john wrote:Ishtar and War Arrow -
From The Special View of History:
(the note by way of preface, introduction or summary)
The idea is in the shortest compass, to get down to a schema to cover everything, as it presents itself inside and out at this juncture of man and the world. The assumption is that everything's been turned about, and yet that that it is true is not as known as anyone of us might think it is; indeed, I don't know that an one of us is caught up and going at the speed or at the depth of both the knowledge of reality we now possess, and thus the speed and depth of the reality itself, especially as that reality is busy inside anyone of us.
OK, with my professional trainer in written communications hat on, can I say that if this is the kind of writing the bicameral side have been relying on for the last one hundred years, no wonder no-one’s been listening? Only a poet would get this. But it’s not the poet who needs to read it. Next time I take a class, I’m going to use this as a textbook case of how to lose an audience before you’ve even won it. This is a classic example of why starting the story in the middle never works, and why all the most successful stories have a beginning, middle and end, in that order.
In order to engage and convince, Olson needs to lay out his stall and make his case for the claims he’s making. He also needs to define what he means by certain terms like “the assumption is that everything’s been turned about” and “especially as that reality is busy inside any one of us.” As it is, I feel as if I’m come in halfway through a late night, drunken conversation between James Joyce and Abramelin the Mage.
Except as none of us will ever be satisfied, we are quite making it,
except for that I am persuaded that at this point of the 20th century it might be possible for man to cease to be estranged, as Heraclitus said he was in 500 B.C., from that with which he is most familiar. At least I take Heraclitus' dictum as the epigraph of this book. For all I know increased my impression that man lost something about 500 B.C. and only got it back about 1905 A.D.
Now that’s an interesting point and one with which I can agree. I used to think that it was Christianity that caused this loss. But now I think it happened several hundred years before Christianity. The easy answer is that it was religion in general that caused man to lose his connection with the gods (which I assume Olson is talking about, or at least the loss of that kind of holistic consciousness). But that doesn’t tie up either because Zoroastrianism is probably older than that (although the dates are uncertain), and Hinduism, the religion that stemmed from the old shamanic Vedas, I trace to the Puranas which are also older than 500 BC.
The other epigraph is a methodological one. Keats, more than Goethe or Melville, faced with The Man of Power, got to the heart of it. He took the old humanism by its right front. It wasn't the demonism of Genius he saw was the hooker (almost nobody yet has caught up with Keats on the same subject - he was almost the only man who has yet seen the subjective tragedy as no longer so interesting), but the very opposite, the Sublime in the Egotistical, the very character of Genius, its productive power. And as he walked home from the mummer's play Christmas 1818 it struck him he believed in nothing else, I mean Negative Capability. When a man is "capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason...
Yes, I agree with that. Modern science cannot bear uncertainty.
I once had a conversation with Didier Danthois. He practises what’s known as ‘sacred clowning’. In other words, he’s a clown but the sort of techniques he uses are shamanic, and perhaps reminiscent of the original jesters who were actually philosophers who used their comic skills to bring about deep, profound realisations in their audience. Anyway, all of this is too long a preamble to a very simple point. He said to me: “Life is a mystery. That is what it is. That is its very nature – a mystery. So when you try to solve the mystery, you destroy it. You knock all the beauty of it.”
But because we have lost touch with what Olson calls the “inner reality”, in which state we always knew (on a level deeper than words) who we were, where we had come from and why we are here, we try to solve that same problem through the narrow lens of the cognitive mind – and if we can’t see something through that lens, then we say that it doesn’t exist. That's the modern scientific approach.
It’s as if we are trying to measure and quantify the beauty of a sunset with a ruler.
In the vast expanse of inner listening
The sacred clown comes home.
with no great ambitions or fears,
with no questions
and specially no answers to give…
…A timeless presence filling the air
with that little spark of wonder,
for what is about to be born.
So: so far as man goes, the attempt here is to establish in what sense man need not any longer be estranged from that with which he is most familiar. That would be the content, and is the reality in whose face anyone of us has to take a stance. And that the stance which yields the possibility of acts which are allowably historic, in other words produce, have to be negatively capable in Keat's sense that they have to be, they have to be uncertain.
Or what we would call today relative. It will be seen within how thoroughly I take it Whitehead has written the metaphysic of the reality we have acquired, and because I don't know that yet the best minds realize how thoroughly the absolute or ideal has been tucked into where it belongs - where it got out of, in the 5th century B.C. and thereafter - I call attention to Whitehead's analysis of the Consequent as the relative of relatives, and that the Primordial - the absolute - is prospective, that events are absolute only because they have a future, not from any past.
John, please correct me if I’m wrong. But I think he’s saying here that the only the Primordial Cause can be regarded as absolute and that everything else is relative. Therefore modern science’s search for absolutes is a lost cause before it even begins.
Of course, he may not be saying that, in which case I've invented a whole new idea!
Which leaves me with one last condensation of what is to follow - that history itself, because it has now been turned about as everything else has, can be shown to be of two kinds, and that of these two kinds, one is negatively capable and the other is power. Men can and do wilfully set in motion egotistical, sublime events. They have effect which looks like use. But in the schema here presented, these are power, and history as primordial and prospective is seen to demand the recognition that the other history, what I would call anti-history, is not good enough.
The subject, then, is actual wilful man.
I guess he means the Fall – which is described in scriptures as when man took his free will to decide to disobey God – the essence of the Garden of Eden story. This is seen by most religionists and atheists (who are two sides of the same coin, imo) as going against religion. But I see it as when religion got in the way, interceded itself between man and his gods/ spirits who he was working with in a friendly and mutually beneficent partnership of equals. In order for man to break away from that relationship, he had to deny half of his consciousness, his awareness. And after time, the law of use-it-or-lose-it kicked in, and he could no longer get himself back to the Garden, as Neil Young would say.
John, I hope I’ve managed to understand this correctly, and also to translate it into terms that are plainer. But if I have made a mistake, or missed a subtlety of meaning, I’m sure you’ll let me know.
I still think Olson needs to make his case, and I hope he does at some point.