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Henri Bergson on time, perception and memory and Ramon del Valle-Inclan's la lampara maravillosa.

In a 1908 essay about the painter Julio Romero de Torres, the Spanish author Ramon del Valle-Inclan (1866-1936) extols the painter's ability to express "un oculto ritmo de emocion y de armonia" that he claims is central to aesthetic pleasure. Valle-Inclan then attributes the harmony and emotion of Romero's painting to an expression of truth that is accessed through memory:

   Este gran pintor, emotivo y consciente, sabe que para ser
   perpetuada por el arte no es la verdad aquello que un momento esta
   ante la vista, sino lo que perdura en el recuerdo. Yo suelo
   expresar en una frase este concepto estetico, que conviene por
   igual a la pintura y la literatura. Nada es como es, sino como se
   recuerda. (1) (1497)

Valle-Inclan's essay appeared as one of a series of art criticai essays about painters and paintings written by the author about the Exhibicion de Bellas Artes (1908) and in which he extols the virtues of Romero and other symbolist painters against the impressionist painters, primarily Joaquin Sorolla and his school. In arguing for a truth that moves beyond the perceptual present, Valle-Inclan once and again refers to memory as a means to access the eternal, a harmony that transcends time or a quietude that is more intense than life itself. Valle-Inclan's references to memory and its powers in his writings from this period are so extensive that Leda Schiavo has argued that they form what she terms "la estetica del recuerdo."

The precept cited above, "Nada es como es sino como se recuerda," was incorporated into La lampara maravillosa, Valle-Inclan's aesthetic treatise published in 1916. (2) Subtitled "spiritual exercises," the treatise traces, in the manner of Ignatius of Loyola's exercises, the journey of the narrator to aesthetic enlightenment in 7 chapters, organized as a ring structure in which the textual center, chapter 4, is surrounded by pairs of chapters (1-7, 2-6 and 3-5). (3) Identified in the text as a pilgrim-poet, the narrator refers repeatedly to concentric circles that open successively, like the rings that open when a rock is thrown into a body of water, as an image for the working of memory. (4) The structure of La lampara follows this image.

In this essay, I am interested primarily in chapter two, suggestively entitled "El anillo de Giges," in which the narrator presents detailed and presumably autobiographical vignettes that illustrate his artistic awakening, (5) each followed by a gloss that serves as summary to the lesson illustrated in the particular section. In these vignettes, Valle-Inclan borrows concepts from his contemporary, Henri Bergson (1859-1941), to illustrate how his narrator accesses ever deepening levels of memory that allow him to break out of a "carcel del tiempo," a prison of time understood chronologically and, thus, ordered by the logic of cause and effect.

The chapter's title suggests a relationship to the story of Gyges included in Herodotus' Histories and in book II of Plato's Republic. (6) However, whereas in these texts the ring and the powers of invisibility that it affords its wearer are used to question whether perfect injustice, such as that potentially allowed by the ring, is always more profitable to an individual than justice, in Valle-Inclan's chapter, the ring serves as a talisman and image for how memory allows one to extend the "are" of the past to the present and future and, thus, make a closed circle of one's past and future experiences (Garlitz 144). (7) As we will see, this is the direct reference Valle-Inclan makes to Gyges in the final gloss to the chapter. Instead of allowing the subject to be invisible, Valle-Inclan's Ring of Gyges allows its subject to see through the mutable world, through the perceptual changes Sorolla attempted to capture in his canvasses, to the immutable real as expressed in memory. It is in this theory of knowledge as anamnesis or recollection that Valle-Inclan most clearly recalls Plato.

The interplay between time, memory and perception that Valle-Inclan develops shares remarkable affinities to the theory that Henri Bergson develops in his early texts, Time and Free Will (1889) and Matter and Memory (1896). Further, although the rich, poetic tone of Valle-Inclan's aesthetic treatise differs greatly from the explanatory, more openly didactic tone of Bergson, in addition to theoretical parallels, the texts have methodological points in common. There is important scholarship on Bergson's influence in Spain at the beginning of the century, especially with regard to the work of Antonio Machado, who attended Bergson's lectures in Paris, Miguel de Unamuno and Jose Ortega y Gasset, among others. (8) Benjamin Fraser has published recently Encounters with Bergson(ism) in Spain: Reconciling Philosophy, Literature, Film and Urban Space (2010) in which he considers the effects of Bergson's writings and "Bergsonism" across the twentieth century. Fraser does not discuss the works of Valle-Inclan, however. In "Tras la huella de Bergson: Fundamentos para un estudio del intuicionismo en Valle-Inclan," Rosario Mascato Rey carefully contextualizes the relation between Valle-Inclan and Bergson. Although it is doubtful that the two ever met, Valle-Inclan's library ineludes four of Bergson's works, Bergson's philosophy was of great interest in intellectual circles in which Valle-Inclan played a fundamental role during the first decades of the century, and authors who were contemporaries of Valle-Inclan described aspects of Valle-Inclan's works in terms of Bergson. (9) Many scholars have mentioned connections between the two authors, but, outside of the work of Mascato Rey and one other literary critic, Emiliano Bellini, there have been no full-scale studies. (10)

Reading Valle-Inclan's La lampara maravillosa through the lens of Bergson's early texts elucidates the central function of time, memory and perception to Valle-Inclan's aesthetic theory. Rosalyn Kraus has written that modernism imagines two perceptual orders that are tied to vision: the first is "empirical vision, the object as it is seen, the object bounded by its contours, the object modernism spurns" and the second "that of the formal conditions of the possibility of vision itself, the level at which pure form operates as a principie of coordination, unity, structure: visible but unseen" (The Optical Unconscious, cited in Crary 46). In his discussion of Kraus' distinction, Jonathan Crary remarks that temporality is excluded from the latter. Modernist vision, with its "all-atoneness," is founded on the cancellation of the empirical conditions of perception, including the experience of successiveness (46). At first glance, Valle-Inclan's aesthetics seem to be firmly enmeshed in this modernist mode. However, although Valle-Inclan's text makes numerous references to stasis and to the eternal, and has aesthetic quietude as a stated goal, I argue that, like Bergson, Valle-Inclan returns temporality to perception through his invocation of memory. This temporality is not simple chronology, but rather is based in a qualitative experience of time. Memory, for both authors, does not exist as a static entity that is stored in the mind or consciousness, but rather exists virtually to be enacted in the perceptual present. As we will see, Bergson understands aesthetic experience to be paradigmatic of our inner experience. For Valle-Inclan, access to this inner experience, an experience that exists outside of time understood chronologically, is both necessary to and the goal of artistic expression.

Valle-Inclan and Bergson on Time

In "Gnosis," the brief, introductory first chapter of La lampara maravillosa, the narrator, who is identified in the text as both pilgrim and poet, draws a distinction between meditation and contemplation: (11) "La Meditacion es aquel enlace de razonamientos por donde se llega a una verdad, y la Contemplacion es la misma verdad deducida cuando se hace sustancia nuestra, olvidado el camino que enlaza razones a razones y pensamientos con pensamientos" (1907). He continues to delineate the limitations of meditation, which requires a focus on objects separately and in themselves, and whose mode is chronologic, "de la sustancia misma de las horas" (1907). Contemplation, on the other hand, is valued as an intuition of and communication with the "All," a "Creative Soul" which lies beyond time. (12) The narrator begins the Lampara by introducing the problem of chronologic time, the mode limited by the logic of cause and effect in which "reason is intertwined with reason," and contrasting it with that which cannot be expressed by human reason. (13)

The distinction between the two experiences of time that characterize meditation and contemplation mirrors that made by Henri Bergson in Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness. Bergson demonstrates how we commonly use expressions of quantity, which he will link to chronology, to describe that which we experience qualitatively: while quantity allows for differences in kind, quality pertains to differences in degree, "the first extensive and measurable, the second intensive and not admitting of measure, but of which it can nevertheless be said that it is greater or less than another intensity" (Time 3). Bergson presents many examples to illustrate the confusion between quantity and quality, one of which concerns, for example, the difference between the concept of brightness and that of light. While light is an object that exists in the external world and, thus, can be measured or quantified, brightness is concerned with the effect that light has on us and, thus, its quality. Although we mistakenly may refer to changes in the intensity of light with its effect on perception, when we do so, we mistake the cause with the effect (Guerlac 54). (14)

Although thinking in terms of quality allows for a focus on one's inner state, which Bergson characterizes as radically temporal, thinking in terms of quantity is spatialized. It is at this point that Valle-Inclan's distinction between meditation and contemplation comes into play. Like those processes involved with meditation, thinking in terms of quantity depends on a succession of objects in space. Bergson again presents various examples, one of which concerns an attempt to count individual sheep within a flock: in order to do so, the sheep are considered a homogenous whole made up of equivalent units which are situated in an imagined space: "In order that the number should go on increasing in proportion as we advance, we must retain the successive images and set them alongside each of the new units which we picture to ourselves: now it is in space that such a juxtaposition take place" (Time 76). Even though we think that we are counting in time, the temporal process has been spatialized and the two processes confused: "[T]ime, conceived under the form of a homogeneous medium, is some spurious concept, due to the trespassing of the idea of space upon the field of pure consciousness" (Time 98). Guerlac summarizes Bergson's claim: "Any clear idea of number implies a vision in space [...] Counting requires juxtaposition, juxtaposition implies simultaneity, and simultaneity presupposes space" (62). In Bergson's view, the juxtaposition within homogeneous space that we find in counting also occurs generally in other processes that involve symbolic thinking and are the product of what he terms our "reflective consciousness," that aspect of consciousness that objectifies experience through language, logic or other means of representation, each a process that Valle-Inclan associates with meditation.

If quantity has to do with things that exist in space, quality has to do with inner affective states whose elements are radically heterogeneous, interpenetrating and fused together. In Time and Free Will Bergson uses "pity" to illustrate the concept. An affective state in which one puts oneself "mentally in the place of others," pity corresponds initially to a sense of horror or dread. This initial response acquires increasing intensity "in a qualitative progress, in a transition from repugnance to fear, from fear to sympathy, and from sympathy itself to humility" (Time 18). These states are not separable but rather interpenetrate, moving indistinguishably one to the next. A mode not of our reflective consciousness but rather what Bergson terms our "immediate consciousness," qualitative experience is the manner in which we experience something directly, "before we stop and think about it, try to communicate it to someone, or represent it symbolically in any way" (Guerlac 62).

Time perceived qualitatively does not concern space but rather is a radical force that Bergson identifies as Pure Duration, "the form which the succession of our conscious States assumes when our ego lets itself live, when it refrains from separating its present state from its former States" (Time 100; emphasis Bergson). Bergson uses melody as a figure to illustrate temporal flow within duration. Were we to "interrupt the rhythm [of melody] by dwelling longer than is right on one note of the tune, it is not its exaggerated length, as length, which will warn us of our mistake, but the qualitative change thereby caused in the whole of the musical phrase" (Time 100). In duration, Bergson concludes, we think "succession without distinction" as an "interconnection and organization of elements, each one of which represents the whole" (Time 101). Once we attempt to distinguish the parts, we enter into abstraction and the processes of our reflective consciousness. In its focus on the experience of succession within an undifferentiated whole, Bergson's immediate consciousness points to Valle-Inclan's understanding of contemplation as a process which allows for "infused" experiences: "una vista sincera y dulce, sin reflexion ni razonamiento" (1907). The narrator's "infused" experience depends on a temporality that is not spatialized and thus cannot be reduced to chronology.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given their shared interest in inner experience within an undifferentiated whole, the two authors share a recognition of the limits to this experience imposed by language. (15) Bergson writes that when our qualitative experience is expressed in language it becomes fundamentally other; we "solidify" our impressions when we express them in language: "[W]e confuse the feeling itself, which is in a perpetual state of becoming, with its permanent external object, and especially with the word which expresses this object" (Time 130). If in their natural state, our sensations interpenetrate one within the other in a heterogeneous whole, when we express them in language we abstract from this fluid state.

Agreeing that language fundamentally changes experience, Valle-Inclan's narrator concludes in the final paragraph of "Gnosis": "El mas sutil enlace de palabras es como un camino de orugas que se desenvelven ateridas bajo un rayo de sol" (1907). In the second section of the "Anillo de Giges" chapter, the narrator attempts to give form to interior feelings and sensations that he characterizes in a symbolist register as "algo muy vago, muy lejano, que habia quedado en los nervios como la risa, como las lagrimas, como la memoria oscura de los suenos, como un perfume sutil y misterioso que solo se percibe en el primer momento que se aspira" (1910). These sensations dissipate when he attempts to give them "substance." As the narrator remarks in the gloss with which the section ends, "El poeta solamente tiene algo suyo que revelar [...] cuando la palabra es impotente para la expresion de sus sensaciones" (1911).

The two authors present Solutions to the problem of language that are similar in methodology if very different in tone. For example, it is not possible for Bergson to define precisely what he understands by duration. He can illustrate through analogy, as he does in the example of melody, but given his understanding of limitations to language, he cannot use language to fully describe this temporal flow without making it fundamentally other. Bergson relies on numerous examples to introduce and illustrate aspects of his theory, or as Guerlac understands it, to present "scenes with multiple valences that anticipate the ideas he will eventually deploy" (63). Although Valle-Inclan's examples in "Anillo de Giges" are presumably autobiographical vignettes, their effect, like that of Bergson's examples, is to introduce concepts through elaborate illustration. It is only after their full and detailed presentation that the narrator presents the concept, often as a gloss with which the section ends, as we saw above.

Valle-Inclan does not refer to duration in La lampara maravillosa. That said, in "El anillo de Giges" the narrator problematizes time understood as chronology and uses language that resonates with Bergson's discussion of duration to direct the reader to his aesthetic goals. In section six, for example, the narrator underlines his status as both poet and pilgrim to exhort his soul (and, by extension, that of the reader): "haz por comprender el misterio de las horas por persuadirte de que no fluyen y que siempre perdura el mismo momento" (1918). (16) At first glance the stasis to which the narrator refers appears to be opposed to Bergson's duration, but, as we will see, the two conceptions of time as experienced internally and as "enduring" share important points of contact.

In recounting his artistic awakening in "Anillo de Giges," Valle-Inclan's narrator presents three experiences that are concerned centrally with time. The first vignette recounts a vision of a valley he knew as a child when seen as an adult from the summit above, a vision in which his prior "conocimiento cronologico" is replaced by a "comprension ciclica" (1913). Returning home late from a journey, the narrator comments that "ibamos tan cimeros que los valles se aparecian lejanos, miniados, intensos con el translucido de los esmaltes" (1912). The experience is clearly visual but as the narrator describes what he experiences spatially, the focus moves beyond the component parts to express how the individual roads are brought into a whole that includes the valley as well as the narrator from his mountain vantage. The narrator realizes, suddenly, that he knows the paths traversing the fields and pastures: "las encrucijadas abiertas en medio del campo, los vados de los arroyos, las sombras de los cercados" (1912). His prior experience of these paths is revealed "en una cifra, consumado en el regazo de los valles," in which the past is brought to the present. The comprehension of the whole, literally the "regazo" of this land opening out as circular valley, is transformed into a temporal eyele that contains both past and present. Happy in the "extasis de la suma", the narrator also believes his soul to be "desligada. " The gloss at the end of the episode highlights this now temporal circularity: "El extasis es el goce de ser cautivo en el circulo de una emocion tan pura, que aspira a ser eterna" (1913).

In a second vignette, the narrator recounts what he refers to as a mystical experience occasioned by the light shining through the rose Windows of the Cathedral de Leon: "Ame la luz como la esencia de mi mismo, las horas dejaron de ser la sustancia eternamente transformada por la intuicion carnal de los sentidos, y bajo el arco de la otra vida, despojado de la conciencia humana, penetre cubierto con la luz del extasis" (1913). This "other life" is revealed as the "Alma del Mundo" into which he transmigrates once stripped of his human consciousness. Referring to the limitations of language discussed above, the narrator claims that this experience generates an emotion that cannot be "cifrada," coded in words: "Las palabras son engendradas por nuestra vida de todas las horas, donde las imagenes cambian como las estrellas en las largas rutas del mar" (1914).

Contrasting the ecstatic experience of time characterized by his experience in the Cathedral to that found in the "vida de todas las horas," the narrator acknowledges that a soul "extenta de mudanza" (1914) denies a quality essential to life. Nonetheless, he defines this quietude as the "ilusion fundamental" of ecstasy, a "momento unico en que las horas no fluyen y el antes y el despues se juntan como las manos para rezar" (1914). Like Bergson who argues for attention to our inner life with its qualitative apprehension of temporal flow, Valle-Inclan's narrator calls for an experience of quietude in which stasis is illusory but necessary to counteract the effects of Time when reduced to chronology.

A third vignette begins with a lengthy introduction in which the narrator confesses that before experiencing aesthetic quietude, he passed through "una aridez muy grande, siempre acongojado por la sensacion del movimiento": "Halle y goce como un pecado mistico la mudanza de las formas y el fluir del Tiempo" (1914). He contrasts this experience with the perspective gained after he breaks the "normas del Tiempo" (1915). Comparing himself to a shipwrecked St. James who escapes the sea with his chain mail covered by conch shells, the narrator, in contemplating the shell's spiral form, realizes that "los instantes se abrian como circulos de largas vidas," an expansiveness that opens up new modes of perception: "Cada grano de la espiga, cada pajaro de la bandada, descubrian mis ojos el matiz de sus diferencias, inconfundibles y expresivos [...] Yo conocia fuera de la razon utilitaria, transmigraba amorosamente en la conciencia de las cosas y rompia las Normas" (1915). Realizing that each instant opened out into a "circle of a lengthy life," the narrator is allowed an experience outside of "utilitarian reason" that suggests the type of interpenetration of sensation that characterizes heterogeneity within duration.

In an extended description notable for circular images that open from a center point, the narrator recounts the experience that allows for this transformation. From the vantage point of his orchard at dusk, the narrator contemplates fishing ships arriving to port as he sits overlooking the sea. He follows seagulls as they trace a circle in the sky around the ship's sails, recognizing them one by one "no solo en el plumaje, sino en el secreto de su instinto, por cansadas, por viejas, por hambrientas, por feroces" (1915). Expressing a sympathy to differences referred to above, the narrator once again experiences a wholeness, a "suma" not unlike the unity expressed as a "regazo" formed by the valley as it stretches back through time that we saw in a previous example. He recalls: "Bajo las tintas del ocaso estaba la tarde quieta, dormida, eterna. El color y la forma de las nubes eran la evocacion de los momentos anteriores, ninguno habia pasado, todos se sumaban en el ultimo" (1915). Although the image unfolds spatially, it suggests temporal flow within duration in which boundaries between clouds are non-existent and each melds into the next in an image of what Bergson has termed "succession without distinction" (101). The narrator concludes: "Mi vida y todas las vidas se descomponian por volver a su primer instante, depuradas del Tiempo" (1916).

In section VI of "Anillo de Giges," the narrator uses an image similarly fluid when referring to new wine joining old within an amphora, an icon of classical symmetry and aesthetic perfection, to further Alustrate temporal flow (Bellini 375). Exhorting his soul to form a circle of his emotions, the narrator urges: "Descubre la norma de amor o de quietud que te haga centro" (1917). The action of creating a whole out of one's emotions or feelings, or centering oneself in quietude within that circle, is repeated several times in this chapter and the text as a whole. (17) Clearly central to Valle-Inclan's aesthetics, it provides access to another way of experiencing time that moves outside of the "norm," the conception of time experienced as chronology, in language and contained by the logic of cause and effect. The circular image is expanded by Valle-Inclan's narrator in the final sentence of the section. Utilizing a simile that is repeated several times in the treatise, the narrator explains: "Que sean tus emociones como los circulos abiertos por la piedra en el cristal del agua, y que en la ultima se contenga toda tu Vida" (1918). While reiterating the need to be a center, the concentric circles opening out from this center incorporate the workings of memory.

In successive sections of "Anillo de Giges" we find a series of images that reiterate several key concepts found in Bergson's early texts that are returned to and further developed in later chapters of La lampara:18 after establishing that within our reflective consciousness we are bound by the norms of chronology, Valle-Inclan introduces images of succession without distinction (clouds gathering in the sky at sunset, new wine mixing with oid in an amphora) and posits that the manner to experience the quietude and unity that results from moving outside norms (of chronology) is to discover that which "te haga centro," that allows you to experience the "illusion" of a qualitative temporality, expressed here as the quietude that is central to ecstatic experience and in which life is experienced not as discrete moments but as a continuous whole. As we will see, the eternal circles that Valle-Inclan's narrator envisions result from the interaction of perception and memory, an interaction that is also central to Bergson's theory.

Valle-Inclan and Bergson's "Magic Mirror": Perception, Attention and Memory

For both Valle-Inclan and Bergson, perception and memory are fundamentally tied together. In the first lines of Matter and Memory, Bergson remarks: "Here I am in the presence of images, in the vaguest sense of the word, images perceived when my senses are opened to them, unperceived when they are closed" (Matter 17). Bergson allows for a gap between material images and our perception of them, and, as a result, our perception of objects unfolds in time and is necessarily incomplete. However, were we to perceive objects instantaneously and in their totality, we would possess "Pure Perception," a hypothetical concept that represents "the dream of an inhuman immediacy" in which reality and our perception of it coincide (Crary 316). Bergson explains: "By this [Pure Perception] I mean a perception which exists in theory rather than in fact and would be possessed by a being placed where I am, living as I live, but absorbed in the present and capable, by giving up every form of memory, of obtaining a vision of matter both immediate and instantaneous" (Matter 34). Because there is no such instantaneous vision, temporality intercedes and perception, always incomplete, is tied to memory. Perception, Bergson posits, is "merely an occasion for remembering" (Matter 66). The vignettes recounted by Valle-Inclan's narrator in "Anillo de Giges," rich in sensory detail, describe how he was able to break the "normas del Tiempo" and experience the ecstatic unity of a whole. At key points in the chapter these experiences are tied explicitly to memory.

If, for Bergson, perception is tied to the present and is material, memory is subjective and anchored to a past that is purely representational. Guerlac explains that the present is "radically different from the past" (122): "Memory refers us to the past, which no longer acts, and is therefore purely idea" (122). Perception activates memory and depends on it to determine action. Bergson distinguishes two types of memory: habit memory, tied to the more or less automatic response of the body, and image memory, the virtual, spontaneous imprint of events from our daily life: "[image memory] neglects no detail, it leaves to each fact, to each gesture, its place and date. Regardless of utility or of practical application, it stores up the past by the mere necessity of its own nature" (.Matter 81). Unlike habit memory, which helps to determine action in the present, image memory allows for the "recognition of perception already experienced" and is marked by a "shift" in which attention gives up "a useful end" (Matter 81). Functionally similar to Valle-Inclan's goal of quietude, attentive recognition allows us to "withdraw ourselves from the action of the moment" and to "value the useless" (Matter 83):

Let's suppose that attention implies a turning back of the mind, which gives up pursuing any useful end of the present perception: there will be at first an inhibition of movement, a pause. But rapidly, other, more subtle movements will graft themselves onto this attitude [...] whose role it is to go over the contours of the perceived object. With these movements the positive work of attention begins, and not just the negative work. It is continued by memories. (Matter 101)

Attentive recognition, then, allows for the exchange between perceptual object and memory that moves beyond the "useful ends" of perception.

Bergson compares the exchange between perception and memory to that of an electrical circuit in which "all the elements, including the perceived object itself, hold each other in a state of mutual tension [...] so that no disturbance starting from the object can stop on its way and remain in the depths of the mind" (Matter 104). The circuit traced by attention is so well defined that "we cannot pass to states of higher concentration without creating, whole and entire, so many new circuits which envelop the first and have nothing in common between them but the perceived object" (Matter 104). Visually similar to the image of a rock opening concentric circles in a body of water that we find in the Lampara, in Bergson's image circles of memory also open out from the perceptual object: "the smallest, A, is the nearest to immediate perception. It contains only the object O, with the after image which comes back and overlies it. Behind it, the larger and larger circles B, C, D correspond to growing efforts at intellectual expansion" (104; see Fig. 1).

Attentive recognition, then, allows for more memory images to come into play as it facilitates the exchange between memory and the object of perception. Importantly, these images each contain within them prior images, which fuse together as part of a unified experience. Referring to these "causes of growing depth" as B', C', D', Bergson remarks that they are "situated behind the object and virtually given with the object itself": "in the measure in which the circles B, C, D represent a higher expansion of memory, their reflection attains in B', C', D' deeper strata of reality" (105). Guerlac likens this reflective process to that of a "magic mirror":

   Memory acts like a mirror. But, because of the dynamic
   flow of time, we would have to consider it more like a
   magic mirror that has accumulated a multiplicity of
   past images. It can therefore activate a certain number
   of past images, as well as give back the echo (or reflection)
   of the image it has just received through sense
   perception. There is no limit to this multiplicity. (135)

Through the effect of the "magic mirror," the perceptual object is perceived more fully and receives greater contextualization. This reflexive process, Bergson concludes, allows for reflection to "attain deeper layers" of the real.

Like Bergson, Valle-Inclan situates the real in memory, or more precisely, in an interchange between perception in the present and memory. As we have seen, Valle-Inclan posits that when we see ourselves as center of a circle created by the whole of our experience, we attain a type of recognition or quietude that allows us to break free from chronology, to understand our experiences as part of a unified whole. When the narrator expands the image to include circles of memory that open out from the center, like a rock opening concentric circles in water, this unifying process is tied to memory.

In the final section of "Anillo de Giges," the relationship between perception and memory is made explicit. The section begins with a reiteration of the problems related to chronologic knowledge. The narrator insists that "este momento efimero de nuestra vida contiene todo el pasado y todo el porvenir" (1918). (19) However, although we are "eternity," our senses limit our perception both of ourselves and of objects in the world: "Velos de sombra, fuentes de error mas que de conocimiento, nuestros sentidos sacan el hoy del ayer, y crean la vana ilusion de todo el saber cronologico" (1919). The narrator exhorts the pilgrim-poet to fashion his life like a verse in which "el ritmo interior despierta las sensaciones indefinibles" (1919).

The narrator recounts in detail an experience from his university days in which he carne across a group of children playing a rhyming game, moving like "silvanos en los frisos antiguos" (1919). Contemplating the children's dance, he walked "bajo la sombra sagrada de los recuerdos" (1919) and recalled his own childhood. Significantly though, this experience is not simply nostalgia for a lost childhood but rather a memory in which the narrator not only evokes his past but also gives it "actualidad en otro circulo del Tiempo": "no experimente la sensacion de volver a vivir en los anos lejanos, sino algo mas inefable, pues comprendia que nada de mi psiquis era abolido" (1919). The past memory is held in tension with the present perception. If we consider this experience in terms of the image of the stone falling in water, the reverie caused by the children's game, and the memories that they elicit in the narrator, allow for another ring in the water. They allow the narrator to open "another circle of time" and bring the earlier experience to the present in the manner of Bergson's Circuit. The perception in the present elicits memories that do not erase the present but rather allow the narrator to experience both. Returning to the earlier injunction to "fashion [one's] life like a verse," the narrator compares the process of opening another circle of time to that which results when a verse of poetry sparks the memory of another that is consonant with it: "Toda la vida pasada era como el verso lejano que revive su evocacion musical al encontrar otro verso que le guarda consonancia, y sin perder el primer significado, entra a completar un significado mas profundo" (1919). Like a musical note, both singular and integrated within a musical phrase, the narrator's past enriches the perceptual present.

The narrator's memories, embodied in images, are juxtaposed one against the other as he sees the "hechos," the deeds of his life, "desgranarse [...] y volver uno por uno" (1919). Crucially, the narrator insists that he does not forget the whole: "Vivia intensamente la hora anterior y a la par conocia la venidera, estaba ya morando dentro de su circulo" (1919). At first glance, the juxtaposition of images to which the narrator refers seems to contradict a "succession without distinction" that Bergson understands to characterize duration. When we consider, though, that each image is both distinct and part of a larger whole, it is clear that juxtaposition consists both in discrete experience and interpenetration within the circle formed by the narrator's experience, the formation of which, as we have seen throughout the chapter, is the repeated injunction of the narrator to his soul.

Although Valle-Inclan's narrator does not claim explicitly that the movement between perception (the children's rhyme) and memory illustrated in the vignette opens up greater leveis of reality, he recalls Bergson when he announces that this experience is like looking at oneself in an "espejo magico" in which one invokes one's image as a child and brings this image to the present perception: "Quien sabe del pasado, sabe del porvenir. Si tiendes el arco, cerraras el circulo" (1919). We have seen throughout "Anillo de Giges" that a goal for the pilgrim-poet is to dwell or "morar" in the center of a circle created by one's experience. Its repetition here accompanies the recognition that the center constructs a "magic mirror" in which the perceiving subject draws upon images stored in memory to open out or actualize successive "circles of time." (20) Like Bergson's circuits, these circles partigcipate in memory, bringing them to an increasingly enriched perception of the present. As we will see, it is this perception that allows Valle-Inclan's narrator to access Beauty, defined in the gloss to section IV of the chapter as the "intuition of Unity" (18), the creation of which is the goal of ValleInclan's aesthetics.

Attentive Recognition, Freedom and Aesthetic Expression

Although Time and Free Will is not an aesthetic treatise, Bergson understands aesthetic experience to be paradigmatic of our inner experience of time as duration (Guerlac 49). Drawing a distinction between a response that is caused, and therefore tied to the physical world, and one which is suggested, and thereby invites an audience into a relation of sympathy, aesthetic experience "put[s] to sleep the active or rather resistant, powers of our personality, and thus bring[s] us into a state of perfect responsiveness, in which we realize the idea that is suggested to us and sympathize with the feeling that is expressed" (Time 14). We have seen that when Valle-Inclan's narrator experiences quietude, he also engages sympathetically with his surroundings, entering into a state in which he is able to break the norms of "razon utilitaria" (1915). Observing a flock of birds at dusk, for example, he recognizes them "en el secreto de su instinto, por cansadas, por viejas, por hambrientas, por feroces" (1915). For both Bergson and Valle-Inclan, it is sympathy and the affective expansiveness that results, which point to qualitative experience.

Suggestion is important to Bergson's theory as a means to induce a type of reverie, encouraging the activation of attention: "Suggestion influences our attention, the way music does when it invites us into its rhythms [...] [A]rt places us in a kind of dream state. It elicits a sympathetic response on our part, a virtual participation in the feeling or idea, which is imprinted in us by the artistic manipulation of qualities through rhythm, tone, or color" (Guerlac 52). This attention is crucial in its ability to break from automatic response and habits of the body and, thus, to enable voluntary action. According to Bergson, affective sensations, such as those that result from aesthetic experience, are no less than the "beginning of freedom" (Time 34). Not only do these sensations, and the type of attention that they allow, impede automatic response, they also allow for the working of image memory and, thus, imagination, on which free action, including aesthetic creations, depends.

As an aesthetic treatise, La lampara maravillosa engages more directly with the production of works of art and the effects of these works on spectators. Art, which Valle-Inclan refers to as an image of Beauty, can encourage the quietude that is the opposite of sterile movement and automatic response. Although Valle-Inclan does not tie this explicitly to freedom, he concludes that Beauty, when expressed in art, allows for an intuition of unity, which, as we have seen, results when one makes oneself center of the circle inscribed by one's actions, both past and future. In the first section of "Exegesis Trina," the central chapter of La lampara, the narrator states this role explicitly: "el arte tes] una disciplina para transmigrar en la esencia de las cosas" (1952). As we have seen, this "essence" is an experience of time that is outside of the limits of cause and effect in which one experiences an illusion of ecstasy, of an eternal and qualitative whole.

The precept with which this essay began ("Nada es lo que es sino lo que se recuerda") is incorporated into chapter 5 of La lampara, "El quietismo estetico." After stating that in art, images are not what we perceive but rather an accommodation to memory (1952), the narrator explains that memory is the "alchemy" that purifies images. In a statement that conceptually recalls Bergson's understanding of image-memory, he claims that "todas las imagenes del mundo son imperecederas y solo es mudable nuestra ordenacion de las unas con las otras" (1953). Images, unchanging in memory and placed in new context when brought to the perceptual present, allow for the "purification" of the perceptual present, bringing to these objects "la intensidad y la definicion de unidades, al modo de una vision ciclica" (1952). In works of art, then, the artist brings memory to the perceptual present to represent these perceptions as though they were "fuera del tiempo, en una vision inmutable" (1953). As we have seen, these artistic creations, in turn, induce the activation of image-memory that breaks our automatic response and, in Bergson's terms, allows for freedom.

Carol Maier has pointed out that the narrator of the text is doubled as both pilgrim and poet-artist ("Literary Re-Creation" 218). As we have seen, the sections that make up the "Anillo de Giges" are often directive, instructing the pilgrim's soul, and, by extension, that of the reader, on the road to aesthetic enlightenment. At the same time, the vignettes that make up a large part of the chapter are, as Gonzalo Sobejano points out, prose poems that are highly stylistic, allusive and contain internal rhythm. The chapter reads as an aesthetic treatise, directing its reader and fellow pilgrim in how to break free from automatic response and the norms that determine and quantify our perceptions to produce art that endures beyond the perceptual present. At the same time, the vignettes are a complete work of art, the product of a highly skilled poet that allows for the type of reverie to which Bergson refers and which induces in its readers an aesthetic response that demands attention, breaks automatic response and allows for imaginative freedom.


Reed College, Portland, Oregon


(1.) All citations from the works of Valle-Inclan are from the Obra completa.

(2.) The precept was rephrased and incorporated into the "El quietismo estetico," section II: "En nuestras creaciones bellas y mortales, las imagenes del mundo nunca estan como los ojos las aprenden, sino como adecuaciones al recuerdo" (137). See Eliane Lavaud and Jean-Marie Lavaud for discussions of the incorporation of the essays from 1908 and 1912 into La lampara.

(3.) Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises were written between 1522 and 1524. For a discussion of the symmetrical structure of the La lampara see Garlitz (123-26), and Maier ("Notas," 218-23).

(4.) See, for example, "Milagro musical," section III, and, in a slightly different formulation, section VII of the same chapter.

(5.) Although some critics refer to the narrator as Valle-Inclan, and although the narrator presents details from the author's life, the richly poetic nature of these vignettes suggests that a separation between the persona of the narrator and author is in order. For a discussion of the vignettes as prose poems, see Gonzalo Sobejano. For a discussion of the autobiographical components of the text see Morron Arroyo and Cattaneo.

(6.) See Herodotus, Histories 1.8-13 and Plato, Republic, II.659d-360b.

(7.) Garlitz also posits that the reference to Gyges points to the selfknowledge the narrator gains in the chapter (131).

(8.) See the introductory first chapter of Benjamin Fraser's Encounters with Bergson(ism) in Spain for this extensive bibliography and full contextualization of Bergson's interaction with these and other authors during the first decades of the twentieth century.

(9.) Mascato Rey (14) lists the following Spanish translations and their dates of publication: Materia y memoria. Ensayo sobre la relacion del cuerpo con el espiritu (1900); La evolucion creadora (1912); La risa: Ensayo sobre la significacion de lo comico (1914); Ensayo sobre los datos inmediatos de la conciencia (1925).

(10.) In her recent book, Valle-Inclan, poeta moderno no canonizado, Mascato Rey discusses Bergson's theories of time in relation to Valle-Inclan's poetry (165-89). For scholars, in addition to Mascato Rey and Bellini, who mention Valle-Inclan's work in terms of Bergson, see Cardona and Morron Arroyo.

(11.) Maier discusses the "double vision" of the narrator in "Literary Re-Creation" (218). See also Garlitz (128-29).

(12.) Virginia Garlitz's comprehensive study of the Lampara is essential to understanding the diverse and extensive references included in the work. In addition to tracing the gnostic influences in this introductory chapter, Garlitz notes that the distinction between meditation and contemplation is adapted from the Spanish mystic Miguel de Molinos' Guia espiritual (1675), and the concept of the "Alma Creadora" is developed by Plotinus. See Garlitz for a full discussion of the influence of ancient philosophy and Christian mysticism on the Lampara (46-74).

(13.) In La canonizacion del diablo: Baudelaire y la estetica moderna en Espana, Gonzalez del Valle discusses the "tiempo intemporal" that characterizes Valle-Inclan's work, noting parallels between it and Baudelaire's conception of time (80-82). Identifying time as "un aspect clave del texto" (715), Fernandez Pelaez discusses Valle-Inclan's attempts to abolish time (716). See Gomez Montero for a discussion of what he terms "apropiacion subjetiva de la realidad [temporal]" in the Lampara (169).

(14.) My discussion of Bergson's theory, here and throughout the essay, is greatly indebted to Suzanne Guerlac's excellent study of Bergson's early work.

(15.) See Maier, "Notas," for further discussion of the limitations presented by language.

(16.) This focus on time that endures is also contained in Valle-Inclan's 1908 essay about the painter Romero de Torres that is cited in the introduction to this essay: "Este gran pintor, emotivo y consciente, sabe que para ser perpetuada por el arte no es la verdad aquello que un momento esta ante la vista, sino lo que perdura en el recuerdo" (1497).

(17.) Garlitz refers to the "proceso de centrarse" as the central theme of the Lampara-. "El centrarse es clave de la experiencia estetica y de su expresion, siendo base de los conceptos, principio de la estructura y fuente de las imagenes" (212).

(18.) For example, the image of a stone opening circles in a body of water is more fully developed in chapter VI, "La piedra del sabio." In this expanded discussion, circular temporality is contrasted directly to a "linea recta del Tiempo." Because we cannot grasp the fullness of our lives, we limit our understanding to discrete instances of time: "de los circulos eternos que abren nuestras acciones no sabemos mas que sabe la piedra cuando cae en el agua y abre sus circulos" (160).

(19.) The passage is taken from an article about the painter Julio Romero de Torres and work he exhibited in the Exposicion de Bellas Artes in 1912.

(20.) For a discussion of the magic mirror within the tradition of the occult, see Garlitz (143-44).


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--. Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness. Trans. F.L.Pogson. New York: Dover, 2001.

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Cardona, Rodolfo. "El tiempo de la Sonata de otono." Valle-Inclan: An Appraisal of His Life and Works. Ed. Anthony N. Zahareas. New York: Las Americas, 1986. 216-23.

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--. "Notas hacia una definicion del concepto de historia en La lampara maravillosa." Explicacion de Textos Literarios 9 (1981): 153-58.

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Moron Arroyo, Ciriaco. "La lampara maravillosa y la ecuacion estetica." Valle-Inclan: An Appraisal of His Life and Works. Ed. Anthony N. Zahareas. New York: Las Americas, 1968. 443-59.

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Sobejano, Gonzalo. "Poema en prosa y dimension del recuerdo en La lampara maravillosa." La insula sin nombre: Homenaje a Nilita Vientos Gaston, Jose Luis Cano y Enrique Canito. Ed. Eugenio Suarez-Galbon. Madrid: Origenes, 1990. 25-39.

Valle-Inclan, Ramon del. Obra completa. Vol. 2. Madrid: Espasa Calpe, 2001.
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Title Annotation:texto en ingles
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Article Type:Ensayo
Date:Jun 22, 2015
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