I have a cold. I'm in a bad mood. But it's not the cold that did it. I'm in a bad mood because I've spent the last four hours on various Gurdjieff sites and I know there's no way I can adequately convey in mere human language the overwhelming feeling that has resulted of wanting to scream, smash things and commit multiple homicide on all and any Gurdjieffians that might come in handy. The real frustration is that there aren't any handy -- though I did find a Gurdjieff group right here in Boulder. Imagine my surprise. But they're all the same. Or they're trying very hard to be. The goal seems to be to affect a kind of towering offhand arrogance while making the most vacuous possible pronouncements on absolute trivia. Oh yeah, and it helps to have a name that suggests you're not really quite sure who you are. Here's an example. Speaking is Lord Pentland (Henry John Sinclair) -- see what I mean? This is from something titled: Transmission: an interview with Lord Pentland. We can only surmise that the following blatherskite was part of the "transmission."
When I met Gurdjieff I'd been quite a few years with Mr. Ouspensky and Mme. Ouspensky both attending talks and lectures and also living in Mme. Ouspensky's house, in their houses in England in the west of London and in New Jersey. And it was after Ouspensky died and I went out to India, and on the way back, actually, it became clear to me that even all those years with Ouspensky, I hadn't arrived at anything; I came to nothing. And it was then that through Mme. Ouspensky's introduction, I went to Paris and met Gurdjieff. I was with him in Paris and then I came to New York. And it was a short period, only about nine months, but a couple of months after that he died. And the way he left things, it made it perfectly easy for me to have to really enter into a position of responsibility as such. So it made it essentially easy for me to try to understand more deeply what he'd shown me.
Maybe I'm not tuned in to the subtleties of this whole thing. I mean, the guy who wrote that -- J. Walter Driscoll; you knew he'd have an initial for a first name, didn't you? -- called out that quote as if it were going to, you know, say something. And here I sit, scratching my earthbound unspiritual ass, trying to understand more deeply what he's shown me.
But I meant to tell you about the album cover up there. See jolly old Gurdjieff doffing his Karakul hat in front of the subtle ENEAGRAM? I had meant to quote from a couple of Amazon reader reviews. See if you can spot the similarity in these two 5-star assessments...
these short piano pieces are simple, but absolutely not boring.
Truly an exposition of beautiful "objective" listening. This music will not put you to sleep.
For the swifter among you, that should help explain the title slug I selected for this post.
But another thing: what exactly is it with the word "objective"? Ayn Rand called her (if you'll forgive the expression) philosophy Objectivism. Jung toyed with calling the collective unconscious the Objective unconscious. It's almost like some kind of signal that says "I am about to tell you something that, if you had a lick of sense, would make you very very angry, as it telegraphs the fact you're being lied to. But look, being a compassionate person, I am going to Capitalize it so you won't have to indulge in such a negative emotional response." Well, I hope one of those Work assholes comes over here and sees that I've stuck in this graphic of some guy looks like he stepped right out of ZZ Top but is actually on the cover of something called The Counterculture Reader. If you happen to be into "The Work" yourself, listen up: that's here to make fun of your ass. That's what your posturing bullshit sounds like to me, dimestore shades and all. Jesus! I wish I could shake their imperturbable self satisfaction. But no, they just can't dig themselves. It's hopeless.
Nonetheless, I'm going to try to take another run at this. The picture you see to the left is taken from a web page titled (here we go again) Threads of Time - Recollections of Jeanne de Salzmann. In fact, that's Jeanne herself you're looking at, though -- as she was no doubt hoping you'd notice -- she's not looking at you. She is more probably contemplating, so we are given to infer, the deeper mysteries of Life and Time and shit like that. There's a whole page of Gurdjieff's like Major Pupils, and if you go there one thing will eventually strike you. I've been there all goddam day and it only just struck me now: there's no color. Some of the bastards are smiling, but damn few. Most of them look like the guy below, or look like they wish they did...
And his bio says -- because it has to say something, right? -- "When Alexandre de Salzmann and his wife Jeanne first met Gurdjieff in 1919, he was already a well known stage lighting artist..." So what this actually tells you is that he's trying as hard as possible not to look like plain old Jeanne "Threads of Time" de Salzmann's old man. Which is of course, all he is.
I know, I know, these are just disgruntled ad hominem potshots. But after all that surfing though these numinous self-important navel-gazing narcissists, I am disgruntled, dammit! And I have a cold. So I don't care if people come here with deep Gurdjieffian convictions and are offended by this. They can kiss my ass. How's that? And oh, how I wish it could end there. But it won't, of course. There are any number of web pages bookmarked and actual books on the way. There will be more about these people. Mark my words.
posted by Christopher Locke at #
Thursday, March 23, 2006
In the first decade of the 20th Century, a colony was founded on the hill above Ascona. The colony was dedicated to a new philosophy which was based on principles of naturalism, theosophy, vegetarianism and nudism. Among the famous visitors of the Monte Verità colony there were writers such as Hermann Hesse, E.M. Remarque, the psychoanalyst Otto Gross and Rudolf Steiner.
He bought himself a piece of property in a beautiful place on the lake opposite the city of Zurich. He began planning and building a house in this lovely place, Ascona, and as he worked with his hands, he activated his imagination. Now, that's the big thing, to activate your imagination...
Yeah, that's the big thing, Joe. Campbell had clearly activated his own imagination here -- as he did in so much of his work -- seeing as Ascona and Zurich are 85 miles apart and situated on altogether different lakes. What Campbell meant was the Bollingen house Jung built at Küsnacht. Call it a Jungian slip. Understandable. Ascona was Campbell's ticket to ride, and he rode in on Jung's coat tails.
But then, so did so much else.
For a taste, here's Mircea Eliade in his Journal I, 1945-1955. The entry is datelined "ASCONA, 27 August" 1951 (p. 136), and concerns a "waking dream" Eliade says he could not break out of:
Suddenly I saw myself speaking Sanskrit and incapable of speaking anything else. I could see what was going on around me: Chistenel and the others "stunned," Jung much interested, etc. A day passes, two days. I shed my clothes and, nearly naked, take up residence on the lakeshore in the manner of an Indian ascetic. I eat nothing but a handful of rice and do not sleep (an allusion to my lecture: that naga who ate only a handful of rice a day and slept scarcely any at night yet had a perfect athletic body).
Are you beginning to get the impression that these people you may have -- like myself -- once looked up to are all barking mad?
I used to think that every little thing I did was crazy
but now I think the karma cops are comin' after you... aerosmith ~ full circle
Time: don't let it slip away. But there's more. There's always more. When you hook up to the collective unconscious, baby, it's fuckin endless...
Jung summons the Indologist Abegg, with whom I succeeded finally in making myself understood because he speaks a little Sanskrit. I tell him my name is Narada (I had related the myth of Narada in my lecture). I see how Ascona becomes the center of worldwide attention: thousands of reporters, motion picture photographers, etc. The police who come to guard Casa Gabriella, the distress of Christinel and my friends. Tucci comes by plane, and then Dasgupta, very proud that his former pupil has become famous.
That would be Giuseppe Tucci, about whom there is a chapter (pp. 161-196) in Curators of the Buddha: The Study of Buddhism under Colonialism titled "Giuseppe Tucci, or Buddhology in the Age of Fascism." And a hundred and some pages earlier, we'd already heard mention of Hauer, which would be Jakob Wilhelm Hauer, founder of the German Faith Movement and Nazi SS officer-to-be, with whom Jung had shared the Ascona/Eranos conference on Kundalini yoga in 1932. Of that conference, Gopi Krishna wrote in Kundalini for the New Age (as reported in Sonu Shamdasani's introduction to The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga):
None of the scholars present, as evident by the views expressed by them, displayed the least knowledge about the real significance of the ancient document they were discussing at the time.
On the far right is a still obscure but, Phillips says, rapidly growing group of "Christian Reconstructionists" who believe in a "Taliban-like" reversal of women's rights, who describe the separation of church and state as a "myth" and who call openly for a theocratic government shaped by Christian doctrine. A much larger group of Protestants, perhaps as many as a third of the population, claims to believe in the supposed biblical prophecies of an imminent "rapture" -- the return of Jesus to the world and the elevation of believers to heaven.
Kellogg's work succeeds in introducing a dimension never so thoroughly explored: the essential impact on early Nazi world-view of ideological elements and political themes carried over to Germany by White-Russian émigrés.
Hmmm... And an Amazon reader-reviewer writes: "I strongly recommend this book which should be read alongside Karla Poewe New Religions and the Nazis" -- which I first mentioned a month ago in connection with the esoteric Yoga "scholarship" of Nazi German Faith Movement leader Jakob Wilhelm Hauer.
Moscow and St. Petersburg were centres for the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century occult revival. From 1881 to 1918 thirty occult journals and more than 800 occult titles were published in Russia, reflecting interests in spiritualism, Theosophy, Rosicrucianism, alchemy, psycho-graphology, phrenology, hypnotism, Egyptian religions, astrology, chiromancy, animal magnetism, fakirism, telepathy, the Tarot, black and white magic, and Freemasonry (Carlson 1993: 22). Gurdjieff took notice of contemporary interests and presented his teaching accordingly. The cosmological form of his teaching was fully outlined between 1914 and 1918 in a form that takes account of the occult revival in Russia.
Tournament of Shadows certainly corroborates that statement, and adds much detail. For instance (p. 234):
At Tashilhunpo, seat of the Tashi or Panchen Lama, [George] Bogle heard about "Shambul." Madame Blavatsky, founder of Theosophy, kept the legend alive, offering a geographic variation in The Secret Doctrine (1888), writing that "fabled Shambhallah, the headquarters of the Mahatmas, the sacred brotherhood" was located "somewhere in the Gobi."
To see where I, up-close-and-personal-like, came in on all this -- and part of the reason I'm writing this book -- clap your hands together while repeating "I want to Tinkerbell to live!" Then click the graphic...
Whoops, sorry. Looks like you didn't clap hard enough.
But back to Tournament of Shadows, the story continues (p. 242) with a description of a trip to Ceylon in 1891 by the young Tzar-to-be, Nicholas II, and his considerable entourage...
Now his imperial highness informs the Russian Consul in Colombo that he wishes to "have the honor of meeting" Colonel Olcott (1832-1907), a retired American officer who sports an enormous Santa Claus beard and is the champion of a worldwide Buddhist revival. It happens that Henry Steel Olcott, now resident in Colombo (the Sinhalese are Buddhists), is also the "chum" and associate of the Tsar's compatriot Helena P. Blavatsky. Together in 1875 they founded the Theosophical Society.
Imagine: Madame B. hangin' with the Tzar. Who knew?
The answer to that one, apparently, is damn few -- then or now. The history is there if you know what you're looking for and you dig for it like a demented dog. That would be me, rabidly indefatigable in the cause of grinding new lenses for a credulous world so awash in the occult it can no longer see the trees for the forest. Carl Solomon, I am with your mother, baby, standing in the shadows. Howl on that.
One more clip from Tournament, this one concerning the set designer (and so much more) for Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes production of Rite of Spring (p. 450)...
The ballet's composer, Igor Stravinsky, claimed Roerich looked "as though he ought to have been a mystic or spy." In fact, recently opened intelligence archives suggest that at points in his career, he was both.
Nicholas Roerich was a worthy successor to Madame Blavatsky. A Russian mystic with a devoted following, he managed like her to baffle the intelligence departments on three continents. Like her, he was a Theosophist in quest of Shambhala who eventually made his home in India. But in two respects he surpassed HPB. Roerich gave his name to an an international treaty and in America he played an off-stage role in two Presidential campaigns.
Among the various kinds of occultism popular during the Russian Silver Age (1890-1914), modern Theosophy was by far the most intellectually significant. This contemporary gnostic gospel was invented and disseminated by Helena Blavatsky, an expatriate Russian with an enthusiasm for Buddhist thought and a genius for self-promotion. What distinguished Theosophy from the other kinds of "mysticism" -- the spiritualism, table turning, fortune-telling, and magic -- that fascinated the Russian intelligentsia of the period? In answering this question, Maria Carlson offers the first scholarly study of a controversial but important movement in its Russian context.
Carlson also wrote a paper called "Fashionable Occultism: Spiritualism, Theosophy, and Hermeticism in Fin-de-siecle Russia," which was collected in The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture. In this piece, Carlson writes:
Mme Blavatsky's new Theosophy seemed to offer an alternative to the dominant materialism, rationalism, and positivism of the nineteenth century. Sometimes called Neo-Buddhism, Theosophy strikes the modern student as an eclectic, syncretic, dogmatic doctrine, strongly pantheistic and heavily laced with exotic Buddhist thought and vocabulary. Combining bits and pieces of Neoplatonism, Brahminism, Buddhism, Kabbalism, Rosicrucianism, Hermeticism, and other occult doctrines, past and present, in a frequently undiscriminating philosophical mélange, Theosophy attempted to create a "scientific" religion, a modern gnosis, based on absolute knowledge of things spiritual rather than on faith. Under its Neo-Buddhism lies an essentially Judeo-Christian moral ethic tempered by spiritual Darwinism (survival of those with the "fittest spirit" or most advanced spiritual development). One might describe Theosophy as an attempt to disguise positivism as religion, an attempt that was seductive indeed in its own time, in view of the psychic tension produced at the fin de siècle by the seemingly unresolvable dichotomy between science and religion.
If Yeats's case were unique, we could dismiss it as a curious footnote to modern cultural history. But from the 1880s straight through the 1940s an imposing number of prominent figures, from Kandinsky and Mondrian through Gandhi and Nehru to Huxley and Isherwood, intersected the Theosophical orbit long enough to have their trajectory significantly altered by it.
Following is Publishers Weekly brief review of Blavatsky's Baboon...
Around the turn of the century, renegade Russian aristocrat Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky declared herself the chosen vessel of the wisdom of the East through her reputed contact with a dematerializing Tibetan master, who unveiled a Hidden Brotherhood located in the Himalayas and Egypt. The Theosophical Society, which she cofounded in 1875 in New York City with Civil War veteran Col. Henry Olcott, attracted a wide following with its amalgam of Hinduism, Buddhism and occultism. In this enormously entertaining, witheringly skeptical, highly colorful chronicle, British journalist Washington deflates the self-mythologizing and woolly philosophizing of theosophists and rival schools and gurus, including flamboyant Armenian-Greek mystic George Gurdjieff, Austrian philosopher/holistic healer Rudolf Steiner and Jiddu Krishnamurti, Indian ex-theosophist turned California sage. Those who came under their influence include Aldous Huxley, Katherine Mansfield, Christopher Isherwood, W.B. Yeats and Frank Lloyd Wright, making this a heady intellectual adventure as well as a clear-sighted saga of human foibles, charlatanry, bizarre antics and genuine spiritual hunger extending to New Age cults from the 1950s to the present.
Am I making notes for a book that's been written dozens of times already? In my darker moments, I can begin to think so. But if that's so, why do so many people continue to be surprised by this sort of material? To wrap this up on no less depressing a note, in the end, it seems, people believe what they want to. Which I guess is why we live in the best of all possible worlds.
posted by Christopher Locke at #
Saturday, March 18, 2006
you got a lotta nerve
to say you got a helping hand to lend
you just want to be on
the side that's winning ~ dylan
While the book cover gives the impression of plain brown wrapping paper -- what are we to think? that no salesman will call? -- the title page is a whole different story. Look at it. Like a goddam inscription carved in Roman capitals -- or an LA freeway billboard after some fondly imagined neocon revolution has safely returned us to Tradition. Welcome to the latest installment of "positive" psychology.
The subtitle is even richer: A Handbook and Classification. So what we have here is essentially a cross between the nosological taxonomy of the DSM-IV with a sort of field guide to the better sorts of people.
I'll level with you. I spent no more than five minutes flipping though this thing in a Barnes & Noble aisle, and one of the co-authors I'd never heard of. But I had heard of the other author, and bought most of his books as exhibits in my planned trial of dangerous morons v. the people. I despise Martin Seligman and his fucking "learned optimism," both on principle and irrationally -- as is my God-given prerogative as a non-academic who owes no lipservice allegiance to fictions like fairness and critical distance. The very existence of this book makes me want to break things.
Or at least write paragraphs like that. Damn, that felt good!
But hey, don't take my word for it; work up your own apoplexy. The first chapter of Character Strengths -- a generous 84 pages worth -- is available via this PDF download from Oxford University Press. And speaking of OUP, that's where Seligman first came up on the radar, in a little number called Learned Helplessness. Again, you have to wait a beat for the subtitle kicker: A Theory for the Age of Personal Control.
For instance, in Positive Psychology in Practice, the authors of a paper called "Positive Psychology: Historical, Philosophical, and Epistemological Perspectives" say (p. 17):
...the human being should, as Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi maintain, be conceptualized and understood as a being with inherent potentials for developing positive character traits or virtues. This idea is the core of the actualizing tendency as described by Rogers and self-actualization as described by Maslow. For positive psychology, the concept of good character thus becomes the central concept.
What Maslow wrote about this purportedly positive psychology (in Motivation and Personality, 1987) was, perhaps most succinctly, this:
The study of crippled, stunted, immature, and unhealthy specimens can yield only a cripple psychology and a cripple philosophy.
What is it about that statement that bothers me? Could it be that this is precisely the kind of rhetoric about "the unfit" that comes straight out of the eugenics movement -- and don't forget (jog your memory here) that Maslow started out under the wing of one of America's foremost eugenicists, Edward L. Thorndike. Similarly, in Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences, Maslow writes:
I have already written much on scientistic, nineteenth-century, orthodox science, and intend to write more. Here I have been dealing with it from the point of view of the dichotomizing of science and religion, of facts (merely and solely) from values (merely and solely), and have tried to indicate that such a splitting off of mutually exclusive jurisdictions must produce cripple-science and cripple-religion, cripple-facts and cripple-values.
Not to regard these sorts of deus-ex-machina pronunciamentos as unscientific is (merely and solely) delusionary . To see them as somehow apolitical is (merely and solely) crap.
At EDGE: The World Question Center (the brainchild of John Brockman, whose world-class humility is the stuff of legend), there's a piece by Martin E.P. Seligman -- "Psychologist, University of Pennsylvania, Author, Authentic Happiness" -- in which he writes:
In the sociology of high accomplishment, Charles Murray (Human Accomplishment) documents that the highest accomplishments occur in cultures that believe in absolute truth, beauty, and goodness. The accomplishments, he contends, of cultures that do not believe in absolute beauty tend to be ugly, that do not belief [sic] in absolute goodness tend to be immoral, and that do not believe in absolute truth tend to be false.
In attempting to describe the "spiritual but not religious" NewAge++ idiocy that America is now massively exporting to the rest of the planet, I hope I have at least begun to show that the phenomenon is anything but new. I hope also to show that -- unless by "spirit" one means some vaguely intensified emotionalism -- it is difficult to the point of impossibility to separate whatever it might mean in that breathy contemporary formulation from ideas that have always been conceived of as religious. And religion covers -- in every sense -- a multitude of sins.
The Orientalist spirit of Transcendentalism that came out of Concord, Massachusetts in the early 19th century became the engine of manifest destiny -- a.k.a. God's Will -- that so effectively cleared the continent of its indigenous peoples. The table-rapping Spiritualism that came out of upstate New York around mid-century helped clear the way for occultists like Madame Blavatsky, who in 1875 established the Theosophical Society in New York City with her persuasive talk of "root-races" and providential Aryan supremacy. The eugenics movement, which came out of fears that America's destiny might not be quite so manifest, was given comfort and momentum from parish and pulpit across the nation, planting seeds that would flower in evil as the Third Reich's "final solution."
Like mold in cheese -- or in bread and wine -- race, religion and genocide are interwoven by a mycelium of fear and hatred of "the other" that cannot be isolated from the cultural substrates on which they have mutually incubated, fed and multiplied. Through a convenient amnesia with respect to its own history -- call it a collective unconscience -- the United States has escaped much of the "credit" it deserves for this insidious multiplication. To take one example: the demonstrative role its spirited boosterism of "racial hygiene" played in the Nazi Holocaust.
But America was itself the product of a much older spirit sans religion -- colonialism -- which crossed Adam Smith with moral sentiments, Malthus with money, and Darwin with depredation to produce a truly global Anglo-Saxon empire. God save the Queen.
I could easily insert pictures here of talky televangelists and recent US presidents along with their current crop of victims in Iraq, but that would be too obvious, too... I don't know... somehow almost vulgar. Plus, I'd hate to abuse my increasingly shaky right of free speech. Connect your own dots. Meanwhile, bravely pressing on...
Famine victims, India, late nineteenth century. The staggering death toll from famine in Victorian India – about 7 million in the 1876-78 famine alone – was the result of the British policy of exporting food from India and collecting harsh taxes even in times of serious drought. The grain imports in Britain were to improve British diets and simultaneously keep grain prices stable. In recent years, as India has moved to conform to the era of market liberalization, it is again exporting food even as people starve in some parts of the country.
Namaste. I salute the God within you.
C.J. O'Donnell, a distinguished veteran of the Bengal civil service, sarcastically commented, "With famine following famine in nearly every province of India, and desolating plague everywhere, who will deny that we have at last found a truly 'Imperialist' Viceroy?" Just before New Year's, Curzon demonstrated his doctrinaire imperialism by cutting back rations that he characterized as 'dangerously high' and stiffening relief eligibility by reinstating the despised Temple 'tests.' ... the government boasted that the tests had deterred 1 million people from relief.
Prof. Edward Amherst Ott was a pioneer in popularizing biological ethics. Eugenics is not a fad with him. He correlates a knowledge of the laws of breeding with practical, social, and ethical problems. "Sour Grapes" has been delivered over 4,000 times and has been heard by over a million people.
Edward Amherst Ott
one of the Lyceum's
most notable lecturers
The Chautauqua Moment: Protestants, Progressives, and the Culture of Modern Liberalism, 1874-1920
900 Baseline Road ~ Boulder ~ Colorado ~ 80302
let's all get up and dance to a song
that was a hit before your mother was born
and though she was born a long, long time ago
your mother should know...
your mother should know... ~ beatles
Settle back, strap in. Roll up for the mystery tour...
This quote is from an article on vedanta.org titled Vedanta in America: Where We've Been and Where We Are. The author is Pravrajika Vrajaprana, a nun of the Sarada Convent at the Vedanta Society of Southern California in Santa Barbara. The article originally appeared in the February, 2000 issue of Prabuddha Bharata.
"A distinguished literary work" is how Time magazine characterized the Prabhavananda-Isherwood Bhagavad-Gita which has sold over one million copies since its 1944 publication. It is the only Prabhavananda-Isherwood title still available in the mass-market edition; today the book is still widely used as a college text and -- unlike most other Vedanta books -- remains available in general-audience bookstores.
The full article contains more background on the adoption of Vedanta in the United States via the mediation of Henry Miller (in The Air-Conditioned Nightmare) as well as through various works by Aldous Huxley, Christopher Isherwood and Gerald Heard.
The Wikipedia page on Heard, who has been largely forgotten today, informs us that...
Heard is also responsible for introducing the then unknown Huston Smith to Huxley. Smith became one of the preeminent religious studies scholars in the United States. His book The World's Religions is a classic in the field, sold over two million copies and is considered a particularly useful introduction to comparative religion. The meeting with Huxley led eventually to Smith's connection to Timothy Leary.
[Ralph Waldo] Emerson also subscribed to a form of perennialism, writing in his diary in 1839 that for him "Bible" meant "the Ethical Revelations considered generally, including, that is, the Vedas, the Sacred Writings of every nation, and not of the Hebrews alone." In this, and in his emphasis on the East as a source of wisdom ("Europe has always owed to oriental genius it's divine impulses," as he said in 1838 in his celebrated address to the Harvard Divinity School). Emerson prefigures Olcott [Madame Blavatsky's sidekick], and so also Encausse and Guénon. Perennialism as understood by Emerson and Cousin continued independently during the twentieth century, perhaps most famously in Aldous Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy.
Not incidentally or inconsequentially, Traditionalism also included among its major professors and promoters the "esotericist" and outrageous capital-F Fascist, Julius Evola.
And further back yet to Christopher Isherwood, who, among other things, was a voluminous diarist. In the published versions, he writes quite a bit about his devotion to Vedanta. But it's not those bits I quote below. The two clips immediately following are from
Lost Years: A Memoir 1945-1951, the first on page 220:
...and they started what was to be an on-and-off but longish affair. Michael was then about eighteen; a Jewboy with thinning hair, a high forehead, spectacles (his sight was very poor), a cute cheerful face (resembling Anne Francis...
And so on. To understand the next part (p. 262), you need to know that Isherwood often wrote about himself in the third person (who knows why), so this is in fact him making the following observations...
That first evening in bed together, Barry said, "How extraordinary this is! Here am I, a Russian Jew, making love with Christopher Isherwood!" His remark jarred on Christopher; it seemed indecent, masochistic, sexually off-putting. But, as Christopher got to know Barry better, he found a different significance in it. When Barry thus called attention to his Jewishness, he wasn't really demeaning himself. He wasn't at all a humble person. Indeed, he had that Jewish tactlessness, argumentativeness and aggressiveness which always aroused Christopher's anti-Semitic feelings. Only, in Barry's case, Christopher's anti-Semitism quickly became erotic. It made him hot to mate Barry's aggressiveness with his own, in wrestling duels which were both sexual and racial, Briton against Jew. Barry's aggressiveness became beautiful and lovable when it was expressed physically by his strong lithe body grappling naked with Christopher's. As they struggled, Christopher loved him because he was a pushy arrogant Jewboy. But he never talked to Barry about his feelings. They were too private.*
Note that Isherwood's first take is that Barry Taxman's identifying himself as a Jew would necessarily be self-demeaning. That asterisk at the end has a corresponding note at the bottom of the page stating:
Taxman finds this passage to be apocryphal and extremely offensive and distasteful to him.
Isherwood clearly had these reactions in hand before the book went to press, but didn't see fit to modify or remove the passage.
Waiting to get the Sunbeam-Talbot fixed the other day, I was accosted by a round-faced little Jewboy of about twenty. "Gee, Mr. Isherwood," he said. "I hope when I'm your age I'll be as famous as you..."
Three days and as many paragraphs later, Isherwood notes on the same page:
I feel a great urge to pull myself together, stop being fat and sedentary, and get on with the Ramakrishna book...
The Eternal Jew
The Perennial Philosophy
posted by Christopher Locke at #
Thursday, March 09, 2006