Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Helene von Druskowitz on Nietzsche

[ Originally written and posted on MySpace on  March 28, 2009 ]
Helene von Druskowitz is an all-but-forgotten figure who was one of the first scholars to take note of the philosophical writings of Friedrich Nietzsche.  Only the second woman in the German-speaking world to earn a Ph.D. degree, Druskowitz was exceptional in other ways. Having been introduced to her by Malwida von Meysenbug, Nietzsche looked upon Druskowitz as a future disciple.
Druskowitz disappointed him, however, in the critical chapter devoted to Nietzsche in her Moderne Versuche eines Religionsersatzes (1886), where she pointed to a fundamental contradiction in Nietzsche's thought.  While, writing in 1883, Nietzsche has his Zarathustra herald man's overcoming and the triumph of der Uebermensch, Druskowitz cites the 49th section of Nietzsche's The Dawn of Day, written in 1881, wherein he sees in Darwinian theory only evidence that all such notions of overcoming are sentimentalities.   The following is section 49 from Kennedy's translation of The Dawn of Day:

    " In former times people sought to show the feeling of man's
    greatness by pointing to his divine descent. This, however,
    has now become a forbidden path, for the ape stands at
    its entrance, and likewise other fearsome animals,
    showing their teeth in a knowing fashion, as if to
    say, No further this way ! Hence people now try the
    opposite direction : the road along which humanity
    is proceeding shall stand as an indication of their
    greatness and their relationship to God. But alas !
    this, too, is useless ! At the far end of this path
    stands the funeral urn of the last man and grave-
    digger (with the inscription, Nihil humani a me
    alienum puto). To whatever height mankind may
    have developed and perhaps in the end it will not
    be so high as when they began, there is as little
    prospect of their attaining to a higher order as there
    is for the ant and the earwig to enter into kinship
    with God and eternity at the end of their career on
    earth. What is to come will drag behind it that
    which has passed : why should any little star, or
    even any little species on that star, form an excep-
    tion to that eternal drama ? Away with such senti-
    mentalities ! "


The Black Stone of the Kaaba (Kabah), according to the Dabistan

[ Originally written and posted on MySpace on  April 5, 2009 ]

One of the more curious volumes in the Universal Classics Library, a set published in 1901 by M. W. Dunne, is The Dabistan, or School of Manners, a one-volume abridgement of a translation in three volumes published in 1843 by David Shea and Anthony Troyer.  Originally written in Persian by Mohan Fani in the years immediately before 1670 A.D., the Dabistan is not a book of etiquette but rather a survey of the religious beliefs current among the peoples of Iran, Arabia and India.   The first third of the Universal Classics Library volume is occupied with the beliefs and teachings of the Parsees, the followers of Zoroaster who left Persia and moved to India.  Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism are also described in the Dabistan.

The description of the seven temples which the Parsees devoted to the seven planets begins with the temple of Saturn wherein " the image of the regent Saturn was cut out of black stone, in a human shape, with an ape-like head; his body like a man's, with a hog's tail, and a crown on his head; in the right hand a sieve; in the left a serpent.  His temple was also black stone, and his officiating ministers were negroes, Abyssinians, and persons of black complexions: they wore blue garments, and on their fingers rings of iron: . . . . "  (p. 22).

According to the Dabistan, one Mahabad built a fire temple in Persia beside which he built a house " which at present is called the Kabah . . . . among the images of the Kabah was one of the moon, exceedingly beautiful, wherefore the temple was called Mahgah (Moon's place) which the Arabs generally changed into Mekka "  (p. 29).  Furthermore, according to the Dabistan, the black stone left in  the Kabah is a representation of Saturn (p. 30).

As a matter of transscriptural conjecture, has anyone compared/contrasted the black stone of the Kabah or Kaaba with the white stone in Revelation  2:17 ?  In Revelation 2:17,  it is prophesied that  " To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. "   Albert Barnes in his commentary on Revelation conjectures that the name on the white stone is the name of the Redeemer or even the name Christian.   William Biederwolf, in his compilation of commentaries on the second advent, The Millennium Bible,  makes no mention of the white stone in Revelation.

The Kabah or Kaaba is a cube-shaped structure as is the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21:16 ( " The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. " )  In what way, transscripturally considered, might the black stone be said to be counterbalanced by the white stone?      


Some Interesting Comments Posted at the Annoyed Librarian Website

Librarianship is a horrible profession to be in if you want to have a family; jobs are insecure and low-paying, you have to be very mobile, you won't be able to live in a neighborhood with a good school, and you'll have to train your child for a career someplace besides a library as there will be very few librarians in 20 years. I'll probably be single forever so I'm happy to be a librarian.

I've been curious about what would make me qualified for a administrative job. I'm pretty good at my own job as a reference librarian, but a lot of the ads I see want several years of supervisory experience to be a head of reference, experience which I can't get except as a head of reference. I think I'd make a good one and so do some other people, but without already doing the job i'm not qualified to do the job.

Anon @ 7:38, Librarian positions are indeed not low paying for everyone. However, compared to some other professions requiring advanced degrees, librarians aren't that well paid. It's lovely that you don't want to make much money and aren't motivated by materialism. The field of librarianship wants more people like you.

And Steve, sorry to be so discouraging. But look at the bright side, it took years of being a librarian before I got this annoyed. You, too, can have several years of bliss in your chosen profession. And maybe I'm just a crank who doesn't know what I'm talking about, in which case you can ignore me.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Librarian Shortage a Myth according to Babeuf

[ Originally written and posted on MySpace on Oct 7, 2007, but little has changed since then ]
Someone using the Internet name "Babeuf" has posted an interesting article headlined "Librarian Shortage a Myth" on the Web site called Anarchist Librarian.  This is the most mordant assessment which we have yet seen of the A.L.A.-generated myth that there is a shortage of librarians.   [ I ] agree with points 1, 3, 5, and 6, which Babeuf enumerates.  Looking elsewhere at the website Anarchist Librarian, however, we find much with which to disagree.  Like all leftists, the anarchist librarians seem to accept the duty of all white men to launch themselves onto a never-ending "guilt trip" simply because they are white men. [I] agree that patriotic feelings are often used to the detriment of working folk, but he is not anti-patriotic the way that all leftists seem to be.  Why is it not possible to be for both social justice and national sovereignty?  Although [ I] have reservations about the anarchist librarians, [ I ] do basically agree with what Babeuf has to say.  Babeuf is even on to a significant truth when he says that producing a surplus of graduates is simply another manifestation of the reserve army of the unemployed which always exists under capitalism.   We can see that reserve army being created right now via the policies of exporting jobs (globalization) and importing workers (mass immigration).  The following is a verbatim quotation from Babeuf's article:

    The story that there is or will soon be something called a "librarian shortage" is a con job designed to convince people that it is a good idea to enter "library school" or some "school of information science."

    Library schools spread this idea because they want to remain open despite the fact that most of their graduates can't find jobs, that the schools themselves are held in contempt on every university campus where they exist, that they have been objects of ridicule since they were founded, and that at best most of the people with "MLS" or similar degrees are going to wind up basically working at clerical jobs, regardless of whether or not they are allowed to call themselves "information scientists" (whatever that means).

    Library directors want library schools to remain open so that they will have what Karl Marx would have called a large reserve army of unemployed librarians. That way, they can keep salaries down and keep making working conditions worse, and if any librarians complain they can be told that someone else is waiting to take their job.

    Some public libraries experience temporary shortages of children's librarians and, more rarely, young adult librarians. But that is about it. Forget about becoming a reference librarian in a university; these jobs attract hundreds of applicants and selection committees often cope with the mountain of applications by simply rejecting anyone without five years of full time experience out of hand. Public libraries will once in a blue moon hire someone right out of library school as a reference librarian, but this is because such jobs are usually not worth having in the first place. You can be virtually certain that some or all of these things will apply:

    1. It will be in Redneckville, USA.
    2. The library director or your department head will be a psychopath.
    3. There will be no public transportation in the area.
    4. You will be expected to do your own work and that of recently retired or laid off clerical workers as well. Occasional janitorial duties are by no means out of the picture.
    5. Many of the patrons will be alcoholic, drug-addicted thugs prone to violent outbursts - at you.
    6. Some of the clerical workers will be well aware of the low esteem in which librarians are held by administrators, and will have no hesitation in letting you know that they resent the fact that you make slightly more money than they do or that your accent is not just like their's.
    7. A refinery or manufacturing plant nearby will make for a cancer rate well above the national average.

    I don't know why anyone would go to library school today unless they have wanted all their lives to be a librarian at all costs. Why they would want this is beyond me. Take it from someone who has been a librarian for 20 years--most librarian jobs suck. I enrolled in library school during the Reagan depression of the early 1980's to avoid unemployment and homelessness. In those days college graduates were standing on street corners asking for spare change. Even in this lousy economy, today there must be better options than library school.
    Librarianship offers about as much of a future as being a blacksmith in New York City."


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dissertation by James Mark Anderson on Mencken and Nietzsche

[ Originally written and posted on MySpace on  July 26, 2007 ]

Before the age of the Internet,  dissertations had a rather limited circulation.  One copy was kept by the dissertation's author; one was given to the dissertation director; two were given to the library of the institution where he or she presented the dissertation; finally, one was sent to University Microfilms at Ann Arbor, Michigan, which made copies available on demand, for a fee.   Few dissertations found many readers.  This once limited readership is now beginning to be widened, thanks to the Internet.
Dissertation Abstracts, an online database, now offers the full text of many recent dissertations.  Scanning through these recently, I found two concerning H. L. Mencken's interpretation of Friedrich Nietzsche.   One dissertation examines the impact of Mencken's interpretation of Nietzsche on other authors such as Theodore Dreiser.  The other dissertation, by James Mark Anderson, entitled H. L. Mencken's Nietzsche: Recovering a Lost Tradition, was most interesting.  Presented at Vanderbilt in 1998, Anderson's dissertation defended Mencken's study of Nietzsche as being still worthy of serious consideration.  Although critical of Mencken's mistakes, Anderson finds more merit in Mencken's work on Nietzsche than in many contemporary works.  The following paragraph is taken from Anderson's abstract of his dissertation:
" I believe our contemporary understanding of Nietzsche is both unfaithful to his work and is a distraction from his main interest:  life.  The dominant reading of Nietzsche as a proto-postmodernist is contrary to Nietzsche's real aim in that it removes him from direct contact with this world, with life, only to relocate him in an all-encompassing text. "
Anderson is especially critical of Walter Kaufmann's Nietzsche:  Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist (1950).   Kaufmann was concerned to demonstrate that Nietzsche had no political significance, probably because he did not want Nietzsche to be seen as a forerunner of National Socialism.   Anderson concludes that " The combination of Kaufmann's antipolitical reading and the anti-metaphysical reading produced a Nietzsche who was unconcerned with real-world affairs. "  The anti-metaphysical reading is typified by postmodernists and deconstructionists such as Jacques Derrida. 
Anderson admits that Mencken's reading of Nietzsche was " at times superficial," but he finds it to be " more faithful to Nietzsche's thought than contemporary understanding would suggest.  Our contemporaries regard Nietzsche as a progenitor of their own postmodernism.  I would suggest that men like Mencken, men who were more nearly Nietzsche's contemporaries, were closer to the truth when they regarded Nietzsche as an adherent of their own brand of realism. "
The last point is a telling one.  Many contemporary scholars approach any number of literary and philosophical works with the assumption that they can understand such works much better than they could be understood by their contemporaries.  How much of this assumption is conjured up out of their need to find or manufacture something new about which to write and publish?  How much forced novelty is at work throughout the scholarship of the humanities?  It is often almost amusing in Nietzsche's case to see who is drawn to him.  One intriguing example is Herbert Marcuse, a man of the far left who detested the European civilization in which Nietzsche saw himself as "a good European."


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Another Survey of World History: C. D. Darlington's Evolution of Man and Society

[ Originally written and posted on MySpace in 2009 ]
C. D. Darlington's The Evolution of Man and Society (1969), although it is longer (at 752 pages) and more demanding reading than Carroll Quiqley's The Evolution of Civilizations, offers more insights into the dynamics of world history.  Darlington is aware of racial and ethnic factors, and takes a more biological approach to historical questions. 

Darlington finds it significant that Karl Marx was a Jew of rabbinical ancestry.  He thusly summarizes Marx's role as an alienated critic of Western civilization:

" For Karl Marx's dream of revolution to be realized a society was wanted different from any he knew.  It had to be a society with a negligible middle class.  For although Marx himself belonged to the educated professional class, and although he had lived for forty years in England where beyond all previous experience that class was growing up, he found no place for them in his scheme of things.  They had ignored him: he intended to ignore them.  Again, it had to have a proletariat reduced to such despair as even Marx and Engels had not seen in their youth in England.  Such a society was not to be found during Marx's lifetime; but in the despised Tartarized Russia, after the sufferings of war in 1905 and again in 1917, it did recognizably exist. "

The revolution found an appropriate leader in Lenin.  Darlington gives Lenin's genealogy, which reveals that Lenin was 1/4 Jewish, 1/4 German, 1/4 Russian, and 1/4 Kalmuck Tartar.  Lenin was almost as racially alienated from Russia as Marx was from Western Europe.  Perhaps Lenin owed some of his administrative skills to his German ancestry, his ideological combativeness to his Jewish ancestry, what empathy he had with Russians to his Russian ancestry.  His mongoloid ancestry further alienated him from the Russians as did his Jewish ancestry.  Lenin had a mongoloid countenance, but in the statues and portraits of Lenin speaking, gesticulating, perhaps something of Jewry is evident.

As the real America diminishes, both demographically and geographically, as it gives way to a coming Third World America, that Third World America has found an appropriate leader, as alien to the real America as Lenin was to Russia.  Moreover, the American middle class, founded on earners of mid-level incomes, has begun to shrink in its extent.  The policy of exporting jobs (globalization) and importing workers (mass immigration) began a process which the economic debacle is accelerating.  In a different way, Marx is winning in America.  The Marxism involved, though, is more cultural than economic.  (Even the ruling stratum of China openly employs the mechanism of capitalism.)  Only in the USA does cultural Marxism combine with the destructive force of (finance) capitalism in crisis to yield a slow destruction of the real America.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Voltaire's Remarks on Pascal's Thoughts

[ Originally written and posted on MySpace on  June 27, 2007 ]
In 1901 there was published, in 42 volumes, and in various printings, some more costly and limited than others, an edition of The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version with Notes by Tobias Smollett, etc.  Various printings of this edition are still to be found in the larger libraries, both academic and public.  (Scanning the OCLC holdings for this title, it is interesting to note the number of seminaries and private denominational colleges, even Bible colleges, which own a set.)  Voltaire is a magnificent stylist, one who writes for the general reader, and has found able translators in this edition.  In volume 21, I found "Remarks on Pascal's Thoughts," which immediately follows a pungent essay entitled simply "The Jews."  Excerpts from the "Remarks" follow, with identifications of the contributions of the two authors added:    

    Pascal:  "Though the universe should fall on man and crush him to death, yet would man be still more noble than that which destroyed him; because he is conscious of the advantage the universe has over him, and that he is about to die, whereas the universe knows nothing of this."

    Voltaire:  What is here meant by the word noble?  It is true indeed, that "Thought" is a different kind of thing from the sun; but can it be proved, that an animal, because he is endowed with a few thoughts, is more noble than the sun which animates all that we behold in nature?  Is it for man to decide who is judge and culprit?  We say that one performance is superior to another, when it cost the workman more pains, and is more evidently useful; but did it cost the Creator less pains to make the sun than to mould a little animal about five feet high, who reasons sometimes well and sometimes ill?  Which of the two is more useful in the universe, this animal, or the planet that bestows light and heat, and so many surrounding worlds?  Or again, how comes it that a few ideas received into the brain should be preferable to the material universe?    

    Pascal:   "The Jews imagine that God will not forever leave other nations involved in this darkness; that a deliverer for all mankind will come; that they are sent into the world to proclaim him; that they were created purposely to be the herald of that mighty event, and to call upon all nations to unite with them in expecting such a deliverer."

    Voltaire:   The Jews have always been in expectation of a deliverer, but then he is a deliverer with regard to them, and not for us; they expected Messiah, who is to bring the Christians in subjection to the Jews; whereas, we expect a Messiah, who is one day to unite the Jews with the Christians.   Their notions on this head are directly opposite to those entertained by us.

Voltaire's "Remarks" run to fifty pages in this edition, but they may be read quickly.  Voltaire knows how to write for the general reader and does so.  He dismisses Pascal's wager as a trivialization of faith and argues that it could be employed in defense of any particular religion.  First of all, though, he credits Pascal with bringing about the greatest advance in French prose style and lauds his genius.  He believes, nonetheless, that Pascal has gone to extremes in depicting humans as hopelessly wretched and lost in sin.  Voltaire is an optimist (though not so extreme in his optimism as Leibnitz).  He looks to a future in which all will be better than it is today.
It is interesting to note that Voltaire elsewhere asserts that the miracles performed by Jehovah for the benefit of the Jews are more massive in scope than those executed by Jesus.  In the Old Testament occur stunning miracles such as the ten plagues of Egypt, death passing over the males of the Israelites even while the Egyptians are victims, the opening of the Red Sea, the pillar of fire, the stopping of the stars over Gibeon and Ajalon, and the opening of the earth to swallow up the rebellious Korah and his followers.  The miracles of the New Testament (healing the sick, the tales of the Gadarene swine, of the fig tree, the resurrection of Lazarus, walking on water, the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, the transformation of water into wine) seem less majestic.

Yet, it can be argued, against Voltaire, do not these miracles of the New Testament represent a qualitative advance over the quantitatively more impressive miracles of the Old Testament?  Also, it can be argued that the miracles of the Old Testament all have a power-political focus, only serving the Realpolitik of the Chosen People, while the miracles of Jesus find their focus in the humble of this earth.  The miracles of Jesus are intensely personal, mostly miracles of healing, while the miracles of Moses are designed to advance political objectives.       
It is unfortunate that Voltaire, when he is assigned reading in the colleges at all, is usually made known to students only as the author of Candide.  Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary, a multi-volume set of essays arranged in alphabetical order, is much more readable, and deserves to be better known and more widely read.  It is a work into which the reader may immerse himself at any point, always to emerge better than he was before he took that plunge.  One hopes that some reader of these lines will find that majestic set of The Works of Voltaire in the local library and begin to enjoy it.

Librarians and Politics

[ Originally written and posted on MySpace on Nov 15, 2006 ]
Recently, I came across a rather interesting website for librarians entitled which obviously takes its name from the traditional warning cry of the librarian. The site's homepage is headed with this quotation from the great benefactor of public libraries Andrew Carnegie: "I choose free libraries as the best agencies for improving the masses of the people, because they give nothing for nothing. They only help those who help themselves. They reach the aspiring, and open to these the chief treasures of the world, those stored in books. A taste for reading drives out the lower tastes."
This quotation from Carnegie was most probably chosen because it is in accord with the basic philosophy of proclaims itself to be a website for conservative librarians. Some conservative librarians do exist. even has links to the websites of a few of them, along with links to liberal librarians and ideologically nondescript librarians. While these three parties of librarians are fairly well balanced in their numbers on the homepage, they are rather less balanced overall. maintains that librarianship is greatly unbalanced to the left. Indeed, there is much evidence to support this assessment. Consider, for example, the following item taken from the Washington Post for July 24, 2004: "According to PoliticalMoneyLine, five times as many corporate CEOs, presidents and chairmen gave to Bush as Kerry: 17,770 to 3,393. Conversely, the number of professors who gave to Kerry is 11 times the number of those who gave to Bush, 3,508 to 322. Actors split 212 for Kerry, 12 for Bush; authors, 110 to 3; librarians, 223 to 1; journalists, 93 to 1; and social workers, 415 to 32."
What factors can account for this imbalance? One is self-evident. Public libraries and most academic libraries depend upon public tax monies. Conservatives, at least those of the most common Republican variety, generally favor low taxes. That factor alone would account for the disproportionate support among librarians for the party of public largesse as well as for librarians' antagonism towards the party of parsimony. Since librarians are a force in the formation of public opinion, perhaps the party of the right has been penny wise but pound foolish.
Conservatives might be more successful with librarians and other people if they thought more clearly about what it is that should be conserved. For most of them, such consideration seems to stop with a vow to conserve, at all costs, either "the free enterprise system" or the U.S. Constitution. Did all that is to be conserved begin only in 1789 or in 1776? Perhaps it is something primordial that must be conserved. From whence came the achievements of 1789 or 1776? Did these great blessings simply descend upon a people waiting to receive them?
Even the brilliant traditionalist Russell Kirk did not quite see this, or perhaps cautiously feigned an inability to see it. Kirk's greatest book, America's British Culture (1993) is one long lamentation about that culture's decline, but nowhere in that work does he dare to look at the possibility that that decline is due to the great decline in the percentage of the population of the USA which is of British descent. The hard fact that a culture does not create a people, but rather the reverse, never comes to expression.

Primitives versus Savages, according to Maistre

[ Originally written and posted on MySpace on  May 23, 2009 ]

Edmund Burke is the traditionalist conservative who is favored by American traditionalist conservatives, mostly due to the efforts of Russell Kirk.  Less well-known, but possibly more influential, was the Frenchman Joseph de Maistre.  Writing in reaction against the French Revolution, as did Burke, he offers some interesting correctives to the concepts of Rousseau among others.
In Robert Nisbet's "Foreword" to The Works of Joseph de Maistre (Schocken Books, 1971), Nisbet presents an outline of the thought of Maistre.  Maistre conflates the concept of a Golden Age, a pagan heritage, with the Christian notion of a prelapsarian Paradise.  Primitives, according to Maistre, are the denizens of the world before the Flood, before the fall of man.  Savages, however, are a late development, coming into existence only after the Fall.
Maistre corrects the notion of Rousseau which identifies the savages of the modern world with the primitives of the Golden Age.  Montaigne does the same in his famous essay on the cannibals of the West Indies, an essay against which Shakespeare reacts in his last play "The Tempest."  There is nothing noble about the savage Caliban in Shakespeare's play.  Caliban schemes to murder Prospero, thinking that he will win "Freedom!" by getting "a new master."
According to Maistre, Rousseau "has continually taken the savage to be primitive man, whereas the savage is not and cannot be anything other than the descendant of a man detached from the great tree of civilization by some transgression, but of a kind that can no longer be repeated, as far as I can judge, for I doubt if new savages can be created. . . . It is this final degree of brutalization that Rousseau and his like call the state of nature."    

This reminds me of the popular Darwinian formula according to which man and apes are the descendants of a common ancestor.  Was this common ancestor more "advanced" than the apes of today, but less "advanced" than the man of today?  Are not the apes evidence of a great regression, or fall, from the state of this common ancestor to both apes and men?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Two Other Surveys of World History: Chamberlain, Quigley

[ Originally written on Nov. 18, 2009 ]

H. G. Wells's The Outline of History is well worth reading again.  There are, however, two other surveys of world history that are worthy of being read once and then read again:  Houston Stewart Chamberlain's Foundations of the Nineteenth Century and Carroll Quigley's The Evolution of Civilizations: An Introduction to Historical Analysis.
Foundations of the Nineteenth Century has a title that may well mislead.  It is not about just the nineteenth century.  Chamberlain wrote his monumental work, two volumes running to approximately 1,500 pages, at the end of the nineteenth century.  For him, the nineteenth century was the contemporary world.  His great work attempts to explain how the modern world came into being.  More remarkably, Chamberlain first wrote the work in German as Grundlagen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts.  Only later, in 1914, was it translated into English and published in England.  The English edition won the praise of George Bernard Shaw and Theodore Roosevelt.  The first, German edition won the endorsement of Kaiser Wilhelm.

Chamberlain was in one way like Joseph Conrad, the Pole who was born in Poland, moved to England and there became a master of the English language who has few equals.  Chamberlain moved the other way.  The son of an English admiral, he moved to France and Switzerland, then on to Germany where he met and married the daughter of the great composer Richard Wagner.  The most controversial fact about Chamberlain's Grundlagen is that it was extolled by Adolf Hitler.  Oftentimes people can do as little about their supporters as they can about their enemies.
Carroll Quigley's The Evolution of Civilizations was praised by Bill Clinton as one of the most influential books in his life.  We should not let that fact prejudice us against Quiqley's work.  Books can have all kinds of notorious readers.  First published in 1961 by Macmillan, The Evolution of Civilizations was reprinted in 1979 by Liberty Press, a conservative publishing house based at Indianapolis.  Much shorter than Chamberlain's great work, Quigley's book runs to only 442 pages.  It is a very useful tool, though, for prying into the innermost workings of history.

Friday, August 17, 2012

An Outsider Author: Norma Cox; H. G. Wells on Socrates

An Outsider Author: Norma Cox

Just as there are "outsider artists," artists working as primitives, naively, without schooling in the arts, so there should be recognized a category of outsider authors.   By happenstance, one well-known outsider artist, Richard S. Shaver, moved to the Ozarks of Arkansas about the same time as did an outsider author, Norma Cox.   Cox, one of the subjects of Diane Kossy's book Kooks, was an outsider author who created, in "Secrets," a series of publications sent from Marshall, Arkansas, a novel mythology, much in the way that William Blake and H. P. Blavatsky created their own novel mythologies.  
On first reading, Norma Cox's works -- three of which,  Christianity and the Sun God, For Love of Allah!, and Illuminism in the Ozarks have been published on the Internet -- seem close to fantasy.  If the reader can suspend his disbelief, however, the flow of ideas and images is strangely compelling.   (The three titles named have been posted at jrbooksonline and at 
Cox was virtually self-taught as an author and researcher.  That she was no professional is evidenced by her reference to an old encyclopedia which she consulted, while not naming the title.  What she offers as a seemingly unsubstantiated opinion about Muhammad is, in fact, also stated by Edward Gibbon in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and in the 11th edition (1910) of the Encyclopedia Britannica.   Both works state that Muhammad was guided by a Jewish rabbi when he wrote the Koran.   Gibbon even adds the information that there is some evidence that Muhammad's mother was Jewish.  If so, then Muhammad would qualify as being an halachic Jew.   Was Muhammadanism originally just one more project which Jewry created and aimed at the gentiles?  If that was the case, then Jewry lost control of Muhammadanism much the way that it lost control of Christianity once it had spread to northern Europe.  
The following is an excerpt from Norma Cox's For Love of Allah! :   

    " States the reference book: "Tradition says that Mohammed drew up the Koran with the assistance of a Persian Jew rabbi and a Nestorian monk."

    " Pointed out are Jewish expressions used: Gan Eden (paradise);Gehinnom (Jewish Gehenn) and Sabbath. Pertinent is this, quoting directly: 'Of the sacred writing of the Jews, he (Mohammed) cites only thePentateuch and the Psalms. In chapter XX1 he represents the Almighty as saying, "I have promised in the books of Moses and in the Psalms that my virtuous servants on earth shall have the earth for their inheritance." Of the New Testament he cites nothing whatever.'

    " Considering, one cannot help but wonder if perhaps the Jew was thinking far into the future, to the time when the Koran could be used for the benefit of his people."


[ Originally written and posted on MySpace on Nov. 15, 2009 ]

H. G. Wells on Socrates
Below is what H. G. Wells has to offer in his The Outline of History regarding Socrates.  What I find most striking is the balance with which Wells approaches the topic and the celerity with which he then moves on to the next topic.  What a great balancing act it was to write a world history within 1300 pages!  Wells also shows ideological balance.  He does not idealize Socrates, but he does not accept the implicit suggestion that Socrates was largely a corrupter of the youth of Athens.  Wells's Outline of History is well worth reading again.

    " Another leading figure in this Athenian movement, a figure still more out of harmony with the life around him, and quite as much an original source and stimulant of the enduring greatness of his age, was a man called Socrates, the son of a stone-mason. He was born about sixteen years later than Herodotus, and he was beginning to be heard of about the time when Pericles died. He himself wrote nothing, but it was his custom to talk in public places. There was in those days a great searching for wisdom going on; there was a various multitude of teachers called sophists who reasoned upon truth, beauty, and right living, and instructed the developing curiosities and imaginations of youth. This was so because there were no great priestly schools in Greece. And into these discussions this man came, a clumsy and slovenly figure, barefooted, gathering about him a band of admirers and disciples.

    " His method was profoundly sceptical; he believed that the only possible virtue was true knowledge; he would tolerate no belief, no hope that could not pass the ultimate acid test. For himself this meant virtue, but for many of his weaker followers it meant the loss of beliefs and moral habits that would have restrained their impulses. These weaklings became self-excusing, self-indulging scoundrels. Among his young associates were Plato, who afterwards immortalized his method in a series of philosophical dialogues, and founded the philosophical school of the Academy, which lasted nine hundred years, Xenophon, of the Ten Thousand, who described his death, and Isocrates, one of the wisest of Greek political thinkers; but there were also Critias, who, when Athens was utterly defeated by Sparta, was leader among the Thirty Tyrants appointed by the Spartans to keep the crushed city under;  Charmides, who was killed beside Critias when the Thirty were overthrown; and Alcibiades, a brilliant and complex traitor, who did much to lead Athens into the disastrous expedition against Syracuse which destroyed her strength, who betrayed her to the Spartans, and who was at last assassinated while on his way to the Persian court to contrive mischief against Greece. These latter pupils were not the only young men of promise whose vulgar faith and patriotism Socrates destroyed, to leave nothing in its place. His most inveterate enemy was a certain Anytus, whose son, a devoted disciple of Socrates, had become a hopeless drunkard. Through Anytus it was that Socrates was at last prosecuted for "corrupting" the youth of Athens, and condemned to death by drinking a poisonous draught made from hemlock (329 B. C).

    " His death is described with great beauty in the dialogue of Plato called by the name of Phaedo. "



Saturday, August 11, 2012

H. L. Mencken's Book on Nietzsche

 [ Originally written and posted on on   June 17, 2007  ]
    Mencken's Nietzsche
As a new addition to its paperback series, "The Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading," the firm of Barnes & Noble has reprinted H. L. Mencken's book, The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, originally published in 1908 and, according to the description on the cover, "the first complete exposition of Nietzsche's thought written in English."  Looking at the bibliographical note which  Mencken appends to his book, that honor would seem to belong to Grace Neal Dolson, who published her own book, also entitled The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, in 1901.  Dolson's work is not in print, but it is available by searching her name in Google Book Search.  Mencken praises Dolson's work.
This first book by Mencken is written in the same readable and entertaining style that is characteristic of his later works.  Even the incomparable wit of Mencken appears, though still in its nascent stage.  Writing for the general reader, rather than scholars, Mencken is nonethless serious in his documentation of facts.  His explication of Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy is the most understandable one which I have read.  Also, his definitions of  Nietzschean terms, especially Apollonian and Dionysian, are concise and clear.  Moreover, Mencken shows how the Apollonian-Dionysian opposition reappears in subsequent works by Nietzsche.  To write his book, Mencken read Nietzsche in the original German, consulting few secondary sources, a noteworthy achievement.
While Mencken is obviously a sympathetic reader of Nietzsche, he does not shrink from offering a critique of some of Nietzsche's ideas.  Mencken finds incredible the Nietzschean theory that Christianity was a form of slave morality imposed by the Jews upon the Europeans:  "It is obvious that this idea is sheer lunacy.  That the Jews ever realized the degenerating effect of their own slave-morality is unlikely, and that they should take counsel together and plan such an elaborate and complicated revenge, is impossible.  The reader of Nietzsche must expect to encounter such absurdities now and then. . . . sometimes the traditional German tendency to indulge in wild and imbecile flights of speculation cropped up in him."
"The Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading" has many titles worthy of being read and read again.  In addition to the major works of Nietzsche, the series includes two titles which are excellent starting points for anyone seeking to begin a general education:  H. G. Wells's The Outline of History, in two volumes, and Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary.  Wells and Voltaire were both leading liberal thinkers in the best sense of that term, champions of liberation in thought, but they are too often forgotten in this day when many people are ready to cast aside the whole literary product of those whom they dismiss as "DWEMs" (i.e. dead white European males).   (Lest anyone begins to wonder, I own no stock in Barnes & Noble.)



A Reader's Commentary on Nietzsche's Zarathustra

[ Back in Aug. 2006, a reader who gave the name "Peggy" offered the following interesting insights on Nietzsche's Zarathustra. ]

            Since I don’t think I know enough about the piece to respond to the blog entry, I thought I'd share with the readers my recent encounter with Zarathustra. I have always read second-hand summaries of the works of Nietzsche, so seeing this blog entry was motivation to decide to read this great epic poem.Thus Spake Zarathustra (1883), directly. I read it along with a few notes from a dated literature book I found it in—that helped. 

            In the introductory notes to the work, the interpreter/textbook author mentioned that it was widely believed that Nietzsche was portraying himself as the character Zarathustra—and his own spiritual journey. This was something I had not known before—or long forgotten.

            So, for those who have not read this, my contribution will be to present a very short—almost absurdly short--summary. I  adapted some of this from Jorn K. Bramann (1988) and added my own notes and interpretations as well. Maybe this will refresh the memories for those who may not have read it for a while.


            1. The story begins as Zarathustra exposes his purpose for developing a philosophy--to solve the problem of the world—a deep spiritual malaise due to the “death of God.”
            2. He believes humanity should overcome their mediocrity and create the “overman” --a kind of super--man/human being.
            3. The masses have no use for this idea. They are interested only in a nice, comfortable life—pleasure—the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people (Utilitarianism).
            4. Zarathustra, realizing this, has nothing but contempt for the masses. All fall short of their personal and human potential. So, he looks around for some outstanding individuals who are truly "seekers". He attracts some. His teaching begins in earnest.

            Part One.

              Twenty-two speeches (made basically of six main points)
            1. Rejection of metaphysics.  He says that priest of metaphysical religions kill true reverence for life because they are afraid of life; they have failed to come to terms with it.
            2. Rejection of the traditional dualism of body and mind. He encourages his followers to acknowledge that their bodies and mind are one.
            3. Self-assertion of individualism. (The most outstanding moral heights and greatest thoughts and deeds come from the force of life within one person. The herd mentality can muffle this.)
            4. The price is struggle—living a warrior’s life (not to be confused with an advocacy of militarism or nationalistic expansion).
            5. Self-determination is crucial at all levels. A moral order cannot be imposed from any external source, authority, social institution, or tradition. Nothing is ‘given’.  This is like creating a world out of chaos. An example is ‘free death.’ A truly autonomous being will not wait until death “sneaks in like a thief,” but freely decides when it is time to go.
            6. Life is a process, not a state. A person is a process, too, not a static entity. Living life is not accomplished by holding on, but accumulating things or knowledge, but by always overcoming oneself, and by transforming or passing on everything that one acquires—impermanence.

            Part Two.

            Zarathustra has a dream—a child holds up a mirror. He doesn’t see himself; he sees a devil laughing. He believes it means he should return to his teaching career.

            He returns to the Blessed Isles where his followers live. He teaches his new concept: “Will to Power”—the most basic force in all living things—more basic than the will to live. This is a concept akin to the unified structure of Newtonian physics.

            Soon, something changes. He begins to sing. Something is missing in his life. He craves darkness. He encounters self-doubts. His message is that ultimately everything is futile and vain. He is in a state of disillusionment from which he cannot escape.

            Other encounters/dreams…mountain castle of death/black coffin torn open.  Conversation with an observant hunchback. He realizes something is wrong. He knows is days as a teacher are numbered. He is deeply depressed.

            Part Three.

            Zarathustra is by himself. He’s a wanderer.  He tries to get ready to meet the most difficult task that he has to face in his life. “I must descend deeper into pain than I ever descended down into its blackest flood.”  He is readying himself to die.  He embarks on a long journey before he returns to his cave. He goes across the sea, through big cities, Many thoughts enter his mind…recurrence…everything will repeat itself. Everything that exists must have existed before; the future is like the past. On a cosmic scale there can be no progress. Time is not linear, but forever moves in circles.

            He is disgusted at the prospect of the eternal recurrence. He achieves the laughter of liberation in an encounter with a Shepherd. He continues his travels through the wasteland of modern civilization He finds no one dealing with the important questions. He thinks the best response is silence. He returns to his cave to work on himself, but instead of subscribing to the traditional virtues of monks—poverty, chastity and obedience, he continues to advocate the vigorous living of life.

            He recovers from his crisis. He recovers the implication of eternal recurrence by emphatically living in the present. “Being begins in every moment. The center is everywhere.”  It is now that the struggle takes place, and now that life manifests itself in the intensity of one’s efforts. The concept of eternal recurrence is not a paralyzing thought anymore, but the joyful vision of a new kind of secular eternity.

            An important sign of Zarathustra’s recovery is the fact that he has learned to sing and dance.  Speaking tends to be a disembodied mode of communication. Singing and dancing involve the not only the intellect, but the body and its passions as well. A person who is capable of singing and dancing is whole, and life is more present in such a person than in a lecturing teacher.

            Zarathustra demonstrates a love of life that encompasses not only its dark sides, but even its ultimate purposelessness. It is a love that is achieved by living life-after a long period of merely thinking and teaching about it. It is a seeing love, a love that feels and knows at the same time.

            Be aware, o man!
            What does the deep midnight declare?
            ‘I was asleep; From a deep dream I woke.
            The world is deep—
            Deeper than the day had thought.
            Deep is its woe.
            But ecstasy is deeper yet than agony.
            Woe says: Be gone!
            But joy aims at eternity—
            At deep, deep eternity.’

            Part Four. (Sometimes not considered part of Thus Spake Zarathustra. I have not included it here.)

            I have to say I had a few surprises as I read this work through.  Unexpectedly, writing has deeply affected my thinking. I could not believe how much of my own philosophy was grounded in a number of these beliefs--without my recognizing where they might come from. It was a little like finding a lost necklace in the back yard that had been dropped some years ago--rusty, a little bent, a little hard to  recognize at first, but clearly my lost necklace. I think now I'll have to read it again. Thanks Brent, and kudos for always raising such interesting questions.

            ...               4 days ago
            I meant to say earlier how funny bookman's response was. I loved his insight and transitions. His ability to connect across literary arenas is quite fascinating to me.
            Another thing that I was reminded of when rereading this reflection was related to an aspect of my own career field--that of teaching English to speakers of other languages (ESOL). One of the the barriers to success in schools for ESOL learners is that their reading of the standard required reading fare is severely hindered by their lack of cultural knowledge with which to use to interact with the content of the reading. They may have the words, the grammar, the fluency down pat, but lack the experience of such things as an American Thanksgiving, A Christmas morning around a tree, snow, a home without an extended family living within, children calling the shots when decisions are being made, tornadoes, industrial family farms, etc.  This slows down or stops reading from being the smooth interactive process that it is for native speakers with those cultural experiences. This also applies to native speakers who come from homes of poverty where experiences are limited. Educators have also documented that standardized tests fail miserably in this regard for children coming from backgrounds of poverty, as well as for those from backgrounds other than middle-to-upper class white or black backgrounds. Students in these categories score well below those in the middle-to-upper class backgrounds on the questions that include experiences familiar to those children. So, who is dumber, the ones taking the tests or the one making the tests?
            ... Show more
            5 years ago

            Georg Christoph Lichtenberg--what an interesting figure, sickly, physically broken, continually fighting depression, but somehow maintaining a sense of humor throughout his life.
            When I read the aphorism cited above, I remembered seeing it in a slightly different version in the preface of a book by Kierkegaard, Stages on Life's Way that I own. That version goes, "Such works are mirrors: when an ape looks into them, no apostle looks out." No big difference, but at that point I got a little curious about what words Lichtenberg had used in the original. While searching, I found yet another version before finding what seems to be the original. The next version was, A book is a mirror; if an ass peers into it, you cannot expect an apostle to peer out. What I think is most likely to be the original,

            A book is a mirror: if an ape looks into it an apostle is hardly likely to look out. [It goes on] We have no words for speaking of wisdom to the stupid. He who understands the wise is wise already.

            Many intellectuals were consumers of Lichtenberg's aphorisms and loyal admirers of his wisdom Goethe, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein, and Bertrand Russell to name a few.

            I ran across another of Lichtenberg's aphorisms in this process, which is somewhat of the same mirror-type metaphor. It also captures that characteristic cynicism about life that appears to underlie much of Lichtenberg's aphorisms.
What is called an acute knowledge of human nature is mostly nothing but the observer's own weaknesses reflected back from others.

  [  Aug 10, 2006  ]

    Comments on some comments
A reader has offered as a comment yet another translation of Zechariah 9:6.  This is from the Eugene H. Petersen translation called The Message:

    And a villain will take over in Ashdod.
    "I'll take proud Philistia down a peg; I'll make him spit out his bloody booty and abandon his vile ways."
According to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, the word translated as "bastard" in the KJV and as "mongrel" in the NRSV is mamzer, which is entry #4464 in Strong's, according to which it is "from an unused root meaning to alienate; a mongrel, i.e. born of a Jewish father and a heathen mother: -- bastard."   The same term, mamzer, also appears in Deuteronomy 23:2.
What makes this reference interesting is the fact that such "mongrels" are forbidden to partake in the Hebrew worship even if they profess the true faith.  Simply their ancestry condemns them to exclusion.  This is an early appearance of ethnocentrism.  These "bastards" are condemned not for any illegality of their birth, but solely for their antecedents.  This fact is totally lost in the Douay and The Message translations.
Another comment suggested that the quotation from Emerson's essay on books might make a suitable epitaph on Univbookman's tombstone.  The only complication here is that he plans on being cremated.   It is interesting that people are returning to cremation as a means of disposing of the dead.  It is a return to an earlier practice, that of our Indo-European ancestors.  According to Carroll Quigley's The Evolution of Civilizations, cremation was the practice of the early Indo-Europeans, while burial was the practice of the early Semites.   Quigley also notes that the early Indo-Europeans believed in skygods while the Semites believed in earth-gods and earth-goddesses. Quigley was one of Bill Clinton's professors at Georgetown University.  Clinton recommends The Evolution of Civilizations as one of the most important books he ever read.   Indeed, it encompasses in not more than 400 pages a wealth of insights into the structure and development of civilizations throughout history.
One other important difference between the ancient Indo-Europeans and the ancient Semites is that the former believed that the soul is liberated immediately at death, without any intervention from the gods, while the Semites, in Abrahamic monotheism (which includes Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) believe that survival after death is due to our bodily resurrection by a god.   Socrates taught that the body is the prison-house of the soul; death frees the soul from the body.  Hence, there is no reason to preserve the body for some future resurrection.
Indo-Europeans are independent in their theological thought, while the Semites stress dependency.  Indo-Europeans believe that the world always was, Semites that the world was created by a god and is dependent for its existence upon a god.   In the so-called New Age movement perhaps we are really seeing a return to the ancient wisdom of the Indo-Europeans.
               This is a beautiful interpretation. It makes me think of what a lovely inscription it might make on the tombstone of a devoted reference librarian (with apologies to Emerson):
            "As a master of books, he appeared from time to time and carried us over dark morasses and barren oceans, into the heart of sacred cities and temples."

Friday, August 10, 2012

When You Really Cannot Get to There from Here

[ Originally written and posted on MySpace on  April 19, 2007 ]
Recently an acquaintance who has worked for more than a decade at a small academic library as one of two professional librarians, both of whom hold A.L.A.-accredited  M.S.L.S. degrees, thought that he had a good chance for promotion.  The library at which he works, which serves a two-year branch of a state-supported university, employed, in addition to the two professional librarians, a number of paraprofessional workers as well as part-time student workers.   What he saw as an opportunity for promotion came when his superior, the other professional librarian, who was the director of the library, left her position.
Although the hopeful librarian had some reason to believe that he would be chosen to become the director of the library, an outsider was hired.  The basis for the hiring decision came down to this:  He had experience supervising the non-professional workers, but no experience supervising any professional librarians.  The person hired had experience supervising other professionals.  The disappointed librarian faced a problem that many of us face.  Since supervisory experience over other professionals is so important for advancement, how is a person to advance who has never had such supervisory experience?
What kind of profession is it in which an all-important bifurcation exists between supervisory professionals and non-supervisory professionals?  This fetishism over supervisory experience may be understandable in a public library, an institution whose director is usually, in effect, an employee at will of the local Chamber of Commerce.  In this case, however, the library is an academic library.  What measure of collegiality and professionalism can exist among academic librarians when non-supervisory librarians find themselves almost hopelessly indentured as such?  Advancement by going elsewhere is unlikely when supervisory experience over other professionals seems to be a sine qua non for consideration.
What brings this episode to mind is the current emailing from American Libraries Direct, an A.L.A. publication, which touts the Librarian Act of 2007.  If enacted, this will finance education in librarianship which is direly needed because of the perennial "shortage" of librarians holding the M.S.L.S.  What the reader is not told is the fact that the A.L.A. determines that there is a "shortage" on the basis of the A.L.A.'s own standards stipulating how many professional librarians there should be.  Always, the A.L.A. finds, there are not enough professional librarians, usually because most of them will soon be retiring.
Aside from the very real threat of disintermediation, which A.L.A. publications never seem to consider, one must wonder what is the point of producing so many professional librarians,  many of whom will find themselves in the non-professional cul-de-sac to which non-supervisory workers are relegated?