Orpheus or Philosophy

Orpheus’ Death, Jean Delville, 1893

 

XI

 

“The story of Orpheus, which though so well known has not yet been in all points perfectly well interpreted, seems meant for a representation of universal Philosophy. For Orpheus himself,—a man admirable and truly divine, who being master of all harmony subdued and drew all things after him by sweet and gentle measures,—may pass by an easy metaphor for philosophy personified. For as the works of wisdom surpass in dignity and power the works of strength, so the labours of Orpheus surpass the labours of Hercules.

Orpheus, moved by affection for his wife who had been snatched from him by an untimely death, resolved to go down to Hell and beg her back again of the Infernal Powers; trusting to his lyre. Nor was he disappointed. For so soothed and charmed were the infernal powers by the sweetness of his singing and playing, that they gave him leave to take her away with him; but upon one condition; she was to follow behind him, and he was not to look back until they had reached the confines of light. From this however in the impatience of love and anxiety he could not refrain. Before he had quite reached the point of safety, he looked back; and so the covenant was broken, and she suddenly fell away from him and was hurried back into Hell. From that time Orpheus betook himself to solitary places, a melancholy man and averse from the sight of women; where by the same sweetness of his song and lyre he drew to him all kinds of wild beasts, in such manner that putting off their several natures, forgetting all their quarrels and ferocity, no longer driven by the stings and furies of lust, no longer caring to satisfy their hunger or to hunt their prey, they all stood about him gently and sociably, as in a theatre, listening only to the concords of his lyre. Nor was that all: for so great was the power of his music that it moved the woods and the very stones to shift themselves and take their stations decently and orderly about him. And all this went on for some time with happy success and great admiration; till at last certain Thracian women, under the stimulation and excitement of Bacchus, came where he was; and first they blew such a hoarse and hideous blast upon, a horn that the sound of his music could no longer be heard for the din: whereupon, the charm being broken that had been the bond of that order and good fellowship, confusion began again; the beasts returned each to his several nature and preyed one upon the other as before; the stones and woods stayed no longer in their places: while Orpheus himself was torn to pieces by the women in their fury, and his limbs scattered about the fields: at whose death, Helicon (river sacred to the Muses) in grief and indignation buried his waters under the earth, to reappear elsewhere.

The meaning of the fable appears to be this. The singing of Orpheus is of two kinds: one to propitiate the infernal powers, the other to draw the wild beasts and the woods. The former may be best understood as referring to natural philosophy; the latter to philosophy moral and civil. For natural philosophy proposes to itself, as its noblest work of all, nothing less than the restitution and renovation of things corruptible, and (what is indeed the same thing in a lower degree) the conservation of bodies in the state in which they are, and the retardation of dissolution and putrefaction. Now certainly if this can be effected at all, it cannot be otherwise than by due and exquisite attempering and adjustment of parts in nature, as by the harmony and perfect modulation of a lyre. And yet being a thing of all others the most difficult, it commonly fails of effect; and fails (it may be) from no cause more than from curious and premature meddling and impatience. Then Philosophy finding that her great work is too much for her, in sorrowful mood, as well becomes her, turns to human affairs; and applying her powers of persuasion and eloquence to insinuate into men’s minds the love of virtue and equity and peace, teaches the peoples to assemble and unite and take upon them the yoke of laws and submit to authority, and forget their ungoverned appetites, in listening and conforming to precepts and discipline; whereupon soon follows the building of houses, the founding of cities, the planting of fields and gardens with trees; insomuch that the stones and the woods are not unfitly said to leave their places and come about her. And this application of Philosophy to civil affairs is properly represented, and according to the true order of things, as subsequent to the diligent trial and final frustration of the experiment of restoring the dead body to life. For true it is that the clearer recognition of the inevitable necessity of death sets men upon seeking immortality by merit and renown. Also it is wisely added in the story, that Orpheus was averse from women and from marriage; for the sweets of marriage and the dearness of children commonly draw men away from performing great and lofty services to the commonwealth; being content to be perpetuated in their race and stock, and not in their deeds.

But howsoever the works of wisdom are among human things the most excellent, yet they too have their periods and closes. For so it is that after kingdoms and commonwealths have flourished for a time, there arise perturbations and seditions and wars; amid the uproars of which, first the laws are put to silence, and then men return to the depraved conditions of their nature, and desolation is seen in the fields and cities. And if such troubles last, it is not long before letters also and philosophy are so torn in pieces that no traces of them can be found but a few fragments, scattered here and there like planks from a shipwreck; and then a season of barbarism sets in, the waters of Helicon being sunk under the ground, until, according to the appointed vicissitude of things, they break out and issue forth again, perhaps among other nations, and not in the places where they were before.”

Francis Bacon
Of the Wisdom of the Ancients
1857

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Pan is Dead

Self-portrait , Robert Mapplethorpe, 1985. In several of his self-portraits Robert referenced himself as faun, satyr, Pan

 
 

GODS of Hellas, gods of Hellas,
Can ye listen in your silence?
Can your mystic voices tell us
Where ye hide? In floating islands,
With a wind that evermore
Keeps you out of sight of shore?
Pan, Pan is dead.

In what revels are ye sunken
In old Æthiopia?
Have the Pygmies made you drunken,
Bathing in mandragora
Your divine pale lips that shiver
Like the lotus in the river?
Pan, Pan is dead.

Do ye sit there still in slumber,
In gigantic Alpine rows?
The black poppies out of number
Nodding, dripping from your brows
To the red lees of your wine,—
And so kept alive and fine?
Pan, Pan is dead.

Or lie crushed your stagnant corses
Where the silver spheres roll on,
Stung to life by centric forces
Thrown like rays out from the sun?
While the smoke of your old altars
Is the shroud that round you welters?
Great Pan is dead.

“Gods of Hellas, gods of Hellas,”
Said the old Hellenic tongue!
Said the hero-oaths, as well as
Poets’ songs the sweetest sung!
Have ye grown deaf in a day?
Can ye speak not yea or nay—
Since Pan is dead?

Do ye leave your rivers flowing
All alone, O Naiades,
While your drenchéd locks dry slow in
This cold feeble sun and breeze?—
Not a word the Naiads say,
Though the rivers run for aye.
For Pan is dead.

From the gloaming of the oak-wood,
O ye Dryads, could ye flee?
At the rushing thunderstroke would
No sob tremble through the tree?—
Not a word the Dryads say,
Though the forests wave for aye.
For Pan is dead.

Have ye left the mountain places,
Oreads wild, for other tryst?
Shall we see no sudden faces
Strike a glory through the mist?
Not a sound the silence thrills
Of the everlasting hills.
Pan, Pan is dead.

O twelve gods of Plato’s vision,
Crowned to starry wanderings,—
With your chariots in procession,
And your silver clash of wings!
Very pale ye seem to rise,
Ghosts of Grecian deities,—
Now Pan is dead!

Jove! that right hand is unloaded,
Whence the thunder did prevail,
While in idiocy of godhead
Thou art staring the stars pale!
And thine eagle, blind and old,
Roughs his feathers in the cold.
Pan, Pan is dead.

Where, O Juno, is the glory
Of thy regal look and tread?
Will they lay, for evermore, thee,
On thy dim, straight, golden bed?
Will thy queendom all lie hid
Meekly under either lid?
Pan, Pan is dead.

Ha, Apollo! Floats his golden
Hair all mist-like where he stands,
While the Muses hang enfolding
Knee and foot with faint wild hands?
’Neath the clanging of thy bow,
Niobe looked lost as thou!
Pan, Pan is dead.

Shall the casque with its brown iron
Pallas’ broad blue eyes eclipse,
And no hero take inspiring
From the God-Greek of her lips?
’Neath her olive dost thou sit,
Mars the mighty, cursing it?
Pan, Pan is dead.

Bacchus, Bacchus! on the panther
He swoons,—bound with his own vines!
And his Mænads slowly saunter,
Head aside, among the pines,
While they murmur dreamingly,—
“Evohe—ah—evohe—!
Ah, Pan is dead.

Neptune lies beside the trident,
Dull and senseless as a stone;
And old Pluto deaf and silent
Is cast out into the sun:
Ceres smileth stern thereat,—
“We all now are desolate—
Now Pan is dead.”

Aphrodite! dead and driven
As thy native foam, thou art;
With the cestus long done heaving
On the white calm of thy heart!
Ai Adonis! At that shriek,
Not a tear runs down her cheek—
Pan, Pan is dead.

And the Loves, we used to know from
One another,—huddled lie,
Frore as taken in a snow-storm,
Close beside her tenderly,—
As if each had weakly tried
Once to kiss her as he died.
Pan, Pan is dead.

What, and Hermes? Time enthralleth
All thy cunning, Hermes, thus,—
And the ivy blindly crawleth
Round thy brave caduceus?
Hast thou no new message for us,
Full of thunder and Jove-glories?
Nay! Pan is dead.

Crownéd Cybele’s great turret
Rocks and crumbles on her head:
Roar the lions of her chariot
Toward the wilderness, unfed;
Scornful children are not mute,—
“Mother, mother, walk afoot—
Since Pan is dead.”

In the fiery-hearted centre
Of the solemn universe,
Ancient Vesta,—who could enter
To consume thee with this curse?
Drop thy gray chin on thy knee,
O thou palsied Mystery!
For Pan is dead.

Gods! we vainly do adjure you,—
Ye return nor voice nor sign!
Not a votary could secure you
Even a grave for your Divine!
Not a grave, to show thereby,
Here these gray old gods do lie.
Pan, Pan is dead.

Even that Greece who took your wages,
Calls the obolus outworn;
And the hoarse deep-throated ages
Laugh your godships unto scorn—
And the poets do disclaim you,
Or grow colder if they name you—
And Pan is dead.

Gods bereavéd, gods belated,
With your purples rent asunder!
Gods discrowned and desecrated,
Disinherited of thunder!
Now, the goats may climb and crop
The soft grass on Ida’s top—
Now, Pan is dead.

Calm, of old, the bark went onward,
When a cry more loud than wind,
Rose up, deepened, and swept sunward,
From the piléd Dark behind; 165
And the sun shrank and grew pale,
Breathed against by the great wail,—
“Pan, Pan is dead.”

And the rowers from the benches
Fell,—each shuddering on his face,—
While departing influences
Struck a cold back through the place;
And the shadow of the ship
Reeled along the passive deep—
“Pan, Pan is dead.”

And that dismal cry rose slowly,
And sank slowly through the air,
Full of spirit’s melancholy
And eternity’s despair!
And they heard the words it said,—
“Pan is dead,—Great Pan is dead,—
Pan, Pan is dead.”

’T was the hour when One in Sion
Hung for love’s sake on a cross,—
When his brow was chill with dying,
And his soul was faint with loss;
When his priestly blood dropped downward,
And his kingly eyes looked throneward,—
Then, Pan was dead.

By the love he stood alone in,
His sole Godhead stood complete;
And the false gods fell down moaning,
Each from off his golden seat,—
All the false gods with a cry
Rendered up their deity,—
Pan, Pan was dead.

Wailing wide across the islands,
They rent, vest-like, their divine!
And a darkness and a silence
Quenched the light of every shrine;
And Dodona’s oak swang lonely
Henceforth, to the tempest only.
Pan, Pan was dead.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Introductory to Greece

 

Excited by Friedrich Schiller’s Götter Griechenlands, and partly founded on a well-known tradition mentioned in a treatise of Plutarch (De Oraculorum Defectu), according to which, at the hour of the Saviour’s agony, a cry of “Great Pan is dead!” swept across the waves in the hearing of certain mariners, and the oracles ceased.—Mrs. Browning’s Poems.

According to the Greek historian Plutarch The Obsolescence of Oracles, Pan is the only Greek god (other than Asclepius) who actually dies. During the reign of Tiberius (A.D. 14–37), the news of Pan’s death came to one Thamus, a sailor on his way to Italy by way of the island of Paxi. A divine voice hailed him across the salt water, “Thamus, are you there? When you reach Palodes, take care to proclaim that the great god Pan is dead.” Which Thamus did, and the news was greeted from shore with groans and laments.

Reflektor

“The Orpheus myth is the original love triangle, Romeo and Juliet kind of story. Lyrically, it’s not literally about my life. I feel like I’m kind of a bit of a sponge in a way. Like, if people around me are going through things, I find it very hard not to be empathetic.”
Win Butler

 

Reflektor is the fourth studio album by the Canadian indie rock band Arcade Fire, released on October 28, 2013.

The album’s artwork features an image of Auguste Rodin’s sculpture of Orpheus and Eurydice

 

A poster for Arcade Fire’s “not-so-secret” secret show as The Reflektors at Salsatheque in Montreal

 

Influenced by Haitian rara music, the film Black Orpheus (Marcel Camus, 1959) and Søren Kierkegaard‘s essay, The Present Age, Reflektor‘s release was preceded by a guerrilla marketing campaign inspired by veve drawings, and the release of a limited edition single, Reflektor, credited to the fictional band, The Reflektors, on September 9, 2013.

The eponymous first single was produced by James Murphy, Markus Dravs and the band itself, and features a guest vocal appearance by David Bowie and was released on a limited edition 12″ vinyl credited to the fictional band, The Reflektors. The music video was directed by Anton Corbijn.

 

The music video can be seen on The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook Page:https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228

Gravity’s Rainbow

 

Gravity’s Rainbow is a 1973 novel by American writer Thomas Pynchon. The plot  is complex, containing over 400 characters and involving many different threads of narrative which intersect and weave around one another. The recurring themes throughout the plot are the V-2 rocket, interplay between free will and Calvinistic predestination, breaking the cycle of nature, behavioral psychology, sexuality, paranoia and conspiracy theories such as the Phoebus cartel and the Illuminati.

The novel’s title declares its ambition and sets into resonance the oscillation between doom and freedom expressed throughout the book. An example of the superfluity of meanings characteristic of Pynchon’s work during his early years, Gravity’s Rainbow refers to:

*the parabolic trajectory of a V-2 rocket: the “rainbow-shaped” path created by the missile as it moves under the influence of gravity, subsequent to the engine’s deactivation;
the arc of the plot. Critics such as Weisenburger have found this trajectory to be cyclical or circular, like the true shape of a rainbow. This follows in the literary tradition of James Joyce‘s Finnegans Wake and Herman Melville‘s The Confidence-Man.

*The statistical pattern of impacts from rocket-bombs, invoked frequently in the novel by reference to the Poisson distribution.

*The introduction of randomness into the science of physics through the development of quantum mechanics, breaking the assumption of a deterministic universe.

*The animating effect of mortality on the human imagination.

Pynchon has brilliantly combined German political and cultural history with the mechanisms of paranoia to create an exceedingly complex work of art. The most important cultural figure in Gravity’s Rainbow is not Johann Wolfgang von Goethe or Richard Wagner, however, but Rainer Maria Rilke, Captain Blicero’s favorite poet. In a way, the book could be read as a serio-comic variation on Rilke’s Duino Elegies and their German Romantic echoes in Nazi culture. The “Elegies” begin with a cry: “Who, if I screamed, would hear me among the angelic orders? And even if one of them suddenly pressed me against his heart, I would fade in the strength of his stronger existence. For Beauty is nothing but the beginning of Terror that we’re still just able to bear, and why we adore it is because it serenely disdains to destroy us.”

These lines are hideously amplified in the first words of Pynchon’s novel: “A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.” This sound is the scream of a V-2 rocket hitting London in 1944; it is also the screams of its victims and of those who have launched it. It is a scream of sado-masochistic orgasm, a coming together in death, and this too is an echo and development of the exalted and deathly imagery of Rilke’s poem.

Pynchon’s novel is strung between these first lines of the Duino Elegies and the last: “And we, who have always thought of happiness as climbing or ascending would feel the emotion that almost startles when a happy thing falls.” In Rilke, the “happy thing” is a sign of rebirth amidst the dead calm of winter: a “catkin” hanging from an empty hazel tree or the “rain that falls on the dark earth in early spring.” In Gravity’s Rainbow the “happy thing” that falls is a rocket like the one Blicero has launched toward London in the first pages of the book or the one also launched by Blicero that falls on the reader in the last words of the last page.

The arc of a rocket’s flight is Gravity’s Rainbow–a symbol not of God’s covenant with Noah that He will never again destroy all living things, nor of the inner instinctual wellsprings of life that will rise above the dark satanic mills in D.H. Lawrence‘s novel The Rainbow. Gravity’s Rainbow is a symbol of death: Pynchon’s characters “move forever under [the rocket]. . .as if it were the Rainbow, and they its children.”

 

Little Girl in the Big Ten, twentieth episode of The Simpsons‘ season 13 (May 12, 2002)

Lisa: You’re reading Gravity’s Rainbow?

Brownie: Re-reading it.

 

My Mother the Carjacker, second episode of The Simpson’s season 15 (November 9, 2003)

Mona Simpson read Homer Gravity’s Rainbow as a good night story. After Homer started to sleep Mona said “Thomas Pynchon you are a tough read”, before she also started to sleep

 

Gravity’s Rainbow is a song by the British band Klaxons, from the album Myths of the Near Future (2007). Pat Benatar also released an album called Gravity’s Rainbow after reading Thomas Pynchon’s novel

 

The novel inspired the 1984 song Gravity’s Angel by Laurie Anderson. In her 2004 autobiographical performance The End of the Moon, Anderson said she once contacted Pynchon asking permission to adapt Gravity’s Rainbow as an opera. Pynchon replied that he would allow her to do so only if the opera was written for a single instrument: the banjo. Anderson said she took that as a polite “no.”

 

New York artist Zak Smith created a series of 760 drawings entitled, “One Picture for Every Page of Thomas Pynchon’s Novel Gravity’s Rainbow” (also known by the title Pictures of What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon’s Novel Gravity’s Rainbow)

From Sappho Onwards

Couple saphique allongé, Auguste Rodin, c. 1897

Rodin’s fascination for Sapphic couples, which he shared with Toulouse-Lautrec, Charles Baudelaire, Pierre Louÿs, Paul Verlaine and his predecessor Gustave Courbet, was evident in several of his drawings.

 

“I am sorry to have to ask you to allow me to mention what everybody declares unmentionable. My justification shall be that we may presently be saddled with the moral responsibility for monstrously severe punishments inflicted not only on persons who have corrupted children, but on others whose conduct, however nasty and ridiculous, has been perfectly within their admitted rights as individuals. To a fully occupied person in normal health, with due opportunities for a healthy social enjoyment, the mere idea of the subject of the threatened prosecutions is so expressively disagreeable as to appear unnatural. But everybody does not find it so. There are among us highly respected citizens who have been expelled from public schools for giving effect to the contrary opinion; and there are hundreds of others who might have been expelled on the same ground had they been found out. Greek philosophers, otherwise of unquestioned virtue, have differed with us on the point. So have soldiers, sailors, convicts, and in fact members of all communities deprived of intercourse with women. A whole series of Balzac’s novels turns upon attachments formed by galley slaves for one another – attachments which are represented as redeeming them from utter savagery. Women, from Sappho onwards, have shown that this appetite is not confined to one sex. Now, I do not believe myself to be the only man in England acquainted with these facts. I strongly protest against any journalist writing, as nine out of ten are at this moment dipping their pens to write, as if he had never heard of such things except as vague and sinister rumors concerning the most corrupt phases in the decadence of Babylon, Greece & Rome. I appeal now to the champions of individual rights to join me in a protest against a law by which two adult men can be sentenced to twenty years penal servitude for a private act, freely consented to & desired by both, which concerns themselves alone. There is absolutely no justification for the law except the old theological one of making the secular arm the instrument of God’s vengeance. It is a survival from that discarded system with its stonings and burnings; and it survives because it is so unpleasant that men are loath to meddle with it even with the object of getting rid of it, lest they should be suspected of acting in their personal interest. We are now free to face with the evil of our relic of Inquisition law, and of the moral cowardice, which prevents our getting rid of it. For my own part, I protest against the principle of the law under which the warrants have been issued; and I hope that no attempt will be made to enforce its outrageous penalties in the case of adult men.”

 

George Bernard Shaw

Letter sent  to an editor of a Newspaper

1889

 

An Image to Represent Philosophy

Le Penseur (The Thinker),  by Aguste Rodin. Rodin first conceived the figure as part of another work in 1880, but the first of the familiar monumental bronze castings did not appear until 1904

 

Le Penseur (The Thinker) is a bronze sculpture by Auguste Rodin, usually placed on a stone pedestal. The work shows a nude male figure of over life-size sitting on a rock with his chin resting on one hand as though deep in thought, and is often used as an image to represent philosophy.

 

The Thinker in The Gates of Hell at the Musée Rodin

 

Oginally named Le Poète (The Poet), The Thinker was initially a figure in a large commission, begun in 1880, for a doorway surround called The Gates of Hell. Rodin based this on The Divine Comedy of Dante, and most of the many figures in the work represented the main characters in the epic poem. Some critics believe The Thinker, at the centre of the composition over the doorway and at about 70 cm high larger than most other figures, was originally intended to depict Dante Alighieri at the gates of Hell, pondering his great poem. However, there are questionable aspects to this interpretation, including that the figure is naked, Dante is fully clothed throughout his poem, and that the figure, as used, in no way corresponds to Dante’s effete figure. The sculpture is nude, as Rodin wanted a heroic figure in the tradition of Michelangelo, to represent intellect as well as poetry.

 

Lorenzo de Medici’s tomb

 

This detail from The Gates of Hell was first named The Thinker by foundry workers, who noted its similarity to Michelangelo’s statue of Lorenzo de Medici called Il Pensieroso (The Thinker). Rodin decided to treat the figure as an independent work, at a larger size. The figure was designed to be seen from below, and is normally displayed on a fairly high plinth, though the heights chosen by the various owners for these vary considerably.

Wrapped by Indian Culture

“He was searching for something much higher, much deeper. It does seem like he already had some Indian background in him. Otherwise, it’s hard to explain how he got so attracted to a particular type of life and philosophy, even religion. It seems very strange, really. Unless you believe in reincarnation.”

Ravi Shankar

 

Ravi Shankar and George Harrison

 

By the mid-1960s George Harrison had become an admirer of Indian culture and mysticism, introducing it to the other Beatles. During the filming of Help! (Richard Lester, 1965) in the Bahamas, they met the founder of Sivananda Yoga, Vishnudevananda Saraswati, who gave each of them a signed copy of his book, The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga. Between the end of the last Beatles tour in 1966 and the beginning of the Sgt Pepper recording sessions, he made a pilgrimage to Bombay with his wife Pattie Boyd, where he studied sitar, met several gurus, and visited various holy places. In 1968 he travelled to Rishikesh in northern India with the other Beatles to study meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Harrison’s use of psychedelic drugs encouraged his path to meditation and Hinduism. He commented: “For me, it was like a flash. The first time I had acid, it just opened up something in my head that was inside of me, and I realized a lot of things. I didn’t learn them because I already knew them, but that happened to be the key that opened the door to reveal them. From the moment I had that, I wanted to have it all the time – these thoughts about the yogis and the Himalayas, and Ravi’s music.”

By 1965’s Rubber Soul, Harrison had begun to lead the other Beatles into folk rock through his interest in The Byrds and Bob Dylan, and towards Indian classical music through his use of the sitar on Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown). He later called Rubber Soul his “favourite [Beatles] album”. Revolver (1966) included three of his compositions: Taxman, Love You To and I Want to Tell You. His introduction of the drone-like tambura part on Lennon’s Tomorrow Never Knows exemplified the band’s ongoing exploration of non-Western instruments. The tabla-driven Love You To was the Beatles’ first genuine foray into Indian music. According to the ethnomusicologist David Reck, the song set a precedent in popular music as an example of Asian culture being represented by Westerners respectfully and without parody. Harrison continued to develop his interest in non-Western instrumentation, playing swarmandal on Strawberry Fields Forever.

During the Beatles’ American tour in August 1965, Harrison’s friend David Crosby of The Byrds introduced him to Indian classical music and the work of sitar maestro Ravi Shankar. Harrison described Shankar as “the first person who ever impressed me in my life … and he was the only person who didn’t try to impress me.” Harrison became fascinated with the sitar and immersed himself in Indian music. According to Peter Lavezzoli, Harrison’s introduction of the instrument on the Beatles’ song “Norwegian Wood” “opened the floodgates for Indian instrumentation in rock music, triggering what Shankar would call ‘The Great Sitar Explosion’ of 1966–67”. Lavezzoli described Harrison as “the man most responsible for this phenomenon”.

Living in The Material World

“I’m living in the material world
Living in the material world

can’t say what I’m doing here
But I hope to see much clearer,
After living in the material world

I got born into the material world
Getting worn out in the material world
Use my body like a car,
Taking me both near and far
Met my friends all in the material world

Met them all there in the material world
John and Paul here in the material world
Though we started out quite poor
We got ‘Richie’ on a tour
Got caught up in the material world

From the Spiritual Sky,
Such sweet memories have I
To the Spiritual Sky
How I pray
Yes I pray
That I won’t get lost
Or go astray

As I’m fated for the material world
Get frustrated in the material world
Senses never gratified
Only swelling like a tide
That could drown me in the
Material world

From the Spiritual Sky,
Such sweet memories have I
To the Spiritual Sky
How I pray
Yes I pray
That I won’t get lost
Or go astray

While I’m living in the material world
Not much ‘giving’ in the material world
Got a lot of work to do
Try to get a message through
And get back out of this material world

I’m living in the material world
Living in the material world
I hope to get out of this place
By the LORD SRI KRSNA’S GRACE
My salvation from the material world
Big Ending”

George Harrison

1973

 
 

Photograph of George Harrison chosen for the publicity posters (and for the front cover of the accompanying book) of Living In The Material World. it was taken during the filming for the Beatles movie Help! (Richard Lester, 1965).

In 2007 Martin Scorsese wrote a short cinematographic appreciation of Help! for the book that comes with both the standard and the deluxe DVD box set re-issue of the mentioned film .

 
 

George Harrison: Living in the Material World (Martin Scorsese, 2011) is a documentary film based on the life of Beatles member George Harrison. It earned six nominations at the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards, winning two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Nonfiction Special and Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming.

 
 

The film follows music legend George Harrison’s story from his early life in Liverpool, the Beatlemania phenomenon, his travels to India, the influence of Indian culture in his music, and his relevance and importance as a member of The Beatles. It consists of previously unseen footage and interviews with Olivia and Dhani Harrison, friends, and many others.

After Harrison’s death in 2001, various production companies approached his widow Olivia about producing a film about her late husband’s life. She declined because he had wanted to tell his own life story through his video archive. Upon meeting Scorsese, she gave her blessings and signed on to the film project as a producer.

According to Scorsese, he was attracted to the project because “That subject matter has never left me…The more you’re in the material world, the more there is a tendency for a search for serenity and a need to not be distracted by physical elements that are around you. His music is very important to me, so I was interested in the journey that he took as an artist. The film is an exploration. We don’t know. We’re just feeling our way through.”

Throughout 2008 and 2009, Scorsese alternated working between Shutter Island and the documentary.

To watch the trailer, please, take a gander at The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228?ref=hl

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

 
 

While My Guitar Gently Weeps is a song written by George Harrison, first recorded by The Beatles in 1968 for their eponymous double album (also known as The White Album). The song features a lead guitar solo by Eric Clapton, although he was not formally credited on the album. While My Guitar Gently Weeps is ranked at number 136 on Rolling Stone‍ ‘​s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”, number 7 on the magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time, and number 10 on its list of The Beatles 100 Greatest Songs.

Inspiration for the song came to Harrison when reading the I Ching, which, as Harrison put it, “seemed to me to be based on the Eastern concept that everything is relative to everything else… opposed to the Western view that things are merely coincidental.” Taking this idea of relativism to his parents’ home in northern England, Harrison committed to write a song based on the first words he saw upon opening a random book. Those words were “gently weeps”, and he immediately began writing the song. As he said:

“I wrote While My Guitar Gently Weeps at my mother’s house in Warrington. I was thinking about the Chinese I Ching, the Book of Changes… The Eastern concept is that whatever happens is all meant to be, and that there’s no such thing as coincidence — every little item that’s going down has a purpose.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps was a simple study based on that theory. I decided to write a song based on the first thing I saw upon opening any book — as it would be relative to that moment, at that time. I picked up a book at random, opened it, saw ‘gently weeps’, then laid the book down again and started the song.”

The I Ching has had a lasting influence on both East and West. In the West, it attracted the attention of intellectuals as early as the days of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, and in English translation, it had notable impact on 1960s counterculture figures such as Philip K. Dick, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, John Cage, Jorge Luis Borges, I.M. Pei and Herman Hesse. Carl Jung wrote of the book, “Even to the most biased eye, it is obvious that this book represents one long admonition to careful scrutiny of one’s own character, attitude, and motives.”

 

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Viewing the Distant and The Inner Light

VIEWING THE DISTANT

1. “Without passing out of the gate
The world’s course I prognosticate.
Without peeping through the window
The heavenly Reason I contemplate.
The further one goes,
The less one knows.”

2. Therefore the holy man does not travel, and yet he has knowledge. He does not see things, and yet he defines them. He does not labor, and yet he completes.

Tao Te Ching (Chapter 47)

Attributed to Laozi

 
 

 
 

The Inner Light is a song written by George Harrison that was first released by The Beatles as a B-side to Lady Madonna. It was the first Harrison composition to be featured on a Beatles single. The lyrics are a rendering of the 47th chapter (sometimes titled Viewing the Distant in translations) of the Taoist Tao Te Ching. An instrumental alternate take was released in 2014 on George Harrison’s Wonderwall Music remastered CD as a bonus track.

In his autobiography I, Me, Mine, Harrison writes that the song was inspired by a letter from Juan Mascaró, a Sanskrit scholar at Cambridge University, who sent him a copy of his book Lamps of Fire (a wide-ranging anthology of religious writings, including some from the Tao Te Ching) and asked him: “… might it not be interesting to put into your music a few words of Tao, for example number 48, page 66 of the book.” Harrison states: “In the original poem, the verse says ‘Without going out of my door, I can know the ways of heaven.’ And so to prevent any misinterpretations — and also to make the song a bit longer — I did repeat that as a second verse but made it: “Without going out of your door / You can know all things on earth / Without looking out of your window / You can know the ways of heaven” — so that it included everybody”. The passage Harrison refers to, however, corresponds to what English translations normally number as “47”, rather than “48”. D. C. Lau’s translation of the Tao Te Ching 47, for example, states: “Without stirring abroad / One can know the whole world / Without looking out of the window / One can see the way of heaven.”

A Symbol of Non-Violence Ideology

Man putting flower in National Guard gun

 
 

Flower power was a slogan used during the late 1960s and early 1970s as a symbol of passive resistance and non-violence ideology. It is rooted in the opposition movement to the Vietnam War. The expression was coined by the American beat poet Allen Ginsberg in 1965 as a means to transform war protests into peaceful affirmative spectacles. Hippies embraced the symbolism by dressing in clothing with embroidered flowers and vibrant colors, wearing flowers in their hair, and distributing flowers to the public, becoming known as flower children. The term later became generalized as a modern reference to the hippie movement and the so-called counterculture of drugs, psychedelic music, psychedelic art and social permissiveness.

Flower Power originated in Berkeley, California as a symbolic action of protest against the Vietnam War. In his November 1965 essay titled How to Make a March/Spectacle, Ginsberg advocated that protesters should be provided with “masses of flowers” to hand out to policemen, press, politicians and spectators. The use of props like flowers, toys, flags, candy and music were meant to turn anti-war rallies into a form of street theater thereby reducing the fear, anger and threat that is inherent within protests. In particular, Ginsberg wanted to counter the “specter” of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang who supported the war, equated war protesters with communists and had threatened to violently disrupt planned anti-war demonstrations at the University of California, Berkeley. Using Ginsberg’s methods, the protest received positive attention and the use of “flower power” became an integral symbol in the counterculture movement.

 
 

George Harrison, Pattie Boyd, Derek Taylor and others in San Francisco, 1967

 
 

Hippies in Haight Ashbury

 
 

The iconic center of the Flower Power movement was the Haight Ashbury district in San Francisco, California. By the mid-1960s, the area, marked by the intersection of Haight and Ashbury Streets, had become a focal point for psychedelic rock music. At the end of summer 1967, The Diggers (a street theater group who combined spontaneous street theater with anarchistic action and art happenings) declared the “death” of the hippie movement and burned an effigy of a hippie in Golden Gate Park.

All Things Pass

 
 

ALL THINGS PASS

(Homage to Lao Tzu)

“All things pass

A sunrise does not last all morning

All things pass

A cloudburst does not last all day
All things pass
Nor a sunset all night

But Earth… sky… thunder…
wind… fire… lake…
mountain… water…
These always change

And if these do not last
Do man’s visions last?
Do man’s illusions ?

Take things as they come
All things pass”

Timothy Leary

 
 

All Things Must Pass is a song by English musician George Harrison, issued in November 1970 as the title track to his triple album of the same name. Billy Preston released the song originally – as All Things (Must) Pass – on his Apple Records album Encouraging Words (1970), after the Beatles had rejected it for inclusion on their Let It Be album in January 1969. The composition reflects the influence of the Band’s sound and communal music-making on Harrison, after he had spent time with the group in Woodstock, New York, in late 1968, while Timothy Leary‘s poem All Things Pass, a psychedelic adaptation of the Tao Te Ching, provided inspiration for his song lyrics.

While discussing All Things Must Pass with music journalist Timothy White in 1987, Harrison recalled that his “starting point” for the composition was Robertson’s The Weight – a song that had “a religious and a country feeling to it”.

In his 1980 autobiography, I Me Mine, Harrison refers to the idea for the song originating from “all kinds of mystics and ex-mystics”, including Leary. Like later Harrison compositions such as Here Comes the Sun, So Sad and Blow Away, the lyrical and emotional content is based around metaphors involving the weather and the cycle of nature.

Although All Things Must Pass avoids religiosity, Allison writes that its statement on the “all-inclusive” transience of things in the material world explains why so much of its 1970 parent album, All Things Must Pass, “finds hope and meaning only in God, who does not pass away”.

The subject matter deals with the transient nature of human existence, and in Harrison’s All Things Must Pass reading, words and music combine to reflect impressions of optimism against fatalism. On release, together with Barry Feinstein‘s album cover image, commentators viewed the song as a statement on the Beatles’ break-up. Widely regarded as one of Harrison’s finest compositions, its rejection by his former band has provoked comment from biographers and reviewers. Music critic Ian MacDonald described “All Things Must Pass” as “the wisest song never recorded by The Beatles”, while author Simon Leng considers it “perhaps the greatest solo Beatle composition”. The recording was co-produced by Phil Spector in London; it features an orchestral arrangement by John Barham and contributions from musicians such as Ringo Starr, Pete Drake, Bobby Whitlock, Eric Clapton and Klaus Voormann.

 
 

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This Too Shall Pass

George Harrison flipping the “bird”. Photo by Aaron Rapoport

 
 

این نیز بگذرد‎is an adage indicating that all material conditions, positive or negative, are temporary. The phrase seems to have originated in the writings of the medieval Persian Sufi poets, and is often attached to a fable of a great king who is humbled by the simple words. Some versions of the fable, beginning with that of Sanai and Attar of Nishapur, add the detail that the phrase is inscribed on a ring, which has the ability to make the happy man sad and the sad man happy. Jewish folklore often describes Solomon as giving or receiving the phrase. The adage and associated fable were popular in the first half of the 19th century, appearing in a collection of tales by the English poet Edward Fitzgerald (Polonius: A Collection of Wise Saws and Modern Instances). On September 30, 1859, Abraham Lincoln included a similar story in an address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society in Milwaukee:

 

It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!

Art of Dying

Psychedelic portrait of George Harrison. Richard Avedon, 1967

 

“There’ll come a time when all of us must leave here
Then nothing sister Mary can do
Will keep me here with you
As nothing in this life that I’ve been trying
Could equal or surpass the art of dying
Do you believe me?

There’ll come a time when all your hopes are fading
When things that seemed so very plain
Become an awful pain
Searching for the truth among the lying
And answered when you’ve learned the art of dying

But you’re still with me
But if you want it
Then you must find it
But when you have it
There’ll be no need for it

There’ll come a time when most of us return here
Brought back by our desire to be
A perfect entity
Living through a million years of crying
Until you’ve realized the Art of Dying
Do you believe me?”

 

Art of Dying is a song by English musician George Harrison, released on his 1970 triple album All Things Must Pass. It was written in 1966–67 when Harrison first became immersed in Hindu spirituality, and its subject matter is reincarnation – the “art” in question being the need to avoid rebirth, by limiting actions and thoughts whose consequences lead to one’s soul returning in another, earthbound life form. The song was co-produced by Phil Spector and features a hard-charging rock arrangement that has been described as “proto-disco”. The backing musicians include Eric Clapton and the rest of the latter’s short-lived band Derek and the Dominos, as well as Gary Wright, Billy Preston and a teenage Phil Collins playing the congas.

For the last 30 or more years of his life, George Harrison repeatedly identified his first experience of taking the hallucinogenic drug LSD, with John Lennon and their wives, as being responsible for his interest in spirituality and Hinduism. The “trip” occurred by accident in February 1965, and he later recalled a thought coming to his mind during the experience: “‘Yogis of the Himalayas.’ I don’t know why … It was like somebody was whispering to me: ‘Yogis of the Himalayas.'” But it was a visit in August 1967 to the epicentre of hippie conterculturalism, San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, that then persuaded him to abandon LSD and pursue a spiritual path through meditation.

The mention of “Sister Mary” refers to the Catholic faith in which Harrison had been brought up as a child. Speaking to author Peter Doggett, Harrison’s sister Louise qualified his embracing of Hinduism with regard to his upbringing: “Our family were Catholics, but we always had a global outlook. We were spiritual, not religious as such. George didn’t change as a person after he went to India [in 1966] …”

Rather than Sister Mary, Harrison’s original lyric named “Mr Epstein” – the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein. Given this reference to Epstein, author Bruce Spizer has speculated that Harrison was “contemplating life after the Beatles” as early as mid 1966, since “most of the song’s original verses recognize that even Mr. Epstein won’t be able to keep the group together or help out when it’s over …”

As Harrison explains in his autobiography, I, Me, Mine, in most cases one’s soul does not in fact “leave here” after death, due to the karmic debt, or “load”, accrued through actions and thoughts carried out in one’s lifetime

The mention of “a million years of crying” is a reference to the endless cycle of rebirth associated with reincarnation, where the soul repeatedly fails to leave the material world and attain nirvana, otherwise known as moksha.

Since Harrison’s death in November 2001, the lyrics of Art of Dying have been much quoted as a comment on the nature of human existence.