Columbia: Goddess of America

It seems few Americans are aware of Columbia (feminized version of Columbus) who is the goddess of liberty and the personification of America.

As a quasi-mythical figure, Columbia first appears in the poetry of Phillis Wheatley starting in 1776 during the revolutionary war [ . . . ]

This detail is very interesting. Phillis Wheatley was a famous poet who was also a slave. Without enjoying freedom herself, she directed this poem to General Washington. This demonstrates right from the beginning how far short our country was from its own ideals.

Especially in the 19th century, Columbia would be visualized as a goddess-like female national personification of the United States, comparable to the British Britannia, the Italian Italia Turrita and the French Marianne, often seen in political cartoons of the 19th-early 20th century. This personification was sometimes called “Lady Columbia” or “Miss Columbia”.

The image of the personified Columbia was never fixed, but she was most often presented as a woman between youth and middle age, wearing classically draped garments decorated with the stars and stripes; a popular version gave her a red-and-white striped dress and a blue blouse, shawl, or sash spangled with white stars. Her headdress varied; sometimes it included feathers reminiscent of a Native American headdress, sometimes it was a laurel wreath, but most often it was a cap of liberty.

These are the types of historical facts that every American child should have learned in school, but I don’t recall learning about it until I heard Thom Hartmann discuss the topic.

(See his full discussion at Fora.tv)

So, America founded as a Christian nation, eh?

To His Excellency, General Washington
By Phillis Wheatley

Formerly behind the Speaker in the House of Representatives

Celestial choir! enthron’d in realms of light,
Columbia’s scenes of glorious toils I write.
While freedom’s cause her anxious breast alarms,
She flashes dreadful in refulgent arms.
See mother earth her offspring’s fate bemoan,
And nations gaze at scenes before unknown!
See the bright beams of heaven’s revolving light
Involved in sorrows and veil of night!

The goddess comes, she moves divinely fair,
Olive and laurel bind her golden hair:
Wherever shines this native of the skies,
Unnumber’d charms and recent graces rise.

File:Ladyliberty mackinacisland.jpg

One of the 200 Lady Liberty statues donated by the Boy Scouts of America is located on Michigan’s Mackinac Island in historic Haldimand Bay

Muse! bow propitious while my pen relates
How pour her armies through a thousand gates,
As when Eolus heaven’s fair face deforms,
Enwrapp’d in tempest and a night of storms;
Astonish’d ocean feels the wild uproar,
The refluent surges beat the sounding shore;
Or thick as leaves in Autumn’s golden reign,
Such, and so many, moves the warrior’s train.
In bright array they seek the work of war,
Where high unfurl’d the ensign waves in air.
Shall I to Washington their praise recite?
Enough thou know’st them in the fields of fight.
Thee, first in peace and honours,—we demand
The grace and glory of thy martial band.
Fam’d for thy valour, for thy virtues more,
Hear every tongue thy guardian aid implore!

One century scarce perform’d its destined round,

When Gallic powers Columbia’s fury found;
And so may you, whoever dares disgrace
The land of freedom’s heaven-defended race!
Fix’d are the eyes of nations on the scales,
For in their hopes Columbia’s arm prevails.
Anon Britannia droops the pensive head,
While round increase the rising hills of dead.
Ah! cruel blindness to Columbia’s state!
Lament thy thirst of boundless power too late.

Proceed, great chief, with virtue on thy side,
Thy ev’ry action let the goddess guide.
A crown, a mansion, and a throne that shine,
With gold unfading, WASHINGTON! be thine.

“Hail, Columbia” was the unofficial national anthem up until 1931:

File:StatuePacificCemetery.pngHail Columbia, happy land!
Hail, ye heroes, heav’n-born band,
Who fought and bled in freedom’s cause,
Who fought and bled in freedom’s cause,
And when the storm of war was gone
Enjoy’d the peace your valor won.
Let independence be our boast,
Ever mindful what it cost;
Ever grateful for the prize,
Let its altar reach the skies.

Chorus

Firm, united let us be,
Rallying round our liberty,
As a band of brothers joined,
Peace and safety we shall find.

Immortal patriots, rise once more,
Defend your rights, defend your shore!
Let no rude foe, with impious hand,
Let no rude foe, with impious hand,
Invade the shrine where sacred lies
Of toil and blood, the well-earned prize,
While off’ring peace, sincere and just,
In Heaven’s we place a manly trust,
That truth and justice will prevail,
And every scheme of bondage fail.

ChorusFile:American progress.JPG

Firm, united let us be,
Rallying round our liberty,
As a band of brothers joined,
Peace and safety we shall find.

Behold the chief who now commands,
Once more to serve his country stands.
The rock on which the storm will break,
The rock on which the storm will break,
But armed in virtue, firm, and true,
His hopes are fixed on Heav’n and you.
When hope was sinking in dismay,
When glooms obscured Columbia’s day,
His steady mind, from changes free,
Resolved on death or liberty.

Personification of Columbia, from a Columbia R...

Image via Wikipedia

Chorus

Firm, united let us be,
Rallying round our liberty,
As a band of brothers joined,
Peace and safety we shall find.

Sound, sound the trump of fame,
Let Washington’s great fame
Ring through the world with loud applause,
Ring through the world with loud applause,
Let ev’ry clime to freedom dear,
Listen with a joyful ear,
With equal skill, with God-like pow’r
He governs in the fearful hour
Of horrid war, or guides with ease
The happier time of honest peace.

Chorus

Firm, united let us be,
Rallying round our liberty,
As a band of brothers joined,
Peace and safety we shall find.


The following is the Statue of Freedom which crowns the US capitol:

Capitol dome lantern Washington.jpg

Here is Statue of the Republic which was built for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago:

File:Court of Honor and Grand Basin.jpg

Another related figure, of course, is the Statue of Liberty.

File:Statue of Liberty 7.jpg

In the Wikipedia article about the Statue of Liberty, there is a discussion of some of the background to the imagery:

Detail from a fresco by Constantino Brumidi in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., showing two early symbols of America: Columbia (left) and the Indian princess

Bartholdi and Laboulaye considered how best to express the idea of American liberty.[15] In early American history, two female figures were frequently used as cultural symbols of the nation.[16] One, Columbia, was seen as an embodiment of the United States in the manner that Britannia was identified with the United Kingdom and Marianne came to represent France. Columbia had supplanted the earlier figure of anIndian princess, which had come to be regarded as uncivilized and derogatory toward Americans.[16] The other significant female icon in American culture was a representation of Liberty, derived from Libertas, the goddess of freedom widely worshipped in ancient Rome, especially among emancipated slaves. A Liberty figure adorned mostAmerican coins of the time,[15] and representations of Liberty appeared in popular and civic art, including Thomas Crawford‘s Statue of Freedom (1863) atop the dome of the United States Capitol Building.[15] The figure of Liberty was also depicted on the Great Seal of France.[15]

On a plaque mounted inside the Statue of Liberty, there is the sonnet “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus, 1883

(Also, listen to this NPR interview about Emma Lazarus.)

At the beginning of the Civil War, Columbia was portrayed as the Spirit of ’61 (picture from Cool Chicks from History):

Here are some related articles:

Libertas

Liberty (goddess)

Goddess of Democracy

39 Responses

  1. I’ve been wondering about this liberty thing for some time now. Look at this: you say ‘I will prostitute my body but safeguard my mind’. In the case of this liberty thing with the private ownership and all esp a competitive system like you guys’, it is observable how people are still shackled. After all, joining a big company, for instance, will bring the person under the control of that institution and the whims of a few or even one or even the struggle to stay up and the mind is sure to suffer: occasion of the phrase: sell your soul. It worries me; I also will not give my mind out and I wish the same integrity for others. Or is this just my imagination?

    • Let me first ask you some questions. What is the social and personal context of your comments here? What is the political and economic system of your own country? How many American (and other Western) businesses operate in Ghana?

      As for your comment, I agree with your general view. But I might disagree slightly.

      I don’t equate this liberty thing with capitalism per se. Capitalism can potentially operate according to the ideal of liberty, but in reality it seems to rarely live up to such principled motives. It is true, however, that many Americans conflate liberty with capitalism… which I find to be a sad state of affairs.

      I’m particularly skeptical of what corporations have become. I think corporate personhood is a complete corruption of our democracy. Originally, corporate charters were given so that an organization could serve the purposes of a community such as building a bridge, but now we the people serve corporations who have become like gods. Corporations are persons without souls to save and without bodies to incarcerate, but they certainly don’t lack money to buy politicians and bribe regulators.

      Theoretically, capitalism could genuinely operate according to liberty… and, by that, I mean liberty for all including the poor and underprivileged. But, then again, theoretically a lot of things are possible. The reality of capitalism has fallen short by far from the idealism of capitalism.

      Still, what other choices are there? I’d love to live in a truly egalitarian society based on the best of socialist principles, but implementing such a society seems almost impossible. There are too many people who benefit greatly from a class-based society (rich vs poor, powerful vs powerless, advantaged vs disadvantaged). Any attempt to create an egalitarian society will always be oppressed. Those with the money also have the power.

      What realistic alternatives do you see?

      • I was going to say growing a garden is a realistic alternative. But that seems a little simplistic, considering that the following string of comments is practically more informative than the original Blog post. It’s a pleasure to watch fine minds exchange ideas. Thanks for having this conversation publicly. Still the simplicity of a garden is truly profound, especially in community.

        • Hello, Jamie. Nice to meet ya!

          I’m all for community gardens. I live in a town that has a number of them.

          I too like an informative comment section. Sometimes I ignore reading a post or article until after I’ve read the comments because the comments sometimes are more interesting and occasionally more informative.

          Cheers!

  2. Hahaha, I got trapped by the masses. The free market, capitalism, they are all equated to capitalism. I tell you, the amount of misinformed anti-socialists I’ve read, blogs, you can’t imagine. Within them, other more objective blogs and pro-socialist, I have gathered something of a patchy understanding of you guys. My personal context is just a concern for the personal integrity of every person and a thought for a capacity for growth, I think, I focus much on psychological or spiritual well-being which integrates the psych and physical, yeah, spirit, that’s my context.

    My social context is that identification of person with role. What I call ‘the transformation of gods into idols and enslavement therein’. That concept runs through our everything, political to domestic. As for our political system and economic, I’m afraid I’m pretty useless in defining them. Sorry. Mostly, my point of view is framed very subjectively and like Blake, I distrust what the external world tells me. I think my subjective view should suffice.

    That’s my alternative but those problems you mention only exist currently. Unless people are born with a fundamentally classist disposition, these problems can be outdone. Unlike Marx who believed the revolution would be by adults, I’m of the view it’s the children that offer the possible. I think you can see the volatility of what I’m saying, it can easily start a genocide of adults if misunderstood or radicalized. I’m even scared to be posting this, you guys have got detectors all over. Hehe

    • I was just curious, as usual, about the background of your thoughts and questions. I know so little about Ghana that I can’t make the normal assumptions I would make when talking with a fellow American or even a European. Would you consider Ghana to be a capitalist society? Or does it have a lot of socialist elements by whatever standards you wish to define it?

      I’m cautious in trying to communicate because I know people have very different life experiences and very different ways of using words. I have enough difficulty trying to communicate to my own family sometimes.

      Your view doesn’t seem to be political in the normal sense of that term. What you’re saying sort of sounds like the meek inheriting the earth… or something like that. I tend to put my hope (what little of it I have) in the children… because, afterall, the children are the future. :)

  3. You see why I say I dislike the practice of politics; underline practice. That’s just it, it’s not holistic enough. It’s not like I’m some control freak but these systems deepen the imbalance of us humans. On my blog, I told you where I was coming from, a fundament of a single human made up of a conflation of elements deep, long and wide (excuse the geometry).

    I honestly never thought it that way. Another thing: all these religions all over the place, they are just like corporations.

    They’re trying to make it capitalist but our culture, fundamentally, is social. Our first president rightly saw this and sought communism. Well, it was pretty hardnosed. The funny thing too is, in traditional African society, everyone’s the government, no, every adult’s the gov’t. Our current admin is social democrat, the president has all the marks of one.

    They seek to tear us away from our foundation. Freedom is good but not in the way it is thought of now; people wanting to do their own things with impunity, their internal control is set back though as you said societies built on balance have less creative dynamism, yeah, but that’s where the balance boys are wrong, most of them shackle creative activity.

    • Religions like corporations, eh? That made me smile. I can see that, especially here in the US. Religion here is big business and I mean that literally. There is no single group as wealthy and powerful in the US as the religious right. It’s impressive what they can accomplish sometimes.

      Many have noted the connection between the Protestant work ethic and capitalism. Nothing like the fear of God to make one motivated to achieve great things in this world. I feel so apathetic at times that I think I could use some of that fear of God.

      I think every culture is different. Any given people should attempt to stay true to the traditions of their culture, but that isn’t always easy in the increasingly multicultural modern world. I would be fascinated to see an African country achieve a distinctly African form of socialism. Have there been any really good (meaning morally good and socially beneficial) attempts at such a thing?

      Who was your first president? When was he the head of the state? What did he accomplish? And why didn’t his attempt at communism succeed or last? Just curious.

      I’d also love to see a society in any region of the world that truly bridged the distance between social balance and creative dynamism. I wonder what such a society would look like and how it would function. My guess is that societies with low income inequality would come closest to this ideal of balance/dynamism.

  4. Political systems of now are fundamentally flawed. They are built on cynics. I know I am one of them, that’s why I know I am part of the problem. People start developing that cynicism at such early ages, little by little they go.

    • Yep. Oh, cynicism… what can be done about it?

      Is that what you were implying in your focus on children? Children are natural optimists, indeed.

      At this point, I’m quite far away from any optimism I had as a child. I’ve been fairly successful, though, at maintaining some basic wonder about life. Hopefully, that is a good enough replacement for optimism.

  5. The only ones I can think of as being morally and socially good attempts are the old systems of Africa of which little is known. By the way, how did you diagnose my distrust of good/evil dichotomy, or is it just your intuition? To me, I cannot be certain that the past had no bad types, although I love past things so so much. By my evaluation, the past systems might have been our only good ones or the accounts were just romanticised.

    Our first head was Dr. Kwame Nkrumah (bit ya tongue eh? Lol). He was overthrown not long after he was president which overthrow was in 1966. For me, the support by the people for his overthrow was down to misunderstanding, deception (and some truth) by the coup makers and international oppression as well as his own tragicality; America and the UK, according to MI 6 documents released recently showed their involvement.

    For me meekness is subsumed under optimism which is opposed by the distrustful cynic. From the start, the drive to survive (rhyme eh, eh?) makes people lose their childish optimism; simply, they learn. With that, all the opposition starts with all the consequences; the inability to gel, to co-exist. Democrats say you have to tolerate the differences, yes, that’s why they say tolerate, real acceptance can’t be learned like a math formula, it has to be produced. They can’t be taught, maybe they can be influenced, yes, but they can’t be taught.

    You know, Jung is a very mischievous boy. Within his p-type work, he aspersed those who did not allow(implicitly) his infusion of spiritual ideas into the personality theory that he had to use genetic explanations for his work. He continues to endear himself to me.

    • I’m not sure that I did diagnose your distrust of good/evil dichotomy… or not consciously, anyway. I suppose I would intuitively guess that you’re not a good/evil kind of guy. My basic thought was that I assumed you didn’t have a simplistic notion of ‘good’… because your thinking is far from simplistic. I realized that I needed to clarify what I meant by ‘good’. Plus, you’re a fan of Jung and so that tells me a lot about how you would think about such things.

      I’ll have to try to remember the name of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. I never thought about how the Cold War played out in Africa. The US and a lot of Western govts were meddling in countries all over the world during that era… still are, in fact. I hope the people in the Middle East manage to free themselves from dictators and the Western govts supporting those dictators. What is going on right now feels like what was going on in Europe at the end of the Cold War.

      Older systems of governance interest me. I was wondering how African governing traditions might relate to Native American governing traditions. Did you know the founders of the US partly modeled our govt on the Iriquois Confederacy (which was created almost a thousand years ago)? As I understand it, the Iriquois Confederacy was some form of democracy. Other Native American tribes had other governing systems. Most of what I’ve read show them to be or have been various forms of participatory democracy, mostly based on individual families making decisions and tribes forming alliances.

      I’m not sure how much of the Native American governing systems have survived. Many of them have become very corrupted and the US govt in the past was more than happy to allow them to become corrupt.

      It makes me sad. The vagaries of history are an odd thing. The only reason Europeans were able to conquer the Native Americans was because of disease. It’s an interesting thought experiment to consider what kind of govt would have formed if the Native Americans such as the Iriquois Confederacy had maintained power and independence.

  6. Sure sure too, these humming Protestants (busy bee) do not particularly like Jesus because he was the great liberator. Who argued with the Jewish elders? Who called the Pharisees fools? Who saved a prostitute from pelting by lawyer tactics? Who loved without reason? Who challenged authority? For that reason, they either warp what he said or sideline him altogether in favor of the law-giving Paul or the Old Testament. Jesus forces them to grow, to develop; in Paul, they can continue their sloth and just learn laws.

    The fact is that, these guys dislike the monks and other more spiritual sects of christianity. They don’t like them at all unless it is directly and invariably, rigidly along their sense of right. It’s funny; the liberal says, yea, yea, these are admitted; the tyrants say yea this, you, be damned. No wonder they love the heaven/hell aspect so much. They are also the ones who love a penal system rather than a correctional one. The same are the principals in schools and how have they survived there so much; by favoring similar minds or by the look of superior morals which are also narrow-mindedly authoritarian. They annoy me. That’s part of the reason I never liked school and don’t like institutions – it’s not the institutions, it’s the people.

    • Yep. I agree. I’ve written about all that many times. The authoritarian part most interests me since it relates to psychological research.

      There is also a Protestant tradition that is the complete opposite of authoritarian. I’ve been reading a lot about it recently in US politics. The Social Gospel Christians were at the heart of the Populist era and at the heart of the Civil Rights movement. I’ve noticed that recently the Social Gospel is becoming popular again just as the religious right culture wars are losing momentum.

      Are you familiar with Social Gospel Christianity?

  7. One general thing that annoys me is the world making US look like the great originator and paragon of democracy. I’m sure if the ancient and relatively unknown cultures are assessed, there’d be far more successful democracies. So Ben, how do you think Europe and America lost their mystical sense? Growing up, I was so so interested in mythology. Ah, there’s the answer for most individuals: growing up.

    Ain’t never heard of social gospel christians. You like history very much, I see. Good nutrition for ya intuition. Plus, ya reason for that ‘good/evil distrust’ diagnosis was well thought out for something unreasoned. Splendid. I just checked and our recent convo in my blog was a good 39 comments.

    I remember when I began this blog, I was so so shy of my ideas; I would comment on others’ posts and they’d remark my thoughtfulness and I’d be astonished. One of them was you. I can only laugh. I’m anticipating you’d ask me ‘why were you shy?’ but I think you have some idea about it but you’re too curious to rely on ‘some idea’. Lol. Ben Steele, he says he’s depressed but his depression gives sparkling things birth. Lol. It’s not flattery, I have a hard time doing such things in person, emotional things, so in writing, I let them out. Please forgive me, I know not what I do… Hahaha, Bryan Adams, d’ya listen to him?

    • The US is neither the originator nor paragon of democracy. I should be more specific. On the national level, the US is a corporatist plutocracy. However, the US does have a strong tradition of democracy at the local level… but anyone who doesn’t live in the US doesn’t see that aspect of US politics. Where the US a great success is as a social democracy which is inseparable from Social Gospel tradition.

      So, America is both a great failure and a great success, depending on what one focuses on. But I’m not sure the failures are a criticism of American democracy for the simple reason that I suspect democracy almost always will fail on the large scale… and the US is a very large country”. It does make me curious about what has been the most successful large democracy.

      “So Ben, how do you think Europe and America lost their mystical sense?”

      I really couldn’t say about Europe. The best answer I could give is the Catholic Church spent centuries destroying every heretical tradition that arose. Mysticism is a danger to any authoritarian institution. The only successful heretical groups were the Protestants and Anabaptists, the former being the more successful (by the way, the Anabaptists are one of the origins of Social Gospel Christianity). The Protestants ended up being even less friendly to mysticism. Then the Enlightenment finished off mysticism for the most part.

      In America, I’m not sure there ever has been a mystical sense. America as a country is a product of the post-Enlightenment mind. Fundamentalism is just the Christian response to modernism. Americans have always been a practical, grounded people. We’ve never had a mystical tradition like Europe. The closest we have had is the Native American tradition and the Transcendentalists, both being earthly spiritualities (I recently bought a book that is about the connection of the two).

      Ah, shy you say. That doesn’t surprise me. I never pictured you as a gregarious party-goer. I’m rather shy myself. It’s my normal mode and so it doesn’t seem abnormal in others. My best friend is shy. Many of my family members are shy or have elements of shyness. Shyness is one of those things that it seems most people are just born with or not, although some compensate for it or hide it well. It’s all good.

      Shyness needs no reason, but now that you bring it up my curiosity is piqued. I bet there is some interesting psychological research about shyness as a trait. Do you think you were just born shy or did life experiences make you that way?

      I do connect my own shyness to depression. I don’t think there is a necessary causal relationship, but they both reinforce the other. My brother used to take medication for social anxiety and I suspect social anxiety is an element to my depression. I would distinguish social anxiety and shyness. A person could have one without the other.

      What made you think of Bryan Adams? I grew up listening to rock and so I’m familiar with Bryan Adams. I’ve heard his songs on the radio quite often, but I’ve never owned any of his music. I’ve never given much thought to his music. I enjoy some of his songs. I just looked at some biographical info and I noticed he is a Canadian. Ya gotta love those Canadians. I like to think of them as the better half of America.

  8. I think that last paragraph can be misunderstood. I do this not really because you’d misunderstand it but by my own compulsion to set things right, Truth. I’m not making fun of your depression, I generally find humor ludicrously even in the most serious of places. I’m really serious about that comment, your posts are always (no, lemme say almost always, you know my philosophical attitude) excellent. You should have a newspaper column, my friend. There’s a funny thing about the two of us: each would make a suggestion to the other but the suggestion remains what it is, a suggestion, not even an effort by me to actuate your past suggestions. I too need the fear of God, don’t you think?

    • I didn’t think you were making fun of anything. I didn’t really think much about it at all. It just seemed you were being friendly. That is how I generally perceive most of your comments. You don’t seem like the type to make fun of others.

      I’m not normally one to make fun of others either, but I’ve been known to ridicule trolls on YouTube. It wouldn’t be fair to hold that against me. Ridiculing trolls is a noble tradition on the internet.

      Most of my sense of humor is like yours. Humor can be found anywhere. It wouldn’t really matter if you were making fun of my depression. I sometimes make fun of my own depression. For me, humor and depression go together like bread and butter. However, I must admit when I get really depressed I can at times lose all sense of humor. I’m really pathetic when I’m in such a mood.

      Newspaper column? Yeah, I’ve thought I wouldn’t mind being able to make money by writing. God, that would be the life. I’ve had several days off because of all the snow and it’s been nice spending some quality time with my blog. If I was being paid for doing this, I’d for damn sure would increase the quality a bit. I can be kind of lazy with my writing and editing. It’s a rare blog where I put a lot of effort getting everything just right. Of course, the blogs I put the most effort into are the ones that rarely get much attention. So, maybe quality is overrated.

      Life is full of suggestions. Forget all that wimpy fear of God crap. Here is my suggestion to you. “I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening? Plastics.”

  9. I think I was born shy. I have never been comfortable among people. What makes it worse is I have always had preposterous or ‘high’ ideas, making me the really an object of ridicule or unnecessary reverence among my mates or just above their heads. That made me to converse more with people older than I was cos they would understand me better. With time however, even they became like doorposts to me. To be sure, among my mates, I used to try to abase myself in order to fit in. Yeah, you know, I compensate my shyness with humor, I do that, that’s my easiest means of interacting with people, that used to be my public self, goofy, now, it’s simply part of me and I like it very much. I even use it to approach girls, I am incredibly shy with girls and incredibly as well, girls like me so much; something I’ve never been able to capitalize on; my uncle however used it magnificently. It’s a trait in my family I’m aware of but just can’t use, too shy and too doubtful, being attractive unbelievably, to girls. School made me shy about my ideas, I looked liked Giordano Bruno among them, they wanted what was decreed and I gave what was true or alternative.

    Bryan Adams, oh, that’s his song, ‘Please Forgive Me’. I used it for humor in lieu of my confession of being quite unemotional in real life and using my writing as a route for them.

    Ah, if you say humor can be found anywhere then you also would like the apothegm of Henry Fielding: ‘Life everywhere furnishes the accurate observer with the ridiculous’.

    it’s the same thought I had about democracy, by my observations, it would succeed only on small-scale.

    By the way, do you like to travel? I enjoy that open road so much, recently I have started to enjoy it so much. It’s related to my nostalgia, recently, I have had keen reminiscences of childhood trips and I realized in retrospect how lovely the whole experience was, the open road, the grass, the salubrious air, the jolly wind, the clouds sitting around playing cards, never had those impressions at the time. It’s made me to appreciate the things around me more acutely now, this nostalgia. In general, I am looking more like my childhood self now, but with less shyness.

    ‘Wimpy fear of God crap’ eh? I haven’t told you yet uh? I am with the special operations Fundie group and you’re guilty by our hardheaded Law. hahaha

    Don’t tell me that you think it’s all plastic but it is a nice way for after all ‘the universe is transformation’.

    I recently read Siddhartha and I have posted a new quote from that book. Just in case you forgot what was in that book, I might remind you but in scraps; nevertheless, those are the central parts of the book.

    • Do I like to travel? I used to like it more, but I never loved it. I’ve had many enjoyable trips to various places. I like exploring new places. What I don’t like is the act of traveling itself. I find it tiresome and at times stressful.

      I’ve traveled around the US. I’m glad I’ve done the traveling I’ve done, but I’m a homebody and content to be one. I travel in my mind: “Just take a look. It’s in a book. Reading Rainbow!” (A line from the theme song of a kids show of my youth. The host of the show was the same actor who played Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation.)

      I’ve sometimes wished I had traveled less while growing up. I wrote about it a while back:

      http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/07/20/sense-of-place-of-home-of-community-or-lack-thereof/

      By the way, the plastics quote is from the movie The Graduate (it has a good soundtrack). The quote comes from the advice given to the character played by Dustin Hoffman. I’m sorry to make American pop culture references. My bad. :D

      I’ll check out the Siddhartha quote you have posted. That is definitely a book I should read again.

  10. Interesting, I’m sure you’re talking about air travel or?. I think that would be uninteresting maybe. Road trips through the rustic put one in the arms of nature and that’s a wonderful thing.

    Don’t mind the plastics quote, I thought it was from a movie or something common like that, capable of sharing. Me, interpreting it that way was just checking, experimenting on the meaning.

    You know, that thing I said on my post, the Jung one, about spirituality being introverted and religion being extra has been said already by some guy Heine or so. He put it as an opposition of the clergy and the monks but these are just representatives of wider concepts. I must say, I aspired to the latter in my youth. I don’t know if you’ve read that recent comment.

    According to Jung, he himself also thought thinking was simply introverted while feeling was extra. Funny, I thought the same thing before I met the whole p-type matter. I seem to be transfixed by this p-type thing uh? Sorry, I’m child-like with ideas, you should see me watching fantasy or anime. Do you like anime? Japanese can’t separate phenom from noetic, you know, just the way I like it

    • Nah, I’m mostly talking about road travel. Maybe there is a difference between roads in our respective countries. The US has a vast interstate highway system. When traveling long distances, a lot of the traveling is on mulitple laned roads with a lot of traffic. It’s only once you get near your destination that you’d travel on smaller roads with more scenery.

      I’m not sure I’ve heard of Heine. Who was he?

      I did read your most recent comment. I would have responded to it, but I was distracted by other things I was doing. My mind has felt a bit unfocused the past day or so. I’m not sure why.

      Jung’s views changed so much over time. I don’t know what he thought later in his life about the typology he created. The MBTI was being developed when Jung was still alive, but I’m sure he would’ve been highly skeptical of any systematization. I like both Jung’s more philosophical approach and the MBTI systematic approach. I think greater insight can be gained by studying both.

  11. By the way, have you read Jung’s Life After Death or Seven Sermons to the Dead. You’re Gnostic, I think you’ll like the Sermons. Do you know of any authors like Jung? Bringing together, spirituality and reality? But, Jung has gotta be unique!!! Ah, Hermann, forgot ’bout him.

    • I’ve read Seven Sermons. I recall parts of it, but my memory of it isn’t clear. The personal context of Seven Sermons is interesting. Jung wrote during the period of his life when he was dealing with a bit of a breakdown. What do you think of it?

      Authors like Jung? I don’t know of any authors exactly like Jung, but I know of some that have certain similarities in their views.

      I know you are familiar with Ken Wilber. Another integral theorist is William Irwin Thompson who has a different style than Wilber. I’ve seen others compare Thompson to Jung. Thompson is fairly well known, but I only have a passing familiarity with his work.

      There are other authors who wrote about the same subjects Jung wrote about. I’d particularly point Erich Neumann and Joseph Campbell. You might be interested in Robert Graves’ The White Goddess.

      There is Heinrich Zimmer who was a friend/associate of Jung (Jung edited one of his books: The Way to the Self). Zimmer’s book The King and the Corpse was edited by Joseph Campbell and was a favorite book of Philip K. Dick. Of course, PKD was a fan of Jung and was influenced by him (PKD wrote some nonfiction about spirituality and reality, especially about gnosticism). Terrence McKenna was also heavily influenced by Jung and had an intriguing mind.

      I’d also add authors such as Roberts Avens (Imagination is Reality), Patrick Harpur (Daimonic Reality), Eric G. Wilson (The Melancholy Android), and Victoria Nelson (The Secret Life of Puppets).

      Two others I could add are Charles Fort and John Keel. Charles Fort was the originator of the Fortean school of thought. I don’t know that Jung and Fort knew of each other, but some of Jung’s work (such Flying Saucers) somewhat corresponds to Fort’s view. I think you might enjoy Fort’s writing style. He was a weird fellow. John Keel followed in Fort’s footsteps. His work was the basis of the movie The Mothman Prophecies.

      Also, there is always someone like Robert Anton Wilson. He has had a lot of influence.

      I couldn’t say that any of those are exactly what you’re looking for. Some of those authors push the edge on bring together spirituality and reality.

  12. His name is Heinrich Heine, he was a German poet. He was quoted in ‘Psychological Types’. According to wikipedia, he was a strong poet.

    I too think Jung would have been doubtful of any systemization. The concept in itself is very complex but I think I understand better when it’s Jung that says it than in the mbti, perhaps because the mbti is focused practically and that means evidence. Jung seemed to have had problems communicating his ideas clearly, literally rather than figuratively, I get what he’s saying but putting it clearly is elusive to me too. It happens, no? I think, I also am more comfortable with Keirsey’s.

    I searched out Charles Fort and I immediately fell in love with him. Do you remember how we met? It’s related to one of Fort’s views about scientists taking themselves too seriously. Was that part of the reason you thought I’d like him or for his weirdness? Increasingly, I realise, I am not as weird as I thought, or crazy. You seem to be bringing out what I conceal. Immediately, I got to like a fifth of Fort’s bio, I got down to two essays of my own, the way I go about it naturally, disorganised but I still think there’s some organisation there. He certainly was a weird character but I woulda been his friend given his shots at science too. Haha

    The Seven Sermons was great. In the depth of my depression, something similar came from me though without all the names and nuances, his was well-developed. I wonder if I can say things like these without sounding boastful, people think when you do so you’re just tryna be braggartly. I hope I don’t come across like that.

    All in all, I think with all these examples I am getting, I can be more confident about my weirdness and probable craziness and be more public. Thanks. But, I still think, perhaps as you suggested, it’s all just a natural shyness, when the time comes, something will probably stop me again. This is starting to get melodramatic, don’t you think?

    • I’ve never read the entire Psychological Types. I will eventually. Jung was very well read. He referenced many other great thinkers in his various works. Do you recall the context in which Jung was referencing Heine? Was it just about the distinction of religion vs spirituality?

      I’m glad you like Fort. I figured that he would probably appeal to you more than any of the others I mentioned (not just because of his weirdness but also because of his attitude and style). By the way, Fort represents a type of writer that seems very American in his way of thinking about the world. His weirdness is an American weirdness.

      Fort had a lot of impact even in his lifetime and was well known by other writers. There was already a Fortean society while he was alive, but of course he didn’t join. I was just reading that Fort was mentioned in one of Lovecraft’s stories:

      http://www.andrew-may.com/asf/fort.htm

      I don’t recall our first meeting. It’s fascinating that Fort brought us together. Fort is such a swell guy. LOL

      I doubt you are being braggartly (that is a word I don’t hear often, a very British word). I’ve had some of my most profound spiritual experiences in the depths of depression… like you said, without all the names and nuances. My own most profound experience was of a stark simplicity and yet overwhelming for that reason. I could begin to guess how common such experiences are, but I suspect they aren’t common. Maybe it’s an introverted thing. ;)

      I think being confident in one’s weirdness is a good thing. Of course, others in society might not agree. I can’t speak for your country, but here in the US there is usually a place for weirdness (if you’re willing to look for that place, might involve some traveling).

      Life almost always feels melodramatic to me. Even when I’m laughing at life it often feels melodramatic. What can you do? meh

  13. By the way, you guys have an extensive array of authors and a big love for writers, I think? The kinds of books produced are almost like textbooks but you for instance read them non-scholarly or outside of school (hope you catch my drift cos for you, I can’t say leisurely). Around here, you’d catch most of us reading novels, that’d be our more motivating area for writing. But, for you guys, or is it you in particular, textbook-like books are published for the general public. Even Jung’s ‘Psych Types’ was published like any normal book. It intrigues me

    • That is a nice observation. I hadn’t necessarily thought about it that way. I don’t know how the US compares to other Western countries, much less countries from other parts of the world.

      I think US is at least unique in worshipping a certain tradition of egalitarianism. Anyone can be an expert. Anyone can be a writer. The founders of the US were the intellectual elite of their day, some with formal educations and some more self-educated. The printing press and newspapers were big back then. The public debate of ideas came through writing.

      Also, public schools and public libraries were starting to be built not long after people started settling down in communities. I know in the Midwestern and Northern states there has always been an independent attitude about education. Even poor farmers in the middle of nowhere thought it important for kids to get educated. This is partly because of certain Christian traditions (such as Quakers) that highly valued education.

      Plus, there is the Scots-Irish Calvinism (originated from the Celts who fought the Romans along Hadrian’s wall) which is a culture that mistrusts all authority, and a culture that has had a lot of influence in the US. Along with Mormonism, there is this idea that secular or elitist authorities can’t be trusted. This leads to the idea that people have to become their own authorities. The negative side to this is that there are a lot of people writing revisionist history (Glenn Beck has popularized a lot of this).

      The US is a place where ideas and narratives are forever at war. And anyone can join the battle.

      Even so, novels are quite popular here as well. I’m sure Americans read more fiction than non-fiction, but it is true that there is a lot of non-fiction available.

      It’s interesting the difference in cultures. Americans often like to tell stories through retelling history. Our founding stories are historical stories. We don’t have any dominant American mythology or rather the dominant American mythology is non-fictionalized. In other cultures, fiction might be more central to the collective identity.

      So, what authors and what books do people read in Ghana? What do you think it says about your society?

      On a side note, I’ve noticed that Ghana doesn’t seem to come up in the news that I pay attention to. I follow mainstream and alternative media including some international news, but I just never hear of Ghana. I was thinking that maybe that is a good thing. Many countries only get mentioned in the news when something bad is happening there (protests, war, economic meltdown, et cetera).

  14. I think my first destination would be Japan. But, I hear they’re very xenophobic.

    I just realised Jung is Charles Jung, is he not?

    Heine was quoted in the first chapter which I consider introductory where Jung is talking about the history of the book, the history of the concept; intro vs extra mostly. I’m reading it slowly, I haven’t even finished the first chapter, the last time I touched it was like Friday.

    We have not had a written language for a long time, we got one fairly recently, about the 19th century. We are mostly oral people. But, that way, most of our history has been eroded. People don’t usually read non-fiction outside school. Plus, people are so terrified of their society, the church, the social environment, that they fear any contrarian acts on their part. Most people are more concerned about money and survival than anything, a situation common between you and me and the world. It smacks of a sloth that annoys me. No self-development, no self-exploration to contribute to self-development. Everything is specialised, when you need spiritual advice, go to the church. That’s what I say, they just learn these things, it’s memory work, and then they want to practise at face-value. With time then, the entire value of the concept is depreciated as each generation’s practice becomes sort of the concept of the next. If not so, it might influence some reaction. All the same, the thing gets watered down.

    We do have authors but they aren’t many. Many too, just don’t like reading and materialism is numbing everyone, it’s at the pulpits, in cots, in schools, everywhere. The cowards of the 21st century. Phooey

    • Jung’s first name is Carl, but I don’t know if that is short for anything. I just noticed on his Wikipedia page that he was born as Karle. It seems Carl, Karle, and Charles are variations of the same basic name which means ‘free man’.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_(name)

      Is there still a living oral tradition in Ghana? I always thought the obsession with specialization was more of a Western thing. I’m sure specialization would manifest differently in various cultures. By the way, are you making a connection between the oral tradition and specialization? I sort of sense a connection being made, but I’m not entirely sure what it might be. Is it about the oral tradition dying out and so social forms becoming empty?

      I just had another thought. In the US (and I believe in many other countries as well), there actually has been an increase in book sales over the past decade or so. It’s partly caused by many popular movies being based on books, but I also think there is a connection with the internet. A lot more people are communicating through writing on a daily basis. Reading seems to have become a more normal activity. It could also be related to the fact that the young generation in the US is the most well educated generation in US history. I was wondering if there is any similar pattern in Ghana.

  15. “We of the Occident are about to arrive at a crossroads that was reached by the thinkers of India some seven hundred years before Christ. This is the real reason, why we become both vexed and stimulated, uneasy and yet interested, when confronted with the concepts and images of Oriental wisdom.” Heinrich Zimmer

    Since we’re so bent on following you…

    • In the late 19th & early 20th cent, there were a lot of Western thinkers interested in the Orient. There were a lot of texts being translated at the time which also included many forgotten Western texts such as Greek and Gnostic. Much of the 20th cent has been simply remembering our own past.

      I’m not sure what to think of Zimmer’s idea. I’d be curious to see more of the context of that quote. What exactly is the crossroads that he saw that “We of the Occident” have reached?

      So, how do you see that this applies to the situation of Africa? Do you think that Africa (or just Ghana) is coming to a similar crossroads?

  16. I didn’t intend a link in this particular comment, but I think I have mentioned it in one of our discussions. The cascade is similar to the scenario I put forward. The concept->the practice->concept 2. Concept 2 is an ersatz of concept 1. Then, the narrower one becomes a law for everyone to follow. I conceive a reason like that for us intermixed with the whole self-hate thing or either. I just want to concentrate on that connection observed, alternative explanations can wait. Hehe

    I think specialisation is everywhere esp where society is hardened or has become preoccupied narrowly with tradition or where the preoccupation is with survival or achievement, still, in this case, narrowly. After all, specialisation begins in the home, the first society, no the organism itself is a society. Even at cellular level, specialisation exists. Wow, I just saw the link between Jung’s balancing out and cell aging. Interesting, but I think something like that already exists but not necessarily in relation to aging.

    People are reading but it’s mostly what I’d call survival reading, just like school. They just want to learn something that they can use to gain something. Things like business books, motivationals but no matter how cerebral the material, it doesn’t go deep, no fundamental changes. This is no intro/extra matter cos they do it in equal measure.

    It’s not a ‘reached’ matter but a ‘will reach’. A crossroads usually stimulates selection problems, to now go forward is ambiguous cos which way is forward. And has it really been a forward movement all this time? As for Africa, we’re running as you are running whether we follow you explicitly or not. If that crossroads has come for you already, then ours is arriving, either way for the current premise, it is to come for us. For, what we are looking at is a one-sided story, a single road. This is my guess. I’m just poking fun at my countrymen that they follow so mindlessly. The quote is not so much cos of Heinrich as me. Don’t mind me, I do this, we have talked about such before, I think?

    • That concept-practice-concept thingy does seem like something we’ve discussed before. It reminds me of the Tao Te Ching… which I may have mentioned in one of our discussions. Here is a passage I’m reminded of (& I’m sure you’re familiar with it):

      “When the great Tao is forgotten,
      goodness and piety appear.
      When the body’s intelligence declines,
      cleverness and knowledge step forth.
      When there is no peace in the family,
      filial piety begins.
      When the country falls into chaos,
      patriotism is born.”

      And your comments about specialization reminds me of Max Weber… have I mentioned him before? He wrote The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. The ideas of his I was thinking of relate to the rationalization, disenchantment, and bureaucratization.

      Survival reading, yep, I understand what you’re talking about. There is plenty of that in the US. I’m sure most reading people do here fits that category. I should point out that there are large swatches of the US (especially rural regions) where scholarly reading would be far far from the norm. Even among the college educated, I would guess that most reading could be described as survival reading (especially considering business degrees have become more popular).

      It’s hard for me to know about what most Americans read (or how many of them even read at all) because I live in one of the liberal intellectual elite towns surrounded by people who aren’t representative of the norm. Even in a town like this, people who read scholarly works for personal enjoyment aren’t necessarily typical.

      I’d love to see demographic data about the details of reading habits in the US and in other countries.

      No worries about the crossroads thing. I don’t fully understand where your head is at, but that is fine. I do, however, sympathize with the poking fun at one’s countrymen. I think most humans in general are followers.

  17. Lemme ask this: do you experience clutter in your mind; like too many parallel processes running through your mind and interconnections made between them?

    I have a number of questions for the multiple intelligencers (like you’re one of em, haha, but you’re my idea guy). Is a given pattern innate? How stable is it, incremental or fixed? The two combine to give: do you have it in a certain pattern with chance for growth or you’re stuck like that? Are they latent or really additive? So, can the normal ascend to the genius with time and input? Does it have limits? An upper limit, for instance, so that genius is the max? Or does the genius also continue to ascend (well, that’s a bit theoretical, since the genius has little challenge to stimulate him but I think necessity is not the mother of invention, they’re just coincident or maybe somehow the one, somehow the other)? Then, continuing with the limit issue, can there be an absolute zero on a given intelligence? Combining that with the increment, can it be increased then? Are they all just the same thing but manifest differently?

    These are questions which will perhaps never find definite answers. I myself asking these questions would be the first to doubt any definite answers. The only time they can be comprehensive is by being indefinite cos the mathematical possibilities abound. I wonder why I should ask these questions when I don’t trust definite answers, the mind (ok, my mind) is intriguing, it’s simply disposed to its dispositions. Ah, I just want to test the world

    • “Lemme ask this: do you experience clutter in your mind; like too many parallel processes running through your mind and interconnections made between them?”

      To give you a simple answer: damn skippy! Yes, my mind is a’clutter with parallel processes. It’s a curse, I tell ya.

      As for your other questions, I don’t know. I could try to answer them, but I’m not entirely clear about what you mean by patterns and genius which are concepts that aren’t easy to generalize about. If there was an innate pattern, I’d think it might relate to archetypes. And if the pattern was consistent, scientific research should be able to clarify it. All in all, much of what you’re mentioning probably depends on many factors. So I suppose it would matter about specific contexts and specific patterns. Genius seems a more basic concept related to human nature. It does seem there are some general limits within the psychology of the human mind, but human potential depends on the environment that elicits that potential.

      I’m fine with definite answers when there is definite data. However, often there isn’t definite data.

  18. I think those who say perhaps the East is more profound spiritually than the West are mistaken. All these regional comparisons are mistaken.

    In the East, how many of these more spiritual teachers were Really heeded? What was beneficial for worldly pursuit was taken, the rest left for history. Endlessly, an applicative (invented word) mind on display. Was it not Confucianism that was more widely taken in China with its many laws? The more externally-oriented ideas will invariably take precedence over the vice-versa. So the same can be said about whatever culture there is, the ‘internal’ guys would be ignored in the others’ favor. But history, if not merciful (ie. the people contemporary), would not tell of their existence. The Eastern ones seem to just be lucky. I think similar ideas were brought up in the West but were simply stifled or ignored more significantly as madness than the East. In the thought of Socrates, I see Jesus, I see Lao Tzu. I think they’re mistaken. What do you think? I see some other pathways in what I’m saying, perhaps some oversights.

    And extraverts, they seem not to see that the same problems they moan are results of their extraversion. I remember reading a quote of I think an American bigwig (I’m pretty sure, he doesn’t consider himself such) saying that the world would have less problems if people sat more at home. And I remember you quoted someone saying the American is an ESTJ. Then comes this thought, the extraverts are unfair to themselves. They balance out the intros but who balances them out? in socialisation or educative terms, I mean. Cos, if they keep silencing and ignoring these intros, how do their internal get nutriment? They force the intro out but who forces them in given that the intro has a culture of detachment. Unless, their own endeavors force them in, ie. when the worldly pursuits force them in or they make discoveries outside that brings this to mind. Maybe, I should not use the words extra/introvert cos it intersects with p-types but they are just used for representational purposes of the idea I wish to communicate.

    • I’m of a similar mind as you. Cultures are different, but it’s hard to determine whether a culture is superior to another culture or even how ‘superiority’ should be defined. I enjoy speculating as much as the next person, but I limit my conclusions to hard data. I will only speak about superiority in terms of very specific data about very specific issues.

      I would agree that China is more Confucian. This is especially true now. When the revolution happened, all the Taoists were killed, imprisoned, went into hiding, or stopped practicing. That has changed a bit, but the damage has been done. Confucianism has won in China. Taoism is now mostly just a philosophy, although some traditional practitioners still survive.

      I’m reluctant to get into the subject of Intro/Extra. That is quite the bag of words. It’s easier to speak more generally about the psychological research in general: Intro/Extro rather than Intro/Extra (‘o’ instead of ‘a’). In Jungian psychology, the terms have very specific meanings. And, in MBTI, they have even more specific meanings. Many people don’t really understand the details. I’ve studied it quite a bit and I’d have a hard time explaining it all.

  19. You’ve made me think about whether behaviors can be explained; for instance, my shyness. I think, I try to rationalize it but after calling it to proper perspective, it looks to me a very natural thing. I usually criticize people who tend to find causes all over the place like when they think certain thoughts can’t be produced in other cultures and have to be imported. Just because I’ve seen the whole thing step-by-step, seen every happening, every external action, internal action and reaction, I seem to think they can be explained so much. But as I have said before, an influence just brings up something latent. The way I’ve been looking at it is like abnormal psychology and that’s a domain I don’t much brook.

    There’s an observation I have made about my environment, I wonder if it’s same with yours. Certain things have been oversimplified: marriage, children, relationships, sex, religion (which I think is oversimplified spirituality and which should never have been subsumed under culture or life but should be life). They aren’t looked upon with much importance, they are just routinized and formalised like everything else is. But, the crux is, they aren’t looked upon with much importance as professions, success or wealth, health, longevity. They seem to have been relegated. Perhaps, religion is part of the reason, perhaps it’s the rush-rush system, perhaps it’s all my eye.

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