Huxley – L’Auto – Van Gogh – The Universe – Piet Hein

Today is Sunday and for an early Summer day in Copenhagen it’s a bit chilly.

It’s also one of the last days of the ongoing Dutch book sale in the Heilig Geist Church Community House in the old part of Copenhagen.

I’m writing this from a Café near the City Hall Square and plan to once more reveal what you may chance to acquire for 10 Kr ($1.50), if you happen to visit one of the Dutch book sales.

As usual I will do this by briefly presenting some of today’s finds. And like before quotes from the books are always given in their own language.

1. THE NEW SCIENCE OF GIAMBATTISTA VICO. Abridged Translation of the Third Edition (1744). By Thomas Goddard Bergin and Max Harold Fisch. Cornell University Press, 1948/1961/1970, Paperback, 384 p. Very good condition, apparently unread.

I never heard of Mr. Vico, but here’s what the translaters state on the back cover: “one of the few works of original genius in the entire history of social theory”. Furthermore “it is the most impressive attempt before Comte at a comprehensive science of human society and the most complete class-struggle analysis prior to Marx.”

From the authors introduction (p.5) i quote:

“We find that the principle of these origins both of languages and of letters lies in the fact that the early gentile peoples, by a demonstrated necessity of nature, were poets who spoke in poetic characters.

“This discovery, which is the master key of this science, has cost us the persistent research of almost all our literary life, because with our civilized natures we (moderns) cannot at all imagine and can understand only by great toil the poetic nature of these first men.”

Sounds interesing enough.

And from p.97:

“Now from the theology of the poets, or poetic metaphysics, by way of the poetic logic sprung from it, we go on to discover the origin of languages and letters. Concerning these there are as many opinions as there are scholars who have written on the subject…”

Concerning the ‘origin of languages…’ compare what I wrote in an earlier post (Link 1): It’s really as foolish to search for the origin of language as it is to search for the origin of the Universe!

You have actually no REASON to believe either have a beginning – unless you – quite foolishly – believe the Fate of the Universe is to be compared to the Fate of for example your garden cottage or a WallStreet bank.

Anyway – I hope to get around to making myself a bit more familiar with Mr. Vico and his book.

2. THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY. By Aldous Huxley. 1945, Harper & Brothers, NewYork and London, 312 p. 4. ed. Hardcover, with (whats left of) the original dust cover.

From the front inside flap of the dust cover:

‘Knowledge is a function of being. Only the pure in heart can see God. Those who have the necessary modifications of their all too human nature, the illuminated saints and sages who alone are in a position to know what they are talking about – all, whatever their religion, make fundamentally the same report about the nature of Ultimate Reality.’

All right – from an amateur philosopher’s and -linguist’s point of view the first couple of sentences don’t bode too well: The words ‘knowledge’, ‘being’ and ‘God’ all being basically undefined.

(I guess that’s why I never finished an University Study – one semester of Mathematics was all: A lot of talk and writings with words basically undefined!)

Apart from that, however, this book has an interesting plan. The author has collected hundreds of quotes from some of the most important thinkers in their field throughout history and arranged them after their subject matter – 27 in all, and together with his own comments.

For example: God in the World – Charity – Truth – Self-Knowledge – Good and Evil – Time and Eternity – Immortality and Survival – Suffering – Faith – The Miraculous – Spiritual Exercises, and more.

Seems a nice buy for one-and-a-half dollar.

3. L’AUTO. Par Pierre Benoit. Paris, 1929, La Nouvelle societe D’Edition. 83 p. Booklet.

From page 15 (sorry – no diacritics, too cumbersome to hunt for when writing Braille!):

‘PROFESSION DE FOI. Je n’ai pas d’auto. Je n’en ai jamais eu. Je suis decide – autant qu’on peut etre decide a quelque chose ici-bas – a n’en avoir jamais. Je sais pas conduire.

‘Le plus etrange, c’est que je n’eprouve aucune honte a mettre ces redoutable aveux en tete d’un ouvrage resolument technique. Seuls les esprits superficiels se facheront et ne poursuivront pas plus avant leur lecture.

‘Les autres comprendront que le temoignage du spectateur vaut autant, si ce n’est plus, que celui de l’acteur. Un medecin n’a pas besoin d’etre un malade, et il n’est pas d’usage que les criminalistes se recrutent parmi les assassins.

‘En ce qui me concerne, j’estime que la centaine de milliers de kilometres que j’ai pu parcourir, dans des automobiles de formats les plus divers, sur les routes du vaste monde, rend ma competence egale, sinon superieure, a celle du champion qui, rive a son volant, tourne comme un ecureuil a l’interieur du maelstrom en ciment arme d’un autodrome.

‘Sa pensee est enchainee. La mienne demeure libre. Ceux qui placent avec raison la liberte audessus de tout auront vite fait de saisir la superiorite de mon point de vue.’

A curious, even slightly weird little book?

4. VINCENT VAN GOGH – BRIEFE. 2.ed. Verlag von Bruno Cassirer (without year – perhaps abt. 1920?). 160 p. Nicely bound in leather. Ill.

From p. 52f I quote this sample:

‘Ich habe den ‘Sämann’ gemalt. Ach, die schoenen Kalenderillustrationen, in alten Landkalendern, wo der Hagel, der Regen, der Schnee und das schoene Wetter in ganz primitiver weise dargestellt sind, wie sie Anquetin so gut fuer seine ‘Ernte’ gefunden hatte.

‘Ich will Dir nicht verhelen, dass ich das Landleben nicht hasse – ich bin eben darin aufgewachsen. Ploetzliche Erinnerungen von frueher, das Sehnen nach jenem Unendlichen, wovon der ‘Sämann’, ‘die Garbe’ Zeugen sind, entzuecken mich noch wie ehedem.

‘Wann aber werde ich den Sternenhimmel malen – jenes Bild, das mich immer beschaeftigt? Ach, ach, es ist wirklich so, wie der brave Cyprian in ‘En Menage’ von J.K.Huysmans sagt: ‘Die schoensten Bilder sind die, die man traeumt, wenn man im Bett seine Pfeife raucht, die man aber nie malt.’

‘Und doch muss man an sie herangehen, wenn man sich auch noch so inkompetent fuehlt gegenueber der unsaeglichen Vollendung, dem siegreichen glanz der Natur.’

Quite right, Mr. Gogh, the Universe (‘der Sternenhimmel’) is quite another dimension than anything else and quite impossible to ‘explain’ either as an artist with brush, colors and canvas or a natural philosopher with pen, ink and paper.

5. FRANCOIS Ier ET SA COUR. Portraits, Jugements et Anecdotes (1515-1547). 1853, Paris, Hachette, 215 p, paperback. No author mentioned.

There are ten chapters: Amboise et Fontainebleau – Le champ du drap d’or – Les reines – Les princesses et les princes – Les dames – Les hommes d’epee – Les hommes d’eglise – Les savants et les poetes – Les fous et les astrologues – Conclusion.

Seems to augur for an interesting read.

6. SIG DET MED BLOMSTER. En Nytaarsgave. Af Steen Eiler Rasmussen. Gyldendal, 1976. 191 p. Nicely kept with org. dustcover and -capsule.

There are nine essays: Sig det med blomster – Huset i haven – Regnvandstønden – Om at være sammen – Et socialt eksperiment – Drømmen om de smaa samfund – Hovedstadens jorder – Fristaden Cristiania – Magt og afmagt.

I happen to have often ‘met’ the author when in my teens. He was a communter by train from the upper-class northern suburb of Copenhagen – Rungsted, where my father managed the newsstand at the Railway Station.

Mr. Rasmussen was already then an elderly gentleman, whence this small book could be his last, perhaps? He seemed nice enough then and never supercilious. Generally the ‘old-upper-class’ people then living in Rungsted were nice and friendly and as a rule never snobbish.

7. EGELYKKE. (A Play) By Kaj Munk. 1940, Kjøbenhavn, Nyt Nordisk Forlag – Arnold Busck. Softcover booklet.

I don’t think I’m going to read this play as I rarely (that is – practically never) read fiction.

But I thought I ought to buy it sometime as I’ve often been a guest at Egeløkke (normal spelling), an old country house on the island Langeland in southern Denmark.

Being friendly with the owner (now retired), an avid amateur photographer, I’ve got the impression that the plot behind the play is mostly – more or less free – fantasy.

This specimen is nice enough outwardly, though, and the pages are not yet cut open.

8. THE ORIGIN OF THE UNIVERSE. By John D. Barrow. 1964, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson. 150 p. Hardcover w. original dust cover.

There are 8 chapters: The Universe in a Nutshell – The Great Universal Catalog – The Singularity and Other Problems – Inflation and the Particle Physicists – Inflation and the COBE Search – Time – An Even Briefer History – Into the Labyrinth – New Dimensions.

Obviously I’m not going to peruse this volume very closely as I don’t believe in the BigBang-religion.

Because – surely The Big Bang is a matter of faith, and increasingly so, as time go by and still more ‘shocking’ discoveries about the cosmos are made.

‘Shocking’ in so far as they tend to almost univocally contradict the BigBang mantra.

As I’ve said before: The Universe was not ‘created’ or ‘born’ or anything of the sort.

That is: You have NO REASON TO CLAIM it was. But obviously you can only understand this, if you are very clear-headed (the dissident astronomer Halton Arp comes to mind!). And I doubt any Earthlings are or can be clever enough to EXPLAIN this to anyone else. Certainly I’m not.

Generally you may safely assume that Earthlings are not able to really understand the ‘state of the Universe’.

9. GROOKS IV. By Piet Hein. With the assistance of Jens Arup (for translation?). 1972/1981, Borgens Billigbøger, Copenhagen, 53 p. Booklet.

The author Piet Hein is another of the gentlemen I’ve often served at my fathers newsstand in Rungsted in my teens. Mr. Hein lived just opposite the railway station.

My impression is of a rather small man with a large head. He was not really a kind mand, seemed to me rather cold hearted, like so many mathematicians and poets – being mostly leftbrainers.

Here is a sample from p. 36:


‘A grook for vultures

‘Culture’s the cultures
of what’s left behind
‘after a culture’s
‘Yet there’s a problem
that troubles my mind:
‘back in the innocent
dawn of mankind,
‘how did it ever
get started?’

The author is clever, all right. He hits the bulls eye unerringly: How did (mankind and/or) culture get started?

Whether he also knew the answer, I do not know.

The answer is: It didn’t.

That is: Don’t look for ‘the start of the Universe’, ‘the start of humanity’ (or of man) or ‘the start of culture’.

Because you won’t find it: There was no start – except of course if Earth and Earthlings are your Universe.

There may, however, be an end to man and humanity in different locations of the Universe. Namely where they’re allowed to be disrupted and degenerate too much – like what’s probably just now happening on our Earth? (link 2)

Link 1.

Photography, Your Brain and Napoleon

Link 2.

Disruption and Wispy Trails (Upd.)

Louis Sancho and the CERN/LHC


The Robots’ Cash Ban


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