Archive for the 'Nature' Category

July 6, 2020

“Why do I call [Newton] a magician? Because he looked on the whole universe and all that is in it as a riddle, as a secret which could be read by applying pure thought to certain evidence, certain mystic clues which god had laid about the world to allow a sort of philosopher’s treasure hunt to the esoteric brotherhood. He believed that these clues were to be found partly in the evidence of the heavens and in the constitution of elements (and that is what gives the false suggestion of his being an experimental natural philosopher), but also partly in certain papers and traditions handed down by the brethren in an unbroken chain back to the original cryptic revelation in Babylonia. He regarded the universe as a cryptogram set by the almighty – just as he himself wrapt the discovery of the calculus in a cryptogram when he communicated with Leibniz. By pure thought, by concentration of mind, the riddle, he believed, would be revealed to the initiate.”

“All would be revealed to him if only he could persevere to the end, uninterrupted, by himself, no one coming into the room, reading, copying, testing — all by himself, no interruption for god’s sake, no disclosure, no discordant breakings in or criticism, with fear and shrinking as he assailed these half-ordained, half-forbidden things, creeping back into the bosom of the godhead as into his mother’s womb. ‘Voyaging through strange seas of thought alone’, not as Charles Lamb ‘a fellow who believed nothing unless it was as clear as the three sides of a triangle’.”

“There is an unusual number of manuscripts of the early English alchemists in the libraries of Cambridge. It may be that there was some continuous esoteric tradition within the University which sprang into activity again in the twenty years from 1650 to 1670. At any rate, Newton was clearly an unbridled addict. It is this with which he was occupied ‘about 6 weeks at spring and 6 at the fall when the fire in the elaboratory scarcely went out’ at the very years when he was composing the Principia – and about this he told Humphrey Newton not a word. Moreover, he was almost entirely concerned, not in serious experiment, but in trying to read the riddle of tradition, to find meaning in cryptic verses, to imitate the alleged but largely imaginary experiments of the initiates of past centuries. Newton has left behind him a vast mass of records of these studies. I believe that the greater part are translations and copies made by him of existing books and manuscripts. But there are also extensive records of experiments. I have glanced through a great quantity of this at least 100,000 words, I should say. It is utterly impossible to deny that it is wholly magical and wholly devoid of scientific value; and also impossible not to admit that Newton devoted years of work to it.”

~ “Newton, the Man”. John Maynard Keynes.

July 6, 2020

“[…] ‘He was so happy in his conjectures’, said De Morgan, ‘as to seem to know more than he could possibly have any means of proving’. The proofs, for what they are worth, were, as I have said, dressed up afterwards — they were not the instrument of discovery.”

“There is the story of how he informed Halley of one of his most fundamental discoveries of planetary motion. ‘Yes,’ replied Halley, ‘but how do you know that? Have you proved it?’ Newton was taken aback — ‘Why, I’ve known it for years’, he replied. ‘If you’ll give me a few days, I’ll certainly find you a proof of it’ — as in due course he did.”

“Again, there is some evidence that Newton in preparing the Principia was held up almost to the last moment by lack of proof that you could treat a solid sphere as though all its mass was concentrated at the centre, and only hit on the proof a year before publication. But this was a truth which he had known for certain and had always assumed for many years.”

“Certainly there can be no doubt that the peculiar geometrical form in which the exposition of the Principia is dressed up bears no resemblance at all to the mental processes by which Newton actually arrived at his conclusions.”

“His experiments were always, I suspect, a means, not of discovery, but always of verifying what he knew already.”

~ “Newton, the Man”. John Maynard Keynes.

Giovanna Garzoni

June 21, 2020

Vision of Saint Eustace

June 19, 2020

~ Albrecht Dürer, 1500-2.


May 20, 2020

“Ophelia”, Arthur Hughes, 1852.


“Ich ging im Walde so für mich hin,
und nichts zu suchen, das war mein Sinn.

Im Schatten sah ich ein Blümchen steh’n,
wie Sterne leuchtend, wie Äuglein schön.

Ich wollt’ es brechen, da sagt’ es fein:
Soll ich zum Welken gebrochen sein?

Ich grub’s mit allen den Würzlein aus,
zum Garten trug ich’s, am hübschen Haus,

Und pflanzt es wieder am stillen Ort;
Nun zweigt es immer und blüht so fort.”

“I was walking in the woods
Just on a whim of mine,
And seeking nothing,
That was my intention.

In the shade I saw
A little flower standing
Like stars glittering
Like beautiful little eyes.

I wanted to pick it
When it said delicately:
Should I just to wilt
Be picked?

I dug it out with all
Its little roots.
To the garden I carried it
By the lovely house.

And replanted it
In this quiet spot;
Now it keeps branching out
And blossoms ever forth.”

~ Goethe

“Flower in a crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower — but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all
I should know what God and man is.”
~ Tennyson

“There is a willow grows aslant a brook
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream.
There with fantastic garlands did she come
Of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do “dead men’s fingers” call them.
There, on the pendant boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke,
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook.”
~ Hamlet, Shakespeare.

May 3, 2020

“One season while he stayed in Yosemite, Muir built himself a small cabin through which a little stream flowed, gurgling a gentle lullaby at night. Ferns grew inside the cabin and frogs hopped along the floor — inside and outside were the same. […] Emerson’s insistence on sleeping indoors was a ‘sad commentary’, Muir said, on ‘the glorious transcendentalism’.”
~ “The invention of nature”, Andrea Wulf.

“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”
~ John Muir

May 3, 2020

Generelle Morphologie was not only a rallying call for the new theory of evolution but also the book in which Haeckel first named Humboldt’s discipline: Oecologie, or ‘ecology’. Haeckel took the Greek word for household — oikos — and applied it to the natural world. All the earth’s organisms belonged together like a family occupying a dwelling; and like the members of a household they could conflict with, or assist, one another. Organic and inorganic nature made a ‘system of active forces’, he wrote in Generelle Morphologie, using Humboldt’s exact words. Haeckel took Humboldt’s idea of nature as a unified whole made up of complex interrelationhsips and gave it a name.”

~ “The invention of nature”, Andrea Wulf.

May 1, 2020

“The human essence of nature first exists only for social man; for only here does nature exist as the foundation of his own human existence. Only here has what is to him his natural existence become his human existence, and nature become man for him. Thus society is the unity of being of man with nature — the true resurrection of nature — the naturalism of man and the humanism of nature both brought to fulfillment.”

~ Karl Marx


May 1, 2020

“Until recently a wide public felt that somehow, mysteriously, dumbly (in the sense that his vision dismisses or precludes words), Turner was expressing something of the bedrock of their own varied experience. […] What Turner admired in painting was the ability to cast doubt, to throw into mystery. […] He had grandiose visions which achieved greatness when he painted them and were merely bombastic when he wrote about them, yet his most serious conscious attitude as an artist was pragmatic and almost artisanal: what drew him to a subject or a particular painting device was what he called its practicability — its capacity to yield a painting.”

“Turner’s genius was of a new type which was called forth by the British 19th century, but more usually in the field of science or engineering or business (somewhat later the same type appeared as hero in the United States). He had the ability to be highly successful, but success did not satisfy him (he left a fortune of £140.000). He felt himself to be alone in history. He had global visions which words were inadequate to express and which could only be presented under the pretext of a practical production. He visualized man as being dwarfed by immense forces over which he had no control but which nevertheless he had discovered. He was close to despair, and yet he was sustained by an extraordinary productive energy (in his studio after his death there were 19.000 drawings and watercolours and several hundred oil paintings). Ruskin wrote that Turner’s underlying theme was death. I believe rather it was solitude and violence and the impossibility of redemption. Most of his paintings are as if about the aftermath of a crime. And what is so disturbing about them — what actually allows them to be seen as beautiful — is not the guilt but the global indifference that they record.”

~ John Berger, “About looking”.

“Why look at animals?”

April 30, 2020

“Yet to suppose that animals first entered the human imagination as meat or leather or horn is to project a 19th century attitude backwards across the millennia. Animals first entered the imagination as messengers and promises. For example, the domestication of cattle did not begin as a simple prospect of milk and meat. Cattle had magical functions, sometimes oracular, sometimes sacrificial. And the choice of a given species as magical, tameable and alimentary was originally determined by the habits, proximity and ‘invitation’ of the animal in question. […] In the accompanying ideology, animals are always the observed. The fact that they can observe us has lost all significance. They are the objects of our ever-extending knowledge. What we know about them is an index of our power, and thus an index of what separates us from them. The more we know, the further away they are.”

“Public zoos came into existence at the beginning of the period which was to see the disappearance of animals from daily life. The zoo to which people go to meet animals, to observe them, to see them, is, in fact, a monument to the impossibility of such encounters. […] Likewise in the 19th century, public zoos were an endorsement of modern colonial power. The capturing of the animals was a symbolic representation of the conquest of all distant and exotic lands.”

“Children in the industrialized world are surrounded by animal imagery: toys, cartoons, pictures, decorations of every sort. No other source of imagery can begin to compete with that of animals. […] Yet it was not until the 19th century that reproductions of animals became a regular part of the decor of middle class childhoods. […] In the preceding centuries, the proportion of toys which were animal, was small. And these did not pretend to realism, but were symbolic. […] Thus the manufacture of realistic animal toys coincides, more or less, with the establishment of public zoos.”

~ John Berger, “About looking”.

“We know what animals do and what beaver and bears and salmon and other creatures need, because once our men were married to them and they acquired this knowledge from their animal wives.”
~ Hawaiian Indians, quoted by Lévi-Strauss in “The Savage Mind”.