Dialogue on the Threshold

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Friday, 17 October 2014

Ego diurnus / ego nocturnus

Language of Dreams. [...] It is a language of Images and Sensations, the various dialects of which are far less different from each other, than the various Day-Languages of Nations. Proved even by the Dream Books of different Countries and ages. 2. The images either direct, as when a Letter reminds me of itself, or symbolic -- as Darkness for Calamity. Again, either anticipation or reminiscence. 3. These latter either grounded on some analogy, as to see a friend passing over a broad and deep water = Death, or seemingly arbitrary, as in the signification of Colors, different animals etc. 4. Frequently ironical: as if the fortunes of the Ego diurnus appeared exceedingly droll and ridiculous to the Ego nocturnus -- Dung = Gold etc. So in Nature, Man, Baboon, Horse, Ass. Cats' love and Rage--. 5. Probably a still deeper Dream, or Ὑπερόνειρος, of which there remains only an imageless but profound Presentiment or Boding [...] 6. The Prophets, and the Laws of Moses, the most majestic Instances.-- 7. Prophetic combinations, if there be such, = the instincts previous to the use and to the organ [...] 9. The Conscience -- the Unity of Day and Night [...] Are there two Consciences, the earthly and the Spiritual? -- 10. The sensuous Nature a Lexicon raisonné of Words, treating of, not being, spiritual things -- Our fall at once implied and produced a resistance, this a more or less confused Echo, and this a secondary Echo etc. -- And thus deeming the Echo to be the Words, the Words became Things -- Ἐιδολολατρεῖα. [...] 10. [...] The importance of the Gastric and especially the hepatic -- and the paramouncy of the Ganglionic over the Cerebral in Sleep. The Liver, and lower Abdomen -- the Engastrimuthi, and the prophetic power of diseased Life in the ancient Oracles, hard by Streams and Caverns of deleterious influences -- these numerous in early Paganism, then decreased and with them the Oracles.
Entry 4409, May 1818, The Notebooks of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ed. Kathleen Coburn, Volume 3 (Text): 1808-1819, Bollingen Series 50, Princeton University Press, 1973.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

The venom of our age

Nationalism is the venom of our age. It has brought Europe to the edge of ruin. It drives the new states of Asia and Africa like crazed lemmings. By proclaiming himself a Ghanaian, a Nicaraguan, a Maltese, a man spares himself vexation. He need not ravel out what he is, where his humanity lies. He becomes one of an armed, coherent pack. Every mob impulse in modern politics, every totalitarian design, feeds on nationalism, on the drug of hatred which makes human beings bare their teeth across a wall, across ten yards of waste ground.

George Steiner, "A Kind of Survivor", Language and Silence. Essays 1958-1966, Penguin: Harmondsworth, 1969, pp. 132-33.

See also Husk and kernel.

Thursday, 9 October 2014


Bellarmin (1) makes sweating and crowding one of the chief torments of Hell, which Lessius (2) (no doubt after an actual and careful survey,) affirms to be exactly a Dutch mile (about a league and a half English,), in diameter. But Ribera (3), grounding his map on deductions from the Apocalypse, makes it 200 Italian miles. Lessius, it may be presumed, was a Protestant, for whom, of course, a smaller Hell would suffice.
In the early part of the last century an enquiry was published by the Rev. Tobias Swinden, into the nature and place of Hell (4). The former, according to this Divine, had been accurately understood, burning being the punishment, and the duration without end; but as to the "local habitation" of the reprobate, all opinions had been erroneous. Drexelius (5) had estimated the sum total of the damned at one hundred thousand millions, all of whom, (like Lessius) he calculated might be contained within a square German mile, and not stowed closer than negroes in a Liverpool slave ship: but this appeared to the English Theologian "a poor, mean, and narrow conception both of the numbers of the damned, and of the dimensions of Hell"; for if their immateriality and compressibility were to be alleged, you might as well, he said, squeeze them at once into a common baker's oven. His ideas were upon a grander scale. There was not room enough, according to him, in the centre of the earth for "Eternal Tophet". Burnet's (6) absorpt sun he thought a much more noble idea of such a furnace of fire. But his own opinion was, that Tophet was our very Sun, which must be acknowledged by all to be capacious enough for the purpose. The time of the sun's creation is a strong reason for admitting the hypothesis, being just after the fall of the Devil and his angels. It is true that the sun is said to have been made on the fourth day; but light, and evening and morning, are mentioned as having previously existed; now these as proceeding from the sun, could not have been before it; making on the fourth day therefore can only mean putting it in motion. The darkness which is predicated of Tophet may at first, he admits, seem an objection, but it exists in the maculae, the spots of the sun, which may be deep caverns and dens, proper seats of the blackness of darkness. Upon this hypothesis, the reason why sun-worship has been found so widely extended becomes manifest; it would be as peculiarly acceptable to Satan, as serpent-worship is known to have been.
This was indeed making the souls of the wicked of some use, as Nero did the Christian when he rolled them up in tow, dipt them in pitch, and set fire to them, as torches to light up the streets of Rome. They were so many living wicks of Asbestos, fed with the inextinguishable oil of divine vengeance, that they might be burning and shining lights to the world. If Jonathan Edwards (7) had seen this book he might have adopted its hypothesis as a new proof of "the glory of God in the damnation of sinners".
With what feelings could this man have looked at the setting sun?

[Robert Southey and S. T. Coleridge], Omniana or Horae Otiosiores, Longman, 1812. No. 17 "Hell".

(1) Roberto Francesco Romolo Bellarmino (1542-1621). Italian Jesuit and Cardinal, who played a rôle in the Galileo affair.
(2) Leonardus Lessius (1554-1623). Flemish Jesuit.
(3) Francisco Ribera (1537-1591). Spanish Jesuit, who, in 1585, published a commentary on the Apocalypse.
(4) Tobias Swinden, M. A. Late Rector of Caxton in Kent, An Enquiry into the Nature and Place of Hell. Shewing I. The Reasonableness of a Future State. II. The Punishments of the next Life. III. The several Opinions concerning the Place of Hell. IV. That the Fire of Hell is not metaphorical, but real. V. The improbability of that Fire's being in, or about the Center of the Earth. VI. The probability of the Sun's being the Local Hell, with Reasons for this Conjecture; and the Objections from Atheism, Philosophy, and the Holy Scriptures Answered. With a Supplement, wherein the Notions of Abp. Tillotson, Dr. Lupton, and Others, as to the Eternity of Hell Torments, are impartially represented. And the Rev. Mr. Wall's Sentiments of this learned Work. The Second Edition. London: Printed by H. P. for Tho. Astley, at the Dolphin and Crown in St. Paul's Church-Yard, 1727.
(5) Jeremias Drexel (1581-1638). Bavarian Jesuit. He calculates the volume of Hell in Infernus damnatorum carcerus et rogus (1623), the second part of his work on eternity, De aeternitate considerationes.
(6) Thomas Burnet (1635-1715). English theologian and cosmogonist.
(7) Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). American preacher and theologian.