TIMES, TIME, AND HALF A TIME. A HISTORY OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM.

Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.



Showing posts with label Greeks and Romans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Greeks and Romans. Show all posts

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Terminalia: Boundaries in Space and Time


Click to enlarge. The Feast Before the Altar of Terminus. (c. 1642) By Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (1609 - 1664). Print, Italian, 17th century etching. 23 x 18.4 cm (9 1/16 x 7 1/4 in.) B.16. Harvard Art Museums / Fogg Museum, Louise Haskell Daly Fund, S6.97.1 Department of Prints, Division of European and American Art. Image Source: Wiki.

There is a saying in the country that "good fences make good neighbours." The origin of that sentiment comes from the ancient worship of the Roman god, Terminus.

Text Source. From: Samuel Ball Platner, Thomas Ashby, "Terminus, Fanum" in A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (London: Oxford University Press, 1929), p. 512.


Image Source: Particulations.

Click to enlarge. "Terminus is often pictured as a bust on a boundary stone, here the concedo nvlli or concedo nulli means 'yield no ground.'" Design for a Stained Glass Window with Terminus. (31 December 1524) By Hans Holbein the Younger. Pen and ink and brush, grey wash, watercolour, over preliminary chalk drawing, 31.5 × 25 cm, Kunstmuseum Basel. Holbein designed the window for the scholar and theologian Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam. Image Source: Wiki.

Today, February 23rd, was once a holiday known as Terminalia, when landowners in the Roman Republic, and later, the Empire would meet at fence lines and renew the boundaries of communities. They would decorate their property lines with flowers and offer food to Terminus. They might also sacrifice a baby animal to him. Accounts of the ritual vary. From Carnaval:
"On this day, landowners would honor the boundaries of their land at the bound[a]ry markers. Garlands were placed over the bound[a]ry stones, and altars were built near them. Offerings of grain and ho[n]ey were given by the children, and the adults would offer wine. Everyone was dressed in white, and were required to keep silent throughout the offerings. A picnic feast was held at the end of the ritual."
From Agile Complexification Inverter:
"The festival of the Terminalia was celebrated in Rome and in the country on the 23rd of February. The neighbors on either side of any boundary gathered around the landmark [the stones which marked boundaries], with their wives, children, and servants; and crowned it, each on his own side, with garlands, and offered cakes and, bloodless sacrifices. In later times, however, a lamb, or sucking pig, was sometimes slain, and the stone sprinkled with the blood. Lastly, the whole neighborhood joined in a general feast."
L'Avenaz Roman boundary marker in La Giettaz - French Alps. Image Source: Savoie Mont Blanc.

Busts of Terminus form a boundary. Image Source: Rome Across Europe.

Hadrian's wall just east of Cawfields quarry, Northumberland, UK in October 2005. Image Source: Velella / Wiki. See also: the Antonine Wall. The Wall in the Song of Ice and Fire books and Game of Thrones TV series by George R. R. Martin is based on these structures.

Public festivals for Terminus marked the limits of Rome, be it the city or the empire. At this point, agrarian life collided with military culture. The offerings were a celebration of division between people:
"The rites of the Terminalia included ceremonial renewal and mutual recognition of the boundary stone, the marker between properties. A garland would be laid on this marker by all parties to the land so divided."
After the offerings, neighbours would sing to the god and hold a feast together. It was a complex set of ideas, honouring being cut off from each other and yet being unified in that experience. The poet Ovid described the solemn atmosphere and the larger Roman military context in his poem, Fasti (On the Roman Calendar; read it here or here), translated in 2004 by A. S. Kline:
"When night has passed, let the god be celebrated
With customary honour, who separates the fields with his sign.
Terminus, whether a stone or a stump buried in the earth,
You have been a god since ancient times.
You are crowned from either side by two landowners,
Who bring two garlands and two cakes in offering.
An altar’s made: here the farmer’s wife herself
Brings coals from the warm hearth on a broken pot.
The old man cuts wood and piles the logs with skill,
And works at setting branches in the solid earth.
Then he nurses the first flames with dry bark,
While a boy stands by and holds the wide basket.
When he’s thrown grain three times into the fire
The little daughter offers the sliced honeycombs.
Others carry wine: part of each is offered to the flames:
The crowd, dressed in white, watch silently.
Terminus, at the boundary, is sprinkled with lamb’s blood,
And doesn’t grumble when a sucking pig is granted him.
Neighbours gather sincerely, and hold a feast,
And sing your praises, sacred Terminus:
'You set bounds to peoples, cities, great kingdoms:
Without you every field would be disputed.
You curry no favour: you aren’t bribed with gold,
Guarding the land entrusted to you in good faith.
If you’d once marked the bounds of Thyrean lands,
Three hundred men would not have died,
Nor Othryades’ name be seen on the pile of weapons.
O how he made his fatherland bleed!
What happened when the new Capitol was built?
The whole throng of gods yielded to Jupiter and made room:
But as the ancients tell, Terminus remained in the shrine
Where he was found, and shares the temple with great Jupiter.
Even now there’s a small hole in the temple roof,
So he can see nothing above him but stars.
Since then, Terminus, you’ve not been free to wander:
Stay there, in the place where you’ve been put,
And yield not an inch to your neighbour’s prayers,
Lest you seem to set men above Jupiter:
And whether they beat you with rakes, or ploughshares,
Call out: "This is your field, and that is his!"'
There’s a track that takes people to the Laurentine fields,
The kingdom once sought by Aeneas, the Trojan leader:
The sixth milestone from the City, there, bears witness
To the sacrifice of a sheep’s entrails to you, Terminus.
The lands of other races have fixed boundaries:
The extent of the City of Rome and the world is one."
There is a sense that in Rome, worship of Terminus's boundaries became more aggressive over time. The boundary line had to be decked with sacrificial blood, whereas in an earlier, gentler period, it was enough to burn grain and honeycombs to appease the stubborn god. Perhaps there is a tiny kernel in the changing mood of Terminalia in the contemporary debate over nationalism and immigration, borders, border zones, and border fences and walls. Perhaps not. Regardless, attitudes to boundaries do vacillate over time, between openness and closure.

The US-Mexico border wall in Tijuana, Mexico. Image Source: NYT.

Hungary's border fence. Image Source: euronews via republic buzz.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

A Day in Pompeii


A Day in Pompeii - Full-length animation (19 December 2013). Video Source: Youtube.

Image Source: Wiki.
For today, see A Day in Pompeii, an animated recreation of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius on 24-25 August 79 CE. The animation was created by Zero One, and initially shown at the Melbourne Museum from 26 June to 25 October 2009. Over 1,300 negative impressions of bodies and bodily remains have been found by archaeologists, in an area where up to 20,000 people lived at that time.

Mount Vesuvius is one of sixteen volcanoes in the world designated as 'Decade Volcanoes'; they are especially destructive and are subject to special study because they help us to understand our planet's core.

Eruption Of Mt Vesuvius 1944 (14 April 2010). Video Source: Youtube.

In 472 CE, the volcano erupted so violently that its ashfalls reached Constantinople. Mount Vesuvius has had periods of quiet and periods of greater activity. We are currently in the latter. The last major eruption was in 1944. At present, 3 million people live near the volcano. The Italian government has a plan to evacuate 600,000 people in one week in the case of the worst possible future eruption.

Naples with Mount Vesuvius in the background on 29 November 2009. Click to enlarge. Image Source: Antonsusi/Wiki.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Hallowe'en Countdown 2018: The Formula for Consciousness




To unlock the mysteries of today's technology, some say you would have to start your investigation on the ballet stages of the 1840s. To get a flavour of European dance from that revolutionary period, today's post features some scans from a little book I own, published in 1948 by Batsford, entitled The Romantic Ballet. A centennial edition, it reprinted 1840s' coloured prints of prima ballerinas who were celebrated from 1840 to 1850. Click the images to enlarge.


These reprinted images from the 1840s display an occult visual vocabulary. For example, the three graces are three Greek goddesses - culture, beauty and creativity - later translated into the Christian theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. They are represented in the tarot deck as the Three of Cups.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Artificial Intelligence Nemesis


Image Source: thebodhitrees.

The creation of AI is a story of humanity. It will end where it begins, with a nemesis that will test humankind. This is because human beings grapple with inner knowing on ever more profound levels, driven by self-engineered crises.

Artificial Intelligence: The Nemesis in the Mirror

Anonymous - This Shocking Footage Should Worry You! (2018-2019) (13 January 2018). Video Source: Youtube.

AI is a big mirror. As Google's Cloud Lead Dr. Fei-Fei Li stated, AI began with the question, "Can machines think?" Engineers began building machines to mimic human thinking, to reason, see, hear, think, move around, manipulate. That was AI's foundational dream. In the 1980s, machine learning was born, followed by deep learning, which is rooted in neuroscience. This young discipline is set to explode, due to the exploitation of big data, harvested from around the globe. Thus, no matter how the machines end up evolving, it is worth asking now what we are doing with AI and why we doing it. There are unconscious human impulses that are informing AI design.

Find your museum Doppelgänger: some people have found themselves in paintings at art museums. Image Source: Kottke / My Modern Met / Davidurbon.

This mirror will test a psychological mode which human beings have used to build, change, create: the obsession with the nemesis, the other, the twin, the Doppelgänger.

The nemesis psychological complex works by externalizing something we cannot manage inside our own natures. Once the thing is externalized, we interact with it to create new ways of understanding and operating in the world. One of my posts, I Will Teach You Infinities, described how the nemesis complex informed the structure of language, because language progressively builds away from the starting point of selfhood, or 'I.'

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Awaken the Amnesiacs 10: The World of Machines and the Retired Engineer


Image from 2017's Cicada3301 rabbit hole, an online/real world code-breaking scavenger hunt. Some people believe that the Cicada online games are recruitment puzzles for an unknown organization. Image Source: Youtube.

This blog is named for a phrase written by Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727) in his secret journals. In Yahuda MS 1.1, folio 16 recto, Newton wrote: "the holy Prophecies" of the Scripture are nothing else than "histories of things to come." He was using magic and religion to predict the future and the end of the world. The exact passage in his Untitled Treatise on Revelation (held at the National Library of Israel in the Yahuda manuscripts collection, as cited above; you can see the actual document here) reads:
Rules for interpreting the Apocalyps.

"12. The Construction of the Apocalyps after it is once deter {16r} mined must be made the rule of interpretations; And all interpretations rejected which agree not with it. That must not be strained to fit history but such things chosen out of history as are most suitable to that.

13. To interpret sacred Prophecies of the most considerable things & actions of those times to which they are applied. For if it would be weakness in an Historian whilst he writes of obscurer actions to let slip the greater, much less ought this to be supposed in the holy Prophesies which are no other then histories of things to come.

14. To proportion the most notable parts of Prophesy to the most notable parts of history, & the breaches made in a continued series of Prophesy to the changes made in history And to reject those interpretations where the parts and breaches of Prophesy do not thus bear a due proportion to the parts & changes in History. For if Historians divide their histories into Sections Chapters & Books at such periods of time where the less, greater & greatest revolutions begin or end; & to do otherwise would be improper: much more ought we to suppose that the holy Ghost observes this rule accurately in his prophetick dictates, since they are no other then histories of things to come. Thus by the great breaches made between the sixt & seventh seal by interposing the vision of the sealed saints, & between the sixt & seventh Trumpet by interposing the vision of the little book, that prophesy is divided into three cardinal parts, & the middle part subdivided by the little breach between the fourth & fift Trumpet made by interposition of the Angel crying Wo, & all the other seals & trumpets are as it were less sections. And therefore to these breaches & sections, according to the rule, must be adapted periods of time which intercede & disterminate proportional revolutions of history. Again if a Historian should use no proportion in his descriptions but magnify a less thing above a greater or attribute the more courage to the softer of two persons &c.: we {17r} should count it an argument of his unskilfulness. And therefore since the dictates of the Holy-Ghost are histories of things to come, such disproportions are not to be allowed in them. Thus in Daniel's vision of the four Beasts, it would be grosly absurd to interpret, as some Polititians of late have done, the fourth Beast of Antiochus Epiphanes & his successors; since that is described to be the most terrible, dreadfull, strong, & warlike Beast of all the four, & the Prophet dwels far longer upon the description of that then of all the others put together: whereas the kingdom of Antiochus Epiphanes & his successors was both less & weaker & less warlike then any of the three before him.

15. To chose those interpretations which without straining do most respect the church & argue the greatest wisdom & providence of God for preserving her in the truth. As he that would interpret the letters or actions of a very wise states man, so as thence to know the council wherewith they are guided & the designes he is driving on, must consider the main end to which they are directed & suppose they are such as most conduce to that end & argue the greatest wisdom & providence of the States-man in ordering them: so it is in these Prophesies. They are the counsels of God & so the most wise, & fittest for the end to which they are designed: And that end is the benefit of the Church to guide her & preserve her in the truth. For to this end are all the sacred prophesies in both the old and new Testament directed, as they that will consider them may easily perceive. Hence may appear the oversight of some interpreters whose interpretations if they were true would make the Apocalyps of little or no concernment to the Church. Perhaps what follows may be better inserted in the preface.

Yet I meane not that these Prophesies were intended to convert the whole world to the truth. For God is just as well as merciful, & punishes wickednes by hardening the wicked & {18r} visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children. But the designe of them is to try men & convert the best, so that the church may be purer & less mixed with Hypocrites & luke-warm persons. And for this end it is that they are wrapt up in obscurity, & so framed by the wisdom of God that the inconsiderate, the proud, the self-conceited, the presumptuous, the scholist, the sceptic, they whose judgments are ruled by their lusts, their interest, the fashions of the world, their esteem of men, the outward shew of thing or other prejudices, & all they who, of how pregnant natural parts soever they be, yet cannot discern the wisdom of God in the contrivance of the creation: that these men whose hearts are thus hardned in seeing should see & not perceive & in hearing should heare & not understand. For God has declared his intention in these prophesies to be as well that none of the wicked should understand as that the wise should understand, Dan: 12.

And hence I cannot but on this occasion reprove the blindness of a sort of men who although they have neither better nor other grounds for their faith then the Scribes & Pharisees had for their Traditions, yet are so pervers as to call upon other men for such a demonstration of the certainty of faith in the scriptures that a meer naturall man, how wicked soever, who will but read it, may judg of it & perceive the strength of it with as much perspicuity & certainty as he can a demonstration in Euclide. Are not these men like the Scribes & Pharisees who would not attend to the law & the Prophets but required a signe of Christ? Wherefore if Christ thought it just to deny a signe to that wicked & adulterate generation notwithstanding that they were God's own people, & the Catholique Church; much more may God think it just that this generation {19r} should be permitted to dy in their sins, who do not onely like the Scribes neglect but trample upon the law and the Prophets, & endeavour by all possible means to destroy the faith which men have in them, & to make them disregarded. I could wish they would consider how contrary it is to God's purpose that the truth of his religion should be as obvious & perspicuous to all men as a mathematical demonstration. Tis enough that it is able to move the assent of those which he hath chosen; & for the rest who are so incredulous, it is just that they should be permitted to dy in their sins. Here then is the wisdom of God, that he hath so framed the Scriptures as to discern between the good and the bad, that they should be demonstration to the one & foolishness to the other.

And from this consideration may also appear the vanity of those men who regard the splendor of churches & measure them by the external form & constitution. Whereas it is more agreable to God's designe that his church appear contemptible & scandalous to the world to try men. For this end doubtles he suffered the many revoltings of the Iewish Church under the Law, & for the same end was the grand Apostacy to happen under the gospel. Rev . If thou relyest upon the externall form of churches, the Learning of Scholars, the wisdom of statemen or of other men of Education; consider with thy self whither thou wouldest not have adhered to the scribes & Pharisees hadst thou lived in their days, & if this be thy case, then is it no better then theirs, & God may judg thee accordingly, unless thou chance to be on the right side, which as tis great odds may prove otherwise so if it should happen yet it would scarce excuse thy folly although it might something mitigate it.{/19r}{/18r}{/17r}{/16r}"
Newton's occult papers, some of which are now published online, were kept hidden for centuries. When these mysterious diaries resurfaced, about half of them were purchased in 1936 by the economist John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946); another large portion was collected by Abraham Shalom Yahuda (1877-1951). You can read details about the 1936 Sotheby's auction of Newton's 'Portsmouth Papers' here and here.

Isaac Newton, Untitled Treatise on Revelation, Yahuda MS 1.1, folio 16 recto (National Library of Israel, Jerusalem, Israel). Published online June 2004. Click to enlarge.

It was Keynes who said that Newton “was not the first of the age of reason ... . He was the last of the magicians.” Keynes lectured on Newton in 1942 and 1943, waiting until the very end of his life to reveal this secret dimension of Newton's work. Prior to that, it was not public knowledge at all. The full text of Keynes's 1946 essay on 'Newton, the Man,' is here.

"much more ought we to suppose that the holy Ghost observes this rule accurately in his prophetick dictates, since they are no other then histories of things to come": Isaac Newton, Untitled Treatise on RevelationYahuda MS 1.1, folio 16 recto (National Library of Israel, Jerusalem, Israel). Published online June 2004. Click to enlarge.

Thus, the title suits this blog, which considers present trends in terms of their potential historical significance and imagines their future consequences. However, this blog also has that name to ask its readers to reconsider ideas they take for granted.

The reason we are discussing Newton now is because his papers were kept hidden and not brought to public light at all until the 1990s. They weren't disseminated online until the 2000s. That is a long time for a central piece of information about the Scientific Revolution to be missing. Newton's private papers tell us how he arrived at his scientific breakthroughs, his methods, and his intentions.

Newton's occult works mean, plain as day, that the Scientific Revolution is not, and never was, what we were told it was. On the surface, Enlightenment principles of secularism and rationalism rejected God and mystical and religious ideas as fairy tales. Religion offered an infantile grasp of the world, beyond which we have matured and evolved.

This would be convincing if secularism and rationalism did not bear all the operational marks of a heretical cult, complete with a hard little esoteric nut at the centre, available only to the initiated. The supreme irony that the cult declares itself the ultimate-anti-cult does not make it any less cultish.

In the cult-like anti-cult atmosphere, anomalies sit out in the open and provoke occasional confusion before the rationalist mantras seal everything back up.

Why was the father of modern science also an alchemist and magician? The occult writings are explained away: Newton was an extremely intelligent, curious individual and he lived in times when religion and superstition had not been completely extracted from scientific thought.

Was Newton really the last of the magicians? The post-2008 economic recovery from the Great Recession was managed according to Keynesian principles. Why was Keynes, a famous thinker in modern economics, so fascinated by Newton's esoteric writings? Keynes's Newtonian occult collection is explained away: it was the economist's personal interest. Magic had and has nothing to do with Keynesian economics.

Well, look at the bottom of this post, and read the transcript from the lecture by German philosopher Jürgen Mittelstraß. He describes the occult distinction between macrocosm and microcosm, with its famous magical spell 'as above so below.' Ask yourself if that sounds anything like the distinction between macroeconomics and microeconomics.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Pilgrim Timekeepers


A pilgrim walking the Camino, or Way of St. James. Image Source: Tailored Spain.

If you want to know why tax season is in spring and its subsequent meaning for May, read on. As Catholic pilgrims prepare now for Pentecost on 15 May 2016, the blog returns to France's Chartres cathedral to note how places which attract pilgrims become centres of spirituality and memory. Pilgrimage routes have endured worldwide for thousands of years. One famous European route is the Spanish Camino de Santiago or the Way of St. James. In 2014, 200,000 people undertook that journey, and the road is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. 'Walking the Camino' is a huge event, even for atheists. For the faithful and secular alike, it is a modern walking holiday, attracting its share of business and crime.

In 2012, The Guardian asked why atheists participated in old Christian pilgrimages. Image Source: Guardian.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Infosec and the Totalitarian Principle


The Intercept: "New Study Shows Mass Surveillance Breeds Meekness, Fear and Self-Censorship" (28 April 2016). Image Source: The Intercept (Hat tip: Edward Snowden).

On 26 April 2016, the political commentator Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN's main foreign affairs programme, GPS, debated ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden for NYU Wagner's Debates of the Century, on whether the American government should have access to privately-held technology and private data. Debates of the Century:
"Some people believe the recent dispute between the FBI and Apple over a locked iPhone marks the return of what privacy advocates called the 'crypto wars' of the 1990s, when federal authorities tried and failed to mandate government access to most forms of electronic communication. Although the FBI managed to decrypt the iPhone at issue without the company’s help, Apple and others are racing to build devices and messaging services that no one but their owners can unlock. The legal question remains unresolved in Congress, where competing bills have been introduced, and in dozens of cases pending in state and federal courts.

Law enforcement agencies believe their vital mission requires compulsory access, under valid court order, to any device or communications stream. Leading technology companies (backed by some other U.S. government voices) say they cannot meet law enforcement demands without undermining customer security and privacy against hackers and foreign adversaries. Edward Snowden and Fareed Zakaria disagree on which course better serves society at large. Should companies be required to break into their own encrypted products, and should they be allowed to sell encryption that no one can break?" 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Awaken the Amnesiacs 6: Mona Lisa's Trump Card


The famous Mona Lisa or La Gioconda (1503-1506), 'lady of light' or 'light-heartedness'; Lisa sits between two columns, with only their bases barely visible. Image Source: Wiki.

In an earlier post, I argued that scientists and technologists ironically inspire the primal and anti-rational because they are transforming life, breaching boundaries, and not always weighing long term consequences of their innovations. To understand that process, one must analyze it with ideas from the arts and humanities. With regard to the impact of the Internet, part of the answer comes from visual artists, who are preoccupied with how we see the world and how the world sees us. In my previous post in this series, I discussed Gerhard Richter's mirror paintings and their resemblance to computers as mirrors.

Perhaps the most famous symbolic depiction of the mirror looking at us is Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa (1503-1506). Mona Lisa is smiling so mysteriously because the painting may not be about its enigmatic subject, Lisa del Giocondo (née Gheradini), at all. The symbolism in the Mona Lisa indicates that the portrait represents an archetypal mirror, which is actively watching you. Understand the Mona Lisa, and one starts to understand our present circumstances on the Internet. The next few posts in this series describe how the symbolism of the Mona Lisa provides clues to our Millennial mentality. Given the uproar over Donald Trump's presidential candidacy, it is fitting that today's post also explains the meaning of the word 'trump' in Renaissance card games, and it discusses why the Mona Lisa depicts a trump card and concept.

For a taste of medieval walled town life from Leonardo da Vinci's time, this is Pérouges, France, built in the 14th and 15th centuries around wine and weaving industries in the Ain River Valley, near Geneva; it is a seven hour drive by car to Florence, Italy. Video Source: Youtube.

The medieval town of Gradara is known for a castle which was finished in the 15th century, and would have been new in Leonardo da Vinci's youth. The castle features in the fifth canto of Dante's Divine Comedy, at the climax of the adulterous love story between Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta. Video Source: Youtube.

Florence in da Vinci's time, in a 1493 woodcut from Hartmann Schedel's Nuremberg Chronicle. Image Source: Wiki.










Interiors of Palazzo Davanzati, a restored medieval-Renaissance Florentine palace, built in the late 14th century. The palace reveals a claustrophobic, walls-within-walls mentality, with everything being enclosed: towns, compounds, houses, inner houses, locked rooms, hidden chambers, and secret passages. Inhabitants sought ever greater security from outside conflicts, which became more elaborate and complex. Images Source: Walks Inside Italy and Sailko/Wiki and Museums in Florence. 

Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa at the turn of the 15th-to-16th centuries during the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. The Mona Lisa contains triumphal allegorical symbolism which was very popular at the time. These allegories were everywhere. They were a cultural shorthand for a whole range of accepted ideas about the way the world worked. At this time, noble families and guilds presided over life inside walled towns. Constantly in conflict to amass power and consolidate control, they revived the old Roman tradition of triumphal processions to celebrate victories in battles. The Renaissance, according to Joseph Manca, was "the age of the trionfo." Parades took on symbolic qualities to enable noble families to assert their historical continuity with the greatness of imperial Rome.

Triumphal Victory Parades

Thus, 'triumphs' were parades, which became associated in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance with spiritual allegories. This transition from a real military victory march to a symbolic parade to celebrate certain social values is evident in Francesco Petrarch's poem, I Trionfi (1356-1374), written mainly at the Visconti Court in Milan. Petrarch's love poems describe his unrequited love for Laura de Noves (1310-1348). In I Trionfi, Petrarch (1304-1374) claims his love for Laura made him face ever more demanding physical, emotional, philosophical, and spiritual challenges. At each stage, a higher virtue or stronger allegorical figure triumphed and held a victory march. Peter Sadlon:
"In the first triumph, Love as Cupid conquers the gods and men (including Petrarch). In the second triumph, Chastity defeats Love, reflecting Laura's ladylike rejection of Petrarch's advances. In the third triumph, Death defeats Chastity (Laura was a victim of the Black Death). In the fourth, Fame defeats Death (her reputation lives after her). In the fifth triumph, Time defeats Fame, and finally (sixth), Eternity conquers Time (with the promise that Petrarch and the object of his love will be united at last in the afterlife)."
The poem, in Italian and English, is here. The victories of ever-higher allegorical figures are depicted in the illustrations below.

The triumph of Love.

The victory of Chastity.

The march of Death.

The parade of Fame.

The procession of Time.

The victory march of Eternity. Images Source: Peter Sadlon. ("The images shown here are from Bernard Quaritch's edition of Works of The Italian Engravers of the Fifteenth Century, with introduction by G. W. Reid. Reid denies the credit for the Petrarch prints to Nicoletto da Modena and supports the authorship of Fra Filippo Lippi.")

Tarot Card Trumps

Triumphant allegorical figures, or 'trumps,' were then included in the invention of the tarot deck, a kind of Game of Thrones card game for nobles. The earliest tarot cards look a lot like medieval illuminated manuscripts, but were adapted to woodblock printing, introduced in the 15th century. The Visconti di Modrone deck of tarot cards, which is officially dated around 1466, but may date from the 1440s, is one of the most prized possessions of Yale University's library.

The first established tarot card decks were created in the 1400s through the early 16th century. The Florentine Minchiate deck of 97 cards, developed in the early 1500s when Leonardo da Vinci lived in the city, was used to play a game with a catalogue of hermetic archetypes. 'Minchiate' means 'nonsense' or 'bullshit'; so this was a 'fool's game,' a bit like chess, and a bit like early poker, with some allegorical lessons, astronomical archetypes, and fabulistic morals thrown in for good measure. The World of Playing Cards:
"The game, like other Tarot games, is a trick taking game in which points are scored by capturing certain cards and sets of cards. However, the deck has also been popular with card readers who see it as a variant of the esoteric tarot because of the allegorical and symbolical content. The Cavaliers [knights or jacks] are man/beast creatures. The Valets (or Pages) are male for clubs and swords, and female for cups and coins. Further features include the replacement of the Papess, Empress and Pope by the Western Emperor, the Eastern Emperor and the addition of the Grand Duke. Some scholars believe that these cards may have served as teaching aids, because several trump allegories (Virtues, Elements, Zodiac signs) belong to categories upon which classical learning was based at that time."

This is a 1995 Lo Scarabeo limited 'Etruria' edition reproduction of a 1725 version of the Florentine Minchiate tarot deck. There was also a 1996 mass-produced deck and a 2011 reprint. According to Tarot Heritage, the first mention of a 'tarot' deck, comes from a 1440 Florentine diary. Video Source: Youtube.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

No Relief from the Heavens


From Sichuan, China: Share the Night With You. Image Source (12 August 2015) © Xiaoshan Huang via TWAN. Reproduced non-commercially under Fair Use.

Bombings in Lahore, Pakistan and Brussels were intended to disrupt Easter. Terror cells responsible for the Belgian bombings planned to kill Easter worshippers in churches in the UK and across Europe. There is an unconfirmed rumour on the Internet that ISIS crucified a Catholic priest, Father Thomas Uzhunnalil, on Good Friday in Yemen. In response to news like this, I always used to take personal comfort in astronomy and beautiful photos like the ones from The World at Night at the top and bottom of this post, because astronomy gives the biggest, most objective perspective on these questions. Unfortunately, astronomy is a secular study of the universe which drags us back into religious map of the human mind.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Look Skyward: Total Solar Eclipse


The 2012 total solar eclipse as seen from Queensland, Australia. Image Source: EPA via Daily Mail.

On March 8 and 9 there is a total solar eclipse. It begins on 8 March 2016 at 11:19 p.m. UTC. It reaches its maximum point on 9 March at 1:59 a.m. UTC. The full eclipse will end in its range of visibility on 9 March at 3:38 a.m. UTC. The totality will be visible in Sumatra, Borneo, Sulawesi and the partiality in locations across the Pacific.

Visible area of solar eclipse, 8-9 March 2016. Image Source: Time and Date.

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Triumphs and the Frauds


Orson Welles (1915-1985). Image Source: Indiewire.

Years ago, I concluded that changing one's name artificially is a hex sign. Someone has built a fake reality for themselves around a fake identity, an alter ego. Of course, that depends on the circumstances; and now, alter egos and icon names are everywhere on the Internet. The original question concerned what is fake and what is real when it comes to building reputation through a public persona. In those pre-Internet days, a fake name propelled a figure forward to become more real and credible than the original person, for all the wrong reasons.

In 1974, Orson Welles made a documentary - his last completed major work - about disinformation and the agency it gives to fake people. His film, F for Fake, concerns a notorious Hungarian art forger, Elmyr de Hory (1906-1976), who sold hundreds of fake copies of paintings by master artists, authenticated by art experts, to top galleries and museums. The film also focuses on the forger's biographer, Clifford Irving. Irving made his name by writing a fake biography of Howard Hughes, which was completely fabricated and for which Irving spent nearly two years in prison.

Peter Bogdanovich describes F for Fake. Video Source: Youtube.

Welles encountered these characters in Ibiza, Spain. As he tried to get to the bottom of this story, the director confirmed how impossible it was to unravel liars' lies. Over time, their fabrications gained credibility and authority, based on reputations, cultivated layer by layer, over decades in exclusive social settings. In another short from the same period, set inside a fake private gentlemen's club in London, he poked fun at class and wealth as sources of enduring historical and social authority. He thought it comical that those who acquire higher levels of class and wealth gain historical weight, no matter what their true value. And in F for Fake, he found that when liars move in these temporally-weighted circles, first to lie, then to 'come clean' and tell the 'truth' (even if they never really do), they gain even more false authenticity.

De Hory's art forgeries reflected that, because art masterpieces are part of wealthy settings. Great art is considered to be durable, a lasting testament; it has more temporal weight than wealth. Artworks are luxury items which allow collectors to augment their wealth and class status, to build identity through assertions of taste. With art ownership, collectors associate the constructed longevity of their identities with the longevity of the artwork. Today's art world has responded to this market by seeking new 'great master' prodigies, who must produce more 'great works' for a nouveau 'ageless canon.' New billionaires buy new 'masterwork' art pieces, and the billionaires and the art artificially inflate each other's perceived lasting value. In Welles's terms, they are all fakes. One painter in his film shrugged: "The fakes are as good as the real ones, and there is a market and there's a demand [for them]." Welles set out to resolve how money, fame, power and time were wrongly connected in people's minds.

F for Fake provoked introspection, since Welles was reminded of his own fake 1938 War of the Worlds radio drama performance about a Martian invasion, which people believed was real. F for Fake was further reminiscent of the film which made Welles's name at age 26, Citizen Kane, a fictional history of the character Charles Foster Kane, newspaper-magnate-turned-presidential-candidate. Kane was modeled on the real media tycoon, William Randolph Hearst. The last section of F for Fake includes some autobiographical asides, after which Welles deliberately transformed the documentary into a faux-documentary, starring his girlfriend at the time, Oja Kodar. He confessed in the last few minutes of the film that he had created a 'film forgery.' "Art," he said, "is a lie that makes us realize the truth." You can watch F for Fake here, while the link lasts.

To quote a reviewer: "So if you're keeping track, F for Fake is a fake documentary, about a fake artist, being described by a fake writer, and framed by a self-described fake super genius person." It is a difficult, scattered film, now dated, and was poorly received by critics. Others defend it, especially because the film hinged on a single scene of crystal clear truth. American media psychologist James Herndon deemed one clip (below) from F for Fake to be "the profoundest moment in all of cinema." In it, Welles suggested that every expression of genius, identity, or creativity is limited and fleeting. The director approached Chartres cathedral in France as the silent testimony of anonymous artists, whose greatness will transcend the mortal condition only for a few centuries or millennia. Any attempt at creativity, no matter how beautiful, masterful, or fraudulent, constitutes a futile effort to overcome death.


Top, from Citizen Kane, fictional Kane, running for president. The real man on whom Kane was based never ran for president, but was elected to the House of Representatives and made unsuccessful bids to become Mayor of New York City (1905 and 1909), Governor of New York (1906), and Lieutenant Governor of New York (1910). Hearst had to settle for manipulating politics through his newspapers. Images Source: Everything You Hate.

Welles as Kane in Xanadu, the fictional depiction of Hearst's San Simeon castle. Image Source: The Latest.

The real Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California, USA, built 1919 to 1947, is a monument to a megalomaniac ego seeking permanence; it is stocked with exotic animals, priceless art objects, and imported historical buildings. It is a national and California historical landmark. Image Source: Wiki.

The Gothic study and library in Hearst Castle. Image Source: Inside Inside.

The outdoor swimming pool at Hearst Castle features an actual ancient Roman temple which Hearst bought in Europe and imported to California. Image Source: Wiki.

As a comment on the futile quest for immortality, F for Fake was anti-master, anti-author, anti-expert, anti-wealth, anti-fabrication, but pro-authenticity. This film, Welles's last, is filled with the wreckage of Citizen Kane, with Chartres standing in as the universal artist's palace, confronting the billionaire's estate Xanadu, based on the real Hearst estate San Simeon. This time, Welles played Charles Foster Kane again, only 'for real.' Now, Welles was the supposedly rich man, riding on his reputation, clinging to his baubles and pretty young girls, knowing it was all bullshit; he distrusted hangers-on and friends who had also arrived at the top by dubious means. In his heart, he was haunted by the possibility that not a single thing he had done was worth anything. He wondered if his own work, already a rip-off, would be ripped off; maybe people would only know and recognize derivative Wellesian products, made by other people. With nothing left but his battered art, Welles sought sanctuary in the palace of Chartres. Where Chartres was a house of triumph, San Simeon was a monument to fraud.

Chartres clip from F for Fake (1974). Video Source: Youtube.

Welles was sure of one thing. When it comes to lasting greatness, the ego must die and all its pathetic trappings must go. The ego, aware that it will die and that wealth, fame, and reasonable accomplishments are insufficient builders of immortality, makes one last ditch, explosive effort to leave its permanent mark. Welles wanted to find something irreducible and moral beneath that. Surrounded by frauds and liars, the only integrity he could imagine was a confessional, of stating the truth that he was a fraud too. But coming clean with the truth was also an act of trickery, and so Welles was left with another layer of subterfuge. He concluded that, of all the areas in life in which one built credibility and reputation, only a creative endeavour - no matter how embattled - might come close to liberating humans from this disastrous loop of projected myth, believable lies, and hierarchies of liars.

Although art immersed the artist in falsehoods with its fake depictions of reality, when artists produced something like Chartres cathedral, the result was a fleeting reflection of eternity. This became true only when the art object was stripped of any pretension toward ego, reputation, projected value, collectable wealth, authority, control, or greatness. And for those who tried to buy, or falsely create, fake ageless identities associated with that final truth, F for Fake asserted that no matter how wealthy you are, you cannot buy time, and you cannot buy your place in history.