Notes from Tristes Tropiques by Claude Lévi-Strauss

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Tristes Tropiques

Claude Lévi-Strauss

Introduction and Notes by Patrick Wilcken

Time: 2021-12-13 00:00

When we travel around the world, we see not the pristine landscapes promised us through bogus explorers’ tales, he wrote, but rather ‘our own filth,thrown into the face of mankind’ (p. 38). Even in the interior of Brazil, a region at that point still relatively isolated, the indigenous groups he encountered were wracked by disease and alcoholism, their material culture degraded by cheap industrial goods, their campsites littered with rusted petrol drums, tin cans and broken bottles. In the final chapters Lévi-Strauss wrote of anthropology as ‘an attempt at redemption’; the anthropologist ‘the symbol of atonement’ (p. 389), as if all that was left to do was to bear witness and repent.

3. The West Indies

Time: 2021-12-13 23:57

One day, I went into the assize court, which happened to be in session; this was my first,and has to date remained my only, visit to a law court. The person on trial was a peasant,who had bitten off a piece of one of his opponent’s ears during a quarrel. The accused, the plaintiff and the witnesses expressed themselves volubly in the Creole dialect, the crystalline freshness of which seemed positively uncanny in such surroundings. Their statements were translated for three judges, who were suffering from the heat, since they were wrapped in red, fur-trimmed robes which had lost their crispness in the humid atmosphere. The grotesque garments hung limply round their bodies like bloodstained bandages. It took exactly five minutes to pass a sentence of eight years’ imprisonment on the hot-tempered peasant. Justice always has, and always will be, associated in my mind with doubt, scrupulousness and respect. That the fate of a human being could be settled in so short a time and in such an offhand manner filled me with amazement. I could not bring myself to believe that what I had just witnessed had actually happened. Even today, no dream, however fantastic or far-fetched, can inspire me with such a feeling of incredulity.

Time: 2021-12-14 00:01

I was able – thanks to this final piece of manœuvering on the part of the police – to enjoy some unforgettable walks across the island, which seemed so much more classically exotic than the South American mainland. It was like a deep arborized agate set in a ring of black, silver-flecked beaches, and in the valleys, which were brimful with a milk-white mist, one could only just sense the presence – more perceptible to the ear, through the sound of dripping moisture, than to the eye – of the huge, soft, feathery fronds of the tree-ferns, rising above the living fossils of their trunks.

Time: 2021-12-14 00:08

The accidents of travel often produce ambiguities such as these. Because I spent my first weeks on United States soil in Puerto Rico, I was in future to find America in Spain. Just as,several years later, through visiting my first English university with a campus surrounded by Neo-Gothic buildings at Dacca in Western Bengal, I now look upon Oxford as a kind of India that has succeeded in controlling the mud, the mildew and the ever-encroaching vegetation.

4. The Quest for Power

Time: 2021-12-14 00:14

Journeys, those magic caskets full of dreamlike promises, will never again yield up their treasures untarnished. A proliferating and overexcited civilization has broken the silence of the seas once and for all. The perfumes of the tropics and the pristine freshness of human beings have been corrupted by a busyness with dubious implications, which mortifies our desires and dooms us to acquire only contaminated memories.

Time: 2021-12-14 00:15

Now that the Polynesian islands have been smothered in concrete and turned into aircraft carriers solidly anchored in the southern seas, when the whole of Asia is beginning to look like a dingy suburb, when shanty-towns are spreading across Africa, when civil and military aircraft blight the primeval innocence of the American or Melanesian forests even before destroying their virginity, what else can the socalled escapism of travelling do than confront us with the more unfortunate aspects of our history? Our great Western civilization, which has created the marvels we now enjoy, has only succeeded in producing them at the cost of corresponding ills. The order and harmony of the Western world, its most famous achievement, and a laboratory in which structures of a complexity as yet unknown are being fashioned, demand the elimination of a prodigious mass of noxious by-products which now contaminate the globe. The first thing we see as we travel round the world is our own filth, thrown into the face of mankind.

6. The Making of an Anthropologist

Time: 2021-12-15 23:40

It was in that class that I first began to learn that every problem, whether serious or trifling, may be solved by the application of an always identical method, which consists in contrasting two traditional views of the question; the first is introduced by means of a justification on common-sense grounds, then the justification is destroyed with the help of the second view; finally, both are dismissed as being equally inadequate, thanks to a third view which reveals the incomplete character of the first two; these are now reduced by verbal artifice to complementary aspects of one and the same reality: form and subject-matter, container and content, being and appearance, continuity and discontinuity, essence and existence, etc. Such an exercise soon becomes purely verbal, depending, as it does, on a certain skill in punning, which replaces thought: assonance, similarity in sound and ambiguity gradually come to form the basis of those brilliantly ingenious intellectual shifts which are thought to be the sign of sound philosophizing.

Time: 2021-12-15 23:43

Philosophy was not ancilla scientiarum, the servant and auxiliary of scientific exploration, but a kind of aesthetic contemplation of consciousness by itself.

Time: 2021-12-17 23:31

As it happened, the revelation did not occur until 1933–4, when by chance I came across Robert H. Lowie’s Primitive Society, which was by no means a recent work. The point was that instead of presenting me with ideas taken from books and immediately changed into philosophical concepts, it described the writer’s actual experience of native societies, and presented the significance of that experience through his involvement. My mind was able to escape from the claustrophobic, Turkish-bath atmosphere in which it was being imprisoned by the practice of philosophical reflection. Once it had got out into the open air, it felt refreshed and renewed. Like a city-dweller transported to the mountains, I became drunk with space, while my dazzled eyes measured the wealth and variety of the objects surrounding me.

7. Sunset

Time: 2021-12-18 01:43

Remembering is one of man’s great pleasures, but not in so far as memory operates literally, since few individuals would agree to relive the fatigues and sufferings that they nevertheless delight in recalling. Memory is life itself, but of a different quality.

8. The Doldrums

Time: 2021-12-22 17:32

it is not surprising that they should have been taken for mermaids, especially at a period when people went as far as to describe (and even draw) the cotton plant as a sheep tree, that is a tree bearing not fruit but whole sheep hanging by their backs with wool ready to be shorn.

9. Guanabara

Time: 2021-12-25 16:32

Travel is usually thought of as a displacement in space. This is an inadequate conception. A journey occurs simultaneously in space, in time and in the social hierarchy.Each impression can be defined only by being jointly related to these three axes, and since space is itself three-dimensional, five axes are necessary if we are to have an adequate representation of any journey.

10. Crossing the Tropic

Time: 2021-12-25 17:00

When one tries now to find the trails along the espigões,the line of ridges, it is difficult to imagine that the traffic was so heavy that the recovery of the shoes lost on the way by the animals constituted a special occupation.

13. Pioneer Zone

Time: 2021-12-27 00:03

So it is not in any metaphorical sense that we are justified in comparing – as has so often been done – a town with a symphony or a poem; they are objects of a similar nature. The town is perhaps even more precious than a work of art in that it stands at the meeting point of nature and artifice. Consisting, as it does, of a community of animals who enclose their biological history within its boundaries and at the same time mould it according to their every intention as thinking beings, the town, in both its development and its form, belongs simultaneously to biological procreation, organic evolution and aesthetic creation. It is at one and the same time an object of nature and a subject of culture; an individual and a group; reality and dream; the supremely human achievement.

14. The Magic Carpet

Time: 2021-12-28 23:06

I once – oh, Arabian Nights! – ate a dinner full of succulent ancestral savours, picking up the food with my fingers: first,Khichuri, rice and the small lentils which are called pulses in English, and the multicoloured varieties of which can be seen standing in sackfuls in the markets. Then nimkorma, broiled chicken; chingri cari, an oily fruity stew of giant shrimps, and another stew with hard-boiled eggs called dimer tak, accompanied by cucumber sauce, shosha; finally the dessert, firni,made of rice and milk.

15. Crowds

Time: 2022-01-03 23:58

Here again, it is the other person’s attitude which compels you to deny him those human qualities you would so much like to acknowledge in him. All the primary situations which establish relationships between people are distorted; the rules of the social game are falsified and one doesn’t know where to begin. If one tried to treat these unfortunate wretches as equals, they would protest against the injustice of one’s doing so; they do not want to be equal; they beg, they entreat you to crush them with your pride, since it is from the widening of the gap between you and them that they expect their mite, * which will be greater in proportion to the width of the yawning gulf; the higher they place me, the greater will be their hopes that the trifle they are soliciting will turn out to be something substantial. They do not claim any right to live; the mere fact of survival seems to them undeserved alms, barely justified by the homage they render to the mighty.

Time: 2022-01-04 00:00

This debasement of human relationships at first appears incomprehensible to the European mind. We look upon class differences in terms of struggle or tension, as if the initial – or ideal – situation corresponded to the resolution of these antagonisms. But here,the word tension has no meaning. Nothing is tense, since everything that might have been in a state of tension snapped long ago. The break was there at the start, and the non-existence of ‘good times’, to which people might refer either to discover traces of them or to long nostalgically for their return, leaves you with one conviction only: that all these people you see in the street are doomed. Even if you divested yourself of all your possessions, you could not be sure of delaying that doom for one moment.

Time: 2022-01-04 23:58

Very little is needed in order to exist: little space, little food, little joy, few utensils or tools; it is life on a pocket-handkerchief scale. But, on the other hand, there seems to be no lack of soul; one is aware of it in the bustle of the streets, the intensity of the look in people’s eyes, the passion which marks the most trifling discussion, and the courteous smiles with which passing strangers are greeted, and – in Moslem territory – the accompanying ‘salaam’, a low bow in which the palm of the right hand is placed on the forehead. Only quality of soul can explain the ease with which these people fit into the cosmos.

16. Markets

Time: 2022-01-07 11:50

Even country districts can provide equally striking spectacles. Once when I was making a trip by motor-boat along the Bengal rivers, we landed on an island in the middle of the Buliganga, a river lined with banana plants and palm trees, sheltering white-tiled mosques which seem to float on the surface of the water. A thousand or more boats and sampans moored in the vicinity indicated that a hat, or country market, was in progress. Although no permanent building was visible, a veritable town had sprung up for one day only, and the crowd of inhabitants had set up their stalls in the mud, with a clearly defined area for each particular kind of trade: paddy, livestock, boats, bamboo poles, wooden planks, pottery,fabrics, fruit, betel nuts and fishing-nets. The river traffic was so dense in the channels around the island that they were like liquid streets. Newly bought cows were being taken away without any fuss, each one standing up in its boat and sailing blankly past the landscape, which watched it go by.The whole countryside in this area is extraordinarily soft and mild. There is something soothing and soporific in the greenery, tinged with the blue of water-lilies, and in the swamps and rivers with their gliding sampans; one is tempted to let oneself rot away like the old red-brick walls, which have been pushed out of shape by banyan trees.

Time: 2022-01-07 15:06

Freedom is neither a legal invention nor a philosophical conquest, the cherished possession of civilizations more valid than others because they alone have been able to create or preserve it.

Time: 2022-01-07 15:21

Men can coexist on condition that they recognize each other as being all equally,though differently, human, but they can also coexist by denying each other a comparable degree of humanity, and thus establishing a system of subordination.

22. Virtuous Savages

Time: 2022-01-11 22:00

When one is faced with a society which is still alive and faithful to its traditions, the impact is so powerful that one is quite taken aback: which strand in the multicoloured skein should one first try to unwind and disentangle? In thinking back to the Bororo, with whom I had my first experience of this kind, I rediscover feelings which assailed me again during the most recent such experience, in a Kuki village on the Burmese frontier, when I reached the summit of a high hill, after hours spent scrambling on all fours up slopes which had been transformed into slippery mud by the unceasing monsoon rains: physical exhaustion, hunger, thirst and mental confusion, certainly; but the organic giddiness was shot through with perceptions of forms and colours: the houses were majestic in size in spite of their fragility, and were the result of the utilization of materials and techniques which we in the West are acquainted with in small-scale forms: they were not so much built as knotted together, plaited, woven,embroidered and mellowed by use; instead of crushing the occupants under an indifferent mass of stones, they adapted to their presence and their movements; they were the opposite of our houses in that they remained always subordinate to man. The village rose round its occupants like a light, flexible suit of armour, closer to Western women’s hats than to Western towns; it was a monumental adornment retaining something of the living bowers and foliage whose natural gracefulness the builders had skilfully reconciled with the rigorous demands of their plan.

Time: 2022-01-11 22:17

Secondly, there lived in Kejara a native who was to be my interpreter and chief informant. This man, who was about thirty-five years old, spoke Portuguese fairly well. He said that he had once been able to read and write the language (although he could no longer do so), having been a pupil at the mission. The Fathers, proud of their success, had sent him to Rome, where he had been received by the Holy Father. On his return, there had apparently been an attempt to make him go through a Christian marriage ceremony,without regard for the traditional native rules. This had brought on a spiritual crisis during which he was reconverted to the old Bororo ideal: he then settled in Kejara where, for the last ten or fifteen years, he had been living an exemplary savage life. This papal Indian, who was now stark naked, befeathered, smeared with red paint and wearing the pin and the lip-plug in his nose and lower lip, was to prove a wonderful guide to Bororo sociology.

23. The Living and the Dead

Time: 2022-01-11 23:33

I even suspect that our irara was promptly appropriated to replace the missing animal. The natives would not admit that this was so, which was a pity: if it were the case, I could have claimed to be the uiaddo, the leader of the hunt representing the dead man’s soul. I would have received from his family the armband made of human hair and the poari, a mystical clarinet consisting of a small feathered gourd acting as an amplifier for a bamboo reed which is sounded over the captured animal, before being attached to its dead body. According to the prescribed rules, I would have shared out the flesh, hide, teeth and claws among the dead man’s relatives, who would have given me in exchange a ceremonial bow with arrows, another clarinet in commemoration of my duties and a necklace made of shell discs. I would also no doubt have had to paint myself black, so as not to be recognized by the maleficent soul responsible for the death, which would be obliged by the law of the mori to enter into the body of the dead animal – and thus offer itself as compensation for the harm done – but would still be full of vindictive hatred towards the person who had constrained it to do so. In a sense, nature in this destructive form is seen as being human. It operates through a special category of souls,which depend directly on it and not on society.

26. On the Line

Time: 2022-01-14 23:00

Completely virgin landscapes have a monotony which deprives their wildness of any significant value. They withhold themselves from man; instead of challenging him, they disintegrate under his gaze. But in this scrubland, which stretches endlessly into the distance, the incision of the picada, the contorted silhouettes of the poles and the arcs of wire linking them one to another seem like incongruous objects floating in space, such as can be seen in Yves Tanguy’s paintings. Being evidence of man’s former presence and of the futility of his efforts, they mark the extreme limit he has tried to exceed, making it more obvious than it would have been without them. The erratic nature of his enterprise and the failure by which it has been punished confirm the authenticity of the surrounding wilderness.

27. Family Life

Time: 2022-01-15 19:34

The Nambikwara’s attitude towards love can be summed up in their expression, tamindige mondage, the literal, though not very elegant, translation of which is, ‘Making love is nice.’

Time: 2022-01-15 19:35

During the amorous fondling in which couples indulge so freely and so publicly, and which is often quite uninhibited, I never once noticed even an incipient erection. The pleasure aimed at would seem to relate less to physical satisfaction than to love-play and demonstrations of affection. This perhaps explains why the Nambikwara do not wear the penis sheath, which is common to almost all the communities of central Brazil.Indeed, the purpose of this accessory may be, if not to prevent an erection, at least to indicate that the wearer is not sexually aggressive. People who live in a state of complete nudity are not unaware of what we call modesty: they define it differently. Among the Indians of Brazil, as in certain regions of Melanesia, the distinction between modesty and immodesty does not depend on different degrees of bodily exposure but on the difference between quiescence and excitement.

Time: 2022-01-15 19:57

On the dark savannah, the camp fires sparkle. Near their warmth, which offers the only protection against the growing chill of the night; behind the frail screens of palm-fronds and branches, hurriedly set up on the side from which rain and wind are expected; next to the baskets filled with the pathetic possessions which constitute the community’s earthly wealth; lying on the bare ground which stretches away in all directions and is haunted by other equally hostile and apprehensive bands, husbands and wives, closely intertwined, are aware of being each other’s support and comfort,and the only help against day-to-day difficulties and that brooding melancholy which settles from time to time on the souls of the Nambikwara. The visitor camping with the Indians in the bush for the first time, is filled with anguish and pity at the sight of human beings so totally bereft; some relentless cataclysm seems to have crushed them against the ground in a hostile land, leaving them naked and shivering by their flickering fires. He gropes his way through the scrub, taking care not to knock against the hands, arms or chests that he glimpses as warm reflections in the glow of the flames. But the wretchedness is shot through with whisperings and chuckles. The couples embrace as if seeking to recapture a lost unity, and their caresses continue uninterrupted as he goes by. He can sense in all of them an immense kindness, a profoundly carefree attitude, a naive and charming animal satisfaction and – binding these various feelings together – something which might be called the most truthful and moving expression of human love.

28. A Writing Lesson

Time: 2022-01-15 20:27

To establish a correlation between the emergence of writing and certain characteristic features of civilization, we must look in a quite different direction. The only phenomenon with which writing has always been concomitant is the creation of cities and empires, that is the integration of large numbers of individuals into a political system, and their grading into castes or classes. Such, at any rate, is the typical pattern of development to be observed from Egypt to China, at the time when writing first emerged: it seems to have favoured the exploitation of human beings rather than their enlightenment. This exploitation, which made it possible to assemble thousands of workers and force them to carry out exhausting tasks, is a much more likely explanation of the birth of architecture than the direct link referred to above. My hypothesis, if correct, would oblige us to recognize the fact that the primary function of written communication is to facilitate slavery. The use of writing for disinterested purposes, and as a source of intellectual and aesthetic pleasure, is a secondary result, and more often than not it may even be turned into a means of strengthening,justifying or concealing the other.

29. Men, Women and Chiefs

Time: 2022-01-17 17:34

The Nambikwara also solve the problem in another way – by homosexual relationships,for which they have the poetic term, tamindige kihandige, that is, l’amour-mensonge, ‘lying love’. Such relationships are frequent between young men and take place far more publicly than normal relationships. The two partners do not withdraw into the bush like adults of opposite sexes. They settle down near the camp fire, while their neighbours look on with amusement. Such incidents are a source of jokes, which generally remain discreet;homosexual relationships are considered to be childish pastimes and little attention is paid to them. It remains an open question whether the partners achieve complete satisfaction or restrict themselves to sentimental demonstrations, accompanied by caresses, similar to the demonstrations and caresses characteristic of conjugal relationships. Homosexual relationships are only allowed between adolescents who are ‘cross-cousins’, that is, who would normally marry each other’s sisters, so that the brother is acting as a temporary substitute for the girl. When the natives are asked about relationships of this kind, they invariably reply: ‘They are cousins [or brothers-in-law] making love.’ On reaching adulthood, the brothers-in-law continue to express their feelings quite openly. It is not uncommon to see two or three men, who are both husbands and fathers, walking together in the evening with their arms affectionately around each other.

Time: 2022-01-17 17:42

There is a first point that can be rapidly disposed of. The Nambikwara data, taken in conjunction with other evidence, contradicts the old sociological theory, temporarily revived by psychoanalysis, according to which the prototype of the primitive chief was a symbolic father, so that the elementary forms of the state were a development of the family.We have seen that, underlying the most rudimentary forms of power, there is an essential feature which is something new in comparison with biological phenomena: this new element is consent. Power both originates in consent and is bounded by it. Apparently unilateral relationships, such as those characteristic of gerontocracy, autocracy or any other form of government, can arise in groups with an already complex structure. They are out of the question in simple forms of social organization, such as the one I have tried to describe here. In such cases, on the contrary, political relationships boil down to a kind of arbitration between, on the one hand, the ability and authority of the chief and, on the other, the size, cohesion and goodwill of the group; these various factors exert a reciprocal influence on each other.

Time: 2022-01-17 17:55

In another form, this was undoubtedly the ‘miracle’ referred to by Leibnitz in connection with the American savages, whose customs, as recorded by the early travellers,had taught him ‘never to accept the hypotheses of political philosophy as proven truths’. As for myself, I had gone to the ends of the earth to look for what Rousseau calls ‘the almost imperceptible stages of man’s beginnings’. Behind the veil of the over-complicated laws of the Caduveo and Bororo, I had continued my search for a state which – as Rousseau also says – ‘no longer exists, has perhaps never existed, and probably will never exist, and of which it is nevertheless essential to form a correct notion in order rightly to judge our present state’. I believed that, having been luckier than Rousseau, I had discovered such a state in a moribund society, about which there was no point in wondering whether or not it was vestigial. Whether traditional or degenerate, this society offered one of the most rudimentary forms of social and political organization that could possibly be imagined. I did not need to refer back to the particular sequence of historical events which had kept it in, or more probably had brought it back to, this elementary state. It was enough to observe the sociological experience before me.

30. A Canoe Trip

Time: 2022-01-17 23:24

There is no more thrilling prospect for the anthropologist than that of being the first white man to visit a particular native community. Already in 1938, this supreme reward could only be obtained in a few regions of the world – few enough indeed to be counted on the fingers of one hand. Since then, the possibilities have diminished still further. I was about to relive the experience of the early travellers and, through it, that crucial moment in modern thought when, thanks to the great voyages of discovery, a human community which believed itself to be complete and in its final form suddenly learned, as if through the effect of a counter-revelation, that it was not alone, that it was part of a greater whole, and that, in order to achieve self-knowledge, it must first of all contemplate its unrecognizable image in this mirror, of which a fragment, forgotten by the centuries, was now about to cast, for me alone, its first and last reflection.

31. Robinson Crusoe

Time: 2022-01-18 00:45

I had wanted to reach the extreme limits of the savage; it might be thought that my wish had been granted, now that I found myself among these charming Indians whom no other white man had ever seen before and who might never be seen again. After an enchanting trip up-river, I had certainly found my savages. Alas! they were only too savage. Since their existence had only been revealed to me at the last moment, I was unable to devote to them the time that would have been essential to get to know them. The limited resources at my disposal, the state of physical exhaustion in which my companions and I now found ourselves – and which was to be made still worse by the fevers of the rainy season – allowed me no more than a short busman’s holiday. * instead of months of study. There they were, all ready to teach me their customs and beliefs, and I did not know their language. They were as close to me as a reflection in a mirror; I could touch them, but I could not understand them. I had been given, at one and the same time, my reward and my punishment. Was it not my mistake, and the mistake of my profession, to believe that men are not always men? that some are more deserving of interest and attention because they astonish us by the colour of their skin and their customs? I had only to succeed in guessing what they were like for them to be deprived of their strangeness: in which case, I might just as well have stayed in my village. Or if, as was the case here, they retained their strangeness, I could make no use of it,since I was incapable of even grasping what it consisted of. Between these two extremes,what ambiguous instances provide us with the excuses by which we live? Who, in the last resort, is the real dupe of the confusion created in the reader’s mind by observations which are carried just far enough to be intelligible and then are stopped in mid-career, because they cause surprise in human beings similar to those who take such customs as a matter of course? Is it the reader who believes in us, or we ourselves who have no right to be satisfied until we have succeeded in dissipating a residue which serves as a pretext for our vanity?

38. A Little Glass of Rum*

Time: 2022-01-19 16:12

Societies which seem savage to us in some respects may appear humane and kindly when considered from another angle. Let us take the case of the Plains Indians of North America,who are doubly significant in this connection, because they practised certain moderate forms of cannibalism and at the same time offer one of the rare instances of a primitive community with an organized police system. It would never have occurred to their police (who were also a judicial body) to make the culprit’s punishment take the form of a breaking of social ties. If a native had infringed the laws of the tribe, he was punished by having all his possessions destroyed, including his tent and horses. But at the same time, the police contracted a debt towards him: it was their duty to organize collective reparation for the losses sustained by the culprit as his punishment. This put him under an obligation to the group, and he had to show his gratitude to them by means of presents that the whole community – including the police – helped him to assemble, so that this once again reversed the relationships; and so on and so forth until, after a whole series of gifts and counter-gifts,the disorder introduced by the crime was gradually neutralized and there was a return to the pristine state of order. Not only are such customs more humane than ours, they are also more coherent, even if the problem is formulated in terms of modern European psychology;logically, the ‘infantilization’ of the culprit implied by the notion of punishment demands that he should have a corresponding right to a reward, in the absence of which the initial procedure will prove ineffective and may even lead to results contrary to those that were hoped for. Our system is the height of absurdity, since we treat the culprit both as a child, so as to have the right to punish him, and as an adult, in order to deny him consolation; and we believe we have made great spiritual progress because, instead of eating a few of our fellow-men, we subject them to physical and moral mutilation.

39. Taxila

Time: 2022-01-19 22:49

If one were looking for a barrack-room religion, Islam would seem to be the ideal solution: strict observance of rules (prayers five times a day, each prayer necessitating fifty genuflexions); detailed inspections and meticulous cleanliness (ritual ablutions); masculine promiscuity both in spiritual matters and in the carrying out of the organic functions; and no women.

40. The Kyong

Time: 2022-01-19 23:29

Mankind has made three major religious attempts to free itself from persecution by the dead, the malevolence of the Beyond and the anguish of magic. Over intervals of approximately five hundred years, it originated in turn Buddhism, Christianity and Islam;it is a striking fact that each stage, far from constituting an advance on the previous one,should be seen rather as a regression.

Time: 2022-01-20 00:01

What else, indeed, have I learned from the masters who taught me, the philosophers I have read, the societies I have visited and even from that science which is the pride of the West, apart from a few scraps of wisdom which, when laid end to end, coincide with the meditation of the Sage at the foot of the tree?

Time: 2022-01-20 00:07

As he moves about within his mental and historical framework, man takes along with him all the positions he has already occupied, and all those he will occupy. He is everywhere at one and the same time; he is a crowd surging forward abreast, and constantly recapitulating the whole series of previous stages. For we live in several worlds, each truer than the one it encloses, and itself false in relation to the one which encompasses it. Some are known to us through action; some are lived through in thought; but the seeming contradiction resulting from their coexistence is solved in the obligation we feel to grant a meaning to the nearest and to deny any to those furthest away; whereas the truth lies in a progressive dilating of the meaning, but in reverse order, up to the point at which it explodes.

Time: 2022-01-20 00:10

From the time when he first began to breathe and eat, up to the invention of atomic and thermonuclear devices, by way of the discovery of fire – and except when he has been engaged in self-reproduction – what else has man done except blithely break down billions of structures and reduce them to a state in which they are no longer capable of integration?