Digging Deep, Surfacing

One of the small formative moments in my philosophical life came in a undergraduate course on Islamic philosophy. It was a one-off course for the department, the fruits of having been lucky to land a temporary lecturer who had a side interest in the topic. We were reading (I think) Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi. In the text he was arguing that one of the proofs of the soul’s separation from the body was that while we could tire of physical action, we never tired of mental action.

To which youthful me immediately called bullshit. I assume, now, that al-Razi was making a subtler argument than I gave him credit for, attending to the fatigue of the body capable of shutting down our mental efforts, but even now I don’t really buy that mental actions don’t tire us. Mental action, even when the body is prime rested and wakeful shape, can wear you down.

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Obsession, Art, and Arcons

[This is one of those speculative posts, so bear with me. I am not necessarily saying that I buy everything said here, but I do think it is is worth putting the model out there.]

It’s not too surprising that the Yeatses’ spirits address the source of artistic inspiration. Not only is it of personal relevance to W. B. Yeats, but the system they describe gives the aesthetic a key place. A Vision divides souls into two sorts, primary and antithetical. The primary souls are souls of action, the McBrides of the world in their various forms, but the antithetical souls are thoughtful souls, inclined to subjective, aesthetic, and intellectual pursuits.

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Gnostic Canon?

Every once in a blue moon, because I am a nerd, I get the bug to think about putting together a reading list of books for would-be gnostics, a canon if you will. The few times I have actually started to pull that together, it’s not long before I shelve the whole mess in disgust. I am never satisfied with the list and I am never satisfied with my reasons for including material on it. I have tried to figure out why and I finally put it together when I was reading that interview with Allen Ginsberg:

Very oddly a lady saint Shri Matakrishnaji in Brindaban, whom I consulted about my spiritual problems, told me to take Blake for my guru. There’s all kinds of different gurus, there can be living and nonliving gurus—apparently whoever initiates you, and I apparently was initiated by Blake in terms of at least having an ecstatic experience from him. So that when I got here to Cambridge I had to rush over to the Fitzwilliam Museum to find his misspellings in Songs of Innocence.

I could put together a list of books that meant something to me, that had effects on me along the scale that Ginsberg is talking about in regards to Blake (just skip through that interview using find to locate Blake references–you won’t regret it), but it wouldn’t be anything more than anemic autobiography.

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