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zenomax - lost waves and imaginary oceans

Club Read 2016

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Edited: Feb 10, 2016, 1:24pm Top

Currently reading:

Modernity and the Holocaust, Zygmunt Bauman
The Mysterium Lectures, Edward Edinger
The Kindly Ones, Jonathan Littell

Edited: Jan 16, 2016, 3:40am Top

Some books I really need to think about reading in 2016.

Books I own but haven't read:

The Christian Archetype: A Jungian Commentary on the Life of Christ, Edward Edinger
The Creation of Consciousness: Jung's Myth for Modern Man, Edward Edinger
The Aion Lectures: Exploring the Self in C.G. Jung's Aion, Edward Edinger
Dante's Inferno
A Vision, W B Yeats
The Seven Who Were Hanged, Leonid Andreyev

Books I have started but need to really try to finish:

Zibaldone, Giacomo Leopardi. (ETA picking this up again, but it is a massive book)
The Exegesis of Philip K Dick, PKD
The Mysterium Lectures, Edward Edinger

Books I don't (yet) own:

The Hour of the Star, Clarice Lispector (ETA: I now own this, it arrived today 2 Jan.)
The Lost steps, Alejo Carpentier
Earwitness: Fifty Characters Elias Canetti (ETA: I now own this, it arrived today 2 Jan.)
Crowds and Power, Elias Canetti (ETA: I now own this, it arrived today 8 Jan.)

Many, many books by Leonid Andreyev.

The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens, and the i Ching, Terence and Dennis McKenna (ETA: I now own this book as of 15 Jan.)
Modernity and the Holocaust, Zygmunt Bauman

Potential re-reads:

Memories, Dreams, Reflection, C G Jung.

Dec 30, 2015, 11:38pm Top

Hi Zeno. Dante is on my list, too. I have several translations and some critical help, but just haven't plunged into yet. Maybe this year if I can pull myself away from the Ancient Greeks.

Edited: Jan 1, 2016, 3:35pm Top

Hi Dennis, happy new year - impressive reading as ever. I've read a bit of crowds and power, serious stuff about Josephus. Good luck with Dante, I only ever made it a few circles of hell in, the edition you linked to looks interesting. Your Jungian reading also looks fascinating, especially about Christ.

Jan 1, 2016, 3:55pm Top

Wonderful title and image to start of the new year. Great books on your not (yet) owned books list.

Jan 1, 2016, 8:07pm Top

Happy New Year, Z! I plan to read The Lost Steps this month.

Jan 1, 2016, 8:51pm Top

Those of you planning to read Dante might want to check out Danteworlds: http://danteworlds.laits.utexas.edu/

Jan 2, 2016, 11:15am Top

Teresa, Tony, SassyLassy and Darryl - thanks for visiting, and for your kind comments. Jane - thanks for the link.

Happy new year to you all.

Edited: Jan 2, 2016, 11:41am Top

Book review.

Ice, Anna Kavan.

An obsessional fantasy figure produced from inside the mind of a character who is himself (herself) a fantasy, set in a fantastical world where encroaching ice and war are allegories for the increasing darkness of the mind.

The author of such a black dreamscape was a victim of drugs and mental health issues, including periodic institutionalization. This story may well reflect many of her concerns. Kavan's stories may often start out as sugar and spice, but they quickly degenerate into something akin to the gingerbread man running amok in toytown with a flame thrower.

It has been called science fiction, but Kavan is actually just producing something tormented from her own mind, using her excellent imagination and powers of description to let loose a white, grey and black world, punctuated only occasionally by flaming red.

Edited: Jan 15, 2016, 12:45pm Top

Other books by Anna Kavan I have read:

Sleep has his house, which I highly recommend.

Jan 2, 2016, 12:13pm Top

Nice review of Ice. It sounds intriguing, so I clicked the touchstone and read other reviews. Each of those was as ambiguous and intriguing as your review. I feel the need to read it.

Jan 2, 2016, 7:44pm Top

I have a copy of Ice to read. May wait till the summer though.

Jan 3, 2016, 7:10pm Top

Hi Dennis. Looking forward to your thread. I hope to do better this year at keeping up. The Elias Canetti interests me very much. Hope you will have more to say about it. Happy New Year!

Jan 3, 2016, 9:03pm Top

Also joining those curious about Ice. Will be on the lookout for it.

Edited: Jan 4, 2016, 1:02pm Top

Book review.

Thought Forms, Annie Besant.

Besant was a most interesting woman. She was, from her early adult years, a free thinker, becoming in time a secularist, socialist, women's rights activist and birth control campaigner. She eventually met Madam Blavatsky, the great theosophist thinker, and dropped her secularist and political activities in favour of promoting the theosophist cause.

Thought Forms is a fascinating book. It attempts to illustrate the pictorial 'aura' that certain higher thoughts give off in the mind. The nature of the thought determines the colour, shape and intensity of the picture given off. Those with the right sensibility and training can see this pictorial representation of the thought/emotion as a visible 'aura'.

"The mental body is an object of great beauty, the delicacy and rapid motion of its particles giving it an aspect of iridescent light....Every thought gives rise to a set of correlated vibrations in the matter of this body, accompanied with a marvelous play of colour, like that in the spray of a waterfall as the sunlight strikes it, raised to the nth degree of colour and vivid delicacy. The body under this impulse throws off a vibrating portion of itself, shaped by the nature of the vibrations - as figures are made by sand on a disk vibrating to a musical note - and this gathers from the surrounding atmosphere matter like itself in fineness from the elemental essence of the mental world."

As mentioned before, there is a colour key which helps determine the nature of the feeling behind the thought. For instance:

"Red, of all shades from lurid brick-red to brilliant scarlet, indicates anger; brutal anger will show as flashes of lurid red from dark brown clouds, while the anger of 'noble indignation' is a vivid scarlet, by no means unbeautiful, though it gives an unpleasant thrill; a particularly dark and unpleasant red, almost exactly the colour called Dragon's Blood, shows animal passion and sensual desire of various kinds. Clear brown (almost burnt sienna) shows avarice; hard dull brown-grey is a sign of selfishness - a colour which is indeed painfully common; deep heavy grey signifies depression, while a livid pale grey is associated with fear; grey-green is a signal of deceit, while brownish-green (usually flecked with points and flashes of scarlet) betokens jealousy. Green seems always to denote adaptability; in the lowest case, when mingled with selfishness, this adaptability becomes deceit; at a later stage, when the colour becomes purer, it means rather the wish to be all things to all men, even though it my be chiefly for the sake of becoming popular and bearing a good reputation with them; in its still higher, more delicate and more luminous aspect, it shows the divine power of sympathy. Affection expresses itself in all shades of crimson and rose; a full clear carmine means a strong healthy affection of normal type; if stained heavily with brown-grey, a selfish and grasping feeling is indicated, while pure pale rose marks that absolutely unselfish love which is possible in only higher natures; it passes from the dull crimson of animal love to the most exquisite shades of delicate rose, like the early flushes of the dawning...."

So what do these thought forms look like? The illustrated forms in the book cover a wide range of emotions, from the everyday to the enlightened.

The examples below represent (from left to right) 'Radiating Affection', 'Sudden Fright' and 'The Logos as Manifested in Man'.

From today's viewpoint it is easy to make fun of these 'thought forms' as delusional and naïve. However, it should be added that an interest in 'sacred geometry' continues to this day. For instance, the figures made by sand on a disk vibrating to a musical note, as mentioned in the first quote, have now been incorporated within 'cymatics', a school of thought/experiment that considers the patterns made by sand, water or other malleable phenomena when subjected to vibration (eg musical notes).

One cymatics researcher, Dr. Masaru Emoto even produced his own cymatic 'thought forms' in a (now largely discredited) experiment. Emoto believed that water was subject to vibrations emanating from human thoughts, and he used water crystals to freeze these vibrating patterns. His images of these water crystals are quite beautiful, and yet also have that same naïve quality about them as Besants 'thought form' pictograms. It is as if they wanted to believe so much that they imagined the images into life.

Here are some of Emoto's water crystal images with the associated thoughts or musical influence:

It also is worth noting that George Gurdjieff, the populariser of the enneagram in western society, held great store in the power of vibrations. In effect, vibrational power was the life-force of the universe and had both sacred and functional properties.

With respect to the symbolic importance of colour for Besant's forms, it is notable that many occult or gnostic exponents, particularly those who dabbled in constructing personality type systems, also hold great store in the symbolic, allegorical, metaphorical or perhaps very real power of colours. Thus, Jung, Gurdjieff, Yeats, Goethe, all exponents of personality systems of some kind, had great respect for colour. Other offbeat, gnostical types, such as Baudelaire, used colour in their works as some sort of mystical factor, making the world more real, more multi dimensional, perhaps more exquisite (this certainly seems the case for Baudelaire in my reading of his works).

Finally, this striving of Besant for something above the everyday, for a visualization of higher planes of reality, for the mystical, is perhaps not really so different from Jung's striving to understand the archetypal images which remain obscured within our personal, and collective unconscious. Jung valued dream imagery and any imagery that emerged from visionary experiences because, to him, this gave us insight into the shadowy forms of the archetypes. I think that Besant was somehow striving for the same thing, via a related, but perhaps ultimately dead end route.

Jan 4, 2016, 1:05pm Top

fuzzy, bas, Suzanne and Jane - thanks for your comments. For those of you who are tempted to read Ice, my advice to you is to indeed read it. Relatively short and rewarding in an odd way.

Suzanne, the Elias Canetti book is up next, about quarter of the way through it so far.

Jan 4, 2016, 4:47pm Top

Keep it coming Zeno!

Jan 4, 2016, 6:38pm Top

Fascinating, Zeno. I've heard Besant's name, but had no idea who she was. Interesting about her connection to Blatvasky. Also, I know of Goethe's writings on color, but Yeats? I had no idea.

Jan 4, 2016, 8:38pm Top

Nice review of Ice, Z. I'll be on the lookout for it as well.

Edited: Jan 5, 2016, 8:19am Top

Teresa, Yeats certainly didn't have a whole theory of colour in the way the Goethe did. I am thinking more of his feelings about colour - colour is given more than its face value, it becomes symbolic of greater things, each colour evokes emotions.

Consider this passage:

"All sounds, all colours, all forms, either because of their pre-ordained energies or because of long association, evoke indefinable and yet precise emotions, or, as I prefer to think, call down among us certain disembodied powers, whose footsteps over our hearts we call emotions; and when sound, and colour, and form are in a musical relation, a beautiful relation to one another, they become as it were one sound, one colour, one form, and evoke an emotion that is made out of their distinct evocations and yet is one emotion. .... Because an emotion does not exist, or does not become perceptible and active among us, till it has found its expression, in colour or in sound or in form, or in all of these, and because no two modulations or arrangements of these evoke the same emotion, poets and painters and musicians, and in a less degree because their effects are momentary, day and night and cloud and shadow, are continually making and unmaking mankind."

- William B Yeats, The Symbolism of Poetry, 1900.

Jan 5, 2016, 8:19am Top

March-Hare - thanks for the encouragement. I'm trying!

Darryl, thanks - hope you get to read Ice this year.

Edited: Jan 5, 2016, 11:50am Top

>20 zenomax: Thanks for that. Very interesting. I had googled "Yeats and color" and found this book, which of course references The Symbolism of Poetry: Yeats and the Visual Arts

Jan 5, 2016, 12:30pm Top

Fascinated by your review. Are you tuned in to reading auras?

Jan 5, 2016, 9:15pm Top

Happy New Year!
>9 zenomax: This is an interesting review, I haven't read anything by Anna Kavan before, and have bookmarked this for my list.
Look forward to your reading this year!

Jan 6, 2016, 9:41pm Top

My eyes went a little bleary on the Besant quotes, but the Yeats quote is brilliant. Thanks for that.

Edited: Jan 10, 2016, 11:49am Top

22 Teresa, you are welcome.

23 Alison - no I can't claim to read auras in the way Besant imagines them. I do have a feel for 'damaged' people and those people seemingly without power in this world. I can often 'see' some sort of aura around them, but can't explain what it is exactly.

24 reva happy new year to you too. Hoe you enjoy Anna Kavan when you get to her.

25 Dan, glad you enjoyed the Yeats quote. I plan to read through Yeats' A Vision later this year. This incorporates his own personality theory, as dictated to him by the spirit world, via the medium-ship of his wife.

Jan 10, 2016, 5:08pm Top

Ditto re the Yeats quote --- very evocative.

Edited: Jan 15, 2016, 12:43pm Top

Book review:

Earwitness: Fifty Characters, Elias Canetti

Canetti creates vignettes of fifty characters. They are prototypes rather than real people. Perhaps we could even call them archetypes. They are exaggerated in their ways and their deeds - but one can't help but think they are based on people Canetti knew, and, perhaps, are equally identifiable to us.

In a manner not dissimilar to Kafka, Canetti perhaps looks to both highlight our everyday absurdities and point to a higher realm of things (archetypes, a collective unconscious?) that define the boundaries or rules for these absurdities. In this way I suspect this book may be a complement to Calvino's Invisible Cities in that it gets to some subconscious truths behind our conscious worlds.

The character descriptions are hampered somewhat by the clunky translation, but even so Canetti's imaginative powers shine through here.


'The Loser' - who sheds possessions as he walks along:

"One could think he does not notice it at all, one could think he is sleepwalking and does not realize he is walking and losing, it happens by itself, uninterruptedly, all the time, but no, that is not the way he is, he really has to sense it, he senses every little thing, otherwise it is no fun, he has to know that he has losses, he has to know it constantly."

Jan 15, 2016, 2:28pm Top

>9 zenomax: Wow. this does not sound like my cup of tea. However, your reviews are thoughtful and look deeper than the source material. they are a joy to read.

>28 zenomax: This sounds interesting. It appears that the translation did not hamper your enjoyment of the material.

Jan 15, 2016, 10:03pm Top

>28 zenomax: That this might be a complement to Calvino's Invisible Cities really piques my interest as it is one of my favorite books. I shall definitely look for this one.

Jan 16, 2016, 9:32am Top

Suzanne, a complement but not in the same exemplary class as Invisible Cities. More an interesting side road.

Jan 16, 2016, 9:33am Top

29 brodiew - thanks for your kind words.

Jan 17, 2016, 9:34am Top

Nice review of Earwitness, Z. I'll keep my eye out for it.

Jan 28, 2016, 8:30pm Top

Got to your thread at last, zeno. Your thoughts on colour remind me of Scriabin and his colour-music mysticism. Around 1915 he composed a piece of music which required an instrument invented for the purpose, a "clavier à lumières" in which each note was supposed to shine out a corresponding colour instead of playing a sound. It was supposed to generate a mystical euphoric experience and quite possibly the end of the world. Good old Scriabin. I've seen a re-creation of that composition on a documentary, and the result (especially to our modern ways of seeing) was distinctly underwhelming. A term applied to his work and ideas which I like is 'artificial synesthesia'.


Feb 10, 2016, 3:38am Top

33 thanks Darryl.

34 hi Rena, very interesting on Scriabin. I like the term artificial synesthesia too. But perhaps it is not so artificial - I don't have synesthesia but colour and shape do affect me, a colour scheme can affect how I feel - if a PowerPoint presentation, for instance, has colours that I dislike I find it almost impossible to take in what is being presented. I also find symbols very powerful, more powerful than words. So I can imagine Scriabin having a similar relationship with colour which he tried to illuminate for others?

Feb 10, 2016, 5:56am Top

It's very likely, Dennis, you're right. If he didn't have an affinity with colour in the first place, he wouldn't want to create such a mysticism around them. I was in a room today that had a very strong smell (food of some kind, couldn't place it). And the smell was yellow! A sort of greenish yellow, which sounds disgusting, but was actually appetising at first. I only realised afterwards that this smell had a colour. Most interesting, I thought. And I have a strong reaction to colour schemes too; I don't know if it's universal or not. Anyway, I do wish I had musical synesthesia. I think it'd help enormously both to understand the music I hear and also to memorise the music I learn to play.

I'm not surprised about you and symbols. If I see a mystical and complicated symbol any time, I think of you!

Edited: Feb 12, 2016, 10:47am Top

I found this thread when I was looking for what people have talked about the Zibaldone (which I'm about to start) and wow, great reviews and fascinating books in here! I absolutely had to order a copy of Ice immediately.

Feb 12, 2016, 5:46pm Top

36 a mystical and complicated symbol, thanks Rena, I think.

37 thanks for your kind words. Zibaldone seems like a bible or encyclopaedia of life, mystical and arcane thoughts, and maybe of some reality behind reality, something I am inordinately interested in.

Edited: Mar 7, 2016, 4:43pm Top


Mar 19, 2016, 8:47am Top

I really need to get my act together with this thread.

I am currently reading two books which look at the Holocaust in similar terms. One is The Kindly Ones, Jonathan Littell's controversial novel tracking the experience of one SS officer involved in killing Jews, communists and civilians in the Second World War. Although Littell, to my knowledge, doesn't cite my other book as an influence, the narrative is similar - that modernist bureaucracy had an intrinsic part to play in the genocide. Thus the Holocaust, and indeed the Nazi regime, were not an aberration, but were actually an aspect of the modernist, rational, world.

The second book I am reading is Modernity and the Holocaust, by Zygmunt Bauman. Bauman argues that modernity generates unintended consequences of bureaucratic complexity which help create the conditions in which moral responsibility can disappear. So perhaps modernity is a rationalized response to that which is neither efficient nor effective. The visions of whoever is in power in such a modernist world, although irrational perhaps, can still spark the bureaucratic organization into life. Its cogs start turning, and the inevitable outcome is that 'improvement' and 'social engineering' become the driving force.

As Bauman puts it:

"...the bureaucratic culture which prompts us to view society as an object of administration, as a collection of so many 'problems' to be solved, as 'nature' to be 'controlled', 'mastered' and 'improved' or 'remade', as a legitimate target for 'social engineering', and in general a garden to be designed and kept in the planned shape by force (the gardening posture divides vegetation into 'cultured plants' to be taken care of, and weeds to be exterminated), was the very atmosphere in which the idea of the Holocaust could be conceived, slowly yet consistently developed, and brought to its conclusion."

I would argue that bureaucracy is fundamentally changing - governments are shrinking and the private sector is taking up the reins - what does this mean for the bureaucratic culture? There are still ideological directives from ideological/reforming governments - but now they are enacted by private concerns.

Writing this has also brought me back to an influential essay I read a few years ago by Isaiah Berlin. The Hedgehog and the Fox was, Berlin later stated, not meant to be taken seriously. However, it did explain a fundamental difference in how we can see the world. Berlin argued, using Tolstoy as his example, that one could be suspicious of the modern, rational, scientific world, because it lead one to imperatives about what one ought to do, which lead to one trying to force on others what they ought to do. Whilst such certainty about what was right might be comforting, it is inevitably erroneous and results usually in mass suffering. The alternative view, a la Tolstoy, was that nature was paramount, we cannot second guess it, and we need to ritualize our response rather than take literal actions of improvement. If we cannot wholly know the intentions of nature or God or the gods, we cannot be in a position to control, master and improve.

Reading is still in progress, although it is tough going.

May 29, 2016, 3:51pm Top

Missing your posts Dennis (though just now had time to catch up - and glad to do so unhurriedly).

I really enjoyed your thoughts on Annie Besant and then on Yeats. Sad that in modern times such attempts are assigned to oddity by the conventions of what we think we know, and maybe a lot of people are dissuaded from fruitful speculation.

I recently read the chapter on Yeats in Axel's Castle and it reminded me of how much I enjoy his thinking in prose. Must allow myself to read him better - have you made it to A Vision yet?

Finally Bauman sounds very interesting. It did make me wonder if those that would control in this way are just modern - this goes back a long way, though it permeates society now. Then that makes me wonder if in the west it is more modern - I have no idea, need to think about that. Somehow this also links back to Besant for me.

I have tried to read Berlin's famous essay - not sure I ever managed to finish it, yet always interesting when people bring it up, I think I go cross eyed when i try to read this one.

Jun 19, 2016, 5:04am Top

Hi Tony - my posts on LT a little erratic at present as I am undergoing long term medical treatment. On the one hand this gives me a lot of spare time, but on the other hand I am not always in a frame of mind to read and write a lot.

However, I plan to do more on here given that I have a lot of time on my hands, so I'll try to get this thread of the ground properly again soon.

Thanks for your comments on Besant, Yeats, Bauman and Berlin. The Berlin essay was a kind of turning point for me, as I think I've said before - utopian progress versus ancient wisdom - I would have always favoured the former, as I believed progress was part of life, but now I see things a little differently. Progress is something internal that one goes through, not by telling others what to do. Whether it is Jung or traditionally religious or gnostic, there is a kind of inner reckoning whereby one has to find oneself, reconcile the shadow, and then connect to the universe/God/gods/nature.

That is where I have got to with all this, anyway.

Edited: Jun 19, 2016, 6:14am Top

Thanks Dennis - I totally agree on that need, it sums up a lot of our journey. It is good to hear from you and I wish you all my best wishes for your treatment.

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