SEMINAR ROOM

Ariadne's Comments on "The Pattern of History"

While I agree that history (thank you for eschewing the hateful word "herstory") shows an accelerating degradation or decline from its matriarchal beginnings towards apparently terminal patriarchal squalor, I do not agree that language has necessarily followed a parallel downward trend.

I am certainly neither philologist nor linguist, yet my acquaintance with various languages, modern and ancient, reveals no compelling correlation between so-called synthetic and analytic languages and superior and inferior intellectuality. Nor can one unequivocally equate "earliness" of a language with complexity, as you seem to do, implying that the earlier is the more complex.

On the contrary, one intuitively would expect the earliest form of a language (1) to be relatively concrete, with an initial vocabulary limited to physical objects, and only later maturing to include words for expressing emotions or sensations and last of all, complex, abstract concepts. Once a language is ³well-established,² however, I suppose a case might be made for its having an apogee and a perigee over time, particularly as languages do become extinct - an absolute nadir - so I won't argue that modern Greek may be a pale shadow of ancient Greek. (Not being fluent in either, I am in no position to judge.)

If intensity of inflection or complexity of case-endings is a measure of expressivity of a language, and, therefore, of the intellectuality of its speakers, as you imply, then Hungarian, with 16 to 21 cases (depending on which expert one believes), would carry the field and Hungarians would be the most intellectual of all Western peoples. (2)

According to this argument, English, a highly analytic language with only vestigial case endings, an atrophied subjunctive and virtual absence even of noun gender, should be a crude, inexpressive tongue spoken by dolts and idiots. But English is an exquisitely flexible, expressive and subtle tongue which has become even more so over centuries, occasionally growing in quantum fashion, for example, in the years following the Norman conquest. Then an entirely new linguistic menu suddenly was provided for the island's resident clientele, who more or less eagerly selected from it, and did not reject it as a mere list of unpalatable side dishes from across the Channel.

In fact, the flexibility of English is so great precisely because of its progressive loss of inflection and grammatical simplification It can thereby aggrandize to itself words from any other tongue without pausing to consider intricacies of noun endings or even whether a new word is a noun or a verb. Other languages have greater difficulties with this, or its speakers have even established official governmental agencies to keep alien words out (French). (3) You will reply that as a result English has become bloated and over-freighted with scientific and technical terms, that this has caused it to become the lingua franca of materialistic scientism, and I would agree with you.

Yet at the same time, through its wonderful expansile flexibility, English has retained, in fact augmented, its power to express delicate refinements of thought, feeling and concept as well as any other tongue now or previously existing, I am confident. I speak not of the vernacular or vulgate form of the language, of course, (4) but of the very best of which standard English is capable.

I am afraid I cannot completely agree that language is being progressively simplified for a simpler people.

ARIADNE

Notes

(1) Naturally, since the earliest forms of language have, by definition, no written record, and as their speakers have long since returned to dust, all theories are just about equally valid or equally absurd.

(2) Indeed, perhaps they are, but the rest of the world has certainly not heard about it yet.

(3) Not coincidentally, the majority of words barred by the French happen to be English.

(4) Much less criminal argots designed to keep standard speakers in the dark.


Thank you once again for a very thoughtful and reasoned response. One of the problems of a course of study such as this is that it must necessarily present the material in small bits, leaving the exposition, during its stages of development, somewhat partial; and some of the points you raise would, I think have been not so much answered as rendered unnecessary by a fuller development of the thesis on our part. The idea that since earlier (and more synthetic) languages are the vehicles of a greater intellectuality the latest (and most analytic), represented par excellence by English, must be supremely stupid does not really follow from our thesis, although it may have seemed to from the brief summary so far presented. It is all a little more complex than that.

But to begin with, let us clear a little ground. Your response is, essentially a defence of the English language against a charge you believe to be implicit in our thesis, so let me begin by saying that I accept everything you say in praise of the English language. It is, indeed a fine and flexible instrument of great beauty and majesty. Indeed, during the romantic revival of the 19th century, while the Germans were famous for their music and the French for their painting, the English (who excelled in neither) were renowned for their poetry. It is sometimes assumed by English speakers that while painting and music are "international languages" and therefore all nations are free to choose the best from any nation (thus French painting and German music stand high in the English world), poetry, being bounded by language tends to remain within national barriers - in other words, that we admire the English romantics because they spoke our language, and that elsewhere other writers would hold as high a position and ours might be unknown. It is not so. Among artistic and educated Europeans of the 19th century, English poetry stood as high as German music or French painting.

Nevertheless, we do maintain that English, as the most analytic of the great modern languages, is the Iron Age language par excellence. The extreme of the tendency to which the linguistic tendency of the Iron Age has been leading. And, indeed, it is because of this that English is most suitable for expressing the sensibility of this late period, making it both the highest medium for its poetry and the lingua franca of its commerce, politics and technics.

You see (and here we are running far ahead of ourselves to ideas which we shall be developing rather later), while the historical process is one of decline, it is over-simplistic to see that decline simply in terms of good and bad. The process of manifestation itself is a decline - a decline from the pure, unalloyed Principle or Spirit, to ever further development on the material plane. With each turn of the spiral of descent something is lost on the vertical plane and something gained on the horizontal.

The 19th century romantic movement was the product of a society far removed from the integral intellectuality (and we are here using the term "intellectuality" in a manner which we must explain more fully later, as essentially the faculty of spiritual vision) of a more traditional society. It sprang from a society already deeply immersed in the individualist psychology of later patriarchy. We are not saying this is simply a "bad thing". On the contrary, it is a necessary part of the historical cycle and allows for the development of states of mind and sensibility impossible to more "central" or "vertical" ages. The great metaphysician René Guénon writes that these latter days are founded upon those things that earlier ages thought unworthy of consideration, and this is true. Nonetheless, those rejected things do have their place, albeit a lower one, in the final unfolding of the historical cycle. They possess within themselves excellences and vistas that could not be explored except in the more "horizontal" and "materialised" climate of the late days, and without the expression of which, the unfolding of the cycle would be incomplete.

English, therefore, being the language most fully adapted to its position in the historical cycle (note that your praise of it centres upon its broadness, its inclusiveness, its horizontal and quanititative character: and it is not an accident, symbolically, that analytic languages are, by their very nature, more separative, more spread-out, less concise or unified than synthetic ones) is the perfect vehicle for the age.

And yet, as you so rightly note, there is a high and fine English and a debased and vulgarised English, and increasingly since the Eclipse the latter has been gaining ground over the former in every department of life. This is another matter, and, like every question that has to do with language, it is related to much wider cultural and historical issues, all of which we shall have occasion to consider in the near future.

There are many other points raised by your response which bear further consideration, but the one we most wish to mention here is the following:

. . .one intuitively would expect the earliest form of a language to be relatively concrete, with an initial vocabulary limited to physical objects, and only later maturing to include words for expressing emotions or sensations and last of all, complex, abstract concepts.
Now, we shall be discussing later the concept of intuition and its relation to intellect (if you consider the etymology of each word, you will see how closely related are the original concepts). But we must point out here that what you characterise as intuitive in this case is quite the reverse; it is, in fact, an extrapolation from the developmentalist philosophy of the late-patriarchal world. One has this particular intuition only after one has learned to make certain suppositions about the nature of maid and her history - specifically to assume that principles are a late development of the human intellect rather than its starting-point. Of course this is one of the fundamental concepts of the modern patriarchal world-view, but it is also precisely the view we wish to contest. If the fundamental Principles or Ideas are true, and if the human mind is, before all else, the reflector of that Truth, then those principles are the first things in our minds, not the last: they are, indeed, the very origin and raison d'etre of all our thinking.

The question here is the fundamental point at issue between the two views of the cosmos. Can the greater be derived from the less?


Response from Ariadne to "Essence and Substance"

My comments:

The acknowledged progenitor, the Atlas of the 17th and 18th century mechanistic view of the cosmos, Isaac Newton himself, fully understood the very paradox and weakness of modern science that you describe. One can push out against the periphery of knowledge and parse natural phenomena ever finer, even to the subatomic particles you mention. But a final barrier remains beyond which nothing is comprehensible and all must be accepted on faith or not understood at all.

Newton defined the laws of motion and rationalized the movements of the heavenly bodies, finally integrating almost two millennia of work by Ptolemy, Copernicus,Tycho and Kepler. He reduced the phenomena of the solar system to the inverse square law of gravitational force, but was utterly unable to explain why gravity exists at all nor how it can act at a distance -- contrary to his axioms, or laws or motion, which depend upon direct contact between masses.

So he went beyond his science, and postulated a deity (indeed, the western, biblical God of Israel) to "save" the phenomena: a literal Deus ex Machina (to make a bad pun). In the General Scholium to his "Principia Mathematica," Book III, "The System of the World," he writes:

"This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being . . . In bodies, we see only their figures and colors, we hear only the sounds, we touch only their outward surfaces, we smell only the smells, and taste the savors; but their inward substances are not to be known either by our senses, or by any reflex acts of our minds. . ."

So the father of modern, mechanistic science did not fall into the irony you mention: he plainly did not believe that everything could be explained "from the side of Matter," and, far from ignoring Essence, he postulated its existence in the form of the Christian god who informs matter at the most elemental level with its fundamental essence, incomprehensible, by definition, to human minds. (On the other hand, on a practical level, Newton was such an unworldly man that it is said he once, in a distracted, thoughtful moment, tamped his pipe with the finger of a lady whose hand he was holding -- apparently as far as he ever got in the courtship department.)

It was the scientists who followed him who arrogated to themselves the power to explain everything in terms of matter, even beyond the periphery. Newton, I believe, was not a comfortable scientific materialist, or a materialist at all, for that matter. And if he had been, he was an uncomfortable one.

My Question:

What does your piece have to do with femininity? How do I reconcile this writing with "The Girl on the Telephone" or "A Summer Afternoon"?

Actually, I suspect I know exactly, and you will publish it in time, I hope. It has to do with your statement that "we are speaking of vital truths which have always been true," applied not to inanimate bodies but to humankind itself. It has to do with the ineluctable feminine essence which cannot be described or comprehended intellectually, but which has an eternal existence quite apart from physical woman. And which has been brutally assailed in the last several decades, I grant.

Am I right?

ARIADNE


Thank you for your well-considered response. Your point about Newton is very true, and, indeed the longe paper from which Essence and Substance is extracted does refer to this, though not in such detail as you have done. We wish to make clear that our work by no means entails an attack on physical science. It does entail a refutation of the unscientific popular attitude of "scientism": the belief that physical science is, in principle, capable of putting forward an exhaustive explanation of being. Many scientists -- especially the more intelligent and distinguished ones -- from Newton onwards, have not taken this view, and it should be realised that when a scientist does take this view he is, ipso facto, speaking not as a professional scientist, but an amateur philosopher.

Now to your question. You have answered it yourself, and your answer is quite correct, although it is not the whole of the answer. These "vital truths which have always been true, do indeed refer to humankind itself as well as physical objects. By their very nature they apply to the human microcosm and to the universal macrocosm alike, and indeed the two can often be difficult to distinguish (since we see all things from within the former). The Feminine principle does correspond to Essence and the masculine to Substance, and the movement of history toward the Substantial pole (in human culture expressed as an increasing "materialism") is accompanied by an increasing masculinisation (in human culture expressed as patriarchy, and, since the eclipse of the 1960s, as the increasing extirpation of femininity from the human female psyche -- this, though it is sometimes designated "feminism", is the extreme triumph of patriarchy).

This is the "simple" answer, and it is quite enough to begin with. But beyond this, the reason for explaining these things is that Aristasia is an entire culture. It affects not only our femininity, but our view of philosophy, art, music, money and everything else, and these views are all organically interlinked. Ultimately, if you do not understand how we think the universe is constructed, you will never really understand why we wear stockings and suspenders and bright red lipstick. The links between all these things are many and subtle, and you are beginning to grasp them, but you will find as you continue, that these understood links will grow and ramify into a great and rich tapestry.

Remember that you are dealing with a whole culture, just as the late 20th century is a whole culture (using both "whole" and "culture" in a very inclusive sense!). When you ask what "Essence and Substance" has to do with "The girl on the Telephone" or "A Summer Afternoon", it is rather like asking a denim-draped late-20th-century type what the latest death-rock hit "Tattooed Tongue" has to do with the theory of evolution. Mr. Denim would probably reply that there was no connexion, that they were two entirely separate things. But he would be quite wrong. They are two elements of the overall pattern of his "culture", and they are ultimately interlinked. One could not have the former without the latter, and, very probably, one could not have the latter without the former eventually emerging.


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