Archive | April 2015

Return of the Native

The great Victorian novelist Thomas Hardy (1840 – 1928, and I really love his writings) published a book around 1878 entitled The Return of the Native. Nietzsche was writing at the same time about the re-emergence of the Dionysian consciousness, while Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894)  published his novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1886, which had come to him as a dream. The Late Victorian period was a strange, strange time, in that respect. The stifling emphasis on propriety and decorum and even priggishness (which we refer to as “Victorianism”) was really an overcompensation for this fearful irruption of the orgiastic pagan or “return of the native”. Hardy, Nietzsche, Stevenson were only the consciousness or heralds of this incipient return of the pagan or Dionysian, along with its destructive power exercised against all the formalities, orders, institutions which had kept it suppressed and repressed (including the Church).

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Science and the Return of Magic

Once more, I want to touch upon a subject that I took up a while ago in The Chrysalis as an all-important historical episode in the origins of the Modern Era and its characteristic consciousness structure (ergo, mode of perception — the perspectival). I’m referring to a decision made by one of the “founding fathers” of science (and modernity more broadly), Sir Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626), in assessing the relative merits of “science or magic” for the human conquest and mastery of Nature. Bacon is the source of that motto “scientia potens est” (“knowledge is power”) which even came to adorn the logo for the very controversial (even perverse) Total Information Awareness project.

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The Veil

The veil and wearing the veil or niqab has become somewhat controversial in Western societies, with even attempts to ban it by law in some places. Westerners have, somewhat hypocritically, an especial antipathy to veils and veiling, which arouses suspicion about someone having something to hide. Ironically, some Muslims feel the same way about Westerners who wear perfumes and scents. We might find it humorous when Rumi repeatedly states that he knows someone by their fragrance or odour, but there’s good reason for that. The nose knows, as it were.

The Westerner “knows” by the perspectivising eye, and the Sufi “knows” by the intimacy of smell. There’s lots of opportunity for mutual misunderstanding there. Basically, it goes back again to the invention of perspective. Perspectivism or perspective illusionism was banned in Muslim countries as “competing with God”. It was equated with making images or idols. The emphasis in knowing remained on the other senses, whereas it shifted to the eye in Modern Era. “Seeing  is believing” doesn’t necessarily make sense to someone from the Middle East who knows the dangers of the mirage.
A perspective painting is also a mirage.

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