Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Doors of Percpetion & the learned foolery of research

"He was delicate; he had mischievous moods; he could play. He carried his rag doll
about him for company until he was eight. He was fond of grumbling."
Sybille Bedford

"... le génie est le meneur de jeu en personne... Peut-être est-il aujourd'hui même 
dans un endroit auquel on ne pense guère. Car c'est souvent un hérétique aux yeux 
du dogme. L'école ferait bien de le garder comme un secret dans une chambre 
close... un mage! Il faudrait donner un cours en dehors du complexe scolaire... 
construction du secret."
Paul Klee (traduction par Pierre-Henri Gonthier)

"Daniela, telefonando de Londres, ficou horrorizada. Achou que eu tivesse me
convertido a algum novo tipo de religião."
Gerald Thomas

"... there is a critical blindspot. The more intently we look for the answer
in terms of the grid, the more impossible the task becomes."
Thomas P. Kasulis

"Nietzsche critique Darwin, parce que celui-ci interprète l'évolution, et même le hasard
dans l'évolution, d'une manière toute réactive. Il admire Lamarck, parce que Lamarck 
a pressenti l'existence d'une force plastique vraiment active..."
Gilles Deleuze

"... cette force d'inertie dont tout le monde parle à mots couverts, et qui n'est jamais devenue 
si obscure que depuis que toute la terre et la vie présente se sont mêlées de l'élucider..." 

Main Hall:
"There is always money for, there are always doctorates in, the learned foolery of research into what, for scholars, is the all-important problem: Who influenced whom to say what when? ...But when it comes to finding out how you and I, our children and grandchildren, may become more perceptive, more intensely aware of inward and outward reality, more open to Spirit, less apt, by psychological malpractices, to make ourselves physically ill, and more capable of controlling our own autonomic nervous system... no really respectable university or church will do anything about it... 
Besides, this matter of education in the non-verbal humanities will not fit into any of the established pigeonholes. It is not religion, not neurology, not gymnastics, not morality or civics, not even experimental psychology. This being so the subject is, for academic and ecclesiastical purposes, non-existent and may safely be ignored altogether or left, with a patronizing smile, to those whom the Pharisees of verbal orthodoxy call cranks, quacks, charlatans and unqualified amateurs."

By "non-verbal humanities," Huxley means investigations possibly related to traditional academic disciplines such as philosophy, history, the study of literature, painting etc., but not hampered by the many conceptual systems and "notions" that hinder direct experience of reality as a Bergsonian living field of interconnected intensities. (It is through Henri Bergson that Huxley makes sense of his experience with mescaline. Bergson comes second only to William Blake in terms of importance to Huxley's essay.)

Huxley criticism of universities and churches is fair and still valuable (and even more now than then). 
The only (but serious) problem with this essay is Huxley understanding of art mainly in terms of "symbols," as if a painting or a madrigal would have to "stand for" other things. What Cézanne and Alban Berg do is definitely more than merely representing things.
And in "Heaven and Hell," Huxley recognizes that "in nature, as in a work of art, the isolation of an object tends to invest it with absoluteness, to endow it with that more-than-symbolic meaning which is identical with being." He also tempers his criticism of Modern art: "Looking at Ny, Ny, I was amazed to see that every pictorial device invented by the old masters of non-representational art and reproduced ad nauseam by the academicians and mannerists of the school, for the last forty years or more, makes its appearance, alive, glowing, intensely significant, in the sequences of Mr. Thompson's film."

Alfred Dedreux as a Child (Géricault)

From Hal Ashby's
Harold and Maude
(USA, 1971)

'Even as dogs have become beloved pets in the U.S., treated as members of the family, with harsh punishments for those who abuse them, the behavior of corporate and academic entities that subject dogs to gruesome experimentations has barely changed. It’s a strange hypocrisy: Individuals may not abuse these animals, but corporations can...' (Bred do Suffer: Inside the Barbaric U.S. Industry of Dog Experimentation, The Intercept);

"In the fall of 1949, the influential scientific General Advisory Committee of the AEC recommended not to proceed with the hydrogen bomb. The majority, consisting of Oppenheimer, Conant, and Lee DuBridge (a physicist and president of Caltech) argued in ethical and political terms that the bomb was unnecessary, indeed, unwanted, because its use would involve a decision to slaughter a vast number of civilians... Fermi and Rabi agreed in the rejection of what they considered to be a danger to humanity as a whole and necessarily an evil thing considered in any light... Arthur Comton had advised hat this development should not be undertaken, primarily because we should prefer defeat in war to a victory obtained at the expense of the enourmous human disaster that would be caused... There were other and louder voices, especially that of Teller, who argued passionately for a thermonuclear crash program. During the beginning of the Cold War, his voice reached the ears of many politicians and, not surprisingly, generals and admirals... President Truman authorized the development of a superbomb based on fusion... Many of America's best physicists, including some of those (Oppenheimer, Bethe and Fermi) who had argued against the superbomb, now engaged collectively in an effort to find a way of how to construct the bomb... by 1952 a thermonuclear test device, called Mike, was ready... It took one and a half years of hard work to develop Mike into a real bomb that could be dropped from an airplane. The result was Bravo... The destructive yield was awesome, corresponding to about 15 megatons of TNT or more than 1000 times as much as the 1945 Hiroshima bomb... The Soviet Union followed quickly in the new arms race..." (Helge Kragh, Quantum Generations);

"... historians of science have suggested that... the military spirit is identifiable even in the pragmatic and instrumentalist attitude toward high-energy physics that characterized many American theorists" (Kragh, 300) 

"... one of the effects of the new kind of big science was a marked shift of the role of the physicist, from an individual researcher to a small wheel in a collective research effort. It was a shift that many physicists of the old school deplored. One of them was Percy Bridgman, the Nobel laureate and philosopher of science, who argued that the new style of physcis was detrimental to creative ideas and intellecutal freedom... this was a critique to be repeated and reinforced by a younger generation of physicists" (Kragh, 307).

See also: 

And also: