Log24

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Wednesday November 27, 2002

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 11:30 PM

Waiting for Logos

Searching for background on the phrase "logos and logic" in yesterday's "Notes toward a Supreme Fact," I found this passage:

"…a theory of psychology based on the idea of the soul as the dialectical, self-contradictory syzygy of a) soul as anima and b) soul as animus. Jungian and archetypal psychology appear to have taken heed more or less of only one half of the whole syzygy, predominantly serving an anima cut loose from her own Other, the animus as logos and logic (whose first and most extreme phenomenological image is the killer of the anima, Bluebeard). Thus psychology tends to defend the virginal innocence of the anima and her imagination…"

— Wolfgang Giegerich, "Once More the Reality/Irreality Issue: A Reply to Hillman's Reply," website 

The anima and other Jungian concepts are used to analyze Wallace Stevens in an excellent essay by Michael Bryson, "The Quest for the Fiction of an Absolute." Part of Bryson's motivation in this essay is the conflict between the trendy leftist nominalism of postmodern critics and the conservative realism of more traditional critics:

"David Jarraway, in his Stevens and the Question of Belief, writes about a Stevens figured as a proto-deconstructionist, insisting on 'Steven's insistence on dismantling the logocentric models of belief' (311) in 'An Ordinary Evening in New Haven.' In opposition to these readings comes a work like Janet McCann's Wallace Stevens Revisited: 'The Celestial Possible', in which the claim is made (speaking of the post-1940 period of Stevens' life) that 'God preoccupied him for the rest of his career.'"

Here "logocentric" is a buzz word for "Christian." Stevens, unlike the postmodernists, was not anti-Christian. He did, however, see that the old structures of belief could not be maintained indefinitely, and pondered what could be found to replace them. "Notes toward a Supreme Fiction" deals with this problem. In his essay on Stevens' "Notes," Bryson emphasizes the "negative capability" of Keats as a contemplative technique:

"The willingness to exist in a state of negative capability, to accept that sometimes what we are seeking is not that which reason can impose…."

For some related material, see Simone Weil's remarks on Electra waiting for her brother Orestes. Simone Weil's brother was one of the greatest mathematicians of the past century, André Weil.

"Electra did not seek Orestes, she waited for him…"

— Simone Weil

"…at the end, she pulls it all together brilliantly in the story of Electra and Orestes, where the importance of waiting on God rather than seeking is brought home forcefully."

— Tom Hinkle, review of Waiting for God

Compare her remarks on waiting for Orestes with the following passage from Waiting for God:

"We do not obtain the most precious gifts by going in search of them but by waiting for them. Man cannot discover them by his own powers, and if he sets out to seek for them he will find in their place counterfeits of which he will be unable to discern falsity.

The solution of a geometry problem does not in itself constitute a precious gift, but the same law applies to it because it is the image of something precious. Being a little fragment of particular truth, it is a pure image of the unique, eternal, and living Truth, the very Truth that once in a human voice declared: "I am the Truth."

Every school exercise, thought of in this way, is like a sacrament.

In every school exercise there is a special way of waiting upon truth, setting our hearts upon it, yet not allowing ourselves to go out in search of it. There is a way of giving our attention to the data of a problem in geometry without trying to find the solution…."

— Simone Weil, "Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of  God"

Weil concludes the preceding essay with the following passage:

"Academic work is one of those fields containing a pearl so precious that it is worth while to sell all of our possessions, keeping nothing for ourselves, in order to be able to acquire it."

This biblical metaphor is also echoed in the work of Pascal, who combined in one person the theological talent of Simone Weil and the mathematical talent of her brother. After discussing how proofs should be written, Pascal says

"The method of not erring is sought by all the world. The logicians profess to guide to it, the geometricians alone attain it, and apart from their science, and the imitations of it, there are no true demonstrations. The whole art is included in the simple precepts that we have given; they alone are sufficient, they alone afford proofs; all other rules are useless or injurious. This I know by long experience of all kinds of books and persons.

And on this point I pass the same judgment as those who say that geometricians give them nothing new by these rules, because they possessed them in reality, but confounded with a multitude of others, either useless or false, from which they could not discriminate them, as those who, seeking a diamond of great price amidst a number of false ones, but from which they know not how to distinguish it, should boast, in holding them all together, of possessing the true one equally with him who without pausing at this mass of rubbish lays his hand upon the costly stone which they are seeking and for which they do not throw away the rest."

— Blaise Pascal, The Art of Persuasion

 

For more diamond metaphors and Jungian analysis, see

The Diamond Archetype.

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