Nov 192010

12th century dualist heresy where it is believed that Good and Evil are two gods and that the material world is Evil. But the twist is that to become a Cathar priest you had to become a perfect through a rite called the consolamentum (consolation). But since most Cathars were not perfect but only credentes (believers) they decided to postpone the consolamentum until they were dying. And before this, they lived rather liberal lives for the times. They ate lots of meat and had lots of sex among other things. A laudable approach to dealing with the duality of attending to the spirit while living in the evil world.

Books to note:

Stephen O’Shea. The Perfect Heresy: The Revolutionary Life and Death of the Medieval Cathars.

Jonathan Sumption. The Albigensian Crusade.

Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie. Montaillou. Translation by Barbara Bray.

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Nov 192010

[From MetaFilter] ABC program examining the life of Mary Magdalene and her role in Jesus’ life as possible wife. The Mary-as-whore idea was debunked some time ago, but is it possible that she was made into a whore by the church to explain her intimacy with Jesus? The novel The da Vinci Code, on which this ABC program was based, explores the relationship between da Vinci and a secret society protecting the blood line of Christ, who according to some theories fathered children with his wife, Mary Magdalene. If you look at the Last Supper, the figure to the right of Jesus is so clearly a woman, and it is possible that the Holy Grail that gathered the blood of Christ is a metaphor for Magdalene’s womb carrying Jesus’ children. And according to Magdalene’s apocryphal gnostic gospel, she knew secrets that Jesus kept from the apostles.

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Nov 192010

All the world exists to end in a book. -Mallarme.

Marshall McLuhan essay on the “Future of the Book” given as a lecture in 1972: “In both the industrial and electric ages Nature is superceded by Art. Thus the future of the book is nothing less than to be the means of surpassing Nature itself. The material world is to be etherealized and encapsulated in a book whose characters will possess all the formulas for the knowledge and recreation of Being.”

“When the book and its author can mount the back of another medium like radio or TV or satellite, the scale of operation both in time and in space seems to abolish the difference between the microscopic and macroscopic.”

“If print drove Montaigne to minute self-investigation and self-portrayal, may we not expect the book of the electric age to turn this perspective on patterns of corporate human energy and association?”

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Nov 192010

London Review of Books, August 5 2004.

Said examines the way in which the work of some great artists and writers acquire a new idiom at the end of the their lives – a late style.

Beethoven: his late works are a form of exile from his milieu.
“There is heroism here, but also intrasigence.”

“Late style is what happens if art does not abdicate its rights in favour of reality.”

Adorno on Beethoven, sees his late works “as communicating a tragic sense in spite of their irascibility” and that Beethoven seems to “inhabit the late works as a lamenting personality.”

“The late works are about lost totality, and it is in this sense that they are catastrophic.”

“Beethoven’s late style, remorsely alienated and obscure, is the prototypical modern aesthetic form.”

“The prerogative of late style: it has the power to render disenchantment and pleasure without resolving the contradiction between them. What holds them in tension, as equal forces straining in opposite directions, is the artist’s mature subjectivity, stripped of hubris and pomposity, unashamed either of its fallibility or of the modest assurance it has gained as a result of age and exile.”

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Nov 192010

The presumed close connection among information, reason, and usefulness began to lose its legitimacy toward the mid-nineteenth century with the invention of the telegraph. Prior to the telegraph, information could could be moved only as fast as a train could travel; about thirty-five miles per hour. Prior to the telegraph, information was sought as part of the process of understanding and solving particular problems. Prior to the telegraph, information tended to be of local interest. Telegraphy changed all of this, and instigated the second stage of the information revolution. The telegraph removed space as an inevitable constraint on the movement of information, and, for the first time, transportation and communication were disengaged from each other. In the United States, the telegraph erased state lines, collapsed regions, and, by wrapping the continent in an information grid, created the possibility of a unified nation-state. But more than this, telegraphy created the idea of context-free information — that is, the idea that the value of information need not be tied to any function it might serve in social and political decision-making and action. The telegraph made information into a commodity, a “thing” that could be bought and sold irrespective of uses or meanings.

Neil Postman. Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (Vintage Books, 1992), p. 67-68.

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