Monday, October 1, 2007

Universality: Irrationality, Absurdity, Perception, MagicK, Negative Capability, Awareness, etc.

Torben and I had an interesting discussion after class today. Remember in class (sorry for those of you who aren't in the class...hopefully you can catch on...or someone can fill you in) when Alex was talking about when he investigated things in depth (Sicilian folklore in his case) and how he found that so much was completely universal. You would think that the more 'specific' you get the more you would be able to contrast things from each other. Maybe we think that way because that is how academia and the working world are set up...the idea that you become incredibly specialized in a different field than everything/everyone else...that your field is your specialty and you don't deal with anything else. Integrated studies' ability to be universal suits us well here.

I have also found as I study things closely (humanities, music, philosophy, art, ecology and other sciences, etc.) I find similar characteristics that cross all fields and boundaries. This is becoming especially apparent to me in this language class. Especially today’s discussion and how I feel like it (along with many things we’ve discussed in class) is complimented by John Keats’ “Negative Capability”, which I will talk about in a minute.

Our discussion today that was sparked by the Julian quote, the Merleau-Ponty quote, and the Greek Magic(k)al Papyri about Magickal/absurd (?)/irrational processes as a way to expand your mind and perception into being vulnerable to things that are unpredictable and uncontrollable so that we can experience things the we don't already know happened to really interest me! (How is that for a run on sentence?) I can't help (with Torben's help) to draw the obvious connection to Keats' thoughts about Negative Capability (which we also discussed in class before...).

Let's indulge!

John Keats on 'Negative Capability':
"I had not a dispute but a disquisition, with Dilke on various subjects; several things dove-tailed in my mind, and at once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously - I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason-Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge. This pursued through volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration."

Julian (quote from class handout):
"Shall we write about the things not to be spoken of? Shall we divulge the thing not to be divulged? Shall we pronounce the things not to be pronounced?"

Yes, we should!

Merleau-Ponty (quote from class handout):
"But the system of experience is not arrayed before me as if I were God, it is lived by me from a certain point of view; I am not the spectator, I am involved, and it is my involvement in a point of view which makes possible both the finiteness of my perception and its opening out upon the complete world as a horizon of every perception."

In an earlier class in the semester we talked about Negative Capability and how it is about being comfortable with the unfamiliar, the unknown, intense experiences, the absurd, the irrational (without, of course, letting it totally demolish you) and walking away CHANGED BY IT.

The Merleau-Ponty quote, the Julian quote, the Keats' quote and the discussion we had about Negative Capability are similar in the way that it is about a person spectating, being involved in and experiencing things (many times 'irrational' or 'absurd' or 'unknown' things) and gaining insight and expanding perception as a result of that. Entering the experience without the lust for a particular result (from our discussion on Crowley) that, again, we may experience something unexpected, something that we aren't familiar with or don't already know.

Yeah, it's also in Aleister Crowley's "Magick in Theory and Practice" (Book Four, Part Three, Page 188) that we also read for class (I’m beginning to think that Scott and Alex chose all of these readings for a REASON!...ha.):
"It is therefore not quite certain in what the efficacy of conjurations really lies. The peculiar mental excitement required may even be aroused by the perception of the absurdity of the process, and the persistence in it...”

Well, this is fascinating (to me at least)...both the universality and the persistence in absurd processes in order to gain a greater awareness. These ideas are universal, the more we get in to it the more we see that several people are talking about the same things! And somehow these ideas are tied into language.

As Alex said at some point in class today: “Language is all giving, all allowing and all permitting! We are bound to our own limited perception and also open to the horizon of perception! There is more of a need to lose yourself in the irrational so that you can feel again! The irrational as a liberator...a language of empowerment” I just happened to be writing what he was saying at the time. Seriously.

I’m reminded of something that has been going on throughout the whole enabling and disabling language is.

I remember Alex pointing out that a guy named Jaynes laid a lot of these ideas about universality in his book “The Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind”. I looked up that book. The full title is “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” by Julian Jaynes. It looks very interesting! It's on Amazon here and this website seems to be full of information about it and insight into the ideas presented in it. I will have to get a copy of it.

You can read stuff on Keats' ideas about "Negative Capability" here, here and here.

Sorry the post was so long...I couldn't stop.


Scott Abbott said...

wow, I'm deeply impressed at your ability to synthesize such a complex set of issues.

I too walked away from the class full of ideas, surprised to have learned so much from a practicer of magic I had always dismissed. When taken as metaphors (sorry Alex), the magick and the spells are absolutely fascinating ways at looking at language as a thing and things as language.

Torben B said...

When we first started talking about "negative capability," a sentence immediately came into my mind: "uncertainty is the purest mirror." As we continue to delve deeper into the complex issues that surround language, I find myself beginning to better understand what this sentence means.

As we become comfortable with ambiguity and wrestle with uncertain, or even, irrational ideas, we begin to more fully comprehend the nature of the word and the thing. This "negative" realm has a way of reflecting new light on the familiar realm. I hope I'm not being too abstract. Also, I think uncertainty similarly motivates deeper reflection of self, challenging us to approach more vulnerable aspects of the self. When I watch certain films that stretch me, they have a way of shedding light on my vulnerabilities and fears. When we spout out gibberish, and follow with a conventional sentence, the identifiable sentence becomes so clear!

Like Travis, I agree that the closer you get to the issues, the more complex the issues become. However, I think a great deal of this complexity derives from the intricate nature of "simple" things --- the web becomes more distinct, revealing a detailed "web of meaning." Suddenly we begin to see a vast web that connects diverse topics seamlessly, with each contour necessary.

I think this is a great post. Hopefully, I'll add a bit more later. Thanks Travis.

Torben B said...

Just to clarify my last paragraph a bit:

The complexity I brought up is simply the relation of things previously perceived foreign. When I get a chance sometime, I should post my paper "The Tao of Mormonism." I think I argue for the overlap (although, I don't pretend to understand how the overlap works).

Another point from class today:

One thing that really interested me is the "irrational" charging of objects. We are usually used to charging objects or ideas with symbolism grounded in convention. Of course, many narrative goals are accomplished through manipulating symbols, archetypes, etc. and creating a new relationship between the word and the thing. Through charging fingernails with magical attributes, we inevitably enter a space of ambiguity, forcing us to further reflect on the word/thing relationship. However, the key to all of us this, is retaining an open mind to absurdity. Drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa makes a smirk because it reflects on the usual word/thing relationship --- it disrupts convention.

Integrated studies is a perfect tool to analyze the vast approaches to language. An integrated approach allows for a great deal of ambiguity, pushing us to view several facets of a subject through multiple lenses. I think one of the greatest gifts to a critical thinker is the ability to see relationships and seek to understand them more deeply.

Torben B said...

That is, makes us smirk :)

michael morrow said...

Hello, yes, hello. It's Michael. I'm well, I'm sorta lost here in this absurd space of language, symbols, things disconnected from substance. Objects, touchy, that's what I relate to. It's like photos. You know, no, you no, well, I know what I mean. Photos are substance and so much more. Photos are only whatever they are at any given moment. Talk about eyes, and beholder, etc, photos represent this entire conversation. Other than that they become something else next, even to the person holding the camera. Well except for the tri-pod, all bets are off if a tri-pod has been enlisted into the army of shutter-bugs.
I see photos, a great example, consuming this conversation, a snap shot of magik, mystery, verbal incantation, "say cheeze". Photos are: paper, chemicals, time, timing, recognizable, abstract, memory, narrative, dialog, feelings, concrete, perishable, loaded into memory for those who care, especially paper-dolls.
This is a trial entry. I continue to struggle with fear of technology. I trust this machine will be generous, make me look good, intelligent, connected to something reliable.

Grabloid said...

Great comments! I'm bummed out that I missed the discussion that Scott led on the Eckhardt reading. Scott, maybe we can talk about it sometime and about magick taken as metaphors...

I think "uncertainty is the purest mirror" from Torben's comment, really sums things up in a cool way. I also liked the things said about the seeming web of meaning coming clear to us through in depth investigation.

Scott's post that is right after this post really explains what I was trying to get at in this original post. I made some comments on it that I had originally planned on making here (it ties into what Torben was saying about film...), but they are complimented better over check it out.

Grabloid said...

***seemLESS web of meaning :)