O radiance of the great gods, light of the earth
Illuminator of the world regions
Lofty judge, creator of heaven and earth
O Shamash, by your light you scan the totality of lands as if they were cuneiform signs
You never weary of divination.
—hymn from the reign of Ashurbanipal, qtd. by Derrida in of Grammatology, qtd. by Zainab Bahrani in Rituals of War (61)
I take an especial pleasure in this citation, the way this text joins other texts, like a needle and thread cinching together fabrics.
In no special order, it puts me in mind of:
(1) an Oliver Sacks essay describing research suggesting that the earliest forms of writing were modeled on how our perception made sense of the landscape. That this praise song puts divination into that mix suggests a modality of thought in which a plastic relationship between time, space, people, and spirits serves as the birthplace of language.
(2) W. B. Yeats’s suggestion that the future would be a sort of involution of Babylonian thought. I wonder at spiritualism’s place in this generally, a form of spiritual practice that has time and again thought in proximity to the everyday, made use of its dense stuff to express and embody spiritual realities. If we stop looking at the spiritualist types (gypsies, indians, cowboys, doctors, etc.) as stereotypes but as something substantive in and of themselves? That seems akin to the kind of language-divination that makes the land a rebus.
(3) which connects to some earlier thoughts I have had regarding witchcraft and deconstruction.
(4) and ties back to the insights of Walter Benjamin regarding a sensibility rooted in appreciating the temporal as a medium for the eternal. A way of thinking that allows us to appreciate certain forms of dramatic regressions and repetitions as signs of the interpenetration of temporal and eternal.
There is something to be said here about the fundamental recalcitrance of our embodied experience to all the concepts that it supports, a darkness that we can’t illuminate and which our illumination depends upon. Which gets back to witchcraft as the riding of the darkness, the extraction of dim but potent meanings from it, the workings in which candlelight reveals more of the truth than a lantern.
Hmm…the proximity of thinking and chewing, speaking and eating that Deleuze worked, too, in The Logic of Sense. The living rather than conceptual aspect of that. Living. And the darkness being bound up with a dying. It is really hard to get that into concepts.
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