Dialogue on the Threshold

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Sunday, 27 September 2015


Wherever the spirit of God is extruded from our human calculations, an unconscious substitute takes its place. In Schopenhauer we find the unconscious Will as the new definition of God, in Carus the unconscious, and in Hegel identification and inflation, the practical equation of philosophical reason with Spirit, thus making possible that intellectual juggling with the object which achieved such horrid brilliance in his philosophy of the State. Hegel offered a solution of the problem raised by epistemological criticism in that he gave ideas a chance to prove their unknown power of autonomy. They induced that hybris of reason which led to Nietzsche's superman and hence to the catastrophe that bears the name of Germany. (...) A philosophy like Hegel's is a self-revelation of the psychic background and, philosophically, a presumption. Psychologically, it amounts to an invasion by the unconscious. The peculiar high-flown language Hegel uses bears out this view: it is reminiscent of the megalomanic language of schizophrenics, who use terrific spellbinding words to reduce the transcendent to subjective form, to give banalities the charm of novelty, or pass off commonplaces as searching wisdom. So bombastic a terminology is a symptom of weakness, ineptitude, and lack of substance. But that does not prevent the latest German philosophy from using the same crackpot power-words and pretending that it is not unintentional psychology. 

Carl Gustav Jung, "Theoretische Überlegungen zum Wesen des Psychischen," Von den Wurzeln des Buwusstseins, Rascher, Zurich, 1954
On the Nature of the Psyche, trans. R. F. C. Hull, Routledge, 2001, pp. 94-95.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

De quelques phénomènes du sommeil

Il peut paroître extraordinaire, mais il est certain que le sommeil est non seulement l’état le plus puissant, mais encore le plus lucide de la pensée, sinon dans les illusions passagères dont il l’enveloppe, du moins dans les perceptions qui en dérivent, et qu’il fait jaillir à son gré de la trame confuse des songes. (…) Il semble que l'esprit, offusqué des ténèbres de la vie extérieure, ne s’en affranchit jamais avec plus de facilité que sous le doux empire de cette mort intermittente, où il lui est permis de reposer dans sa propre essence, et à l’abri de toutes les influences de la personnalité de convention que la société nous a faite. 

Charles Nodier, "De quelques phénomènes du sommeil",
Rêveries littéraires, morales et fantastiques, Brussels, 1832

As extraordinary as it might seem, it is certain that sleep is not only the most powerful, but also the most lucid state of mind, if not in the transient illusions in which it envelops itself, then at least in the perceptions that derive from it, and which it causes at will to gush from the vague weft of dreams. (...) It seems that the spirit, offended at the shadows of exterior life, never releases itself from it with greater ease than under the sweet influence of that intermittent death, when it is permitted to fall back on its own essence, sheltered from all the influences of the conventional personality that society imposes on us.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

The plurality of hells

According to these manifold distinctions in evil, and their nearer or more remote distances from one another, are the several hells divided and regulated with the utmost exactness and congruity. There are also hells under hells, communicating with one another, some by passages, and some by exhalations, according to the agreement or affinity betwixt evil and evil. That the hells are so many and various appears from its being given me to know, that under every mountain, hill, rock, plain and valley, there were particular hells of different extent in length, breadth, and depth. In a word, both heaven and the world of spirits may be considered as convexities, under which are arrangements of those infernal mansions. So much concerning the plurality of hells. 

Emanuel Swedenborg, Treatise Concerning Heaven and Hell, Containing a Relation of many Wonderful Things therein, as heard and seen by the Author. 
 London: Printed and Sold by James Phillips, George Yard, Lombard Street, 1778.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

The regression of listening

In one of his essays, Aldous Huxley has raised the question of who, in a place of amusement, is really being amused. With the same justice, it can be asked whom music for entertainment still entertains. Rather, it seems to complement the reduction of people to silence, the dying out of speech as expression, the inability to communicate at all. It inhabits the pockets of silence that develop between people moulded by anxiety, work and undemanding docility. Everywhere it takes over, unnoticed, the deadly sad rôle that fell to it in the time and the specific situation of the silent films. It is perceived purely as background. If nobody can any longer speak, then certainly nobody can any longer listen.

Theodor W. Adorno, "On the fetish character in music and the regression of listening",  
The Culture Industry, ed. J. M. Bernstein, Routledge, 1991, p. 27