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Editorial, Vol. VII, No. 2

Nostos

 Maria-Ana Tupan, University of Alba Iulia, Romania

The word “desire” suggests a distance between the appetitive subject and the object commanding attention, that possession does not remove. The newly acquired “asset” may fill a collector with pride, or serve utilitarian ends in the absence of any sense of empathetic identification or admiration. A case apart, and a more redeeming one, is what René Girard calls “triangular desire”, induced by a mediator’s influence: desire according to another, opposed to desire according to oneself (Girard 4). The object is not desired for its unmediated appeal, but for what it represents in the eyes of a third party that dictates the table of values and carries the staff of institutionalized authority. In time, India was alienated into an empty sign of imperial prestige ( “jewel in the crown”), a target of religious conversion invested with the mandatory mission of prophesying Christianity (the “star in the east”), the application ground of ideological experiments carried out by reformists, such as Madame Blavatsky and her American theosophists, etc. Even the “Indomania” of eighteenth- century Germany has been interpreted as a symptom of compensatory Narcissism under the occupation of French revolutionary and Napoleonic armies (Germana 10).

The opposite of desire is the mirror scene, or the anagnorisis of spiritual dissent or affiliation. India is recognized as racial cradle and origin of the European linguistic community. Analogies are sought out among India’s foundational myths, spaces of knowledge or of symbolic representation. The phenomenon exceeds by far the significance of a search for an Arcadian past triggered by the alienating effects and psychological pressure of technological progress in the advanced civilizations. Actually, in the later nineteenth century Indian thought was being perceived as tangent upon the latest scientific theories. The remark was made by Romanian poet Mihai Eminescu, whose notebooks jotted down during his studies in Vienna and Berlin (at Humboldt University, named after one of the founders who had been enthralled by The Bhagavad Gita) add up to a ”biographia literaria” of about twenty thousand pages. This encyclopaedic work, which gives a comprehensive picture of emerging theories in all disciplinary fields, includes references to Rudolf Clausius and Heinrich von Helmholz, who elaborated on the second law of thermodynamics (the law of entropy). Indian cosmogony, alternating creation and regression of the universe to an immaterial form of existence, a vibrating nothing which nowadays is called quantum singularity or indestructible structure of information, was not the only Indian correlative of the rapidly changing scientific picture of the universe:

He, the One and Undifferentiated, who by the manifold application of His powers produces, in the beginning, different objects for a hidden purpose and, in the end, withdraws the universe into Himself (Svetasvatara Upanishad: Ch.4) (our emphasis).

In Eminescu’s time Romanian culture was oriented to the German-speaking world, maybe because the country was enthusiastic over the recent ascension of the Hohenzollern dynasty. It was in this space inhabited by scholars who had earned the reputation of being the ”Indians of Europe” (De Careil 102) that the young student appropriated Indian philosophy to the point where it was allowed to shape his own world outlook. The protagonist of his poem Hyperion travels back in time, absorbed by the thirst of the Demiurge who draws things back to Himself. His beloved is a Blue Flower who dies to the world of matter and acts as the poet’s mediator to a transcending one of meditation, as in Novalis. Death restores humans to their true selves, while the loss of kingdoms (whether in King Lear or in the recent revolutionary events in Paris) breeds thoughts on the vanity of the world, which is deception, a dream of eternal death. Poetry is an objectified form of the mind, a revelation of the essential Self (Tat tvam asi). Love brings disappointment like everything else in an illusionary world. His beloved is no Maitreyi (The Bruhadaranyaka Upanishad), Yãgnavalkya’s philosophically-minded wife, but a sensuous creature, born in the likeness of Kãtyãyani, Yãgnavalkya’s mundane wife, who blames him for sinking into deep thoughts, and meditating on the Assyrian fields …

Hindu philosophy comes to mind many times, as we survey the ideas that shaped the cultural history of the West since the eighteenth century to the present.

German and English Romanticism shared a web of metaphors in response to India emerging from behind the veil through enhanced cultural ties. The proccess of self-realization and progress to the supersensuous domain, which is central to the Krishna myth in The Bhagavad Gita, out of which Novalis drew his rapidly disseminated “blue flower motif”, preceded the Hegelian growth of the mind philosophy, while the Wordsworthian “recollection in tranquillity” motif is analogous to the Purusha/ Prakriti dichotomy. The connection is more explicit in the soul/ Over-Soul relationship in Emerson’s poem and essay of the same title, where he echoes “the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us” (Goldberg 32). P.B. Shelley, the author of Lines to an Indian air, used both representations: Epipsychidion, to which the soul returns, and the female alter-ego associated with the blue air of the dawns (I arise from dreams of thee).

Heredity as destiny was perceived as a modern version, decked with biological evidence, of the ancient belief in metempsychosis, which, acording to The Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 8), preserves features of previous incarnations, by writers who thematized the topic (Robert Montgomery,Theophile Gautier, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry James, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Bram Stoker, Mihai Eminescu, Liviu Rebreanu …). The solipsism of the self shut up in a dream of the world (Walter Horatio Pater,” Conclusion” to Studies in the History of the Renaissance) induced by the senses, the illusionary nature of the world of experience (”for the world is only a psychological phenomenon, and what they seemed they were” – Ch. XIII of Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy) bridged Vedic thought and the late nineteenth-century school of physiological psychology (pragmatism), which fuelled the synaesthetic poetics of the impressionists and of the aesthetic decadence. In The Bhagavad Gita, Rudolf Steiner saw the “unified plan of world history”, as in it mingled three spiritual streams: Veda, Sankhya, Yoga (Steiner 1).

The two levels of consciousness theorised by Henri Bergson in Les données immediates de la conscience – the ”moi” immersed in the here and now of immediate experience and the ”moi” of memory that discovers patterns and meaning in recollection – go back to the often quoted allegory of the two birds (one hyperactive, collecting food, the other watching it eat in perfect composure) in The Mundaka Upanishad. In the age of quantum mechanics and polyvalent logics, analogies increase by geometrical progression. The schooling of Svetaketu in The Chandogya Upanishad, VI (Sections 8 to14) upon the existence of what cannnot be perceived by the senses is realised in the form of a parable. The disciple wants to know the nature of the ultimate reality, and his father practises a sort of midwifery. Let the disciple think of salt dissolved in water. Such is the essence of the universe which cannot be seen but pervades all things. The disappearance of melting salt and its recovery through evaporation has a modern correlative in David Bohm’s ink experiment (Pratt: web) whereby he demonstrated the existence of an implicate order enfolded into the viscous fluid of a turning cylinder, an operation similar to the turning of a glove inside out. The American physicist concluded: “[I]n the implicate order the totality of existence is enfolded within each region of space (and time)” (Bohm 172). The explicate order of the physical universe we live in is only a lower dimensional surface appearance…Access Full Text of the Article

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