Interpretation of Dreams. Part II – The value of Symbols

In its beginnings, Psychoanalyses was more similar in organizational structure to “an eccentric cult” and its pioneering practitioners, including Sigmund Freud, were seen as dangerous professionals by the traditional medical establishment, as we have discussed in our new book Emotional Frustration – the Hushed Plague.

Didn’t you buy it yet? What are you waiting for? That your impossibly chatty neighbor does it first?

After the publication of his book The Interpretation of Dreams in 1900, Freud consolidated his operational grip in the still small but growing number of medical practitioners of the new discipline, even expelling a few for apostasy. Freud, an atheistic Jew, behaved like the messianic leader of a completely new religion. However, he was concerned that most of his followers were German-speaking Jews and that “his science” might not be able to cross into “the Austrian mainstream.”

In an excellent article, Sam Dresser, editor at Aeon magazine, wrote: “On February 27, 1907, in Vienna Sigmund Freud fell in love. The object of his affection was Carl Gustav Jung: 19 years younger than Freud, the young psychiatrist was already the young psychiatrist was already the clinical director of the prestigious Burgholzli Hospital and a professor at the University of Zurich. Jung had gained international recognition for his invention of the word association-test, and his practice was renowned for its gentle incisiveness. But when Jung read Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), he was startled by his theory and decided to talk with the man himself. And talk they did: for thirteen hours they plumbed the depths of the unconsciousness, the methods of psychoanalysis, and the analysis of dreams.”

Precisely the latter issue would eventually become the bone of contention in their prolific but at the same time agitated professional relationship, which ended in an acerbic, openly public rupture in 1913, after Freud published Totem and Taboo. Freud wanted to defend the core beliefs of the discipline, something he suggestively dubbed as The Cause, as it were a fanatical cult or political movement. Initially he saw in Jung, the son of a Protestant pastor and a distant relative of Goethe, as the perfect dauphin to succeed him, blocking the anointment of another old Jew. He believed that if Psychoanalysis ended up identified with Judaism, it would perish.

Note. This reproduction of a picture of Carl Jung was taken from Wikimedia Commons.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CGJung.jpg

Jung had an extremely agitated personality, he considered himself as an intellectual heir of his famous ancestor, and , being raised in a Christian home, he was influenced by the Mystical aspects of the faith, including the dreams. As a young child, he once dreamt that God Almighty was discharging his feces on top of cathedral of Basel. Freud was willing to accept all that, as long as his favorite pupil did not question the central status of the Cause.

Even though the discipline was born out of pure speculation after Freud interviewed patients in his Vienna cabinet and reviewed his clinical notes, Sigismund wanted it to become more scientifically solid, based on evidence and hard data. In 1906, Jung applied his word-association test to Freud’s theory of free association, a critical step in retrieving the swept-away memories we have in the attic of our Unconsciousness.

The majority of the psychoanalysts that had joined the Freudian movement were particularly attracted to his theory that our repressed sexuality is the epicenter of our unconscious desires and libidinal tensions. Jung believed there was much more. As we have discussed in our previous article about Enantiodromia, Jung considered that we have to carefully examine all the symbology of our dreams as it constitutes some kind of psychological compensatory mechanism for ignored attitudes, defects, bad instances, failures, frustrations, which are not only sexual by nature. In a previous article, we discussed the value of certain symbols like Alchemists’ signs in Jung’s opinion.

Note. This reproduction of a picture of Sigmund Freud (left) and Carl Jung (right) was taken from Wikimedia Commons.

In a great article of the Society of Analytical Psychologists, Marcus West wrote: “Jung saw the mind/body/feelings (or what he called the psyche) as all working together. Even negative symptoms could be potentially helpful in drawing attention to an imbalance; for example, depression could result from an individual repressing particular feelings or not following a path that is natural and true to their particular personality. In this way he saw the psyche as a self-regulating system with all psychic contents—thoughts, feelings, dreams, intuitions, etc.—having a purpose. He thought the psyche was ‘purposive.” There are three features of this process:

  1. Individuation: the dreams serve to develop one’s particular personality and self- awareness by drawing our attention to special features we have missed.
  2. Lack of disguise: while Freud believed that the contents of our dreams are disguised in puzzling parables, Jung believed that they do not try to hide.
  3. Symbology: in order to save time and efforts to our beleaguered psyches, Jung believed that our Subconscious uses symbols drawn from religions, alchemy, art, history, geography, etc. He believed that: “a symbol is the best possible formulation of a relatively unknown psychic content.”

Jung considered that a dream is a form of psychic compensation for a certain void. One of his patients was a very intelligent lady that suddenly became very shallow in her therapy sessions. He decided to address this issue in their next encounter, but the previous might he had a particular dream. He was walking down a road at sunset when he suddenly sees to his right a big castle; in the tallest tower there was a beautiful lady that looked down on him. He had to pull himself as far back as he could to check her features. It was none other than his patient. What’s the meaning?

West said: “the interpretation was immediately apparent to him. If in the dream he had had to look up to the patient in this fashion, in reality he had been probably looking down on her—the dream had been his compensation for his attitude toward her.”

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What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Kabbalah – Part I Introduction

Since we started writing Madame D.C. -Three Voyages, we have been studying the ancient art and knowledge of The Kabbalah, which is one of the most exciting fields of so-called Esoteric Sciences. We must humbly confess that we are almost as ignorant as we were when we started, Thank God. We are introducing the subject today for our Supernatural, Superstition and She series ( like we had previously done for Astrology) with a transcript of a dialogue between two characters of that novel. On one hand, we have Father Mauro, a callous Catholic priest who is burdened with the task of pursuing a Dreadful Monster from Antiquity in the dark alleys of Venezia, and on the other hand Saul. a Jewish artisan of Cannaregio who gave him a timely providential refuge in his shop when he was about to be annihilated one very scary night. They spoke like thus:

-“What are all those folios? They look so old,” said Father Mauro to Saul, pointing at a stuffed bookshelf in his study after breakfast on Monday. As Father Stefano took care of the plumbing issue, he went to visit him.

-“Oh…those? They’re very ancient Kabbalah manuscripts,” Saul said, “they’re come from the defiant yeshiva of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato—”

-“Really? How did you get them?”

-“Funny…As a payment for an extensive upgrade of all the golden mobilier of a late nobleman’s mansion in Lake Garda… His British widow dismissed them as credulous charlatanism—she wanted to get rid of the whole lot.”

-“Who was Luzatto?”

-“Mmm…He was a Talmudic scholar that openly taught the Kabbalah in the eighteenth century… He was persecuted and had to flee to Holland.”

-“Why did they criminalize his teachings?”

-“See…The Jewish Kabbalah is a set of teachings to explain the relationship between an unchanging, eternal ‘Ein Sof’ and our mortal, finite world…It has been studied by many, not only Jewish scholars…Some of its tenets pre- date all the modern religions, forming the backbone of our social bodies… That precious knowledge had been transmitted orally by the patriarchs and prophets, becoming more popular around 10th Century BC—”

-“Fine…But why did it have to go underground?”

-“Our Jewish homeland was conquered many times…The Sanhedrin decided to hide it in order to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.”

-“Only from the outside? Or from the inside too?”

-“Both….Our leaders feared that its unsupervised use by all the disseminated Jewish communities in the planet might lead to some dangerous ways…” The priest took a sip of his espresso. “What kind of wrong ways?”

-“They’ve always dreaded two bloody deviations—” The priest cocked an eyebrow. “Which ones?”

-“First, the emergence of a charismatic leader that might claim the Messiah’s mantle like Sabbatai Zevi had done in the seventeenth century… He agitated the masses with the fallacious promise of a new Millennia and the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple… With the tacit complicity of all the Jewish leaders, the Sultan eventually captured him and forced his conversion to Islam.”

-“Aside from apostasy, what’s the other blasphemy?”

-“That there’s actually a duality in the Universe, a supernatural counterpart to God….One good system constantly fighting against the evil one—‘

-“And?” the priest asked, grinning. “What’s your opinion?”

-“God’s design gives us a choice—we must decide which one we follow.”

This article reminded us that the good folks of The Kabbalah Centre of Miami kindly gifted us a nice book in the Miami Dade Book Fair; we will contact them again to register in one of their classes so we can more appropriately write about this subject for our readers and fans across the globe.

Note. This statue of a Sleeping Lady sits at the coastal boulevard in Carrasco, Montevideo, Uruguay. It was used by our daughter Noël Marie to prepare the gorgeous front cover of Madame D.C.

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What do yo think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Women’s fascination with Vampire stories

-“Doctor…The best moment is when he’s ready to plunge his teeth into her neck.”

After more than 40 years of medical practice, we thought we had heard everything. How wrong we were. A few days ago, we were casually chatting about the latest streaming series with a lady patient, when the subject of Vampire stories came up. Slightly surprised that so many horror movies and series were shown during the sad times of this cruel pandemic, we asked her for her opinion with a tad of ingenuity.

She told us that not only she watches them but most of her girlfriends do the same. She explained to us that it was a harmless escapist relief for the domestic drudgery that the social isolation and safety requirements of the pandemic imposed on us. And the burden of keeping the household safe has fallen disproportionately on women. As a result, besides fulfilling their regular work and household duties, they have to keep track of the sanitary requirements of the national, state and county regulations.

Note. This reproduction of Edvard Munch’s The Vampire was taken from Wikimedia Commons.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Edvard_Munch_-_Vampire_(1895)_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Gothic fiction is a literature and film genre dealing with horror, death, and romance; the attainment of pleasurable terror is the major emotional endgame in these works. In a deviant variant of the prevailing Romanticism of the literature of the 18th century, the Gothic writers aim to engage their readers’ energies into reaching The Sublime; for that end, they use scenes of decay, death, and morbidity to shock our sensibility. The first known book in the English Language is the 1794 novel by Horace Walpole initially titled as The Castle of Otranto and later renamed as A Gothic story.

The unique emotional aesthetic of this genre was given by Edmund’s Burke’s 1757 A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful. In an excellent Wikipedia review article, they summarized Burke’s thesis like this: “the Sublime is that which is or produces the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling; the Sublime is most often evoked by Terror, and to cause Terror we need some amount of Obscurity—we can’t know everything about that which is inducing Terror—or else a great deal of the apprehension vanishes.”

In a now famous retreat hosted by Lord Byron in a villa au bord du Lac de Genève in the summer of 1816, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley, John William Polidori and the mad-bad-and-dangerous-to- know-poet himself engaged in a competition for the scariest ghost story. From that unique engagement, two major works of art emerged, which have a special resonance for the plight of women under the yoke of the abhorrent Patriarchate. Don’t you know that the latter still exists?

Note. The expression mad, bad, and dangerous to know was used by Lady Caroline Lamb to describe her secret lover George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, commonly known as Lord Byron.

One of them was Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and the other one was Polidori’s The Vampyre (1819). In those times, women were not supposed to have the wits to discuss philosophical issues, let alone design books dealing with them. Mary Shelley had to hide behind her husband for 30 years before acknowledging her authorship. Polidori’s book was based on an earlier unfinished story written by Lord Byron titled The Burial: a fragment, with the story of a not yet dead character. The best version of Vampire lore—Bram Stoker’s Dracula—was published in 1897.

Why would modern educated women feel that irresistible attraction for Vlad Dracul? We might dare to suggest that, like their sisters of the nineteenth century, these ladies feel trapped by the constrictive corset of quaint social norms from the Patriarchate. Moreover, the added financial, labor, and cultural burdens of this pandemic have irked them so much that they are more receptive to the forbidden charm of eroticism. They are tired of “the same old” in workplaces, social reunions, beds.

To pick up any clues, you might want to pay more attention to your wife’s watchlist. If there are too many horror series, it might be time for action. Without any prejudice, you might want to pre-emptively avoid her jump from a virtual fantasy into the meatier world of Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

Imagine if in a very casual, anodyne encounter with a total manly stranger in the elevator, she starts craving for le frisson from the parsimonious physicality of his feral kissing down her velvety neck…

In our book Emotional Frustration – the Hushed Plague, we cautioned distracted men:

A nugget of Wisdom. You just found out that your wife is having an affair.

Not with an ex, a colleague, or a friend. The swipe-to-the-right kind of guy. What should you do? First try to de-familiarize and de-institutionalize your bond.

If the issue is a waning flame, why not fire it up ? On the spur of the moment call the baby-sitter , make a dinner reservation, and pick her up at work with a bouquet.

Booking a kinky room with mirrors galore in a tawdry motel is optional.”

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What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

The Mystic Wanderer – Part IV

-“You’re on a quest….I know—I can read faces.”

This commentary was uttered gently but unexpectedly by a fellow student in a course of literary craft in Miami Dade College – Wolfson Campus in 2014, during a brief class break while we were seated next to each other in the front row. As we imperviously kept the conversation going on, she looked at us intently without saying anything. Then, out of the blue, she uttered those words.

She was (and, God bless her, most likely still is) an educated and smart lady that had just arrived from a trip to Mongolia where she had painstakingly recorded their children’s stories. We cannot remember her name but her facial features were seared in our memory. She decided to undertake that perilous trek totally funded with her own financial means because she felt that someone had to do it before that precious cultural heritage would be lost forever in a few generations. She explained to us that the Mongol people relied much more on oral traditions rather than the written records; however, with the onslaught of the digital revolution reaching as far away as their nomadic yurts, the elders feared that the chain of transmission could be broken due to their youngsters’ distractions.

She told us that in her frequent trips to the Far East, she had occasionally come across a guy in the street that had our same absent look, as if he was somewhere else. Or trying to reach another destination than the physical location where he was standing. We explained to her that we wanted to write novels and essays, which she liked. But she warned us that no commercial or academic success would ever totally satisfy us. She told us that we would never leave the road to settle down in comfy places. We looked at her in silence and bewilderment, but we respected her firm diagnosis.

Now we are fully convinced that she hit it on top of the nail. We are, and will always be, on a quest. Discovering new places, talking to different people, sharing the joy and sadness of Living with them.

Note. This reproduction of Peter Bruegel’s The Peasant Dance was taken from Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pieter_Bruegel_d._%C3%84._014.jpg

We have always been avid readers and loyal fans of Thomas Merton, the French – American mystic, poet, writer, social activist, and inter-faith collaborator, who just only happened to be a Trappist monk with a checkered relationship with hierarchy. Not surprisingly, like the great thinkers and movers of the Catholic Church like Saint Francis of Assisi, he was admired and reviled at the same time (can this be possible?) by his superiors in the order who resented his growing popularity all over the world. On December 10, 1968, while he was attending a Red Cross conference in Thailand, he was found dead in his cottage room, presumably due to an electrocution(sic) However, he had a clear laceration in the back of his head and he did not have an autopsy; ever since, many journalists have claimed that he was murdered by the Usual Suspects due to his opposition to the Vietnam War. We will write about him, his works, his influence, and also about the 2018 book detailing his demise.

Note. This image of the Reverend Thomas Merton was taken from Wikimedia Commons.

By The Merton Center: http://www.mertoncenter.org/Poetry/griffin.jpg, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18293738

Man on a Quest.

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What will we learn from this Pandemic?

“There is a face of Sadness for those that do not have Sadness” Antonio Machado

Awaiting the blissful third shot of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, we took the time off our busy schedule to watch people from the simple vantage point of our seat. There were a few people waiting for the shot and others filling their drug prescriptions. They were of very different ages, socio-economic backgrounds, and health care needs. But they shared one trait: Profound. Unfathomable. Sadness.

Not a single one of them was chatting about inconsequential themes or laughing off. They all seemed too preoccupied with the daily up and downs of survival in these times where we have all lost our Sense of Future, our trust in a Better Tomorrow. This one and a half years of Social Isolation and Distancing have consistently gnawed at our human capacity to empathize and our commitment to live together. We have burrowed ourselves so deep in our bespoke cocoons that we can hardly notice who is standing next to us, and worse of all, who is trying to connect with us.

In a September 26. 2021 Washington Post article, Karla Adam said: “The United Kingdom, hoping to ease a supply-chain crisis and a Christmas logjam, will grant temporary visas to more than 10,000 foreigners to work as truck drivers and in the food industry…Britain is grappling with a string of shortages: Supermarkets are running out of goods, and restaurants chains like McDonald’s and KFC are cutting items form their menus. The truck driver shortage is particularly acute. Britain’s Road Haulage Association estimates the country needs about 100.000 drivers. The crisis spread over the weekend to gas stations, resulting  in long lines at the pump.”

We are witnessing an Implosion of almost all the known social parameters of yore. Before the Pandemic, there was no shortage of British and European Union drivers willing to risk their lives transporting those huge tankers full of flammable liquids; the salaries were very good, which paved their way for access to a better lifestyle. However, after many of them were stranded in their homes without working at all, something strange started to seep in their tough blue-collar spirits: risk aversion. They appreciated the time off with their families and sharing the great little moments of life: their sons and daughters’ birthdays, their sports and music events, cooking a Sunday dinner with the whole family helping out, watching their favorite team, etc. When they were summoned, a majority had retired or were working elsewhere; it did not matter that most of them had to take a significant pay and benefits cut.

Paradoxically one of the few painters that could grasp the essential grip of Divinity in our lives and has been able to transmit it to humans through generations was a born rebel that drank too much, adored la bonne chaire des femmes and was often fighting with the Catholic Church to the point of almost being excommunicated. But he never was because they were in awe of his unique mastery of the chiaroscuro techniques. His visceral, bloody strokes accentuated the poverty of Jesus and his followers. Intoxicated with the lead from his paintings, he died too young, after a fight in Naples. His name? Michalangelo Merisi. Caravaggio. Master of the Raw Realism that still deeply disturbs us.

Note. This image of Caravaggio’s Saint Jerome writing was taken from Wikimedia Commons.

By Caravaggio – Self-scanned, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15219558

In this painting of Saint Jerome, a masterpiece now at the Borghese Gallery, Caravaggio captured the Doctor of the Church in a moment of pause of meditation in his travails of translating the Holy Bible into Latin in the Fourth Century. He is not depicted as a penitent but as a scholar whose resting right hand is casually pointing at the inkwell at the other side of the table and at the same time at the skull, a reminder of the inevitability of death and the futility of the vainly pursuit of material goods. The red cloak enveloping the ageing saint takes a physicality of supernatural protection from above.

What if the terrible suffering we have almost all of us suffered during the past few months of Pandemic finally has a sobering effect in our endeavors and attitudes?

What if, instead of foolishly pursuing just material comfort, we take a look at others?

What if we stop plundering the Earth’s Natural Resources and find the alternatives?

What if we stop minding our little miseries and start admiring our many blessings?

What if we tell our loved ones how much we love them again, and again, and again?

What if we open our hearts to spiritual values and bestow that gift to our children?

Therein lies the greatest antidote to the modern spiritual angst and the Triumph of Happiness.

As we will all finally undertake the very same journey, we might imitate the poet’s panache:

“And when the day arrives for the final voyage

And the ship of no return is set to sail,

You’ll find me aboard, traveling light,

almost naked, like the children of the sea.”

Antonio Machado – Campos de Castilla

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Alchemists’ legacy: European Porcelain technology

Goldmachertinktur. This German term means “tincture that makes gold”, which is the emblematic mission of the European Alchemists during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance; these entrepreneurial chemists, botanists and ,yes, physicians too, were eagerly trying to convert some basic metals like copper into the much sought-after gold. Contrary to the widely held belief now that they were societal outcasts hiding in dark cellars to ply their shameful trade away from prying eyes, they were the protégés of the nobility and clergy, united in their so sickening coveting of riches.

Note. This image was taken from Wikimedia Commons. It shows two of the oldest allegorical  symbols used by the Alchemists:

a) Raven or Black Crow: symbol of the departure from our physical world and our arrival, with an intermediary stage in Darkness, into our own world of Self-Enlightenment.

b) Ouroboros, the serpent that is eating its tail, is a symbol of the concept of Eternity and the Endless Return.

From Aurora Consurgens manuscript, Zurich exemplar – DOI=10.5076/e-codices-zbz-Ms-Rh-0172 – URL=http://www.e-codices.unifr.ch/fr/list/one/zbz/Ms-Rh-0172

The most important legacy of the Alchemists to our modern age has been the design of various experimental methods that could be reproduced by other parties, even if they turned out to be resoundingly failed attempts for the most part. They took distance from the citizenry’s magical thinking and the superstitious framework, prodded by the states’ authority and theological dogma, in order to plow the scientific pathways. In a series of articles, we will recount what we believe are the major contributions of Alchemists to our modern society; we invite our readers to suggest themes.

Porcelain is a ceramic that is made by heating special materials, including kaolin, at extremely high temperatures—1,200-1400 degrees Celsius’ invented by the Chinese approx. 2,000 years ago, it slowly evolved in Asia until reaching perfection. It became the chosen ornament for the European nobles’ tableware, eager to show off; many factories in the Old Continent tried to replicate the process but they failed.

Note. This image was taken form Wikimedia Commons.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Saxonia_Museum_f%C3%BCr_saechsische_Vaterlandskunde_I_33.jpg

Johann Friedrich Bottger was born on February 4th , 1682 in Schleiz, Germany, and passed away in Dresden on March 13th , 1719 in the same country; he was the son of the town’s mint master (a very powerful public servant) and the daughter of a Magdeburg counsellor. When she became a widow, she re-married with the town’s major engineer, which explains his sophisticated education, a rarity in those times. When he was only 18 years old, he became an apprentice of Herr Zorn, a famous alchemist in Berlin, and he locked himself in a cave to experiment his many recipes.

A spy for King Frederick I of Prussia—a voracious hoarder of precious metals to fund the mercenary armies he used in his campaigns of annexation—whispered in his ear that there was “a young lad claiming that he had the philosopher’s stone”, he quickly ordered his detention; they did grab him, but Bottger managed to escape. However, they did not return him to Frederick I, but transferred to Dresden where he was imprisoned by the equally ruthless Augustus II, King of Saxony and Poland. Kept in “protective custody” in a dark dungeon, Bottger toiled tirelessly for years. After many failures, King Augustus II ordered him to join forces with a colleague.

Note. This image was taken from Wikimedia Commons.

By Martin Bernigeroth – Stich von M. Bernigeroth, Kupferstichkabinett Dresden, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=958111

Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus was born on April 10th, 1651, in Kieslingswalde, Germany and passed away on October 11th , 1708; he was a prolific mathematician, physicist, physician and philosopher. He is credited with inventing the Tschirnhaus transformation, a key mathematical equation still in use today. During his formation years, he travelled extensively in all of Europe, meeting John Collins, Espinoza, and Colbert amongst many others; he visited the Saint-Cloud soft paste porcelain factory in 1701, becoming a member of the Académie Royale des Sciences. In his 1678 philosophical treatise Medicina Mentis, he actively promoted the potentiating match of mathematics and physics.

In their paper, Queiroz and Agathopoulos wrote: “By 1682, he studied theoretically the envelope of light beams emitted from a point source after reflection on a parabolic surface…as a preliminary step towards the development of large burning lens and mirrors…The use of such equipment allowed him to reach temperatures within 1,500-2,000 degrees Celsius, higher than he could achieve in contemporary combustion furnaces…The method was welcome in laboratory research because the sample could be easily observed and many trials could run in a short time.” Believing that porcelain was in fact “a glass” he mixed clay and fusible materials (flux) Finally he could create “some kind of porcelain”, which he presented to Augustus II. The King decided to build a factory in Meissen and ordered Bottger to join the team. Afraid that he would end up dead like many other adventurous entrepreneurs like him, Bottger finally relented to the King’s wish and teamed up with Tschirnhaus.

The big breakthrough in the production of porcelain came in 1708 when two critical shipments of minerals arrived at the factory:

  1. Kaolin—a fine, pure white clay that had been discovered earlier by Ohain and Bartholomai, a physician that liked to dabble in Botanics.
  2. White Alabaster—mixed with two clays and silica, it was particularly useful.

After more experimentation, two more components were assigned to the mixture:

  1. China Stone—a volcanic residue.
  2. Quartz—at 20% concentration.

When the four ingredients were mixed together at high temperature, porcelain arose.

Tschirnhaus passed away 1708 and his disciple Bottger took over the operations, until he could present a “piece of porcelain” to Augustus II in 1709. Even though, Bottger was suspiciously credited with its  discovery, the same Bottger found a piece of perfect porcelain in Tschirnhaus’ house, after it had been vandalized. Fearing for the safety of the team that invented porcelain, the King decided to build a factory in Meissen with security measures. But eventually someone stole the recipe and fled.

A mathematician/philosopher and a wunderkind/alchemist discovered the porcelain.

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What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Redeeming value of Betrayal

“Le héros. Un homme coincé contre le mur par le doigt de Dieu »

Jean Paul Sartre

(The hero. A man stuck against the wall by the finger of God)

“Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him, saying, ‘You were also with Jesus of Galilee.’

But he denied before them all, saying, ‘I do know what you are saying.’

And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, ‘This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.’

But again he denied with an oath, “ I do not know the Man.’

And a little bit later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, ‘Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you.”

Then he began to curse and swear, saying, ‘I do not know the man!’

Immediately a roster crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, ‘Before the roster crows, you will deny ME three times.’

So he went out and wept bitterly.” Matthew 26: 69-75.

This reproduction of Caravaggio’s The Denial of Saint Peter was taken from Wikimedia Commonshttps://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Denial_of_Saint_Peter-Caravaggio_(1610).jpg

In an article of The Washington Post, Sebastian Smee discussed the symbolic value of The Denial of Peter, painted by Caravaggio a few months before his untimely demise in 1610—now believed to be due to heavy exposure to the lead in painting. He said: “The scene takes place at night. Firelight lends the image its atmosphere of flickering contingency. Caravaggio, who had a talent for making enemies, was interested in all the ways humans are not rocks—all the ways in which we are flimsy, inconstant and not to be depended upon. Since he was no saint himself…we might extend the idea to say that he was beguiled by all the ways in which—not wishing to be martyrs to virtue—we crave transformation.” Saint Peter the Apostle, the First Pope of the Catholic Church, eventually overcame his fears, spread the Gospel of Christianity and became a crucified martyr. Caravaggio, l’enfant terrible,  also painted the painful scene where Peter was being crucified upside down.

Note. This reproduction of The Crucifixion of Saint Peter was taken from Wikimedia Commons.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Crucifixion_of_Saint_Peter-Caravaggio_(c.1600).jpg

In his long intellectual/ political career—that brought him from being a Communist Party member to later denouncing the atrocities of Joseph Stalin—Jean Paul Sartre always believed that, in all major crossroads of our lives, we, humans, have a choice. In an article detailing an interview with Sartre, Ian Birchall said: “It is scarcely surprising that the Second World War had an enormous impact on Sartre’s thinking. It thrust him into the army, detention in a German prisoner of war camp, then return to Paris and involvement with the Resistance. For Sartre, all this brought home the reality that questions he had previously considered as purely intellectual matters involved choices and alignments in the real world. Choices, which under the Nazi occupation, could be matters of life and death.” Thus Sartre started his lifelong political commitment—based on his intellectual work—that prodded him to fight against all that he, and his companion Simone de Beauvoir, considered as social injustices. His participation in Resistance against Nazism, was modest but all too real.

We confess that in the beginning of the fascist Military Dictatorship of Uruguay in 1973, we felt a crushing sense of impotence and betrayal of our core ideals. Only when we started to engage in political activism during our tumultuous stay in the Pre-Medical Program of the Universidad de la República, did we regain our freedom. In those dark days of authoritarian control of our activities, we had the exhilaration of deliverance when, overcoming our natural fears, we jumped into the street with our companions to protest in earnest. Echoing that fabulous sentiment, Sartre wrote in La République du Silence that : “we have never been so free as under the German Occupation.”

Moreover, we believe that these unique experiences enrich the creativity of humans, not only by giving us with original experiences but also refreshing insights into us. When rubber bullets and tear gas cannisters start whizzing past you… you wake up. And if you had “the privilege” of mercilessly being beaten up with a wooden baton, you stay that way…And it does not matter that your back  (expressly exposed to protect your head) keeps reminding you later about the follies of your youth…

During the May 1968 Revolt in the streets of Paris, Sartre—then a furibundus Maoist—participated in all the protests staged by his students at La Sorbonne. He irritated the members of the De Gaulle administration so much that one of his cabinet secretaries said:

-“Mon Général, we have to arrest Sartre to quell the demonstrations…Right now.’

After demurring for a few seconds, De Gaulle said: “We cannot arrest Voltaire.”

Human Betrayal and subsequent Spiritual Redemption is the fertile soil for Artistic Inspiration.

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mirror

“Yo temo ahora que el espejo encierre el verdadero rostro de mi alma, lastimada de sombras y culpas, el que Dios ve y acaso ven los hombres” Jorge Luis Borges

(Now I am afraid that the mirror stores the true face of my soul, hurt by shadows and guilt complexes, the one that God sees and perhaps men do too)

Since our times in those dark, humid, eerie caves, we, humans, have been totally mesmerized by the reflection of our image on the water surfaces. In many cultures, the appearance of a clear image is a foreboding of good tidings. And the contrary… Not until Justus von Liebig, a German chemist, invented the mirror in 1835 did we have a reliable way to reflect any images; he developed a technique of applying a thin layer of silver to one side of a piece of glass to create a reflective surface.

Considering that we attribute supernatural powers to things we cannot understand, mirrors have gained a reputation of being some kind of “reflections of the truth.” The idea that a broken mirror brings seven years of bad luck originates in the Roman belief that the human soul took seven years to renew itself; in the same vein, the right way to void the pending misfortune is to bury the glass fragments deep in the ground. For some cultures—foremost of all, the quaint beliefs of small towns in Sicily—when a member of the family passes away, all the mirrors in the house must be covered with black drapes so the spirit of the dead cannot re-enter our reality. All the film buffs know that the soul-less vampires do not have a mirror reflection. Actors are wary of discovering their reflection while looking on another’s shoulder.

Do mirrors constitute a portal to another world, parallel to our reality?

In the 1990s, particle physicists were measuring the time it took for neutron particles to break down into protons once they were removed from an atom’s nucleus. In an article in The Independent, Harry Cockburn said: “Two separate experiments saw the neutrons broke down at differing rates, instead of decaying and becoming protons at exactly the same rate, as was expected. In one the free neutrons were captured by magnetic fields and herded into laboratory, and in the other they were detected by the subsequent appearance of proton particles from a nuclear reactor stream. Those particles fired out in the stream from the nuclear reactor lived on average for 14 minutes and 48 seconds—nine seconds later than those form the bottle traps.” This phenomenon might be explained by a mirror-world world where some neutrons migrate before coming back to our world and emit a detectable proton.

In a previous article, we already discussed the NASA experiment that sought to measure the scientific data that could form the basis of a parallel world, besides ours. In an article in USA Today, Matthew Brown refuted the theory that a parallel universe existed, solely based on the NASA findings in the Antarctica. He said: “the recent ANITA does not have any findings that support the ‘antiverse’ idea, known to physicists as the CPT Symmetry Universe. Researchers affiliated with the project have offered scenarios ranging for scientists needing to update their models about the Antarctic ice to decaying super heavy dark matter in the Milky Way.” This author said that it is misleadingly false to claim that a parallel universe exists based on this.

We confess that we have always been leery of mirrors of nay kind, especially those tall ones that go from the floor to almost the ceiling level. A few years ago we visited briefly an apartment to rent where the living room was framed by tall mirrors on all sides. After a few minutes, we promptly skedaddled back to the safety of our familiarly boring reality, where the parameters are known.

Parallel worlds? No, thank you very much. We like this world just fine, even with its many defects.

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Haredim’s joyous celebration of God

When we were doing our Neurology Residency in a major New York City teaching hospital, a Haredim religious figure was admitted to the ward after having had a serious Stroke that left him in a coma for many days. His close family members and friends liked to keep a vigil right outside the ward, and they often used our meeting room after hours to take turns to pray non-stop in Hebrew for his soul’s salvation.

All the residents and professors understood their deep grief and religious fervor. Except for one resident, who happened to be Jewish himself, but of secular views. One on call night, when we were in charge of the ward, together with an intern and two students, he accosted us in a tempestuous manner, holding a cup of coffee aloft.

-“Hey, why are letting these guys take over our room,” he told us, “Kick them out.”

Shocked by his unusually intolerant stance, we mumbled, “Er…They asked nicely.”

-“Who did, eh?”

-“A tall bearded old man came out and asked me if it was O.K….I said it was.”

-“What’s his f****** name?”

-“God Almighty, I believe he said.”

Fuming like a clogged steam locomotive’s chimney, he turned around and took off.

Note. This picture shows our son Gian Luca during his visit to Israel, on a hill overlooking Jerusalem.

David Biale et al explored in Hasidism: A New History multiple social, cultural, and religious aspects of one of the most influential movements in modern Judaism. They narrated the journey of Shlomo Halberstan, a Galician Jew, that arrived in 1945 to New York City, where at the time there were only 200-300 Hasidic Jews. He established the Hassidic Bobov community in Brooklyn that has more than 100,000 members at present. In the USA there are two more large Hasidic communities:

  1. Satmar: a Hungarian-born branch that is very zealous and insular.
  2. Chabad: a Russian-born branch that is more messianic and worldly.

These scholars point out the sheer irony of the fact that the resurrection of Hasidism occurred in the USA and the State of Israel, which has had a problematic relationship with these movements ever since the inception of the Zionist State in 1948. They said: “In its bitter polemical struggle with Zionism, the Hasidic leadership perceived modern Jewish nationalism as a secularizing movement offering an alternative national Jewish identity that would undermine loyalty to a traditional way of life.”

There are three dimensions of Hasidim’s mysticism that emphasize the here and now.

  1. God’s immanence.
  2. Worship in the Material World.
  3. Mystical State of Cleaving

God’s immanence

The Jews that had resided in Central and Eastern Europe for centuries believed that there was a continuous tension between the material demands of the body and the ethereal demands of the spirit, which favored an ascetic life to achieve saintliness. On the contrary, Hasidim rejected that melancholic stance leading to depression, and promoted a more joyful and enthusiastic embrace of God’s presence in daily lives. During the darkest moments of the Ghetto of Warsaw, the Hasidim engaged in enthusiastic dancing in the streets, to the dismay of other suffering secular Jews.

Worship in the Material World

God’s presence in our desires and mental states will be readily transmitted to our dealings and tasks in the material world that surrounds us. The Hasidim do not believe in the ascetic retreat from the material world to meditate and pray but rather work assiduously in all the professional and business realms of a modern society. If God Almighty is everywhere, the use of a plow, hammer or lens is rightly allowed.

Mystical State of Cleaving

The esoteric teaching of the Kabbalistic traditions of the Middle Ages influenced the Lubavitcher; they claimed that: “the state of cleaving to God—devekut—is attained by wholehearted inner concentration that is attuned to God’s presence in all being. It is not dependent on or achieved by knowledge of a metaphysical system that is possessed by an esoteric elite.” Contrary to the centennial Talmudic traditions of patiently studying ancient legal and religious treaties in the seclusion of libraries, the Hasidim believe that the state of devekut is obtained by their worldly cleaving.

The Hasidim freed the religiously minded Jews from the burden of esoteric learning.

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

 

The Mystic Wanderer—Part III

-“Don’t you want to take a shower, Mystic Wanderer—looks like you need one.”

A few years ago, we were travelling frequently from Miami to San Dona di Piave in order to carry on our Doctoral studies in Health Policy and Management at Columbia University with extended stays in the Veneto region of Italy. We often bought a ticket from a German airline, which meant a transfer in a major hub like Munich or Frankfurt. Given that there were only a few hours of waiting time, we spent that time in the clean, secure terminal after eating a delicious snack and drinking a good beer. We often dozed off for a one hour or two, without any hassles. Until that day.

Those unsolicited words startled us, interrupting our nap in a super-comfy sofa of the main lounge; it had been almost deserted in the wee hours, with only the din of its open buffet-style cafeteria. Droopily coming out of our REM sleep, we looked askance at the impertinent creature that broke it.

In front of us stood a medium height middle-aged man with the dark complexion typical of Middle Eastern origin. With his wet hair neatly combed and his just shaven face, he was wearing a combo of a short sleeves shirt and a pair of pants, so nondescript that we cannot even remember their colors. He could have passed for any cheeky salesman that, out of nowhere, abruptly accosts you in a bazaar’s alley to peddle a carpet of dubious origins and worse weaving.

-“Sorry…do I know you?” we managed to mumble, rubbing our eyes.

-“Don’t think so. But I do know you. I sensed your presence well before I arrived.”

-“Really? And who are you?”

-“My name is Ahmed, I am a businessman that makes at least this connection once per month. I love this airport…There are nice free showers over there. Try them.”

-“Well, I’m kind of lazy. I’ll have a good one once I arrive in Miami.”

-“You seem to be very ambitious but still quite approachable…No obstructionist pride.”

-“Got plenty of defects, but vanity has never been the worst of them.”

-“Keep it that way…There is a stone inscription at home that warns against the dangers of pride…It says…” He then started to recite some words that seemed like Latin but we could not decipher.

At that moment, a two men-patrol of green-uniformed German police stopped by and asked to see our passport; we reached for our handbag and handed it to them. Once they checked it with a hand-held computer scanner, they politely returned it. We then noticed that our “new friend” was gone, as stealthily as he had arrived. We forgot to mention that he presented to us without any carry on luggage or handbag, something very unusual in a hub airport full of transit travelers.

We buried that anecdote all the way back in our so disgracefully cluttered Unconscious mind. Until a few days ago, when we were reading, out of sheer curiosity an excellent article in the Wikipedia about the Templar castle of Krak des Chevaliers, we found the following:

Note. This picture was taken from Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Krak_des_chevaliers_inscription_latine.jpg

You may have bounty, you may have wisdom,

You may have beauty

Pride alone defiles all these things

If it accompanies them

Wow! The sight and sound of our encounter with Ahmed rushed into our mind. Was this the inscription he had told us about? Why would he call that castle his home? Was he a time traveler that was making a stop-over in our world? Could it really be? Is there a parallel world and time?

Whatever the answer to those questions are, we will surely abide by those sage words. Pour quoi pas?

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.