have a plethora of contradictions itself.

Of course, the Quran had multiple authors. It was written by scribes; for Mohammend could not read or write. It took approximately 22.5 years to be written down (according to some scholars). In this respect, it would be interesting to investigate the “waves” of this gradual process. Perhaps, later passages bring something new to the table because certain things were happening in Mohammed’s life.

I have studied the entire Quran, my friend, as a Jew, for my own reasons, because I am a freethinker and do not think the book should be off limits to anyone who has an inquiring mind. Whether they accept it is another story altogether. I am not concerned with whether or not someone accepts or rejects the Quran. I am simply pointing out the theological impossibilities that you pose as use as proof that Islam, by those impossibilities alone, makes it false. I have read detailed commentary on what the Quran claims, and reasoned through why and how it insists on changing the perception and details of the Biblical accounts of the Judeo-Christian tradition; only then will I draw conclusions.

There should be no contempt prior to investigation.

Hence, “Santa’s” contempt for Islam and your insistence that I must accept his argument is not my concern. My argument throughout is a counter-argument to “Santa’s argument” which is the topic of this post. He wants to call Islam a lie based on two specific verses.

There are two parts to his argument.

“Allah can do anything = (?) Allah can’t have a son (without a mate / consort / wife) Can = Can’t (wrong)

This is the first sura that “Santa” quotes:

“She said, ‘My Lord, how shall I have a son, when no man has touched me? He said, ‘Such is the way of Allah. He creates what He pleases. When He decrees a thing He says to it ‘Be,’ and it is;” — Qur’an, Surah 3:38-48

That particular sura is about God’s omnipotence.

Here is the second part of Santa’s argument (with context):

[6:100] Yet they make the Jinns equals with Allah, though Allah did create the Jinns; and they falsely, having no knowledge, attribute to Him sons and daughters. Praise and glory be to Him! (for He is) above what they attribute to Him!

[6:101]To Him is due the primal origin of the heavens and the earth: How can He have a son when He hath no consort? He created all things, and He hath full knowledge of all things.

What is it saying? Who are the “they?” in Sura 100? It is referring to the pagans. It’s talking about four issues:

A) “They” (pagans) making deities that Allah Himself created equal with Allah.

B) “They” (pagans) doing this falsely (without knowing the theological issue it suggests).

C) “They” (pagans) falsely considering Allah’s creations as the offspring (sons and daughters) of Allah.

D) Allah is above and beyond pagan criteria; any creation that Allah creates that is equal to or attributed to Him is a false assumption.

NB: E) (Praise goes to Allah, which is a statement of religious monotheistic fidelity within the Quran’s context)

What does the next verse say? It continues where the previous sura left off. Three interesting statements.

A) God is the primal origin of the heavens and the earth B) “How can He have a son when He hath no consort?” C) God created all things, knows all things.

It does not say anything about being able to create a son or not being able create a son. God “created” all things (already, in the past; not “can,” now, or in the future, but already).

In the context of B, it is talking about God having no equal, that is, nor derivative of Creation itself comparable to Him. It does not say ‘How CAN God create a son when He has no consort?’ It says “How can He HAVE a son when He has no consort?” That is, nothing is beside Him, no companion, no equal. The meaning is not about God having to mate, like a human, (which is the argument posed by Santa’s, who says things like: “God does not need to mate to have a son.

Suras 100, 101, have to do with God not HAVING a creation that He created as a derivative of the idea of something equal to Him. A Son of God that itself God would be such an example. Hence, the Suras 3:38-48 is about God’s omnipotence. And  Suras 6:100-101 is about God not attributing an equal of offspring to Allah because He has none. This is meaning of the sura in the context of the passage. It has nothing to do with being able to create “a son.” It is rhetorical question that follows the statement that to God is due the primal origin; He is self-sufficient, the primordial orginator of the orgin, then goes on to say and there is nothing that He has created that He does not know and–in this context–defies any sentient being that might “falsely, having no knowledge, would attribute to Him” (false ideas about Him, having closed comprehension in understanding His Oneness.)

Is the “primal origin of the heaven and the earth” a ball of wool, friend? Not according to the context of Suras 6:100-101.These say nothing about the impossibility of creating a son. In context of these suras, the rhetorical question that follows is referring to God not HAVING a son because He is the transcendent, self-sufficient, the Most High, Creator, without equal, without mate, without offspring. God is One.

Is NOT HAVING a created son of God the same as not BEING ABLE to create a son, my friend?

This is the meaning of the surah: transcendent God over all, without equal, or creature with God’s own derivative attributes. And in the context of Santa’s argument, there is no contradiction.

One attribute of God is omnipotence. Another attribute of God’s is His omniscience. The attribute of His omniscience is found after the rhetorical question. God has knowledge of everything. He already created everything in advance according to the tenets of Jewish and Islamic theology—having no equal, no consort, no humanity, nor son. . .nor has He already created a Son, nor should He create anything like a Son of God who itself God, which would undermine this Quranic context of God self-sufficient existence as harbinger of primal origin (as found in Surah 100).

Like “Santa,” my friend, you are begging the question when you can invoke “God can do all things” for this argument.

Why is your premise the same as you conclusion, my friend?

You:

Premise 1 God can do all things. Premise 2 So, God can create a son.

Conclusion: Because God can do all things.

Within the Quran your first premise is dealt with in Sura 3:38-48. It is about God’s omnipotence.

You accept God’s omnipotence then conclude Surah 6:100-101 has to do with God’s omnipotence.

Yet Surah 6:100-101 is about people (pagans) who “falsely attribute” to God—who is a self-existent and transcendent Being—the theological assumption that a created being, which God creates, can have attributes of God or that God has existing non-transcendent offspring that would have even ONE of God’s attributes, and that God has even ONE non-transcendent offspring beyond the scope of His Divine omniscience.

A created son of God that is himself God would imply having even ONE of God’s Divine attributes.

To conclude, saying “God can have a son” because “God can create anything” is begging the question.

Surahs 100 and 101 have to do with God not having His creations sharing His God’s Divine attributes. In the context of the Quran, God does not create a Son, nor does He have a son.

To say God can have a son is not within the Quranic text. It is absent from the text. The issue is put negatively in the form a rhetorical question, which is not dealing with God’s omnipotence, ability to create. It is dealing with God not creating a creation or having an offspring in the present that has even one of His divine attributes. (that is, either His divine self-sufficiency, His divine Oneness, or His divine transcendence).

Therefore, there is no contradiction in the statements that God is omnipotent in Sura 3:38-48 and that God is transcendent and HAS no offspring. The contradiction resides with “Santa’s and ‘my friend”  (Graham) begging the question about the nature of God, that is, by positing a son of God as an actual ontic-ontological entity on top of the Quran who is simply not there, textually, nor will ever be found in the Quran; and since we have been doing textual hermeneutics here, the creation of a son of God is not a divine, but a theological impossibility for what is found in the Suras, that is, in the Quran’s ontology.

Conclusions

I send my kindest regards to all of those I argued with and spoke with regarding the topic of God.

I am grateful that I can be wrong sometimes as well as right sometimes.

I am also thankful that all those years of studying comparative religion was not in vain.

For then this post would not exist.

Shalom/Peace/Salaam.

 Don’t sweat the small stuff.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

  1. paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

Fall-of-Lucifer

John Milton likes ladyfingers. I was compelled to see if there was some self-imposed duty to even re-read the dead man (for he was clearly bones and ratty clothing), and I wanted the conversation to flow, but all I could think of was his death and the death of literature. I had fallen through a worm-hole, see, and ended up in another dimension. It wasn’t William Blake that I imagined I would meet; instead, I suspected I would be having tea with no one other than John Milton.

Despite British revolutions and personal losses (the death of two of his own children), Milton went blind and continued to write. I looked over at him, feeling pity for him, yet he did not say a word; he did not need to say a word. I just sipped my tea and glanced over at him from time to time. I then took a break and re-read the British author in my “Completed works of” copy in order to “check” if the words that Milton once wrote were actually “still there.” I even re-read the Italian Sonnets and Paradise Regained.

I devoured the tome. It took me a matter of four months, but I had completed the formidable task: to read the entire body of work of one author in order to gain insight to his role in the Western canon.

Milton’s conjuring of syntax and diction is nearly Hermetic, its unscrupulous authority, his almost reeking combination of Anglo-Saxon with Latinate words illuminate my claim that the 17th century as well as the beginning of the 18th century in British Literature, (Edmund Spenser included, roughly 1603 to 1714) was the peak of English Letters. After two hours of jumping from Milton’s poetry to his prose, I became convinced that Milton was a better rounded writer than Homer, Virgil, and Dante combined. He was not only a poet. He was a man of letters, a philosopher, a classicist, a theologian, an activist, a man of ideas.

I don’t read Paradise Lost as a re-telling of Genesis. I re-read it as a account of the birth of subjective individualism, that of Lucifer’s freedom from God in Christian lore, who has his own freewill independent of the Almighty Creator. Whoever instructs someone to read Paradise Lost in tandem with the Book of Genesis, should re-consider why it the most “obvious” reason to read it that way (as parallel to the Biblical account) is even necessary or productive. Recall: there is only one mention of Lucifer in the entire Bible and it’s in the book of Daniel, referring to the “light-bearer,” “the morning star,” or in historical terms, the King Nebuchadnezzar II, who ruled the Neo-Bablylonian empire from c. 605 BC – 562 BC.

When I listen to (and I mean listen to Milton’s words echoing back in the grottoes of my own skull) the triumphant universe of Paradise Lost’s setting, the vastness of its song, the mellifluous tangents filled with music, pauses, beats, all the images combined, like a juggernaut, smash through a maze of mirrors so that we can face the limit of the expanding universe, approach the Dragon of the Sublime.

Casting William Shakespeare (the dandy actor and R-rated playwright) and Geoffrey Chaucer (the allegorical pervert known for his sex and fart jokes) aside, led me to the conclusion that pound for pound, it is, in fact, John Milton that is the greatest poet of the English language.

I do not make the claim for no reason. I will tell you why he is the greatest.

Because he was the right writer, with the right ambitions at the right time, in the right place, historically situated precisely when England needed such a writer.

Remember Descartes’ famous “I think; therefore I am” (cogito ergo sum)? This famous statement is a statement about subjectivity and it correlates to the historical backdrop by which English and Continental literature gained traction for mobilizing the subjective “I.”  In Paradise Lost, Satan has a subjective “I” domain. He performs “speech acts.”  Yet who is the “I” in Shakespearean sonnets? Surely, in Don Quixote we have a subject that is comparable to the Cartesian cogito, and yet the subjective “I”, it appears, did not come forth until after the Protestant Reformation and after the Counter-Reformation, where Protestants and Catholics alike warred over proper doctrine.

The Church of English, of course, was no exception. The relation between the Church of England and the British monarchy is the historical background to the writing of Paradise Lost—it is not simply a clever poetic version of the fall of humankind from it pre-lapsarian state in the Garden of Eden. In Christian lore there are two falls; one from celestial history (theological claims) wherein Satan and a third of heaven plummeted down to Hell, and then a second fall, that of humankind, which was based on ill-fated decision for humankind to, like Satan himself, acquire freewill, that is, a will different than God’s will.

As much as I like William Blake, Edmund Spenser, Dylan Thomas, W.B. Yeats, Milton already sets the bar in the 17th century by sitting quietly, observing all Creation, with salvation and celestial history as the context.  Who does this today? Even Shelley’s verse compared to Milton seems like a drunken game of Battleship and Lord Byron’s verse comparable to a game of Connect Four. Milton transforms the pathos and ethos of Keats—the poet who wrote “beauty is truth and truth is beauty.” Milton focuses on Lucifer, the most beautiful being that God had ever created, who would go on to betray Him, wage war on Him, set siege to the Monarchy of Heaven with a third of  host of rebel angles having fallen with him. In that metaphysical context, Milton makes Keats’ feelings and lyric poetry look like a fat Robert Smith from the band, The Cure, moaning for an abstract love that only exists when one is a teenager.

Now, I realize there are other beloved poets in other languages than English that equal if not surpass Milton in aesthetic beauty, but as far as the English language goes: Milton is the poet of the English sublime par excellence.  I’m not talking about his epic poem alone here. I’m talking about the vastness of space and time that Milton thought in.

Deeper into the Introduction of Paradise Lost (which uses diogesis and mimesis):

 he it was, whose guile
Stird up with Envy and Revenge, deceiv’d
The Mother of Mankind, what time his Pride
Had cast him out from Heav’n, with all his Host
Of Rebel Angels, by whose aid aspiring
To set himself in Glory above his Peers,
He trusted to have equal’d the most High,
If he oppos’d; and with ambitious aim
Against the Throne and Monarchy of God
Rais’d impious War in Heav’n and Battel proud
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurld headlong flaming from th’ Ethereal Skie
With hideous ruine and combustion down
To bottomless perdition

Milton mystifies me. Sometimes I hate him and judge him to be wholly irrelevant by associating him with a Christian story. Nevertheless, when the tea was all gone from the kettle,  and Milton and I shook hands, he disappeared and left a blank book where he once sat. He never said a word, I guess he didn’t have to.

He had said enough by creating the first anti-hero in epic poetry and that is fine by me.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

  1. paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

DAVID

Mannerism is a transitional artistic style (circa 1535- 1610), therefore difficult to pinpoint.

Mannerist paintings are caliginous; they possess a methodical removal from harmony, subject matter that is either deliberately obscure or treated so that it becomes forbidding to understand.

The perspective is often intemperate as figures are jammed into small, dark spaces, illumined by candlelight.

There is play between light-shadow, subtlety-grandeur, contemplation- emotion; tone is blotched.

Human bodies and faces are contorted, longing for something unclear.

The composition wholeness, in this sense, is of utmost importance (Seiferth).

The composition is spryly held together almost to the point of bursting off the canvas; it aims at generating awe.

Thematically speaking, however, some have argued that Mannerism is, more or less, a forced incarnation of sorts: “a universal and universally present spiritualization of the earthly world which however retain[s] its patent sensuous reality” (Auerbach 19).

    Precipitated by the Protestant Reformation, literary Mannerism, like its visual counterpart, recoiled from its Renaissance roots, focusing on “illuminating” the laity on the political and religious reordering of their reality.  To put it bluntly, political and religious subject matter “got creepier.” Despite the mystical writings of St. Theresa St. Teresa of Jesus, commonly known as St. Teresa  of Avila (1515-1582), St. John of the Cross (1542-1591), and the founder of the religious order always identified with the Counter Reformation, St. Ignatius Loyola of the Society of Jesus (1491-1556), many have claimed that the beginnings of the Mannerist trend in literature may most clearly be identified in vernacular writing. In the development of such extremely artificial prose styles as those in Lyly’s Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit (1578) and Euphues and His England (1580) and Sidney’s The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia (1590).

 Mannerism allowed for a “spiritualization” of England’s historical situation. Along those lines, Shakespeare also seemed to have employed Mannerist tendencies, particularly in Hamlet, Act V, where a strange, restless conversation between Hamlet and a gravedigger (who does not know with whom he is speaking) about “Hamlet’s madness” takes place in a grave.    One may, in this vein, treat Mannerism as an anxiety ridden stylistic tendency, very aware of its historical situation which “tend[ed] to emphasize dexterity and formulas” (Murray 31).

Based on a Thomistic hermeneutic model of language, where allegorical meaning and anagogical meaning hinged on the moral meaning, such a mannerist tendency was very much open to the possibility that discordant contrasts could hint at European unity, frank artificiality conclude a European realism, extreme perspective at something “in one’s face.” That the past could be reconciled upon the Christ-Event for future glory, the unveiling European vision was forcefully hinged upon biblical hermeneutics—and as such, attempted to bring Post-Reformation Europe back to its “moral purpose.”  As Europe changed, Europeans had witnessed their confidence in the order of their “splitting” universe—both theological and political—–also change.  A “dark palette adopted,” Tridentine ideals became more subversive (Wright 228).

Preoccupied with death, straining to keep subject matter together within a very confined place, literary mannerism became an exemplar of Counter-Reformation aesthetics.

   Counter-Reformation aesthetics is not an a posteriori concept like Eurocentricism, which implies—by virtue of cognizing abstract historical space—some deliberate placement of the European identity within the width of a specific circle.  Identity, in this vein, resembles a dot within its own boundary, yet ignores the implications of its stylistic means. The style is the “act,” the actual means to get to reestablish or reconsider the Post-Reformation European identity, one which at that time was confused and disillusioned. Counter-Reformation aesthetics should, therefore, be seen as an a priori tendency more than anything else: a historically active intention or sentiment in the consciousness of a searching Catholic mind for a “moral purpose” during the Late Renaissance.

Supported by a kind of theia mania that returns Europe to the Christ-Event, the aesthetic depicts “afflicted individuals themselves…caught up in some unspecified participation, and in which, moreover, a certain innercorruption, impossible to define, coincides with an inescapable and fateful external destiny” (Pieper 24). In such a way, the past, the present, and the future of European identity lie splattered upon the canvas of the hermeneutics of salvation history. Through deliberate style and willful mystification, mannerist aesthetics elucidates Renaissance Europe’s sense of being-beside- its own moral purpose, the Christ-event which brings the past and the future together. However, in attempting to “spiritualize” their sensuous reality, a divided Christendom had to reevaluate its tropological pivot in relation to a setting/time where such a pivot was less in  theological and political confusion.   There was an enemy to Christendom, indeed.  It was itself; The Reformation attested to this. Yet, if, for the Christian, the Christ-Event subsisted with the past allegorically as well as with hope for future glory, how would Post-Reformation Europe understand its own identity? There needed to be, not only a common ground, but a common enemy, an Other—a single obstacle that repressed the actualization of achieving a interdependent “European good.”

    Tarquato Tasso’s epic poem about the First Crusade, Gerusalemme liberata is indicatory of Manneristic allegory, attempting to consolidate a split Europe’s return to one God. Post-Reformation Europe experienced great melancholy in respect to the past and overwhelming uncertainty regarding the future. The Reformation and Counter- Reformation in Europe was not simply a period of one canon retaliating against the other.  There was a loss of a baseline, a commonality. Catholics and Protestants alike felt that Europe might never see itself the same way.

 Recalling a truce meeting in 1580 five years after the publication of Tasso’s epic) between both sides, Protestant Francois de la Noue, expresses in his memoirs a sense of helplessness:

      Each urged the other to peace and to persuade

      the great to listen.  Some, standing a little

      aside, considered these things more deeply and

      deplored the public discord, source of future

      evils; and when they came to think that all the

      caresses then being given would be transformed

      into bloody murders if the commanders should give

      but a sign for battle, and that the visors being

      lowered…brother would be pitiless to brother,

      tears flowed from their eyes  (Hale 129).

Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata is motivated by the nostalgia for Christendom’s once clearly defined umbrella of inclusiveness, the multitudes under the single Christ-Event, which protects European identity from losing itself, past or future. (Gal. 3, 28)  The subject matter, therefore, is a historical victory in accord with an Eurocentric spiritual victory.  By displacing the historical facts of the conquest of Jerusalem, Tasso promotes an open, abstract temporality: one of an ambiguous, aesthetically deliberate past or an unrealized indeterminate future, held upon the pivot of its moral purpose.  In the poem, the characters must return to a common moral purpose to procure a victory as a single Christian army, yet must do so as individual warriors before that may take place.  Tancred overcomes his earthly desires, his love for Clorinda—a pagan warrioress—before being spiritually fit enough to slay Argante.

He is torn between the fascination with the Other and this idea that the Other can still participate in salvation history, as Clorida’s conversion suggests. Erminia, a pagan in love with Tancred, on the other hand, just fades away into a subdued anti-courtly world, hidden from action.  Europe’s Other in the poem, therefore, works hand in hand in bringing about a resolution to the spiritual trials ofthe Christians for they are the road to get there.  The identity of Europe, bound to its understanding of salvation history, sees the Other as a trope by which the Europe may reclaim its political and theological solidarity to the Christ-Event independent of Martin Luther’s condemnation of the Church as a final authority. Momentously, God enters Tasso’s poem only to assist his flock, rather than unilaterally secure a Christian victory.  The European himself makes the spiritual victory possible—much like Lutherism itself suggests. Standing against the Other’s outside influence or heresy, in the poem’s case, ‘the infidels,’ Protestant and Catholic have no distinction from each other because the conquest is of Jerusalem, or, more specifically, the European participation in the moral purposefulness that glues together Christendom’s hermeneutic model of allegory and history.

    Written in the vernacular, however, Tasso’s epic was not only intended for Catholic scholars. It is written for Europe in general and the form of Gerusalemme liberata must be considered in this critical context. Tasso, a Catholic poet, does not speak or utter his ambitious vision, rather “sing[s] the reverent armies, and that Chief who set the great tomb of our Savior free” (I, 1,1).  He celebrates the outcome before the reader has the opportunity to know what how his melody will be phrased. Here, Tasso instantiates a leader, Godfrey, who is emblematic of Christian responsibility; yet, if one considered the beginning of the poem as one bookend, the other bookend is Godfrey’s actualization of Tasso’s song of freedom, for the last stanza of the poem mirrors the beginning:

      So Godfrey has attained his victory.

And leads, in the last light glowing in the west

     The victors into the city now set free

     And to the place where Christ was laid to rest.

     To the temple with the other chiefs goes he,

     Nor does he set aside his blood-stained vest.

     He hangs his arms here, with devoted brow

     Adores the great tomb, and fulfills his vow (XX, 144).

The “last light glowing in the west” is not only the last vestige of illumination. It is also the candle which is held to ghastly subject matter, calling to view  “on general massacre, [and] heaps and mountains of corpses”(XIX, 30, 1-2).  Tasso’s forcing together of classical elements with chivalric poetry attempts to contextualizethe moral battle.   If the battle is not for Jerusalem, temporal victory, it is for spiritual victory—one of theChristian soul returning to God. Notwithstanding, Tasso is surgical in his fusing of the genres of epic and romance, admitting that a stringent aesthetic must be implemented t give a sense of awe to the reader.  In Discorsi, he writes:

    In my judgement it is very necessary that any

    heroic poem include the marvelous, that which goes

    beyond the usual action and even beyond human

    possibility, whether it be presented as the power of

    the gods as in the poems of the pagans, or as the power

    of the angels, devils, and magicians as in all modern

    poetry (Kates 36).

The focus on the marvelous in dialogue with the poem’s moral purpose is contradictory.  While paying homage to classical epic by establishing a historically displaced account of the first crusade, Tasso’s aesthetic decision to bring in a chivalric polemic into the mix appears to problematize the moral purpose of the text.  Tasso’s “brush[ing] with honey the brim of a cup,” however, does just that—attempt to justify the moral purpose.   The reader must drink “the bitter juice and cannot tell—it is a mistake that makes him well” (I, 3,7-8).  The inconsistency, however, serves the purpose of illuminating, not derailing the reader from the poem’s intention; it desires “what goes beyond the usual action and even beyond human possibility.”  It follows that with a contrived aesthetic, irreverently open to classical conventions of epic, Tasso can, in effect, retain his moral, though “with sewn embroideries of the truth in any place” (I, 2, 7).

Tasso wishes his reader to look beyond “the mistake”—the prettiness of the moral purpose—return to God anyway go through the poem’s aesthetic and come out the other  side. The lopsided-ness of the poem, with its varying degrees of delay and genre-synthesis, might very well lead a reader to do so: proceed through the poem and stay in one piece, intuitively locating the moral allegory “in terms of hints…informally suggested…rather than a full-blown theory of art based on Christian assumptions” (Teselle 36).

    The theo-political framework of the poem make the power of the allegory more unwavering.   Protestants rejecting the Church’s allegiance to temporalizing God, in the very same light, might accept “the mistake” (the prettiness of the moral purpose)—and reconsider if Tasso’s allegory truly represents an apologetic return to European solidarity before Luther’s Reformation.  However, it is clear Tasso did not intend the epic solely for theologians, Protestant or Catholic alike. In a letter to Scipione Gonzaga of July 1575, he writes:

     I never proposed to please the stupid mob;

     but, on the other hand, I would not want to

     satisfy only experts and connoisseurs [i maestri

     de l’arte]. I am truly most desirous of the

     applause of average men [uomini mediocri];

     I seek the good opinion of such people as much

     as that of the more knowledgeable.  Therefore,

     I ask your Highness what you can learn of the

     reactions of the refined people at court [cortigiani

     galanti] and of average men (Kates 38).

Tasso’s tendency towards an super-mitigated inclusiveness of the layman and the theologians of his time allow him to present Europe a grander contemplation of its own historical dimension so that Europe may reevaluate its identity within it. The juxtaposition between moral purpose/aesthetic purpose, romance/epic, Christian/infidel, is one specific struggle: the valiant, though manneristic, exertion for a spiritually indissoluble European whole.

    Like mannerist paintings, extreme perspective, in a sense, forces the poem’s moral purpose.  Before Tancred slays Argante “and none could tell the conquered from the champion,” Tasso places their duel away from the main battle (XIX, 28, 7-8):

       So they turn their backs upon the city

       and the armies and the tents,

       And go where a winding pathway leads them on

       Down many a hidden turning, whence

       They find themselves in a narrow, shady dell

       Lying between the hills, for all intents

       As if it were a theater or ring

       For chasing animals, or dueling (XIX, 8).

Deliberately moving the two warriors away from the main incident, Tasso produces “discordant contrast” even before Argante falls.  Their exclusion from the rest of the armies, isolates them, and puts them in a performative space “as if it were a theater or ring.”  The implications of the winding path to such a space connotes a strain, a difficulty getting to such a space.   Kin to Mannerism, the main incident is pushed into the background while two men enter the forced foreground, producing an emotional effect or urgency in the battle itself.   Tasso, however, analogizes the two warriors’ duel to a naval battle:

      As a naval battle when winds from south and east

      Are still, and the seas are calm, and fear no squall;

      The ships unequal, the fight not in the least,

      For this one’s quick to turn, and that one’s tall;

      And the one luffs and tacks from bow to stern

      To assault the other standing like a wall

                                     (XIX, 13, 1-6).

Tancred, “lean and lithe and built to fly,” while Argante, “taller by his head held high”  are not proportionally matched (XIX, 11, 1-2).  “The ships unequal,” Tasso draws an image of a tall infidel, surpassing the “nimble” Tancred “in muscle and sheer weight” (XIX, 11, 4).   The imbalance is certainly to Tancred’s advantage for he can move more freely. Yet, at the same time, one wonders how Tancred could “assault the other standing like a wall.”  Tasso’s matching of the two men, perhaps, serves two purposes: on one hand, allowing the shorter, though quicker, Christian to overcome a Goliath (thereby exonerate Christianity’s wit over the infidel), but on the other hand, produce more anxiety about the battle for the reader.  The “unequal” matching of both Tancred and Argante is a mannerist convention which underscores a disjointed dynamic between two opposites.  Not only does it accentuate theallegorical element of Christian triumph over the Other, it also makes for a bizarre image.  First the two are moved away from the main battle, then made the focus.  They aredescribed as being inequitably matched, then likened totwo warring ships at sea.    Only when Tancred is able to overcome his foe does “darkness fall..as at the eveningclose” (XIX, 28, 5).  Upon his Christian victory, paradoxically, he is rewarded by darkness.

Much like Caravaggio’s David with the Head of Goliath*, Tancred’s victory is bittersweet: “he walks on, feeble and slow, by the road he’d come before, step after weary step.”  There is an attempt to smoothly shift the perspective to the main battle, but Tancred collapses before it is realized. “The war which private causes helped ignite” forces him to lose consciousness (XIX, 29, 2).     Tasso is keen on utilizing light and harmony ambiguously when he attempts to illuminate his audience. When Tasso uses the Other, however, to do so, it problematizes the poem’s moral purpose of a spiritual victory coexistent with a historical victory.  In Canto VII, Erminia, a pagan, after dressing up like Clorinda to find her beloved Tancred, is brought to a “wooded, dark terrain,” tucked away from the chaos. Hitherto, it is questionable what kind of Otherness must be overcome for Christian Europe to be unified against a common enemy:

     She fled all the night long and all the day,

     Wandering without a plan, without a guide.

     Her tears were all that she could ever see;

     The only sound she heard when she cried.

     But when the sun had nestled in the sea,

     His team unharnessed from their glorious ride…

                                      (VII, 3, 1-3).

Erminia’s helplessness not only reflects the melancholy of not finding Tancred, a Christian warrior, but the disorientation associated with war. “She and her horse have slipped too far from sight” (VII, 1, 8). She is away from all the battles. Erminia tears are the only things apparent to her as she wanders “without a plan.” With Erminia’s procession through “the dark terrain” of the first stanza through the sunset-sunrise-sunset in stanza three, time begins to lose meaning. She has no frame of reference. Instead, going to sleep at the banks of the Jordan River,“she did not waken till she heard the birds greeting thedawn” (VII, 5, 1).  Even when the sun comes, however,Erminia continues to weep until “her sighs were broken byclear notes which seemed to her (and were indeed) singingof shepherds” (VII, 6, 1-3).  The harmony of the shepherd’s song bleeds through the discord of her own weeping. One would question, then, if this pastoral scene is consistent with the poem’s moral purpose. If Erminia, the Other, some how reflects the spiritual and historical peace thatChristianity is supposed to offer, what are the implications of a Counter-Reformation poem written for both the layman and theologian alike?  The implementation of multiple sunset-sunrises in the Canto and “her sighs by clear notes broken” is certainly disjunctive, but it is effective in conveying a sense of twilight or obscurity.

Erminia finds herself in a kind of twilight between worlds: a world of war between Christians and its Others (‘the infidels’) and a world of disavowal from war’s precepts. Erminia, however, acts as an absorber of the two worlds after hearing the shepherd “gentle words.”  “His wise speech sank into her heart; her senses’ turbulent waves were soothed a little by it” (VII, 14, 3-4).  The shepherd’s words do not remove her anxiety completely, only a little. Her turbulent senses undergo somewhat of a reversal of “the bitter juice”—“honey the brim of cup” metaphor in Canto I.

Tasso’s choice to sweeten the conquest of Jerusalem in a deliberate manner is much like Erminia’s bitter juice absorbing the shepherd’s “gentle words.” Before the shepherd tells his story to her, he asserts “I fear no poison squeezed into the cup; for thirst, my stream is always clear and good” (VII, 10, 5-6).  Moreover, the reversal and obscure usage of metaphor by the shepherd, speaking of peace, tells her “among these shadows some small part of the weight will be lifted from my heart (VII, 15, 7-8).  Erminia taking off her armor, shortly following, however, is described as being morally useful: “never could it be hid in simple garb, that sublime light of her nobility”  (VII, 18, 1-2).  The constant obscuring of the light/harmony motif in Canto VII not only an anti- courtly polemic, but an episode, in the context of theentire poem, that Arnold Hauser considers a mannerist tendency:

     …it is impossible to understand Mannerism if one

     does not grasp the fact that its imitation of

     classical models is an escape from the threatening

     chaos, and that the subjective over-straining of its

     forms is the expression of the fear that form might

     fail in the struggle with life and art fade into

     souless beauty (Hauser I, 355-356).

In this respect, Erminia’s ‘intercalary’ episode forced into a poem about war and Christian victory might be initially considered superfluous; however, it does not interfere with the moral purpose of the epic.  In fact,

 the very forcing of an anti-courtly polemic within a heroicepic allows Tasso to “reconcile the conflicting narrative demands of unity and variety” (Kates 109).  In doing so, Tasso’s allegory does not unfold as simply a little-war-here or little-non-war-there quilt job.  In attempting to force an aesthetic synthesis of genre, Tasso also forces anethical synthesis. The European individual’s return toChrist—the moral pivot of the poem’s allegory—alongsidethe temporal victory of Jerusalem, in the context of theCounter-Reformation Europe, placates an anxiety to containor retain a common Other.  For the Catholic Reformation,this Other is Martin Luther’s Prostestants and for theaesthetic Other in the poem, it is “the infidels”—anyonewho does not deserve to rule Christendom’s Jerusalem.

   Notwithstanding, Tasso’s aggrandizing of a moral Purpose reveals the poem’s own insecurity regarding strength of its allegory.  In Canto XIX, after the fateful battle between Tancred and Argante, Tasso asks

What pen has ever staged

      The glorious scene?  Who can describe the sight

      Of a people overcome, or justly tell

      of that pathetic, fearsome spectacle? (XIX, 29, 5-8).

Echoing the anxiety Francois de la Noue expresses in his memoirs, where Catholics and Protestant “each urged the other to peace and to persuade the great to listen,” Tasso’s own task overwhelms him (Hale 129).  He stages “the glorious scene” and “describe[d] the sight of a people overcome.”  But Tasso makes no distinction about whose people, he just says a people.  In the stanza prior. Tasso’s admits “none could tell the conquered from the champion” so “a people overcome” may very well be Europe: overcome with indiscernible divisions, “pathetic,” and fearful (XIX, 28, 8).  In Canto XVI, Tasso illustrates some pre-lapsarian imagery in respect to Armida, the seductress and Europe’s Other:

     So mingled was the art with carelessness

     You’d think that Nature had arrayed the site.

     It seemed an art of Nature’s playfulness

     To mimic her own mimic for delight (XVI, 10, 1-4).

Thus, the explication runs: the art was “mingled” without care.  The reader would suppose realism (nature), yet somehow, an aspect of realism’s whimsicality is discerned one which copies the one who copies “for delight.”  In short, the method of using the Other to convey a moral purpose has its own problems. What is behind the imagery appears natural, but there is an idealism behind the nature “to mimic her mimic for delight.”  In the same way does Mannerism attempt to fuse the spiritual (or idealism) with realism (or naturalism) into a single entity (Hauser I,355-356).  Murray explains:

     The painter is no longer to be bound by perspective,

     or by the necessity of presenting his subject in a

     rational, objective manner.  He my use light and

     colour, chiaruscuro and proportion as he pleases; he

     may borrow from any source he chooses; the only

     obligation upon him is to create an interesting

     design, expressive of the subject, and the various

     parts need bear no relationship to each other.  The

     entire composition must be evocative and beautiful

     itself (Murray 44).

In Tasso’s attempt to hide behind Armida through mimesis, his “interesting design” lures the reader towards the poem’s moral purpose, though in some cases, through the Other.  Armida, a distraction for the Christian army, is also a distraction for the reader who is awaiting Godfrey to “restore his straying men to the banner of the Lord” (I,I, 8).Tasso, then, is free to utilize any means necessary,any “color” or “proportion” in order to evoke his message–even if it involves using the Other to force a return to European identity.  He may use proportion how he pleases (with romantic interludes, heroic polemic, as well as anti-courtly polemics) and does not need to explain the relationship between the aspects of his poem to one another at any great extent.  He simply needs to keep the plot going and keep it “evocative and beautiful” (Murray 44). Tasso’s narrative, set up under a model of salvation history, in this way, has the freedom to achieve what it sets out to achieve.  With so many character bifurcations, dichotomies, disguises, genre birfurcations,intertextuality, it is as if Gerusalemme liberata as awhole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Yet, Tasso admits to such a method early on in third stanza of Canto

I:

      You know the world delights in lovely things

      For men have hearts sweet poetry will win

      And when the truth is seasoned in soft rhyme

      It lures and leads the most reluctant in…(I, 3, 1-4).

By luring in the reluctant, using the vernacular, Tasso succeeds in, idiosyncratically, letting the sweetness of poetry speak for its moral purpose.  He “seasons” in “soft rhyme.”  The aesthetics intend to season the content or truth or moral purpose, which to Tasso, will justify the allegory of a historically displaced Catholic past—the First Crusade—reacting to its Protestant present.

    The straining of allegory in Gersualemme liberata becomes more peculiar when the heroic aspect of the poem is not only limited to war.  It has theological implications.   In Canto IX, Tasso’s “willful mystification” perpetuates an urgency to bring God down to earth.  The “earthification” of the spiritual and “the spiritualization” of the sensual are tendencies to conciliate the Prostestant/Catholic disagreement on the substance of God.  Reminding one of Michaelangelo’s Last Judgement, Tasso explicates God and His attributes with mannerist aesthetic conventions:

     But the sublime

     Monarch of heaven meanwhile from His throne

     Turned His eyes towards the battle. He alone,

     There seated, deals to all the universe

     Good and just Law, creates the orders bright;

     Over the limits of the narrow world.

     Reason and sense cannot attain that height;

     And from august eternity He shines

     In three illuminations of one light,

     His servants Fate and Nature at His feet,

     And Motion too, and Time which measure it,

     And Place…(IX, 55 ff).

God, all of a sudden, makes His appearance over a limited and narrow world despite the fact that He “deals to all the universe.”  He is one, yet three. He is controls Fate and Nature.  He is alone. Whereas Tasso reinforces to his readers that they cannot possible fathom God’s greatness, Tasso continues describing His attributes in abstract, non- temporal, and generic terms.  Functionally speaking, Tasso’s description of God contradicts what he wishes to express, which is more in line with the Protestant view that God is not found upon a crucifix. Nevertheless, the indescribable God is described upon a different kind of crucifix—the whole of the poem—which contains a moral purpose alongside an aesthetically contrived Christian past.  In this way, the themes of war and lust run consistent with the allegory: to temporalize a spiritual awakening in the mind of the European. The pushing of God into the foreground from “out of nowhere” is deliberate and obscure.   One gets a sense of a “bird-eye- view” of the battle; however, much like Tancred and Argante’s duel in XIX, the perspective alters dramatically from “the streams of blood flowed the same on both sides” to “the sublime Monarch of heaven” “which even the blessedest visions cannot bear”  (IX, 57, 7).  Description of God are backed with no direct mention of war.  Only when Michael, “whose warlike arms are all of burning adamant,” is sent to the battle does the reader know God “fated this” (IX, 58 ff).  Here, the intertwining of two elements imannerism—spiritualism (idealism) and naturalism (realism)—become apparent (Seiferth). Must God’s intervention in the heroic poem be “marvelous” or “magical”to be consistent with the allegory of the Christian soul?

Or does the contrived aesthetic function on a different level? C.P. Brand concurs Tasso’s aesthetic principles precede the historicity of the battle for Jerusalem:

      The historical material must, therefore, leave

      room for invention, which has a very important

      role: historical truth is only a means to an

      artistic end (C.P. Brand 71).

 On the other hand, Judith Kates warns:

      To perceive the “heroic” as limited to the

      military is to deform the poem.  Tasso marshals

      his imaginative resources in the Gerusalemme

               liberata to represent a larger understanding

      of the heroic centered on the inner life.

               As one stage in such a reevaluation he does

      make use of a classsical ideal of heroism, but as

               only one element in the sense of the heroic

      that emerges from the poem as a whole (Kates 71).

Whereas the room for invention is already in place, Tasso uses a mannerist aesthetic, lending a strange though logical cohesion to something as disjunctive as Hellenic miracles and Christian victory.  Such a aesthetic treatment renews the theological commitment to God as all-powerful. At the same time, it allows for Tasso’s “mistake”—the beautification the moral purpose—to drink the bitter juice as a medicine for Europe’s own good.  C.P. Brand is correct in saying that historical truth serves as “means to an artistic end,” but only in the sense that Tasso’s heroic poem is already “historically” displaced to begin with.  Tasso’s displacement, however, is a premeditated tendency for Europe to stay united, which is historically grounded motivated by the schism of the Reformation.  The “whole” of the poem is based upon the supposition that such a unity, or “heroic centered on the inner life” is desirable. Michael, a celestial being,

     bow[s] referently before the feet of God.

     He spreads his golden plumes for the great flight

     With a swiftness surpassing thought,

     And passes the empyreal fire and light,

     The changeless glory where the blest are brought

     and sees the crystalline sphere in pure perfection,

     the star-gemmed sphere that whirls in the other

     direction” (IX, 60, 7-8).

Leaving the God-eye-view of the universe, the archangel Michael leaves the non-temporal vantage point of the universe to the temporal world itself. Passing Jove and Saturn, Michael penetrates “our world in its constant strife of self- destruction, feeding, death, birth, life”(IX, 61).  The relationship between God, his messenger Michael, and the world proves to be based on one a vague distinction between Prostestant and Catholic understandings of the substance of God, which Tasso respectively chooses to express.  Tasso’s choice to do so, however, is indicatory of the poem’s allegory of returning to God.   It involves a synthesis: a gathering together of the spiritualism of the inner life and the realism of a historical event: a conflation between theology and history.

This very synthesis adheres precisely with mannerist conventions in painting.  Michael is described with his “golden plumes” like a phoenix coming out of the God’s ressurrective fire (thereby giving him iconoclastic attributes) that moves so quickly it “surpasses thought.”  The ineffability and insensibility of comprehending the divine ring throughout; paradoxically, the scene must be comprehended for, despite its strangeness, it follows a hermeneutical model of narrative.

The moral purpose is the hinge by which the allegory can be concordant with salvation history, hint at even a great future glory. It strives for the logos, the meaning of the Christian soul’s return to God. Despite the fact that God comes to the aid of his “faithful flock,” it is the manneristic synthesis of spiritualism and realism that force the individual European reader to intuit the act of participating in the allegory (IX, 58 6). Once this is readily felt, Prostestant and Catholic alike renew kinship to the Christ-Event; they become one as if they were neversevered from one another.   What problematizes this, however, is the theological implications of the political shift from Catholic Europe’s authority. In the same scene, shortly following the depiction of God’s presence in the battle, “the sun, cloud-hidden, flings its bow, and all its lovely hues unfold.”  Here, spiritualism returns, dispersing “lovely hues” upon a war which is certainly not fought for the sake of beauty.  One may ask, how do the “lovely hues unfold…so cleaving the midnight’s calm and liquid rest” (IX, 62, 6-7)?  Does it imply a rainbow, or more specifically, a rainbow in the dark (or Hellenic miracle)?   Must God’s intervention in the heroic poem be “marvelous” or “magical” to be consistent with the allegory of the Christian soul?  Or does the contrived aesthetic function on a different level?  Here, Mannerism rears its ugly head, once again, attempting to circumvent Europe reach for its moral pivot.

   Literary Counter-Reformation aesthetics as found in Gerusalemme liberata, dark and manneristic, is, indeed, a strained tendency towards an image of a spiritually indissoluble Europe whole.  Under such tendencies, moral purpose commingles with aesthetics, romance with epic, spirit with matter.  Even Tasso’s usage of Otherness seems to supplant, rather than detract a poem built upon a hermeneuntic model of salvation history and in doing so, revealing how a passionate vision can often undermine the grandeur of its reach.  Overcoming individual tribulations through a collective trial to refurbish unity, however, is consistent with the poem’s allegory.  Tasso’s aesthetics, full of oscillating bifurcations, whether in genre or in theological commitment, are historically grounded despite his ahistorical treatment of the conquest of Jerusalem itself. The contradictions resonate with the divisions within European Christendom during Tasso’s time. By protesting against Protestant division, Tasso’s mannerism captures the odd beauty of a manic vision—one of abetrayed and depressed Europe under a single mighty God.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

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   Life.  New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966.

Wright, A.D. The Counter-Reformation: Catholic Europe

   and the Non-Christian World. London: Weidenfeld &

   Nicolson, 1982.

AESTHETE

To the aesthete, the world of representations is a distinctively pronounced affair.  In Joris-Karl Huysmans’ Against Nature, the protagonist, Des Esseintes is emblematic of the aesthete’s contending with the equally alienating and equally liberating impetus of living in an epicurean world of representation, that is, a world where one lives in a wonderland, where nothing is ever finished, and every book or painting possessed is equally exquisite and arcane. Escaping the torrents of Parisian life, Des Esseintes throws himself into a “here-and-now” reality of highly refined tastes, goes into his apartment, shuts the door, locks himself inside his apartment indefinitely, whose parameters confine him, yet paradoxically set him free by “literizing” his very existence.  His aesthetic tastes in the novel, however, are not as statically epicurean as one might suppose; instead, his tastes are, more or less, characteristic of Schopenhauer’s “World as Will and Idea.”  Des Esseintes’ epicureanism is  subversion then, where the “will as a relationship to its world,”dialogues with the paradoxical constituencies of aesthetic ideals.

Des Esseintes is the prototype for the hipster that stays home.

      By ascribing to himself an environment, a monastery cell as well as a den of pleasure, Des Esseintes’ epicureanism promotes a general striving for aesthetic perfection.  He may, on one hand, treat his surroundings as a backdrop for his ideas, however, it is apparent that Des Esseintes expresses two oscillating world-views which are only reconciled by being presented as two-sides of the same coin. In his view, there were only two ways to arrange a bedroom: either make it into an exciting bedchamber, a setting for nocturnal pleasures; or else devise a place of solitude and repose, a retreat for meditation, a kind of private chapel (54).   Des Esseintes is cognizant of the immediacy of both “perfections,” ideals, but he does not want to be tied to one or the other.  Rather, he finds the “comfort” factor in both, luxuriating in their respective epicurean qualities.  He indulges in the idea of a bed chamber that knows “how to envelop a woman in an atmosphere of depravity,” and then considers the importance a bedroom “contrived so as to resemble a monastic cell”  (54).

   Interestingly enough, Des Esseintes is keen on pointing out the efficacy in which he is bound, establishing that it is his will to furnish a depressing space with joyous objects, or rather without sacrificing the ugly character of the room, imprint  upon it— by this treatment, a kind of overall elegance and distinction. His aesthetic approach of a theatrical décor in which tawdry fabrics mimic luxurious, expensive clothess, achieves precisely the opposite effect, by using magnificent materials to create the impression of rags; in short, to fit out a monastic cell which at once appeared to be genuine without, of course, actually being so (54).

 Once imitation becomes essence, Des Esseintes no longer needs a distinction between the externality of his life and his will.  His epicureanism in both respects, towards the profane and towards the holy, satisfies his refined tastes, in turn, sublimating his external world by way of  a pure aesthetic idea. Texture and form, then, can be refashioned by the mind without “misrepresenting” reality; instead, the epicurean luxuries appropriate reality precisely as the will sees fit.

     Allowing for a reversal of the external with the internal excellence of the objects in his room, Des Esseintes’ epicureanism subjugates a world of his representations to the world of his will. His room’s décor merely mimics; what is genuine is strictly implied.  The imitation of a world becomes wholly enchanting to him.   Rather than professing aesthetic representation as that which might limit reality, however, Des Esseintes emphasizes how his easily his will satisfies his epicurean delights:

   the illusion was easy to maintain, since he led a life almost

    analogous to that of a monk.  He thus enjoyed the advantages of

    the cloister while avoiding the drawbacks: the barrack-room

    discipline,  the lack of attentive service, the filth, the

    promiscuity, the monotony of idleness.  Just as he had mad his

    cell into a warm and comfortable bedroom,  so too had he made

    himself a life that was normal, pleasant, full of well-being and

    of occupation, and free  (55).

Striving for excellence that does not separate ugly from beautiful, or rags from magnificent materials, Des Esseintes’s  “World-as-Idea” exonerates the human will’s capacity for aesthetic exploration.  It underscores the notion of contrivance, which although serving the “monastic” and the “promiscuous,” inevitably conveys the relationship Des Esseintes has with the world he has created.  No only aestheticizing the “well being” of his inner world, he has designated that the external world is analogous to his will and in turn, sets such a world up for collapse.

      Although Des Esseintes’ fabricated universe procures spiritual “well-being” concurrent with the imitation of life, the inclusiveness of the mystical with the sensible induces a collapse into an ‘inverted epicureanism.”   By the end of the novel he is disgusted with the notion of treating the world as an idea when he points his disdain for concept of  transubstantiation:

     this idea of always being cheated, even at the Lord’s Table, is

     hardly such as to reinforce a faith that is already wavering; and

     then, how can one believe in an omnipotence that is hindered by a

     pinch of potato starch or a drop of alcohol?  These thoughts

     further darkened the prospect of this future existence, making

     his horizon appear more threatening, blacker (178).

Fed up “with the indignation at the ignominious spectacle he was conjuring up,” Des Esseintes rejects his “world-as-idea” as bourgeois “wish-fulfillment,” having little value.  He calls  “painting…a flood of vapid futilities; literature, a riot of stylistic insipidity and timid ideas” (179).  Disappointed that life is not dream as he wished it to be, regretting that he “turned for help and comfort to Schopenhauer’s precepts,” Des Esseintes, “exhausted…collapse[s] into a chair”  (180).   Though certainly partaking in both the refined tastes of “matter” and “spirit,”  feeding on the their respectively epicurean rewards,  Des Esseintes migrates from a world of his own making to a world that he is unsure of:

   Ah, My courage fails me and I am sick at heart!  Lord, take pity

    on the Christian who doubts, the unbeliever who longs to believe,

    on the galley-slave of life who is setting sail alone, at night

    under a sky no longer lit, now by the consoling beacons of the

    ancient hope (181).

 

Not able to light his own sky, nor allow his “world-as-idea” to dictate the nature of his reality, Des Esseintes ironically ceases to treasure the aesthetic his epicureanism once demanded.   The ammorality of his isolation problematically becomes moralized, his picureanism turned inside out by the very ideals that it was initially comprised of.   As he finally realized “the arguments of pessimism were incapable of giving him comfort,” the very kind of comfort that fueled his “world-as-idea” to begin with (180).

     Des Esseintes’ epicureanism collapses when the “will as a relationship to its world” comes into dialogue with the constituents of its aesthetic ideals.   Desiring both the spiritual luxuries of a monastic life and that of thesensual luxuries of artifice, the protagonist inevitably falls victim to the reality underlying the two notions of perfection which were allowed to commingle with one another.   Through an extravagant exposition which leads one towards a some what traumatic conclusion, Des Esseintes’ journey through the cell-block of dreams and isolation leaves the reader wondering if the ‘moralizing’ conclusion does justice to the preceding chapters.  What appears counter-intuitive in the text, some how unravels itself intuitively. It is no wonder that Huysmans would later add an appendix, explicating the kinds of ideas he was entertaining when he wrote Against Nature, admitting he admired Schopenhauer “more than was reasonable” (187).  Whatever the case, Huysmans’ novel examines the noble struggles of a contemplative life and its idioms—namely one that tolerates the contradictions in the postulation of passionate worlds and zealous ideas.

***

As Des Essenties is alone throughout Against Nature and nothing truly happens, save descriptions of  him reading, it is only him, as a true aesthete,  in his chamber or his bath, him reading– him excavating or mining the caverns of Time itself, looking for something beautiful, not to call his own, but to release him from the terrible prison which is the present. For Des Esseintess’ monasticism is against nature. He does not want any contact with the outside world whatsoever. He is perfectly at peace and at home with his libraries, comprised of books that can take to the time period of his choosing, and much like the protagonist of Sartos Restartus by Thomas Carlyle,  Diogenes Teufelsdröckh (which translates as ‘god-born devil-dung’), Des Esseintes can escape the hustle and bustle fin-de-siecle Paris without wincing.

Has anyone ever had cabin fever? It only kind of panic that be described as mad dash for psycho-social necessity.

We have to remember once and for all that some people are hermits by nature and others are social butterflies.

The hermits live quietly and the butterfly live out loud.

This morning, I am reminded of my own cybermonasticm: yeah, this digital revolution.  Here we are. It is not unlike the state I was in when I was an undergraduate at university.

Travel back in time? Let’s go.

***

I recall how I hated the way my Chekhov teacher lectured. I sat in the back of the class.

Recently having paid my dues at the Student Union, I realized the room the class was in—whiteboard, colored markers, seats arranged in kindergarten fashion, all facing the front.  After listening to some Westerner speak of Russian Literature, I was often usually be perplexed by  how Western, white liberal students had this romantic pining interest in the Russian Revolution (its unapologetic violence, its paradoxes,  ironies), which was often herded by some Russophone who has written an “accessible anthology”  or edited a book that was translated from Russian into English, based on the notion of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath did not sit well with my Soviet-era immigrants who lives in the States, that they did not argue with a set of presuppositions regarding what can loosely be called the “Russian difference.”

This “Russian difference,” zealously preserved by the West, always already stands in prejudicial opposition to Europe, and by extension, towards Western literature, that is, polemical, or poetic; and also, towards Western customs, that is, political, and/or cultural.  In effect, the Western reader prescribes to this idea of a “Russian difference” a priori.  He or she simply takes for granted the set of “Russian” choices employed by Russian writers.  After all, Tolstoy certainly does take much from Flaubert.  Dostoevsky certainly does take much from Cervantes.  Nabokov, whether he wanted to admit or not, certainly did take much from James and Freud.  Shakespeare’s Hamlet not only underscores the lack of a proverbial Slavic hero in Russian literature, but instead radically covers over this lack by allowing artifice itself to occupy this privileged position.   To put it bluntly, art, the human act of creation itself—“

     My Chekhov professor, a lanky silver-bobbed, eloquent shawl-donner, wrote the following comment in the margin of my final paper:

 

There is no need to appear an even worse enfant

terrible than you already are.  Of course, you know

‘the facts;’ the introductory part of this work is one

proof of that; and I don’t think it justified, writing

in any manner (the word ‘any’ both darkened and

underlined), to claim that one is ignorant of the

‘facts.’

 

The facts.   What are these facts that I apparently know, I thought—am clearly not so ignorant of? Hmm.  My teacher’s comment hit me strangely. I walked out of the room, out of the building, opened a pack of smokes, put a Camel cigarette to my lips and lit up   Oddly cajoled, I sank into thought; having, at that moment, right then and there, decided to abandon the idea of rewriting  my paper, “An Inexpensive Lesson in Lofty Ideas:  Why Art Itself as Russia’s Hamlet.”  L’enfant terrible.   My professor loathed me.

I didn’t want to argue.  I was not an academic. I was an aesthete, poet and a writer.

And yet I could think of only one lofty idea, leaning back in my writing chair when I got back to my apartment, which was couched within a building that was situated on a corner, on a sloping street, and the beginning of the steep slope of the Berkeley Hills that would be behind an onlooker facing San Francisco—one lofty idea,  though one that, all of a sudden, could just as well split into three, maybe four, maybe five, smaller, less lofty ideas.   For despite the 2300-plus year old allure—of tracking the relationship between the linguistic paradigm of writing and the poltico-sociological paradigm of the writer, those involved in “scholarship”—(in whatever form their rigmarole exudes; speech, article, or book—standing, or sitting with their legs crossed Turkishly)—persons accepting transcontinental nods from another, deservingly faceless nods, are simply intellectuals.  These can hide all they want behind their kitschy footnotes, sip on Oxford sherry.  Culture is god to them; they bask in their cybermonasticism, offering the world nothing outside their own circles, except in instances which can be gained by studying a contemporary writer for a change and retroactively posturing their revelations. At times, it is as if academic nomenclature is short-hand for  a miser keeping a tab in his mind, who has a secret box of jewels that he carefully locates, puts it before himself or herself, opens it and with a fluttering heart, salivates over each held-up stones’ preciousness.

But I had a college sweetheart, see.

We are shoulder to shoulder in bed.

     Sweetheart:  What does it feel like to be inside me?

     Me:  Like I’m inside a body of glass (a breath blown up your nostrils), suction-deep, accumulating sweat.

     Sweetheart:  Wiping away frozen water slowly now? You feel so good. Let’s go again!

     Me:  And the heat.  The heat.  I can almost hear that squeaking sound, the event of my thumb grazing you, and the heat.

Sweetheart: (another breath, hers).

Me: And I can see a blooming flower where you’re heart should be, suspended within the crotch betwixt the absence of two lungs.

     I feel violence in the English language that  can only be described as democratic hypocrisy.

After two minutes or so past, we copulate.

     I craned my neck, pushed out my chest, then forced out two warm streams of breath, outward through my nostrils.  A sigh, I felt, right then, at that very moment, on that special day was both miraculous, and vicious—vicious enough to make me want to sigh again, though not enough to make me want remember a miracle.

Why was  I alive? I thought. I thought that question for longer than is normal. I did not let it escape in the form of a passing phantasm.

I live, I thought. I am alive. Yes.

window

***

     “Turn this crap off.  It’s depressing me.”

     The cries of 3000 some odd people silenced, and she wants to fuck more.

     “Look how their pitching this to us.”

     “Kinda takes the form of a Pollock-like pastiche.”

     Their feeding it to the lower brain, the reptile brain. There’s a cavern for ya.

     “Very funny. What did you mean that we’re going to bomb someone? What do you mean we’re going to war?”

     “Their just feeding into our emotions.  To the lower brain.  Our parasympathetic nervous system.”

I knew we were going to war forever on September 11, 2001.

     “No, I’m serious,” I said, ashing my cigarette on the carpet off the right hand side of the bed.  “The adrenal glands charge our fear. Our reptile brain, our brainstem plunders other parts of our brains and in an opaque secret wants to be pillaged for the media machine cracks ours brain like eggs upon a piece of warm ham glazed in Hallidaise sauce, dripping yellow down a thin, shallow pond of pretty (an oasis, yet real) that wants to serve as an outpost to a Mad Max post-apocalyptic world for us.

The loud world, still running behind it all, right red-eye dilating, lying horizontal underneath an electronic press.

    Sweetheart: “What’s Macbeth-like rhetoric?”

    I once said that the reptile brain’s content was born from the raucous impetus of written words.  But contemporary writers were, in my time, for the most part either too well-groomed or  circus clowns who stood up on soap-box telling secular parables in  made up voodoo languages that was easy for the  cool people to understand.

  That’s so clever, I thought: how the national anthem is supposed to bring the mind back to square one, back to the strangeness of reality, back to the morsel or semblance of reality, back to our lives as a crumb in a loaf of bread called Totality, or a body in a holocaust heap on fire. Maybe someone wants to take a bit of something and make it theirs and is starving themselves (in its various forms) for spiritual reasons, or needs to make up for the times they didn’t say “I love you.” Maybe, a mother needs to breastfeed her child, or another mother needs to stop thinking about how children grow up. It hurts, but growing up leads one to continue the long procession towards the horizon of their happy destiny with (eventually) a significant other, who is one half of the puzzle, who might pass away before you, and if so, at one time. provided not only friendship, but also underscored the importance of a symbiotic hygienic release, and genuine financial comradeship, in very, very, very, responsible  Apollonian way—clean and back in focus, for the better good, because its natural, not weird, sitting across from one other, reaching for a credit card because the bill is sitting lying there between those two people (I’m pointing at them, can you see them)?, and from the look on their faces it’s not time to go gently into that good night. They are talking about a procedure or they are talking about an ultra-sound.

My naked sweetheart cups the orb of my naked shoulder.

    “I love you, Paul.”

     I looked at her with such desire and such hope; I blew out a stream of smoke.  She scooted closer to me, her whole body, it seemed, wanted something less cerebral.

    “Come back to bed.  I’m cold.”

     I coughed thrice, got under the cover and she took off my underwear.

From that point on, I decided I was going to live both silently AND  out loud.

For there is a war in them clouds.

And yet there’s still—you and me.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

  1. paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

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Dearest Andrushinka: A Love Letter

Posted: June 21, 2014 in Writing

The_Fisherman_and_the_Syren-c._1856-1858

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queen victoria

     As the idea of secular autonomy saturated the intellectual climate of 19th century, modern subjectivity (eclipsing a formerly strict theological orientation) poured itself into new narrative templates by which to re-understand the world. Two ‘totalizing’ methods appropriated the structuring of this subjectivity:  organic holism and synthesis. Using these ways of re-contextualizing their murky, oscillating paradigm, the Victorians rendered stylistic changes into the substance of their literature.  Thomas Carlyle, well- acquainted with the history of metaphysics and philosophy, was a holistic writer.  Aware of the chasm produced by no longer having to adhere to the narrative of divine authority, he appropriated multifarious styles within an historical totality, so as to redeem the nobler tenets of religion. John Stuart Mill, however, whose style was founded on a synthesis of Bentham’s ideas of pleasure and pain with Samuel Coleridge’s idea of free association, affirmed the “malady” of the secular subject. Defined by a spiritual lack, this subject was remedied, yet spontaneously determined inwardly, via an organic metaphor: wherein two kinds of causality were conflated, so a changing world became holistic—easier to bear.

     Allow me the freedom to demonstrate how an organic metaphor and holistic subjectivity, as they are stylistically-rendered in Victorian rhetoric, were instrumental in understanding the “causally-fatigued subjectivity” of these two writers’ nebulous times.  To elucidate how two conflicting narratives (between religion and science) informed Victorian thinking, I will briefly “go back to Kant” as his thought pertains to moral agency and causality.  In short, I will demonstrate exactly how both Carlyle and Mill account for and/or embrace the monstrosity of freedom through their literary gesturing, whereby they attempt to justify the vacuous burden of secular subjectivity.

     Both the origin and development of John Stuart Mill’s thought can quite rightfully be found in his Autobiography.  In it, Mill describes his depression as a young man, which is characterized as an experimental period of seemingly fruitless self-examination.

During this time I was not incapable of my usual occupations.  I went on with them

     mechanically, by the mere force of habit.  I had been so drilled in a certain sort of

     mental exercise that I could still carry it on when all the spirit had gone out of it. . .(1167).

Two lines of Coleridge, in a later period, writes of the same mental malady:

Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve,

 And hope without an object cannot live  (1169).

Mill, in all his efforts to rid himself of depression, finds solace not simply in art, in poetry as such, but lets his routines operate for him, mechanistically.  It is as if these habits have an agency of their own; and, that all Mill does is suit-up and show-up for them to unravel to their logical completion.  In Coleridge’s poetry, Mill finds “a true description” of what he “felt.”  Literature, for Mill, is a site of identification—presupposed to cheer him up, or provide a remedy for spiritual despair, and his mentor, Coleridge, served this purpose.

     We must not take for granted the point of view Mill writes in:  it is in first-person to be sure; nevertheless, we must consider the various tenses in which Mill writes.

Mill’s autobiography, temporally speaking, is comprised of him writing about the present of his past (as literature affected him then—in the past), as well as his commentary on his immediate present.  There is a temporal ambiguity here.  Will this affect his later work?  Perhaps.  His utilitarian ethics (“the greatest good for the greatest number”), after all, is a mechanized flight from future pain with self-consciousness as an assumption.  “Not at this time,” he writes about reading other writers (commenting on the future), “(for I had never read them), but in a later period of the same mental malady.”  In this respect, Mill’s malady is a temporally distributive fact; he does not to strictly distinguish between his past from his present, or future; his own agency is deferred to a cyclical, mechanical process that operates in tandem with sickness.

     Mill’s written reflections about his “malady”—and how he (then) started to quell it— forces us to re-consider what his “malady” is exactly.  Is it a memory of a malady now quelled?  Is it a historically self-conscious attitude in which Mill’s subjectivity itself is couched, or an indication of the episodic stylistic journey upon which he develops his own voice?  It can easily be overlooked that it was not after Mill read Coleridge that he describes feeling better, but after Mill reads both Coleridge and Marmontel’s Mémoires which, ironically enough, is an autobiography of a historical predecessor:

     I was reading, accidentally, Martmontel’s Mémoires, and came to the passage which

 relates his father’s death, the distressed position of the family, and the sudden

 inspiration by which he, then a mere boy, felt and made them feel that he would be

 everything to them—would supply the place of all that they had lost.  A vivid

 conception of that scene and its feelings came over me, and I was moved to tears 

 . . . .I could again find enjoyment, not intense, but sufficient for cheerfulness, in

 sunshine and sky, in books, in conversation, in public affairs; and that there was,

 once more, excitement (1169).

Mill believes the ‘effect’ literature has on his depression is both necessary and sufficient for overcoming his “malady.”  He prefers the kind of writing he can enjoy—the kind of writing which revitalizes his spirits and inspires him to empathize with another person’s pain and courage.  He feels reintegrated.  This is why he puts “books” in the same realm of  “sunshine and sky, in conversation, in public affairs.”  These are useful to Mill in that they are antithetical to the wearing out of pleasures.  To be revitalized, individually as well as socially, then,  Mill emphasizes a temporal reconciliation: a holism in which a-historical spiritual anguish and a general hope for future enjoyment can promote each another morally.  This moral drive for a “holistic subjectivity” is kin to much of Victorian writing.  By particularizing the Victorian condition—making it stand in for something universal—Mill can prescribe a holism that assuages and encapsulates “all that they had lost,” a panacea to the general malady of his time period’s metaphysical disorientation.

     There are other ways of approaching the historical self-consciousness and causal disorientation inherent in the secular subjectivity of Mill’s time.  Upon an initial reading of Sartor Resartus , Carlyle synthesizes a plethora of styles and genres to characterize the period’s anxiety-ridden subjectivity.  His protagonist emerges vaguely contextualized.

     Under the strange nebulous envelopment, wherein our Professor has now shrouded   Himself, no doubt his spiritual nature is nevertheless progressive, and growing (1077-78).

The envelopment is intangible, abstract; it does not connote a room, nor a public space.  It is “strange,” “nebulous,” a situation rather than a place “wherein our Professor,” a man of insight, is “now shrouded.”  Our Professor is already known; embedded within a world in advance.  He is “our Professor,” not a professor, nor one professor.  We know him; he is ours.  Moreover, temporally-speaking, “he has now shrouded himself.”  The enshrouding happens forthwith; and, we, perhaps, his students, are associated with the immediacy of this emergence.  Despite “the strange nebulous envelopment,” there is “no doubt” the professor does not merely exist as subject, he is also in the process of becoming.  “His spiritual nature” is enshrouded, in flux, “progressive,” and clearly, “growing.”

We behold him, through those dim years, in a state of crises, of transition: his mad

     Pilgrimings, and general solution into aimless Discontinuity; what is all this but a

     mad Fermentation; wherefrom, the fiercer it is, the clearer product will one day

     evolve itself? (1078).

The Professor has traveled through history, “through those dim years” of both cyclical and linear change.  He questions the point of “the aimless Discontinuity” of his travels: if  “the mad Fermentation” of his experiences will one day yield a “clearer product.”  To some degree, Carlyle mirrors the Preacher in the Book of Ecclesiastes. “All is vanity and vexation of spirit.”  Everything changes.  He has seen these changes and is dumbfounded by his own reflections, wherein wisdom and folly are contrasted.  The Professor reflects on the future, using the future tense.  “The clearer product will one day evolve itself,” he writes, as if he foresees emergent consequences. Subsequently, the Professor’s name, Diogenes Teufelsdröckh, in purely linguistic terms (though not appearing in the cited passage), is a combination of/between  Diogenes (the Cynic) from classical times and an unabashedly vulgar modern appellation, Teufelsdröckh—German for “God-Begotten Devil’s Dung.”  This is not just a simple synthesis.  Carlyle’s Professor Teufelsdröckh embodies a subjective holism; he is an “Every-man” of sorts, a “Son of Time” (1078).

     Whereas Carlyle’s Professor is historically-mobile; however, let us go back to Mill’s Autobiography where Mill puts forth the idea of an “organic subjectivity.”  In it, Mill corroborates how finding solace in someone else’s writing not only offers him a deeper understanding himself, but delivers him from the mechanical determinations of everyday life—wherein his banal daily activities seem governed by a muddled sense of time and a displaced moral agency.  Upon personally identifying with Coleridge’s poetry, he links himself up with the content of emptiness.  “Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve,  And hope without an object cannot live” (1169).  Nevertheless, Mill endows literature with a social function.  He reveres literature for its redemptive potential:  it opens up a space wherein  broken thoughts can be sutured—so one could be relieved from relying on “connections with struggle or imperfection, but would be made richer by improvement in the physical or social condition of mankind” (1172, italics mine).

     An emphasis on social or physical improvement, however, only problematizes Mill’s immanent sense of his historical present and his recollections of the past.  Mill believes human nature flees from the mechanical and seeks balance.  In On Liberty he claims

Human nature is not a machine to built after a model, and set to do exactly the work

prescribed to it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides,

according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing (1147).

Here, Mill’s equates models with machines and agency with biology.  His tree-metaphor for human nature is itself a theoretical model for causality.  By suggesting human nature “grow(s) and develop(s) on all sides according to the tendency of inward forces,” which connotes a linear narrative, Mill not only obfuscates the agency of his own critique—the inner determinations of its episodic development—but also thwarts explaining how a tree-metaphor for human nature sprouts from the soil of his own socio-historical context.  A tree’s development is contingent on it being embedded within a life-world, photosynthesis, its interaction with the ecosystem.  It is always-already determined by a specific narrative.  Does Mill’s organic subject sprout from a vacuum?  Although we certainly cannot ignore the social concerns of Mill’s work, we must re-consider how the “tendency” of “inward forces” are, unlike in a mechanistic model, not “set to do exactly the work prescribed” to them.  In light of Mill’s understanding of causality, subjectivity is, in effect, a Spinozean tree increasing in power: an affect of human nature that is itself of  “Nature.”  Yet, Mill’s tree is not simply an Newtonian narrative that follows its own causal mechanisms.  His causal narrative for subjectivity is developmental: a blooming movement from sickness to remedy; it is a causal narrative of potential growth within the architecture of organic progress.  Mill’s human is an isolated monad with a causality to be sure, yet also an opaque self-enclosed entity that has yet to be socialized in order to flourish.  Paradoxically, Mill’s criticizes any definitions of human nature that are based on mechanistic determinations—claiming human nature is not based on any models at all.  Yet Mill’s organic tree-metaphor is a-historical, with its own determinations; and, it is in this way that he conflates a biological narrative with a social one.

      Kant might be of use here; and, a return to the first Critique is not unwarranted.  He had a profound impact on the Victorian Period; for the question remains: what causal mechanism commands history?  If it is not God, it is biological determinism.  If it is not biological determinism, it is a cathartic freedom as expressed by a socially-conscious subjectivity that follows an immanent progression.  How can one reconcile the causalities expressed through these narratives without appealing to an entity that is transcendental? Does Mill prescribe an organic metaphor for “human nature” in order to cover over, heal and/or absorb the wavering schism between secular moral agency and the determinism of natural theology?  Victorian writers, it is important to note, not only had to contend with Freedom’s subjective, transcendental character, but tried to encapsulate how Freedom itself generated new social narratives that immanently re-oriented the secular subject in its relation to time and history. A metaphysical holism was required.

Kant, as it well known, tried to save religious faith from obscurity by situating God and Freedom within the architectonic of human reason.  In short, he sought a way to reconcile the impasses (the antinomies of a transcendental dialectic) generated during the debates between the rationalists and the empiricists.  The transcendental aspect of Kant’s critical philosophy  attempted to demonstrate the necessity of a sole presupposition, that of a freedom: not merely freedom to act or to think, but to metaphysically ground the a priori character of self-determination.  Kant presented two realms of causality: a phenomenal realm, where natural, “organic” causation occurs; and, the realm of the noumena, (from the Greek, pnuema, soul ), which can only be apprehended, yet never known as it is in itself.

    We can conceive two kinds of causality only with reference to events, causality either

of nature or of freedom. The former is the connection of one state in the world of

sense with a preceding state, on which it follows according to a rule. . . By freedom,

on the contrary, in its cosmological meaning, I understand the faculty of beginning a  

state spontaneously. Its causality, therefore, does not depend, according to the law of  

nature, on another cause, by which it is determined in time. In this sense freedom is a

purely transcendental idea. . .(A: 530-534; B:558-562).

For Mill, spiritual maladies are alleviated immanently; the subject is revitalized when he unlocks from sheer causality “in the world of sense with a preceding state” and acquires a self-conscious awareness of a organic causality that governs natural progress and growth.  The phenomenal causality of nature and  noumenal freedom are obfuscated.  A newly conflated understanding of causality emerges “spontaneously,” which operates within the realm of nature, yet which is itself just as totalizing and determined.  It is not surprising, then, that Mill’s “sick self”—wherein a secular subject’s experiential totality is accounted for through an organic holism—mirrors the ideology of capitalism itself, both temporally and morally.  The subjectivity of the consumer does not only cultivate itself like a tree, then adapt to a determined paradigm, as in the case of Mill.  Liberal-democratic ideology invites one to, like Voltaire, “tend one’s own garden,” and only insofar that one’s moral agency, the tending, is grounded on the presupposition that nature will runs its course.

     An “organic subjectivity,” in this respect, willfully re-invents an a-historical pretext for its own tendencies to accommodate the idea of a holistic future.  The transcendental character of freedom becomes concrete and immanent.  The causality of nature and freedom conflate; and, this causal overlapping, produces a moral dialectic that structures Mill’s utilitarianism as such:  a philosophy that was not conceived as “the greatest good for the greatest number” until it was holistically and universally grounded on Bentham’s idea that pain was to be avoided and pleasure was to be embraced.  Mill’s utilitarian remedy, therefore, presupposes an causal determinism that is self-regulating in two ways: one by presuming the “self” willfully believes in socio-economic regulation; and secondly, by presuming spiritual issues (emblematic of the Victorian crises of faith) can be alleviated once the subject is firmly and organically rooted within history.  In Sartor Resartus  Carlyle emphatically appeals to readers “who understand, in our Friend’s words, that for man’s well-being, Faith is properly the one thing needful” (1078).  For Carlyle, faith and moral agency, in fact, are directly confronted as they were for Kant and Schiller. Yet for Mill, a holistically-sutured subjectivity is determined in advance: paralogically without the presupposition of agency.  In this sense, Mill reorganizes subjectivity by embedding moral agency within the sinews of an organic totality; while Carlyle, like Hegel reading Kant, embraces these “painful”  causal-tensions though a lofty subjective holism. Carlyle’s self-conscious style illuminates the causal tensions emblematic of his time.

   To such readers as have reflected, what can be called reflecting, in contradiction to

   much Profit-and-loss Philosophy, speculative and practical Soul is not synonymous

   with Stomach (1078).

By employing a subjective holism, rather than adopting an organic subjectivity, he notes the dialectical relationship between economics, metaphysics and ethics; he includes a working knowledge of Kant and Hegel into his work.  As a voracious reader of literature and philosophy, Carlyle lays special emphasis, in fact, on the German education system before proceeding with his “time-travel” philosophy.”  He reflects on the Professor’s

cup of bitterness, which had been filling drop by drop, ever since that first “ruddy  

     morning” in Hinterschlag Gymasium  (1078).

Here, the cup of bitterness, a moral metaphor for Carlyle’s education, serves as a point of reference for what he entails to do with Sartos Restarus as a whole.  The cup’s contents, , “runneth over,” and generates the strange, historically-shifting style of Carlyle’s writing itself.  Unlike Mill, who claims human nature is governed by evenly-determined organic mechanisms,  Carlyle’s Professor admits, up front: “loss of religious Belief was the loss of everything” (1078).  For him two opposing causal narratives—immanently empirical or rational—deadened and/or stunted the Victorian subject’s understanding of agency and freedom.  By blending many different literary styles and genres (autobiography, fiction, Platonic dialogue, essay, epic, German Idealism)—each with their own conventions and inner-determinations—Carlyle can address and empathize with disoriented readers

     Who understand, in our Friend’s words, that, for man’s well-being, Faith is properly

     the one thing needful; how, with it, Martyrs otherwise weak, can cheerfully endure

     the shame and the cross, and without it, Wordlings puke-up their sick existence, by

     suicide, in the midst of luxury’ (1078).

Yet, Carlyle’s “cup of bitterness” (like a medicine imbibed, as it were, in the “Everlasting No” section of Sartor Resartus ) not only indicates his understanding of the anxiety of his culture, but his understanding of literature, Western philosophy, as well as the classics.  He understands the general context in which the Victorians now confront the crises of religion.  His “bitter” elixir, then, is needed to exit the rabbit-hole: to become initiated by  accepting the historical a priori of one’s own time.  For Caryle, the humanist tradition is linked up to Neo-Platonic theology, yet is simultaneously subverted by an anxiety-driven recession from divine inspiration and authority.  He enters the Wonderland of secular subjectivity intoxicated with alternate sequences of causality wherein he can perform dialectically-charged ideas from multiple sites of enunciation: combine and re-combine the literary traditions of the past through the filter of his historically-conscious present.

Through his learnedness of German Idealism, Carlyle does not so much have a tendency towards synthesis or conflation, but a general overview of the history of subjectivity— past, present, and future.  He reinforces faith by ontology alone, phenomenologically. This is why Carlyle not only plants self-conscious commentary into his work, but also waters it with self-referential reinforcement of his passion for stylization:  he does need to be moderate with his style like John Stuart Mill; he does not favor an organic ease.

     Caryle, in fact, overwhelms readers with intertextual references, even Early Modern ones.  Carlyle’s wandering professor paraphrases Milton:  “the painfullest feeling,” writes he,’  is that of your own Feebleness” (1080).  An astute reader would note Carlyle’s Wanderer is paraphrasing Paradise Lost, 1.157:  “Fallen cherub, to be weak is miserable.”  Ironically enough, Carlyle’s Wanderer admits his own emerging indecision in making the literary reference before he can even start explaining the purpose of the reference.

     Between vague wavering Capability and fixed indubitable Performance, what a

   Difference! A certain inarticulate Self-consciousness dwells dimly in us; which only

   our Works can render articulate and decisively discernible (1080).

Carlyle’s notion of capability and performance, particularly after paraphrasing Milton’s indicates to us, as well as to the Victorian reader, Carlyle’s own writing style, even if it historical self-consciousness, even if it is “inarticulate,” resides in a keen understanding of the historical displacement for Victorian subjectivity in general.  For Carlyle, misery is never simply pain; self-consciousness is never simply self-consciousness.  The “vague wavering” between a dwindling theological paradigm and the secular subject embracing  his immanent Freedom informs the stylistic ground from which Carlyle’s literary work arises.  If “loss of religious Belief, “ as the Professor writes, “was the loss of everything,” the context has changed (1078).  The context is difficult to articulate and harness.

In this respect, it is no wonder why Carlyle dips into the literary past in order to better situate his nebulous historical present.

When Milton’s Satan is cast out of heaven by God and his angels, Satan is no longer a servant, but an unfettered master and is seemingly free.  As a literary character, he must re-contextualize the past in order to fight in the present, which has its own set of coordinates.  Yet if Mill’s organic subjectivity is a reflection of today’s ideology of free-market capitalism, who or what is the master then? Who would conspire against or try to overthrow the Kingdom of Freedom?  Carlyle, by adopting a subjective holism, tries to confront the metaphysical wavering between faith and results.  He does not view secular subjectivity as mutually exclusive from the metaphysical and historical backdrop that informs its construction.  Like Milton’s secular Satan, Carlyle’s sage falls to earth and is re-written with secular grandeur.  Paradoxically, such a subject is afraid to fully accept its own weakness in light of the dim suspicion of a new kind of authority: the immanent causality of its own freedom.  The Victorian subject can never become whole in an organic sense  (as in the case of Mill) unless it conceives its own freedom within the totalizing secular ideology of Freedom itself.  Like Milton’s Satan, the Victorian subject, then, is theologically fallen, yet rigorously self-determined: a rebellious castaway; a refugee from the continent of religion always stumbling upon the shores of history.

     It is easy to overlook how the crises of religion during the 19th century ran in tandem with the rise of the middle-class.  This crises, however was not separation from the past, but a metaphysical crises: a Pandora’s box wherein various specters of causality emerged and re-emerged.  Political causality (now bifurcated, though seemingly allotted to the respective institutions of church and state) were contingent structural concessions for the organic thriving and development of nation-states.  Mill, to be sure, conceived an organic metaphor for human nature in order to cope with the metaphysical excess of religious and political pluralism within a totality; he took state apparatuses for granted, as if they were benevolent—hoping, by analogy that the state, like the individual, operated by virtue of an immanent causality and ran its course.  If the state itself is in crises, however, can the state given a remedy for it malady?  Through revolution?  Through media?  By its hunt for its own spiritualized medicine through imperialism?  Can the state be conceived of as a Subject in a permanent theological crises?  For Carlyle, a subjectivity in crises was fertile ground for experimentation.  Through his “sage-like” style he concerned himself with the literary means by which to historically re-center “the figure of disenchantment.”  Mill, wanting to become whole again, developed a philosophy that attempted to confront, yet displace the issue of subjective pain.  Caryle embraced the “painful” tensions, almost diplomatically, though a cultural holism.  Both of these writers presented themselves,at times, as philosophically or stylistically unique, when in reality, their respective styles emerged from a collective condition: the burden of a secular freedom; almost-God-like; self-consciously anxious; simultaneously stifled and mystified by the abyss of new possibilities.  Consequently, the institutions through which the Victorian subject marched were the same sites of contention where such a subject confronted their understanding of being embedded in history.  To adapt was to accept the ghost of a spiritualized story; to struggle was to reject a politically malicious way of life.  Either way, the idea of freedom echoed loudly: within the musty grottos of New England, in the minds of the parasitic wanderers through the Parisian arcades.  Both in Victorian England and on the Continent, “a critique of pure reason” was a critique of authority;  it conscripted anxious subjects to fight for invisible forces by default.  There were historical and moral consequences to the subjective adherence or fidelity to a particular understanding of causality.  Karl Marx once wrote:  “the dreams of past generations are nightmares in the mind’s of the living.” Freedom became an emergent organic causal system in its own right, a new totality that was somehow transcendentally beyond us, yet imminent.  And from this new understanding of subjectivity, we gained a political consciousness.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

  1. paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

NOTES:

Carlyle, Thomas. “Sartor Resartus .”  The Norton Anthology of Victorian Literature.

     Abrams, M.H. Ed.  New York: W.W. Norton, 2000.  pp. 1077-1102.

 Kant, Immanuel.  Critique of Pure Reason.  Trans. F. Max Müller.  New York: Anchor

     Books, 1966

Mill, John Stuart.  “Autobiography.”  The Norton Anthology of Victorian Literature. 

     Abrams, M.H. Ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2000.  pp. 1166-1173.

Mill, John Stuart.  “On Liberty.”  The Norton Anthology of Victorian Literature. 

     Abrams, M.H. Ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2000.  pp. 1147.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WATER_VS_FIRE

Kant wrote in Critique of Practical Reason: “Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me. I do not seek or conjecture either of them as if they were veiled obscurities or extravagances beyond the horizon of my vision; I see them before me and connect them immediately with the consciousness of my existence.”

The notion of their being a “moral law within” does have roots in Judeo-Christian morality even if one disagrees with Judeo-Christianity as an ethical-epistemic paradigm. It wasn’t until the European Enlightenment that freethinkers and philosophers began asking how a morality can exist without God. I always ask the following question—instead of asking why evil exists—-why should there be even such a thing as “good” at all? Psychology says that all behavior is learned; however, I do not think one can say there is an essential or innate morality within a person unless one understood that the historical precedent for most ethical systems does come from religion.

Case in point: the Ancient Egyptian “Negative Confession,” which is like the Ten Commandments, but takes place in the afterlife….and basically it is a list of things one did NOT do while one was alive, such as I did not lie; I did not steal; I did not murder; I did not covet my neighbor’s wife.

Ancient Egyptian and Hebraic morality is intertwined.

According to the Torah, Moses (even if you might not believe in such a figure) was said to be an Egyptian. He was both a Jew and a Egyptian. Entire esoteric texts have been written throughout the centuries that can be called the Hermetic Tradition, which talk about metaphysical causal relationships (like “as above, so below”)—or “on earth as it is in heaven” in the Lord’s prayer.

That being said, if anything can be said of where the notion of “duty,” modern ethical systems borrowed from religions and were reinforced and re-worked by the rise of secular subjectivity in the 17th and 18th centuries.

This does not necessarily mean that if there was no religion, there would be no morality. The New Testament has a motif about one’s conscience, saying basically if one’s conscience condemns you, then you know you have done wrong or sinned. The word “sin” is very unpopular with many “freethinkers,” or atheists or agnostics, but all sin really means in the original Hebrew is “to miss,” not to do something necessarily wrong, but “to miss.” That has a different connotation and denotation than “avera” which specifically means a transgression against God. The theological reasons for the 10 Commandments therefore, I think, are designed not to tell us what to do as much as suggest what we shouldn’t do because it might hurt us. Why?

Because as one reaps, so shall one sow. Every effect has a cause. Every action has an equal and/or opposite reaction.

Hence, in theory, one may make the claim that one does not need religion to qualify or lay down the foundation for morality, yet a true deontological ethics, I think, does have its epigenesis from the Judeo-Christian tradition, given that we are only born with pre-dispositions (DNA) and we are born without any innate morality nor any volition of our own. On top of this, all of our behavior, slightly contrary to what psychology says, is both learned and constructed by us.

Any way you look it at it, one can also make the claim that morality is “just common sensical,” but that is slightly misleading because popular opinion does not guarantee “a true justified belief” in ethics.

Nevertheless, one must bear in mind the psycho-social and institutional factors that which gives rise to political, cultural, or moral exceptionalism through propaganda (mass hypnosis) or “group-think.” I think ethical issues are really accessible and resolvable by abiding by one simple rule—what Kant called the “categorical imperative,” which is more or less (though not totally equivalent), to the Golden Rule: DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU. This maxim is the core of all religious and secular ethical systems. One cannot really avoid it. It invites one to love the Other rather than judge the Other. And as one picture of the Dalai Lama says: love is basically all we got to ensure we are doing right.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

  1. paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

Geoffrey Chaucer -1469387

Obsessed with the idea of historicity and the “nature” of literary origins, recent Chaucerian scholarship, has emphatically attempted to undermine not only Chaucer as a poet, but also as an influence on the English language itself (Cannon 648-52).  Such scholars are keen to illustrate how a literary text, no matter where on the temporal time-line of human history it originates, remains a “worldly” artifact. Such critics, however, grossly misunderstand the blatant “mechanism” of Geoffrey Chaucer’s poetics.

There is a gap between narratological and anagogical forces in Chaucer: a theological dramatic irony. That being said, it follows that is a difference between the historicity of the poetic content, “the literary sources themselves” (the influence of one writer upon another, along a historical temporal axis) and the ahistoricity of poetic form, which is non-temporal.  The unreliable narrators, or the tellers of particular tales, rarely understand the meaning of their own tales. In this respect, one cannot read The Canterbury Tales “historically” simply by excluding the implications of ahistorical theological paradigms, pace Plato.

To illustrate medieval value theories in The Canterbury Tales (which does subscribe to the Great Chain of Being idea), I have decided to focus on “The Merchant’s Tale” and how its meaning is generated, as it is situated within some classical models with which Chaucer was acquainted.  I will demonstrate how Book V of Ovid’s Metamorphoses serves Chaucerian poetics.  Although Chaucer borrowed much of his poetic content from a literary cornucopia of French, Italian, and Roman sources for his rendering of characters, this should not force us to conclude that his influence on the English language is a “myth.”  Historicist readings are not well-suited for reading Chaucer:  the idea of a supernatural force narrating the rape of Persperina in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, as retold by Calliope, for example, reinforces Chaucer’s rendering of a dramatic ironic relationship between the ahistoricity of poetic form independent of poetic content.  The Ovidian element in “The Merchant’s Tale” secures its poetic meaning, which has nothing to do with allegories, neither literal rape or literal marriage, and everything to do with the immortality of the soul.

On the surface, The Merchant’s Tale, part fabliau, part romance, appears to be a narrative poem about the relationship between wisdom and marriage.  January, the apparent elderly hero, seems to hold marriage in high regard when he admits

Mariage is a ful greet sacrament.

He which that that no wyf, I holde hym shent;

He lyveth helpless and al desolate (1319-1321).

The discussion of marriage, however, is then allocated to Placebo and Justinus, January’s brothers.   One brother argues for it, citing various Biblical sources in support of his position; the other follows suit, yet in the same form, with Biblical references discouraging it.  The issue, then, at stake, at least as far as poetic content is concerned, is fragile.  After all, what business is it for January to get married at such an old age?  One must pause and consider Chaucer’s sense of humor here. Content-wise, given what the text implies, it will ultimately arouse a skepticism regarding the worldliness of the tale.  Is the Merchant, one might ask, merely projecting his own marriage woes by fictionalizing them in order to prove some general point regarding women’s fidelity to men and vice versa?   Naturally, from that train of logic, staunch anti-feminist readings can ensue, not to mention various other contestations in the light of the age-old gender war.  But one must ask oneself: is Chaucer seriously concerned with “our contemporary issues” as much as we moderns would like him to be concerned with them?  After all, Chaucer was an avid reader of St. Augustine’s City of God, a non-temporal meditation on human salvation, as well as Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy.  Suffice it to say, Chaucer was just as much as amateur theologian, if not more of one than merely “a metropolitan writer,” whose writings bear likeness to the texts he borrowed from in their “worldly glory” (Cannon 684).

In this sense, because “The Merchant’s Tale” cannot be read as merely a continuation of the marriage discussion—the so-called “marriage group”—as found in “The Wife of Bath’s Tale,” and “The Clerk’s Tale”—we must look elsewhere to properly understand what Chaucer brings to the English language.   It is Chaucer’s unique appropriation, in fact, of classical literary models that provide the impetus behind the use of dramatic irony in his work. (Cooper 134-143).  Let us see how he utilizes those models; let us see how he renders them. Let us turn away from Canterbury for a moment and turn our eyes to Rome.

Ovid, as it is well known, perhaps more than any other figure from the Roman world (except Boethius), is indispensable in understanding Chaucer’s art.  Some scholars might pause at the statement, though, they must consider and contend with how Chaucer implements Ovidian literary models, particularly Ovid’s Metamorphoses  (Brookhouse 512-15).

Whereas some would argue that Chaucer merely capitalizes on the brilliant erotic content of that work and Christianizes it, historicists should be wary of the banality of such an interpretation.  For there is much to gained from understanding the parallels between the Merchant’s January and Ovid’s Pluto.  January, after all, is “sixty yeer, a wyfless man” (1248).  Like Ovid’s Pluto, god of the underworld, he has no queen.  Both January and Ovid’s Pluto, inevitably, fall for a woman much younger than them.  Both have two brothers who care about his welfare. Both Ovid’s Pluto and Chaucer’s January, to some degree, are smitten by Love’s sting.  Let us compare the two lines from two different texts.

So soore hath Venus hurt hym with hire brond (MT, 1777).

The flying shaft Struck Pluto in the heart (Ovid 5.388-89)

Because January’s heart is the matter, it is helpful to pay attention to the goddess, Venus.  She, as it well known, often functions as a stand in for Cupid in Roman literature (Stephens 286-291). That being said, the mother-son nexus itself represents Love as such and in general.  For Venus and Cupid certainly are ontologically unique; nonetheless, they are substantially equivalent.

In this respect, Chaucer’s knowledge of Claudian’ s abduction of Proserpina by Pluto should be understood as distinct from Ovid’s.  In the Claudian story, after all, it is Jupiter who arranges the abduction of Perserpina for his brother, Pluto, not Cupid, nor Venus. Since “The Merchant’s Tale,” at least as far as content is concerned, appears to be a discussion of marriage, of love, then, we can infer Chaucer most likely drew from the Ovidian account rather than the Claudian account (Wentersdorf 525-526). Moreover, the goddess Venus in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (who takes the form of a song sung by Calliope to the goddess Athena), goes at great length to express how Cupid, her son, is superior to the gods of Olympus.  Cupid, in fact, possesses somewhat of a comparable relationship to the gods as the gods have to mortals. All of the gods are subservient to the power of Cupid’s arrows.

The gods of heaven

Are overcome by you; even Jupiter,

And all the deities that swim the deep,

And the great ruler of the water-gods.

Why, then, should Tartarus escape our sway—

The third part of the universe at stake—

By which your mother’s empire and your own

May be enlarged according to great need? (Ovid 5.365-372).

In Ovid’s account of the rape of Prosepine, Pluto rules the netherworld, the third part of the universe; the sky and sea being the others. We deduce he is alone, and wifeless, that Proserpine “once dallied in that grove. . .was seen, beloved / And carried off by [him]—such the haste / Of sudden love” (5.398-404)   The instantaneity of January smitten by Love is similarly described in The Merchant’s Tale.

This Januarie is ravyshhed in a trauce

At every tyme he looked on hir face;

But in his herte he gan hire to manace (MT, 1750-52)

Interestingly enough, however, Chaucer follows this description of January’s unruly lust with a reference to a classical allusion:

That he that nyght in armes wolde hire streyne

Harder than evere Parys dide Eleyne (MT,1753-54)

Giving the reader the backdrop by which to understand the meaning of “The Merchant’s Tale,” Chaucer brilliantly undermines the ravishing of Helen of Troy by an entire army by returning to the idea of love. For this reason, not shortly thereafter, the Merchant, again, employs the word “ravyshheth.”  “He was so ravyshhed on his lady May” (1774).   “Ravishing” had denotations and connotations; it could mean aggressive sex or rape. Nevertheless, this repetition is couched in another classical allusion, to Venus, whom I have already explicated as a stand in for Cupid.

“So soore hath Venus hurt hym with hire brond” (1777).

The relationship between the classical allusions that Chaucer employs is ironic. Instantaneity lends itself to a power of erotic immediacy, to the search for presence, for flesh, for incarnation. This is not to say that January is not disturbed.  He, after all, is absolutely disturbed, as far as poetic content is concerned.  In fact, already, by this point, it is difficult to take “The Merchant’s Tale” literally or seriously, given how much it operates in the world of fantasy, in allusion and illusion.

How are we to understand the meaning of “The Merchant’s Tale,” then, when the Merchant, the narrator, so unremorsefully boasts how January’s love for May surpasses that of Homer’s Paris and Helen, that of a classical love? Obviously there something else operating in “The Merchant’s Tale.” One cannot help but notice the allegorical implications of Ovid’s Proserpine and the January/May nexus:

Now Proserpine became a deity,

Inhabiting six months with her mother she abides,

And six months with her husband (Ovid 5.749-752)

January represents Winter; May represents Spring—that seems obvious enough.  Proserpine lives half the year in the underworld, whilst her mother, Ceres, makes the vegetation die during the winter.  She then returns to Ceres in the Spring and the earth is subsequently replenished.

In “The Merchant’s Tale, however, Proserpine and Pluto are certainly supernatural, but they are not gods.  They are faeries in Priapus’ garden who seem to performing in an ancient Hebraic ritual.

Though he be god of gardyns, for to telle

The beautee of the gardyn and the welle

That stood under a laurer alwey grene.

Ful ofte tyme he Pluto and his queene,

Proserpina, and al hire fayerye

Disporten hem and maken melodye

About that welle, and daunced, as men told (MeT, 2031-41)

As it is well known, Abraham of the Bible met Sarah at a well.  It was, in fact, commonplace to meet one’s future spouse that way.  In this regard, one cannot help but wonder why the manner in which we are introduced to the Ovidian content is inverted.  Pluto and Proserpine are supernatural deities.  They are performing a Hebraic tradition. Nevertheless, one must consider the fact that “Pluto,” the god of the underworld is reduced to a mere fairy in “The Merchant’s Tale.”  This reduction of power, of being once a god only to be mere fairy is striking example of St. Paul’s proclamation about the resurrection of the body“(Death, where is thy sting?”).  This transformation or rather realization that January is just a fairy in the garden and not a god points the reader to the idea about Divine Providence or January’s fate.

O, sodeyn hap! O thou Fortune unstable!

Lyk to the scorpion so deceyable,

That flaterest with thyn heed whan thou wolt

stynge (MeT, 2057-60).

Here we must pause.  For it would be tempting to assume the structural analogue to Pluto is Death, whereby the status of “Death” itself has been reduced to a fairy, and, moreover, because of “Fortune unstable.”  Chaucer, in fact, in an a dazzling display of dramatic irony, elucidates a metaphysical connection between January and Ovid’s Pluto by referring to “Fortune.” “The Merchant’s Tale” has little to do with “Fortune” or “luck”; it also cannot simply be a movement from pagan allegory to Christian allegory. Chaucerian poetics does indeed rely heavily on the idea that Fortune does not exist and that Providence is all in all.  In this sense, the Merchant, most likely, misunderstands the meaning of his own tale.   The reason for this conclusion is rather simple:  The possibility of immortality in the Garden of Eden, if you will, is theologically impossible.  January will never return to a prelapsarian “Eden.”   A return to Eden and the attaining of salvation are not the same theological event.

In this sense, because Pluto not only abducts Proserpine in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, but is also unlawfully wedded to him, “The Merchant’s Tale” appears to be at odds with an allegorical interpretation of its content.  In other words, the Adam-Eve nexus and the Pluto-Proserpine nexus are not directly proportional, and this only further problematizes the notion that “The Merchant’s Tale” is about of finding an ideal spouse, that is, a sinless Eve.   January’s formidable lust, we must be remember, will not relent “Til fresshe May wol rewen on his peyne” (MeT, 1782).

Given that Chaucer incorporates Ovid’s tale of Pluto and the abduction of Proserpine, then, it is important to bear in mind how the supernatural forces in “The Merchant’s Tale” function. For there are multiple references to the earth, to Eden, to Eve, to the Fall of Man within its content; although, this should not automatically reduce one’s understanding of the tale (much like Pluto is reduced) to one of marital woe (Wentersdor 527).   And yet this precisely what the Merchant does.  January’s woe is described. January

.  . .wepeth and and he wayleth pitously

And therwithal the fyr of jealousie

Lest that his wyf sholde falle in some folye  (MeT, 2071-73).

At the same time, however, it is, of course, still premature to assume Chaucer intends his reader to decipher that the tale is ultimately about the soul’s desire to return to God’s bosom. That is to say, Chaucer’s use of Ovid’s “Pluto” is not a matter of him attempting deriving a Christian meaning from a non-Christian source; rather, it is by implementing the poetic structure, the form the story, that is, that Chaucer can illuminate the theological meaning.     January is man who behaves like the Ovid’s Pluto, though equally searches for love, and is blinded by “Death,” Chaucer’s fairy.  Be that as it may (no pun intended), there is no reason to exclude the possibility that Chaucer borrowed the poetic form of the Pluto story (as told from Ovid) to fit his anagogical needs.

In this regard, necessarily inconclusive expositions regarding sociological constructions, the issue of marriage and fidelity, grossly misunderstand the so-called “mechanism” of Chaucer poetics. There are differences between the historicity of poetic content, “the literary sources themselves” (the influence of one writer upon another, along a temporal axis), and the ahistoricity of poetic form.  The evidence for this is revolutionary on Chaucer’s part.  It is worth noting that if Chaucer did indeed use Ovid’s poetic form, one cannot overlook the fact that, in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the story of Perserpina, is told by Calliope, the mother of the Muses.  Calliope is addressing Athena, the goddess of wisdom (Brewser 624).  Chaucer’s discussion of marriage, then, too, in the Merchant’s tale, resides among the forces of divine inspiration and wisdom. This is evident not only in the way that January is blind to May’s affair with Damian, a blindness procured by Pluto, who ironically occupies the place of Cupid.   It is also evident in the merchant’s telling of the tale itself.   For he himself does not understand the idea of finding an ideal spouse when he warns us to

Love wel thy wyf, as Chrst loved his chirche

If thou lovest thyself, thou lovest thy wyf

No man hateth his flesh, but in his lyf

He fostreth it (MeT,1384-87).

The notion of losing sight, being spiritually blind, or physically blind, becomes strikingly clear.  If Chaucer was inspired by Ovid, he would not, as some scholars have even argued, incorporated the Pluto element in “The Merchant’s Tale” to represent a kind of “pagan Fall.” Such an interpretation attributes too much value to the pagan equivalent of the pomegranate to the Judeo-Christian apple.

It is not, however, the content of Ovid’s version in which Chaucer is concerned.  Chaucer’s gives us many particulars, but only insofar as he illuminate the universal from those particulars.   It is difficult to imagine if “The Merchant’s Tale” is about earthly experience at all. Where does it take place exactly? If the tale was about human earthly experience, we, as readers, would be ignoring the aporia between the narratological and analogical forces in the Ovidian account that influenced Chaucer.  It is the Merchant that is the narrator of his tale. It is Calliope that is the narrator of the Ovid’s Book V.  Because of those two facts, Pluto’s foolishness (in Ovid), thinking he can keep Persoperina for himself, is paralleled by the ridiculous lust and folly of the Merchant himself for wanting to get married at all (Wentersdorf 525).  Was Chaucer suggesting that January was a late-bloomer and missed the boat by not getting marriage when he was younger? It is here that we can better understand the difference between the fragility of poetic content and a firm foundation of poetic form. January, in “The Merchant’s Tale, is not the same personage as in Ovid’s account, content-wise as Pluto, yet the former occupies the structural positions of both Cupid and Pluto, that is, both love and death.

It is Pluto who makes January blind to May’s unfaithfulness and who also later returns his sight.  It is Pluto whose “wyf,” Proserpine, does not undergo a “ravishing” in Chaucer’s “The Merchant’s Tale.”  And it is through an ironic manipulation of poetic form—indebted, indeed, to Ovid—that Chaucer can lead the reader back to understanding  what “The Merchant’s Tale” actually means. Much like the rest of The Canterbury Tales, it through the fragility of poetic content and anagogical form, that Chaucer’s dramatic ironies are generated. A theological reading of “The Merchant’s Tale” does not merely reduce a historicist approach to his texts as fruitless, but indicates how the ahistoricity of anagogical form itself, bears no resemblance to the historicity of poetic content. Chaucer’s blatant Platonism, then, which involve the aphoria or impasse between narratological and anagogical forces, supports Lydgate’s claim that Geoffrey Chaucer “Gan oure tonge firste to magnifie, / And adourne it with his ellouquence.”

If anything Chaucer what truly brings to the English language is that he elucidates how literary form as opposed to literary content can enrich the vernacular without relying on allegory.  On that note, it is worth quoting from the Merchant’s mouth himself (as an unstable though interesting structural analogue to Calliope, the goddess of inspiration, who, in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, tells the goddess of wisdom how the god of death fell in love)—

O noble Ovyde, ful sooth systou, God woot,

What sleighte is it, thogh it be long and hott

That Love nyl finde it out in some manere (MeT, 2125-27)

It is for this reason, as in the text itself, Chaucer’s Canterbury is indebted to Ovid’s Rome. The question, however, remains: why Ovid as opposed to any other poet from antiquity? That remains a question that can best be answered in by another inquiry, one that contends with the issue of change and being, mortality and immortality, whimsicality and fortitude, and the role of the human soul in the context of Chaucer’s belief system.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

  1. paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

NOTES

Brookhouse, Chrisopher. “Ovid and the Canterbury Tales.”  Speculum, Vol.43,  No 3

(Jul.,1968), 512-515.

Cannon, Christopher. “The Myth of Origin and the Making of Chaucer’s English.”

Speculum, Vol. 71, No. 3 (July., 1996), 646-675.

Cooper, Helen.  The Structure of the Canterbury Tales. University of Georgia Press:

Athens, 1984.

More, Brookes.  Trans. Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Brewer, Wilmon. Comm.  Marshall

Jones Co., Francetown, 1978.

Stephens, Wade C.  “Cupid and Venus in Ovid’s Metamorphoses” Transactions and

Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. 89 (1958), 286-300.

Wentersdor, Karl.  PMLA, Vol.80, No. 5 (Dec.,1965), 522-527.

 

Jackal Stone 2012

Both NATO and the European Union, respectively, have attempted to unite Europe once again, and for that matter, once and for all.  NATO, however, struggled in the summer of 1997 to decide who belonged to the “West” during the altered political economy of the 1990’s. Given that NATO, a militaristic alliance formed as a counter-force to Warsaw Pact countries—-that those Warsaw Pact no longer existed, and the fact post-World War II Europe had supposedly had enough war—political-economic solidarity as exemplified by the European Union seemed inevitable.  Nonetheless, many claimed that the real risk for an enlarged European Union was not the chasm between old European coordinates and new European coordinates. Instead, some speculated that amid a changing set of shifting alliances across different policy issues, Europe will fail to find strategic direction. Why?  Because it would be naïve to say that the NATO vision and European Union was simply a question of who was in and who was out.

The fate of Europe brings to the forefront three questions that have plagued Europe for thousands of years: ‘who is European, what does it mean to be European, and most importantly, what do Europeans envision themselves to be? At the center of all such inquiry, “European subjectivity,” drenched in a multiplicity of ideological, religious, conceptual, social and economic factors, unflinchingly, ruptures into a series of political moments that are ambiguously correlative to those conditions that provoke them to exist. Whereas liberal-democratic capitalism, after the fall of Berlin Wall, appears to have “won,” as Fukuyama claimed, in May 2004, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia have all joined “Europe.” But are these Eastern European, former Communist countries, also, also indirectly shaping European subjectivity, if as Rumsfeld claimed “the center of gravity” was moving East, we can only speculate what New Europe will be like and what are the strengths and weaknesses of those speculations.

In his reading of “EU integration,” Peter van Ham argues that even though the task in question could be taken to mean many things—“long term socio-economic convergence among European societies. . . the process of co-operation among European nation-states and regions— that the “different meanings of the European concept “do not necessarily have to develop in a harmonious fashion” (Ham 58).  Ham points out that state-formation and nation-formation have not run parallel. That is, if state-formation is defined as an infrastructure of governance based on law a constitution, “the EU has already made significant progress”(58). In other words, Ham is keenly aware that forming laws and creating an infrastructure for those laws to be carried are already en route, though the question of ‘European identity’ has not.  To definitively demarcate the “non-parallelism” between nation and state formation, Ham writes

When we define nation-formation as the development of a European culture and consciousness

within a ‘cognitive region,’ the EU remains rather backward.  In the history of Europe the

consolidation of state and nation has in many cases run parallel, but it has also run out of sync.

The Polish state, for example, did not exist for several centuries, but the Polish nation has

always persisted.  The Soviet Union, on the other hand, has survived seven decades without the

development of a coherent robust Soviet ‘nation.’  (Ham 58)

Ham, invoking Ferdinand Tönnies, insists the debate about European identity can summed up by understanding two distinct types of social organization, Gemeinshaft and Gesellschaft. That is, Gemeinshaft, or ‘community’ in German, “relates to a certain sense of belonging based on shared loyalties, norms, and values, kinship or ethnic ties. . . [an] organic association based on a priori unity” (59).  Gesellshaft, ‘society,’ on the other hand, “relates to the idea that people as individuals remain independent of each other, but may decide in a ‘social contract…to group together. . . ‘a convention’” (59).  Applying these definitions to the EU, then, Ham claims that the EU certainly is “no a truly European Gemeinshaft., a community.  “Contemporary Europe shows a diversity of peoples and communities with only marginally overlapping points of references” (59).  In other words, Ham insists that although the two types of social organization are, more or less, sometimes in discord, before envisioning a “European community’ one must primarily read the EU as a political-monetary ‘society.’

Tracking the evolution of ‘European project,’ a project that was the “product of the Cold War, launched by the integrative stimulus of the Marshall plan. . .hatched under the military wings of the US and NATO,”  Ham indicates that Europe recognized that “the nation-state was the main source of the hatred and war among European peoples” (64).  In other words, the vision, so to speak for the creation of such a ‘society’ was initially “founded on the notion that European integration is a means to promote peace, rather than merely an economic program to guarantee prosperity” (64). Ham, however, sees the issue of identity as one that should be problematized. He writes:

But what if this national Self, this national identity, does not really exist, cannot be discovered, and is

actually made and continuously remade?  This would render national and European identity more

complex and turn into something looser, as a aggregate of methods and policies, of clusters of rules

and regulations that ceaselessly interact in a prosaic process with the uncountable other facts of

everyday life.  Identity must not necessarily be considered a gift and an inborn and primordial

quality, but as a dynamic process that requires enormous energy to maintain and that will never be

fully ‘complete” (65)

Ham points out that what is commonly referred to as ‘identity politics’, therefore, has “been a

strategy and compensatory technique to draw attention to underprivileged groups, and it has often led to more fragmentation, divisiveness and continuous lack of unity” (69)  In other words, according to Ham, national identity contradicts the very tenets of the vision for the EU, as outlined by the participants at the Congress of Hague in 1948. Ham, flat-out rejects “static” definitions of identity.  That is, Ham, who draws a distinction between community and society, insists nationality or national identification may be an impasse to European unity, but it is a superficial one, at best.  In other words, even though political-economic ‘society’ of Europe does not be “harmonious” and can run counterpoint to national identity, it must be taken as a given that such an “identity” of is constantly being constructed and rearranged.

‘Identity politics’ as it stands within the European conceptual domain, for Ham, more or less, “creates and perpetuates an understanding of public identity composed of the suffering self: the oppressed are innocent selves defined by the wrongs done to them” (69).  Ham, therefore, understands Gemeinshaft, ‘community,’ that which elucidates national and/or ethnic identity runs into a certain risk within the context of the European Union, because “ it would merely legitimize exclusion based on clear-cut division between ‘us’ and ‘them,’ especially since the social construction of identity is such an indivisible part of the discourse on security” (71).

Whereas Peter von Ham demarcates the distinction between national and/or ethnic identity and political-economic identity, seeing ‘identity politics’ as an impasse to be overcome, other scholars, such as Riva Kastoryano, have focused on such an impasse in its legal dimension. Citizenship, the political construction of the EU, Kastoryano claims, like Ham, runs messily parallel to the nation-state issue  “These two phenomena,” Kastoryano claims, “which are a priori separate, raise the question of the relevance of the nation-state and its constitutive elements. . .as well as that of the relation of nation-states and citizenship to identity (Kastoryano 120).  Kastoryano hones in on France and Germany in particular, underscoring that while France “is typically represented as an instance of the ideal nation-state. . .on account of its commitment to egalitarian principles. . .national assimilation,” Germany, on the other hand, “is considered ‘exclusivist’ because of the significance accorded to criteria of membership based on ancestry” (121).

A child born to foreign parents, under French citizenship laws, for example, can become “French” at the age of sixteen.  A child born in Germany, on the other hand, after the year 2000 is “automatically German if one of its parents was born in Germany or has resided in the country without interruption during the previous eight years” (121).  Kastoryano, then, unlike Ham, emphasizes that “politics and the rights of citizenship, particularly in relation to the strategies and degree of participation of immigrants, have a vital impact”(120).

In other words, for Kastoryano, because the “politics of citizenship pertains to agents’ political engagement, to their participation in public space. . .the multiple allegiances resulting from political participation raise the question of an individual’s belonging and loyalty to the national community” (121).  France and German (Rumsfeld’s old Europe), particularly in those instances which rely on confronting immigration issues and citizenship, have different conceptions of “being French,” of “being German.” Kastoryano, in this vein, claims that the “triple link between citizenship, nationality, and identity. . .the link between a political community and cultural community, functions as a source of right and legitimacy, and the latter as source of identity” (122). In short, whereas Ham  employs the Gemeinshaft/Gesellschaft bifurcation, positing the distinction between political-economic and non-political-economic identification, Kastoryano emphasizes legitimacy as one that runs to the political-economic dimension, and “identity’ as not necessarily running into that dimension. Like Ham, Kastoryano, insists the cultural identity is distinct from citizenship, from nationality.  Kastoryano writes:

The separation of three of the nation-state’s constitutive elements—citizenship, nationality, and

identity—(the fourth being territory) is reinforced by the political construction of Europe.  In

fact, political participation within the European Union multiplies the memberships and

allegiances of individuals and groups and increases the ambiguity between citizenship and

nationality, between rights and destiny, and between politics and culture (122)

Like Ham, then, Kastoryano insists that  “European society” and  “European community” are ambiguously concurrent with one another.  That is, the “political construction of Europe,” specifically in those instances where “political participation. . .multiplies the memberships and allegiances of individuals,” according to both scholars, is further problematized, particularly in those instances when citizenship might not entail ethnic belonging, where “legitimacy” might run counterpoint to “destiny,” where political-economic identification might have absolutely nothing to do with ‘identity’ in any “strict” sense of the word.  However, in Kastoryano’s account, there indeed is no clear picture on what this parallelality, between citizenship and identity, signifies, given the various conceptualizations of immigrant status among countries already in the so-called European ‘society.’  Ham claims:

. . .European identity will not have to be modeled on the national identities that we know now.

Instead, it should be focused on a set of shared values that underpin (or at least most) European

cultures.  It should be associated with the idea that there is certain ‘European way of life,’

analogous to the ‘American way of life’ that has become one the instrumental myths of the

United States’ culture of capitalist individualism. Europe’s identity would than (sic) be molded

on the belief that Europe has found a unique balance between ‘market’ and ‘social protection;’

a unique balance between ‘commerce’ and ‘culture,’ between ‘capitalism’ and ‘socialism…’

.  .  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, such a ‘European way of life’

does not really exist…the process of Europeanization remains an elite-driven project (73).

In light of these two scholars’ claims, who correctly point out the problems inherent in political-economic, and cultural identifications, stressing how these spheres of identity are not always “harmonious,” are “ambiguous,” it would be difficult to deny that the parallelality between the political-economic apparatus will not, at time butt heads, with ethnicity.  Kantian cosmopolitanism, universalism, European “inclusiveness,” the vision for “a New Europe,” which Ham, correctly points out, remains “elite-driven project,” will never ‘materialize’ unless nationality and ethnicity can be at least loosely reconciled, subsumed, partitioned, so to speak, for the sake of political-economic solidarity.  That is, if “the European way of life” truly does not exist as Ham insists, and ‘identity politics,’ according to Kastoryano, surfaces within respective nation-state contexts—-some which uphold “legitimacy” based on ancestry, others upholding more a more egalitarian approach—perhaps the nationality question needs to be probed all the more.  If in the nation-state context, as Kastoryano points out, identity and citizenship, in respect to one country to another differ, how is one to place the different nation-states into Europe as whole? Has Europe not repeatedly attempted to “unify”—i.e. the Crusades in wake of the Schism of 1054, the Counter-Reformation in wake of the Protestant Reformation, Napoleon in the wake of monarchy?

Moreover, political, religious, secular identifications, in its various forms, however inconsistent or shifty, within the European Union, should look outside “old Europe,” perhaps, to better “see” itself.  In fact, a Eurocentric subject-positioning (creating Others to know what Europe is or represents) might even be indispensable in integrating “Europe.”  Such an irony might only anger much of the financial and academic elites in Europe, who insist they are beyond their Eurocentricism and are transparent to themselves, no longer want to fight, wanting to unify, to talk, negotiate. Philosophers like Habermas, for example, have already began promoting the importance of “communicative action,” a universe of discourse to be opened up for the sake of perpetually defining various dimensions of identification, so there is no confusion among Europeans.  Unfortunately, unless Eurocentric tunnel vision does not become self-critical, the preferred approach, reinforcing Rousseau-esque, Kantian ideals, “shoulds” and “oughts,” “argue as much as you like, but obey” would prove naught save “talk.”  That is, reconciling citizenship, and civic duty, nationality, ethnicity, by applying French and German standards to Europe, to put it bluntly, in affect, coordinates European integration as some kind of Post-Cold War Enlightenment project.39 Hugh Miall and Robert McKinlay, for example, underscore that

The European Union now embodies…liberal principles in its treatises: ‘the Union is founded

on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms,

and the rule of law, principle which are common to the member States.’ No other institution

comes so close to Kant’s aspirations for a European confederation of republics with a juridical

basis that aims at a state of perpetual peace among its members (243).

In this respect, if “perpetual peace” is the state of the art, and the “confederation of republics” is what European integration entails, perhaps, one should then look to Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Russia as examples.  Was not the Soviet system a single political-economic apparatus, inclusive of nationality and ethnicity?  Does the disintegration of the former-Yugoslavia not elucidate that ethno-nationalism involves “choice” just as much citizenship, rather than the kind of “static” identification that Ham of which directly opposes? Despite “obvious” ideological disparities with Western Europe, some of which, of course, are not stark ones, Eastern Europe and Russia, quite frankly, if anything, are worth exploring to some extent for the purposes of understanding how a political-economic apparatus can very well be (in)compatible between ethnic, cultural, or “community” oriented identifications.  But how does this underscore the hypessentiality found within Eurasian/Slavic peoples in respect to Western temporality and progress?  Bearing in mind how the Western gaze falls upon these countries, not only for prospective inclusion, but also through Western cultural influence (Coca-Cola, Hollywood, etc.), if anything Western ideology is now subversively  commingling with Eastern European ethnic, religious, political orientations  and such commingling,  invariably, constitutes “New European” conceptual spaces.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

  1. paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

NOTES

Van Ham, Peter.  European Integration and the Postmodern Condition. London: Routledge,

Kastoryano, Riva. “Citizenship and Belonging: Beyond Blood and Soil” in Hedentoft, Ulf. The

Postnational Self. Eds. Hedetoft, Ulf and Hjort, Mette. Minneapolis, MS: University of Minnesota Press, 2002.

EU Expansion to the East: Prospects and Problems. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd, 2002. pp 245-261.

Wrathchild: An Essay on Violence

Posted: May 28, 2014 in Writing

Ghandi

As Mark Sheperd puts it, “Gandhi called his overall method of nonviolent action Satyagraha. This translates roughly as “Truth-force.” A fuller rendering, though, would be “the force that is generated through adherence to Truth. Nowadays, it’s usually called nonviolence. But for Gandhi, nonviolence was the word for a different, broader concept—namely, “a way of life based on love and compassion.” In Gandhi’s terminology, Satyagraha—Truth-force—was an outgrowth of nonviolence.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fairuza

Well, I am buried in Egyptology again, though also noting the influence of Aristotle’s Poetics on Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History and the New Testament.

Components of a story: beginning, middle and end—through diagesis (in one’s own voice) or through mimesis, the imitation of men in action. Then of course, the dynamis of identification, the “Ah, that is he!” moment. Our hero.

Aristotle writes:” “Unity of plot does not, as some persons think, consist in the unity of the hero.”

Film industry people and bar-none morons bring in Joseph Campbell.

“The Hero of Thousand Faces” myth, however, is an cultural construct that was blatantly derived from Sir James George Frazer’s 12-volume book “The Golden Bough: A Study in Comparative Religion,” which dispassionately argued that the corn god, or fertility god, was universal in all cultures on the planet.

Joseph Campbell, who is lauded as some kind of mythologist pioneer, with a secret formula for the construction of myth-rooted storytelling, stole every single main idea from the Scottish anthropologist.

The formula—Hollywood’s E=mc (superscript) squared formula—should be deconstructed. Just like Albert Einstein’s equation wherein mass and energy are the same, New York is in the bed with Hollywood, smoking cigarettes, naked, shoulder to shoulder. These two entities, New York and Hollywood copulate and copulate and copulate until a baby is born: where a movie based on a book comes out, which is an objectively violent repetition of all stories ever told because they employ the formula time and time again

So what? Is there only a Mono-Myth? No. It’s not just Jack and the Beanstalk and Cinderella. There are more myths and superstitious thought in our present age than in the history of our species. But everyone who went to “cool school” wants to subvert the Judeo-Christian tradition.  Why? Because it looks East and we get “Diet East”—“The East without the commitment to the East”  We have collectively determined that “The idea of  burning in Hell sucks” and “preachy people suck,” so we want to take the softer, easier way of escaping the raw fact that we are slaves.  By doing pragmatic breath-work, yoga over and over again in order to get in shape and prepare for sex, we disengage from the fetters of modern life, that is, of having to run through the labyrinth like a rat set on fire.

I don’t buy that films will be getting better anytime soon.

Writers should go back to Aristotle and learn what it is to write a story and know the components of a story because literature has its own task.

Words create hypotheses, alternate realities, and can even, through realism, which comes to us from the 19th Century British, French and Russian novel, help us understand what we don’t know that we know.

If you want to read non-fiction and watch documentaries and don’t want to read “made up stuff,” then you miss the point.

Our knowledge is not only based on facts alone, but truths; political truths, ethical truths, aesthetic truths, erotic truths. But instead, a man with a 100 IQ wants to watch the History Channel (which is in fact, the Fantasy Chanel) and actually thinks that he is being told “Truth,” whereas in reality he watches an escapist visual essay. Same goes for independent films. We think that documentaries are necessary because a social problem must be addressed and Ah-ha, there it is! The real problems. But that is dishonest. For we’d rather “throw money at Africa” and make a short film about a social cause than go out onto the street and fight for the vulnerable, or change public policy, lobby and do something which seems impossible to some: love,  to have communion with the lowly, and have respect and empathy for them.

Books will always be deeper than films because they are far more intimate and they bridge between two human interiorities: the author’s and the reader’s. If it’s a novel that you want, fine; if its a poem, fine; if its short fiction fine; if’s 1000 words that you want, fine, but don’t ever tell me that the well of stories is dried up, that we need “new” myths. We don’t. We have plenty of myths. Look in the mirror, Facebook. We need good writers. Fuck the craft. The Craft belongs to Fairuza Balk.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

  1. paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

TIME

“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.”  Mark 9:43

     Erich Klinger fought on the Eastern Front and paid his dues, earning himself an Iron Cross First Class and a Black Badge for the Wounded.  Note the chin, the lower lip: he rarely spoke.  He insisted that he adored the scurrying creatures of the Black Forest as well as the sublime complexity of tornadoes or labyrinths.  Do not be fooled.  I have yet to understand his role in the surgeries: whether he himself injected twins in the eyeballs with methylene blue, extracted their hearts without anesthesia, opened their rib-cages like a cabinet and took the whole organ out entire as if it were sacred like the heart of the Savior.  I asked him about the 5th SS Panzergrenadier Division, how he got promoted to the rank of SS-Haupsturmführer, yet he would not tell me.  All we have of his past is this photograph.  Clad in black from hat to boot, with three pips and two lightning bolts on the unit insignia on his collar, he looks like a Prussian king.

     That first day, one of our nurses checked his vital signs: his pulse was normal, his blood pressure was normal.  They injected a truth-telling serum in his neck, only to discover that he would not reveal to us what had brought him such an odd and awesome power.  For you know his hand has the power to give pleasure, the power to heal.  Do not touch him, I say!  Do not be seduced!  It isn’t an issue as to why he hides his hand in the glove.  He has to eclipse its power, control it; he has to stop himself from babbling about Ultima Thule, capital of ancient Hyperborea, a lost ancient landmass near Greenland or Iceland comparable to the mythic Atlantis.

     It is my memory of Klinger, sitting on a crate before a metal table with a blanket around his shoulders, under the soft light of a dangling bulb, that brings me back to Berlin.  Sweat wiggled down his temples.  I paced back and forth in my boots, stopped, set my rucksack onto the ground, snatched up a rotten apple that had almost rolled away from the others, then held it up in front of him.  “What did you do to the girl?” I said.  Klinger said nothing.  “You’re as silent as you are sick, Kraut!  What did you do to the girl?  She’s hysterical.”  His left hand, at the edge of his glove, emanated the color of lava.  I saw how he massaged his gloved wrist with an opposite hand, as if he were insinuating that he was hurt.  He smirked, so I got up in his face.  “Do you realize what they’re going to do with you?  Explain how you got this power, you son-of-a-bitch!”  Puffing on a Lucky Strike, I glared at him for a moment, saw him staring at the ground despondently, grew frustrated, turned around, marched to the entrance of the tent, parted it open, then peeked outside: women were shoveling rubble off the streets, flinging gravel onto heaps.  Was the war really over?  I drew a deep breath.  Lime trees swayed, riddled with bullet holes.  Pulverized concrete flittered in the air like pollen.  Skinny corpses, like lumber in wheel barrows, turned the city into a desolate lot while white sheets hung down from apartment windows and Soviet troops were marshalling P.O.W’s through the streets to their camps.  It was the second Thursday in May.  To be honest, I felt invincible.

     “Sixteen years old,” I said in German.

     “Yes, it is true,” said Klinger.  “And a Jew!”

     “Did you free her from the experiments?  Is that why she is defending you?”

     “I cannot say.  I am no longer a son of the Fatherland.  I am an angel!”   Klinger rocked forward, backward, nervously.  He then eyed me with hatred.  “And you!  You have oversimplified things!”  He scooted up in the chair.  “I inflicted no harm to the girl!  I barely knew her, had just met her.  I fed her.  I helped her as a best as I could.  I took pity on her, even though I needed to run.  I told her I would only do it if she wanted me to do it!  Yet she kept asking for more and I don’t know why—because she was a Jew.”

     I had already confiscated his Walther P38, though the weapon did not glow like his hand did, nor did it seem like such a threat.  On and on, he kept babbling about the Hotel Vierjahreszeiten, telling me how the Munich Observer became the People’s Observer.  I did not understand his words; they were strange, banal, both.  I gave him an abendbrot consisting of whole grain bread, deli meats and sausages, cheese and a cold drink.  I was trying to butter him up, though knew it would only be a matter of time before I would beat him.  It was apparent to me he had beaten the Jewess, judging by the blood that soaked her skirt.  Hovering over her, perhaps, he felt disgusted with himself—though he did not relent and took off his leather glove and smacked the Jewess, only to discover her strange reaction, holding her cheek, looking at him, was not one of alarm, but of pleasure.

     Why was I assigned to this interrogation?  I had been conscripted to the 42nd Division and had a wife and two boys back home in Minnesota!  Now the war was over.  There was no doubt about it: this was not about Himmler’s vision of biological perfection, nor about the fall of the Third Reich, but about icy blue-eyed Erich Klinger who—as a forgotten rarity born from the conjurations of the Thule Society—saved one Jewish life while buried under a haystack, spooning sixteen-year-old Sonya Cohen, who telepathically begged him for mercy, right before Allied forces broke into the barn and discovered the lovers.

     I did not know what to make of our coordinates (were we lost?): Röhrmoos to the north, Schwabhausen to the northwest, Hebertshausen to the northeast, Bergkirchen to the west, Karlsfeld to the south.  A day before we were moving down along the west side of the camp.  Two SS officers and a Swiss Red Cross nurse who spoke English talked to our commanding officer in front of the camp.  I did not know what they were saying, though later discovered that the SS knew we were coming, so they already prepared the camp for our occupation.  And then, escorted by an American G.I., a man, clad in an old, grimy German soldier’s uniform, and a girl appeared in our midst.  The girl had her arm around the German’s neck and he seemed to be almost dragging her.  I caught sight of her shapely pale legs and thought about my wife: how she would apply lotion to her legs at night right before she would crawl into our bed with me.  “Get down!  Surrender your weapon!”  I was stupefied.  It was Sonya Cohen who was standing in front of him and his body, as if she were willing to be shot in the chest in his place, yet the prospects of that being true were so horrifying that I was nearly immobile.  I looked up at a clear blue sky that did not take pity on the causalities of this war.  I hated the war and wished I hadn’t gone, though another part of me wished to see Europe and rid the world of fascist son-of-bitches like Erich Klinger, who did not think he was evil, though that was evil, at least in my eyes and in the eyes of my men. “Bitte!”  Sonya cried.  “Bitte!”  I had to separate the two of them: Sonya clung to Erich as best as she could, clawing at his shirt collar, her fingertips missing their mark to curl around it, as sweating Erich, hair-matted and glassy-eyed was shocked, it seemed, to find Americans and not Russians in Dachau.

     We then saw what the hand could do.  As my men tried to separate them, Sonya ran towards us, then looked back at Erich Klinger, who extended his hand at her, and she ran back towards him, towards it; and, he clasped her hand in his grip and she fell to the ground, on her knees.  Seconds later, I saw her lying on her back, weeping, convulsing, having what I thought was a seizure.  But it was not.  One by one, we realized she was writhing, not with pain, but with pleasure.  She was panting, glowing.  Looking down at her, we had never seen anything like it.  Amongst my men, there were tears.

     Even after the incident, after we separated them, before the interrogation, still, the mystery remained:  what was the true nature of the hand?  Was Klinger possessed by demons?  Did he make a pact with the Devil?  Was he some freak with a weakness for the plight of the weak?  I could not be sure, though it was true: he cooperated and did everything we told him.  Smirking, he got on his knees, with his hands behind his head, in unconditional surrender.  Something was pure or something was rotten.  It was the way in which Sonya Cohen was pining, how she was looking at him from afar, held in a bear-hug by an American soldier who kept trying to get her to stop kicking and screaming.  “Let him go!  Klinger!  Erich Klinger!” she cried, falling onto the dirt, then resting on her tangled legs.  It was the dirt smudge on the side of her face, the crusted blood on her kneecaps, her ripped stockings, coupled with the mewling that night, that haunts me even to this day; for the ability to see proved to be difficult, yet I saw.  Visibility was shorn to night vision in the mind’s eye.  I saw she had a broken tooth, or a gap between her front teeth.  I wanted to know what happened on their flight that long night, through war-torn Germany, from shack to shack and shrub to shrub, from Auschwitz-Birkenau to Dachau.

     “What is your name?!”  I asked him simple questions in German.  “Regiment?!”
No answer.  Nothing.

     For all I knew, he had done unspeakable things to her, had parted her thighs, in that barn, where we found them, where the light was low and cows were chewing their cud in the stalls and stamping their hooves on the straw-spindled floor.  I could almost see Erich Klinger approaching his female prisoner.  She would not relent.  She would sit on a cube of straw and cover her face with her cupped hands, in shame.  And she, red-faced, would then take him by his forearm and bring his hand to her neck, so he could choke her to death because she thought she wanted to die, to be swept off this mortal coil.  The life that had been given to her had been wilting ever since the SS killed her papa and mama, her two sisters and her only brother, every since she escaped and scrambled into the brush and ran through the darkness like a scurrying creature that needed to live.

     Yet that is not what happened.  There was a child involved.  She was pregnant with a babe, and in middle-class regalia, had her skirt hiked up to her thighs, so that she was partially denuded.  A bouillon of dripping mucous galvanized Klinger’s senses: he heard her footfall; the first sight of her was when her water broke while she stood there waste-length amidst the underbrush.  Their eyes met.  He was bushed; he wished to rest in the arms of Morpheus, yet even more he was roused to find her in that clearing in the forest, for he had run away from the camp where they were doing the surgeries and he did not want to uphold the racial purity laws anymore, and only the primary doctor knew that he had an enchanted, cadaverous hand, plum-colored, which he could extend at a stranger.  He felt inadequate in the situation with the orphan Sonya, and had no food, yet could almost see the Robin’s egg blue place-mats on the kitchen table back at the camp.  The veal cutlets.  The long grain rice.  The fricaseeded beef and potatoes.

     Suddenly it occurred to me that Klinger had not only hypnotized me, but had been speaking to me telepathically.  His life unfurled in my mind’s eye like a negative film reel; it was as if a magnetic beam linked up his frontal and occipital lobe to my own; I could see everything.  He did not want to be a zealot for science.  He wanted the Weimar Republic back.  He thought how about he walked the streets of Berlin when he was still in university and the bar he frequented and the leatherette he sat in when he was dating a girl whose name he could not remember.  He was jostled by some drunk patrons, who wished to sit where he was sitting with his girl.  Back then he did not know what to do.  He had no fight in him.  And what could he do?  Petition?  Make supplications?  What he needed was a goal, a target.  Surely, he could sup with the girl, crave her in silence, covet her flesh, then in a bout of seduction, take her to the pension where he lived, bring her to the bed and say sweet things into her ears, dance with her on the creaky wooden boards in the center of the room, look her into the eyes, and outfox her with roaming fingers, make her yield, latch into her sights, seize her mind, her flesh, move aside the knickers, knead her lipids, her nards.  I can see the girl sporting a Pysche knot, then the ribbon removed.  She would be tousled, hewn, full-mouthed, glorious.  He would pet her.  Jissom would bubble up from his body; he would mount her, swive, defile her.  I considered his volitional and mental activities, whether he felt virile or weak after sleeping for fourteen hours after he brought the girl to the heights of pleasure, if there were positive psycho-physiological changes in his attention, memory, and thinking.  I was inside his mind; he could tell me no lies.  I thought every thought that he was thinking, felt everything he was feeling save what it was like to have the hand of vitality.

     He, at first, could not believe the skin-grafted hand could give pleasure.  He was not born that way.  With thick, curled fingers like the fronds of an aloe plant, behind the glass dome, on some table, as some oddity, it once waited for a recipient.  The hand could and would not rot; it was thought that its creation was the first step in achieving immortality. And then Klinger received it one day after he returned from having evening bread with his cousin who, judging from the diabolical look in his eyes, was in on the conspiracy.  Naturally, or perhaps, preternaturally, there was a scandal in the Department of Racial Hygeine on account of Klinger.  They saw he could be a walking, breathing dispenser of supernatural anesthesia.  Having received the rank of Haupsturmführer (captain), he did little else save see what the hand could do.

     For sure, it could bring life back to where cells had died; it rejuvenated them; and, if it wasn’t because of the stem cells sequences that were acquired through biopsies of fetal tissue during the experimental phase, then there would be reason to believe the whole thing was a matter of fueling the withering body.  Erich, proud, aloof, and however brilliant he was in his medical studies in the past, could only make sense of his gift and its propensity for the affirmation of life by gloving it with leather.  They initially found a way to attach it to him, employing a mechanical engineer, Jürgen Kanst, to construct a machine wrist for him, a metal hinge that was a platform for the attaching of the hand.  In short, he had his God-given hand surgically severed, so he could attach to himself the five-fingered reality of the strange experiment.

      He wielded the hand:  he resurrected small, dead animals with it, and before long learned of its power over human sexuality.  Whenever he touched a girl after bringing her to his room at the pension, she would orgasm—not of the stripe that imploded within the center of the cerebral cortex, but bloomed within the viscera in gentle waves of pleasure that rendered the woman into a state of drooling aphasia.  So happy was he to induce this pleasure in women, he overlooked the influence of the Thule Society: the precursor to the National Socialist German Worker’s Party, or Nazi Party.

     His father was a member.  They had tried to justify the ways of the mystic with the future for the Aryan race—and believed if a good German could have profound religious experiences, the Aryan race would unite with a sacred zeitgeist and gain an impervious view in the workings of nature.  The fractals of atoms could be perceived without the aid of a high-powered telescope.  The sensation of seeing anything would entail a soft veneer of penetrative vision, imbuing back to the brain the cognition of an almost radioactive, hyper-color, as if the doors of perception had been cleansed.

     Even though Klinger was considered a failed experiment, after the initial experiments with his new hand in his youth, the party realized the existence of the hand itself would bring about a radical shift in the way that the master race related to the inferior races, the undesirable races, those that did not help materialize the vision of an optimal future for the Fatherland.  Klinger could become their guru, healer, their own personal savior.  They were working on and creating a Deutsche Reinheit, or Pure German Man, but Klinger was something much more.  He became a failed, fallen god, a literal opiate of the masses.  So his father had been waiting in his study, with his thick books for years, after the censure of the occultist group, hoping for such a thing to transpire.  Klinger’s father died, was spared the drama.  That summer, Klinger cremated him, and took periodic trips to the Department of Racial Hygiene where he was taught Jesus was not a Jew, but an Aryan Amorite, where he was forced to watch the films of Lothar Zotz, with a contraption that pumped amphetamine into his wrist intravenously.  “The guiding principle in Germany must be to emphasize the high cultural level and the cultural self-sufficiency of the Germanic people,” he was told.  He reclined in his chair and just took in the propaganda and did not flinch, but kept wondering what they were going to dish out to him next.

     Everything changed after he went to fight on the Front.  He did not kill people.  He healed countrymen that were siphoned with bullets and as a medic was later introduced to top Nazi scientists.  He met Mengele in Auschwitz-Birkenau, who told him he was going to assist with the experiments.  “Your father was a member of the Thule Society?” asked the doctor, wiping blood from his hands, standing by a metal table where a Jewish twin was laying, immobile, disemboweled and dead.  Medical experiments, incantations.

     “You performed experiments?” I asked Klinger.

     “Nein,” he said, during interrogation.  “As a nurse I checked the vital signs of Jews.”

     Yet Klinger ran away, decided to wander the countryside, evade capture for being a traitor and refusing to do the experiments; and, in the process he met one Sonya Cohen, amidst the massive trees and scent of sap.  She had only known one man: the one who had fathered the child in her womb, who never, like Klinger, saw her come to term and, there in the forest, give birth to a shrieking babe that would come out from between Sonya Cohen’s legs, which would be later given to an old German couple because Sonya Cohen was young; and, she was scared and did not know this man who put his hand on her and brought her pleasure during childbirth, reversed the monolithic pain and brought her to greater ecstasies as she lay there, leaning back against a tree stump, with ripped clothing as rags to soak up the blood, and Klinger running to the river to fetch water and snip the umbilical cord with his teeth, on his knees.

     And he helped her give away the child that night to an old German couple, pleading with them before the open front door of their house; and, he slept her with her that night, in their barn, under the haystack, because there were people in the woods.

     I solemnly told him, “We’re handing you over to the Russians.”  Look:  I have this snap-shot of him, sullen, standing in front of Dachau.  I did not know what else to do.   The war had ended.  I was no longer a boy.  Never in the war, or in my life, had I ever met a man as cursed and blessed as Captain Erich Klinger.

    And years passed.  Lighting, from the heavens, licked the earth like the flicked tongue of a frog.  Thunder clapped.  Klinger, donning his old SS officer uniform, stood before the arched mouth of a labyrinth.  A cool wind rushed out of the rictus where the winding stone path was, as if inviting him in.  He felt he had been there before as if he had already seen the end of history and was yet again about to walk through the entrance into the past.  His cuffs and lapels had been chewed on by a mongoose.  He turned to Sonya Cohen, who stood beside him, shivering in a blanket draped over her white blouse and tan skirt, which drew attention to the blood on her calves.  “Are you ready for nightfall?”  “Yes,” she nodded.  Klinger smirked.  He knew she was an apparition, though remembered her and thought of all the fauna and nymphs scurrying along the banks of the Danube, and thought about Wagner and the Ring Cycle, then about the crags and caves he had seen of Portugal, off the coast.  He thought of Pangaea’s shale, orgeny (formation of mountains by the folding of the Earth’s crust), meridians, red jasper, tourmaline, white sapphire, the gullies and eddies of the sea, and the swash he waddled through, barefoot in youth, while gloaming under the gibbous moon, on the vernal equinox, when the gravitational field of the earth’s satellite was such that he could almost telekinetically make out the ohm resonating in his heart.  And like thus, he snatched a hatchet that was attached to a rope-belt that held up his trousers and now as an old man, thought about all the evil in the world, and the tears, and the trials, and the grief.  Savages, he thought.  Savages.

      And for the last time, he looked at his glowing hand.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

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Dostoevsksy

Literary critics argue to this day about the purpose of the epilogue in the novel Crime and Punishment. After all, Raskolnikov simply walking into the police station and confessing his crime (and sin) in an unadulterated way would be a perfect place to stop. Yet there is an epilogue. Raskolnikov is described, mostly in exposition, doing his time in a Siberian prison (in the “Punishment” as opposed to  the “Crime” part of the novel). But why? Is the novel not sufficient?

Dostoevsky’s inclusion of a religious conversion in the epilogue of Crime and Punishment  (Raskolnikov’s time in prison ) motivates the idea the work is not just a detective novel, but a hybrid.  Raskolnikov’s confession was not enough, nor sufficient enough for the inner journey of the protagonist to take place:  there was an superabundant excess anterior to his persona; and, the confession to the murders, at the end of novel, on its own, were not adequate enough to resolve the theological “steps” that a tortured soul embarks upon prior to any kind of change, epiphany, spiritual rebirth and/or  the acquisition of a new nature.

By the time the readers get to the epilogue, it is clear this spritutal journey, in part, is guided by the character of Sonia. The character of Sonia is the key to understanding the overflow of Raskonikov’s inner journey. Dostoevsky’s novel, then, is equally an artistic literary work as well a religious polemic: it bears resemblance to the tradition of mystical transformations found in the Scriptures and/or in Christian literature, particularly as they elucidate the idea of new life or resurrection.

   In the epilogue, Raskolnikov admits he hoped that, with the money he might acquire through the crime, he could set himself up to start life anew. The honesty of his justifications, feeble as they appear (though, certainly not absolving him from his crimes), illuminates how Raskolnikov was, initially, seeking a new life, of being set up somewhere, of integrating into a social order that would accept him. When he stands before the judge at his trial, he knows he has to be sentenced indefinitely for what he is done: and, more specifically, that he has been partially sentenced for his inability to acquire the “new life” he initially thought was in store for him— despite his failure for social reconciliation (which entails a reciprocal acceptance).

     In the context of the epilogue, however, the recounting of Raskolnikov’s attitude during his trial, his “new life” (now depicted behind bars) appears to be an adhesive, sutured incident: a chapter in his life where he can, at the very least, recall the blunders of the crime (that not only lead to his imprisonment, but allow him to reflect on his failure to attain the status of “an extraordinary man.”  Now in a Siberian prison (an analogue to nowhere), the reader is forced to witness the tragic spiritual consequences of his predicament.  There is now no possibility that Raskovnikov can transcend the rest of society based on his ideals, that is “in being extraordinary.”  He is in prison, condemned to a place of finitude; doomed to consider his inner life: within an encounter where the beginning of his spiritual freedom takes place at the external limit of his physical mobility.  For him, at first, his crime is/was his punishment; he was caged psychologically ; his carnal mind and soul were at war; and, prison is the physical and spiritual culmination of a treaty that was never penned.  The epilogue gives the author a theological platform to recount and measure of the worth of what Raskolnikov initially intended to do before he committed the murders (the kind of person he wanted to be).  The extraordinary-man ideas that Raskolnikov was so passionately ready to defend until the end, dissolve; they are debunked in narration; this underscores the spiritual war—as depicted in the novel (rather than the “enlightened” European view this spiritual war was psychological, that is, structured on mental instability in relation to socio-economic  disposition or status).

     Raskolnikov’s spiritual violence—embodied in his attitude towards the murders—then, is not only a criminological, but self-inflicted.  Before the physical murders he knew he had to execute responsible action, and succeed in the performing these actions to have mobility within society, that is, in post-student life. Were the steps he took in the interest of his spiritual development, his socialization?  It was never absolutely clear.  The inclusion of the epilogue forces the reader to confront and reconsider Raskolnikov’s “situation” and his intentions.  Why was the novel a “why done it?” novel rather than “who done it?”  Was the novel about the state of his soul all along?  The novel is not about the sociological issues of education, nor is it a meditation on the proper necessary skills that  Raskolnikov lacked, which might have allowed him to better contend with the world.  The novel is not exactly like Oliver Twist, where individual morality dialogues with questions of social justice, then ends.  On the contrary; the ending alone (without the novel’s epilogue) makes it dubious to presume Raskolnikov even comprehends what his morals are.  He remains situated within the epilogue, within a recollection structureas a person in a cage, who defiantly reflects on his past, tries to judge his actions as sufficient or insufficient evidence to his original theories, which, astutely, as rendered on the part of the author, has nothing to do with the protagonist’s understanding of society’s evils.

    During the summary of the murder trial in the first part of the epilogue, it is clear Raskolnikov was always aware of an ethical limitation to what his crime would prove: he designed a mission leading to nowhere.  He fulfilled nothing history would later solidify for posterity; and it is in this sense, that Raskolnikov, condemns himself as blind to life: for he lived for one idea; the space beyond the nexus of good and evil. His mission to establish a new life, then, could never be grounded upon his rationalizations, his pain, his transgression, his precociousness, or his theories. This is why he exaggerates his guilt during his trial: he does not understand the difference between the depth of his feeling and the depth of his thinking about feeling.

    Clearly, Raskolnikov feels guilty for something beyond his crime, something more than the sentence of sending him to Siberia could ever resolve—something always interior to him, part of him intrinsically, yet had nothing to do with the depth of this thought or of the depth of theories or rationalizations. This hyper-essential  “something” occupies the very core of everything Raskolnikov had been lacking since the beginning of the novel.  Like Jacob from the Bible, Raskolinikov would ascend and descend the stairs of the apartment building he lived in, as if they were spiritual states—heaven, hell, purgatory—which, though physically structured, were in directly opposition to the oscillating nature of his soul’s relation to God.  Never fully knowing why Raskolnikov was so irritable in his ascents and descents, or downright angry even, we, as readers, became unwittingly drawn into the momentum of the plot alone.  We thought it was a detective story; yet, we later find out the story is not only about a murderer and his murders, or even about those who ruthlessly take life, or who die physically.  Motivations for the murders were often presented in the dramatic subtext of intellectual debates that were perpetually displaced. The outside world of clues was a clearing for the spiritual analogue to Raskolnikov’s inner state.  This goes doubly so for epilogue that follows the novel, that which comes “after the sentence” might offer a clearer context.  The external journey flounders and is ultimately buried.  And Raskolnikov’s soul is presented as a character in its own right: as a real entity, a mode of being that the themes of preceding novel had displaced.

     This brings us to Sonia.  After all, why is she in the epilogue, after Raskolnikov’s “punishment?” What does this do for the novel thematically?  The answer is all too clear. Raskolnikov confessed his crimes to Sonia before he confessed them to the authorities. It was Sonia, as an angelic presence in Raskolnikov’s mind, that inspired him to venture into, what was for him, uncharted moral territory:  that is, reveal the wretched state of his innermost being, his idealistic longings—so that the moral horrors of his personal trials and tribulations would be made clearer to him; and, that Sonia would be witness to that clarity.  The public confession at the end of the novel (without the epilogue) is simply an account of Raskolnikov admitting, in public, exactly what he had done with Sonia.  This offers no explanation of what follows a crime (that it is punishable by imprisonment).  It offers no explanation of what might follow after—in respect to the movement from one man’s theory to the spiritual consequences of their moral actions and/or experiences. This poses a question as to which kind of authority—legal or moral—Raskolnikov would, should, or could answer to first, given the spiritual nature of his confession to Sonia.

     If we are to better understand what Dostoevsky’s epilogue is attempting to do, then, we must pay special attention to the character of Sonia.  She is the character closest to Raskolnikov who read the story of Lazarus to him—a story he himself demanded to be read to him, despite him not being a believer then: whereby he could allow the meaning of the story affect him spiritually, rather than only intellectually.  Sonia, then, as far as the epilogue is concerned, quite literally represents the potential for Raskolnikov’s salvation.  It is she that, like a torch of faith among a dark sea of incertitude that distinguishes shape from substance, offers him a clearer index for being faithful to the divine dimension as opposed to having to maneuver within a social milieu filled with arguments, lament, and secular uncertainty.  Faithful Sonia, then, can be thought of as an intermediary, a door and hermeneutic principle between the Scriptures and God: the sole person who, through letters and visits, is the only contact Raskolnikov even has with the outside world.

     To serve as intermediary agent, then, between, Raskolnikov’s family, the outside world, and the state of his spiritual condition it prison, Sonia diligently writes a serious of letters underscoring “the facts” of what is taking place to him during his incarceration. Sonia, by stating only the facts about Raskolnikov to his family, documents his actions, his sins, his virtues, his average everyday-ness.  In this respect, she is re-inscribed as a merely complex character and embodies a theological principle which Dostoevsky struggles, in his epilogue, to re-direct. For the reader the detective novel’s benefits only when it is revealing the surface facts of Raskolnikov’s daily living and not his feelings. Sonia’s letter suggests that she is safeguarding the implicit content of his inner journey as Raskolnikov serves his sentence.  She does not impart any judgement on his condition; instead, she catalogues how he lives. Her letters are distinct from the convoluted interior monologues on the part of Dostoevsky’s narrator, within the preceding novel, in order to instill a sense sympathy for his protagonist spiritual’s terrors and incomprehensible demoralization.

     It is in the epilogue, through Sonia, then, that coordinates are re-set; and, we get an new take on Raskolnikov’s  soul.  In a pivotal moment, Raskolinov, in fact, discovers precisely what is wrong with him—what the state of his spiritual impoverishment entails.  He wanted something beyond this temporal order, this life, something not of this world.  It is in the epilogue, then, and not in Raskolnikov’s ramblings about being superior to other men, as described in the novel, that the symptoms underlying his self-induced spiritual torture become apparent.  He is not merely an idealist who had grand plans,n which he wished to carry out, but then failed in doing so because his conscience would eventually condemn him.  Instead, he wanted something more—something his spiritual condition during the course of the novel could not provide.  It is the epilogue, in which the paradigm through which and by which that “something more” is facilitated.

     In light of this possibility, Raskolnikov’s antisocial disposition is indicative of his inability to merge with the world; to share a world with another person; to accept life on its own terms, despite his moral elitism. “The why did he do these murders” question is, is held up to a new light.  Raskolnikov’s inability to give up his own elitist subjectivity, that is, his “freedom to think” stunted him from willfully forfeiting that which makes him both common and unique: as a human creature that longs to be “en-souled,” yet is fueled by pride on account the spiritual nature of the longing itself.

    This life, then, the one that is not enough for Raskolnikov, indeed, is not of this world, his murders were earthly, but his desire to transcend this world’s rules can only be achieved by possessing a different nature than the one he has.  But is that even possible?  Would Raskolnikov have an altogether different nature—not bound to the temporal order?  To have no need to follow worldly rules—which would make him more than human?  Here, we must pause.  Perhaps, that is the problem:  for we get a sense that the epilogue, “the afterward,” which follows the novel—that is, the Raskolnikov’s murderous acts and psychological turmoil—entails a spiritual rebirth rather than an intellectual circularity.  For Raskolnikov to be reconciled spiritually and reborn, his “new life” must be more than what an artistic text, or the logic of detective novel can provide.  The protagonist cannot reason himself into justice; and, his relationship to Sonia, in the epilogue, is an antidote for the reader having to resolve or unlock  a riddle or a mystery.  She is the first person in Prestuplenie i nakazanie that willfully gives up her subjectivity—and meets up in the epilogue with Raskolnikov, who also must forfeit his subjectivity (in this case, for her). Both are presented as fragile creatures, unable to articulate what they think or know. Their relationship, and everything there was left to apprehend, was beyond words. Their intimacy is overwhelming, superabundant, beyond the events that had transpired. They are emaciated, pale—the form of their physical bodies inversely proportional to the content of their shared spiritual dimension; where their countenances and souls oscillate.

    Raskolnikov lets go of his allegiance to the Self, to his idea of being extraordinary with his extraordinary love for Sonia; his subjectivity is given to another.   Here, it would be useful to recount what Dostoevesky wrote about the afterlife in Polne sobranie sochinenii v tridtsati tomakh, ed. V.G.  Bazanov et al. (Leningrad: Nauka, 1973), 20:172-75.  It was written a few years prior to Crime and Punishment.

     Возлюбить человека, как самого себя, по заповеди Христовой,  —  невозможно.

     Закон личности на земле связывает. Я препятствует. Один Христос мог, но

     Христос был вековечный от века идеал, к которому стремится и по закону

     природы должен стремиться человек. Между тем после появления Христа как

     идеала человека во плоти стало ясно как день, что высочайшее, последнее

     развитие личности именно и должно дойти до того (в самом конце развития, в

     самом пункте достижения цели), чтоб человек нашел, сознал и всей силой своей

     природы убедился, что высочайшее употребление, которое может сделать

     человек из своей личности, из полноты развития своего я, это как бы уничтожить

     это я, отдать его целиком всем и каждому безраздельно ибеззаветно.

 Translation:

To love a person, as oneself, according to Christ’s commandment, is impossible. The law of the self is binding on earth. The I stands in the way.  Only Christ was able to, but Christ was the eternal ideal of ages, toward which man strives and must strive, according to the law of nature.  Further, after the appearance of Christ, the ideal of man in flesh, it became as clear as day that the highest, the final development of the self must exactly (at the end of development, at the very moment of achieving the goal) get to the point when man will find, recognize, and with all the strength of his nature become convinced that the highest use of his I – that is to destroy that I, to give it away in its entirety to each and everyone, completely and unconditionally.

     Although achieving the ideal of Christ is impossible on earth, Dostoevsky schematizes his main ideas about the principle of the self-sacrifice; he notes how that self-sacrifice (connoted by the metaphysical merger of the subjective I with another subjectivity) is difficult because «Закон личности на земле связывает».  It is the law of personality that binds the Self to its own interests: for human nature has all the while always understood itself most immediately by knowing the dialectic of the self’s relationship to itself.  Prior to the epilogue, however, Rasknolinov is not bound only to the Self, but  to the conditions of the plot.  The plot conditions, likewise, were governed by the authority of the author.

The epilogue of Prestuplenie i nakazanie, however, demonstrates how Dostoevsky, as a Christian believer, and as an artist, merge within the text.  For once Raskolnikov’s I (his moral agency) is conjoined with Sonia’s (her already subsumed I) a theological context emerges.  Sonia is no longer a prostitute but a giver of her I.  Raskolnikov is no longer a criminal, but sinner that has yet to, prior to the epilogue, forfeit his subjectivity to higher authority: give himself and his soul to God, so that God can contend with whether or not grace or not can be granted.  This, of course, begs the question. God is not present in the epilogue, yet the presence of his absence is: by Dostoevsky’s own intrusion into the meaning of his novel.

In that respect, “the idea” that Raskolnikov was willing to throw away his life for is the opposite of him surrendering himself to the morals of the author.  Much emphasis has been paid to Dostoievskii’s ideas of human “duality”—and, here, we get a glimpse at how he wished that duality to be resolved.  The soul’s journey was the thing by which he could trap the conscience of Raskolnikov, who thought himself beyond good and evil.  He could not resolve the issue of Raskolnikov’s redemption by presenting it as an issue of efficient reason, that is, resolved through the logic of plot alone. Prestuplenie i nakazanie (with the epilogue) allows the critic to address the intentions of the author in creating characters like Raskolnikov and Sonia.  Were they characters in their own right, or each an embodiment of a nexus of ideas?  What would be the concrete narratological and anagogical solutions to those nexuses, should they be untangled?  No matter how we choose to approach the issue, the Russian literary experience comes “after.” It is in the way that one gets a sense of how the Russian novel, as opposed to the 19th century European novel, subverts the Western tradition by incorporating religious experiences as legitimate confrontations with secular models of ethics, pace the European Enlightenment.

     Still though, this presents a set of other issues; namely, the purpose of literature as such. Do we read fiction to gain insight into our own world, to escape blindly into the dark corridors of someone else’s psyche?  Or is there some other world towards which the world of fiction is trying to guide us?  If this novel simply ended with Raskolnikov’s confession, everything is resolved by remaining unresolved. We are left with a space to ponder what would happen to the protagonist physically, yet are not unable to address what would happen to him spiritually.  By the writing of the epilogue Dostoeevsky “en-souls” Raskolnikov; and, in turn, elucidates the idea that, perhaps, literature is not meant to render life “accurately” through attention to plot or detail, nor only provide insights into the sociological contexts that give rise the dilemmas the characters experience.  Perhaps, on account of “the familiar” alone, literary production goes nowhere save the pool in which Narcissus attempts to grasp himself as an object but cannot.  In order to push forward the ever elusive mimetic ground that the genre of the novel attempts to provide, we as readers then, are challenged to ponder what could possibly come after a life is finished.  What lies beyond?  Is there something more to our condition than systematic murder, cruelty, and imprisonment?  Is there something more to our world than crime and punishment?

    What other possibilities are there for being in the world?  It remains to be seen.  Whether or not a novel requires or does not require an afterward, the answer to such questions, perhaps, have something to do with our curiosity after we close the book: whether there is such a thing as a new nature waiting for us. Perhaps, just as well, the novel, as a genre, is itself always an epilogue—a perpetual epilogue to the very lives we think we know—ones that allows us to consider new ways of understanding what the soul might mean, and its relation to our world, however how it is conceived. This pushes forward the idea we must not only remember the future, but must not limit ourselves in thinking only an obvious cliff-hanger ending can grant us the meaning to the moment preceding hope.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

  1. paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

Language as an Extra-Somatic Organ

Posted: April 25, 2014 in Writing

frozen_heart_by_sephirothsdx-d5b5cue

I

Andrei Bely’s “Petersburg” is often considered the quintessential Russian novel of the 20th century; however, it is easy and most probable to willfully forget the role that Rudolf Steiner’s thought had on Andrei Bely, particularly as it relates to the realm of his theosophical thought. 

Rudolph Steiner, a theosophist, has a specific view of human personality as that personality is situated within an ether, a primordial ocean of substance of which the universe is comprised (not unlike Spinoza).

On top of those ideas, Steiner believed in human progress, not in just the Western sense of “inventing” the steam engine or “building” an automobile. He once wrote the following about the body:

“We have not yet animated our etheric body sufficiently; were we to do so, we would experience the pulsation of that body, its multivarious outflows and movements also in our physical body, as movements and pulsations within our physical sensations; and our etheric sensations would be delivered to us not without but from within. 

Were we to resurrect all the parts of our etheric body and to work with them in the corresponding centers of our physical body, in all the parts of our body there would be revealed from within the movements that corresponded to the movement that we sense without our head in the form of thought. And our hands would think.”

Rudoph Steiner’s theory suggests that potential energy can be harnessed and transformed into kinetic energy behind the space-time that our bio-organism occcupies, that runs anterior to that bio-organism, as if its shadow: that is, that it exists in another dimension, if one wants to call it that, or in a sub-atomic field, where observers will not and cannot determine the location of any sub-atomic particle within that field while attempting to measure the velocity of that same sub-atomic particle in that field, as well as the reverse (Heisenberg’s Principle). 

This possibility of a substrata to physical reality illuminates that any system with any internal coherency when in relation to any other totality can be extended: for if the bio-organism is such a system it also relates to language as a system. And if language as system can also be conceived of corresponding to an extra-somatic organ anterior to the human body, as the units of language extend through the universe in an quasi-ontic-ontological way, it is actually possible to create realities and destroy realities, move planets or repolarize them with such a system, simply through its sheer usage as a medium, just like ether, yet with its own morphological typologies, interior consistencies, grammars and invariable exclusions.

II

If language can be conceived as an extra-somatic organ, each component of that language, is made up of the units, words. Each word has a function and/or meaning. Functions inform structure. Linguistic functionality—coherencies of data, facts, or Truth—are embedded in fidelities to contexts that are governed by historical, cutural and institutional forces.

The English language, for example, an analytic language, is flexible because it is based on word order. It is not like a synthetic language like German or Russian, where one can create adjectives or neologistic nouns or convey a theory in a single word. 

English, however, being the lingua franca of our epoch (of business to be sure), has also been polluted, or rather been diluted, pared, streamlined, bullet-pointed, abbreviated, abridged, annexed for the purpose of psycho-linguistic surgeries, word and anecdotal transfusions, allegorical transplants, pharmacological-induced impairment and counter-intuitive contraindications, so that every potential English-speaker can have an encounter and real democratic chance to confront the absurd world in which the potential speaker is found. This open democratic chance, based on word order, is quite unlike the rules and inductive logics and internal coherencies of other languages that might require vowel-less redactions, authoritarian grammars, calligraphic ideals, all of which can and will reflect the political impotencies within the culture from which they spring, if not the architechtonic of the mind/subjectivity at hand. In the Russian language, there is no equivalent word or translation of the word “privacy,” for example. The inability to translate one word from one language to another does not occur in a vacuum. There are institutional and historical forces at play, which cause such phenomena to occur. While poets, not linguists, are the true guardians of a language, pushing its metonymic limitations, unifying its hermeneutics into an organic whole, they preserve and cultivate a garden that has yet to be entrenched in clichés or weeds which are then unsurprisingly set afire.

The morphological typology of languages—despite the disparities, that is, whether they’re analytic, synthetic, agglutinative, fusional, or polysynthetic, does not take into account the signifier/signified relationship to space-time. Where (in the universe or in the mind), for example, does meaning exist? Meaning, by itself, in-itself, is not of itself solely; it is neither a concept nor a series of concepts, nor an idea or series of ideas, but an actual event or outcome that is rendered by the enunciator to the listener, which has a fidelity to a processional construction of Truth wherein morphemes were not randomly, but were purposefully combined together. When Truth becomes constructed or inferred by the event is not based solely on information, but on the substrata of contextual space, which is allotted by cultural and institutional forces. “Meaning,” then, occurs in a clearing of “understanding.” Because an entire lexicon of any language is but a micro-system within a physical Totality of all systems that exist and because language is comprised through various combination of morphemes, it functions as an extra-somatic organ (that goes beyond the body), that invariably travels through space as the words are aptly attached then detached from the body of origin, through the eyes, the mouth, or through the hands. 

Whether it is just one word, or a passage, or a paragraph, the organ travels through space-time at empirically ascertainable frequencies, wholly invisible to us unless it is written down and read. Voicing innermost needs, derived most likely from an oral tradition of polysyntheic storytelling by indigenous populations, in the art of conversation, language moves from one interiority to another. The use of inflection and diction gives words a musical character. Not all sentences have the same power, if they have power. Some meanings of words, given their context, are coextensive with a unwritten, unspoken subtext, which is much like a traveler walking upon an invisible bridge to get to his or her appropriate destination, that is, the destination of the Other for whom the extra-somatic organ is intended.

Language often fails when other organs dominate the body. Language seeks both the familiar and the unfamiliar, governed by an desire to connect or commune with the Other, even if no words are returned and all one hears is an echo, or in the case of writing, all one hears is one’s own thoughts and not the thoughts that reside in the “language-machine.”

Every “speech act” or “language-machine” has within it a Point of Origin, a Preliminary Expansion, an Exponential Expansion, the establishment of an Eden and also an Armageddon. These “speech acts and language-machines” are often, at least in our contemporary times, not linear, nor even logical, yet free-associative and cyclical; hence, “language acts” are repetitious for a reason. A well-crafted sentence, an agreeable composite of morphemes—spoken, written or read—at just the right time, at just the right place is highly unlikely to exist in chaos, for once meaning is established by such a sentence, even anagologically apprehended, understanding is possible. Understanding is in confluence with order and agreement, not discord. 

If language, conceived as an extra-somatic organ, functioning as a structure traveling through space-time to get to its destination exists, it is no wonder lovers speak as they speak do to one another as do fathers do to sons or as sons do to mothers, and the reverse, siblings to siblings and so forth. Words function through logical movement, dialectics and paradoxes. They are only stagnant when the harbinger of language is immobile and mute. Words are alive and only in non-exotic cases do they tend to stay at rest (inertia). 

Words are not only weapons; they are holy weapons; they impart knowledge and imparts lies, yet the meaningfulness of language originating from any country, from any continent, from any region or exotic zone, on any sentient planet that possesses it, is the greatest, most overlooked gift imparted to a species that desires to expand the borders of its own consciousness. It is found in prayers and in curses. It is found in the giving away of the self’s extra-somatic organs for the sake of the Other’s paralysis. It is the crutch of dictators. It is the candy of religion. It is the glottal birth-cry of a new babe rupturing from a mother’s womb.

Subsequently, every book, novel or poem or fragment, passage, phrase or saying is, in fact, a “language-machine” that penetrates our very finitude. And when our sense of “the eternal” within our “finitude” can no longer be contained, our bodies are pushed to the limit of our tears and we then frolic through the sublime, where language was the culprit that facilitated the catharsis. In such moments of catharsis we remained strapped to the gurney of our very freedom, passing at full speed through all the red lights of the universe not only by will but at a cost, feeling real and unreal at the same time, because a transplant has occurred and our words again have changed the constitution of the core of our being.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

  1. paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

TESLA1

Thomas Kuhn’s 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions1 elucidates four stages of the history of a science: the pre-paradigm phase (where all facts are seemingly relevant because the science starts from scratch), normal science phase (where research is conducted; puzzles are solved; knowledge of facts are highlighted and we acquire presuppositions), a period of crises phase (where human error is often cited, anomalies occur and “observed facts do not match up with what a paradigm has led us to expect”)2 and lastly, the revolution phase (where paradigms which are more adequate replace present paradigms—not because of observational data alone— but because, for one out of two different scientists, theory A might appear simpler than theory B, the two theories do not dialogue well together yet, for the two scientists will use the same terms to mean different things).

In June, 1900, Nikolo Tesla published a groundbreaking article in Century Illustrated Magazine that addressed the “energy situation.” That article, entitled “The Problem of Increasing Human Energy with Special References to the Harnessing of the Sun’s Energy,” contained Tesla’s own vision regarding the future of human technology. 114 years after the release of Tesla’s article, we no longer speak or read about the “energy situation.” We speak or read about the “energy crises.”

We hear or read stories about how we, as a planet, have two-hundred years of crude oil left, how there are more draughts, higher temperatures, wilder weather, change in rain and snow patterns, shrinking sea ice, melting glaciers, less snowpack, thawing permafrost, increased ocean acidity, warmer oceans, rising sea level, as well as what has been called “the greatest nuclear disaster in human history” in Fukashima, Japan, whose radioactive fall-out has already raised counts and radiation doses on Geiger counters on the beaches of San Francisco.

The combustible engines used in our cars (primitive to many engineers and inventors) have not been in use that long, given how long we have lived on this planet without them. Yet, already, the very commodity used for fueling the combustible engine is scarce enough that it itself is approaching depletion. What is to be done? Blame bankers who have hijacked governments through “economic terrorism”—who fund invasions of countries and continents, who have ravaged Africa, ravaged Central America, and have done the same in the Middle East?

Since the industrial revolution, Western imperialism went into hyper-mode for diamonds, gold, and oil. Industrial nations went after natural resources that could facilitate the even-flow of the liberal-democratic system. This was done, at first, with the ruse that it was for solely for national interest; now, however, it’s safe to say it’s not for national interest. It is Machivellian, for a group of elitists, with the entire world being bought up, re-traded, and re-sold.

Why is the agricultural sector of the world facilitated by inter-governmental interest groups? These groups or conglomeration of groups already know there is hard science for over-unity devices that can produce free energy to power our homes and our commercial centers, as well the hard science for the electro-magnetic propulsion of our cars and airplanes.

Inventors in Ireland, in Russia, as well as the U.S. were persecuted and silenced for knowledge of these technologies.3 Many of these inventors, who were not always academics and are on the fringes of the mainstream scientific community, attempted to show the world how an over-unity device—the Motionless Electromagnetic Generator—that they had constructed, worked. The “normal scientific community” questioned the accuracy of the “measurements.” Think-tanks and government-sponsored probes were formulated in an attempt to discover relations between these over-unity devices and the theories of Nikolo Tesla (whose experiments were acquiesced by the U.S. government upon his death). Unsurprisingly, these fringe inventors were mocked. “Normal science” seemed to have won—while theoretical physicists at universities, academic engineers and IT people, instead, continued and still continue to indoctrinate their graduate students, with outdated scientific dogma about the laws of thermodynamics by claiming the results produced by these inventors were simply “impossible.”

These academics refused to accept how free energy, also known as Zero-Point Energy, could be harnessed from a sub-atomic field.  Free energy had been harnessed without using an external power source and academics were left scratching their heads, musing on the anomalies. Then on March 26th, 2002, Patrick Stephen L; Bearden Thomas E; Hayes James C; Moor Kenneth D; Kenny James L. received a U.S. Patent of the Motionless Electromagnetic Generator.4 Many academics conceded there was, indeed, no loss of energy at the quantum level, which befuddled “normal scientists.”

Since the scientists know, the governments know there is a collective interest in the research, development and manufacturing of over-unity devices, which would allow for a dramatic Energy Revolution in the next fifteen years. The influence of these technologies will re-contextualize what it means to be a citizen of the world. Countries have been invaded for energy; coups have been staged for energy. A scientific revolution—getting off of oil completely—could lead to geo-political catastrophe. Old Money will hold onto their imperialist investments before they themselves invest in the new technologies. They would need to create new wars and stay in those wars. The pretext for it is set already for the sake of “national interest.” Everything must get unbearably worse, to the point of utter hopelessness, I think—with wars, false imprisonments, refugee crises, the censoring of intellectuals, arbitrary manipulation of gas prices, spying on green militia groups, complete surveillance of the world over, further destruction of foreign lands, instilling doses of hysteria through mass media and cultural production, kidnappings, sieges upon and seizures of private property—until it is clear to people that the exploitation is real and that elite are really terrified of New Science.

Perhaps, when this generation is beaten down enough and it comes to understand it’s really that serious, and it’s not about babble, or about theories anymore, but about taking action, the external conditions will literally force us to inspire change. The world economy is the way it is now because of foreign policies and alliances that are trying to delay the advent of new science. Anyone who understands the relation between ecology and economics, understands what you consume and the way it is consumed is the collective impetus behind the ruling ideology, which allows markets to be given privilege and/or dominion of the human bio-sphere. Remember the topic of Cold Fusion in the early 90’s? It was cast aside. We did not hear about it for two decades until now. Why now? Free, open-sourced energy is our future.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

NOTES

1       Kuhn, Thomas S. (1996). Third Edition. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.  Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. pp 1-110.

2       Brown, C. (2011). Some Notes on Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions

            https://www.trinity.edu/cbrown/science/kuhn.html

      3     Telsa, Nikolo (1900). Century Illustrated Magazine. Vol. LX, No. 2.

            http://www.tfcbooks.com/tesla/1900-06-00.htm

4       Fischer, Douglas (2012) The Scientist: Jim Hansen Risks Handcuffs to Make His

Research Clear.  http://www.dailyclimate.org/tdc-newsroom/query/scientist-hansen

     5      Bearden, Tom. (2003). The Motionless Electromagnetic Generator, Extracting Energy

            from  a Permanent Magnet with Energy-Replenishing from the Active Vacuum. 

            http://jnaudin.free.fr/meg/meg.htm

 

UPDATE:

April 5, 2014 Quantum Energy Generator Replicated in Taiwan

  May 2, 2014  Quantum Energy Generator Replicated in Morocco

May 24, 2014 Quantum Energy Generator Replicated in Pennsylvania

CLICK HERE FOR QEG OPEN SOURCE DOCUMENTS

.

The Russian Avant-Garde

Posted: April 3, 2014 in Writing
 
Malevich
 
It is difficult to comfortably pinpoint the pivot of the paradigm shift between pre-Revolutionary Russian Avant-Garde and post-Revolutionary Soviet literature. The former, built up by manifestoes and fin-de-siecle idealism, has its own changes to go through before one may say it grows into or actualizes into the latter.  
 
Whereas the re-understanding of political power and a sense of Russian solidarity is a common denominator in the Avant-Garde’s reportoire, pre-Revolutionary idealism is, more or less, underscored by the “power of the notion”—a machine-like utopia that reshapes how the Russian people see themselves, which opens up new possibilities of conceiving the sublime.  
 
Here, the power of the individual stands at a paradoxical leaping point: on one hand, he or she is superior to nature, on the other, his or her moral agency is independent of nature because (wo)man had his or her own nature. It is this very thematic which  postulates the “idea of a new (wo)man” embedded in historical inevitability; The Avant-Garde explores this thematic well into the 1930s. One can best interpret literary futurism, particularly in the works of Mayakovsky and Zamyatin, as a dynamic process that oscillates between being conscious of itself historically and then being self-conscious of itself to the point of social criticism.
 
 
mayakovsky 
 
Vladimir Mayakovsky’s “A Cloud in Trousers” is a personal affront upon the paradoxical relationship between the poet himself and his society’s norms. It is a highly structured poem that deals with not only alienation but with his disgust of the epicurean delights of the upper-classes. Written while the “winds of change” are wholeheartedly being felt by those who saw the Revolution as change in social consciousness, the poem has an ironic tone(as its own title is ironic), exploring the relationship of the individual to Russian city-life and  love. It taunts throughout:  “I’ll mock those thoughts of yours/dreaming in your softened brains/and  tease them against the bloodstained tatters of my heart” (Mayakovsky 432).  However, one gets a sense that Mayakovsky’s taunting is inextricably linked to his relationship to the political climate of 1913, 1914: 
 
       I,
       Who am laughed at by today’s generation
       A long
       Dirty Joke,
       I see something crossing the mountains of time
       Which no one sees.
 
       There, where men’s short sight breaks off,
       At the head of hungry hordes
       Marches the year Nineteen Sixteen
       In Revolution’s thorny crown.  
 
Not only almost predicting the Revolution to the year, Mayakovsky it seems,  “fossilizes” the social sediment of his time. He stands looking towards the future, yet the poem ends with nostalgia for eternal peace: “The
universe is sleeping/with its enormous ear, tick-filled with stars/resting on its paws  (257).  Torn between unrequited love and politics, Mayakovsky equivocates the struggle to overcome or supercede the social order.  For it is by such the social order that he is imprisoned, longing for something better.
 
Although Mayakovksy’s post-Revolutionary work is more political in subject matter than his previous work, there is more restraint and disillusionment within that restraint. His poem “Trash” comments on a Soviet
pastime…about talking babble. “They,” he writes, “have had their bellyful of glory-hash; today let us mere zeroes talk about trash.” Written during the New Economic Plan (when the newly formed Soviet Union was attempting to superimpose capitalism and stimulate a natural gradation towards socialism), the poem is far less focused than his previous works. The key feature, however, is that Mayakovsky is compelled to aggrandize Karl Marx in the same poem, utilizing him as some what of a father figure who replaces a degenerating order:
 
  So Marx he kept peeping and peeping
  At this and that bestia—
  Then suddenly opened his mouth wide
  And let he out a bellow!
  “The Philistines are taking us all for a ride—
  They’ve got the Revolution
  all balled up in a tangle!
 
The superficial jump from social criticism to a refurbished order via a Communist icon proves to be very anti-climatic. It is a far cry from his earlier poetry which is more tightly structured, despite the plethora of neologisms throughout it.  Even in Mayakovsky’s poem “Lines on a Soviet Passport,” which is more kin to Mayakovsky’s earlier style, there is restraint and a glamorization of his Soviet citizenship:
 
   Like a wolf
              I’d gnaw clean
                            all bureaucratism.
   Before mandates
                  I never
                         fall prone.    
   For all of me
                all papers
                          can go plumb to hell—
   All, that is, but
                    just one
                            that I own.
   It is a manifest
                   you benighted
                                Fellows,
   Of a priceless
                 cargo,
                       marked by a Star
   Go on and read it!
                     You’re right to be
                                       jealous:
   I am citizen of the USSR (38).
                     
“Lines in a Soviet Passport” is emblematic of Mayokovksky’s later work. This period in his work allots him his own voice, but with an (in)adverted, systematic limitation in subject matter. In other words, he had his
own choice of colors, but he had to paint the same still life subject over and over again.
 
Yevgeny-Zamyatin-640x360 
 Yevgeny Zamyatin’s masterpiece We, written in 1924—the year of Lenin’s death—exonerates some of the earliest disillusionment with Utopian thinking. The protagonist, D-503, is forced to retain his imagination in a
“perfect society” and, in a sense, use the veneer of the political apparatus to hide his self-determinism.  The novel, interestingly enough, is revolutionary artistically because it criticized the fruits of the Russia’s
political revolution.  The narrator/protagonist consciously admits he is writing to some undisclosed future which the reader needs to be acquainted with:
 
    It’s so funny, so improbable, that now I’ve written it  
    I’m afraid that you , my unknown readers, will think
    I’m making wicked jokes.  You might suddenly think I’m
    making fun of you and keeping a straight face while I
    tell you the most absolute nonsense. 
      But in the first place, I simply can’t make jokes— 
    the default value of every joke is a
    lie; and in the second place, OneState declares that
    ancient life was exactly as I have described it, and
    OneState cannot make a mistake (Zamyatin 14-15).
 
If Zamyatin had to “tap-dance” and mask his own political viewpoints, it is based on the stunning contradiction between his own notion of a Utopian artistic future and that of the political despotism that was already beginning to stifle Russia’s sense of self-determination. The political and the artistic aspects of an individual’s life has to be reconciled in some way, and it is for this reason that Zamyatin ironically hides his intentions, merely pointing out the extreme case scenario of what perfection would allow or disallow.
 
Whether directly or indirectly addressing the historical situation in which they lived, early Soviet writers, are caught in a historically self-conscious bind that oscillates back and forth from individual expression to social criticism.  The Russian Avant-Garde’s hopes, before “the October Revolution,” for an artistic Utopia is undermined by the spectre of a slowly evolving despotism that restrains them. However subtle an author’s intentions, experimentation becomes a subversive political act rather than an artistic ethical decision.  Caught in such a paradox, it leaves these artists to address the times they live with an altogether confused and diluted point of view—-one that foreshadows the decades of censorship to come and the nebulous repression of forming contemporary Russian identities.
 

© 2014 Paul Rogov

paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

 
 
 WORKS CITED:
 
 Twentienth Century Russian Poetry. Todd, Albert C. Ed.
 Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group: New York, 1993.
 
 An Anthology of Russian Literature in the Soviet Period
 from Gorki to Pasternak.  Ed. Trans. Guerney, Bernard 
 Guilbert.  Random House: New York, 1960.  pp 31-40.
 
 We. Zamyatin, Yevgeny.  Trans. Brown, Clarence.  Penguin  
  Books: New York, 1993.
 
“A Cloud in Trousers.” Mayakovsky, Vladamir.  Compiled by  
 Lora Wheeler.  pp. 432-449.

PUTINDREAM

One knows the world is messed up when the U.S and Germany are telling Russia what to do about the Ukraine. Bulgarian-born “Western” scholar, Julia Kristeva, in her assessment of the direction of contemporary Europe, once claimed that constructing the European Union would be a “global civilizing effort.” That is, according to Kristeva, because coordinating such an “effort” required one to “prefigure the differences that have to be reconciled [in order] to take part in the dynamics of globalization,” the world was responsible to peruse the problems of envisioning the Europe of the 21st century.  Kristeva lamented a model of society that privileged economic performance and technological innovation which ended up “encompassing the dynamics of subjectivity.” In other words, Kristeva estimated concurrent advantages and disadvantages in the western understanding of contemporary subjectivity, which was undergoing yet another flux. Singling out Immanuel Kant within the philosophical tradition of Europe, Kristeva argued that Kant’s definition of freedom, because it is defined positively, a definition which allocates freedom as coextensive with the self, was a definition that has thoroughly “reached a level of awareness” within the European domain.

Whereas, Kristeva insisted European civilization was at “the intersection between Greek, Jewish, and Christian experience,” and had culminated into a notion of freedom as outlined by Kant, such a version of freedom, though certainly not the only version, needed to be reworked.  But where and who did the reworking? Which think-tank? Which university? Which scholar? Which public intellectual? No one.

Kristeva argued that although Kant’s definition of freedom has crystallized within Western Europe, and admitted that such definition of freedom could accentuate Eastern Europe’s conception of freedom, the reverse was also possible: Eastern European subjectivity, as found in the Eastern Orthodox hesychastic tradition, could assist the Western European experience of freedom, which threatened “the dynamics of subjectivity.” Kristeva claimed that under Kant’s definition of freedom, the model for self-determination, as it was understood, which has “reached a level of awareness” in “the West,” was  simply “an ability to produce causes and effects”.

The western subject considers his/herself free, thereby does X or Y or Z, according to that freedom.

Consequently, after underlining the deadlocks in understanding freedom as the “ability to produce causes and effects,” which robotized and threatened “the dynamics of subjectivity,” Kristeva argued the danger was truly elsewhere: If these were indeed the basic structural conditions for the advent of the optimal model free subjectivity, despite various declines in the civilization and their histories, clinical experience was not alone in revealing how greatly, today, in the European domain itself, this oedipal model was in grave crises.

In short, for Kristeva, Kant’s definition, “freedom as coextensive with the self,” was contemporaneous, often ‘coupled’ with the oedipal structure, which, as “a spontaneous auto-activity. . .explored the conditions for the flourishing or the failure of free, independent, and creative subjectivity. “ Kristeva, however, claimed that because such a oedipal model is deteriorating in the “European domain,” and manifested “through the serious difficulty. . .or even impossibility. . .of representing feelings-sensations-drives-passions and the conflicts that give rise to them,” the Orthodox tradition, or more specifically, the hesychastic tradition, might be able to supplement or assuage the oedipal model.  Kristeva claimsed:

. . .[the] intense moment of Orthodox spirituality, in contrast to the libertarian progress of the West, enables us—in what amounts to a history of the time, one which Russian literature gives us evidence known worldwide—to measure the gulf that separates the two conceptions of the subject and its freedom. . ..

What Kristeva ascribed to Orthodox spirituality, as it was outlined in the Philocalia, an old Greek Orthodox text subsequently translated by Velitchkovksi (who did so roughly during the same time frame that Kant was explicating his definition of freedom in his Critical project), was the “prayer of the heart. . . a ‘freeing’ from the sensory, emancipated as it is from objectivation and intellection”  To put it succinctly, Kristeva posited that such a “prayer of the heart,” as it is found in Orthodox spirituality, was a way out, an escape, where western European subjectivity could, in effect, break free from the cycle of “producing causes and effects,” which, according to her, has yet to, unlike the Orthodox tradition, “perceive in each person his absolute mystery, capable of infinite compassion, giving of themselves, and living immersed in the evils of the century and in individual sufferings.”

There is no bow one can tie, no Gordian knot one can twist, no noose one can construct that will emulate any possible release in respect to Russia unloosening its hold on its vision for constructing a Eurasian Economic Union (Belarus and Kazakhstan are already on board). Three other former Soviet Republics have already expressed interest. Let’s face it: Vladimir Putin is a czar and 80% of Russia agrees him—that is, with bringing back “traditional Russian values” alongside national pride. People say: “oh, it’s a “new Cold War. How crazy!” But have we been paying attention? What do we think the Soviet war in Afghanistan was? It was a proxy war between the CIA and KGB. This set the pretext for 9/11. The Cold War was not born in a vacuum. The U.K. has been financing most American campaigns, installing leaders in various countries for over 60 years. Let’s start talking about ICBM’s. Let’s start talking about Israel, Iran and Syria.

Judging by the military performance in the Republic of Georgia in 2008 and the maneuvers in capturing the Crimea, Russia, should it be inclined, can essentially re-occupy any post-Soviet Republic in a day. Hypocrisy or not, the West cannot win this fight and survive. Everyone is going to lose. Europe absolutely has no stomach for war. Europeans are afraid and Americans are overextended, not to mention politically torn. NATO—you would think would be the answer in this “chess game”—is so disorganized it would be stupid of them to “suddenly” appear in Russia’s backyard. What are they going to do? Invade Russia? There is no country involved that does not have blood on its hands. Why did I grow up speaking such a beautiful language only to come of age, then become a man and learn that the fallen superpower from which it originates acts like precisely as it once was called “The Third Rome and Final Rome.” We are about undergo a collective mutation of consciousness. We are going to start believing things that might be true or might not be true. Perhaps we already are—yet let’s not be so surprised when on January 1st, 2015, Putin unveils his vision to form the Eurasian Economic Union.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

Analysis: Ran, King Lear, The Idiot

Posted: March 18, 2014 in Writing

kinglear

I

  Today’s subjectivity is a post-human void. It is a black-hole with pleasure as its own event horizon. Ever since the European Enlightenment, the West lives, as if it is  comprised of rats who are trapped in a maze, searching “for the best causes that produce the best effects.” Our own emptiness has become the prime mover of possibility, the way we learn how to desire.

In Shakespeare’s King Lear “nothingness” serves to later represent human volition and vitality (the affirmation of life) as well as the absence of God. The sublime effect waiting in Act III, scene iv of the play, will not be as invitational and sublime unless, of course, one chooses to participate in the game of being human. What do I mean by “the game of being human?”King Lear’s identity, his so-called descent into madness, is a telling example of the modus operandi of our daily lives. When we make mistakes (even murder) we cry “we are human!” — that”s why that ‘s the way we are!” and nothing will stop our contradictions (from the Sistine Chapel and genocide, from Plato to NATO, from all our discoveries in space to the New World Order).

But this pathetic plea for how “human” we are is also  is also an essentialist justifiction, and this logic reaches its paradoxical culmination: when the placement of the reader-observer in his/her fullness as a subject with agency must confront the external world. So you  think you are  human? What are you going to do about it then? King Lear, both as Shakespeare wrote him, as well as how filmmaker Kurosawa interprets him in Ran, captures the abundance of that wager as they both open up a dialogue between our frailty and the displacement of the empty interiority of the human subject. Something or some activity must be put in the void’s place.

    Kurosawa’s critically-acclaimed film, Ran, though not a strict adaptation of King Lear, presents a tightly structured displacement of Hidetora’s exteriority first, which develops into a harmony between the displacement of interiority and “the nothingness” of Hidertora’s exterior world.  Hidetora’s falling asleep after a ceremonial battle at the beginning of the film is a hint at this displacement. Moving from a character in action to sleep, he gently falls into his own interior, into a place that the audience cannot penetrate.  His fall into unconsciousness separates him from his sons and subjects as well as those who are on the brink of war. Though subtle, the image of the small tree placed behind Hidetora (to shield him from the breeze) exemplifies how he is sleeping in the shadow of life, alongside the interiority of nature.  This shadow is not necessarily psychological; rather, it is indicative of the  penumbra casting a shadow on Hidetora’s power and, moreover, his ability to know who he is.  Kurosawa, in this regard, chooses to humanize Hidertora before the “real” chaos (ran, in Japanese) begins.

It is from the nothing-space of this interiority, then, that the structure of the rest of story is grounded for Hidetora’s dream is frightening, chaotic—and he wishes to fulfill it. The very violence of his dream not only inspires him to get things in order (to distribute his power to his three sons), but also supplants the idea that the space where Hidetora cannot be touched, the impenetrable emptiness of his mind later develops into a kind of spectrality—a figure of ghostliness—that separates him from the exterior world of the wars between his sons and the violent tempest that is brewing.  This displacement of Hidetora’s exteriority—him becoming as a marginalized ghost—promotes more of an affinity with the audience watching the film even more than with those men in action in the film itself.

As Hidetora becomes more and more spectral, or ghost-like, the  audience begins to enjoy the “abundance” of his nothing-space, even as if madness is there to greet him.  It is in this space that the sublime  is reached: the emptying of Hidetora’s ego translates to the viewer’s own empty-fullness as a subject, providing a happy distance from the the mimesis of events taking place “down on earth.”  Spectrality of this sort is also evident in Shakespeare’s Lear by the collision (or rather lack of collision) between the tempest and Lear’s own mind.  Demoted from the highest place, the king of a kingdom to a madmen in the heath, in the Shakespearean text, Lear performs a series of  passionate monologues regarding this  internal/external relationship:

     Thou think’st ‘tis much that this contentious storm

     Invades us to the skin: so ‘tis to thee;

     But where the greater malady is fix’d

     The lesser is scarcely felt.  Thou ‘ldst shun a bear

     But if thy flight lay toward the raging sea

     Thou ‘ldst meet the bear i’ the mouth.  When the

     Mind is free the body’s delicate: the tempest in my mind

     Doth from my senses take all feeling else

     Save what beats there  (III, iv, 6-14).

Lear’s disdain for the storm is double.  One storm can hit one’s  flesh, “invade us to the skin,” while the something other is even a “greater malady.” There is no medicine in uniting the dualism for Shakespeare, for the interiority of Lear slowly undergoing madness is independent of the storm going on outside him. It is  parallel to his life: it is“scarcely felt.” If one equated the two—exterior and interior—-and said that the “contentious storm” and the tempest of the mind were the same, one would have to speak to why the mind is “free” and the “body’s delicate”.  The tempest is an opposition, not an analogy.  In this sense, Lear admits that his perception takes in “all feeling else” but it cannot feel “what beats there.”   The exclusion or unpentrability of “what beats  there” is the abundance of “nothingness,”the substrata upon which Lear’s interior and exterior “storms” never touch.  Lear’s “flight…toward the raging sea” only to “meet a bear in the mouth” is also indicative of the nothing-space of his spectrality; both images are of an abyss in which he is participating.

   Both Kurosawa/Shakespeare’s decision to set Hidetora and Lear’s “abundance” of nothingness as the frame of reference evokes an sense of abstract space for the reader/observer, which is without time or gods, thereby forcing the tragic hero to confront a dead-lock of his predicament.  In Kurosawa,the absence of time and god is presented in primordial questions:

     Kyoami:  Oh, there is no Buddha in the world?  Buddha,

              hear me.  Are you so bored up in heaven that you

              enjoy watching men die down here?  Is it amusing

              to hear them cry?

Here, as Kurosawa already establishes Hidetora’s spectrality earlier in the film, his fool mourns the all too human  “providence, show yourself”…that is, why are these things happening, and the non-comforting answer, nothing…things are as they are.  Shakespeare’s King Lear mirrors Kyuoami’s question from Ran but also furthers its implications:

      O, reason not the need: our basest beggars

      Are in the poorest thing superfluous:

      Allow not nature more than nature needs,

      Man’s life is cheap as beasts…(II, iv, 268-270).

Lear knows that asking “why” is ridiculous.  It would be a  overestimation of nature to assume mankind is somehow more valuable than the rest of it.  However, he continues to “beg,” to ask the divine to distinguish him from nature:

      You see me here, you gods, a poor old man,

      As full of grief as age; wretched in both:

      If it be you that stirs these daughter’s hearts

      Against their father, fool me not so much

      To bear it tamely; touch me with noble anger…

      I will do such things—what they are, yet I know not,

      But they shall be the terrors of the earth….

      I have full cause of weeping; but this heart shall break

      Into a hundred thousand flaws, or ere I’ll weep

                                             (II, 275 ff).

Lear invites the space between the exteriority of nature into his interiority.  He invites the violence of the exterior world. so that he may wreak havoc and do things that “shall be the terrors of the earth.”  Lear chooses to embody the nothing-space of amoral agency in order to act out Kyuoami’s rhetorical question as why things are happening as they are.  In other words, Lear is willing and able, ethically, to assume the spectral-God-like position so that he can reverse the events of his daughter’s betrayal and negate the idea that life is “not as cheap as beasts.”  Lear’s desire for the agency over (providence) and beneath him (his wretchedness) is certainly grandiose; however, it is this attainment—of  the “abundance” of nature’s amoral emptiness—that makes a man with “a hundred thousand flaws” have the interiority of God-like control.  Lear and Hidetora’s interiority are so removed from the events surrounding them because they are in this space:  Hidetora as a ghost/God walking the earth, and Lear as man with the mind of a child and the emotions of a titan—within  psychic,  yet physical spaces that are fully separate from the symbolic order.

    Consequently, in both Shakespeare and Kurosawa, what is problematized, and then unwoven in is the embracing of the“abundance” of nothingness, and as such, leads to a catharsis whereby “pitying pity,” the reader/observer experiences the distance between his/her own interiority and that of the very mimesis of “nothingness.”

Whereas Lear/Hidetora’s spectrality/madness is mimetic spectrality/madness, the reading of King Lear and the watching of Ran function differently. Kurosawa’s film depicts interiority through image—the play, interiority through language. In the scene where Hidetora’s castle is ablaze and he descends, then “parts” the legions of warriors by passing through them (like Moses parting the Sea of Reeds); they will not kill him. Hidetora instead, is forced into exile; he is  a figure who is in opposition to forces of nature—fire. As Hidetora descends down the staircase from his burning palace, the extreme violence of the previous sequence (where there are hundreds of deaths ) exonerates the ambivalence of the human condition towards the death of Others.  Here, Kurosawa, underscores the phenomena of the modern human subject: from a place of total power to a state of frailty.  Hidetora has nothing left to do but walk the earth…mad.  Hidetora’s later encounter with Tsuramaru in a hut, tucked away from the tempest, is indicative of this interiority taking primacy over his exteriority.  Tsuramaru has nothing to offer the spectrality of Hidetora, only the melody played on a flute.

Kurosawa’s treatment of hospitality,moreover, shuns an age-old rhetorical questions regarding providence.  As Hidetora, is already “interior” in his spectrality, he enters the mimetic interior of a refuge from the outside world.   This invitation or penetration into nothing-space begins to oscillate: Hidetora’s further entrance into madness, into his interior, prompts a comfort in it.  This comfort moves to the interiority of the viewer. Hidetora lies down to listen to a blind man’s flute with Hidetora interiority.  Likewise, in King Lear, in the corresponding scene, human frailty, in general, vulnerability, is described as the only refuge where man can reconcile his/herself to the fullness of “nothingness” and invite other’s interiority to function concurrently with their own. That is why the following lines are the most sublime in all of Shakespeare’s work:

      Poor naked wretches, whereso’er you are,

      That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,

      How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,

      Your loop’d and window’d raggedness, defend you

      From seasons such as these?   O, I have ta’en

      Too little care of this!  Take physic, pomp;

      Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,

      That thou mayest shake the superflux to them

      And show the heavens more just.  (III, iv, 27-38).

What some critics called “the sublimest things Shakespeare” is  not an understatement.  In the above passage, the invitational “you” works not only on the level of the plot and character, but also ruptures into the interiority of the reader extratextual experience.  “Poor,”—lonely, “naked”—vulnerable, “whereso’er you are—at any time or place, Lear’s words are the ultimate subversive expression of timeless space, “the abundance” of nothingness in the vitality of life itself.  The passage addresses “wretches” in an open manner, not only “wretches”existent in the plot of the play, King Lear, but in any place—“whereso’er.”   Lear continues that he is aware that in “loop’d  and window’d raggedness,” the convoluted spiritual condition of mankind has nothing to “defend it,” but he invites the reader to embrace the interiority of the Other, “the wretch” for all human subjects, in this vein. Admitting he himself is a mimesis of nothingness by alluding to “physic,” the outside world,  and “pomp,” artifice,  Lear asserts that the only way to achieve a peace with the gap between the exterior and the interior realms is to be vulnerable enough “to feel what wretches feel.”  In other words, the “superflux” that shows “providence” to be “just” is an openness to “thou”—the extratextual world’s interiority to other interiorities.

   King Lear and Ran in their respective depictions of the“abundance” of nothingness designate a reconciliation between human frailty and the displacement of interiority of the human subject.  Whereas there is a particular violence kin to this notion, there is also paradoxical comfort in its elusive imperative.  The interior life of mankind may have its own histories, its own relations to external events, its own“wretchness” and rhetorics.  Such a life, in its interiority, perhaps never really answers if justice is ever done, whether the human subject’s own diffusion and convolutions can ever define it, walk the earth at the same time. Albeit, the rupture or the dialectical paradox that pertains to this emptiness is an assertion of life, not negation of it.  Both Lear and Hidetor are invited to enter it, and, more importantly, invite the extratextual world to find refuge in its openness.  The interiority of such assertion elopes with its own emptiness, in part, making the external and internal realm of experience providentially interactive with what makes up their respective dialectical smoothness.

II

   Interiority of character can also described the interiority of setting.  In Russia, for example, once the functional  relationship between the serf and the land was dissolved, the relationship of its people to its social climate underwent flux. The rising middle class looked for ways to explore freedom’s gifts and curses.  They—the new middle class—decided to look to the West, paradoxically, to feel “Russian.” Dostoevsky’s Petersburg, as depicted in The Idiot, is the stage upon which the nostalgia for “a pure Russia” butts heads wit the temporal structure of 19th century Russian social relations.

Petersburg as “the window to the West, ” not only allowed Russia to view Europe from a distance ,but also allowed itself to be opened let in Western influence.  Writers like Dostoevsky, who wanted to keep Russia Russian, had to address this outside influence.  In this sense, Dostoevsky’s Petersburg as it functions in The Idiot  works within interior of the characters, facilitating a Russian recognition of the instability of its temporal paradigm made in Europe’s image.

     From the onset of the novel, Dostoevsky’s Petersburg is a place of center-less uncertainty. The set up of Myshkin’s encounter with Rogozhin on the train going into Petersburg is a testament to the ambiguities of Russian identity.

     At about nine o’clock in the morning at the end of

     November, during a thaw, the Warsaw train was

     approaching Petersburg at full speed.  It was so

     damp and foggy that it was a long time before it

     grew light, and even then it was difficult to

     distinguish out of the carriage windows anything a few

     yards to the right and left of the railroad track

                                           (Dostoevsky 27).

The dampness and fogginess not only exemplify the weather outside, but the context of what is about to transpire, where  one cannot pinpoint anything “a few yards to the right and left of the railroad track.”  The difficulty in seeing or interpreting the sensuous reality of Petersburg, moreover, which is vital to the dynamis of the novel.  There is, in fact, an absence of describing what Petersburg looks like (aside from a few streets, a few parks, and a few apartments).  The opening lines serve to “set up the setting,” but the passage refers to temporality—of time, date and geography—only to renounce it and underscores the murkiness of not knowing where “one” is.

Written as almost an escape from the West, from “Warsaw, at “nine o’clock in the morning at the end of November,” at full speed, Dostoevsky moves from the temporality of Europe into the ambiguity of a Russian interiority, in this case, as depicted a Petersburg.  Moreover, the railroad track, an expression of the industrial age and Russia’s connectedness to it, is indicative of the Europe’s relation to Russia. The connectedness between Europe and Russia through industry, the railroad track, is the vessel by which Dostoevesky’s “idiot,” Prince Myshkin, can enter the ambiguity of Petersburg and be exploited for being while held in opposition to 19th century European, petite bourgeois worldviews and ideas.

    The liberal reforms, post-emancipation Russia, were not only “political moments” in Petersburg, but a christic reconscription of what the accidental family’s role was within Euro-Russian society. When asked if he had been to Petersburg, Myshkin replies:

        In Petersburg?  No, hardly at all, except when I

        happened to pass through.  I had no idea what was

        going on here before, and now I’m told there are

        so many new things happening that those who did know

        what was going to have to learn everything afresh

                                             (Dosotevsky 46).

Myshkin, as an the harbinger of the accidental family dynamic, is oblivious to the whispers of the Russian left, yet in this sense is not bound to these “new things.”  For lack of a better word, Myshkin’s status as “an orphan” supplants the notion of an accidental family member, one that enters the social fabric of the middle class in order for the temporal order to be called into question.  By the opening or hospitality of the Epanchins and/or the Ivolgins, an accidental, non-temporal relationship is created.  Myshkin, as if he “fell out of the sky,” enters the center-less ambiguities of Petersburg itself, namely that where Europe’s values and Russian values intermingle.  Myshkin, as the trope of accidentalness, is the “control” in Dostoevsky’ experiment.  He is the one character who changes the least, and the non-temporality of his relation to the temporal—the families as they act out their marriage games and such—takes toll on the ambiguous “non/centerness” of their European ideas of family.

    In speeches of all the characters in The Idiot, there is a social commitment to either non-temporal—or accidental/christic relationships, i.e. Myskin/Nastasya—or temporal, “liberalistic” relationships, i.e. Myshkin/Aglaya,that are fueled by European representations of progress and personal fulfillment. Dostoevsky, according to one critic shunned liberalism for a specific reason, Christ—Myshkin’s christic idiocy somehow explicates the incompatibility between European liberalism and Russian identity.

     ‘“…Dostoevsky disliked the way “all these trashy little

       liberals and progressives, primarily still of Belinsky’s

       school, find their greatest pleasure and satisfaction

       in criticizing Russia.  Dostoevsky also objected to

       how the liberals boast of their atheism and “spit on”

       what Dostoevsky terms “the loftiest divine beauty”:

       Christ.  Here, Dostoevsky continues the debate over

       Christ and he had begun with Belinsky in the 1840s. In

       fact, The Idiot may be seen as Dostoevesky’s ultimate

       (or penultimate) answer to what he saw as the liberals’

       tendency to spit on Christ”’  (Knapp 8).

The Belinsky Circle of which Dostoevsky at times commiserated with were heavily influenced by European ideas, especially atheism.  But atheism, in its genesis, was a political idea, not a theological one (where one puts their social loyalty). Whereas Knapp points out the distinction between Dostoevsky and those of his contemporaries on the issue of Christ, the difference is itself ontologically flawed because of the polyphonic interiority of Petersburg in novel.  Myshkin, as much as one wants to believe it, is not Dostoevsky’s “answer” to the liberals. If one were to read Myshkin as imitatio cristos, surrounded by wolves, and that Dostoevsky simply set his hero to fall into the hands of “the liberals” undermines Peterburg’s function in the novel.  For it is Petersburg that is the invisible battleground for the interiority of the Russian psyche.  Doestoevsky’s  christic “answer” to Petersburg’s ‘bourgeosis’ idiocy is a question, one that questions the temporality of the “progress” and the industrial revolution itself.  It is wholly political:

       I challenge you all now, you atheists: how are you going

       to save the world and where have you found the right way

       for, you men of science, industry, mutual associations,

       fair wages, and so on?  How?  By credit?  What is credit?

       What will credit lead you to?  (411).

Myshkin, therefore, hardly an “answer” to the violent interiority of Petersburg, is more of one who is “unplugged from European ideas, one of which is—as Lebedev points out in the above passage—that “society” can barely sustain itself on its simultaneous renunciation and insistence on participating in saving the world through progress. Where “credit” will lead Russia is the real issue, and in this sense, where it will lead Petersburg. According to Knapp, to “spit on Christ” is to embrace liberalism; but to “spit on Christ” is also to refuse to “unplug” from the social, temporal order. Therefore, notions that Dostoevsky’s “answer” to the liberals is one which entails ‘unrejecting Christ,’ or being non-atheist is false.  To Dosotoevsky, atheism is a European idea that promotes the temporal order, marginalizing human faith-capacity in the accidental family so that a Russian can also partake unequivocally in the saving of the world through “progress,” in the image of Europe, and not have an identity of its own.

   In this regard, Peterburg is the interiority of the social space between Europe and Russia. Myshkin’s eccentricity, ruptures from the background of Petersburg runs counterpoint to it.  As the character who changes the least and does no one any harm, he is a mere observer of this space:

    For his part, having sat down and looked round him, he at

     once noticed that the guests at the party bore no

     resemblance whatever to the spectres which Aglaya had

     frightened him the night before, or to the nightmarish

     figures he had dreamt in the night.  For the first time

     in his life he saw a little corner of what was known

     under the terrible name of ‘society’ (575).

Somewhat moved by what he is witnessing, Myshkin knows that what is going on with him and Aglaya, and what goes on in his dreams  is not analogous to “society.”  Rather, the “spectres” in “a little corner” connote an alienation, not of Myshkin, but of what was “known under the terrible name of ‘society.’”  He receives a sample, a peek, of how social relations have a monstrosity in Petersburg and that this new, “for the first time in his life,” sentiment is contrary to his accidentalness, or non-temporal, “unpluggedness.”

   Along those lines, Dostoevsky’s experiment with the usefulness of an accidental order (a non-temporal one) is analogous to that of a literary work. The bifurcation between Rogozhin, the dark haired villain/Russian ruffian, and the Myshkin, the blonde haired hero “treated like one who had dropped from the sky,” is not just a play on opposites ‘time traveling’ (Dostoevksy 217). These characters are indicative of the puzzle that is the novel, The Idiot: it is the imitation of men in action, between them, and also a story of the accidental family.  Myshkin’s influence on the other characters is not extraordinary; they are the ones that express that he is  extraordinary.  Rather, what is truly extraordinary is Myshkin’s ability to “suspend” the temporal order of Petersburg and of European progress while buried/among/within it.

 Much like critical theorist, Myshkin remains open, and in this sense, untemporalizes the ethos of literary production. Myskin’s  “turning the other cheek” is another way of approaching aspects of Peterburg’s characters one at a time—whether that entails an opinion on Catholicism, or liberalism or earthly love, or spiritual love, or something else. Subsequently, Dostoevsky’s Petersburg’s social climate of  interiority is active and productive, not  only representational, like a text. One critic elucidates this point:

     “The carnival of writing set up by Dostoevsky is not a

     ‘simple’ intertextual relation between Dostoevsky

      and other writers who ‘influenced’ him.  It is a

      repetition that reveals that parody, a symptom of the

     ‘anxiety of influence,’ stands at the origin of literary

      production. Dostoevsky masks the literary quality of

      literature in the disguise of literature, and

      carnivalizes the intertextual relations of its production”

                                                 (Kujundzic 28).

Whereas “the anxiety of influence” involves or promotes Dostoevsky’s Petersburg, it is parody. Here, Kujundzic points out rather astutely that the repetition of the voices of the  characters in Dostoevsky is directly correlated to the “literary quality of literature.”  In other words, a serpent eating its own tail by another name would smell as sweet, and the productivity of the text is found in/on the “mask” or “skin” of the text.   Dostoevsky’s Petersburg, then, is more an experiment in the masking of the extratexual Petersburg—namely the simultaneous idiocy and comfort in wearing such as mask. The Idiot is the depiction of polyphonic social relations taking place in the interiority of a Peterburg, center-less, Slavic, “voices” dealing with “the European question.” The interiority of Dostoevsky’s Petersburg in The Idiot illustrates the instability of its temporal paradigm made in Europe’s image.  Myskin, a figure of an anti-Enlightenment openness is only a christic figure, but a single voice resonating in the social mush of bourgeois exclusivity. As there are two female love interests (whose suitors oscillate back and forth and behind them respectively), and two kinds of love, spiritual and romantic, Dosotevsky presents the “torture” of catering to them both at the same time. Petersburg, in this regard, is the interior of such a social dynamic existing—-where the definition of love itself is inscribed in the murky social (mis)understanding of agape love and erotic love. Dostoevsky makes no arguments, rather he presents arguments. His treatment of the blurs between European and Russian points of view, in effect, is indicative of the ambiguity itself.  Petersburg, with its idiot saint Myshkin engrained in its psyche, breaths upon its mirror and blots out the appearance of its his own corporeality. And so for good reason, for Myshkin, created after Doestoevsky’s wife, Masha, passed away, wrote  a great journal entry which refers to the possibility  of humans’ having another kind of nature, far removed from  just being a creature that is capable of the painting of the Sistine Chapel and perpetrating systematic genocide, but that of “christic”being—of another temporal order,whose naivete is not self-conscious, nor pre-lapsarian,  but, in effect, a being with a different nature altogether.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

WORKS CITED: 

Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Idiot. Trans. Constance Garnett.

   New York: Penguin Classics, 1961.

Knapp, Liza. Dostoevsky’s The Idiot: A Critical Companion.

   Ed. Knapp, L. Evanston: Northwestern University Press,

   1998.

Kunjundžić, Dragan. The Returns of History: Russian Nietzscheans

   After Modernity. Albany: State University of New York

   Press, 1997.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the Genealogy of Morals. Trans.

   Kaufman, W. New York: Random House, 1967.

Shakespeare, William. King Lear. Cambridge: Messrs Macmillian

   & Co. and Wright, Aldis W, 1898.

Yoshimoto, Mitsuhiro. Kurosawa: Film Studies and Japanese

   Cinema. Duke University Press, 2000.

COLUMBUS

Elise Bartosik-Velez, after reading The Four Voyages of Christopher Columbus, demarcates the journeys into three distinct rhetorical modes: the nationalist, the prophetic, and the apocalyptic.  Columbus, according to her, “takes the prophetic tradition to eschatological extremes in order to connect the re-conquest of Spain both to his discoveries and to the end of the world.” Velez is against simple interpretations of Columbus’ travelogue and dismisses those scholars that privilege the colonial rhetoric only, while ignoring the “immanent end of time in his letters and diaries.”  According to Velez, it is not only the different kinds of rhetoric within the Columbus account of the four expeditions that shift, but the way it shifts.  The rhetoric, therefore, shifts by some what of a/n (un)natural gradual intensification which allude to “three kinds” of Columbus. There is the Spaniard Columbus,’ patient and tolerant so that he may get adequately oriented in a foreign land. There is the increasingly ‘insecure Columbus’ who begins to worry if his fellow colonizers are getting the credit he feels he alone deserves.  Lastly, Velez proposes a ‘meglomanic-Columbus’ that consciously adheres to fin-de-monde world-view, one, which through self-essentialism, privileges Christopher Columbus’ own role in the context of world history.  Velez emphasizes that  “it is improbable that the original purpose of the first voyage was religious in nature, but it is even less probable that it was motivated by apocalyptic beliefs…”  Instead, Velez claims that it was not until after the third voyage that Columbus made the shift from a nationalistic colonizer and/or evangelist to the one “who prepares the whole world for the ultimate reign of God.”

    Stephen Greenblatt shows an altogether different approach to the nuances in rhetoric found in The Four Voyages.   Instead of postulating a Columbus with personal problems which later fuel delusions of grandeur, Greenblatt argues for a Columbus who utilizes formalistic rhetoric as vessel to vindicate the darker elements of his search for personal grandeur in general.  Greenblatt admits that it is altogether difficult to determine the objective of Columbus’ mission when the travelogue suggests  “an account of a great battle…but instead is an account of a series of speech acts.”  Suspicious of the actual ‘communication ceremonies’ between Columbus and the natives in the New World, Greenblatt claims that Columbus’ rhetorical formalism extinguishes the category of the other.  To Columbus, “the other exists only as an empty sign, a cipher.”   In other words, Columbus describes the natives in his narrative as simple, generous, intelligent—but, more or less, as temporal objects that must be contended with to state the facts.  Outlining how the notion of possession is incommensurable between the colonizers and the natives, Greenblatt specifies an open formalism that allows for the reader of history to apprehend a general, thematic kind of glory within the Columbus text. “Words,” Greenblatt says, “in the New World seem always to be trailing after events that pursue a terrible logic quite other than the fragile meanings that they construct.”  Greenblatt apparently sees Columbus’ discourse as a way of covering up what was beneath the historical events, locked in the consciousness’ of the Spaniards, i.e., the bloodshed, and/or absence of anything which could have been considered a  “real conversation” between the Spaniards and the natives.   In short, Greenblatt understands the Four Voyages as more or less a yoking of the actions, attitudes, and perceptions.  Commodity and spiritual conversion, and their respective justifications, allow Columbus’ formalism to be within reach of a sublime object, historical or otherwise.

    Whereas both Greenblatt and Velez have different takes on what Columbus did or wanted to do, there is some agreement.  They both agree that it is a complicated matter—-not only to ascertain why Columbus embarked on his journeys, when these “why’s” contradicted each other, if they did, but how.  Velez’s argument, by focusing on the changes in Columbus’ attitude, is accurate in exonerating the dynamic of the Catholic-nationalist embarking on the unknown.  The dynamic does not, however, just build up to apocalyptic thinking because of Columbus’ insecurities; the dynamic is processional in a very specific way.  Peculiarly, it moves how it needs to move to ensure”permanence” whether Columbus is more religiously zealous at certain times or not.  In his entry dated the 13th of October, 1492, Columbus writes:  “they should be good servants and very intelligent, for I have observed that they soon repeat anything that is said to them, and I believe they would easily be made Christians” (56).  Two days later, Columbus is interested in wealth:

I watched carefully to discover whether they had gold and saw that some of them carried a small piece hanging  from a hole pierced in the nose.  I was able to understand from their signs that to the south, either inland or along the coast, there was a king who had large vessels made of it and possessed a great deal (56).

Interestingly enough, there is a comment added the very next day by Bartomele de las Casas:

It would be well to point out two things first, the natural willingness and predisposition of these people to receive our holy faith and their readiness to adopt Christianity and moral virtues, if treated with love, charity and kindness….and secondly, how far the Admiral was from the punctual observation of divine and natural law…this was very far from the purpose of God and His Church, to which this voyage and the discovery of all this world and everything in and about it should have been subordinated (60).

     This might follow a historically cliché line of logic: 1) be tolerant, at first (like a missionary); 2) see what they have (like a merchant; 3) if the other becomes hostile and “there is no reasoning with them,” “might makes right” (like a militia).   Greenblatt, although postulating the possession of the “marvelous” as some kind of abstract ideal in Columbus’ mind which includes relationship the spiritual with the earthly is not that far different from Velez’s interpretation. Rhetoric appears to hide the psychology of Columbus as much as it serves as the only textual account of such a psychology.  Whereas, both Velez and Greenblatt differ with respect to the time-table when the fetishized grandeur attitude manifests, they both do not deny that there is an interplay of multiple motives.  They disagree on whether Columbus’ motives are known to him distinctly a priori or if they are constructed accordingly with “seams.”   Both emphasize how Columbus felt historical otherness in himself (as a direct partaker in history) according to their interpretations.  His shifting towards what he had allegiance to on particular voyage, or time was precisely the problem: it was too much for Columbus.

    Amazingly, the distinction that both scholars failed to point out are those parts which are actual letters written by Columbus and those written by his son, Hernando, let alone, someone else.  Would it not make sense if one deals with a historical figure’s perception and attitude, to take for granted the distinction between Columbus’ writings and those who wrote about him (in the third person)?  Perhaps Bartomele comments as cited above indirectly influenced Christopher Columbus’s naming the next island he finds “Santa Maria de La Conception” so soon after his preoccupation with gold the day before.

      Consequently, it is only natural to assume that Hernando, his son would convey an account of father’s journey and would leave out aspects which depicted him as some one who is “far from the purpose of God.”  Hernando blames the Catholic sovereigns in the third voyage writing:   “…and although it may be said that even if the Catholic sovereigns had received most damaging information against the Admiral they should not have sent Bobadilla which such marks of their favour and such letters…complaints….as we have already said [are] very numerous”  (277).   Hernanado is sympathetic to his father unlike Bartomele comments found in the First Voyage.  Perhaps Columbus’ conquest was a psychic battle filled with his own annotations while others competed for those annotations for they knew he wanted to be remembered “properly,” for the four different voyages that he embarked as re-attempts—or ways to assuage what others (that is, history) would think of later then think of him.  Velez insists on bare particulars: the nuances in the rhetoric over time that allow for some distinct underlying “reason” to be made known to those that investigate The Four Voyages.

     Greenblatt, focuses on trope: the (sub)-conscious process that lets formalism cater to the sublimation of all the complexities of the “historical Columbus”  to Columbus, the man.  This could be explored further; but, whatever the reasons are for the damage, the damage is done.  Columbus might have very well been a manic-depressive, one who could not only bear the responsibility of serving God/Spain/History but who was terrified that history would not redeem him the way he had hoped for. Caught between the velvet hand of faith and the iron fist of power, he traveled with the rationale of an irrational drive: to possess something not necessarily historical, but something necessarily real.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

QUEEN_EUROPA

  The “Queen Europa” map (1570),  derived from the aesthetic appetites of Renaissance, by Sebastian Munster depicts the continent of Europe as feminine—her head forming the Iberian peninsula, France and Germany her chest, Italy and Denmark her arms, and other countries filling the rest of her legless torso.  This anthropomorphism is nothing new.  It derives from the Greeks.  After the transfiguration of Christianity under Constantine. Europe haply adopted  the synthesis of the narrative of the myths and Christianity.  Europe. If one examines the map in this context, Europe appears to be the embodiment of the Church itself, which in the Scripture is annotated as feminine.   Queen Europa is holding the “orb” of the Church from her right arm—Italy—and the scepter of power, which extends from Denmark through the northern most border of Scotland.  Whereas this somewhat symbolic rendering of Europe as such is certainly not a political map it does, however, exonerate much about how Europe sees itself presiding in respect to the rest of the world.  For example, She is surrounded on all sides by water as an island unto herself.  Munster’s map depicts a ocean between Europe and Asia, one that does not take into account Eastern Europe as even a zone that might flow into Asia.  There are a few plains in Polonia, several roads to Bulgaria that end in a ocean, and a dense (seemingly unsurpassable) forest between Lithuania and Moscovia; however,  Scythia and Tartaria, ethnic groups within Russia at the time are alloted their own territories.  Bohemia, it appears, is designated by a circular forest, at the heart of Europe, which is indicative of Charles V resurgence of the Holy Roman Empire.  The words depicting the cities on this map are in Latin, the language of diplomacy, so this exhemplifies that this was an idealized version of the map…meant to be non-offensive and just.  In fact, the very depiction of quaintly situated Europe (the coveted of Jupiter) conveys a shrewd attitude towards Africa and Asia.  The Adriatic sea and the Baltic sea flow up her arms. The Mettiteranean down her arms.  What is interesting is that Constantinople (at the time under the Ottomans) is noted whereas Rome is not.

QUEEN_EUROPA2

Around 1585, Radziwiłł began co-ordination of the work on the Grand Map of the Duchy of Lithuania. He put a lot of effort in organizing a team of experts who would be able to perform such immense work. Among others, he hired King’s cartographer Maciej Strubicz the Silesian, or “Slązak.” Earlier, during the reign of king Stefan Batory, Strubicz began work on editing and re-working maps of the territories subject to the King of Poland, particularly the map of Lithuania. Radziwill’s map of The Duchy of Lithuania is a more detailed map, more detailed in its depictions of regions of Eastern Europe, specifically those important to Europe after Poland and Lithuania converged. There are still few actual cities mentioned.  It is more ornate.  There are pictures of ships in the Baltic Sea going to and fro.  There are also explications found in emblems which allude to historical information regarding what is found near a particular region.  There are more depictions of roads and rivers.  It appears more strategic.

The first map is an symbolic map attempted to define how Europe sees itself.  The Duchy of Lithuania is a more historical map, because it takes into account the economic trade routes found in the region separating Europe from the Musovy Company.  The Duchy of Lithuania was seen as fortress or barrier to be reckoned with so that the barbaric Russians who were pressing Westward did not have to be reckoned with.  The ships in the second map point to how the British and the Russians were trading in the Baltic Sea despite the rest of Europe’s strategic planning to get trade without bearing witnessness to the Asianness of the Russians.  The first map insists that the Europe is wholly exemplified, universal, by its boundaries; here in the second map…the boundaries are accounted for though only to essentialize the immediacy of the Europe’s cognizance of its own political structure.   Russia was equated with Moscow for that is what the British knew.  Enthnography was a wrench in this maps system to determine political developments.  Europe, in the first map, is isolated,with a ocean between itself and Asia, then it is politicized it relation to Asia via Eastern Europe—yet both maps fail in respect to the enthnography of these regions.

Maps encouraged a wide-ranged ‘flat’ view, and two-dimensional patriotism, precedent for self-esteem, the quest for a Roman past….all levels of inquiry which acquired their descriptive destiny.

NOTES:

John,Hale, The Civilization of Europe of Europe in the Renaissance 

Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598): in 1570 became the father of the modern atlas by issuing the world’s first regularly produced atlas, the Theatrum orbis terrarum (Theatre of the world). Combining maps of uniform size and style with comprehensive text, the innovative Theatrum set the standard for the shape and contents of future atlases. Unlike many modern atlases, it even credited the original cartographers.

Martin Waldsemuller: 1470?–1522?, German cosmographer. One of a group of humanists known as the Gymnasium Vosagense, he lived at Saint-Dié, Lorraine, during the latter part of his life. He was the first cartographer to call the New World America. He sketched the New World in two maps (the first to show North and South America separate from Asia) that he published in 1507 together with an explanatory treatise, Cosmographiae introductio, and Amerigo Vespucci’s account of his voyages to the New World. It was based on the Greek geography of Ptolmey, and he had read of Vespucci’s travels and knew that the New World was indeed two continents. In honor of Vespucci’s discovery of the new forth portion of the world, Waldseemüller printed a wood block map (called “Carta Mariana”) with the name “America” spread across the southern continent of the New World. Waldseemüller printed and sold a thousand copies of the map across Europe.

Strabo: wrote some two thousand years ago in the early days of the Roman Empire. In his Geography, he provides us with a fascinating verbal description of the ‘Inhabited World’, as envisaged at that time. Writing in Greek, covering a world dominated by Rome, Strabo is of interest to students of classical literature and to historians of Rome and its regions, in particular for his description of the geo-political landscape under the first two Roman emperors, Augustus and Tiberius. Strabo’s subject-matter also makes him an important source for our knowledge of the physical, astronomical and geographical concepts of antiquity

Charles V: 1500–1558, Holy Roman emperor (1519–58) and, as Charles I, king of Spain (1516–56); son of Philop I and Joanna of Castile, grandson of Ferdinand II of Aragón, Isabella of Castile, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, and Mary of Burgundy.  Spanish Empire was tremendously expanded in the New World. In Italy, Spanish power had become paramount. Even England seemed about to fall to Spain through Philip’s marriage, and Charles’s own marriage with Isabella of Portugal brought the Portuguese crown to Philip in 1580. Yet Charles failed in his purpose to return the Protestants to the Roman Catholic Church, and the human and financial cost of constant warfare drained Spanish resources; moreover, Charles’s hopes for a universal empire were thwarted by the political realities of Western Europe. His integrity, strength of will, and sense of duty were conspicuous. His appearance has been made familiar by two portraits by Titian.

1453: Fall of Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire.

1529:  Martin Luther’s writes  the Small Catechism to answer the need for a basic exposition of the Christian faith for lay people. It follows the historic form of a catechism, based on explanations of the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer, to which Luther has added sections on Baptism, Confession and the Sacrament of the Altar, along with forms for Morning and Evening Prayer and Grace at Table.

Historically, a catechism was a short course in Christianity to prepare converts for Baptism.

Philipp II:  King of Spain, devout Catholic, hated Turks and Protestants. The Spanish Inquisition’s  main purpose was to keep track of those who represented a threat to Philip II; therefore, the Inquisition in Spain was used not so much to remove heresy – there was little need for this – but to hunt out those who might represent a threat to the king – be it financial or political (though the two were both married together).

Michel de Montaigne: a French writer, is considered by many the creator of the personal essay. Writers up to the present time have imitated his informal, conversational style. Montaigne’s essays reveal his independent mind and sound judgment, his charm and wit, and his wealth of experience in life and literature. The most original aspect of the essays was Montaigne’s goal to make himself the subject matter of his writings. He first began publishing his essays in 1580, adding to them as life and experience provided him with new insights and understanding. He wrote a total of 107 essays, including the long “Apology for Raymond Sebond” with its famous skeptical motto, “What do I know?”

Amerigo Vespucci: Discoverer of the New World. Described his travels and was the first to identify the New World of North and South America as separate from Asia. (Until he died, Columbus thought he has reached Asia.) Vespucci also described the culture of the indigenous people, and focused on their diet, religion, and what made these letters very popular – their sexual, marriage, and childbirth practices. The letters were published in many languages and were distributed across Europe (they were a much better seller than Columbus’ own diaries).

© 2014 Paul Rogov

paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

ZORA2

SECTION ONE: Case Description

Identifying information

     Janie Crawford Killucks Starks Woods is a Black woman who leaves her home in a wedding dress at the age of sixteen, and returns twenty-four years later, dressed in overalls.  Her life is portrayed in Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Current situation

    Janie (age 40) has returned to her hometown after burying her third husband, Tea Cake, who is twelve years her junior. She has few people that she can trust. She has just survived a natural disaster and series of ill-suited relationships, though has come home with an understanding of everything that has happened to her. The African-American community sits in judgment of her. Janie, however, is quick to deflect its presumptions only to find her best friend, Phoeby, so Janie can satisfy “the oldest human longing: self-revelation.”

Family of Origin

     Janie is the granddaughter of a slave.  She played and grew up with  the children of Mr. Washurn (the white slave-master that raped her grandmother Nanny (who, in turn, had Janie’s mother, Leafy, who was also raped, though fled after Janie was born, never to be heard from again). Janie was raised by her grandmother, Nanny. Should Janie’s mother, Leafy, who ran away, been accounted for, she would have gone through the family life cycle: “separating as an unattached young adult from…her family of origin, marrying and establishing an identity as part of a couple rather than as an individual, having and raising children, dealing with adolescent children, refocusing on the couple relationship as adolescents gain that independence, sending children forth into their own new relationships, addressing mid-life crises, and coping with the growing disabilities of aging parents (Zastrow, 2010). Yet that was not the case.  It is Janie who has the opportunity to go through entire family life cycle, should she live free and die in freedom as a Black woman within the socio-economic coordinates of the ante-bellum South.

Biological Development and History

     Although Janie had only learned that she was black and “wuzn’t white” when she was six years old—-recognizing herself as the dark-skinned girl in a photograph that was taken with the white grandchildren of her grandmother’s slave-master)—she conveys in her story, Their Eyes Were Watching God that, as a child, that she was called “Alphabet” because of all the names that people had for her.  As the teller of her own life story, Janie sees “her life like a great tree in leaf with the things suffered, things enjoyed, things done and undone (Hurston, 1937).

    Janie’s story then skips to her adolescence. “During adolescence, individuals experience pubertal changes, begin to develop higher-level cognitive skills start the separation-individuation process wherein they begin to move away from parents and develop closer attachments with peers and romantic partners, and begin to experience sexual feelings and attractions (Auslander et al, 2007). By making out with the neighbor, Johnny Taylor, Janie, in truth, is a free spirit, but there is a biological component to her erotic intensity for, as it is well known, during adolescence “the sex hormones are especially active in the brain’s emotional center—the limbic system. It creates a “tinderbox of emotions,” says Dr. Ronald Dahl, a psychiatrist at the University of Pittsburgh. “Not only do feelings reach a flash point more easily, but adolescents tend to seek out situations where they can allow their emotions and passions to run wild” (Wallis, 2008).  Janie’s biological development then, as an adolescent, is the impetus for her search for romance. As Wallis (2008) suggests rather matter-of-factly, “adolescents are actively looking for experiences to create intense feelings.”   That said, research has determined that physiologically-speaking “during adolescence and early adulthood (12-18/early to late 20’s respectively), there is a growth spurt in the frontal lobe, increased myelination and continued synaptic pruning. There is also the development of abstract thinking, the development of scientific reasoning; emotionally there is fluctuating emotional states linked to hormonal changes and social forces; and, socially there is de-idealization of parents move towards autonomy.  Peer conformity; gender intensification, sexual, self, ethnic identity becomes more solidified” (Robbins et al, 2012).  Janie, in short, begins to construct a worldview by actively developing what Piaget calls the mind’s schemata, which are “the cognitive or mental structures by which individuals intellectually adapt to and organize their environment.” This involves memory. “Memory involves retaining information over time and plays a crucial role in all cognitive and intellectual development. It is also central to learning and having a self: without memory,” in fact,“there is no self (Robbins et al, 2012).

Social Development and History

     Being that Janie’s developing schemata is partially informed by her intimate relationship to Nature as much as it is by her experience of living with her grandmother in the ante-bellum South, it cannot be overemphasized how Janie’s search for meaningful experiences in her adolescence evokes in her a strong sense of what is true and beautiful.  In her own mind, Janie’s life is like a pear tree in blossom; she is a unique expression of life.  She is self-integrated and spiritual (and, in the eco-feminist sense, in tune with the effect she has on her environment).

      The stressors within her environment, exemplified by the cooing judgments of the porch-sitters in her hometown incites her to dive deeper into her psychic life which is as perplexing to her as it is quaint and familiar, anachronistic as it is erotic, memorable to her in the forefront of her mind, accommodating her pains and concerns, even if going there can, at times, be addictive.

      Janie’s most significant relationship, is not with Nanny, her grandmother, nor with Logan (her first husband), nor with Joe Starks (her second husband), but with herself. She is solipsistic at times. Moreover, Janie’s social environment, is not merely comprised of white-folks and/or black folks.  Confirming Vygotsky, Bruner, and Cole’s theories about one’s relation to one’s environment, Janie is interested in culture as she much as she is interested in the sex life of bees. She is interested in marksmanship (later in the book), which helps her re-coordinate the playing field that she shares with her younger lover, Tea Cake, allowing her to subvert the patriarchal power structures that Janie often finds herself navigating through alone.

Strengths

     Janie is imaginative, articulate, resilient, compassionate, and humble (though equally proud). She is a seeker of self-knowledge, aesthetic experiences and revelations of truth and beauty. She is well-equipped with social graces and eloquent colloquialisms. She is able to see herself as a survivor with an imagination that is in tune with “change and chance.” Janie is also hard-working and poetic. She is hopeful:  “she often spoke to the falling seeds. She knew that God tore down the old world every evening and built a new one by sun-up (Hurston, 1937). She is on quest to find out what is meaningful in the human experience. This is why Their Eyes Were Watching God is as equally about Janie as person as it is about cycles and transformations

SECTION TWO: Identity Formation

     If Janie considers the pear tree in bloom as emblematic of her life, a symbol of female vitality or fertility, perhaps, one can easily make the argument that the narrative components of the plot of Their Eyes Were Watching God tells the story about a young black woman on a quest to find an orgasm. (Kaplan, 1995).  Janie goes through various rites of passage within her community as a black teenager and later as a young Black woman the more that she develops cognitively and morally over the course of the novel. Her psychodynamic development is an important aspect to consider. “Since Erik Erikson’s expansion of Freud’s psychoanalytic account, adolescence is the time when development hinges on identity, the girl arrives at this juncture either psychologically at risk or with a different agenda (Gilligan, 1982).  Note the erotic nature of Janie’s revelations:

       It was spring afternoon in West Florida. Janie had spent most of the day under a

       blossoming pear tree in the back-yard….

       She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting

       bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it

       all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand

       sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to

       tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was a marriage!

       She had be summoned to behold a revelation. Then Janie felt a pain remorseless sweet

       that let her limp and languid  (Hurston, 1937).

With the collective cultural memory of American slavery in the background of her life and in the background of everyone she comes in contact with, Janie is not immune from indulging in erotic fantasies. Her eroticism appears to be an intra-psychic phenomena as well as a transcendental modality. It springs from the very epigenesis of her biopyschosocial development in the context of her environment.  While Janie is forming a worldview, “a sense of ego identity develops, an accrued confidence that her ability to maintain inner sameness and continuity is matched by the sameness of continuity of one’s meaning for others.  Thus, self-esteem grows to be a conviction that one is learning effective steps towards a tangible future, that one is developing a defined personality within a social reality which one understands” (Erikson, 1950).

     Subsequently, Janie, the teenager, “struggles to integrate past and future views of self and begins to define new appropriate sex roles.  An identity crisis may emerge from this confusion. New expectations from parents may add to this stress. Tolerance, understanding, and guidance in the home can assist the adolescent may add to this stress (Robbins et al, 2012).  Janie might not know her parents but she has had a hard time hearing her grandmother when her grandmother says things like: “de nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see.  Ah been prayin’ it tuh be different wid you. (Hurston 14).  Nanny, in fact, pressures Janie to make her feel as though she is the only person that Janie can trust. “You ain’t got nobody but me,” Nanny quips (Hurston, 1937).  Crying upon hearing that sad fact at the time, Janie, it seems, is still trying to figure out what is best for her, that is, what can make her feel complete.

     In that sense, Nanny admonishes Janie with an avalanche of pretense; she talks about the horrors of slavery and about her dreams for Janie. She hopes Janie will marry Logan Killicks: “when you got big enough to understand things, Ah wanted you to look upon yo’self. Ah don’t want yo’ feathers always crumpled by folks throwin’ up things in yo’ face. And Ah can’t die easy thinkin’ maybe de menfolks white or black is making a spit cup outa you (Hurston, 1937).  Janie supposes that getting married is way to be loved.  Yet, once Nanny dies and Janie marries Logan Killucks, Janie  notes the drab existence she has signed up for, remarking how “his house was absent of flavor, too.” She is reluctant though hopeful to enter Logan’s house and “went on inside to wait for love to begin (Hurston, 1937).

     Even after deciding to leave Logan Killucks for the portly and personable and (later) pernicious Mayor Joe Starks, little does Janie know she would become his “trophy wife,” his property; for she is unable to speak her mind; she has to live behind a façade.  Married to the black Mayor of Eatonville, Janie is re-inscripted within a slaveholding system. Embodying the Hegelian master-slave dialectic, Janie, as a slave, holds the real power by realizing that Joe really needs her to be subordinate to him. Unbeknownst to him, Joe Starks, as Janie’s husband, is actually an opportunist purveyor of the same capitalist system that brought the world slavery.  He is a Black man, though abides by white logic; he is an entrepreneur and as he receives some prestige and power by being mayor of a small town, yet the dynamic oscillates; he cannot maintain  power structure aside from using physical force. In fact, he slaps Janie after she brings him a dinner he does not like.  Only after Joe hits her does Janie understand that “she had another kind of love in mind. She was saving up feelings for some man she had never seen. She had an inside and an outside now and suddenly knew how not to mix them” (Hurston, 1937).  Regrettably, Janie now understands that she must contend with what’s inside her head as well as with the social role she has to play. It is clear to right then and right there what love is not, that some rules in life can be broken, that day-to-day life can change people, that people’s judgments are often backed by disappointed hopes and the misunderstood intentions.

    Janie, in that regard, realizes there are no solid rules for her from adolescence through young adulthood. She adopts a moral relativism.  As Piaget suggests, “this relativism develops due to cognitive maturation, social experience, and the development of role-taking skills. Social rules are now seen as arbitrary agreements, made by people, which can be challenged, questioned, and changed” (Robbins et al, 2012).  .

    Janie then entered what Kolhberg called the post-conventional stage of faith development (a stage that takes place from the age of sixteen onward).  “There we see an autonomous, self-accepted moral maturity and sense of a social contract,” he writes—that is, a sense of a general agreement with the mores of society.  When Janie come back to her hometown after Tea Cake’s burial, later in the book, she has gone beyond the post-conventional stage. She has adopted a profound understanding of universal ethical principles, wherein there is a “truly autonomous reality based on individual conscience and based on abstract principles like justice, compassion, equality and human dignity” (Robbins et al, 2012)

    Perhaps, this is why Janie tells Phoeby at the beginning of the novel, in the novel’s frame, that the oldest human longing is self-revelation. Situating Janie Crawford as a teenager within stage four of Fowler’s theory of faith development—in the Synthetic-Conventional Faith stage—where “adolescents expand the capacity for self-reflection to examine the meaning of one’s life and significant relationships….with greater influence from social reference groups beyond the family, leads her as a young adult to stage 5—Individuative-Reflective Faith, where young adults question the beliefs and stories they have received from family, friends and other social groups and engage in critical reflection to arrive at a greater sense of personal accountability and responsibility for their faith, especially in response to conflicts of values and beliefs between themselves and others. This is when they demythologize their learned master stories and seek to construct a deeper sense of life’s vocation and ideology” (Robbins et al, 2012).

SECTION THREE: Alternative Theories

      Janie Crawford, both as a Black teenager married to Logan Killucks and a Black young adult who had only recently married the Mayor of Eatonville, Joe Starks, will only maybe come to understand that she lives in a nation-state ruled by white men who may or may not have fully accepted a woman’s right to vote.  Perhaps, these same men can sense the intersectionality of her vulnerability. After all, she is a young Black female worker. She is a minority within a minority within a minority and lives in Eatonville, Florida, in the segregated South, shortly after the Great Depression and before another world war.  As Boyd-Franklin (1989) elucidates, “African-American women continued to be a significant presence in the American workplace after the end of slavery and well into contemporary environment as most African-American families required more than one income to make ends meet or to maintain middle-class status. Thus, the dominant cultural norm of women remaining in the dome was never practically suited for these families.”

From a black feminist perspective it worth pointing out that “African-American women entered the United States as pieces of property whose purpose was to provide free labor, to be sold as a commodity, and to produce offspring who would become saleable commodities as well. Their roles in American society were synonymous with work, labor outside the home, and legitimized sexual victimization from the very outset (Greene, 1993).

     That said, in a dual systems perspective, “minority persons must be viewed within two separate contexts, the nurturing system and the sustaining system. The nurturing system is the primary context and includes the individual, the immediate family, the extended family, and the immediate community.  The sustaining system is the secondary context (or larger society) and comprises political power, the educational system, goods and services, and so on” (Robbins et al, 2012).  If Janie’s political consciousness was more apparent to her, as a young Black woman worker, she would have realized she only accepted and rejected certain people and ideas in her life based on what on her “goodness of fit” within her environment.  Janie, locked within the closed-off world of Eatonville (a class-distinctive demarcation), is also locked within the throttlehold of a larger capitalist society ruled by white elites, which reproduces racial prejudice by still adhering to the idea of racial segregation.

     It is worth pointing out how conflict theory applies to marriage, slavery and the ruling elite, that is, at the level of American social institutions. Someone is always oppressing someone, or at least negotiating an exchange of power.  Often times, this oppressive power corrupts people and leads them to believe that there is something natural about the process. “Marx,” for example, “believed that the struggle for both the proletariat and the bourgeoisie was to free themselves from the stranglehold of ideologies that produce false consciousness for both groups. Although the wealthy elite may have developed a class consciousness, it is a false consciousness according to Marx. They accept the existing social order uncritically, believe the ideologies that legitimate their self-interest, and thus cannot see the inherent contradictions of capitalism. The laborers, on the other hand, are kept from seeing their common plight by their acceptance of repressive ideology and by the competition that capitalism creates (Robbins et al, 2012).

    Marxist feminists have long shared a focus on critical consciousness-raising (CR), so women can connect their experiences of oppression with those of other women and thereby see the political dimensions of their personal problems. For feminists, CR is a process of discovery in which one begins to see one’s position and move toward other possible positions. In this sense, consciousness not just a process of discovering the hidden but is instead an active strategy. “By perceiving oneself as a subject (rather than object) of social processes one is capable of working to change the social order (Saleebey, 1997)

    In the case of Janie, feminist scholars would most likely contend that her predicament of wanting to be like a pear tree in blossom is actually an American bourgeois dream—for such scholars would propose to an identity that is radically contingent on historical circumstances but also driven by the agency of individuals who struggle to “create themselves” (Saleebey, 1997).

It is not wonder that Janie leaves her hometown with a dress on, and returns twenty-four years later wearing overalls. She has not only been a wife; she has been working; she is a laborer.  She is not of the upper classes.  She has a multidimensional life, has a story, and desires to actualize herself as an agent of change and memory.  This is why Janie is equipped to be a pioneer in the context of other African-American women of her time.  She excepts nothing less than orgiastic thriving, a vitality that will not let her stay put, which Tea Cake encourages and inspires: a love that satisfies the soul and is distinct from her sense of a higher purpose. And that is what Janie Crawford achieves in Their Eyes Were Watching God

SECTION FOUR: Resilience and Empowerment

     In truth, resilience and empowerment theories help us better understand Janie Crawford’s predicament as an individual implementing adaptive and maladaptive strategies to better the conditions of their own personhood within her social environment. This is precisely what Zora Neale Hurston attempts to accomplish in the novel. By giving s a glimpse into Janie Crawford’s biological, cognitive and social development, the reader is allotted the opportunity to suspend judgment of her personal vision of her life and her quest for self-discovery.

      As Fraser, Richman & Galinksy (1999) illuminate, “to be resilient, one must be exposed to risk and then respond successfully. Resilience is a successful adaptational response to high risk. By definition a person who is not exposed to risk cannot be said to be resilient. By definition resilience is measured by an individual adaptational response (Fraser, Richman, Galinksy, 1999).

Being that Janie represents the intersectionality of several vulnerable populations (as a black woman laborer who suffered racial prejudice, socio-economic oppression, domestic violence at the hands of husbands, as well as having survived a natural disaster, she is also has the ability to bounce back from adversity, make sense of the past, and look forward to the future.

     Nevertheless, it is important to understand that “although resilience ipso facto is an individual response, it is not an individual trait. It is conditioned on both individual and environmental factors. It should not be viewed as one person’s heroic or tenacious efforts to overcome disadvantage. Rather it must be viewed ecologically. Resilience emerges from a heterogeneity of individual and environmental influences that conspire to produce exceptional performance in the face of significant threat” (Fraser, Richman & Galinksy, 1999).

     As research has demonstrates, “at higher levels of risk, protective factors does not exist to weakly counteract the poisonous effects of extreme adversity. If we define resilience as successful adaptation—more than survival—resilience appears to be an uncommon phenomena at the highest levels of risk (Fraser, Richman & Galinksy, 1999).

     Nanny’s desire, then, it is worth pointing out, in part, is to protect Janie Crawford from the violence which destroyed her mother. This, in turn, motivates Nanny’s insistence that Janie marry Logan Killucks. Ironically, later in the novel, Janie’s position as Mrs. Starks insulates Janie from physical violence—except from Joe as such. “As an extension of emotional intensity, it seems, physical violence is a necessary component of Janie’s desire to experience truly and fully: Nature contains both the pear tree and the hurricane. Violence twice precipitates a change in her life: Nanny’s slap helps persuade Janie to marry Logan; Jody’s slaps encourage her to separate her internal and external lives in order to survive (Kubitschek, 1983)

    Subsequently, “collective experience can motivate one to seek change beyond the individual level towards other systems, such as the family or community” (Parsons, Gutierrez & Cox, 1998).  It is for this reason that one may begin to conjecture why Zora Neale Hurston’s novel was not called “Her Eyes Were Watching God.”  Janie’s story, after all, is more than just about her. It is about an community living either in Eatonville, or in Jacksonville, or in the muck, or in the Everglades, or in the ante-bellum South—communities which are aptly situated within very specific socio-economic and historical coordinates.

     In that sense, Their Eyes Were Watching God, as the title suggest, is about a collective subject waiting for something new to happen: that for an African-American woman to become aware of herself and her own people in the context of her own personal biological, cognitive, moral and spiritual development.  The novel, underscoring the resilience of such a community through the character of Janie Crawford, it is important to remember offers a very progressive, eco-feminist perspective on the world.  It takes for granted the role of myth, of cycles, of social institutions, of re-inscribed social roles, literal and figurative death as well as rebirth in order to demonstrate that all the abundance of life is found within the hearts and minds of those who read Janie’s story and can relate to it as a subjective agency that understands what it means to struggle.  Much like one can become empowered by reading another American classic, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written By Himself, an intimate American autobiography that is embedded in social commentary, though framed as in a cultural experience, one can infer that Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is an novel about a people, paradoxically, waiting for the suspension of judgment in an effort to be free.  Despite the intra-psychic damage produced by the collective memory of slavery, Their Eyes Were Watching God is about a people who are as alive as a pear tree in blossom—moved from the backyard to the front yard, supplanted by brave beliefs in their own self-efficacy—in spite of the injustice produced by a world system that quite often is as indifferent to human suffering. Perhaps, the world, not left to “change and chance,” will allow for a newly empowered, post-national identity to emerge, so that future generations can remember their own future, promote social action on their own behalf and once again believe in the very essence of their dignity.

NOTES

Auslander, B.A., Rosenthal, S.L., & Blythe, M.J. (2007). Understanding sexual behaviors of

       adolescents within a biopsychosocial framework. Adolescent Medicine Clinics, 18 (3), 434-

       448.

Collins, P.H. (1999). Distinguishing features of Black feminist thought. In Black feminist

    thought: knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment [10th anniversary ed.[

     (pp. 21-43

Erikson, E.H., (1950). Childhood and society: New York: Norton.

Erikson, E.H. (1954). The problem of ego identity. In A.H. Esman (Ed.). The psychology of

       adolescence: Essential readings. New York: Norton

Fraser, M.W., Richman, J.M., & Galinksy, M.J. (1999). Risk, protection, and resilience: toward

       a conceptual framework for social work practice. Social Work Research, 23, 131-143.

Gilligan, C. In a different voice. In Psychological theory and women’s development (pp 24-39).

     Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press

Greene, B. (1997). Psychotherapy with African American women: Integrating feminist and

       psychodynamic models. Smith College studies in social work [Special issue]. Theoretical,

       Policy, Research and Clinical Perspectives for Social Work Practice with African

      Americans, 67, 299-322.

Hurston, Z.N. (1937). Their Eyes Were Watching God. 1st Perennial Classics ed. New York:

       Harper Collins Publishers.

Kaplan, C, (1995). The Erotics of talk: “that oldest human longing” in their eyes were

     watching god. In American Literature Vol. 67, 1.  pp. 115-142

Kubitschek, M.D. (1983). “Tuh de horizon and back”: the female quest in their eyes were

     watching God. In Black American Literature Forum Vol. 17, 3, pp. 109-115

Parsons, R.J., Gutiérrez, L.M., & Cox, E.O. (1998) A model for empowerment practice. In L.M

     Guitérrez, R.J. Parsons, & E.O. Cox (Eds.), Empowerment in social work practice (pp. 3-23).

     Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Robbins, S. P., Chatterjee, P., Canda, E.R. (2011). Contemporary Human Behavior Theory: a

      Critical Perspective for Social Work (3rd Edition). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Saleebey, D. (1997). Introduction: Power to the people. In D. Saleebey (Ed.), The strength

       perspective social work practice (pp. 1-20). New York: NY: Longman.

Zastrow, C.H., Kirst-Ashman, K,K., (2010). Understanding Human Behavior and the Social

     Environment (8th edition).  Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

funerary
“The young man,” wrote Aristotle, “is not fit for Moral Philosophy, for he has no experience in the actions of life.”

That Aristotle, as many know, tutored Alexander the Great for five years from 356- 343 B.C.E, when the future king was aged 13.

The quotation is an enigma: what does Aristotle mean by “youth?”) Aristotle does not seem to be implying that the issue is not so much biological youth as much as it is the absence of wisdom  (at least that’s how it goes according to Grint, K.  (2007)  on the subject of leadership, in an article he wrote entitled “Learning to Lead: Can Aristotle Help Us Find the Road to Wisdom?”

Okay, now, I admit it: I hate it when educated people who may have not read Aristotle’s work completely, cherry-pick some of his quotes with the intent of convincing the reader or listener that they are cultured or  intelligent. Manypeople, however learned as they are, certainly might have skimmed through some of Aristotle’s books and certainly wanted to be a member of a group that is “in the know,” who might even be in the know (having learned that the message of Aristotle  as many come to learn), later.  His approach is rooted firmly in a sometimes overtly clear, though always elaborate system of metaphysics;  so obvious are Aristotle’s insights to many people and (often surprisingly) so boring are Aristotle’s arguments, so many believe they  “ring true” too much. And what happens? Aristotle becomes reduced and cast aside  simply because he arrived at conclusions that we, as moderns, can easily just find on Google or in a book on topology.

I appreciate Aristotle: and yet, long before the Devil was down in Georgia galvanizing populist enthusiasm by playing a fiddle, it was, in fact, Plato, Aristotle’s teacher, that condemned the irrational part of human nature. Plato downright hated anything irrational and viewed it is as the source of error, which was contrary to Truth.  He condemned all mimetic art (epic poetry, painting, etc) as a copy of a copy of an idea—-an idea for him, in fact, is the actual true, intangible ontological fact that must be contended with and/or accepted as real and actual within the terms of our understanding and reason. Basically, for Plato, art—-because it is is “art”ificial by definition (and might appear or present itself as truth to those who lack experience  and/or wisdom, art is merely a copy of a copy of an idea, and not the idea itself, therefore is, by default, further and further away from the actual Truth.

Some contemporary philosopher recently joked that if poets rule dthe world then genocide would increase. Check out Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath and Walt Whitman and William Butler Yeats: what were they trying to do?  Comfort us? Make us love ourselves beyond measure, play to our reptilian brains, then meander off into a grassy field where there are graves and bodies so that they, as poets, can graft their stanzas to the monstrosity of God’s personal eternity?

Plato hated poets for many specific reasons, as he writes, in Book X of The Republic. In Book X he admits that human beings, whatever they are like when they are young or now or later in years, when they are inexperienced or not, are  impressionable beings; they influence one another. He did not want a poem (so innocent that it might appear) to lie or to mislead youth, so that the youth is then falsely informed about what is real and what is not—-affected by the illusion of the primacy of beauty over ethics.  Plato did not want a poem’s “truthiness” (even if written well, in daclytic hexameter) to surpass the quest for Truth.

So then why is rationality so important and art such bullshit to so many people in the world? I will provide a theory.

I find it strange that an entire civilization—the Ancient Greeks–-(from the Pre-Socratics to the Sophists to the Stoics and Neo-Platonists, all of who were instrumental in helping us learn how to tend the garden of Western thought (even as many ancient philosophers are often misunderstood by popular obscurantists who are, more often than not, writing in German) were such slaves to the mystique of Truth  that they had to elevate Rationality and Reason far above the prospect of their own liberty. They valued Reason and Understanding and Argument over their own liberty.  Why? We can only guess, but they certainly had no conception of freedom (as we have come to  understand it…for freedom comes later, at the end of the Age of the Enlightenment with Kant et al).   In short, why did a people who valued Reason over liberty, in turn, hold such a negative view of the senses and of the irrational? They held such a fear of the irrational so much so one might even conclude that they hated the body at some level (even though they constructed many statues depicting it), yet ultimately, in their written work, saw the human body as corruptible, therefore they could not trust enough to give them insight into any knowledge that could constitute truths or Truth.

But back to the irrational…and the fear of the irrational. Do we not have that today? Who are all these “experts” who privilege reason and rationality over un-reason and insanity? Have these people ever read a good novel?

Any good novel interrogates the tension between freedom and confinement, between an individual living in an irrational world, which is often in concert with the choices made by a world that, like a machine, is all too rational.

More on the irrational, though…

Many Ancient Greek mathematicians, as is well known, often fled from the prospective appearance of irrational numbers while doing mathematics, which were produced by dividing a number by zero. So what happened there? Were dirty Greek togas in dire need of being laundered? Why did, in fact, did the Ancient Greeks (who had so many great teachers and philosophers) consult an fucking oracle before waging a war or making a big political decision, even though the educated class, the philosophers (who were all practically atheists and agnostics)? It is worth remembering that the Ancient Greeks kept theological frameworks in their intellectual discussions in order to accommodate the biggest questions in philosophy. Only in this way is all of existence on the table: so that one can ask and have access to an entire ontology of a Divinity, in order to better describe the hypothetical origin and fate of the universe, as well as the political reality of the power of the state.

But seriously, “folks” (Obama’s favorite way of addressing Joe Blow middle-class Americans): How many Ancient Greek slaves were actually starving and being beaten while let’s say, two men from Ptolemaic Alexandria discussed what human beings want? What did they talk about? They talked about an ideal world without troubles, where pleasures abound and are easily acquired, in that utopia acceptable….so goes Socrates (through Platonic dialogues).

Welcome to the City of Pigs, then, O Brave New World, capital of Human Desire. (You will not turn into a donkey here; you will be given access to websites and will win and win and win).

Every man and woman has a Jerusalem and a New York, a Las Vegas and a Calcutta in their bloodstream and their bone marrow—this much I believe.

And yet from what I gather, from doing my homework, the Ancient Greeks were bona fide, oxymoronic posers. They wanted to be the Egyptians instead of themselves as if they hated themselves. The Greeks only wished they were as hardworking, mystical, sexy, and irrational as the Egyptians. They only wished they knew the secrets to the stars. The Ancient Greeks, in fact, loved almost everything about the Egyptians and what they did, it was as if the Greeks, were in some ways (to the Egyptians) their first retarded cousins (to speak nothing of cultural incest, nor the retroactive prospects of Christian ethics).  Find me one place in an Ancient Greek text where a scholar or scribe painted the Egyptians as useless or advised the reader to not adore them (except the Bible). This fact alone presents its own set of questions regarding what the true roots of Western civilization are.

So now, then, dear readers, I will leave it at this: I don’t blame the Ancient Greeks for their admiration of the Ancient Egyptians; I blame the American people for their admiration of a democracy that never existed. The American people are being mislead by misreading history books.  What good is our society if what we call good is called democracy and we don’t experience, nor witness anything like a democracy.  I am not touching French thought right now, pace, Descartes, probably the father of psychology, but Western Civilization has given humanity the Law as well as a bunch of statues and paintings, trinkets, jewelry, nukes, guns, medicines,  and a whole lot of exploitation of women and children.  Western Civilization has perfected the art of slavery, human subjugation, and perfected the art of genocide of entire populations with smirks, taunts, denials, and philosophical justifications to excuse the behavior as if it wasn’t real.

And for all those Greens out there, searching for the harnessing of the Zero-Point Energy? Are we, as eco-friendly moderns, aware that the Ancient Egyptians addressed Nature in the second-person (as a “You” and not as an “It”)? Are we Google-savvy, pill-popping masters of our own realities aware that it was the Ancient Egyptians that had such a rich spiritual lens/theology as part of their daily lives (with gods and principalities overseeing even most banal of phenomena like the bending of a reed in the wind), that their  intellectual adventures were wholly poetic at all times of the day and all times of the night?

Walk towards the light, 21st century poets. Walk towards the secret of poetry. You, too, have been affected and have lost touch with the world in which you live.

This is what I propose that the 21st century poet needs todayhe or she needs to be reminded of how ancient man and woman and his or her poetic sensibilities were identical, if not inextricably entwined with every aspect of their lives. For this reason, I am a firm proponent that any person that professes to be a poet in the 21st century have the mind-set of Ancient Egyptian and should become more intertwined, if not in constant dialogue with Beauty and with the meaning of why one writes poetry itself.

I believe that reconnecting to the Ancient Eygptians and sharing some of their ways of being in the world makes a lot more sense than applying to or god-forbid attending a Master of Fine Arts program in Poetry at a university.  The once illiterate men and women of the world were once subservient to kings, then said “fuck that shit,” and ran away, and became fully literate, and began to speak, and write in the vernacular, and understood the “democratization of the afterlife,” and  they soon became the auto-didatic polymaths that their gods always wanted them to be.

But many poets of the 21 century simply do not have the guts to believe in anything positive.

Have I gone New Age here? No, I’ve gone Old Age.

I am of the opinion that without some understanding of the esoteric tradition, that of an Egyptian Moses, say, or Summerian Innana, poets cannot even proceed to write anything good, let alone be passionate about a self, debauchery, escapism, sex and their detailed descriptions of their hangovers and/or prison sentences. Demystifying all, poets of the 21 century will simply keep singing of themselves like Whitman, thwarting government agendas like Mayakovksy for the sake of appearing important, or worse: repeating the sentimental drivel of the Romantics, replete with a disingenuous kindness to Mother Nature,  but without the great smashing hit that can only be produced by a hand-written letter to one’s true love right before a hot bathtub for a Roman suicide.

But no, sweetest of friends—-what we get these days is rehashed, third-rate faux-Apollonian verse written on Facebook, which is so Oedipal and Eurocentric and dickless and sentimental and dripping in Bukowski’s bowel movements and Cinnamon Toast  Crunch, that it should come as no surprise to the New York literati that if the Ancient Egyptians were here with us, they would themselves would disapprove of the content of what the New York literati consider to be poems and, moreover, they would tell some up-and-coming poetaster’s ba to fly away as a flustered bird, while their name (their legacy) attempts to find a home.

Let the former aspect of human nature (the ba) perch on a tombstone only to balk at the mourner.

Let the latter (the human name) be so well-preserved, that any perfect poem written on papyrus or not on the part of a 21st century poet, that sits openly before the god Osiris as he sits before the Scales of Divine Judgement, shows how the content and/or meaning and/or stakes of the 21st century poem weights as much (that is, is equal) to the Feather of Truth, thereby granting the 21 century poet entrance into a world that has ceased to fear death or even know death:  A world much like ours, but without the copy-paste features of MS Word, Facebook, Twitter, and the electronic mice we use to move the screens we watch—that and/or with remote control.

Never stop writing, poets. Never surrender to what you don’t believe in. You write what is true to you.

I remain but one blogger,

Paul Rogov

© 2014 Paul Rogov

paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

The First Book of Enoch

Posted: July 26, 2013 in Writing

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Although I have, in the past, facilitated support groups for formal probationers suffering from drug addiction and mental illness, have counseled and fed, given shaving kits to the vulnerable population living on Skid Row and become a grant writer for California Against Slavery Research & Education, which combats human trafficking, right here, beneath our noses, in Southern California. what few people know about me is that I was once was considering going to Divinity School in order to study textual criticism of the Bible, the history of Early Christianity, and to specialize in the Book of Enoch.

Never heard of Enoch? Where to begin? (Why I didn’t go to Divinity School is another post altogether).

Okay. So, There were three individuals that, according to Scripture, ascended directly to God, that is, in their corporeal flesh: Jesus, Elijah, and Enoch.

Enoch was Adam’s great grandson, through Seth.  In the Book of Genesis, Enoch “walked with God: and he was not; for God took him,” thereby avoiding mortal death that was ascribed to Adam’s other descendents.

Although there are only a couple lines about him in the Book of Genesis, Enoch is the main focal point for 1st millennium Jewish mysticism. The Book of Enoch, an apocryphal text, which, only officially recognized by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, is an account of how evil came into our world (not the Garden of Eden version).

Some manuscripts have been found that predate the time of Christ, and many biblical scholars have argued that the Book of Enoch served (along with the Book of Thomas and the hypothetical source text “Q” ) as a possible source for many of Jesus’ sayings in the New Testament. The New Testament echoes the Book of Enoch in many parts and its controversial nature exists to the present day.

There are several reasons why the Book of Enoch was not included in the Bible. First some background, though: the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) has three sections:

Torah (Teachings); Nevi’im (Prophets); Ketuvim (Writings).

The writings are called Hagiographa. (Hagio means holy. Grapha means writings –hence, Holy Writings).

The Ketuvim or Holy Writings are believed to have been written under the Ruach Ha-Kodesh (the Divine Sprit of Yahweh). . .

The Ketuvim section of the Tanahk has these books (familiar to Christians):

Psalms [תהלים / Tehillim], Proverbs [משלי / Mishlei], Job [איוב / Iyov]

The “Five Megilot” or “Five Scrolls”:  Song of Songs [שיר השירים / Shir Hasirim], Ruth [רות / Rut],  Lamentations [איכה / Eikhah], Ecclesiastes [קהלת / Kohelet],  Esther [אסתר / Esther]

And the rest of the “Writings”:

Daniel [דניאל / Dani'el], Ezra-Nehemiah [עזרא ונחמיה / Ezra v'Nechemia], Chronicles (I & II) [דברי הימים / Divrei Hayamim]

The Book of Enoch was written in the 2nd century B.C.E. Some scholars claim that Jews rejected the Book of Enoch when they made a canon of their own scriptures late in the second century C.E; albeit, this cannot be true because the official Jewish canon was actually established a few decades after the destruction of 2nd  temple. This was called “The Great Assembly” (Hebrew: כְּנֶסֶת הַגְּדוֹלָה) or Anshei Knesset HaGedolah (אַנְשֵׁי כְּנֶסֶת הַגְּדוֹלָה, “The Men of the Great Assembly”), also known as the Great Synagogue, which was, according to Jewish tradition, an assembly of 120 scribes, sages, and prophets, in the period from the end of the Biblical prophets to the time of the development of Rabbinic Judaism, marking a transition from an era of prophets to an era of Rabbis. They lived in a period of about two centuries ending in about 70 CE.

So then why was the Book of Enoch rejected?

Here’s what what one website says about the Book of Enoch (and other apocryphal writings):

A. 1. There are a number of these works (apocryphal texts) that were written from the time between the Old and New Testament through the first few centuries.

2. These works appear to have been part of a writing fad for a while.

3. People used the names of famous people, such as characters from the Bible, to lend credibility to the work – to make it appear more authentic.

B. Very few people actually believe the book to have been written by Enoch.

1. Mainstream Christian literalist would say for the Book of Enoch to have existed all those years, it would have had to survive the Flood.

2.  Let us consider Tertullian who accepts the Book of Enoch, about 198 C.E. He says: “I am aware that the Scripture of Enoch, which has assigned this order of action to angels, is not received by some. For it is not admitted into the Jewish canon, either. I suppose they did not think that, having been written before the deluge, it could have safely survived that worldwide calamity, the destroyer of all things. If that is the reason for rejecting it, let them remember that Noah, who survived the deluge, was the great-grandson of Enoch himself … There is still this consideration to warrant our assertion of the genuineness of this Scripture: [Noah] could equally have rewritten it, under the Spirit’s inspiration, if it had been destroyed by the violence of the deluge

C. Tertullian admits that the Jews never accepted the Book of Enoch as authentic and that Christians of his time also rejected it.

1. Some apologists for the Book of Enoch state that the book was well know by early Christian writers.

2. Yet others say they neglect to state that most rejected the book as being from God.

3. Athanasius, Origen, and Jerome all argued against the book being considered Scripture.

4. Only Tertullian and Augustine thought the work was inspired and Augustine waffled on the point.

5. Though the Roman Catholic Church added twelve books to their Old Testament, this book wasn’t considered – likely because of the early rejection.

D. It’s worth noting there are several books that go by the name “The Book of Enoch.”

1. Most refer to copies of a book found in 1773 in Ethiopia.

2. These copies are a translation of a Greek text that was in turn a translation of an Aramaic or Hebrew text.

3. Small fragments of this large book were found among the Dead Sea scrolls

a. Parts of chapter 2, verses 12-14 and chapter 3 verse 13-16

b. But the book has 108 chapters.

c. There were also other documents which cited portions of the Book of Enoch, showing that the book existed.

d. But with such small amount of text, it must be emphasized that we don’t know how the complete book of Enoch read in Aramaic.

4. Most scholars date the book to between 300 B.C. and 100 B.C.

5. Larger portions of the book survived in Greek, but again, not nearly the whole. They also date from a later period (after the church was founded).

6. The only whole version are the Ethiopian translations.

a. A comparison of the Ethiopian translations to the Aramaic and Greek fragments show the Ethiopian translation is fairly, but not entirely, accurate.

E. Most scholars note that the Book of Enoch, as it currently exists, is a disjointed work.

1. It doesn’t have a unifying flow, such as would be found in the writings of one author.

2. It is generally agreed to be a composition of several works by multiple authors, but exactly who wrote which portions is heavily debated.

See (http://lavistachurchofchrist.org/LVSermons/BookOfEnoch.htm)

During the first three hundred years of Christianity, however, it worth pointing out that the early church leaders made reference to the Book of Enoch. The early second century “Epistle of Barnabus” makes use of it. Second and Third Century leaders, including Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origin and Clement of Alexandria all reference it. Tertullian (160-230 A.D.) even called the Book of Enoch “Holy Scripture”.

Nevertheless, this and many other books became discredited after the Council of Laodicea in 363 A.D. Under the ban of the authorities, it gradually passed out of circulation. The council took place soon after the conclusion of the war between the Roman Empire and the Persian Empire, waged by Emperor Julian. Julian, the last Constantinian emperor, attempted a revival of paganism and resumed discrimination of Christians. After his death, officers of the army elected the Christian Jovian as his successor, who in his precarious position far from supplies ended the war withPersiaunfavorably forRome. He was succeeded by Valentinian I, who named his brother Valens Emperor of the East. In 363 A.D. at the Council of Laodicea, the Catholics formally renounced the Sabbath (Friday) and instituted this new Lord’s Day, Sunday. They also rejected the Book of Enoch then.

So why do all these people reject the Book of Enoch?

Because it was considered dangerous.

Later theologians disliked the Book of Enoch because of its content regarding the nature and actions of fallen angels. The Reformers, influenced by the Jewish canon of Old Testament, considered it as non-canonical and thus it was removed from the Protestant Bible. Catholics, however, apparently do consider the book of Enoch as canonical, as one of 12 of the 15 apocryphal writings they accept. Many of the early church fathers also supported the Enochian writings.

So what gives? What does the Book of Enoch tell us?  Justin Martyr ascribed all evil to demons whom he alleged to be the offspring of the angels who fell through lust for mortal women.  This is found directly in the Book of Enoch.

Athenagoras, writing in his work called Legatio in about 170 A.D., regards Enoch as a true prophet. He describes the angels which “violated both their own nature and their office.” In his writings, he goes into detail about the nature of fallen angels and the cause of their fall, which comes directly from the Enochian writings. Many other church fathers: Tatian (110-172); Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (115-185); Clement of Alexandria (150-220); Tertullian (160-230); Origen (186-255); Lactantius (260-330); in addition to: Methodius of Philippi, Minucius Felix, Commodianus, and Ambrose of Milanalso–also approved of and supported the Enochian writings

The Book of Enoch was rejected for a couple reasons: like most books written in the intratestamental period (400 years between writing of the Old and New Testaments) many prominent Jewish priests or later Christian bishops did not feel the Book of Enoch was inspired by the Ruach HaKodesh (Divine Spirit of Yahweh)…

There is another reason the Book of Enoch was banned from the Bible: it taught the heretical doctrine that some angels were corporeal beings that came to Earth in the flesh. Two-hundred fallen angels, thrown out of heaven (Grigori, or Watchers in Greek), led by the angel Samyaza (Aramaic: שמיחזה, Greek: Σεμιαζά, fornicated with mortal women. This event is found in Genesis 6:1-4, which precedes the account of Noah’s Ark. It runs like thus:

1. When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them,

2. the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.

3. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.”

4. The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.” In short, the fallen angels came to earth and refused to worship Adam (mankind as such) and they rebelled against God.

This event is found in the Quran 7:11 “And We created you, then fashioned you, then told the angels: Fall ye prostrate before Adam! And they fell prostrate, all save Iblis, who was not of those who make prostration.” Iblis of the Quran is most likely Samyaza.

As far as the origin of evil is concerned, another angel, Azazel (the prototype of Satan also depicted in Leviticus), “taught men to make swords, knives, shields, breastplates, and the fabrication of mirrors, the workmanship of bracelets and ornaments, the use of paint, the beautifying of the eyebrows, the use of stones of every valuable and select kind, and of all sorts of dyes, so that the world became altered. Impiety increased; fornication multiplied; and they transgressed and corrupted all their ways. . .” (1 Enoch 8:1)

To be clear, the Book of Enoch was not simply banned because the Church Fathers did not see it as inspired by the Holy Spirit; yet that is only a general surface level reason as to why. Upon some reflection, I think the reason why the book was rejected was that its elaborate angelology, which overlaps with some Manichean doctrines, contradicts Isaiah’s account that the evil angels fell because of the sin of pride. Moreover, the implications that angels could incarnate into men were too far-reaching: it suggested that there was a race of beings behind the scenes, behind history itself, who were responsible for the origin of human evil.

This, in turn, overshadows the idea that sin was brought into the world because Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Moreover, the Book of Enoch also presents the theological issue of how and why an incorporeal celestial being could come to perform carnal human sins (lust). Whereas the Zeus and Jupiter, in the Greco-Roman pantheon, often came down from heaven to have love affairs with mortal women, such “events” quite simply were too “old world” for the Church Fathers to accept: to them, it perverted Christian doctrine, and set it back a level, back towards a pagan world-view, wherein God, as Primal Originator, was reduced to an almost demiurge position, that is, he was not wholly omnipotent, but merely a benign creative force pitted against the principles of evil—that operated within a dualistic universe whose drama manifested in an equally-footed cosmic battle between the forces of Light and Darkness.

There was also the problem of Enochian authorship.

Augustine writes: “Let us omit, then, the fables of those scriptures which are called apocryphal, because their obscure origin was unknown to the fathers form whom the authority of the true Scriptures has been transmitted to us by a most certain and well-ascertained succession. For though there is some truth in these apocryphal writings, yet they contain so many false statements, that they have no canonical authority. We cannot deny that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, left some divine writings, for this is asserted by the Apostle Jude in his canonical epistle. But it is not without reason that these writings have no place in that canon of Scripture which was preserved in the temple of the Hebrew people b y the diligence of successive priests; for their antiquity brought them under suspicion, and it was impossible to ascertain whether these were his genuine writings, and they were not brought forward as genuine by the persons who were found to have carefully preserved the canonical books by a successive transmission.. So that the writings which are produced under his name, and which contain these fables about the giants, saying that their fathers were not men [but angels], are properly judged by prudent men to be not genuine; just as many writings are produced by heretics under the names both of other prophets, and more recently, under the names of the apostles, all of which, after careful examination, have been set apart from canonical authority under the title of Apocypha.”

Augustine concludes that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 are simply the sons of Seth and that “daughters of men” were Cainites. This is the standard explanation of Catholics and Protestants to this day, leaving the issue of fallen angels incarnating as men to be laid to rest for centuries.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

Given that World War I was the first fully mechanized war, the first truly “modern” war, it cannot be stressed enough how technology, particularly as  it relates to the mechanization of subjectivity, inspires and nurtures certain cultural trends which characterize the Weimar epoch.  The vibrancy of Berlin, then, the cultural supernova that was Weimar Berlin, cannot be conceived merely as a political-economic field upon which “artistic events” took place.  There was a certain mood following the World War I, a peculiar zeitgeist.   That is to say, it was a place where Germany’s psychic wounds, its disillusionment, could be healed. The harsh sanctions affecting Germany as whole—as outlined in the Treaty of Versailles—left Berlin’s citizens in a position to re-coordinate the meaning of their culture, and, moreover, their being-ness in the world.   The Macbethian specters looming in Berlin during the Weimar Republic entailed an obtrusive annihilation, a collective guilt, perhaps, or shame, at the subjective level.  The war was over.  Troops came home, though the spiritual consequences of the conflict, at the geopolitical level, at the national level, and at the urban level, had yet become fully realized.  The collective tension, then, to put it naively, forced many Germans to contend with its place in the world, either actively or passively.  Naturally, art was both a symptom and an antidote to the post-WWI condition.

Before delving into the metaphysical problematic inherent in the Weimar Republic, I wish to recapitulate a distinction Heidegger makes between earth and world.  He calls the way the artwork solicits the culture to make the artwork explicit, coherent and encompassing the world aspect of the work.  He calls the way the artwork and its associated practices resist such totalization, the earth.   A work of art, according to Heidegger, involves a clearing (Lichtung), that is, a place, temporally, where these two forces can collide and produce a new understanding of what it means to be human.

Along those lines, two movements, National Socialism and Communism, have, to some degree, been emblematic of the search for man’s being to re-defined.  They are, at least in loose sense, reactions to nihilism.  Emptiness and disillusionment, as situated in the nebulous psychic climate of Weimar Berlin is emblematic of its vibrancy.  But what is ironic about this vibrancy is what lies behind it.  Nazism, after all, to put it as naively as possible, requires, as a condition, a certain belief in a charismatic leader, a personal savior-father-figure, if you will.  Communism, on the other hand, also entails a certain belief:  that is, in the cultural paradigm’s  ability itself to actualize salvation.  In short, both ideologies attempt to not only save mankind, but re-define his being.

In this post, I will discuss the two-pronged “god” running rampant in the art of Weimar Berlin.  I will use Heidegger’s understanding of a work of art to illustrate both how both belief systems, in tension with one another ideologically, are expressed while Germany attempted to regenerate the meaning of its own Being.  I wish to explicate, in particular, how the “clearing” that was Weimar—as expressed by émigré and Berliner art alike, support Heidegger’s claims.

Naturally, Russian émigrés, as it is well known, contributed , or rather, were well immersed in the zeitgeist of the Weimar Republic. That is to say, their political unease strongly resembles the main premises  of Heidegger’s thesis—namely that the tension between earth and world as it relates to technology, is a necessary condition for the re-invention of the modern self.  This tension, however, illuminates not only the psychic displacement of Berliners, but also reinforces the notion that Russian émigré art was just as pertinent to the mood of Berlin as its own artists.

There are two main “strains” of art equally characteristic of Weimar—to put  it bluntly, the political and apolitical.  Nevertheless, it is important to discern how these to “strains” played out in the art scene itself.  Grosz, for example, known for his political cartooning proved to push the limits of realism by rendering a peculiar synthetic madness in his work.   He consciously distorted human proportions, and, to some degree, brought in manneristic elements to it.  The perspective in his cartoons is often intemperate; figures are jammed into small, dark spaces, illumined by candlelight.  There is play between light-shadow, subtlety-grandeur, contemplation-emotion; then tone is blotched.  Human bodies and faces are contorted, longing for something unclear.

Grosz, Winter’s Tale

It is the composition’s wholeness, then, its totality, in and of itself, that is of utmost importance.  Grosz himself admits his work attempts to capture the despair indicative of the political coordinates in which he lived:

My drawings expressed by despair, hate, and disillusionment. . .I drew drunkards; puking men; men with clenched fists cursing at the moon. . . I drew lonely little men fleeing madly through empty streets. . . .I drew soldiers without noses; war cripples with crustacean-like steel arms” (Friedrich 37).

Grosz makes his panache for distortion abundantly clear.  For there is an ordering principle to the distortion itself. Despair, in this vein, is couched in intoxication; frailty, in the steeliness of Weimar arms.  In this light, the extreme pressure on Germany to fulfill its war-time debts is ironically analogous with the inspiration to burst itself.

Grosz, Die grossstadt (Metropolis)

Along those lines, consider “Interwar” (Dedicated to Oscar Panizza) .The composition, most likely, is spryly held together—almost to the point of bursting off the canvas.   The work aims at generating awe.

Beckmann, for example, was also concerned with the “orgiastic” disillusionment felt by Berliner’s during the Weimar period.   His work, however, is different from Grosz’s in that he was not as overtly political, rather he was concerned with capturing the consequences of reification as found in the German psyche.  There is  a peculiar morose decadence in “The Night.”

It is important to remember there was, both a lack of order during the Weimar period, and a need for order, especially at politically level.  Assassinations abounded.  And after the assassination of Rathethau it was apparent that the differing points of view regarding how Germany was to deal with its financial burden oscillated within the same temporal axis that promoted its psychic economy.   Otto Dix’s painting  “Streichholzhändler“ is an excellent example of such an oscillation.

As Heidegger writes, “ man, who no longer conceals his character of being the most important raw material, is also drawn into this process (EP 104, VA 190).  That is to say, the technological dynamism of the Great War itself, both directly and indirectly inspires Grosz, Beckmann, and Dix’s subject manner.  For in many respects, all of these artists depict the annihilation of man’s subjective disposition.  They, in affect, attempt to capture the relation to the totalizing power of technology, which calls into question the man’s efficiency to forces he cannot control and is altogether subsumed by.

And yet, there is peculiar chaos inherent in all of these artists work as well:  a certain need to re-organize the disillusionment itself, to escape from nihilism, and introduce a new level of understanding in regards to what it means to be a modern subject at all.  This is why, for such artists, art can be considered “political.”  For their subject matter deals with not only what technology has done to man’s being, but howBerlin’s political disillusionment itself facilitates the need to overcome its nihilism.

In the case of the great avant-gardes of this period, most notably expressed by Russian constructivism and Cubo-Futurism, there is also an encounter between man and technology.  However, Pre-Revolutionary idealism (as opposed to Russian émigré literature), was more or less underscored by the “power of the notion”—that is, the belief in a seamless machine-like utopia,  which would reshape how the Russian people saw themselves.  Consider Malevich’s “Knife-Grinder,” painted only a decade before the Weimar period—

Here, the power of the individual stands at a paradoxical leaping point regarding his own being: on one hand, he is superior to nature, on the other, his moral agency is independent of nature because man had his own nature.  The knife-grinder, then, like the Grosz, or Beckman, or Dix’s political mannerism is also subsumed by technology, but through its content, not its form.  In this sense, it should come as no surprise that Malevich blended the knife-cutter into the background, that is to say, not only in tone and color, but in terms of dimensionality as well.

The tension between dimensionality, indicative of the relationship between man and machine, then, lays bear to the startling difference between “Russian avant-garde” art and Weimar art.   Some degree, one could posit that the “apolitical” is politicized in the case of former; and that the political is apolicized in the case of the latter. But this would be putting it crudely, for the implications of what a Utopian vision means (as a redefinition of man’s being) in the case of pre-Revolutionary art, differs greatly from what a dystopian disillusionment means for him.  The extent of technology’s gripping affect on man depends wholeheartedly on where one’s “being-is-in-time” is situated.  In this sense it is not presumptuous to infer why Russian émigré literature differs so much from pre-Revolutionary art.   The Soviet Union, after all, was too new for anyone to concretely postulate what it was to become.

By the middle of 1921, however, a million Russian refugees fled the revolution and its aftermath.  Some settled in Harbin, or Shanghai or crossed to theUnited States.  Most stayed in Europe, congregating in Paris,Prague, andBerlin, or to a lesser extent in Riga and Sofia.  As prices rose sharply inFrancelate in 1921, however, émigrés deserted Paris for the center of the emigration.   It was in these heady years of émigré life, that the Soviet citizens under the NEP conditions could to travel more freely. abroad gravitated to Berlin.

At every step, you could hear Russian spoken.  Dozen of Russian restaurants were opened— Three daily newspapers and five weeklies appeared inRussia.  In one year seventeen Russian publishing firms were started” (Friedrich 82).

For a brief period in 1921-1922 the boundaries between the emigration and Soviet Russia seemed to some rather blurred.  As Simon Karlinksy wrote:

Russian émigré literature as a phenomena distinct from Soviet literature had not yet come into existence.  The offices ofBerlinpublishers and the literary cafes frequented by Russians provided a meeting ground for writers who had aligned themselves the Soviet regime, those who were opposed to it. . . and those who were still undecided.”

In this regard, it is important to bear in mind that there was no transition from war to Revolution for the Russian people.  Here, the temporal displacement of Russian artists living in Berlin, is made apparent.  For this reason, Brian Boyd correctly points out the implications of a past/present bifurcation inherent in Vladmir Nabokov’s first novel, Mashen’ka:

time, not space, is Nabokov’s real subject: not the Russian Berlin the book renders so well, but the accumulated time of memory that allows Ganin to superimpose the country of his past on the city streets of his present” (Boyd 248).

Along those lines, it appears as if Berlin itself, with its own tension between world and earth—that is to say, the tension between the totalizing power of mechanization and its consequences, and the ineffable Beingness in need of redefinition during theWeimar period—facilitated the very need for a Russian transition.   Perhaps this why Nabokov’s work deals primarily with the relationship between aesthetics and ethics more than politics, more than man versus machine.   For there is forces much higher than politics,  higher than nationality, higher than historical context.   In this senseWeimar art and Russian émigré art alike, share a considerable interest in a supersensible reality, in a spiritual reality, just as much as expressing one’s dissolution with history itself.

Visual art as well as literature, then, in Weimar Berlin, ran a two-pronged course.   It attempted to not only to postulate the cognizance of man’s being next to his historical inevitability, but, in affect, render his spiritual concerns which were in tension with that inevitability itself.  Weimar art, then, in general, was concerned with the totalizing power of the world, the ordering principle reacting to nihilism—-as well as with what Heidegger suggests, is indicative of earth—-namely something which entails the inexplicable feature of being-in-the-world in general.

Naturally, one cannot help but ignore the great film directors of the era, namely, Fritz Lang, Vertov, and Eisenstein.  Metropolis, for example, hailed by critics world-wide to this day, is a film which uses technology in effort to critique the mechanization of human agency itself.

His work, as such, is particularly emblematic of the Heideggerian distinction I have so far been explicating, between that of world and earth.  The film is about a dystopia, yes, but is about much more than that: there is poetic desperation in the film’s tone, a frailty generated by the use of a movie camera itself, particularly in respect to the content of film.  After all, the film captures a peculiar mood, a strange one at that— a certain ambivalence, that is, on the part of the inhabitants of the metropolis.

In this regard, Lang seems to painfully aware of the need to re-order the understanding in man’s being.   The cyborg-princess is the film is nothing less than a melancholy figure.  We, as viewers, however, anthropomorphize her in order to sympathize with the conditions which provoke her existence.

Similiarly, Vertov’s work, in the film, ‘Man with a Movie Camera” also seems to capture a general pathos regarding man’s relationship to machine—man is a machine, an unapologetically so, for the only way to capture man’s being is by implementing tools in which he can re-order the implications of using them.

Eisenstein’s use of montage has  a profound influence.  By manipulating images, pitting one frame against another seemingly unrelated frame, he is creating a third image.

Battleship Potemkin (1925)

Battleship Potemkin, same scene only seconds later (1925)

Sergei Eisenstein, ”cutting film”

 But this third image (not my own feeble example)  takes in a conceptual frame, in the mind of the viewer.  We deduce the tension, the collision, as it were, between the mechanization of the images and the conceptual meaning of images sutured together.   In this vein, the “cut,” the blank space between two concurrent images, (a split-second black frame with nothing on it), represents the both the empirical actuality of man’s nothingness, his being-in-the world, as well as the ability for man’s being as such to re-appropriate this very nothingness, and posit a new meaning in its place.   Man is both with the world and against it.  Something eludes his understanding, but it can be sensed, spiritually, non-mechanically.

Along those lines, it important to see how emphasizing the internal experience of man’s being, both characterized by the Russian émigré artists and theWeimarartists,  operates in terms of politics.  After all, if, as I have suggested it is possible that some art was wholly apolitical in the Weimar Era, does this suggest a kind of political apathy, even a irresponsibility on the part of the artist himself?  Perhaps.   Franze Werfel, for example, wrote the following during the war:

I cannot describe how contradictory to me are the concepts poetry and politics!  The politician looks at life coldly; the evil of power has triumphed over him.  The writer. . .is endlessly destructive, immeasurably anarchistic. . .He dare not blow the trumpet for the revolution.  He storms other bastilles, O irresistible dynamite of insight! (Lange 96).

But after the war, this sentiment was still running rampant in Berlin.  As Gordon Craig points out, the emphasis on Innerlichkeit, which “regarded the external world at its works as being of no legitimate concern to the artists. . . made aesthetic contemplation and intellectual activity ends in themselves” (Craig 49).   This means that the elements of supranational self, which is primarily concerned with being-in-the-world independent of the worldliness of man’s situation, was characterized by delving into aesthetic paradigms that upheld political neutrality.

This indifference, in turn, was in a nuanced version of the experience of Russian émigré artists and writers living inBerlin.  After all, it would be quite fallacious to presume émigrés were of one political persuasion over another.  Both conservative and liberal émigrés lived inBerlinduring the Weimarperiod, but it was not until 1922, during the expulsion of over 160 important Russian dissidents, that Berlin, could be considered the emblematic city of in the what is now called “Changing Landmarks.”  In this sense, Berlin’s own political hostility was, to some degree, mellowed out by the cultural enthusiasm of the liberal émigrés themselves.  They, too, had hopes for a new future, but not necessarily a political one.  The main factors, indeed, were economic.  Those Russians who fled during the Revolution, living in Paris, Prague and the Balkans, flocked now to Berlin.  It was invariably cheaper, and it wasn’t until inflation hit and political unrest was absolutely apparent that they decided to move on.  “There was,” as Williams writes, “also by this time. . .a certain mood of reconciliation within the intellectual colony inGermanyand elsewhere in the diaspora, of which the chorus of romantic slogans about ‘the East’ was one symptom” (582).

Berlin, then, seems to have served as a clearing place for émigrés both on the left and on the right.  Berlin might have very well become “a center where émigrés recently expelled from Russia met other émigrés on their way back: [in] a “crossing of ways,” but their temporal displacement from their home, their search to find meaning in their lives, differed greatly with the problems of the Weimar Republic itself, with both the political apathy and invigoration of the Berliner’s living there.

In this respect, the Expressionist movement, which, for the most part, was “not only inexperienced in politics but anti-political by conviction” appears to be a paradox.  For there is a tension not only between the apolitical approach to art, which is a reaction to the technological horrors of WWI, but the very fact that restructuring man’s being as “an expression of subjective forces” can equally mechanize him.  That is to say, apolitical art is precisely as nihilistic as the conditions that provoked its existence.  Moreover, if Heidegger is correct,  the ability to receive an new understanding of what technology does to us, in relation to our being, is more important than appropriating our own political inertia.

(Kirchner, self-portrait)

     As Hubert Dreyfus, Heidegger scholar, points out:

once we realize—in our practices, of course, not just as matter of reflection—that we receive our technological understanding of being, we have stepped out of the technological understanding of being, for we then wee that what is more important is not subject to efficient enhancement –indeed, the drive to control everything is precisely what we do not control.

In this sense, pure contemplation of the interiority of man’s condition, as found in Expressionism, is invariably fruitless.   Gottfried Benn sums up Expressionism rather boldly when he states

Reality, that was a capitalist concept.  Reality, that was packages, products of industry, interest on mortgages. . . Reality, that was Darwinism, the international steeplechase, and everything that was privileged in any way.  But the Spirit recognized no reality (11).

If, then, as Craig claims the Expressionists “wanted those [German politics and social life] to spiritualize themselves. . .indicating that they had not succeeded in overcoming the historical antithesis of Geist and Macht, but were merely re-emphasizing it” does not such an attitude seem to invite the need for “a god” to appear?

This seems like a startling possibility.  After all, Nazism is based on the irrational, mechanized expression of man.  It is not only a way of redefining him, but is supported by a certain neutrality on the part its participants.  But I am not ‘simply’ positing a causal link between apolitical art and Nazism.   The issue, at stake, rather, is man’s relation to overcoming nihilism as expressed in art as such.  As Dreyfus carefully reminds us,  Heidegger

counters the Enlightenment with a non-theological version of the Christian message that man cannot be saved by autonomy, maturity, equality, and dignity alone. . . only some shared meaningful concern that grips us can give our culture a focus and enable us to resist acquiescence to a state that has no higher goal than to provide material welfare for all.  This conviction underlines his dangerous claim that only a god —a charismatic figure or some other culturally renewing event – can save us from nihilism.

We can deduce, then, there were two dominant “moods” by which artistic phenomena developed in then Weimar Period.  For Berlin was a clearing, in the fullest Heideggerian sense of the term.

Beyond what is, not away from it but before it, there is still something else that happens.  In the midst of beings as a whole an open place occurs.  There is a clearing, a lightning.. . This open center is. . .not surrounded by what is;  rather, the lightning center itself encircles all that is. . .Only this clearing grants and guarantees to human beings a passage to those entities that we ourselves are not, and access to the being that we ourselves are (PLT, 53, G 5 39-40).

Along those lines, it was the commingling of the temporal dissolution coming from the East, alongside the political dissolution and apathy coming from within Post-World War I Berlin by which the tension between earth and world was expressed.   And it is the art of the Weimar period, both in its apolitical and political manifestations, that such a tension gives rise to the simultaneous vibrancy and dissolution that was Berlin.

Precisely because modernity seems to have split itself into these two hermeneutic poles during the Weimar period, we can see now how the apolitical content appropriating the political dimension in German art, and its converse, as well how a new temporal context was brought to Berlin by many Russian émigrés artists, and its converse, lends itself to the absolute failure of reconciling the mood of Berlin with the power vacuum of Berlin as city, politically. Whether directly or indirectly addressing the historical situation in which they lived, artists, writers, film directors, were caught in a conscious bind to nihilism, a necessary condition to re-invent man’s understanding of his being.  In Weimar Berlin, then, the “mixing” of moods, Russian and German alike, gave rise to not only to a rich, diverse, and absolutely unique artistic climate, but serves as a great testament to the  terms by man might know and mis-know himself—that is to say, by contending with possibility that human being have learned all to well how to mechanize themselves.  And it is this, and precisely this, that can, in affect, be beginning of the greatest of agonies.

Be that as it may, the art during this period, directly undermined by the specters of  slowly evolving despotism.   Whether or not Russian artistic activity on the part of the émigrés is comparable to the German’s fervor is of little consequence as of this point, and should be rightly denounced as a false discussion.  What is important is that Berlin, as it was, and as it is now, will always be a city that serves as refuge to those displaced by time—for all of those, who, at any given moment, feared that their ideals might betray them, or, that those same ideals were already in the process of being betrayed.  However, one looks at the Weimar constellation, there was a clearing there.   And we have access to it.   It is there—it is there right now.  Yet quite unnaturally, the  rest is history.

WORKS CITED:

Barron, Stephanie.  The Avant Garde in Russia: New Perspectives.   MIT Press: Cambridge, 1980.

Craig, Gordon A.  “Engagement and Neutrality in Weimar Germany,” in Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 2, No 2, Literature and Society (Apr., 1967), 49-63).

Dreyfus, Hubert S.  “Heidegger on the Connection between Nihilism, Art, Technology and Politics.” University of Berkeley Press: Berkeley, 1982.

Friedrich, Otto.  Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s.  Harper Perrenial: New York, 1972.

Heidegger, Martin.  Being and Time.  Trans.  Macquarrie, John.  Harper Collins:  San Francisco, 1962.

Heidegger, Martin.  “The Origin of the Work in Art,” in Poetry Language, and Thought, pp 55.

Nesbet, Anne.  “Suicide as Literary Fact in the 1920’s,” in Slavic Review, Vol 50, No. 4 (Winter, 1991), 827-835.

Sheldon, Richard.  “Shklovsky’s Zoo and Russian Berlin” in Russian Review, Vol. 29, No. 3 (Jul.,1970), 262-274.

Taylor, Ronald.  Berlin and its Culture: A Historical Portrait. YaleUniversity Press: New Haven, 1997.

Wheeler, Brett R.  “Modernist Reenchanments I: From Liberalism to Aestheticized Politics,” in The German Quarterly, Vol. 74, No. 3 (Summer, 2001), 223-236.

Willett, John.  Art and Politics in the Weimar Period:  The New Sobriety 1917-1933. Pantheon Books: New York, 1978.

Willet, John.  The Weimar Years: A Culture Cut Short.  Abbeville Press: New York, 1984.

Williams, Robert C.  “‘Changing Landmarks’ in RussianBerlin, 1922-1924,” in Slavic Review, Vol. 27, No. 4 (Dec.,1968), 581-593.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

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My First Post: Thoughts on Martin Heidegger

This is my first post and I am unsure how I should proceed. I’ve been thinking about contemporary ethics recently, life’s unspoken rules—ethical coordinates that produce meaning in our everyday lives. Siding with Alain Badiou, I believe, that Truth is an Event. Truth is found within experiences and situations. Each truth—each with its own stripes and features—has an origin. I’m a spelunker: I excavate ideas. From my limited understanding of the universe, I attest that one re-construct the narratives of how we came to believe what we believe.

I recently read “Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil.” Whereas the book was informative and entertaining (especially when it came to some anecdotal information about Heidegger’s youth, his interest in theology, his family—it did not truly explore the connection between Heidegger’s philosophical thought and his Nazism. Perhaps, that is not the author’s intention. The title says it all, however: Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil. Not merely a play on Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, the title suggests that Heidegger was very human, having both good traits and evil ones, that his mystique as a person and a philosopher resides in the essential power of his rigorous, though obtuse understanding of ontology and humanity.

I think there are important facts about Heidegger to consider, in spite of the book: Heidegger grew up near the Black Forest where creatures scuttled and roamed; he was born into a lower class Catholic family. Heidegger was always aware of politics, even if he did not, in the beginning, speak much about them. Families like Heidegger’s were old-school. They were suspicious of modernism communists, and those on the left in general. Some fail to realize Heidegger, at one point, wanted to become a priest. He was always aware of hierarchal and zoological spaces. He was always aware of a Volk, the German people. He was always aware of his own place in the world whether this was when he was studying or because of his various encounters with local superstitions at the edge of the Black Forest, all of which reinforced peculiar re-evaluations of German identity (late as Germany was to become a nation in Europe and what that meant for a people who were united in language, but did not have a country).

From my perspective, environment practically spells out what Heidegger was to write and become. He began his studies with theology; he rejected the Catholic system; he began exploring a myriad of questions of how things existed in the world. In short, he believed that whatever exists, either ontically or ontologically, involves us (as Dasein), to be thrown through time in an unbroken chain of phenomenological encounters. It is in such “clearings” that we discover what exists and the way in which it exists. Hamlet does not exist in the same way that Jupiter exists. A new hammer does not exist in the same way that a broken power-tool exists. Heidegger was able to finish his magnus opus, Being and Time, in a cabin at Todtnauberg. As many biographers and scholars know, things shifted for him in 1933 when he became the rector of Freiburg University. It was the year Hitler came to power.

So did I like this book about Heidegger? I did enjoy the book; neverthless, I believe it has problems in situating Heidegger’s heart within any definable ethical coordinates, that is, measuring the content of that heart against the weight of the Feather of Truth, which, I know, was not the author’s intention. Make no mistake about it: Heidegger, though brilliant in many regards was a card carrying member of the NSDAP (the Nazi party). Some have argued, Nazi values are at the core of his thought, i.e. the pitting of the state over the individual, anti-humanism, anti-modernism, and the impossibility of morality. This is deeply troubling. As Safranski goes on to say, “the National Socialist revolution would become for [Heidegger] a Dasein-controlling event, one that would penetrate his philosophy to its core, forcing the philosopher beyond the ‘boundaries of philosophy.’ In his Plato lectures he had broken off his analysis of philosophical ecstasy with the remark that “there is no need now to speak any more about it, we merely have to act.’ Heidegger had stated that he wished to return to the Greek beginning in order to gain distance fro the leap into the present and beyond it. His leap was too short and did not land him in the present. But now history was coming to meet him; it overwhelmed him and swept him along. He need no longer leap, he could let himself drift—were it not for his ambition to be one of the drivers himself” (227).

In another place, Sanfranski writes:

To Heidegger the Nationalist Socialist seizure of power was a revolution. It as far more than politics; it was a new act of the history of Being, the beginning of a new epoch. Hitler, to him, meant a new era. (228).

I want read another book on Heidegger…Emmanuel Faye’s” Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism Into Philosophy,” and compare the two books and see if I can deduce not only the facts, but the truth-content-in-construction within them respectively. To be honest (call me a Romantic, capital R), my favorite part of Sanfranksi’s book on Heidegger was his recounting of Heidegger’s affair with Hannah Arendt. The question remains, however: why do so many philosophers, cultural critics, and intellectuals, like Derrida and Foucault, those who think they know the answers to how the world truly functions, consider Martin Heidegger their hero? Isn’t it obvious that in order to enjoy Heidegger is to somehow forgive him for be a card-carrying member of the Nazi party? The answer is clear: Heidegger has guts, so they love, use, and cite him because it appears that he is in the center of the storm of our own fascist dreams, and that he does not fear power, and instead critiques the entire Western tradition itself.

Is it still worth asking ‘What is the Good?’ like Plato did over two thousand years ago? I believe it is. This first post is an introduction to my blog, which will serve as a map of the way I think. I want to write about secular ethics, religion, ideology, the history of Western thought, and about a myriad of other issues which will run the gamut from death metal to Mozart, mental health to global warming. Thanks for reading my rambling thoughts.

Welcome to my blog.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

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     According to Henry Gates Jr., the use of the word “race,” not only frequency-wise, but in its deployment in general, is the underlying, redoubtable characteristic that makes it a trope. Trope is a grammatalogical entity made known us by Jacques Derrida: a linguistic structure. More specifically, it is a modality, or logical possibility of a particular word, in which its arbitrariness resides in its repeatable interchangeability with a plethora of other meanings in general (deferment). Gates excludes or rather isolates race from other tropes. For him, race, for whatever reason, is “more” arbitrary than others. As an authority of the primacy of racial identity, Henry Gates Jr. fares well in a post-structuralism debate.

     Gates, however, is not exclusively bound to post-structuralist readings of texts.  In fact, he only advocates for the aforementioned methodology insofar it can better illuminate the African-American literary tradition. His aim, then, is not so much to employ a method, but to reserve a platform where the legitimacy of a narrative can be revealed and the text can speak for itself. He is suspicious of adhering to critical methodologies which might, in fact, re-inscribe, or as he puts it, “indenture” the production and critical appropriations of African-American texts. For this reason, Gates demarcates the word “deconstruct” itself in quotes. Nonetheless, like many post-structuralists, Gates believes language is a signifying process that attempts to cut-up differences between cultures to control them. Passing through a Hegelian moment, Gates writes:

 Language use signifies the differences between cultures and their possession of

 power, spelling differences between subordinate and superordinate, between

 bondsman and lord.

It is not surprising why post-structuralism appeals to Gates. He not only seems to find within language a certain “will to power,” or agenda, but insists that language use is perpetually caught up in the master/slave relationship. In his line of reasoning, Gates forewarns the search for “the authentic black voice,” particularly when selecting a methodology to the reading of a text. Choosing a method, I believe, he claims can obfuscate hidden power mechanisms, which inhibit that voice from presenting itself.

     Gates’s article, however, does not only elucidate the ideological (im)potencies of language through post-structuralism. He employs multiple methodologies. In some respect, he seems almost tempted to do Marxist readings of African-American literature when he writes “literacy. . .could be the most pervasive emblem of capitalist commodity functions.” That particular sentence is meant to be the thesis of his article: “Writing, ‘Race,’ and the Difference It Makes.” Does Gates succeed in his assessment of race as more primordial than economics? And if he does or does not, what kind of metaphysical commitments underlie his analysis of The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass?

    First of all, Gates makes it clear that during the late 18th and most of the 19th century writing was considered the visible song of reason. If one could write, one was human. Gates’s claims “slave narratives represent the attempt of blacks to write themselves into existence.” Siding with Gates here, I would like to demonstrate how I agree with him. It appears an American auto-biographer–seemingly independent of the previous paradigm that once governed their lives—paradoxically “re-writes” and re-structures his or her own metaphysics of their world through the act of writing.  The ideological commitment to self-determination is the modus operandi of writing autobiography itself.

     Nevertheless, I ran into a problem with Gates’s essay.  In order for Gates’ to concur with Ellison, who insisted that the individual stories of the slave narratives are how we become aware of the cultural narrative—to locate “the black narrative” culturally, he has to willingly bypass individual differences (the stories of specific slaves).  In other words, one has to suspend, to some degree, the ideology of individualism, in order to restructure the cultural narrative, or as Henry Gates Jr. calls it, “the authentic black voice.”

    In this regard, Gates, perhaps, is too quick to essentialize the existence of “the black narrative.” Is there a general narrative? And if there is a general narrative, what is it, and what makes it preferable to some other version? For what is seemingly overlooked or lost in Douglass’s account of being both a slave and a writer, if we are to apply Henry Gates  Jr.’s insistence on the conservation of the arbitrariness of “race” as a trope is Douglass’s own individualism itself: the formation of Douglass’s own subjective experience. It is important to remember that, in metaphysics, it is through a particular that a universal’s instantiation may be known and that, in the context of slave narratives, the universal is known through one individual’s flight from bondage. Perhaps, this is an aspect of the general narrative which Gates’s wishes to emphasize. If so, then, Douglass’ narrative is a particular narrative that stands in for the universal, the formation of the free subject, and not only by the universalization of the black narrative, in particular, as Gates’s suggests. In sum, there are not merely multiple ways of reading Douglass’ narrative (in the sense of which methodology to employ, or which trope is more pernicious than another), but there are multiple ways to abstract the context from the narrative. This means that when Gates’ insists on finding a cultural narrative, he suppresses the individual author’s own narrative, while suppressing the cultural narrative that makes the individual narrative possible. But what is to be done with this deadlock? Is there a way to preserve both the “culturicity” and the “individualism” of the Douglass narrative?  I assert an emphatic yes.

     Frederick Douglass’s narrative is tripartite in nature: it resides, first of all, in a deeply personal story (pure autobiographical events, 1st person), enmeshed in social commentary (political universality of human freedom, 3rd person) and framed in a cultural narrative (specificity of African-American experience). Gates’s mobilization of “an authentic black voice,” then, is problematic, because Douglass’s narrative implements multiple sites of enunciation, which are ultimately grounded by the autonomous Kantian metaphysical subject that “governs” the outcome of the text. In short, Douglass’s text is individualistic, personal, solitary, just as much as it is a cultural artifact, that is, a story of a people.

     Before I embark on my exploration of the text itself, I wish to mention that I believe the “context” as such is abstracted retroactively. There is no inherent “historicity” in the repeatable act of a written autobiography. The historicity, or search for the cultural worth of a text, is inferred, de facto. By this I mean that “actual autobiography” of Frederick Doulgass’s narrative takes place in the present—or while the autobiography’s readers always-already know in advance Frederick Douglass’ transformation from illiteracy to literacy, bondage to freedom, individual writer to teacher of his people, and so forth.

     It is worth mentioning the title. After all, the title is lengthier than most book titles, running the hefty span of an entire sentence rather than a short phrase or merely a group of words: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written By Himself.  Is the multiplicity of ideological enunciations not evident by the title alone? Narrative connotes the medium. “Life of Frederick Douglass” indicates the object of inquiry is a specific man’s life. He is an American slave, which expresses his flight from bondage to freedom. It was written by himself. It’s an autobiography; it was rendered, sculpted, controlled by Frederick Douglass himself.  Clearly, Douglass’s title on its own (not to speak of the text) takes into account both the specificity of the individualist nature of the work, as much as it is a cultural appeal, because it is a narrative, not “the” narrative of a people. It is not my wish to discredit my argument, in advance, here, by pointing out the relevance of the title itself.  I simply wish to demonstrate how the text’s multiplicity of ideological enunciation already functions as found on its cover page.

     So let’s jump right into the text.

     In the first chapter Douglass introduces himself, deploys himself as the first- person witness of what is to transpire in the text. The first sentence (“I was born in Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough”) is shortly followed by social commentary—he offers us an induction. Because Douglass does not have “accurate knowledge of [his] age, never having seen [his] authentic record containing it,” he infers the situation must be the same with other slaves (41). Interestingly enough, Douglass’s social commentary is implicit about claims to knowledge, which is one of the many symbolic functions that Gates’ mentions in his article. For if “masters. . . [wish] to keep slaves ignorant” of their records, language is involved. And if language is involved, it is clear that Douglass not only possesses it, wields it, but is aware that many of his brethren are not as fortunate as he. This magnifies the scope of the narrative culturally. By drawing a conclusion so quick (already in the second sentence of the text), the reader only begins to sense a general pattern to ensue in the rest of the work. Coupled with a recounting of his experience and the linking it to his social commentary on slavery—pointing out those aspects which affect not only him, but his brethren as well—Douglass’ work enunciates the melody, harmony, discord, and rhythm of his flight from bondage to freedom, employing thematic polyphony. The narrative is multi-voiced and lexically conducted, semantically and thematically, by Douglass’s conductor hands themselves, whose agency rises above the dirge of slavery.

     The second chapter, much like the first, begins with some preliminary biographical information, a general background of the master’s house on a personal note, then repeats a gradation into social commentary. It is in Chapter 2 (and specifically Chapter 2) that the reader is rendered a sense of Douglass’s own attachment to his people and culture. He describes himself as one “within the circle,” that is, one who has been institutionalized along with his brethren. As survivor of the Maafa, the African Holocaust, within socio-economic coordinates as a Trans-Atlantic institution, Douglass reinforces the multiple positions that his text occupies. Douglass is bound to his fellow slaves (as he describes their songs, and their pain), just as much as he is bound to the master’s house itself.

   By viscerally considering the effects of slavery upon his people, Douglass can “echo” his own subjective experience with the institutionality of slavery itself. He writes:

    To those songs I trace my first glimmering conception of the dehumanizing character

    of slavery. Those songs still follow me, to deepen my hatred of slavery, and quicken

    my sympathies for my brethren in bonds. If any one wishes to be impressed with the

    soul-killing effects. . . let him go to [the] plantation. . .And let him, in silence,

    analyze the sounds (51).

Here, it is as if Douglass was keenly aware his personal story would be studied in the future as a cultural artifact. The institution of slavery is the power-apparatus from which he flees, yet also the paradigmatic site which establishes his commonality with other African-Americans. He was doomed to be a witness and a participant” (45). If the slavery institution can be taken to mean the values, or ideals of a society (that which holds it together), and slavery is an active exchange of human bodies for labor, Douglass’s narrative bears “witness” to and participates within the moral morass of that materialist enterprise. Institutionality—the values of the Southern slave-holders (along the moral vertical axis)—conditions the evental coordinates of slavery (on the causal horizontal axis). So when Douglass has “sympathy for [his] brethren in bonds,” he has sympathy for his own past lack of moral agency, for his people’s past lack of moral agency, and for anyone else who is in bonds, or is bound to a political mechanism which condones it. I point out the latter only to ensure that the universal dimension of Douglass’s story is not sequestered. After all, American slaves were not the only slaves in the world at this time, nor were they the last. And for the purposes of exonerating the multiplicity of ideological enunciations of the Douglass’ narrative, one cannot subtract this fact or point.

     So how does Douglass’ triadic entendre of narratological enunciation operate within subsequent chapters? Well, very carefully, and very logically, to be precise. The sites of enunciation really come to the fore until page 68-69, where Douglass actually begins to learn to read from “The Columbain Orator,” a book that perfectly reflects his own auto-didacticism. In this chapter, Douglass, once learning of the various dialogues between master and a slave holder, becomes somewhat transparent to himself, of his predicament.

  It had given me a view of my wretched condition, without the remedy.  It opened

  my eyes to the horrible pit, but not ladder upon which to get out.  In moments of

  agony, I envied my fellow slaves for their stupidity.  I have often wished myself a beast.

Here we get a sense Douglass is alienated from his “cultural” narrative. This is due, in part, because he acquired language, knowledge of what is taking place—knowing the implications of slavery are, given that he has an alternative: the freeing of his mind by becoming intellectually aware of himself. Bound, then, to not only the master’s house, but to his own cultural links, Douglass’s relation to his own narrative, ironically, remains an individual account of his own autonomy: the auto-didactic process of apprehending the indifference of written, inert, moral knowledge on paper, expressed academically, is opposed to what, through his moral agency, he had experienced personally. It is still his story, yet not the story of some other slave. It is Douglass who wishes himself a beast, not his brethren. Douglass’s narrative is multi-functional. It not only illuminates the cultural disconnect between the literate and illiterate American, but also reveals the literal double-trauma inherent in Frederick Douglass’ own quest for his own freedom. This logic can be reversed. Able to couch the story of his own freedom within the social-economic context of his brethren who moan and suffer along with him, Douglass can elucidate not only the specificity of his life, but the gap of which many other African-Americans are not aware. Not being able to write, nor read, a slave is doubly reified or objectified.

     It is important to underscore that, unlike Henry Gates Jr., who emphasizes how race might or might not make a difference, the word “race,” from what I can read, is employed once by Douglass in the entire text. After relaying major plot points of his personal story, (weaved essentially in the oscillating triadic manner I described in my intro), it is only when Douglass teaches other slaves to read and extends the power of language to others of his/their predicament, that the authentic African-American cultural narrative begins.

Their minds had been starved by their cruel masters. They had been shut up in mental

darkness. I taught them, because is was the delight of my soul to be doing something

that looked like bettering the condition of my race (95).

Situated at a turning point in the narrative, Douglass executes a smooth transition from social commentary (his personal views about slavery), then extends it to his people. Hence, when Gates’s speaks of “the millennial instrument of transformation through which African would become European,” it is worth nothing, with Douglass, we get a more specific version. Once Douglass decides to better “the conditions of [his] race,” the American slave narrative becomes “African-American,” with an American autonomy, rather than an African one, who via the master’s language, would become a European. The cultural narrative bubbles to the surface of his personal account, from his particular account of freedom: not in the sense that the narrative derives from it, but that it shines through it, much like a universal is instantiated in a particular in philosophical terms. In that light, it is no wonder the first-person plural is used to describe the adjacency between American individualism and cultural narrative of the African-American experience.

      I can not say, I never loved any or confided in any people more than my fellow

      slaves and especially those with whom I lived at Mr. Freeland’s. I believe we would

      have died for each other. We never undertook to do any thing, of any importance,

      without a mutual consultation. We never moved separately.  We were one (95).

The conflated movement from “I” to “We” is telling in more ways than one.  Because Douglass’s narrative must be taken on its own terms, the “I” becomes “We.” Douglass makes a decision and a distinction about his freedom. Douglass, the master of his own text, is the one who prescribes the means, in which it will be delivered.  As Kant defined freedom as coextensive with the self, the “I” performs a “We” function, because Douglass bears witness to and was also a participant in the slave-holding system. For that reason, Douglass is more importantly a writer for his people and also a writer for himself.

     Henry Gates Jr.’s appraisal, then, of writing oneself into existence is operative here.  A Kantian autobiographical subjectivity expresses his or her movement away from all systems where freedom is absent, which is the sole mode of an autobiography. As a genre, the physical act of writing one’s story, in fact, subordinates the terrifying prospect of it being written by someone else. To extend this point, then, Douglass is not only writing for himself, but he also wishes his people are not written by someone else. That is why towards the end of the text, he explains his reason for not disclosing some of the details:

    I deeply regret the necessity that impels me to suppress any thing of important

connectedwith my experience. . . I would allow myself to suffer. . . rather than

exculpate myself, and thereby run the hazard of closing the slightest avenue by which

a brother slave might clear himself of the chains and fetters of slavery (107).

This harkens one back to two previous instances in the narrative. It sends us back to Chapter 2 when Douglass describes the songs of the slaves, the melody of their hearts, his being “within the circle,” his communion with them. It is also is juxtaposed nicely with a moment in Chapter 3 where Douglass writes of his fellow-slaves: “They suppress the truth rather than take the consequences of telling it, and in so doing proving to themselves a part of human family” (54). Here, Henry Gates Jr.’s essay’s emphasis on preserving “the authentic black voice” comes to the forefront. By protecting his fellow-slaves choice of not conveying their experience as he does, Douglass allows the absence of narrating the experience speak for itself, should the time even come for those voices to choose to speak, if at all. Given that Henry Gates Jr. perceives a danger misreading of a text—an “indenturing” by a doomed scholar who knows the language of an oppressor—I cannot see why Douglass’ text must be read always “racially” with a warning about the correct method by which one should read it. I do not see why or how one could fail to see the simultaneity of the structure of the tripartite thematic entendre, where a personal story (pure autobiographical events, 1st person), enmeshed in social commentary (the political universality of freedom, 3rd person), is framed in a cultural narrative (with the specificity of the African-American experience). The text is individualistic certainly—personal, yet just as much as it is a cultural artifact. It is a living testament to its writer’s own fretful flight to full autonomy as much as it is a story of a people on the brink of freedom.

    Subsequently, Henry Gates Jr.’s fear of the use of the terms “race”, “the universal”, “color-blind,” “apolitical,” “neutral” seems well-intentioned, yet unnecessary.  The narrative itself is wholly powered by one American author, Frederick Douglass, who, as a Kantian autonomous subject, has governed  the text all along, deciding when to speak, for whom and when not to speak at all.  I can see how individualism is contraindicated and can overlap with other interpretations, in this case, the cultural reading and search for “the blackness of the text,” yet I remain unpersuaded by Henry Gates Jr.’s skepticism of critics’ subversive modes of “will to power,” which is a cynical, rather than a progressive point of view. There are, in fact, many ways of conceiving of power, understanding it, critiquing it, yet a critic’s mystification with the power of words can muddle the issue of how a text speaks with itself and how an author of American autobiography, in this case, Frederick  Douglass, narrates his will to American freedom. Why should scholars put every word they fear in scare quotes? Is it because they fear that the word corresponds accurately to the Real? Why should one embrace the philosophical skepticism Richard Rorty waged against Immanuel Kant? Why trust language at all? Why trust the language of a lauded literary work, well situated in the American literary canon, yet mistrust the language of a scholar interpreting it? Why must specific objects of inquiry (of the textual kind) rely on the deconstruction of tropes to retain a mysterious, though, unwarranted, “condition of (im)possibility,” whereby one may posit any myriad of meanings to, say, word X—or in Rorty’s view, the ironic meaning of word X?  Did Frederick Douglass not die a free man or must we also quantify the word “free” and put that in scare quotes, too? Nelson Mandela once said: “to be free is not merely to cast of one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”  Perhaps, the immortal question still remains and applies to the ethical stance of readers, too:  am I my brother’s keeper?

WORKS CITED

Gates, Henry Louis Jr. “Introduction: Writing ‘Race and the Difference it Makes” in Race, Writing, and Difference. Henry Louis Gates Jr., ed.

Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

Here are some words Catherine the Great wrote in her famous Nakaz (Instruction).

6.      Russia is a European power. . .

The proof for this is as follows.  The changes which in Russia were undertaken by Peter the Great were all the more   successful because of the manners which prevailed at the time were quite unsuitable to the climate and had been imported to our land thanks to the intermingling of peoples and the conquest of foreign lands.  In introducing European manners and customs to a European people, Peter I then found facilitating factors such he himself had not expected.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The sovereign is autocratic; for no other power save that which is united in his person can act in manner commensurable with the extent of so great a
state.

Here, Catherine the Great’s rhetoric clearly reveals the conceptual inconsistency between a Western idea of Russia, which she entertained, and Western ideas for Russia, which she rejected. That is, while Catherine insisted “Russia is a European power” (because Peter the Great reformed “the manners which prevailed at the time were quite unsuitable,”) she remarkably emphasized the role of the sovereign, which in this case, “is united in his person can act in a manner commensurable with the extent of so great a state.” Before Catherine even codified the laws for Russia, it is clear she went on a full blown Asiatic conquest of Siberia with a “universal vision, (gaining meridian after meridian for the sake of Empire)” writing to Voltaire

“These laws, of which so much is being said at present, are not quite completed as of yet. . .consider only, if you will, that they are destined to serve both Asia and Europe: and what a difference there is between them in terms of climate, people, customs, and even ideas. Here I am finally in Asia; I have wanted so terribly to see it with my own eyes.  There are in this city twenty different people who do not resemble one another in the least.  We shall nonetheless have to design a garment that would fit them all. General principles can certainly be found, but what of the details? And what details! I was about to say: we will have to create, unify, and preserve a whole world.

Catherine’s utopian vision, however, does not take into account “the details” and seems to skirt them repeatedly. When she writes “we will have to create, unify, and preserve a whole world,” one wonders if she means Voltaire and herself OR Russia in general OR general Enlightenment principles and herself exclusive of Voltaire.  Such questions can only problematize the modernization project Catherine had in mind, who insisted that “Russia is a European power,” that “works on human skin.” The “human skin” factor, however, reveals something else about Catherine the Great: she quite literally flirted both politically and erotically with Western Europe.  When Diderot returned to France, Voltaire grew jealous, writing to the Empress:

Madame, I am positively in disgrace at your court.  Your Imperial Majesty has jilted me for Diderot, or for Grimm, or for some other favorite.  You have had no consideration for my advanced age.  All is well and good if your Majesty were a French coquette; but how can a victorious, law giving Empress be so inconstant..I am trying to find crimes I have committed that would justify your indifference.  I see that there is indeed no passion which does not end.

Voltaire apparently was either an “orientalist” who Catherine entertained from time to time, in his correspondences with her, who took offence that he was “jilted” for Diderot or Catherine and Voltaire were both “orientalists” who quite frankly used Western European rhetoric to intellectually seduce one another.

Catherine responds to Voltaire:

“Live, Monsieur, and let us be reconciled; for in any case there is no cause for quarrel between us… you are so good a Russian that you could not be the enemy of Catherine.”

Catherine’s predication of Voltaire as “so good a Russian” indicates something inherently intimate. They only communicated through letters, and as it was pointed out, yet it was Diderot who went to Russia to visit Catherine’s court, not Voltaire.

Strangely enough, however, Voltaire in another letter emphasizes that his dying wish was to be buried in Russia, writing “why should I not have the pleasure of being buried in some corner of Petersburg, where I could see you pass to and fro under your arches of triumph, crowned with laurel and olive?”

Now. . .Voltaire is either obsessed with Catherine, obsessed with dying in Russia, or obsessed with the East in general. Perhaps, all of these are true—for the Voltaire-Catherine-West-East exchange during the period of the so-called Enlightenment are indicative of “orientalism” in both political spheres, Eastern and Western Europe: the frugal application of conceptual framework which Russia, in this case, under Catherine the Great, refused to accept and the West’s unbridled fascination with the East.

Such undertones of fascination bring to mind themes of power dynamics which resonate in the Prussian novel Venus in Furs by Sacher-Masoch which not only reeks with direct references to Catherine the Great (abut some S& M….being dominated by an “Eastern Empress”) but also underscores the sexual/intellectual phantasms between Western so-called “Enlightenment elites” and so-called “Slavic monarchs” who, both operating upon an “orientalist” axis, stop nothing short of redefining “Enlightened Despotism” as nothing short of “orientalist” perversion.

Catherine the Great aside, eighteenth-century Russian historian Karamzin, who, interestingly enough, also traveled to Europe during the European Enlightenment  (and also happened to have met with Immanuel Kant, at Kant’s home, in what is now Kaliningrad), was skeptical to the principle by which Catherine’s codification of laws operated, wondering if such laws were not simply a French wolf in Russian sheep’s clothing:

Putting aside all other considerations, let us enquire: is this the time to present Russians with French laws, even if they should be capable of being conveniently adapted toRussia’s social conditions? We all, all who love Russia, her sovereign, her glory and well-being, so strongly detest this nation, besplattered with the blood with the blood of Europe and covered with the dust of so many demolished kingdoms—how can we then, at the very time when Napoleon’s name makeshearts shudder, place his code at the holy altar of the fatherland?

Karamzin, though certainly open to the idea that French laws “could be capable of being conveniently adapted to Russia’s social conditions,” appears to be speaking for Russia as whole, claiming that “all who love Russia, her sovereign, her glory and well-being, so strongly detest this nation,”—in this case, France, whose nationalism is typified by the Napoleonic empire.

So here, whereas, Catherine, the absolute ruler, and her erotic/literary correspondence with France and its intellectual elite takes on some kind of perverted dimension of reflexive mutual intellectual “orientalism” on the vertical axis (autocratic rule, subversive, ambiguous intellectual preoccupations), Karamzin’s comments bring to light a particular attitude, on the part of Russia, which rests on the horizontal axis of Western European/Russian reality: French laws might work in Russia, but when its comes to the West attempting to enforce its ways on Russia, Russia would rather set itself on fire.

This is a historical example of why Russia will never be a Western Country.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

The World of Rectangles

Posted: December 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

labyrinth

I had an intellectual mentor as a teenager.

On the way to the beach (I lived fifteen minutes from the Pacific Ocean), as my mentor (who was driving a dirty, black Acura Integra) was talking about the link between biophysical processes and our consciousness—“so,” he said, “the microtubules, in theory, could insulate the electrical impulses from the outside random activity—which might account for unpredictable mind events such as creativity and free will.”—I grew bored, so then lit a cigarette.  My window was down, letting in the breeze.

I concluded that no matter how impressionable I might of appeared to my mentor, secretly, I did not see the underlying point of his talking style, his esoteric, acrobatic linguisticisms.  They amused me, his linguisticisms.  I noted that, when he spoke, he revealed how much of a truly funny beast he was, a wretch even, a wretch constantly exposing himself as a means to get respect and as a means to get attention.

“You hear me, man?” he asked me.  “You follow me?”

Yeah, I followed him. I listened to everything he said, and chose not to balk.  I nodded.  “I’m listening,” I said. My buddy seemed lonely.  I pitied him as best as I could, as best as I might one day pity myself.  There’s nothing negative about self-pity if one simultaneously pities the whole of humanity.  Yet, I understood the impetus behind my mentor’s need to pontificate about what he knew and his incessant name-dropping.  It simply meant that he had done his homework.  And that there was nothing shameful about it.  That my mentor wanted a star-sticker placed on the grade-school diploma of his fat, black heart.

Though, on the surface, enthralled with how effortlessly he maneuvered the conversation—from apophatic theology to popular music; from the subversive elements inherent in St. Francis’ prayers to the origins of self-indulgence within the diabolically delicate prose of Jean Genet; from the macabre politics and Elvic undertones that inspired Misfits singer Glenn Danzig to one day bloom into a living He-Man to learning how to execute Chung Li’s sweeping upside down helicopter kick in the video game Street Fighter II; from the interpersonal drama on the part of married couples attempting to initiate anal sex for the first time to the nature of Fidel Castro’s messianic speeches to doughy-eyed toddlers (comrades in fleshly miniature) on the merits of literacy; from the Harrison Narcotic Act (1914) to The Land of the Lost, with an impression of Sleetstack (9/14/74)—on the interior, within the grottos of my own skull, I thought about the ridiculousness of humankind’s historical burden: an unkind phantasmagoria and/or nightmare, one, which, spawned varying ethical consequences, and ontologically speaking, failed to explain or describe the age of information in which it was couched. Life was strange, I thought.  I imagined living in a multiplicity of alternative histories as I sipped on a Big Gulp, which more or less, allowed me to futilely anticipate the prophetic tone inherent in my mentor’s very leaping from one theoretical swamp to yet another stagnant subject.

“See, one day you’re going to surpass me, man,” he confessed.  “You have that look, that something in your eyes—-them prophetic eyes.  Pathos.  They seem to want to say something that overturns everything I’ve been telling you.”

I appreciated the compliment.  Surely, there was price one had to pay for possessing a glutinous corpus callosum; for having read too much too soon, for having chosen to escape into the hidden pathways of some kind of Epicurean stronghold by locking oneself in a room, in suburbian Nothingness, shutting out the artificial outside world in order to ponder the infinite possibilities of pragmatically instantiating that ever debatable subject “freewill.”

“Why do we live in boxes?” I asked my mentor.

“What do you mean?”

“The rectangle does not exist in nature, yet we surround ourselves in them.”

“Imprisoning ourselves?”

“Well, yea, but I think it runs deeper.  I mean we have systematically, or perhaps, because of logic, because of prejudice towards the predictable, because of systemizing everything, have made rectangles the predominant shape of modernity.  Consider a room.  A table.  A television.  A book.  A window.  A parking lot.  A sound stage.  A VCR.  A sidewalk.  A freeway.  All these things were invented by us.  They all seem to take up much of our time.  We engage with them daily.  But do you notice that they are all rectangular.  What gives?  Are we trying to making things convenient or are we forfeiting our mobility for the sake of convenience.  There is no way to even express oneself out of the box.  A piece of paper is rectangular.  A picture frame is rectangular.  Everything has this linear border.  I don’t get it.”

We pulled up to a stop light.

My mentor than said: “That’s perhaps the most profound thing I’ve ever heard you say.”

“It’s not profound.  It’s obvious,” I said.  “There’s nowhere to go anymore without standing on a rectangle or staring at one.  I mean we can return to nature I suppose, or maybe go inward, inside ourselves where there’s more room.  But there is no where, I mean nowhere, to move in the sensory world, don’t you feel it?  How can we solve anything, alleviate any situation, if we have to presuppose rectangles as the harbinger of our interior destinies?  It’s kind of messed up.  I don’t get.  Maybe I’m missing something.”

“Well, maybe it’s because the natural world is chaotic.  Cognition demands clarity.”

“Maybe.”  I shrugged.  “I mean, it’s chaotic, yea, but it moves in nice elliptical paths, too. Parallel lines. . .”

“On a macro-level.  I suppose,” my mentor said.

“Hmm.  I don’t know.  It’s eating at me,” I said.

My mentor glanced over at me. I looked back up at the stoplight, seeing that the light had changed from red to green. Three circles within a rectangle.  I had a point.  My mentor scooted up in his car seat.  I could hear the squeaking of denim upon leather.

“Well,” he started, pushing the gas pedal, recapping my thesis, “dwelling on geometry and its effect on metaphysical issues such as freedom.  Hmm.  Is there a causal relationship?”

We were almost at the beach, almost parked, almost on a walk, almost at the end of a jetty to discuss the ancient unfathomable ocean.   Pseudo-thesis after pseudo-thesis, diatribe after diatribe, never hearing the sound of another shoe falling (my mentor was uncannily Hegelian) I  reasoned that the very structure that joins the left and right halves of the brain had to be thicker in those who read more than in others.

The problem was that we read books; too many of them; watched television, too many shows, flipped through magazines, read too many articles by two many hacks, went to rock-shows, knew the lyrics of too many bands.

And it brought us to the sea.

My buddy, yea, he knew what was in, what was out; and he had a justification for all things novel or trite, secure or insecure.   But once we got to a rectangular parking lot, and parked in a rectangular parking spot, and took a stroll down a rectangular sidewalk, and hit the sand, the tone of the conversation changed.

The sand was hot for we removed our shoes and socks.  Stuffing our socks into our shoes, swinging them on the hinge of the hook of our conjoined fingertips like the Lilliputian Dragon Swings, we got to that edge of the jetty where rectangles began to slowly disappear.  Being careful not to cut ourselves on a crag, still barefoot, careful not to slip into the cracks between the boulders, we caught the smell of seaweed.  We ventured out further, prepared to go the end, or at least as far as one could go on a jetty, just to watch the sea foam splatter the curvature of moss-ridden rocks.  My buddy gave up trying to conjecture about my theory about rectangles.  The sea had silenced us.  It was serving its purpose.  The sea can silence any man, any woman, an evil man, a good man, a good woman, an evil woman.  There was so much to know.  There was so much to live for.  The sun beat down on the ripples of what seemed like forever.  Figures of speech conflated into gentler states of mind; and there both me and my friend, finding a suitable stop to sit down without getting soaked, lit up respective cigarettes by ducking our heads into the tee-pee sanctuary of our sweaters, ceremoniously protecting the right Promethean fire from the wind.

We sat and smoked on that lonely precipice for an hour.

A melancholy filled both our hearts.

We knew we were safe from rectangles.

And no matter how intoxicated we both were with our surroundings, watching that sunset drip down—its morose mango, its glistening peach-ness, its cooling cadmium red and magenta, only one spiritual fact remained: there was one human subjectivity.  There was no multiplicity outside the world of rectangles.  And that single subjectivity set on the other side of the planet, went to the other side, illuminated someone else’s morning, someone who, perhaps, was sipping fresh water from a well on the other side of the world.   And that man, too, was part of that single subjectivity.

The sea rendered us speechless and humble.  Surely a Ph.D was in our stars.  Perhaps, one day, we would voraciously thwart self-destruction, see through the logic of rectangles, and choose to forget how the heavenly elitism of one man becomes the snapping inferno of another.

The sea reminded me that no one truly possessed knowledge.  That knowledge was not something one owned as if it were a slave shivering in some tool shed, that one brought out in order to secure the grooming of one’s plantation, the field of one’s worldview.  That like the sea, true knowledge was shared: it was never housed in a rectangle.  It trickled, roamed, and flowed upon itself, like bitter honey, shaping people’s inner worlds when people could connect to it, and more often than not, allowed people to drown their insecurities, their frailty, their need to know why they existed, or to justify why there was no reason to know why anything existed at all.

To some degree, I realized I had a love-hate attitude towards knowledge, and right then, now seeing how my mentor was prepared to leave, was ready to go back to that stripper’s house in Venice Beach, returning towards the pursuit of pleasure and knowing, I knew I wanted to stay there longer.  Knowledge went absolutely no where.  Knowledge did not stop suffering.  There was a seagull. Knowledge did not stop war, pain, rape, murder, injustice.  A pelican with a sea bass in its beak.  And yet, if knowledge was an acquired taste, something one sampled as if it were a buffet, a palette of sorts, what good was it on the part of the cognoscenti, thinking books mysteriously possessed didactic or moral value?   I shivered.  Goosebumps.  I felt immortal.

“You coming?” my buddy called out, standing on the beach, a quarter ways a way from the jetty where I was.

I waved.  Yeah, I’m coming.  What’s the hurry?  So we read, unashamedly utilized the English language’s 14 melodious vowels, 5 harmonically tailored diphthongs, 25 percussive consonants, 2 to 4 stresses (an undulating right piano pedal), 3 to 4 pauses, and 3 to 4 pitches.  Big deal.  The twilight was beautiful.  Was it not?   I wanted to smoke another cigarette.  I wanted to write down my feelings.  I had no paper.  Big deal.  The ocean was my feelings, my paper.  The entirety of the ocean was my feelings.  Big deal.  The gray whale, the rainbow fish, the sharks, minnows, the Giant Squid, those were my thoughts.  Big deal.  I had millions of them.  I was etching my thoughts on the paper of the ocean.  Surely, the ocean wasn’t a rectangle.

I got up from a crouch.  My pants were moist, but I didn’t care.  The residue, the scent of the ocean was on my person.  I felt alive.  There was nothing that could take away that feeling from me. Death was something observed by the living, not by the dying, I mused.  The waves splashed and crumbled.  I walked slowly towards the car, first hopping from rock to rock on the jetty, shoes in hand, then across the beach, then awaiting access to the cooling sand, the arbitrary zone, the passageway back to the world of rectangles.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

Public Hedonism, Private Fear

Posted: March 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

matrix-neo
In an age of manufactured phantasms, of public hedonism and private fear, it is difficult to determine the impact social networks have on our understanding of the world. Let’s not get carried away and call it a Hive-Mind yet, but often times I feel as though I am a stick-insect or some cricket chirping in the darkness, one whose legs have grown so tired of producing a song that there is almost no point in moving. In short, I feel as though I have been reduced to some peculiar state of cyber-monasticism: I awake, meditate, eat, go for a walk, dedicate my day to scholarship, study, my writing; and my later evening usually consists of facilitating support groups for addicts, alcoholics, and the dually diagnosed (that is, who suffer from a mental illness and addiction).

Two days ago, a kid covered in prison tattoos came into one of my meetings and sat down in a chair, hoping, it seemed, to get something out of the stories that were being shared. The problem is that the transitional group that I run (for 18-30 year olds) had to merge with another group, the adult group, because the room in which we were meeting was occupied by a bunch of nurses. Unable to connect with us, the guy left. Sitting there, continuing the meeting, I could not help but wonder how people view other people. One can judge oneself out of a group in a matter of moments.

Neuroscientists, like Dr. Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, talk about the existence of “mirror neurons,” that is, neurons that make up neural pathways which allow us, as subjects, to put ourselves within the point of view of another person. How do people copy people, or live vicariously through others? How do sports fans identify with their favorite sport teams? How do gamers derive jouissance from racking up kills as snipers in their video games? How to people empathize? Mirror neurons. Of course, there are evolutionary reasons as to why we emulate and put ourselves within the conceptual space of another subjectivity. We do it all the time when we maneuver the disembodied “ghost” of ourselves, within a system, as our own Doppelgangers on Facebook.

Point being, perhaps, the collective unconscious, pace Jung, has found a way to project itself. It has a interface upon which we, as constituents can emulate the features of consciousness.  Have you noticed how there are all kinds of useless debates taking place right now—about human nature and the decline of the American Republic, the rise of a “New World Order” about the financial crises, about the corporate suppression of green energy technology, about the belief in God at odds with the theory of evolution, all those conspiracy theories about 2012 and the passing of planet-X/Nibiru? People dedicate hours of their time making videos copying the views of others. Yet, despite all of these ideas being discussed, I cannot help but concede that the many narratives that attempt (or have attempted) to tell the entire story of our species, respectively, on their own, and by themselves, also have an origin. I am thinking about Foucault here. I am thinking about historical epistemes, ideological and cultural practices embedded within particular historical eras. Today, it might very well be that the individual concerns of the “cultural elite” inform the construction of a common attitude: that one knows very well that the powers-that-be are torturing people elsewhere, so that I have the freedom to edit a fucking status update.

Rarely possessing any sense of self-criticism, the “cultural elite” often write boring pseudo-political stories about their boring, hip epiphanies about their boring bourgeois lives. Not to knock those people of letters or who are in the humanities altogether, but it is clear to me that some intellectuals, who value free expression and dissent, would rather actively locate the next Slavoj Žižek or Richard Dawkins lecture they can watch on YouTube, so that they can write their articles, avoid thinking for themselves and, instead, can adopt the view points of someone else up the meritocratic food chain. As Martin Heidegger puts it: “The most thought-provoking thing about our thought-provoking times, is that we are still not thinking.” So much for our glorious Hive Mind, a sort of buzzing, collective hindbrain that recoils at anything seemingly impractical or anything that might produce a change in socio-ethical direction.

Nevertheless, there is hope. After reading Brills’ The Rise of Latin Humanism in Early-Modern Russia (which charts Western European influence on the Russian government and elites up until 1789), I had an “ah-ha” moment. I realized I am interested in the metaphysics, rhetoric and history of our freedom.

To understand the idea of freedom, which is a transcendental idea (as it appears to my reason), the writings of Immanuel Kant, namely his three critiques, are indispensable. The Greeks, being theologians, of course, had “liberty.” They probed what “the good” entailed, what justice might be, what democracy might be: what it means to be political; what it means to be a being that posits claims to Truth. No living creature in evolutionary biology, no matter how irrational or ruthless, aware or blind to its own existence—can lay claim to the posturing, parading, and ubiquity of narratives within the manifold of its experience as we are. If we are Dasein, as Heidegger suggests—a being that takes a stand on its own existence—then it follows that the species that I am part of, as a Hive Mind, experiences the narrative of freedom as one of its ways of being in the world.

Why does the or any idea of freedom even exist?  Does the idea of freedom have theological origins only to be later secularized with the rise of the bourgeois subject? Is it a displaced apocalypse? An unveiling of subjectivity itself?

In the tradition of Foucault, perhaps, it is time to study and re-understand the context of human freedom: to explore the origin, metamorphoses, and/or collusion of different narratives that derive from attempts to re-define the nature of our autonomy and supposed personal authority. Kant posits, it is worth pointing out, that freedom as coextensive with the self, (that it begins spontaneously, as if from no where); nevertheless, history have proven to subjugate or obfuscate the simplicity of this metaphysic and in its place, set it within an ideology and quantified it.

Freedom, as Julia Kristeva has pointed out, is the ideology of the West. It is the a priori, ground-zero for every truth claim, any critique, any modern point of view, no matter how godless, agnostic, religious, materialist or idealist. Modern reality, it follows, is engaged to freedom—its problems and its features. Debates in politics—about who gets what, when, and where—instrumentalize the rhetoric of freedom as the desired end that justifies the unpleasant means of attaining it. In this regard, freedom is given a God-like status in this day and age at the expense of a culture that embraces the ideology of freedom and summons it, in order to serve it as a self-referential selling point to those whom might have a non-Kantian version of what freedom is.

In this regard, perhaps, it’s time to re-read the theological and scientific paradigms that Kant tried to reconcile in The Critique of Pure Reason. Upon the foundational character that work, the epistemological limitation of modern anthropology was constructed. The nature versus nurture debate was born as well as other socio-economic, psychological, and evolutionary narratives. It is no wonder why Freud, Marx, Darwin, and Einstein would later define the cultural experience of the secular subject during the twentieth century. The self, replacing the authority of a transcendent God (a transcendental idea), became the imminent platform for all debates, thereby producing a multiplicity of narratives which attempted to properly contextualize our experiential totality.

That said, it would be useful study the development of modern freedom, as it is coextensive with the self, and see where it is or came into conflict with (co)-existing paradigms. What is the future of our freedom? Incessant lifestyle choices? The freedom to choose what book we want to order on Amazon. I often wonder if freedom is not a crypto-Protestant narrative. There is no better place to look for how this might be so than examinng the ideological points of encounter and departure of the Kantian subject’s (or secular self) with Czarist Russia, Southeast Europe, and Islam. It was Czarist Russia, it is worthy noting, that was the first to entertain, embrace, then reject Western Freedom (as depicted in Dostoevsky’s novels); it was Southeast Europe, “the Balkans,” that was the most religiously diverse region in European history (wherein the heyschastic tradition was born); it was Islam, whose Quranic law, with its own definition of a surrendering self, that outright rejected the freedom of the Western self, so as to prop itself up as an cultural counterweight to modern Christian armies (which were to perpetually later “arrive” at their doorstep in the modern period—leading up to WWI).

Although I am currently working on a Master in Social Work degree at the University of  Southern California, one day, I hope to track the development modern freedom from the end of the Enlightenment as it transitioned into the Industrial Age  (say, 1750-1871). In spite of technological progress, which mechanized human agency and “arrival” of historical self-consciousness, I argue all Western narratives in respect to the teleology of our species—where we are from, where we are going—adopt a track of logic that is governed by a coherence principle wherein one, often times, unknowingly, accepts and/or conflates two kinds of causalities with one another (theological causality and Newtonian causation)…that is, two kinds causality that are found in the writings of scientists, philosophers, and theologians that preceded Kant. If so, freedom should be understood in a new light, so as to subvert an ideological system that proposes to serve its cause, though perverts it at the expense of those who do not have Immanuel Kant as part of their intellectual or cultural history.

As Julia Kristeva writes in her book, The Crises of the European Subject:  “Kant’s conception is a nodal point in the thinking of Freedom, one whose genealogy goes back fundamentally to Saint Paul and Saint Augustine, then to Luther and Prostestantism. This freedom, produced by a causality of natural and economic forces. Thus Max Weber, in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism demonstrated the inversion of transcendence in the production of social goods. A causality governs freedom, and freedom adapts to it, even as it achieves its own flourishing, by dominating all sensuality through understanding that is, ultimately moral.” In short, as quantifiable narcissists under the umbrella “freedom” of the Hive Mind, we have become post-ethical slaves to an immoral and irresponsible ideology, which forces us to enjoy our own enjoyment by flattering the impulses of our reptilian brain.

What the “culture elite” should now consider—in their endeavor to find new narratives that express the predicament of our species—is to find new conceptions our freedom. If we are even free in some ways, how are we free? What can be done? If we are not free, and everything is learned by mirroring and biological determination, why not? Do we, as constituents of the Hive Mind have to wait for the technological Singularity to become individually emancipated?  Do we have to partially reject some our humanity, that is, find certain parts of it inadequate, and opt to become cyborgs one day, and anticipate the chance of becoming literally “post-human?” What can we put in place of the post-human secular subject no longer making theologically-oriented decisions? Did the structure of the relationship of the immanent self to a transcendent Judeo-Christian God indirectly affect the secular narrative of freedom that reacted against Him? What if present day Western subjectivity’s transgressions, blogs, deconstructionisms, Dopplegangers/screen names, “ID thefts,” self-help groups, libertarian paranoia, neo-nationalisms, conspiracy theories, preoccupations with Western Buddhism, scarification/tatooing rituals, search for Higher Selves and/or non-Christian self-actualization, even the evolution/creationism debates, or the elusive rhetorical styles of reactionary liberals, originate from the inability of today’s secular subject to process the conflicting narratives born from the teleologies of 18th and 19th century understandings of freedom?

© 2014 Paul Rogov

paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

kelly-thomas-before-and-after

A local tragedy has  upset me to the point that I have no choice, but to  write about it:  the murder by Fullerton Police of a 37 year old homeless man whose name is Kelly Thomas.

Truth be told, there is damning video that has gone viral on the internet. In it, off camera, hog-tied Kelly Thomas, who suffered from schizophrenia and was well-known in the community, cries out for his father, as bewildered bystanders deliver commentary while watching him being beaten and tazered (see sources down at the bottom of the article)

Now, I don’t know about anyone else, but I am almost as angry at the bystanders in the video as much as I am angry with the Fullerton Police. The cops, from what I understand, according to one of my inside sources, were from the Los Angeles Police Department and were discharged for unknown reasons and then settled in Northern Orange County for, apparently, a less demanding, less dramatic, less life-threatening job. What few realize about Orange County is the justice system here is beyond corrupt. There have been many cases wherein it has been discovered the judges have taken bribes. There are also cases of physical abuse in the correctional facilities, like Orange County Central Jail in Santa Ana, of which I have first-hand experience as a former inmate.

That said, there are many good judges out there, too. Judge Lindley, for one, runs an experimental recovery court for people on probation that suffer from co-occurring disorders—that is, both substance abuse and mental illness—wherein their psychiatric condition lead to their arrest.  From what I know from the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, as a board member, there has been more information and training available to local law enforcement, so that they become educated about the mentally ill and what to do when dealing with them. This ranges from from learning how to deal with such a person in crises situation, with or without the help of an expert, such as a psychiatrist or social worker, to putting headsets on cops, where aggressive voices are heard by them, while they buy something in a store, so that they can get a sense on how disorienting having auditory hallucinations is.

What mainstream society does not realize is that, most Americans, though twenty percent of them have a mental illness, demonstrate “an unwillingness to live next door to a mentally ill person, have a group home for the mentally ill in the neighborhood, [want] to spend an evening socializing with a mentally ill person, [want] to work closely with such a person on the job, [want] to make friends with someone with a mental illness or have a mentally ill person marry into the family.”

How does one account for the chasm between what is apparent and what is perceived? I will give you the answer: People fear what they cannot see more than what they can see.

By associating mental illness with the irrational and with violence, scores of mentally ill persons have been stigmatized and even killed as a result of what the status quo does not understand, nor wishes to understand. The disgusting, evil perpetrated by the Fullerton cops against Kelly Thomas is only one such incident, yet it is not an isolated incident. Kelly Thomas was hogtied, beaten, stomped on, tazered 6 to 7 times, and that was not enough for these cops: they continued to beat him as he cried out for mercy; they continued to beat him as he cried out for his father; they continued to beat him, as if the moral maxim “to protect and serve” no longer mattered, nor ever existed in their minds; they continued to beat a defenseless, homeless, schizophrenic man until he fell into a coma, only to later die in the hospital five days later.

There are many questions that remain unanswered. Why did they think Kelly Thomas was such a threat? What did he do in front of them that lead six cops to subdue him? They might have ran his arrest history and seen he had been violent in the past. That might have even scared them. The mystery, as of now, I think rests in the hearts of the cops who murdered Kelly Thomas. When did they decide to cross the line? When did they decide that it was not sufficient, or impossible, to arrest Kelly Thomas with reasonable force? When did they decide that he wasn’t good enough to live? Did it scare them that he ran away from them? Is that what constituted resisting arrest?

These cops, I think, are part of a general trend in a soft totalitarian society where acts of evil are often caught on camera. That trend is essentially historical as much as it is ideological: torture (and this was torture) is “ok” in certain situations because in might protect the rest of society from a threat of a terrorist attack; while we, the sheep, have nothing but commentary when injustice happens, refuse to intervene, refuse to see it for what it is, and accept it, even as six Republicans and six Democrats, the constituents of a “super-congress” take total control of the U.S. legislature.

I recall being in rehab with some neo-Nazis back in the day and one of them telling me how he thought that if there was ever a world war, the government should release first the inmates, the prisoners from their cages, the mentally ill from their isolation rooms, and force these two populations (which overwhelmingly overlap) to fight on the front lines of such a world war. Whereas that might sound like a good plot development in a Hollywood movie or the next shitty, popular apocalyptic novel, I could not believe the fear this country has of itself.  I recall a joke: why are Americans fascinated by vampires, zombies, and dinosaur movies so much? Because they see themselves.  It is the fantasy of being totally primal and being totally unhinged, at once free, being amoral, or beyond moral, Promethean, as if we are some kind of person with special powers that does not have to answer to our conscience or moral sense.

What now then?

The National Alliance of Mental Health should be pushing for brand new legislation to protect both the mentally ill and the homeless, in the context of the law, and set a precedent for how to handle them within rational and reasonable rules of engagement. As far as I know, NAMI has only released a statement condemning the actions of the Fullerton cops.  That’s great, but it’s not enough. These cops should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Why did it take so long for this story to come to the surface? It took place on July 5th! It’s clear why: nobody explicitly, nor implicitly involved with the killing of Kelly Thomas wants to be held responsible, nor thinks it possible they they will be held responsible.

We live in an equally mystifying and de-mystified world, wherein intervening on behalf of someone perhaps weaker than us, is deemed not sufficient in the context of our self-interest. Such a subjectivity, a default subjectivity, totally Cartesian, and self-reflective, consciously chooses to avoid the symptoms of a larger political culture: where we are fed propaganda, are subjected to an unfolding collective psychodrama every time we watch or read the news, which we, as citizens, as a hive mind, learn the story of the essence of our human mind, a multi-layered story where we journey into the underworld in a desensitizing process, then resurface to our comfortable lives, while imposed institutional and situational forces attempt to debase and quantify our lives in order to subdue us.

There seems to a trend taking place: we are powerless; we accept the perpetual emergency state that we are in, and either wait for a better world, that is not this one, that is promised by divine will or future revolution, or we lose ourselves in the game of pleasure and pain game in which the impulses of our reptilian brain are at war with the intuition of our frontal cortex.

Either way, whether it is naive of me or too idealistic of me to think so, I think the mentally ill of Orange County who know better than to just accept their psychiatric diagnosis, should empower themselves and get directly involved with the push for legislation that would protect them from further injustice at the hands of evil cops, evil judges, and evil politicians who already knew murder is wrong, yet act otherwise, caring more about momentary power rather than ameliorating perceived symptoms of a schizo-fascist society.

As I write this entry, I have become enraged. I realize how much I could have been Kelly in the past, before I got my life together, before I decided to rejoin mainstream America. I could have been afraid of the police and ran for my life. I could have resisted arrest if I thought that I was being mistreated. I have been there, see. Beaten, tazered, forced into four-point restraints, though I survived. The only saving grace I can think of right now is that I refuse to let this happen to me or to anyone else. I’d rather die crazy and free, intervening, then compliant with the bullshit of doing nothing. Being that I am “a fully-functioning and productive member of society” now, should not deceive the powerful who are, in some ways, themselves naive. For we, ill or abnormal in your eyes, will not go down without a fight. If you start killing us, taking away our rights, we will get more and more pissed off. And then what are you going to do? For you are few.

And we are many.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/27/police-beat-homeless-full_n_911419.html

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/07/31/fullerton-police-beat-to-death-mentally-ill-homeless-man/

http://www.fullertonsfuture.org/tag/kelly-thomas-beating/

http://blogs.ocweekly.com/navelgazing/2011/07/kelly_thomas_fullerton_police_1.php

© 2014 Paul Rogov

paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.

 

Anders Breivik knew exactly what he did and that is why he is crying.

Brevik

I watched Breivik’s PowerPoint presentation on his last YouTube video and read some of his 1,500 page manifesto. I have a friend, an U.S. Army veteran who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, who shares some of Breivik’s views.  My veteran friend told me that after 9/11, when he first arrived to serve his first tour of duty, that before he embarked on his first mission, he and his fellow soldiers suspected and believed they were fighting Middle Easterners in the War of the End of the World and that they, as the Western coalition, were the soldiers of the apocalypse.

The atrocities committed in Norway last week—the bombing in Oslo and the executing of Norwegian teenagers on Utoya Island–might not be a revelation, nor present anything new. Hegel, philosopher of Western subjectivity par excellence, once wrote about the ethics of war and how there was a religious dimension to it,  that personal religiosity as a site of subjective identification provided an invisible branding upon the soul, and was a way for a subject to conceptualize the taking of sides; that is, a way to affirm identity.

So why is religion sometimes blamed in these kind of atrocities? Why is politics often blamed for these kind of atrocities? Why? Because, for people who don’t really want to think hard, it is really easy to do so.

At first, it is worth mentioning, some of the media thought the Oslo bombing was perpetrated by Islamic fundamentalists. They were wrong. After decades of studies and the active use of think-tanks, one would think that the “terrorism experts” would do a better job at ascertaining the facts on the ground, before they begin flapping their gums, accusing the wrong group or individual(s) for committing acts of evil.

That said, journalists and “terrorism experts” alike, as we know, wield catchy words, pseudo-functional academic constructs.  They need to get the story out as quickly as they can, as it is even unfolding, to be sure, but they are often not thinking about what they write, and instead, in subsequent articles or newcasts, offer additional commentary, where they pounce on certain ideas signified by certain words to better understand the situational and institutional forces that provoke them to exist.

Now they, the media, from what I understand, are quasi-psychoanalyzing the mind of the mass murderer behind the attacks in Norway.  Breivik was not an Islamic fundamentalist, after all; he was home-grown, a 32-year old Norwegian Islamophobe. Okay. So once the media realized this, they were quick to use constructions like “far-right extremist” or “Christian terrorist,” or “Christian fundamentalist,” or “Neo-Nazi,” even  “Euro-supremacist,” a term which sounds precise, but probably fails to capture the nature of the grandiose ideas which, like tentacles, circumnavigate the narcissistic idea Breivik has of himself as a revolutionary and European knight self-commissioned to protect the values of all of “Judeo-Christian civilization.”

Does Anders Behring Breivik have a messiah complex?  Perhaps.

Now, the media is perpetuating the Faustian sensationalism: they give platforms to even more experts, that is, psychiatrists, who might drive home the idea to the public that Breivik is mentally ill.

The fact Breivik wrotea  highly detailed, 1,500 page entho-political manifesto (that is littered with rigorous, though shoddy scholarship) is not going to be discussed in detail for the time being. The manifesto, rather, is being primarily discussed in the blogosphere. Bloggers, it seems are using the manifesto as a way to debate culture, religion, and politics, and for the most part are not strictly using it as evidence to determine the fact that no sane person would actually go to such lengths to execute mass carnage and also have a litany of lengthy, paralogical justifications for it. What I predict is going to happen is that they—the so-called experts, the psychiatrists—are going construe Breivik’s logical fallacies and political conclusions within his manifesto as delusions.

Albiet,there are almost no ways of being objective about Breivik’s mental state. There is no test to see if he has a chemical imbalance, and even then we would have essentially learned nothing about his crimes. All we know about Breivik right now is what he says, in speech or in writing, or what he did in Oslo and Utoya island.

We can use all kinds of terms to label Breivik politically and culturally, but let the language be clear:  what Breivik did was not insane; it was evil.

Evil how? In a metaphysical sense? Evil as in an essence intrinsic to Breivik’s nature? No. That is not what I mean. What I am saying is Breivik’s actions are acts of human evil.  Anything short of calling them evil and one is caught up meeting Breivik on the terms and language of his own manifesto, or on the terms and conditions of so-called experts. Some Europeans and European politicians, we must remember, agree with Breivik’s views. Can we make the argument that they are delusional or not? Do we even really need experts to understand what Breivik did? Are we so removed from a basic understanding of ethics that we have to bring in interpretations (like that of Stephan Moleneuyx, who suggests that this crime can be attributed Breivik’s childhood and was somehow was deprived of a real father), that we have to bring in scientific, biological, political language to understand his crimes?

The justification for killing teenagers of your own country because they support immigration and are hypocrites in one’s eyes, and are so-called “cultural Marxists” is not logical, rational, nor delusional. Breivik did not commit these crimes because he is insane (which is a legal term, not a medical diagnosis); Breivik, instead, will be retroactively dubbed “insane” by his lawyer based on not only the incident by but by inferring the nature of Breivik’s own self-understanding of his own political reality: that Islam as a cultural force is a direct threat to Europe.

There is nothing abnormal going on bio-chemically in Breivik’s brain that itself is the mechanism that caused his actions. Breiviks has moral agency. What he believes about Islam or about immigration or about Europe was in conjunction with what he set out to do.

The human race does not have an unchanged set of beliefs. New assumptions and beliefs always emerge in the context of present historical conditions. Physical sciences and social sciences rely heavily on interrogating the past, in order to update and understand the present. What is a mistake? An ethical failure? A moral failure? Something inherent in the rational framework for error and truth? Without knowing how cancerous tumors were treated in the past, we would not know how to treat cancerous tumors in the present.  History, however, is cyclical as much as it is linear. There are leaps/advances forward. There are repetitions. There are political revolutions and religious schisms that arise from the restructuring of or doing-away with an entire paradigm or belief system. It is the idea of culture that is the lie. It is he media which spreads the lie that is culture, and in so doing attempts to inform how society should see itself.

How a society sees itself as expounded upon and externalized through the media informs our new beliefs and the means through which those beliefs are actualized or expressed. We must ask ourselves some questions. Do we see ourselves as mentally ill? Do we see ourselves as racist? Do we secretly think Western Civilization is destined to forever be direct war with the Other? Are we ourselves accountable for the good and evil that we, as a species, commit on a daily basis or not? I don’t know how any but else feels about this, but I myself feel responsible for these crimes. Why? For indulging in the abyss of what they are. Consequently, beliefs do not necessarily cause mistakes. Beliefs, instead, are present retroactively as justifications and excuses of an self-prescribed behavior. Beliefs are often episodically experienced, randomly adhered to one moment, conveniently rejected in others. Beliefs are never fully abstract, nor are they purely concrete. Beliefs are never pure indicators of impure actions.

Breivik’s last posting on some  social network before he went on his mass murdering killing spree, was from John Stuart Mill, a proponent of classical liberalism—“one person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests.”  Why does the mainstream media, and the people who believe in the flash non-fiction propaganda of the mainstream media seem more outraged by the political stance of a killer, that is, the motivation inside the mind of killer, in his manifesto or otherwise, than by the attacks themselves?  Do we really think we can fully, rationally comprehend an irrational act of hatred, an ethical abyss? Maybe, we do.

I think reflecting on the violence in Norway is a kind of magnifying glass: we can learn more about our selves in how we view this moral failure. Depending on how we view it, even if we choose to ignore it or escape from it as an existential fact, which many people do, it gives us a sense of what constitutes our identity.

The Norwegian killer might see himself as a member of the Knights Templar Europe. His heroes might very well be every medieval European ruler known for slaughtering lots of Muslims, but he is no mere Eurocentric who sees European identity as supreme. Breivik is a Eurocentric with grandiose ideas about himself, about himself affecting history, wars and cycles of wars, wherein some human lives mean next to nothing, and are hunt-able without remorse.

© 2014 Paul Rogov

paulrogov.wordpress.com and http://visionsanddreams.wordpress.com

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this website, or portions thereof, in any form.