Puppets Worshipping Apollo

This post is in response to Will To Power by Monarc.

“Each god ‘is a manner of existence, an attitude towards existence and a set of ideas . . . A God forms our subjective vision so that we see the world according to its ideas.’ Thus it is not true that we have ideas – ideas have us. And it is as well to know what ideas, what gods, govern us lest they run our lives without our being aware of the fact.”
~ The Philosopher’s Secret Fire, Patrick Harpur

The ideas that have us:
self, identity, individuality, ego, mind…
perception, logic, association, projection…
‘because of’, reason, rationalization…
will, power, superiority…
ownership, control, dominion…
pride, arrogance, fear…

Such a confluence of ideas gives hint to a fundamental issue around which they revolve. Connect the dots and a picture might take form. But the dots shift and the connecting lines bend.

“Look to the man to your left, yes, the cripple. Watch closely as he rises from the seat, see his shoulders rise when the crutches go under there. Similarly, when your pride is upon something, that something is only a crutch, an accessory.”
~ Monarc

We speak of a ‘crutch’ because we see the shoulder rise. And, speaking of a crutch, the shoulder rising is surmised to be the shoulder of a cripple. But it’s always easier to see the shoulder rising in another. Within the view from our own eyes that are set in our head, our shoulders don’t appear to rise when we look at them for our head rises along with our shoulders. A ‘crutch’ can become a part of us, a part of our world… or was it always there? Is it a ‘crutch’ if there is no discernible point where the self ends and it begins?

It’s amusing to watch the mind of man trying to grapple with its own nature that can’t be seen because it is ever behind him. We try to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and tripping over ourselves we continually fall on our faces. We then lift up our heads from the dust and there is dust in our eyes. If we are crippled, it is by our own behavior. But what are we besides what we do and how we act? This doesn’t however answer the question of the source and direction of causality. Are credit and blame just ideas forced upon experience?

Self-ownership? Self-will? Self this, self that… people are funny. In seeking to possess, we are possessed. In seeking to control, we are controlled.

“Question: If control’s control is absolute, why does Control need to control?”
“Answer: control needs time.”
“Question: is control controlled by our need to control?”
“Answer: Yes.”
~ William S. Burroughs

The rational mind rationalizes, but the rationalization is just a story told. The psyche is a fire around which we sit swapping ghost stories and seeing the ghosts in the flickering shadows. The purpose of the ghost story is to induce fear in pretending that ghosts might really exist and in the laughter that follows we pretend that ghosts are just fictional characters. The soul is such a ghost. Call it the unconscious or call it the soul. Tell endless stories about it. Whatever it is or isn’t doesn’t change.

“The rational ego cannot finally cut itself off from soul: but its denial of soul’s myriad images leaves an empty voice which in turn, is mirrored – as soul is always mirrored – in the universe at large. The dark abyss of space punctuated by the tiny lights, like the gnostic soul-sparks, of dying suns is the image of the modern soul. Or, rather, soullessness – in the face of which the ego suffers that sense of alienation, rootlessness and lack of meaning which is the inevitable corollary of its inflationary belief in its own self-sufficient power.”
~ Patrick Harpur

The soul animates us by imagination. The soul imagines us for soul is imagination. We try to usurp the soul’s power by imagining we imagined the soul, the very source of imagination. In imagining our own power, we destroy the power of imagination. Soul becomes like an animal killed and with its heart removed placed in the glass case of the mind. Soul becomes mere will. Even ‘will to power’ is impotent in its seeming purity. The imaginal (the gods, angels, and demons; the shadow and trickster) has no place to reside. With the self willing away all that exists outside of its perceived control, the unknown ‘other’ is forced to take the form of psychological symptoms.

“within the affliction is a complex, within the complex an archetype, which in turn refers to a god”
~ James Hillman

This brings us to the issue of what is primal. Speaking of the cat, you wrote, “That could have always been there and passed down to man.” I know that for you the cat represents a primal image within your experience. As such, does the primal image of pride and power express a primal nature carried over into the modern experience of civilized human? Both cat and human have been domesticated, but how much has domestication actually changed us?

As for primal images of the feline persuasion, I’m reminded of a description I once read, although the exact words and source are now forgotten. Here is what I recall. The author was describing the behavior of a wild cat, specifically a mother defending her cubs. Even when facing a larger and stronger male, the mother will fearlessly confront the male. Her spine and neck will be straightened as if forming a channel of laser-like power which is focused outward from the eyes. It’s an absolute intensity that will shake the confidence of almost any aggressor.

It’s no abstract will, no ideal of self-ownership. It’s a tangible force. Human rationalizations of ‘will to power’ are irrelevant to its compelling reality. There is no possessor or possessed. The force and the cat are singular. As you said, “the cat’s attitude has no ‘because of’.”

Let me bring this back to the problem of the modern human. The Enlightenment Age brought forth a rationalized ego, a hyper-individualistic ideal of freedom and self-determination. Many conservatives, especially right-libertarians, have become the greatest defenders of the most extreme form of this: self-determination justified by self-ownership. A beguiling ideal in its declarative simplicity.

“Within the strictures of commonsense reality and personal ability, we can choose to do anything we like in this world . . . with one exception: We cannot chose what any of our choices will be. To do that, we would have to be capable of making ourselves into self-made individuals who can choose what they choose as opposed to being individuals who simply make choices.”
~ The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, Thomas Ligotti

The problem as I see it is that willpower is a theological construct. The individual will is just a modern version of the soul uprooted from religion and given a psychological facade. Ultimately, there is no reason to believe in freewill… or, rather, belief not reason (belief never needing a reason) is the only thing that gives meaning to freewill.

“Look at your body —
A painted puppet, a poor toy
Of jointed parts ready to collapse,
A diseased suffering thing
With a head full of false imaginings.
~ The Dhammapada

Yes, we intuitively experience a sense of causality with our self-consciousness at the center of the show… and yet we rationally know (those of us who rationally contemplate such issues) that humans are more complex than any simplified explanation of linear causation. Our will seems so obviously real for the very reason we can’t explain it.

The cat, on the other hand, doesn’t require intellectual rationalizations about her will being ‘free’… or even blind faith that a ‘will’ exists within. The cat doesn’t seek to be an individual self-possessed, an agent who acts upon her environment rather than instinctively responding to it. The cat simply acts with all of her being. She is one with the action she takes.

But somewhere along the way humans have lost contact with this primal nature…

“Despite his new eyes, man was still rooted in matter, his soul spun into it and subordinated to its blind laws. And yet he could see matter as a stranger, compare himself to all phenomena, see through and locate his vital processes. He comes to nature as an unbidden guest, in vain extending his arms to beg conciliation with his maker: Nature answers no more, it performed a miracle with man, but later did not know him. He has lost his right of residence in the universe, has eaten from the Tree of Knowledge and has been expelled from Paradise. He is mighty in the near world, but curses his might as purchased with his harmony of soul, his innocence, his inner peace in life’s embrace.”
~ The Last Messiah, Peter Wessel Zapffe

Okay… so, what would human experience be like if it were still in close proximity to primal nature? Although I can’t claim to know, I can offer a real-world example that might offer some insight. The following is a video which I previously shared in another post (The Elephant That Wasn’t There):

These indigenous people have a language that doesn’t accommodate abstract speculations and ideological beliefs. Their language is limited to experiential and observational descriptions and claims directly based thereupon. This would make sense in terms of my thought that the religious soul and the philosophical will have a fundamental commonality. Neither the soul nor the will can be seen. Even Jesus a supposedly ‘real’ historical figure is meaningless to these indigenous people because likewise he hasn’t been seen by them or anyone they know.

Such a language seems to be made possible by the close connection these people have to nature itself. In a very tangible way, their surrounding environment is their world. Their conception of the world is limited to their perception of the world. And their perception of their world is formed by their intimately being a part of the natural world.

Metaphors of power such as ownership and self-ownership would probably have less meaning to these indigenous people. They would only speak of ownership in terms of tangible objects such as a knife or a shelter. Ownership would be defined by the person who uses the object. Such ownership is tangibly experienced by the individual and objectively observed by others. Even the idea of land ownership would likely be too abstract for their language.

Will’ is an abstraction of action. And all action is interaction. We are all part of the world. We see nature as primal, but the primal is simply what we have denied and repressed but not entirely forgotten. We are nature. Our own primal nature reminds us of this. Our conscious minds only give us an appearance of self-understanding and self-control.

From the Apollonian view, the Dionysian looks like tragedy. But from the view of the Dionysian, the Apollonian is an illusion. The seeming tragedy of the Dionysian is that it reminds us of this illusion.

Rilke’s Disappointing Dolls

Rilke’s Disappointing Dolls

Posted on May 22nd, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade
The Secret Life of Puppets
By Victoria Nelson
Pages 69-70

In the essay “Doll: On the Wax Dolls of Lote Pritzel” (1913-14), inspired by an exhibit of life-size adult dolls he had seen in Munich as well as the Kleist esay, Rainer Maria Rilke confronts the frustrating paradox of graven images that will not come to life.  Noting as a casual given that most inanimate objects “eagerly” absorb human tenderness (“a violin’s devotion, the good-natured eagerness of horn-rimmed spectacles”), he laments the fact that the childhood fusion with the self-object doll is a barren union that promises everything and delivers nothing.  “You doll-soul,” he exclaims in this monologue addressed to an idol that does not reply, “not made by god, you soul, begged as a whim by some impetuous elf, you thing-soul exhaled laboriously by an idol and kept in being by us all.”  As children, he says, we invent a soul for the doll, but ultimately the doll makes the child feel cheated,  “unmasked as the gruesome foreign body on which we squandered our purest affection.’  By the end of cihildhood “we could not make it into a thing or person, and in such moments it became a stranger to us,’ and so the doll-soul and its possibilities die for good.  Rilke suggests that this kind of infantile wish-animism is doomed to wither in the object once it has died within us.

The same is not true of the puppet, however.  Rilke expresses his hope that this simulacrum will prove to be a potential soul vessel in the fourth Duino elegy, where he builds explicitly on the paradoxes Kleist set forth in “On the Marionette Theater”:

    when I am in the mood
    to wait before the puppet stage, no,
    to watch it so intensely that, in order
    finally to compensate for my watching, as puppeteer
    an angel must come to set the puppets in motion

Or, as Harold Segel has elegantly paraphrased this passage: “Once the self is overcome, one stands before the possibility of a heretofore unrealizable interaction of the material world, represented by the puppet figure, and the transcendent world, represented by the figure of an angel… the path to harmonize the world.”  The puppet-angel conjunction is in fact Rilke’s solution to the mute and fruitless idolatry of childhood, a state of innocence to which, like the Garden of Eden, we cannot return.

Rilke continues:

    Angel and puppet.  Now we will have a play.
    Now will there come together what we always
    Divide because of our presence…
    Now will the angel perform over us.

To achieve the loss of ego necessary to experience the true unio mystica, the conjunction of the visible and invisible worlds, he says, we must do precisely as Kleist’s Mr. C. suggests — bite the apple again and re-lose our innocence.  For Rilke, however, this loss of ego may represent not, as Louis Sass argues about Kleist, the subject-object fusion that is “an obliteration of all individuating self-consciousness,’ but rather a more sophisticated state of integration, “a higher self-consciousness that is, at the same time, a higher self-fogetfulness,” the true Paradise on earth.

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Nicole : wakingdreamer

38 minutes later

Nicole said

yes, indeed, Rilke always aspired toward that true integration. you can see it as well when he speaks of love, for example in the passage I quoted in the God Pod discussion What is Love? excellent blog. I’m really enjoying this Rilke series, learning a lot

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 1 hour later

Marmalade said

I posted these blogs about Rilke for 4 reasons.
1) I thought you might enjoy them.
2) It might start some nice discussion.
3) The 2 books I quoted from are ones I’ve been looking at recently and this gives me an opportunity to think about them.
4) Its a non-poetic way of looking at poetry.  🙂

I was noticing how different a view Rilke’s ideas of the doll are from The Velveteen Rabbit.  No amount of human love(no matter how innocent and pure) is going to animate Rilke’s dolls into animate Reality.  The puppet, on the other hand, draws forth the animating power beyond the human(child or otherwise), the Angel.  The doll can’t be ensouled, but the puppet can be moved by the angelic spirit.  The puppet can be animated because that which animates is transcendent to it.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 6 hours later

Nicole said

yes, Ben! oh, how do you see so clearly? i very deeply admire your keen mind and insight.

and thanks that you were at least partly motivated by my enjoyment. that is definitely full reality!