An idea inspired by a dream

     Recently, I had a dream that a person was granted a wish by a wizard and that as a consequence of the wish, he gained the power to absorb matter into his body, and become larger and larger.  When I woke up, while still in a semi-dream mode of thinking, I started down a train of thought that eventually led to thinking about how ancient peoples associated giants with mountains, such as believing that a giant was trapped under a mountain or that a sleeping giant had become a mountain.  

    And this also relates to how ancient people personified the world: they viewed the entire world as alive and not only alive, but anthropomorphic: for example, a mountain was thought of as something like a type of enormous human being.  

    Then later, we have the Medieval view, where rocks and mountains were viewed as part of the Great Chain of Being: they have their place in Creation but are not living.  However, they were not considered entirely dead, since they are a part of Creation as a whole and are connected by their place in the chain to living beings.  

    Later still, we have the view of scientific thought, that mountains are indeed completely lifeless matter, they are merely a formation made of up of rocks and minerals.  

    Then in the mid twentieth century, in his unfinished novel The Notion Club Papers, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote about the character Ramer, connecting his thoughts with a meteor.  Ramer talks about how there is not much freedom as we would consider in many places in the universe, just long waiting for something to happen, such as a slip between rocks such as an earthaquake or shift.  

    In this story, Tolkien tries to imagine the consciousness of a rock, but rather than anthropomorphizing it, he considers it to have a different and more restricted mode of consciousness than a human being.  

    Following Bruce Charlton, I consider Tolkien in the lineage of Romanticism because he, while living in the modern world, tried to move past the despiritualized and mechanistic thinking characteristic of our era. 

    From this perspective, we can then see a development in thinking about non-human parts of the world, that follows the development of consciousness, traced out by thinkers such as Rudolf Steiner and Owen Barfield.  First a spiritualized mode of consciousness, viewing the world as alive (and anthropomorphized), then the Medieval form of consciousness, then scientific thinking viewing the world as dead, and finally Romantic consciousness, which seeks to respiritualize our thinking, but in a more free manner than the older form of consciousness.  

    I wonder if in the earlier anthropomorphic way of thinking about the world, human consciousness was rooted in the human.  In the course of becoming more independent, people gained a greater ability to imagine different modes of consciousness from the human: to envision that animals, plants, or the sun are alive, but have consciousness of a very different quality than human beings.  In other words, the releasing of restrictions from consciousness gave it a greater flexibility, though this flexibility has come with other consequences: greater freedom to think less human thoughts can also be dangerous (as we see all around us).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Some Paintings from Joseph Wright of Derby

    Joseph Wright of Derby (1734 - 1797) lived through the era of the industrial revolution and the beginning of Romanticism.  I didn'...