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Salomé Circle

Monday, 14 October 2019 at 10:53

Rilke and Salomé on Dr John Dunn. Rainer Maria Rilke and Lou Salomé


First line of Rilke’s Eighth Elegy.

The creature gazes into openness with all its eyes.
But our eyes are as if they were reversed…


Rilke drew here upon Nietzsche’s understanding of the ‘internalisation of man’ as a sickness.

In his On the Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche asked the question:

…how should such a courageous and richly endowed animal not also be the most imperilled, the most chronically and profoundly sick of all sick animals?


The most profound symptom of this sickness is the internalisation of man

All instincts that do not discharge themselves outwardly turn inward – this is what I call the internalisation of man: thus it was that man first developed what was later called his ‘soul.’

In the Eighth Elegy,Rilke wrote as though the animals are doing something right, something healthy, and that man has lost this rightness in the descent to something that is unhealthy.

And the connecting link between Nietzsche and Rilke? She was Lou Salomé, who notably worked too with that other explorer of the interiority of man, Sigmund Freud.

What was original to Salomé or Nietzsche, and what product of the Nietzsche-Salomé relationship was passed on to Rilke and Freud, remains a topic of continued study. What seems common to all of them, and remains a symptom of our times, is the diminishment of humanness to a sickness that is to be overcome in some way.


© John Dunn.

Lawrence and Rilke

Wednesday, 9 October 2019 at 21:20

T. E. Lawrence on Dr John Dunn. If there was ever a quintessential evocation of living in the present it is to be found in the famous description of a motorcycle ride by T. E. Lawrence in Part 3, Chapter 16 of his autobiographical book, The Mint.

I can relate it to the passage from one of Rilke’s elegies quoted by motorcyclist Ted Bishop in his Riding with Rilke.

He quotes from Rilke’s eighth Duino Elegy.

…the beast is free
and has death always behind it and God before it,
and when it walks it goes toward eternity,
as springs flow. Never, not for a single day
do we have pure space before usin which the flowers
are always unfolding.


Bishop writes that ‘Rilke speaks of the pure space that animals and children move into, that flowers bloom into: a space without the consciousness of death'.

By implication, living in the present means shedding the adult consciousness of death, and this is what I believe Lawrence found in the exhilaration of riding a big fast Brough Superior. The irony is,of course, that it was when riding the Brough that Lawrence met his untimely death.

I ask again - is being in the present losing yourself or being yourself? And in either case, is exchanging human consciousness for animal consciousness too big a price to pay for moving into the space identified by Rilke?

In my opinion it is.


© John Dunn.

Thoughts prompted by motorcycling

Sunday, 6 October 2019 at 21:07

Lawrence on Brough Superior on Dr John Dunn. It is said of motorcycling that it is living in the moment, not in the past, not in the future. You are only in this moment. This I think was the experience of T. E. Lawrence when he was riding his mighty Brough Superior - he was, so to speak, in the present.



Is being in the present losing yourself or being yourself?

You can lose yourself in many ways... there is always a siren call.

What is being anyway?

Do I embody it, impose it, or remain subject to it?

I’ve lived my life alone.

I never engaged in the game or the job.

Never had a friend.

Sought friendship through relationships.

Barriers have to be down, or forget it.

Defined myself by joining, but never engaging.

My sports/pastimes are solitary - cycling and motorcycling.

Solipsist am I.

Well I suppose the others will always criticise the solipsist.

They’re defending their right to a separate existence. But their grounds are weak.

Hell is indeed other people, and yet, on reflection…

But you need me…

No I don’t need you
I don’t love you
It’s over.

What’s over?
I was alive in the relationship.

It’s over.

Life is over.


© John Dunn.

Heidegger back to Earth

Monday, 9 September 2019 at 21:15

Heidegger on Dr John Dunn. So there is a never ending cycle, which is played out over and over again in art, literature and philosophy.

The individual, just like all the others, is born a fool, in innocence and idiocy, part of nature, unconscious and subject to necessity.

Some of this number achieve individuation through, perhaps, a chance encounter or sin and transgression.

There ensues a painfully conscious subjection to nature, a recognition of an underlying oneness. Jung’s Unus Mundi is the prime example.

Redemption thus becomes sacrificial and involves a return to the One.

The break in the cycle comes with death, which is the end of time for the individual or the end times for Mankind.

This is why time went hand in hand with being for Heidegger who believed that time - being finite - is what gives humans the ability to act uniquely as individuals.

We experience the world with a forward looking orientation. We must have agoal and that goal is temporal. We project an idea into the future.

We do not exist in time, but as time, we are time. The past, the present and the future are jumbled up in human experience. Time is subjective and personal.

But Heidegger also stressed that unless life is lived towards death, the personal subjectivity of time leads to a false individuation or inauthentic life, something akin to the life of the innocent fool with which we started.

Only a life lived towards death leads to true individuation and can free theindividual from the mundane oblivion of everyday life.

Nevertheless, with Heidegger we return to the cycle with which we started. His true individuation is at once a sacrifice of the singular existence and neverallows the individual to become truly separated. Freedom from the mundane demands the individual’s consciousness of its finitude, which atthe same time ties him to the eternal flow of beings in their constant passage from Earth to World and again back to Earth.

© John Dunn.

Nietzsche strictly Darwinian

Saturday, 7 September 2019 at 21:23

Nietzsche on Dr John Dunn. There is no Word ‘in the beginning’ for Nietzsche. Consciousness and reason are not tied to an original Logos for which it is man’s cosmic destiny to give voice and expression. There is no Logos that might be construed as the Godhead, the divinity in which man might somehow share. No - for Nietzsche God is really dead, very seriously dead.

Reason and consciousness for Nietzsche are extensions to man’s biological functions and no more. He sees them purely in Darwinian terms. Consciousness is confined to man only and will die with man in a mere millisecond of the cosmic expanse of time.

The vast libraries of human genius are according to Nietzsche destined to immolation in the death of the solar system, and the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins.

Nietzsche expresses the time-bound limitations to man’s endeavours in a parable:

In some remote corner of the universe,... there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge. That was the haughtiest and most mendacious minute of ‘world history’ – yet only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths the star grew cold, and the clever animals had to die.

One might invent such a fable and still not have illustrated sufficiently how wretched, how shadowy and flighty, how aimless and arbitrary, the human intellect appears in nature. There have been eternities when it did not exist; and when it is done for again, nothing will have [changed]. For this intellect has no further mission that would lead beyond human life. It is human, rather, and only its owner and producer give it such importance, as if the world pivoted it...
Nietzsche explains the purpose of the intellect in Darwinian evolutionary terms only.
The intellect, as a means for the preservation of the individual, unfolds its chief powers in [deception]; for this is the means by which the weaker, less robust individuals preserve themselves, since they are denied the chance of waging the struggle for existence with horns or thefangs of beasts of prey.” (On Truth and Lying in an Extra-Moral Sense 1873)
Predicting Freud and expanding upon Darwin, Nietzsche explains further that in the full-flowering of the intellect our instinct-nature has been supplanted by consciousness and reason. In his On the Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche asks the question:
…how should such a courageous and richly endowed animal not also be the most imperilled, the most chronically and profoundly sick of all sick animals?
The most profound symptom of this sickness is the internalisation of man

All instincts that do not discharge themselves outwardly turn inward – this is what I call the internalisation of man: thus it was that man first developed what was later called his ‘soul.’
Instead of seeking a cure for this sickness, Nietzsche, in his Will to Power, asserts that this ‘sickness’ will continue to give an evolutionary advantage to the entire organism that is man.

He claims that ‘the body is a more astonishing idea than the old “soul”’, he also claims that, ‘it is a history of the development of a higher body that emerges into our sensibility. The organic is rising to yet higher levels’ – i.e., “the entire evolution of the spirit’”.

However, it is within time-bound consciousness and reason, (whether time-bound refers to a span of life or to the span of humankind’s entire existence) that Nietzsche’s highs of the human spirit are attained, i.e., strictly within ‘the mendacious minute of world history’.

There is no freedom in Nietzsche’s evolutionary ‘internalisation of man’, no escape inwards from the cycle of birth and death - the time-boundedness of it all, in other words the finality of death, will always confine man. There may be purpose in this evolutionary progress to the higher body of a superman, but to Nietzsche the purpose is strictly Darwinian in scope.

© John Dunn.

Issue central

Saturday, 24 August 2019 at 21:35

Luria on Dr John Dunn. Historically, there has been a central philosophical issue.

The relationship of the individual human being to the One, the originating entity, Spinoza’s Substance, the All, Nature, or God if you will.

This is a central issue because it impacts upon thinking about what it means to be human.

The emanation of all manifest things from the One was a concept originating in Plato’s work and neo-platonism.

Importantly, this Platonic emanationism was taken up by Judaic Kabbalah in the Middle Ages and was absorbed into mainstream western thinking in all its variants, be they philosophical, theological, alchemical, scientific and more.

A key figures in all this was Isaac Luria (pictured), who reworked the Kabbalah into a metaphor of exile and return, which resonated with Jews as disparate in their approaches as Spinoza and Sabbatai Zevi.

Spinoza was undoubtedly the catalyst figure in the development of enlightenment thinking.

Kabbalistic Freemasonry and the scientific endeavours of the Royal Society also had huge influences, to such an extent that the thought medium in which we now all swim is a kabbalistic-scientific soup.

The human being is reduced to being one amongst countless other manifestations of the One, a mode of existence of the One, that is one amongst countless other manifestations of Nature.

The often unspoken watchword of this near-universal standpoint of modern times is - ‘freedom is the recognition of necessity’, meaning that mankind is powerless to change Nature; the best we can hope to do is understand it and submit to it.

And yet - to submit to the Law of the One is the suicide of the self.

How is the self preserved? How is the self reborn?

© John Dunn.

Supreme irritant

Monday, 12 August 2019 at 21:11

Heidegger on Dr John Dunn. Reading Benjamin Crowe’s essay Heidegger's Romantic Personalism prompted a metaphor in my thinking.

Crowe writes that Martin Heidegger (left) aimed to replace superficial banality with "inner truthfulness" by calling into question the "masks" behind which individuals and societieshide from the task of self-responsibility.

Another way of looking at what Heidegger deems to be the philosopher’s task is to see him as the irritant sand within the oyster, with the irritant being a metaphor for induced anxiety.

The "rigour" of philosophy, which "must heighten anxious worry in its constant renewal in the facticity of Dasein, and must ultimately make actual Dasein insecure" (Collected Works, 59 174). Philosophy is to be understood, in Heidegger's view, as a "counter-motion," a "motion against [Gegenbewegtheit]" the "ruinance" that life inflicts upon itself (Collected Works, 61 132/99). Philosophy must join "the constant struggle of factical, philosophical interpretation against its own ruinance, a struggle that always accompanies the process of the actualisation of philosophising" (Collected Works, 61 153/114).

Out of the response to the philosophically induced anxiousness will come the pearl of authenticity. Thus the role of the philosopher is to make life hard for itself.

This [i.e., making life hard] is the only duty philosophical research can be required to fulfil, unless of course it wants to miss its object completely. All making it easy, all the seductive compromising of needs, all the metaphysical tranquillisers prescribed for problems that have been for the most part derived from mere book learning - the basic intention of all of this is from the start to give up with regard to thetask that must in each case be carried out, namely, bringing the object of philosophy into view, grasping it, and, indeed, preserving it (Natorp Report).
Posted by John Dunn.
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