Tag Archives: tarot

All That I Can See is Just another Lemon Sea: Fourier, Utopia and Time-Travel

“The mirror is, after all, a utopia, since it is a placeless place… But it is also a heterotopia in so far as the mirror does exist in reality, where it exerts a sort of counteraction on the position that I occupy” ―Michelle Foucault

The French philosopher and early socialist thinker Charles Fourier (1772-1837) is considered one of the founding fathers of utopian socialism. He despised the ideas of the industrial revolution and wrote against the exploitation of workers. The industrialization is compared by him with madness because it makes the work unpleasant, obligatory, and monotonous. The main idea behind Fourier’s utopia is making the working time as attractive as leisure time. Fourier was one of the first thinkers who suggested that sharing the burden of work is the lever to make the work attractive and enriching for workers in the manufacturing process.

The Chariot card symbolizes the ability to dare and defeat the existing social order. It describes the world of action which requires the proper ambition and the arrogance of the prince. While Fourier wants to create a new harmonious world order and destroy the existing industrial order, the prince wants to conquer the world by establishing his known power and status. However, it is unclear if the prince-rider controls the horses or the horses pull him towards his left and past. The rider has no reins and it seems that his soul is wallowing in her past. In this context, the assumption that market forces will do their work stems from the reliance on the past; material things will not change their fundamental nature as a commodity market. However, as indicated in the card, this reliance may cover a weak personality and an unclear emotional basis. In Fourier terms we can say that the capitalist mechanism causes humans to feel alienated to the work they perform and it becomes ineffective.

 Fourier believed that both industrial and agricultural work can be combined together in a game. This is a role-playing game where labor is harmonically done by different people at different times. For example, if I like to drive my car in the mornings then I will serve as the community driver during those hours and if my friend likes to exercise then he can use his bike do deliver the morning papers. This is a dynamic method and we must change our roles frequently during the day. One can argue against the method that it is not effective because frequent job changes reduce the production efficiency and decrease the overall communal wealth. Fourier answers that quite the contrary; his strange arithmetic calculations showed that the overall wealth will be tripled. Fourier was neither a mystic nor a revolutionist. He does not even consider his ideas as utopian although defined so by Karl Marx (1818-1883). The harmony he offers does not involve self-sacrifice, but it is the natural and inevitable result of human behavior according to the laws of his new science. Fourier thought that he was the Newton of social theory. The purpose of his new science is to link human desire to cosmic passion. Therefore, Fourier’s socialism does not tell us, unlike Marxism, what should happen when the revolution will come, but what will rationally happen without a social revolution.

The Chariot card, with its colorful image of the prince, suggests that  one has the material means to go further in his life but he or she lacks the knowledge where and how to move forward. While the Chariot card symbolizes our material victory in the world through the understanding of existing social forces, the Star card symbolizes the spiritual victory thorough understanding the harmony and the laws of nature. If the prince will adopt the harmony of the Star card, he could get rid of the doubts surrounding him. The character in the star card is part of the cosmic harmony in nature. Fourier derives his principles from the laws of the cosmos as well. The universal love of the Star card and Fourier’s utopia is manifested in the reflection of the cosmos in the earthly world.

Fourier was a great admirer of order and harmony. Therefore, he believed that people will freely join a harmonious and collective community called the phalanx. The phalanx members will establish a joint property with equal rights for men and women. In fact, Fourier was the first thinker who coined the term “feminism” and in the phalanx women are working outside the family circle and take part in public life. Fourier’s vision emphasizes the unlimited possibilities available to each individual to change society: every person is a star and the phalanx is in this analogy the harmony of all its stars. The cosmic order must be symmetric in order to support the founding principle of society. Maintaining the harmonic order in the phalanx includes the appointment of a female minister of love to the phalanx. The minister of love is responsible in peacetime and especially in times of war for the acts of free love. Those acts are intended to raise the morale and the raise is calculated by Fourier in his love games theory. The love games are open to all members and are scientifically calculated. The ideal society, according to Fourier, requires that desires will be organized. Passions are God’s gift to mankind and therefore the phalanx members should engage in many sexual acts.

We can compare the image of the minister of love to the kneeling figure in of the star card. The figure is naked in nature and embodies the perfect union of consciousness with the magical nature. She reveals herself spiritually and physically in all her flaws, and thus presenting her exemplary individual harmony with the cosmos. She wants to disclose the natural principle of sex when it is not imposed on us from a position of the ego, but sex is with the feeling of adequacy and relevance to the environment. The return to nature involves the removal of all boundaries and barriers: the card’s intermingling of colors shows us, poetically, how to coincide with our neighbors so that the boundaries between the environment and man will be vanished. The minister of love is responsible that we can allow ourselves to understand the harmony of the cosmos by letting our bodies and mind flow. More critically, the small black bird in the card may symbolize Fourier’s critic stands outside of his the system: if we adopt the seemingly strange position about the minister of love, others may look at us with suspicion for having given too much trust in the other’s ability to change.

 The Star card is not just showing the possibility for a harmonious future but also, and perhaps primarily, is showing the possible consequences of the Fourieristic perception of social reality. The card shows us that something might get wasted when we try to achieve the complete harmony with nature. This excess can be manifested in the over-detailed descriptive texts by Fourier. In fact, any description of a harmonious utopia invites a loquacious text. Another criticism about Fourier’s utopia is in the card when we notice that the figure spills her spiritual energy on things from the past. Similarly, Fourier’s position about the attractive work offers a nostalgic look to the past when people would engage in various agriculture and domestic works.  We also notice in the card that the figure is excessively influenced by the astrological aspect of her personality. This effect makes her lose grip of reality around her. One of the clearest signs of losing the grip is that we assume, as Fourier assumes, that human beings are endowed with altruism which will make them “spill” all their abilities for the community’s future profitability.

Fourier wrote vigorously almost every hour and added elements to his utopia. He refers in the same seriousness to the calculation of the amount of sugar and the calculation of weapons in the phalanx. This stems from his obsession with details as the numeric data in his utopia are calculated to the last grains of dust. However, the gap between this obsessive descriptive list of compounds and the refusal to suggest any practical way of how to get it is very prominent in Fourier’s writings. Fourier was a fantastic dreamer but also an obsessed madman. He offers some of the oddest ideas in the history of philosophy: Fourier predicted that his harmony will rule the entire cosmos in six years from now and that it will survive for 70,000 years. In this harmony there will be 37 million poets in the stature of Homer and the same number of mathematicians in the stature of Newton. All intercourses will be fantastic and agreeable, especially for women, the ferocious animals like lions will be like pets, the new Earth will have 5 moons, the wine and food will be tasty and delicious and the amount of food will be tripled from that of the current productive society. Even when the Earth will be destroyed, we will travel to another civilization and continue our perfect harmony there. Fourier did not write about time-travel but his alternate universe is compatible with current theories about alternate history. Nowadays, we can only imagine how his future society could liberate people from the shackles of work.

The possible existence of an alternative reality to the actual reality in which we live has many logical paradoxes. These paradoxes can be of an inconsistent reality, different from the reality which preceded it, and resulting in an inconsistency. For example, we take an imaginary journey in time to our past and change the events so they will affect the future. We can imagine different types of paradoxes of a consistent reality in which human actions may violate the principle of causality. For example, many science fiction books describe endless consistent causal loops moving back and forth between cause and effect.

The most important philosophical objection to the logical possibility of an alternative reality is the grandmother’s paradox. The paradox describes a time-traveler returning to the time period before the birth of her parents, and killing his maternal grandmother. Since his grandmother was killed before she could give birth to his mother, he himself was never born, so he could not go back in time to kill his grandmother. Therefore killing the grandmother creates an endless loop of two alternative realities, each of which eventually contradicts its own possibility of existence. In fact, at that moment there is no necessary condition for the actuality of the journey.  We must determine that the journey did not happen at all and the grandmother’s killing did not take place.  If the grandmother remains somehow alive, we must explain why our time-traveler has failed. In this scenario, her grandmother gives birth to her mother, and so is she is born, and in time she returns to kill her grandmother, but it is a useless loop.

The High Priest card explicates the grandfather’s paradox in its own unique way. We notice that the figure of the High Priest makes a pointing gun gesture using his right hand (left side of the card denotes the past) while his gaze towards the future (right side of the card denotes the future). We can almost hear the High Priest telling us that we cannot kill him in the past because it cannot be changed. Our critical gaze must be directed towards the future, flowing in the arrow of time. Furthermore, it seems that the High Priest asks the two kneeling students if they could have killed him in the past. The student on the left side of the card (the past) does not comprehend his teacher’s metaphor and therefore does not attempt to stop his teacher’s “pointing gun” from firing. His fellow on the right (the future) understands his teacher’s gesture; he raises his open hand upwards as if he tells his teacher that killing himself in the past is impossible. Therefore, we can notice that the High Priest favors the right-side student and the card’s theme suggests that it is pointless to change the past. A student who is interested in real knowledge must concentrate on the implications of our present actions on the future. The priest’s authoritative figure tells us that the arrow of time is a necessary condition for acquiring true knowledge.

Back to Fourier’s “alternate history”, we can summarize that the Chariot card deals with the gap between the real world and the imagined one. We can see that the figure of the rider is isolated in his cell from the outside world; his stand is firm and certain but he is not fully aware of what happens outside the carriage. He is daring and imaginative, but his voyage may turn out to be a farce. In our imagination, we want to conquer the world, but our absolute reliance on the material world is liable to sabotage our journey. The “horses” of the outside world could derail our conscious “chariot” and sometimes pull it in opposite directions. The card tells us that dreaming and daring is pleasing, but at the same time we must recognize the material limitations of the cosmos. We can say that Fourier’s “chariot of thought” is beautiful but the alternate reality it describes is not achievable according to the existing market forces (horses). 

In this way, Fourier rejects the normal on the basis of presenting the abnormal as the new normal. The most cited prediction in Fourier’s writings is that the oceans would lose their salinity and turn to lemonade. In the Star card this prediction is manifested when the figure casts the yellow liquid from the jug back to nature. The yellow liquid symbolizes the spiritual and the blue one symbolizes sexuality. Therefore the figure is sharing her spirituality with nature and changes it: we can see the change when the colors of the stars overhead her are alternating between those colors. Fourier wrote that he will wait every day at a certain time for a wealthy savior who will come to invest his capital in Fourier’s phalanges. Of course he never appeared in Fourier’s modest apartment. It is interesting to note in this context that the star card is called in French “L’ Étoile” which means in dissolution of syllables: “your island”. Fourier waited on his island for his special star to appear in the utopian horizon. He never drew back from his ideas till the end of his life and he never admitted to be a madman or at least to have some sort of mental illness. His profound seriousness concerning his ideas suggests the existence of an elaborate defensive mechanism as part of his psych. It can be said that almost all utopian visions require a chatty description of all their social elements. The utopian must be an arrogant “all knowing” narrator of his unusual world.

In this chapter we have met a utopian definition of political thought: we have briefly presented a Tarot-philosophical reading about the creation and distribution of goods and services within the Fourier’s utopia. Our focus in the next chapter will be a Tarot-philosophical reading concerning a more practical theme in political thought: the concepts of truth, justice and power in the political thought of Noam Chomsky and Michelle Foucault. We shall see that while Fourier’s society is alienated to civilization, Chomsky and Foucault are both concerned about the same imminent dangers to it. They disagree about whether the masses should pursue reform or revolution as a means to this end. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Tarot Philosophy

The Power Above: Zhang Zai, Spinoza, Sartre and Frankie goes to Hollywood

“The power of love
A force from above
Cleaning my soul
Flame on burn desire
Love with tongues of fire
Purge the soul
Make love your goal” ― Frankie goes to Hollywood

The integration between the heavenly and earthly elements of human existence has fascinated philosophers and artists throughout the ages. For example, in our current culture the song “The Power of Love” by the British band “Frankie goes to Hollywood” is one of the most beautiful love songs ever written in pop music. The lyrics describe the connection between celestial and terrestrial powers of love. According to Frankie, human desire is the expression of this power; it is the manifested flames of divine love. Our earthly desire purifies the mind; therefore, we should make love our primary goal in life. It seems that the original performance by Holly Johnson, the vocalist of Frankie, will forever be an engaging fusion of voice, charisma and lyrics embodied in distilled forms of love

The Neo-Confucian philosopher Zhang Zai is one of the most important philosophers of the Song Dynasty (宋). Zhang lived in a period of time (1022-1077) when Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism philosophies were erratically competing or seeking for mutual integration between them. Many thinkers in China attacked the fundamental concepts of the Buddhist position; paradoxically, those attacks could not avoid the synthesis, although partial one, between Buddhism and the old schools of thought in China

In relation to his predecessors, Zhang’s philosophical innovation is the priority he gives to the concept of Chi (qi 氣.( Zhang argues that all phenomena in nature can be understood in terms of one material force called Chi. Chi is associated with the world (the totality of things existing in our world) as one thing. The changes in the world are due to constant flux and change of Chi. Chi is invisible when it’s fully dispersed and solid when fully-condensed; it has two aspects: dispersion (Yang) and condensation (Yin) changing forever by the laws of nature. 

Contrary to his predecessors, Yin and Yang are mere aspects of Chi in Zhang philosophy and therefore are essentially one. Yin and yang movements are jointly linked by virtue of being made ​​of the same material. Concerning the nature of human beings Zhang distinguishes between two expressions of Chi: spiritual nature and material nature. Yang Chi movement is called the spiritual soul of the world. Yin Chi movement is called the material soul of the world. The spiritual nature is eternal, does not change and is associated with the good; the material nature is earthly, temporary, changes frequently and impedes humans to achieve their heavenly spiritual nature. Zhang attributes the cosmos the duality of movement of the same basic element: heaven and earth are carrying the same nature and the same basic fundamental concept

The philosopher Baruch Spinoza defines Nature or God as the only substance that exists in the world. What we humans can know about the world as God/Nature is called an attribute by him. God or nature has infinite attributes but humans, due to their limited minds know only two them: the attribute of extension (body) and the attribute of thought (mind). Thus the attributes don’t have an existence for themselves and can be defined as different perspectives of the same phenomenon, i.e. god or nature. The attributes are governed by the law of cause and effect. For example, the attribute of thought can be described as a casual chain of thoughts. Each one of us has his/her unique place in that casual matrix of extended/thought. Spinoza’s theory of attributes can be compared to Zhang’s Yin and Yang Chi doctrine. Like the attributes relation to god, yin and yang chi have no real existence of their own but are presumed to describe certain angle about the same phenomenon – the one Chi. The exact place in the structure of the attributes or the particular movements of yin and yang is the individual’s genuine aspect of the same unity they represent

Understanding of the one principle behind the whole universe is shared by Spinoza and Zhang. They also share the method for the right and moral way of living: we should know our unique place in the whole universe, in the one unity. Similarly, Frankie tells us in their song that we should understand the power of love through the recognition that earthly and heavenly power is one. Love is the interplay of the divine and the earthly elements. We should “make love our goal”, that is, to understand that our goal is to make love with the universe. Spinoza is famously “making love” with God as well: the highest level of human knowledge, the intellectual love of God is the only way to achieve the moral salvation of the soul

The Temperance card reveals similar ideas to Zhang, Spinoza and Frankie. The card’s peaceful character is really an angel whose wings almost touching the sky and feet touch the snake on the ground. The peacefulness of temperance is explained by his/her balance between the terrestrial and the celestial circulation of elements. The balance is harmonious because the card represents the unity of nature: the fluid which infinitely moves upwards and downwards between the two jugs is suggesting that we can understand the one fundamental nature of the nature. Our soul must find the balance between heaven and earth which will achieve the desired peace of mind. Being moderate is not a weakness but an expression of the wisdom of the mind and understanding of the processes of the cosmos.

The ​​magic liquid in the card flows in all directions and sometimes against the power of gravity. Consequently we are implied that temperance is a rare human skill or gift. The understanding that the material soul and spiritual soul are one material is rare as well. Zhang says that the wise man has the rarest gift to combine the spiritual and material one earthly matter. 

In their brilliant love hymn Frankie also says that love is also a dangerous game, a lurking deadly force: “With my undying death-defying love for you, envy will hurt itself”. We have seen that Spinoza’s perception of love as expressing our active desire to know our place in God-Nature has some links to Neo-Confucian philosophies. They both differ from the conception of love a dangerous death struggle for authenticity. This view is presented by the French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre in his celebrated book “Being and Nothingness”. We shall see that when he writes about love, Sartre borrows some key factors from the “Master-Slave dialectic developed by the 18th century German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

We generally think that love is related to the desire for perfection, but Sartre wants to describe it as a struggle for authenticity. Love is being with the other person, being there for her but at the same time a struggle for self-authenticity. Sartre emphasizes that love relationships bare a concealed struggle for power in their definition and the uniqueness of love involves strategic and forceful control of temptation. When we fall in love, we are preoccupied with the way in which we can get the other to think of us as we think of ourselves. The other side in the love-struggle relationship thinks exactly the same as we do, and therefore the birth of temptation always involves a hidden decision of the parties to finish their struggle. For example, the inherent concealment of love forceful agreements finds its expression in our sexual lives: Sartre argues that when we have sex we concentrate on the boy’s most passive and less humanoid parts: buttocks, breasts, hips and body hair. This is the actual result of the concealment of the struggle for authenticity. This does not mean that our partner becomes an object of sex, but rather an awareness of the powerful existence of the other. It is a dialectical struggle for power: we want to please the other so that she will tell us everything we wanted to hear about ourselves, but if we succeed too much, the other will lose credibility and authenticity will be destroyed. Pleasure is the means by which we control the other: we strive to satisfy our sexual appetites and bring the other to think of us in an authentic manner, but pleasure must be forcefully measured otherwise it cannot be used as a manipulative mean.

Thus Love is not an aspiration for divine perfection. As Sartre points out, when love fails, the immediate result is not only the end of the relationship, but also the emergence of a different sentiment than love: when one side showed too much power in order to win the love of the other side, we say that he was sadistic in the manipulative sense of the notion. When one side surrenders in order to win the love of the other side, we say that masochism in its manipulative sense has ended the relationship. “Frankie” says that when love thrives “envy will hurt itself” and they actually describe the powerful rules of love: envy is constantly trying to destroy itself so that the relationship of power will not suffer from over-exposure and remain hidden

The absence of perfection in love is also expressed in the Lovers card of the Tarot. The figure of Cupid shoots its arrows at the figure in the center but we notice that Cupid may miss and the arrow will land at the feet of the right female figure. It is not rare that love will miss its enjoyable goals and we will be left with our earthly socializing.  Thus we may infer that pure love is unattainable, all we do have is a game of power that sometimes climaxes to love peaks and sometimes misses it. The three figures in the card display the complexity of the act of love by showing a mess of touching hands. The central male character seems to be confused between his mind (the old figure on the left side) and his bodily desire (the young figure on the right side). Love’s arrows do not unfold this three polar emotional mess but rather make it manifest 

The three figures in the card can be compared to the characters in Sartre’s play “No Exit”: Joseph Garcin is the middle man who cannot chose between intellect and passion, Inès Serrano who is manipulative, inspired but not voluptuous is the female figure to the left and Estelle Rigault who strives to be passionate as long as her partner will tell the right manly words is the female figure to the right. It seems that the woman to the right wants to please the man and she will tell him everything he wants to hear and the woman to the left has won the man’s attention but not his desire. The card’s deeper meaning is that love’s authenticity is destroyed. Sartre’s figures are trapped in hell in an impossible relationship where intellect on the one hand and desire on the other will never reach their full potential. Sartre and the card state that love is a struggle for harmony but is not harmonious or celestial in itself; although they tend to be more physical and lustful in their nature, the arrows of Cupid will always miss their heavenly target

Frankie says: “Dreams are like angels, they keep bad at bay; love is the light scaring darkness away”: the understanding that earthly human dreams and heavenly angels have a common element is rare just like to keep bad at bay; just like the rarest love of God in Spinoza’s Ethics

We saw Sartre’s philosophy aspired to demonstrate how that we love the other person because she was doing the same thing. Contrary to Spinoza and Sartre’s naturalistic approach, the Bible explains how our conscience needs to be trained, that we love God because he first loved us. The earthly love is always pre-dominated and controlled by the heavenly love

Leave a comment

Filed under Tarot Philosophy

Cave of Forgotten Dreams: Plato, Wayang Kulit, Werner Herzog and Tarot

The film “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” (2011), by the German director Werner Herzog, portrays the singular opportunity to shoot in a 32,000 years old cave of the Prehistoric man. The cave was only recently discovered in southern France. It is so fragile that only authorized researchers are allowed to enter. The frescoes in the cave are spectacular and mesmerizing: horses, bulls and other animals are vividly living in the beautiful darkness. Herzog chronicles them in 3D through a slow exposure of the relationship between them and the researchers. The film dives slowly to the melancholy of the cave and the viewer’s mind: it describes how the fascinating images inside the cave become rich in their details the more we go deeper into the cave and along with it into our souls. The researches themselves testify that every time they come out of the cave they are unable to be released from the haunting images of the cave and they yearn to return inside – sometimes just hours after they have left the darkness. Generally speaking, this metaphorical depth of the “cave of thoughts”  is a constitutive motif in western culture. The allegory of the cave by Plato is one of the most quoted phrases of this metaphor.

The allegory of the Cave is one of the most influential texts in the history of philosophy and thought in general. In fact, the shadows of the things around us accompany our lives almost every day. We meet people and talk, consume art in various forms and the experience remains as shadows deep in our minds. They play a kind of dance game – often vivid and consuming but not always accurate in comparison to the original experience. Like our fellow prehistoric man, we reserve our best cave images or thoughts to the depths of our soul. Those shadows are carved into our souls and stay with us for years. Other images vanish and leave only a pale sign at the entrance to our cave of thoughts. Like the allegory of Plato’s cave, we are prisoners watching the shadow images on our cave walls. Plato also argues that, unfortunately, we  are prisoners of our minds and we do not need a philosopher to teach us about the true sunlight outside.

תמונה

Many scholars have written about Plato’s cave and here we will briefly present it. The allegory of the cave is an educational allegory about prisoners chained in a cave since childhood. They are tightly chained so they do not change their position at all – even their heads. The entrance path to the cave is long and narrow and a fire is burning at the end of it. Behind the chained prisoners things passes through and their shadows fall on the cave’s walls. In this way, the prisoners are condemned to see the shadows on interior wall without realizing their source, the fire. The cave prisoners are like spectators in a shadow theater but they believe these shadows are reality itself. One of the prisoners who represent the figure of the philosopher breaks his chains and goes out of the cave to see the sunshine. He returns to the cave to tell his fellow prisoners what he saw. However, the prisoners do not welcome the liberated with love: They do not even want to listen and venture to kill him.

תמונה

The Tarot card number 13 is traditionally called in different cultures “The Card with No Name” but sometimes the image of death is mistakenly attributed to him . Thus,the card’s meaning is not death but a state of fundamental change we are going through. In this context, the image of the skeleton figure may represent the prisoner from Plato’s cave which was released from his fetters. As the liberated prisoner, the skeleton has shed all his skin, i.e, his former life. The skeleton wishes to revolutionize his life on the, he realizes that this is the end of an illusion according to which he spent his life so far. This change can be defined as a radical change “to the flesh and bone” – literally and figuratively speaking. The prisoner or the skeleton undergo a metamorphosis: his mind transforms from seeing the shadows and speculating according to his senses that these things are real – to the direct intellectual observation of the sun and the true knowledge of things themselves.

תמונה

The bottom section of the card, which contains mostly the black earth, may represent the cave and its prisoners. This is a fruitful comparison: we see the skeleton’s yellow scythe which yellow color symbolizes cognition and knowledge. Thus, he is like the released prisoner seeking his way up in the of Plato’s cave. He is leaving behind two figure heads; they are the prisoners who are still in it. Like Plato, who is not specific about the identity of the prisoners in his cave, the card implies that kings and perhaps even our parents may be among the cave dwellers. Quite clearly we see that the heads of the prisoners in the card’s cave turn their eyes from the golden grass that may represent the fire burning in the cave. In fact, these characters are looking at us and they seem to be telling us about their spiritual decadence. In this way, we and the figures in the card share the same fate. Similar to the liberated prisoner in Plato’s cave, the skeleton wants to restore his social contacts with the people he left behind. He wants to show them his new yellow scythe or the new knowledge he has acquired, but they do not even look at him.

Beyond the fact that he is ignored, one may ask what does the future holds for the philosopher in the cave ? Does he is destined to be presumed as an “intellectual skeleton” while the prisoners disregard his knowledge? These questions continue to accompany Plato’s “Republic”; however, they take an interesting turn in the Indonesian shadow theater called “Wayang Kulit”. One can find it fascinating that parallel ideas bridge the geo-cultural distance between this ancient theater and the Greek cave. In fact, Wayang offers an interesting alternative ending to the allegory of the cave.

תמונה

The Wayang Kulit draws its inspiration from the Hindu scripture stories. Itadds to those scriptures elements from classical drama like the hero/villain conflict, comedy and even parody. The theater puppets are made ​​from leather of buffalo and are stuck on bamboo sticks. The Shadow of the dolls is displayed on a white screen. The master puppeteer Indonesian name is “Dalang”. The dalang is not just a puppeteer; he is the mediator between the spectator and the divine. Hours before the show, the dalang meets with his future viewers and hears about their troubles. The show will contain clues for possible solutions for these troubles, often in the form of the good against the bad theme. Before the show, the dalang lights his oil lamp, talks to the dolls like they were humans in all respects, sits cross-legged before the white screen, and the orchestra, the Gamelan, begins to play. Soon after, with the start of the show approaching, the dalang burns some incense and prays to the gods to protect him. The actual show is continued throughout the night until dawn and always adopts its themes, as mentioned above, from the Indian Mahabharata and Ramayana. The dalang is governing the puppets with both hands while tapping on a wooden box. He changes his voice tone depending on the figure: sometimes his voice was like soothing melted chocolate and sometimes it is like a thunder storm. He laughs whispers, shouts, groans, mocks. Each puppet figure has its gestures and manner of speech. An average performance consists of 80 shadow puppets. The bulk part of the show is spoken in a language the villagers don’t understand – the Kawi. However, this does not bother the spectators who know the stories and characters by heart. Just in case, the dalang recruits a local clown who presents the basics of the story in the local language or dialect.

תמונה

The dalang, just like our cave’s prisoner- philosopher, aims to entertain his audience – he strives to be understood. This is a most difficult profession – much more than just convincing the prisoners to escape their cave. The dalang must remember long religious texts and simultaneously keep the collective tradition intact and improvise in a creative manner. Thus, the dalang is not like the gloomy cave’s philosopher – he is a philosopher and an artist in one act. In every performance he must regain the balance between these kingdoms. In fact, the dalang is a prisoner in Plato’s cave but not a regular one: he is the prisoner-philosopher that is not bound with chains. He chose to stay in the cave and view the shadows in his artistic and creative wisdoms. The Waiang Theater tells us that we should strive to be like the dalang, that is, to re-experience our inner shadows and not just watch them passively. It might not get us out of the cave but we could ascended beyond our human condition and create our own walls.

תמונה

The Tarot card “The Sun” describes the arrival of the released prisoner-philosopher to the cave. The boy on the right had just discovered the sun, the good. Until now, he bathed in the wise ray-lights of his cosmic father and now he wants to share his knowledge with the boy on the left. However, the boy on the left has a little tail which signifies that the animal sensory impulses still control him. He wants to achieve the happiness of knowledge but will not give up his tail so effortlessly. We see it in his gestures: while the boy on the right is trying to help and trust her hands on the shoulders of his fellow, the boy on the left hand is reaching to his fellow stomach. We can only speculate that they maybe share a collective consciousness but we can also imagine that the boy on the left is trying to reach his fellow heart and limbs. Like Wayang Kulit’s atmosphere, the card is telling us that one must strive to reach solidarity in order to be understood by your fellow people. However, the road to knowledge of the common good for all of us is not easy: we may encounter the beast inside us. The Sun card, the card without a name, The Allegory of the Cave, Werner Herzog and theater of Waiang will guide us in our journey.

4 Comments

Filed under Tarot Philosophy

Fortune Kills: Boethius, Boccaccio, Pasolini and Tarot

The idea that there is a hidden force behind human actions known as fate or fortune was prevalent in the middle ages. One of the most important books from that period is “The consolation of philosophy”. “The Consolation of philosophy” was written by the Roman philosopher from sixth century AD, Boethius. It was one of the most revered books in the middle ages and even though today it is almost forgotten, its vivid ideas still prevail in our culture. The book is a semi – autobiographical dialog, which expresses a rare philosophical profundity. It was written in prison before the execution of Boethius and expressed its ideas through allegory, vision, human drama and even humor and self-irony. Boethius sits in his cell, waiting for his death by the cruel and despotic ruler; he gets a visit from a woman – Philosophy and they talk heartedly. The consolation of philosophy ultimately becomes a double victory of spirit: the victory over human body and over cruel destiny.

consolation of philosophy

According to Boethius, inner happiness is the only thing which is immune to the vagaries of fortune. The whims of fortune are inevitable and only God knows the plan of the world. History is like a large Ferris wheel whose essence is fickle, thus you should not complain if you will be thrown back into the abyss. Good times pass, but so bad ones. The ability to change is our obstacle, but at the same time it is our only hope. Boethius describes how destiny is haphazard and undirected in the eyes of the common people and wants to offer a true model for a better life.

“The Consolation of philosophy” influenced many Renaissance writers and its central motif received many beautiful literary adaptations in Italy of the 14th century. The Image of Lady Fortuna captured the hearts of many poets such as Petrarch and other excellent writers. In literature Lady Fortuna gave favors and gifts for some, and snatched cruelly from others what they thought they rightly deserved. Her image was used for explaining why the nobility fall from grace and their place in society is taken by the common but talented people.

boccaccio-1

Fortune is one of the central motifs in the work “Decameron” by the 14th -century writer and Italian Renaissance man Giovanni Boccaccio. For 10 days of its occurrence, the work of Boccaccio does not skip any branch or curve in the twisted fate human life: corruption, lust and licentiousness, greed, deception to death, fraud, religion, mocking the weak, exploitation of women, impoverishment of assets, wastefulness church, vengeful cannibalism, human predation by mad dogs, ugliness and body convulsions – all these are described in 100 groundbreaking stories – in a graphically and erotic manner. The name “Decameron” in ancient Greek indicates the 10 days in the life cycle. Interestingly, 10 is also the number of the wheel card which itself indicates the end of a life cycle that started with the fool card.

Decameron can be likened to a giant wheel of life: the book starts from the worst case of the human condition – the epidemic of “Black Death” and ends after 10 days with a spiritual and intellectual ascension back in Florence. Decameron is a frame story, innovative for its time (Novellino): the framework is a plague that causes 10 young men and women from the upper class to flee from Florence to a village in the outskirts of Florence. The work’s body contains 100 stories told by those young men and woman. Each tells 10 stories in 10 days and every day the topic is changed by the group leader. The circular motif is present in the content of the stories as well: The stories describe how the elite view of the impurity of the lower class that wants to act like the higher class. Even the author himself is trapped in such a circular frame: Boccaccio was the bastard son of a lower-class merchant and an aristocracy woman. In this manner, the bastard tells a story about the mixing of the nobility with the common folk. The motif of beginning and end, high and low are present through the entire work.

Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini was a modern Renaissance man: a poet, writer, philosopher, artist, publicist and especially a gifted filmmaker. For the intellectual crowd his films are celebrating the festival of life in all their ugliness and beauty – with an extra sauce of unique Marxism. However, Pasolini himself wanted to reach the masses and puff a magical Marxist fart in their face. Thus, his tragic figure as an artist is manifested in the fact that he directed his films for the masses but they did not understand his worldview and brutally murdered him in cold blood. Pasolini life moved erratically on the wheel of fortune: from a haunted poor poet to an estimated poet; then a famous director and finally a hated Marxist murdered by the masses. Like Boccaccio, Pasolini climbed to the heart of the Italian enlightenment from a remote town. Pasolini’s films weave the lowest with the highest form of human existence too. Pasolini liked night-walking in the toughest of Rome suburbs and perhaps under the influence of the Roman Boethius, Pasolini loved to tease wheel of fortune and challenge it again and again. In his films Pasolini renowned some literary classics and added a spice of erotic scent to them.

pasolinitv

One of the monumental films of Pasolini works is the interesting adaptation for the Decameron. Pasolini’s version is unfaithful to the original text but this is not the film main purpose. Pasolini is interested in criticizing the contemporary Italian society through ancient metaphors. Pasolini carefully selects 10 stories from the Decameron. The characters in these stories are manipulated and displayed in the context of their socio – economic status to support his unique Marxist position.

The first story in the film tells the quirky adventures of Andreuccio, a naive merchant (played by the wonderful Ninetto Davoli ) . Andreuccio fortune is spinning on the wheel: in the first scene he appears as a carefree successful merchant in the market, but one day he is seduced by a beautiful young woman to come to her home. She makes him a delicious dinner, after dinner his stomach hurts and he wants to make his needs. He goes to the shit pit but pushed into the hole. The scheming young woman locks the toilet door and steals the money of Andreuccio. Stinking from head to toe he is forced to swim in the sewage and climb to the upper window. He comes down from the gutter and stands dirty outside the house. When he shouts the woman’s name in order to get his money back the neighbors stoned him and threaten to murder him. Smelly and painful he is picked up by two people who tell him that he was actually a fortunate man. They tell him about a treasure which is hidden in the grave and offer him a partnership provided he will agree to enter the tomb and take the jewelry and gold. The grave belongs to a rich bishop who died the day before and the thieves claim that the bishop was buried along with his many treasures. Andreuccio the naive goes with them and enters and the grave. He throws the treasures which to his partners but when he wants to get out they close in the stone cover of the tomb and leave him in the dark with the body of a bishop. Andreuccio yells and screams but no one can hear him. After a while, another two thieves come and are trying to enter the tomb as well. Andreuccio bites the leg of one of them and smuggles the panicked thieves. He takes the gold ring from the Bishop’s finger and leaves the church, happy about his newly found fortune.

0ce57ed0d7_4850633_med

The wheel card describes the various life cycles and the opening and closing of the circle of life. Like Andreuccio story the card may describe a person whose fortune is dependent upon external circumstances rather than as an internal act of choice. Thus, Andreuccio entrust his fortune to the caprice of life. The card implies that we should accept life on its ups and downs. Anyone whose life is currently going upward must accept that it will go downhill someday. Like the reader’s track in the Decameron frame, the movement of the animals in the card is framed too. They move from left to right, i.e., from downward track to the rising in the future. Perhaps the opposite direction is true as well: the card tells us that what is now on the top may drop down. Generally speaking, the Decameron’s motif of beginning and end, high and low runs through the card interpretation. The knowledge that life may change is comforting us. We accept the whims of fate but not surrender ourselves to them. The key is knowledge: We remember that Boethius’s initial motivation was to be comforted in the arms of philosophy and the comforting atmosphere is also present in the card. The beast which is coming down now may exceed in another life and form. One of the deepest insights of Boethius was that the cycle of death and rebirth was always moving and its movement is the key to understanding the victory of the spirit.

10_the_wheel_of_fortune1

However, if we go back to Pasolini, it seems that the fortune of Andreuccio is being varied by external forces outside of his own control and knowledge. Thus, Pasolini is implying to us that the wheel of fortune is very dangerous: Andreuccio is spinning on it carelessly and almost dies. The card shows the same rhetorical tone in the complacency of the sphinx at the height of the wheel. The danger to the Sphinx and Andreuccio occurs where they feel secured and safe holding their fortune. In a Marxist manner of speaking: the individual who looks strong today may find his real wealth only in the grave. Just as no one rotates the wheel in the card and the wheel is located on a land that is not stable, the capitalist economy mechanism will not be able to roll on forever. Andreuccio victory at the end of the scene is ironic because he was holding a stinking golden ring.

As described in the card and by Boccaccio and Pasolini as well – life could be a gamble which sometimes can be capricious. We open one circle and close another and vice versa sometimes. Thus, we must adapt ourselves to the routine of everyday life and perceive our fortunes on their ups and downs. Pasolini and Boccaccio want to formulate the rules behind the cycle of death and birth – each in his own unique way. The process of formulating the rules has an artistic conclusion: At the ending scene of the Decameron by Pasolini, the artist, played by Pasolini himself is asking: Why to create the work of art when it is such a great thing to dream about it? The key to answer that question is to look on the wheel of our life: We are the artist who strives to manifest the beauty of his/her dreams in reality, but this striving is actually manifested in real life by celebrating the beautiful and the ugly – just like the spinning wheel of fortune.

Leave a comment

Filed under Tarot Philosophy