Mind rhythms of perception, anxiety and creativity.
1) Clinamen: this is "poetic misreading" or "poetic misprision" itself. Lucretius' clinamen signified, as we have shown above, the deviation of atoms from their perfectly parallel trajectories, which was necessary in order for change to become possible in the universe. The poet deviates from the poetic trajectory of the predecessor (paradoxically at the same time willingly and unwillingly), stating that by this deviation he is correcting the deficiencies of the previous text, which however was correct up to the point of inflexion from which the clinamen begins to operate that defines the trajectory of the new poem. For instance, Norman Mailer strives to deviate from Hemingway's trajectory; Roethke and Berryman try to deviate from the poetry of Whitman, Eliot, Stevens and Yeats; the whole of the 18th century was "haunted" by Milton, while the whole of the 19th century was "haunted" by Wordsworth, the two (Milton and Wordsworth) being considered by Bloom as the only true Titans, whose high status could not be matched even by Yeats or Stevens, although both are declared to be the strongest poets of the 20th century, just as Robert Browning and Dickinson are for the late 19th century. Milton in fact aggressively corrected (like Dante) all his predecessors, including Dante himself. By contrast, Chaucer, Cervantes and Shakespeare operated the correction in a ludic, playful manner.
2) Tessera: completion and antithesis, the connective element whereby a "completing link" is constituted. The term (which Bloom adopted from Lacan) is derived from ancient religions of mysteries, wherein it signified a sign of recognition, usually a very small fragment from a vessel that had been broken into two large pieces. The two halves could reconstitute the initial vessel only if one added also the tessera, which thus came to have the symbolic value of password used among initiates. (The Hopi Indians --the People of Peace--used the tessera method for being able to recognize each other: as the universal plan of creation implied compulsory migrations of the Hopi before they could establish permanent habitations, as a measure of precaution in case the brothers leaving on sacred mission might get lost, a piece of a sacred tablet of the tribe would be broken off and given to those leaving, so that they could be recognized at their return: the "piece would match the tablet it had been broken from and identify [them] as their lost brother[s]"; cf Waters 1977: 112; Stroe 2014).
Through the tessera phenomenon what is suggested is that a poet antithetically completes his predecessor by reading the "parent-poem" in such a way as to keep its terms, but giving them a different significance, suggesting that the predecessor did not manage to go sufficiently far in order to reach completeness, that is to say precisely what the poet tends to accomplish subsequently in the phase called tessera, in which he attempts to demonstrate that the "precursor's Word" would be worn off if it were not to be saved as a renewed, accomplished Logos, which the ephebe brought to completeness. Bloom uses in this context Mallarme's metaphor according to which the common use of language resembles the "silent" passing from one hand to another of a coin whose effigies on both sides are almost totally wiped away. Lacan correctly interprets this phenomenon when he observes that this metaphor asserts that the Logos/Word, even when it is almost entirely worn off, keeps its symbolic value of tessera. Bloom is of the opinion that in the poetry of Wallace Stevens there is an abundance of such tesserae (antithetical completions of his American romantic precursors; Stevens antithetically completes Whitman for instance in The Owl in the Sarcophagus, which is a big tessera for The Sleepers). Moreover, Bloom believes that the British poets "deviate" from their predecessors--being more authentically revisionary, and so advancing on a clinamen trajectory--, while the American poets, advancing on a tessera trajectory, strive rather to "complete" their intellectual parents, being convinced that the latter did not dare enough, and so did not reach the much coveted completeness (i.e. the absolute dimension). Also in this sense Bloom believes that all romanticisms from everywhere, as post-Enlightenment "questromances," are aimed at the "re-beget[ting]" of one's own self, in order for the poet to be able to become one's own "Great Original," the only one who truly is of the order of completeness. The bloomian notion of "Great Original" no doubt derives from Blake's idea regarding the "Original Stereotype": in the last illuminated plates from The Ghost of Abel (1822), Blake (1979: 781) wrote:
1822 W Blake's Original Stereotype was 1788.
This remark refers to the two small treatises composed by Blake in 1788--All Religions are One and There Is No Natural Religion -, which synthetically anticipate the whole of his illuminated prophetic works.
3) Kenosis: emptying (the opposite of tesseric completeness); an instrument for division, similar to the psychic mechanisms of defence against repetitive compulsions (in this case, a defence against the repetition without a difference of the precursor poem); it is a movement towards discontinuity in the relation with the precursor, a revisionary movement of emptying, of dissolution and of isolation of one's own imagination. Bloom adopts the term from St. Paul, for whom it signified one's emptying of oneself, equivalent to Jesus Christ's humbling in the act of Becoming Flesh: the Lord empties Himself of His own divinity in order to assume human form, this act being the paradox of paradoxes: divine infinity/plenitude/completeness is subject to an infinite reduction with a view to making possible the Becoming Flesh in the finite human form. Bloom (1997: 91) calls this act "archetypal kenosis." The ephebe revisionarily empties himself of himself, of his own powerful creative impulse, of his afflatus (i.e. his divine inspiration/breath).
The concept of afflatus Bloom might have adopted from Young, who referred to Cicero and related it to the idea that a strong writer is like a strong magician from a foreign land, who has the power to pull us out of our "flat realities" and allow us to float in dream-like exotic and fabulous worlds:
[W]hat, for the most part, mean we by genius, but the power of accomplishing great things without the means generally reputed necessary to that end? A genius differs from a good understanding, as a magician from a good architect; that raises his structure by means invisible; this by the skilful use of common tools. Hence genius has ever been supposed to partake of something divine. Nemo unquam vir magnus fuit, sine aliquo afflatu divino. (Young 1918: 13) [Lat. cf. Cicero, lit. "Nobody ever a great (hu)man was, without some inspiration (breath) divine."]
We read Imitation with somewhat of his languor, who listens to a twice-told tale: Our spirits rouze at an Original; that is a perfect stranger, and all throng to learn what news from a foreign land: And tho' it comes, like an Indian Prince, adorned with feathers only, having little of weight; yet of our attention it will rob the more solid, if not equally new: Thus every telescope is lifted at a new-discovered star; it makes a hundred astronomers in a moment, and denies equal notice to the sun. But if an Original, by being as excellent, as new, adds admiration to surprize, then are we at the writer's mercy; on the strong wing of his imagination, we are snatched from Britain to Italy, from climate to climate, from pleasure to pleasure; we have no home, no thought, of our own; till the magician drops his pen: And then falling down into ourselves, we awake to flat realities, lamenting the change, like the beggar who dreamt himself a prince. (Young 1918: 7-8)
In this acceptation, according to Bloom, the ephebe empties himself of his own "imaginative godhood," which is under the sign of the precursor, the first thus humbling himself, as if he ceased being a poet anymore, thereby being established a "liberating discontinuity," a liberation from under the power of the precursor which existed in himself, an isolation of the self from the presence of the precursor, thus avoiding a self-tabooing (if this isolation from the precursor did not take place, the poet would risk tabooing in himself the precursor, thus simultaneously tabooing himself). This decline is triggered, however, in such a way in relation with the precursor poem, as to make sure that the precursor too is revisionarily emptied of his imaginative divinity (so that the ephebe should now be where the precursor had been), the consequence thereof being that the subsequent "poem of deflation" will no longer be so absolute (as is suggested by the previous tesseric trajectory by which one reaches or aspires to reach a completeness of shamanic-initiational type), in the context in which the fall of the ephebe into the "poem of kenosis" is smooth ("fall soft," Bloom 1997: 91), while the fall of the precursor --made possible (operated) through the emptying by the ephebe of the imaginative divinity of the precursor (which appears as an imaginative emptying of the ephebe)--is rough ("the precursor falls hard," id.).
The poetic kenosis is not so much an act of self-humbling of the ephebe, as it is one of humbling of all predecessors (it is therefore a daemonic parody of the archetypal kenosis). A few examples of kenosis: Keats's attitude in the first Hyperion seems to be that of Milton. Similarly, Percy Shelley's kenosis in Ode to the West Wind poses the same kenotic unsolved question: who is dissolved/emptied more, Wordsworth or P. B. Shelley himself? Likewise, Whitman's kenosis in As I Ebb'd with the Ocean of Life poses the problem of who is more terribly emptied, Emerson or Whitman? When Stevens writes about the aurora, the autumn brought forth--which is emptied of its caressing humanity--is his or Keats's? Similarly, Ammons's poems remind one, in a kenotic manner, of Emerson, who, on the other hand, had prophesied the coming of "an American Orphic Poet," Hart Crane being according to Bloom (2006: XLI) the one to have "fulfilled the role, metaphorically yet biologically as well"; Hart Crane, in whom a "touch of Emersonian Transcendentalism abided," thus "simply unfolded, until the imperfections of the life destroyed the perfections of the work" (id.). In Blake, Wordsworth, Baudelaire, Rilke, Yeats, Stevens and other modern ambivalent poets, in the process of kenosis what is emptied are the powers of a precursor, so that by magical dissolving one strives to salvage "the Egotistical Sublime" (Bloom 1997: 91), the cost thereof being the loss of a parent.
4) Daemonization: movement towards a personalized "Counter-Sublime," as a revisionary reaction against the Sublime of the precursor, through which the precursor is "de-individuated." The term was borrowed by Bloom from Neoplatonism. According to this doctrine the daemon is an intermediary being--neither divine, nor human--who enters the initiate in order to help him by agency of a "power that distributes and divides" (cf. daeomai = "to divide/distribute"; Bloom 1997: 100). The ephebe opens to a power in the parent-poem about which he believes it does not really belong to the parent, but to a realm of being which is beyond that precursor. This process is carried out by the ephebe in his poem in such a way in relation with the parent-poem, that the uniqueness of the latter is annihilated by generalization. An example is P. B. Shelley's rewriting, by daemonization, of Wordsworth's poem Intimations of Immortality: the result is the poem Hymn to Intellectual Beauty. Such poems that rewrite too explicitly poems of the precursor tend to become "poems of conversion," which have no connection with the aesthetic dimension (they instead are rather associated with the religious). The function of daemonization, as mythification of the precursor, is the strengthening of repression by the absorption of the precursor even more into tradition; it is a movement of individuation that is achieved by withdrawal from one's self, the great cost thereof being the ephebe's dehumanization, his Dionysian-type self-mutilation with a view to gaining knowledge (as in the cases of Vulcan/Hephaistos, Thor/Donar/Thunar, Odin/Wodan/Wuotan, or Blake's Urthona and Melville's Ahab, etc.). Although by daemonization what is attempted is an extention of the powers of the precursor up to a principle which is wider than the ephebe's, still the effect is that the ephebe becomes more daemonic, and the precursor more human. Examples of daemonic poets: Blake, P. B. Shelley, Whitman, Nietzsche.
5) Askesis: movement of self-purification/ sublimation whose purpose is reaching a state of solitude (possibly intensified in the direction of solipsism), as a mechanism of defence against the anxiety of influence. The term was borrowed by Bloom from the practice of pre-Socratic shamans like Empedocles. The ephebe practices self-restraint: he gives up part of his human and imaginative endowments in order to be able to separate from the others (including the precursor). He carries out this process in his poem in such a way in relation to the parentpoem, that the latter too will pass through askesis (lit. ascesis), the consequence being that the endowments of the precursor too shall be truncated. The final effect of the process of "poetic askesis" is the formation of an imaginative equivalent of the superego, that is a "poetic will" that is fully developed, which is more severe than conscience. Bloom calls this "poetic will" "the Urizen in each strong poet," i.e. the "maturely internalized aggressiveness" (Bloom 1997: 119). The askesic sublimation is rather an "elaboration," a "self-realization," a process after which the poet becomes simultaneously Prometheus and Narcissus (which would correspond, from Ken Wilber's--1995 perspective, to a process of fusion between romanticism and postmodernism), that is the true powerful poet, who creates his own culture and in full ecstasy contemplates himself in its center. In this sense, Bloom believes that it is Edgar Allan Poe who managed to become "the Narcissus and the Prometheus of his nation." (Bloom 2006b: 6)
By comparison, in the clinamen phase and in the tessera phase the ephebe tries to correct and, respectively, to complete the dead (the precursors); in the kenosis phase and in the daemonization phase the ephebe is striving to repress the memory of the dead; but, most importantly, in askesis the ephebe is engaged in the fight proper, in what Bloom (1997: 122) memorably calls "the match-to-the-death with the dead."
In this sense, romanticism is the result of a sublimation of imagination which is much more prodigious in comparison with the similar process experienced by Western poetry in its passage from Homer to Milton.
A few examples of askesic filiations, in which each author in the filiation is a precursor of the next:
/Milton/ > /Wordsworth/ > /Keats/ /P. B. Shelley/ > /Browning/ > /Yeats/ /Emerson/ > /Whitman/ > /Stevens/
In the cases of Wordsworth, Keats, Browning, Whitman, Yeats and Stevens, the askesis is a revisionary ratio that ends up at the abrupt edge of solipsism. Bloom shows that in Keats's special case, the askesis (which is fully explicit in The Fall of Hyperion: the askesis of the very faith in the physical senses) is more drastic precisely because from the askesic filiation /Milton/ > / Wordsworth/ > /Keats/ what follows is that Keats's "Covering Cherub" is a double form, namely /Milton-and-Wordsworth/ taken together, that is why the shadow that these did cast, in the form of influence, over Keats was immense. This acceptation of influence reminds us at least of Constantin Brancusi in his complicated relationship with Rodin, as well as, in a different, but comparable, register, of Henri Coandas complex association with the same French sculptor and with Brancusi himself. Coandas, like Brancusis, stay at Rodins workshop in Paris as his disciple did not last long, because the Romanian engineer decided that his life was to be dedicated not to art, but to the "metal birds," i.e. the aircraft these were indeed passionately his entire life, just as for Brancusi and Rodin sculptural art and for Keats poetic art were passionately all their life.
Blooms Blakean "Covering Cherub" reminds us of Brancusis wise and modest words: "Without Auguste Rodins discoveries, what I have accomplished would not have been possible"; but: "Nothing grows up in the shadow of the magnificent trees"; that is why "one must always try to escape from masters."
This view is quite in keeping with the following statement:
As poetry has become more subjective, the shadow cast by the precursors has become more dominant. (Bloom 1997: 11)
Thus, Brancusi brilliantly anticipated, by his own exceptional creative life, the principle of the anxiety of influence, which was intensely experienced also by Henri Coanda, who confessed about Brancusi the following:
[Y]ou didnt even have to understand Brancusi; it was simpler and easier to feel him; Brancusi would give himself to you, he would become truly one of yours, totally, without reservations, so that you in your turn should remain close to him, something from inside your living being would be kept there, definitively and against your will, with no power to leave, in his workshop from Montparnasse, close to that kind and frolicsome child within his being, that was he himself, Brancu$i. (Henri Coanda, apud Firoiu 1971:151)
As in the case of the relation between Rodin and Brancusi, an overwhelmingly powerful anxiety of influence was felt also by Coanda in his relationship with Brancusi, who came to be for him "that savage man with a golden heart" (Firoiu 1971: 236) and who confessed to him at one time as regards his relation with Rodin:
I feel that as great as he is, almighty, himself only the master of his own art, Rodin sneaks along into me and I too will begin to think through him. Well, that is what I do not want. My sculpture is mine and it starts from round here, and Brancusi showed me his head, it springs from within me, and Brancusi took his palm to his chest. The moment I do not have the chance to make what I see with the eyes of the mind but with the eyes of my mind what I have inside myself, then the sculpture will no longer be mine, but only his, his who thought it up. (Constantin Brancusi; cf. Henri Coanda, apud Firoiu 1971: 239)
In this context, while in Paris Coanda soon observed that the fascinating power Brancusi had over him like a genuine abundant spring of influences was so irresistible, so overpowering (maybe even so paralyzing), that he quickly sensed he could simply not keep pace with Brancusis art, because for him art was just a longing, but not his entire life, as it was for Brancusi; that is why Coanda decided to run away from Brancusi in order to keep his own identity, "to remain [him]self, to become the Henri Coanda of aerodynamics in scientific research, in [his] positive art" (Firoiu 1971: 236), by whose virtue he could even come to rediscover in the "metal bird" (Rom. "pasarea de metal/pasarea metalica") indeed Brancu[is "magic bird" ("pasarea maiastra," Rom. lit. "masterly bird"). The confessions of the two great Romanian creators, Brancu[i in the field of art and Coanda in the field of science, thus seem to lead us to the conclusion that Blooms theory on the anxiety of influence has universal applicability, at least as regards certain aspects, for all creative fields, from poetry and sculpture and up to science and technology.
6) Apophrades: the return of the dead. The term signified in ancient Athens those terrible calamitous days in which the dead were coming back in order to dwell again in the houses in which they had once lived. The subsequent poet --now in his last phase of poetic evolution, already burdened by an imaginative solitude which is almost a solipsism--opens his poem again in front of the works of the predecessor, so much so that it may seem to us that the cycle has ended and the ephebe reaches again the phase where he is a disciple who is overwhelmed by the influence of the predecessor, before his power has the possibility to assert itself in its revisionary energy. The difference is the following: before, the poem was open, but now it is kept open in front of the precursor, so that what is created is an "uncanny effect," namely the new poem does not seem to have been written by the predecessor, but the characteristic works of the predecessor seem to
have been written by the ephebe (Bloom--1997: 19--confesses his affinity for Borges's remark according to which "artists create their precursors," just as Borges's Kafka creates Borges's Browning; Bloom 1997: 141). For instance, Milton seems to be influenced by Wordsworth; Wordsworth and Keats seem to have influences coming from Stevens; Percy Shelley from The Cenci seems influenced by Browning, while Percy Shelley from The Witch of Atlas seems immersed in Yeats's poetry; Whitman sometimes seems fascinated by Hart Crane, etc.
When governed by the powerful poet who persisted in his own power, what Bloom calls apophrades becomes not so much a return of the dead--the latter maybe decodable also as an activation of deep ancestral memories in the psyche of the ephebe -, as much rather a celebration of the return of the initial self-exaltation through which the very existence of poetry was made possible. At this point, in other words, the powerful poet looks into the mirror of his precursor (who has decayed) and what he sees is neither the precursor, nor his own image, but a "Gnostic double," "the dark otherness," "the obscure antithesis" (Bloom 1997: 147), that is the purpose to which both the predecessor, as well as the ephebe have aspired, being however afraid to become they themselves that purpose. The final phases of modern poets, frequently identical with a positive apophrades, become the supreme reduction of the (poetic) ancestors. In this phase Bloom observes a major convergence, about whose reality he comments the following: the anxiety of style in apophrades fuses with the anxiety of influence, the consequence being that the hidden topic of poetry in the past 300 years has been precisely the anxiety of influence (which started to fuse with the anxiety of style from around the 1740s, the anxiety of influence then being a rather recent phenomenon; the maximal phase of this fusion Bloom identified in the past few decades), that is the fear of poets that all poetic works have already been written, the poetic creators being left with nothing properly speaking new to create any more.
In Conjectures on original composition (1759), Edward Young had advanced an idea similarly claiming that one could gain the impression of being influenced by the future, namely through
the use of a method: if a method to create something is discovered at one point in the future, it will lead to a certain kind of creation; if that method was indeed used also in the past, but the knowledge thereof was lost, then at the moment in the future, if we do not know about the respective loss of knowledge, we may have the (wrong) impression that the known future influenced the unknown past, since it is assumed that the method in question could not have been available at the respective moment in the past:
But possibly you may reply, that you must either imitate Homer, or depart from nature. Not so: For suppose you [sic] was to change place, in time, with Homer; then, if you write naturally, you might as well charge Homer with an imitation of you. (Young 1918: 11)
In other words, following at any time a certain method in writing may lead to results that are similar to those that we know have already been obtained by using the same method. This means that mimesis per se might constitute a key factor in reaching a certain (mimetic) kind of originality, reachable by anyone using the same method. Then, whosoever is first in using that method will be an "Original"--which is Homer's case in point, according to Young. If we were thus to discover that the mimetic key method was used before Homer, with results that are similar to those reached by Homer, then indeed Homer will be susceptible of no longer being regarded as an "Original"; he will be reevaluated as an "Imitator," who had a predecessor. It would not be surprising at all if, among the many cuneiform tablets, at one point works similar to Homer's in mode and style were to emerge (in this sense, we now know that at least parts of the Old Testament have Sumerian and Akkadian identifiable sources).
The stranger within: uncertainty and perception's unfathomable spiral shafts
In observing that the method of creation is quintessential for the nature of the final artistic work reachable by the use of that method Young basically intuited a major discovery in the 20th century: Heisenberg's principle of uncertainty--rightly considered by Shattuck (1996: XVIII) as the avatar in the 20th century of Lucretius's clinamen--states precisely this, that between the method used to explore a phenomenon and the phenomenon itself, as between the observer and the observed event, there is an inescapable unity (Heisenberg 1977: 124). Why this is the case has been brilliantly explained by Danah Zohar in her groundbreaking book entitled Through the time barrier: a study of precognition and modern physics:
If, for example, a physicist wished to observe the movement of an electron around an atomic nucleus, he might try to locate it under a very high-powered microscope. But vision depends upon the transmission of light from an object to the eye, so in order to produce such a transmission, he would have to focus at least one photon of light [in fact, Heisenberg pointed out that what is needed is a beam of gamma rays, the only ones that have sufficiently short wavelength in order to detect an electron] on to the electron. But a photon of light is a quantum of energy, and when it strikes the electron it will disturb it, causing it to change its direction and speed--its momentum. / Hoping to get around this problem of disturbing the electron's momentum, the physicist might then try focusing light of a lower frequency on to the electron. As Einstein demonstrated, the frequency of any radiation is directly proportional to the amount of energy it carries, so lower frequency light would carry less energy and thus be less likely to unsettle the electron. But as soon as he tries this, the physicist has a different problem. He finds that his low frequency light won't make a distinct image. A low frequency light wave would have a very long wavelength, and thus it would produce a fuzzy, approximate picture that left it unclear just where the electron is. (Zohar 1982: 124-125)
In other words, there is an insuperable barrier of knowledge at this resolution of reality: we have "to choose between knowing [the electron's] momentum while blurring its position" and "knowing its position while disturbing its momentum"--we "can never know both, though both would be necessary if [we] were ever to say anything meaningful about the electron's movement" (Zohar 1982: 125). In this context, the conclusion presented is the following:
[T]hat is the nub of the Uncertainty Principle: that at a certain level of reality we come up against a barrier beyond which it is impossible ever to make a full set of exact measurements, and hence impossible ever to know exactly just how the constituents of matter are behaving. (Zohar 1982: 125)
In this context, a principle of unpredictability was indeed invoked by Lucretius himself in order to account for the emergence of his clinamen: in the cosmos, the deviation of one atom from its infinite straight path that was parallel, up to the moment of deviation, to an infinity of other such straight trajectories of atoms takes place unexpectedly and inexplicably; no cause is indicated for this strange, but crucial phenomenon, without which there would be no creation whatsoever, except that it occurs erratically, always subject to chance. In this statement is implicit that, at our resolution of reality, we are unable to know just what the cause is that produces the clinamen, so at our level a barrier of knowledge operates by blocking our prying into the discrete behaviour of the universe.
Young, like Bloom, asked himself about the nature of the clinamen in art: the "departure" from the modes of writing of the "great predecessors" is indeed a necessary ingredient for reaching originality--but what causes it? Bloom's answer was the principle of the anxiety of influence, hence the need to express the principle of personal freedom. Young emphasized a paradox: the more one departs from the ancients--so, the less similar to them one is and the more one deviates from them--the closer to them in perfection one actually gets:
Can you be said to imitate Homer for writing so [i.e. naturally, by not departing from nature], as you would have written, if Homer had never been? As far as a regard to nature, and sound sense, will permit a departure from your great predecessors; so far, ambitiously, depart from them; the farther from them in similitude, the nearer are you to them in excellence; you rise by it into an Original; become a noble collateral, not an humble descendant from them. Let us build our compositions with the spirit, and in the taste, of the antients; but not with their materials: Thus will they resemble the structures of Pericles at Athens, which Plutarch commends for having had an air of antiquity as soon as they were built. All Eminence, and distinction, lies out of the beaten road; excursion, and deviation, are necessary to find it; and the more remote your path from the highway, the more reputable; if, like poor Gulliver [...], you fall not into a ditch, in your way to glory. (Young 1918: 11-12)
In other words, Young came to believe that perfection could be reached by using the method that the ancients used--feeding on "the breast of nature" or, as Plotinus implied, feeding on the divine--and not by slavishly imitating/copying our great forerunners. In that sense, Young made clear how he differentiated between simple imitation and emulation (the first was inferior, the second was divine):
Imitation is inferiority confessed; emulation is superiority contested, or denied; imitation is servile, emulation generous; that fetters, this fires; that may give a name; this, a name immortal: This made Athens to succeeding ages the rule of taste, and the standard of perfection. Her men of genius struck fire against each other; and kindled, by conflict, into glories, which no time shall extinguish. We thank Eschylus for Sophocles; and Parrhasius for Zeuxis; emulation, for both. That bids us fly the general fault of imitators; bids us not be struck with the loud report of former fame, as with a knell, which damps the spirits; but, as with a trumpet, which inspires ardour to rival the renown'd. Emulation exhorts us, instead of learning our discipline for ever, like raw troops, under antient leaders in composition, to put those laurel'd veterans in some hazard of losing their superior posts in glory. Such is emulation's high-spirited advice, such her immortalizing call. (Young 1918: 29)
Moreover, Novalis would indeed have agreed with the fact that the "divine spark" inside man must be unearthed as if from a deep rich mine, and that sometimes it takes a divine spark already "dug up" for one to be kindled into the awareness that there is such a spark of genius even deep inside oneself:
[T]here is a mine in man, which must be deeply dug ere we can conjecture its contents. Another often sees that in us, which we see not ourselves; and may there not be that in us which is unseen by both? That there may, chance often discovers, either by a luckily chosen theme, or a mighty premium, or an absolute necessity of exertion, or a noble stroke of emulation from another's glory; as that on Thucydides from hearing Herodotus repeat part of his history at the Olympic games: Had there been no Herodotus, there might have been no Thucydides, and the world's admiration might have begun at Livy for excellence in that province of the pen. Demosthenes had the same stimulation on hearing Callistratus; or Tully might have been the first of consummate renown at the bar. (Young 1918: 21)
In other words, emulation is divine in Young's view because it is a way whereby a genius's fire, by a "noble contagion," brings out to light the genius in another, which lay dormant in what looks like Melvillean deep shafts of the mine of the soul or the mind. Young in this sense is among those who drew attention to the fact that the human mind is unfathomable--like a demiurge in hiding, thus preparing the way for the emergence of the romantics' notion of the unconscious:
[W]ho hath fathomed the mind of man? Its bounds are as unknown, as those of the creation. [...] Nor are we only ignorant of the dimensions of the human mind in general, but even of our own. That a man may be scarce less ignorant of his own powers, than an oyster of its pearl, or a rock of its diamond; that he may possess dormant, unsuspected abilities, till awakened by loud calls, or stung up by striking emergencies, is evident from the sudden eruption of some men, out of perfect obscurity, into publick admiration, on the strong impulse of some animating occasion; [...]. (Young 1918: 22-23)
[S]o boundless are the bold excursions of the human mind, that, in the vast void beyond real existence, it can call forth shadowy beings, and unknown worlds, as numerous, as bright, and, perhaps, as lasting, as the stars; such quite-original beauties we may call paradisaical [...]. (Young 1918: 31)
The romantics came later to speak of deep mental realms, of the universe of mind, etc., thus opening the way to depth psychology: "Caverns there were within my mind, which sun / Could never penetrate" (The Prelude, III, Wordsworth 2008: 410); "the twilight of his consciousness" (Biographia Literaria, XI, Coleridge 2000: 278); "the caverns of his mind" (Julian and Maddalo, 573, Shelley P 2003: 227); "the caverns of my pride's deep universe" (Prometheus unbound, IV, 500, Shelley P 2003: 310); "the most dark and secret caverns of the human heart" (The Cenci, Preface, Shelley P 2003: 315), etc. Yet, the most memorable description in this direction came from Herman Melville in 1852:
Deep, deep, and still deep and deeper must we go, if we would find out the heart of a man; descending into which is as descending a spiral stair in a shaft, without any end, and where that endlessness is only concealed by the spiralness of the stair, and the blackness of the shaft. (Pierre, Book XXI, II; Melville 1984: 336)
As we have shown in our study entitled Lifting the veil off Old Thunder: the rise of Leviathan (Stroe 2013: 193), this is a key description by which Melville accounted for the infinite "vital truth" of the human heart: the essence of life is in the heart, manifesting itself as the rhythm of an endless spiral, the constant spiraling pendular overflow of energy, whose dynamics is governed by the golden section, an exemplary or archetypal spiral number (1,618). Jarry appears to have had such an intuition of the significance of the spiral, when he imagined it containing the information of the entire future, being disclosed from Faustroll's body that turned into a scroll after dying by drowning:
And behold, the wallpaper of Faustroll's body was unrolled by the saliva and teeth of water. / Like a musical score, all art and all science were written in the curves of the limbs of the ultrasexagenarian ephebe, and their progression to an infinite degree was prophesied therein. For, just as Professor Cayley recorded the past in the two dimensions of a black surface, so the progress of the solid future entwined the body in spirals. The Morgue harboured for two days on its slab the book revealed by God concerning the glorious truth spread out through three (four or n for some people) directions of space. / Meanwhile, Faustroll, finding his soul to be abstract and naked, donned the realm of the unknown dimension. (Jarry 1996: 99)
Here Jarry may have been influenced by William Blake's idea in his prophetic illuminated books that scrolls symbolize prophecy unfolding and thus revealing the future that lies in germinal form inside man's infinitely deep bosom (in his unbounded spiritual inner world). In this sense, romantics such as Melville, Blake, Keats, Wordsworth, Coleridge or Percy Shelley seem to have created under the sign of Young's significant call to get to know "the stranger within":
Therefore dive deep into thy bosom; learn the depth, extent, bias, and full fort of thy mind; contract full intimacy with the stranger within thee; excite and cherish every spark of intellectual light and heat, however smothered under former negligence, or scattered through the dull, dark mass of common thoughts; and collecting them into a body, let thy genius rise (if a genius thou hast) as the sun from chaos; and if I should then say, like an Indian, Worship it. (Young 1918: 24)
In this connection, Young indeed contemplated that too much of learning may in fact bury one alive, stifling the powers of creativity by plugging all entries and exits of the shafts of one's inner psychic powers:
Johnson, in the serious drama, is as much an imitator, as Shakespeare is an original. He was very learned, as Sampson was very strong, to his own hurt: Blind to the nature of tragedy, he pulled down all antiquity on his head, and buried himself under it; we see nothing of Johnson, nor indeed, of his admired (but also murdered) antients; for what shone in the historian is a cloud on the poet; and Cataline might have been a good play, if Salust had never writ. / Who knows whether Shakespeare might not have thought less, if he had read more? Who knows if he might not have laboured under the load of Johnson's learning, as Enceladus under Atna? His mighty genius, indeed, through the most mountainous oppression would have breathed out some of his inextinguishable fire; yet, possibly, he might not have risen up into that giant, that much more than common man, at which we now gaze with amazement, and delight. Perhaps he was as learned as his dramatic province required; for whatever other learning he wanted, he was master of two books, unknown to many of the profoundly read, though books, which the last conflagration alone can destroy; the book of nature, and that of man. These he had by heart, and has transcribed many admirable pages of them, into his immortal works. (Young 1918: 35-36)
The "most mountainous oppression" exerted by the masterpieces of the "giant" predecessors indeed became Bloom's province of research, whose purpose was a world mapping of all the cultural and literary gold nuggets and veins and loadstones that with the passage of time came to light naturally, and were then transferred from place to place, from author to author, at times through "noble contagion" being enhanced in value and power, at other times, through "falling into a ditch," being diminished and weakened, but at all times gradually and inescapably building up the canon, i.e. the spiritual treasure house of humanity, erected by all men and women of genius by accessing archetypal, innate knowledge, as Young too made clear he believes is the case in regard to the ways in which the "enrapturing" extraordinary creativity of geniuses is generated:
Learning we thank, genius we revere; That gives us pleasure, This gives us rapture; That informs, This inspires; and is itself inspired; for genius is from heaven, learning from man: This sets us above the low, and illiterate; That, above the learned, and polite. Learning is borrowed knowlege; genius is knowlege innate, and quite our own. Therefore, as Bacon observes, it may take a nobler name, and be called Wisdom; in which sense of wisdom, some are born wise. (Young 1918: 17)
William Blake in this sense, talking about the Bible as sole repository of historical and eternal truth, and about the distorted works of Homer, Ovid, Plato and Cicero, and about the "Grand Works of the more ancient [...] Inspired Men" (probably referring to the masterpieces having been produced, before the Greek-Roman "miracle," by the peoples of the Biblical tradition), had intuited that memory, if loaded too much, may prove to be a burden for the light pen of the inspired genius:
The Stolen and Perverted Writings of Homer & Ovid, of Plato & Cicero, which all Men ought to contemn, are set up by artifice against the Sublime of the Bible; but when the New Age is at leisure to Pronounce, all will be set right, & those Grand Works of the more ancient & consciously & professedly Inspired Men will hold their proper rank, & the Daughters of Memory shall become the Daughters of Inspiration. Shakspeare & Milton were both curb'd by the general malady & infection from the silly Greek & Latin slaves of the Sword. / Rouze up, O Young Men of the New Age! set your foreheads against the ignorant Hirelings! For we have Hirelings in the Camp, the Court & the University, who would, if they could, for ever depress Mental & prolong Corporeal War. Painters! on you I call. Sculptors! Architects! Suffer not the fash[i]onable Fools to depress your powers by the prices they pretend to give for contemptible works, or the expensive advertizing boasts that they make of such works; believe Christ & his Apostles that there is a Class of Men whose whole delight is in Destroying. We do not want either Greek or Roman Models if we are but just & true to our own Imaginations, those Worlds of Eternity in which we shall live for ever in Jesus our Lord. (Milton,
1; Blake 1979: 480)
He clarified his thoughts even more in A Vision of the Last Judgment (1810), where he plainly announced his mission to reconstruct ancient knowledge by lifting up the blurring layers of dust and clouds deposited on it--i.e. lifting the veil from truths turned fables and allegories and metaphors, whose codes of decryption we no longer possess, having been forgotten through the impenetrable mists of time--, with a view to bringing back to life the lost past, the "Golden Age," of our forefathers:
The Last Judgment is not Fable or Allegory, but Vision. Fable or Allegory are a totally distinct & inferior kind of Poetry. Vision or Imagination is a Representation of what Eternally Exists, Really & Unchangeably. Fable or Allegory is Form'd by the daughters of Memory. Imagination is surrounded by the daughters of Inspiration, who in the aggregate are call'd Jerusalem. [...] The Hebrew Bible & the Gospel of Jesus are not Allegory, but Eternal Vision or Imagination of All that Exists. Note here that Fable or Allegory is seldom without some Vision. Pilgrim's Progress is full of it, the Greek Poets the same; but Allegory & Vision ought to be known as Two Distinct Things, & so call'd for the Sake of Eternal Life. Plato has made Socrates say that Poets & Prophets do not know or Understand what they write or Utter; this is a most Pernicious Falshood. If they do not, pray is an inferior kind to be call'd Knowing? Plato confutes himself. / The Last Judgment is one of these Stupendous Visions. I have represented it as I saw it; to different People it appears differently as everything else does; for tho' on Earth things seem Permanent, they are less permanent than a Shadow, as we all know too well. / The Nature of Visionary Fancy, or Imagination, is very little Known, & the Eternal nature & permanence of its ever Existent Images is consider'd as less permanent than the things of Vegetative & Generative Nature; yet the Oak dies as well as the Lettuce, but Its Eternal Image & Individuality never dies, but renews by its seed; just so the Imaginative Image returns by the seed of Contemplative Thought; the Writings of the Prophets illustrate these conceptions of the Visionary Fancy by their various sublime & Divine Images as seen in the Worlds of Vision. [...] [T]hey Assert that Jupiter usurped the Throne of his Father, Saturn, & brought on an Iron Age & Begat on Mnemosyne, or Memory, The Greek Muses, which are not Inspiration as the Bible is. Reality was Forgot, & the Vanities of Time & Space only Remember'd & call'd Reality. Such is the Mighty difference between Allegoric Fable & Spiritual Mystery. Let it here be Noted that the Greek Fables originated in Spiritual Mystery & Real Visions, which are lost & clouded in Fable & Alegory, while the Hebrew Bible & the Greek Gospel are Genuine, Preserv'd by the Saviour's Mercy. The Nature of my Work is Visionary or Imaginative; it is an Endeavour to Restore what the Ancients call'd the Golden Age. (A Vision of the Last Judgment; Blake 1979: 604-605)
This is what Young meant when he talked about authors of genius feeding on "the breast of nature": gaining access to the source of the energies of spirit generating nature, which in the animal kingdom is mythically and magically decoded as the "master animal" (see Campbell 1991i), and in the vegetable world--the archetypal master "seed," or what Goethe identified as the Urpflanze ("primordial plant") that Heisenberg (1977: 264-268) later decoded as the DNA micro-chain living structure.
Learning may thus be a hindrance and burden to geniuses, they being said to have, as Plotinus had announced, direct access to the eternal key fountains and unfathomable spiritual mysteries of reality. As Blake put it, the source of energies is "Eternity," while nature the "Glass" whereon they reflect:
This world of Imagination is the world of Eternity; it is the divine bosom into which we shall all go after the death of the Vegetated body. This World of Imagination is Infinite & Eternal, whereas the world of Generation, or Vegetation, is Finite & Temporal. There Exist in that Eternal World the Permanent Realities of Every Thing which we see reflected in this Vegetable Glass of Nature. (A Vision of the Last
Judgment; Blake 1979: 605)
Yet, Young's "noble contagion" may be an essential aspect of the very process of learning itself, as seems to have been demonstrated recently in the research field of language acquisition:
In order to study language acquisition, [Patricia] Kuhl [from Seattle] devised an experiment in which a group of babies, all just a few months old, were brought to the lab for half-hour play sessions three times a week for four weeks. All of the children were from English-speaking homes and all were supervised in the sessions by a caregiver who read to them and talked to them. In some cases, the caregivers spoke only English; in other cases, they spoke only Mandarin. [...] At the end of the month, all of the babies were brought back in and tested to see what, if anything, they had learned about the Mandarin sounds. [...] [N]ot only did the babies exposed to Mandarin learn to hear it, they also retained that ability. [...] Kuhl found that her method worked only if the person speaking to the baby in the alien language was actually in the room. When she repeated the experiment precisely the same way but with a video image of the caregiver reading the stories and doing the cooing, the babies tuned out completely, returning the following week with no greater knowledge of Mandarin than they had before. Significantly, the video teacher works just fine if the skill being taught is not linguistic, but manual. [...] It is only speech, with its emphasis on eye contact, matching inflections, and--especially--pointing, that requires a flesh-and-blood teacher. (Kluger 2008: 218-220)
This means that only images and sounds rendered in videos, or books and other inanimate, "cold" media, may simply be insufficient to exert a lasting and effective cognitive influence. It is the living being, made of flesh and blood, that proves to be most influential cognitiveley speaking in a learning process such as new language acquisition. Young's "noble contagion" may well be indeed a multidimensional cognitive process like the one described above by Kluger, which is most effective when an extraordinary creator comes in direct close contact with those in whom he/she may kindle the spark of prodigious creativity. There are many examples, especially in the arts, where the master-disciple or author-author relationship is such a genius-kindling or at least influence-intercrossing, experience-enriching medium:
As in other domains, the importance of hanging around with other musicians and artists cannot be underestimated. Cross-influence often takes place in artistic communities, where musicians, visual artists, writers, dancers, and actors hang out together. To illustrate, consider New York City in the 1950s and 1960s, where artists such as Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan, Robert Mapplethorpe, and others met and influenced each other. (Piirto 2011: 433)
According to Ray Jackendoff, "[w]hat's important in teaching and learning language is that you and I attend simultaneously to the same thing, and eye contact and pointing help that happen." (apud Kluger 2008: 220) It is also important to observe that in the case of language acquisition there seems to exist a time barrier beyond which new acquisitions become impossible:
On the whole, the older the babies were, the better they did at picking up Mandarin, but only until they reached nine months or so. At that point, the door to language slowly began to swing shut. Babies exposed to the new language for the first time at one year old routinely performed less well than kids half their age or younger. "Linguistically," Kuhl writes, "children start out as citizens of the world, but they don't stay that way." (Kluger 2008: 220-221)
It may be that a similar phenomenon takes place also in the case of creativity: certain modes of creativity may become unreachable for ever if a certain age barrier is surpassed (see in this sense the much disputed critical period hypothesis, according to which the "gates" of articulated human language acquisition, if not activated until the age of circa 14-18 years, for ever shut down). It may also be that certain modes of creativity and even language acquisition could be activated beyond a critical (or optimal) age by using methods that have not yet been discovered. In this direction, it is again human genius that may devise the way to finding the proper keys for solving what now seem to be insoluble questions.
Open doors of perception
The uncanny apophradic phenomenon described above, whereby the past seems influenced by the future, reminds us of Danah Zohar's (1982) hypothesis of quantum non-temporal connections, which represent a theoretical temporal analogon to the real quantum phenomenon of non-local instantaneous connections, the latter's existence having been experimentally proven by Albert Einstein et al (in the EPR, or the EinsteinPodolsky-Rosen, experiment with pairs of electrons having zero spin) and by Alain Aspect et al (in similar experiments, but with photons this time, thereby the EPR experiment results being generalized for the whole of the quantum world; see for details Stroe 2004), the consequence implied in this discovery being that the universe forms a spatially continuous unity, wherein phenomena are perfectly correlated even if separated by huge distances, as if space itself did not exist, or as if a deeper, subspatial hyperunity exists connecting all phenomena together in the cosmos. If non-temporal connections really exist, such as is suggested by the numerous documented episodes of human precognition witnessed and recounted throughout history by many respectable people (cf. Zohar 1982), then the consequence is that communication through time may be a reality whose deep nature we do not yet understand, but need to further explore (quantum science offers a few suggestions, but at present no definitive answers exist for this complex question). For Bloom's approach, the validity of Zohar's theory about non-temporal connections would imply that the apophradic effect might not be only a subjective impression; in fact, if non-temporal connections do exist, that is if people of all times and places somehow could access each other's streams of thoughts (or, in another version of the phenomenon, if people could access their own future experiences before the latter take place)--as if past, present and future were all omnipresent (as is suggested in Blake's prophetic system)--, then Percy Shelley's very idea concerning the master mind that was at work in all places and at all times in the guise of a world spirit writing a single master poem (which now constitutes what we call world poetry) may not be just a poetic metaphor or the figment of the creative imagination. In fact, Percy Shelley, like Blake before him, seems to have actually figured out a way to reach the status of that universal mind: namely by holding infinity (an endless number of ideas) in a moment of time, a fact regarded as reachable by the evolutionary progress of sensibility. Here are in this regard Percy Shelley's essential lines of thought:
[The poetic] immortal compositions [...] are [...] episodes of that great poem, which all poets like the co-operating thoughts of one great mind have built up since the beginning of the world. [...] They are the episodes of that cyclic poem written by Time upon the memories of men. The Past, like an inspired rhapsodist, fills the theatre of everlasting generations with their harmony. (A defence of poetry; Shelley P 2003: 687-688)
Time is our consciousness of the succession of ideas in our mind. [...] If a mind be conscious of an hundred ideas during one minute, by the clock, and of two hundred during another, the latter of these spaces would actually occupy so much greater extent in the mind as two exceed one in quantity. If, therefore, the human mind, by any future improvement of its sensibility, should become conscious of an infinite number of ideas in a minute, that minute would be eternity. (Notes to Queen Mab; Shelley P 2003: 82)
In this key solution we cannot fail to recognize a trace of J. J. Rousseau's notion of the "superlative" or "sovereign moment," which condenses into itself the pleasure of entire eons, thus creating inside one's mind a spiritual distillate that opens the gates of eternity/ paradise. [Latin paradisus, Greek paradeisos, Old Persian pairidaeza = "enclosure," "park" (/pairi/: "around"; /diz/: "to mould," "to form"); Akkadian pardesu = "enclosed garden" (cf. Black et al 2012: 266, 66); see also Akk. edinu = "desert," "steppe," which derived from the Sumerian e-din = /e/: "place" + /din/: "(of) the righteous ones"--which became the Hebrew Garden of Eden, Adam's home in Mesopotamia (cf. Strong 2001: 699-700), eventually synonymous with Paradise; the Old Persian pairi seems to have been derived from the Sumerian bar = "outskirts," "side" or "outside," "spirit," "soul," "innards"; the term bar-edin-na is attested as meaning "edge of the desert" (Halloran 2006: 29, 30); thus, if the Akk. pardesu meant /par/: "enclosed" + /desu/: "garden," in the sense of that place which is formed-moulded round as limited by an enclosure, then this Akkadian term may explain why the idea of paradise was later associated with a spiritual realm: the Sumerian root /bar/ from which it stems means precisely also "spirit," "soul," "liver," "innards," although it refers also to "outside," so the very opposite idea, in the sense of "outskirts," "limits," "enclosure"]. The difficulty of reaching the "paradisian" moment mentioned above resides in the fact that the connection to heaven once reached cannot be maintained for longer than a split second, in which time the mind receives only a fulguration of spiritual infinite plenitude. But for Percy Shelley even that seems to have been enough, since a "flash" of infinity contains in itself the pattern of infinity, and so paradoxically an individual mind of a strong poet could thereby have access to the infinitely plenary modes of the "great mind," in whose matrix was generated the "great poem" of the world. In other words, a glimpse of heaven was enough for one to be reborn through spirit in the knowledge of the eternity mode and codification:
Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world. (A defence of poetry; Shelley P 2003: 681)
So, in the final analysis, for the romantic poet it is all a matter of sensibility and perception. Let us remember Blake saying memorably:
If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 14; Blake 1979: 154)
Mind rhythms: the six-wave brain
In the wake of EEG (electroencephalogram) research undertaken in the past few decades, we now know that cerebral perception is associated with six main types of brain waves or rhythms (the fifth and sixth kind being particularly special) (cf. Buzsaki 2006: 112; Berthoz 2012: 167; Zohar 1982: 100; Andreasen 2006: 163164; Basar & Bullock 1992; Bullock 1992: 1ff; Wolman 1973: 20; 44). We present them here in the order of their increasing frequency that corresponds with the order of increasing age of the human beings whose brains generate them:
1) Delta waves (frequency: 0.5-4 Hz): state of deep sleep without dreams. This is dominant in the foetus (in its late phases of development), and in children up to three years old. Waves in the low frequency range (112 Hz = delta, theta and alpha) usually emerge in states of "habituation, drowsiness or sleep, and anesthesia" (Charles M. Gray et al, cf. Basar & Bullock 1992: 40).
2) Theta waves (frequency: 4-8 Hz): state of sleep with dreams; this is also the rhythm of neurons in the hippocampus, the seat of short-memory formation (hence dream states and wakeful states are isomorphic from the point of view of theta waves--this accounts probably for the fact that dreams often "feel" or "look" like normal reality, in certain cases being quite indistinguishable from it). It is dominant in children three to five years old. In children five to eight years old a balance emerges between theta and alpha waves, as the child matures the balance shifting to predominance of alpha waves. The combination of the slower alpha waves (8 Hz and higher) and theta waves (4 Hz and higher) is dominant also in adults during periods in which they experience extrasensory perception (ESP), dreaming sleep, trance states and meditative states, so in general in states associated with "transcendental meditation," being considered by Danah Zohar (1982: 100) as a possible major key for understanding precognition and extrasensory perception. It thus seems that the romantics were right to regard children as associated with the ideal state wherein one can reach (creative) visionariness, as Blake did when he asserted that the adults need to turn from "experience" back to "innocence," if they wish to "cleanse the doors of perception" and gain access to the infinite spiritual worlds. For Blake this was a prophetic missionary call, manifest as his complex poetic creative endeavour.
3) Alpha waves (frequency: 8-12 Hz; amplitude: 5-15 microvolts): state of deep relaxation, with the brain being active, but not concentrating on anything special--hence their emergence in nonreferential meditation. This rhythm emerges at the age of five to eight, and manifests increasingly stronger as children mature. It can be induced by "closing the eyes" or by "simply shifting attention to sounds" (hence listening to the sounds of music probably induces a state comparable to that of nonreferential meditation); it is considered "exemplary of spontaneous rhythms," "occur[ring] in the absence of visual and other arousing stimulation" (Bullock 1992: 7).
4) Beta waves (frequency: 12-30 Hz; amplitude: less than 5-15 microvolts): state of active thinking, involving concepts and organized ideas--largely characteristic for the period of time when the individual is awake. This appears gradually as the teenager turns into an adult. Rhythms from the beta band and the gamma band (15-80 Hz) are frequently connected with "attentive states and behavioral arousal" (Charles
M. Gray et al, cf. Basar & Bullock 1992: 40).
5) Gamma waves (frequency: 30-80 Hz).
6) Ripples or the ripple band: fast oscillation (frequency: 80-200 Hz), and ultra fast oscillation (frequency: 200-600 Hz). The latter is the highest frequency band attested in mammals (cf. Katz L, Cracco RQ A review of the cerebral rhythms in the waking EEG, 1971, apud Buzsaki 2006: 112-114). Gamma waves and ripples are associated with "gamma synchrony" (brain "ripples"): state of wakeful rest or resting sleep or referential meditation, in which information just stored in the hippocampus is transferred to the prefrontal cortex, probably for fixation as long-term memory, and in which the brain reaches harmony by the activation of a kind of multiple dialogue between various areas in the brain. Hence the idea that gamma waves (such as at 40 Hz frequency) act as a "cortical information carrier" (Bressler SL, 1990, cf. Bullock 1992: 8), and emerge in states of "focused arousal and cognitive performance" (Sheer DE, 1989, cf. Bullock 1992: 10). The activation of the gamma and ripple band takes place by the synchronization of the neurons in the hippocampus with those in the prefrontal cortex (Berthoz 2012: 167-168), as well as by the synchronization of the neurons in the associative cortices (frontal, temporal, parietal association regions) in a creative Eureka-like act (Andreasen 2006: 164). The process by which the hippocampus projects gamma waves and ripples onto the prefrontal areas (as onto a cinema screen) shows that the brain, after perceiving sequences of temporal events and storing them in the hippocampus, has the capacity to codify and to fixate (like a movie projector) time and space as compressed information.
From the perspective of romantic theory, if this recent discovery of neuroscience is correct (presented by Buzsaki 2006 and Berthoz 2012), the following implications are unmistakeable. According to the romantics, space-time events take place by an unfolding of spiritual energies that exist in germinal form in the essence of reality, the passage of time being the actualization of the germinal essence of reality into "exessence," i.e. existence. The "ripples" described above are a correlated movement whereby spacetime events return to a "germinal," compressed form, thus the brain being the center wherein the cycle is closed: here space-time is decoded as the unfolding of physical events (movement from essence to ex-essence), and also here then space-time is re-encoded as the enfolding of the perceived physical events, which become fixated memories (movement from ex-essence to essence). So, like roll films, memories get to be stored by the brain in the prefrontal region. Nancy Andreasen (2006) suggested in this sense that extraordinary creativity is triggered when the associative cortices are particularly activated, they being the seat of the unconscious mind, from which intuition is believed to emerge. These same associative cortices, being "the reservoir of creativity," are the main seat of gamma synchrony, which can be induced by (referential) meditative states; in fact, the more trained one is in the practice of meditation, the greater one's "gamma power," that is the capacity to maintain a high activation of the gamma waves even when not practicing meditation. Harmony and coherence in the brain, therefore, is a matter of meditative training by which one triggers and maintains communication between "neuronal groups"/"neuronal assemblies" directed towards "integrating complex information in order to discover its meaning or to solve a problem" (Andreasen 2006: 163-164).
What is more, according to Buzsaki (2006: 117) "[b]ecause many of these oscillators [the brain waves] are active simultaneously, we can conclude that the brain operates at multiple time scales." If to this view we add also the idea that "the brain does not operate continuously but discontiguously, using temporal packages or quanta" (as William James had intuited in 1890 when he spoke of the "segmentation of experience"; cf. Buzsaki 2006: 115), then it follows that the brain looks more and more like an unfathomably deep fractal phenomenon (so governed by Phi-type rhythms and proportions), operating simultaneously with more space and time dimensions of multiple resolutions that inter-cooperate with constant feedback creating more or less coherence with multiple checks and balances. Buzsaki indeed speaks of the "fractal nature" of EEG, explaining the following:
In essence, the claim is that a collective pattern recorded from a small portion of the cortex looks like the pattern recorded from the whole. [...] [T]he collective behavior of neuronal signals--[such as understood/decoded] as fractals with self-similar fluctuations on multiple time and geometry scales has potentially profound theoretical and practical implications for understanding brain physiology. It implies that the macroscopic EEG and MEG patterns describe the large-scale function of neuronal networks as a unified whole, independent of the details of the dynamic processes governing the subunits that make up the whole. (Buzsaki 2006: 126-127)
This indeed is a revolutionary view speaking in favour of the romantics' identifying the mind and man with a multidimensional hierarchical microcosm reflecting in miniature all the orders of infinity as manifest in the unity of the macrocosm (the gestalt unity of being)--a view inherited from the Egyptians, Persians, Babylonians, Hittites (Chaldeans) and lastly from the Sumerians.
In this sense, for instance, the Sumerian term anki signifies "sky-earth" (an = heaven; ki = earth), i.e. "universe"; so the cosmos was conceived of by the Sumerians as being reduced to the two entities, the Heavens (cosmic space) and the Earth. The latter is an Indo-Hittite term inherited from the Sumerians, used by them to name the first Sumerian city that was built by the gods: Eridu. As Sitchin rightly showed, this word means the following: /e/: "house" or "place"; /ri/ "far away" or "out there"; /du/ "erected" or "built." In passing be it noted that the Greek term aggelos, angelos, which signifies "a messenger sent by God or by man or by Satan," and which is commonly used to refer to "an order of created beings superior to man, belonging to heaven, belonging to God, and engaged in His service" (Strong 2001: 908), contains the Sumerian root an = "sky," and the Greek root ge, which by now is recognized as having been transferred from the Sumerian root ki signifying "Earth" (but being also used as a determinative to refer to a "country," cf. Hayes 2000: 18). Taking into consideration that the Sumerian term lu was used to name "man" or "men/people" (as a verb also meaning "to multiply," "to increase," "to be/make numerous, abundant," cf. Halloran 2006: 159) hence the famous Sumerian term lu-gal signifying "great man," i.e. "king"--it is possible that the Greek angelos was derived from a Sumerian form like * an-ki-lu or * an-ki-lu-gal which would have meant "sky-earth-man" or "sky-earth-king," respectively, i.e. a human intermediary between the two worlds, heaven and earth, therefore precisely what "angels" are said to be, namely spiritual creatures human in form, who can, if necessary, take the human physical form (Strong 2001: 908), in order to minister for God/the gods. In this connection, it is quite possible that the Latin term for man, humanus, may have derived from three Sumerian forms: 1) Umun = "lord" or "lady" in the Sumerian Emesal dialect, i.e. in the language of the goddesses: Inanna uses it in Inanna's Descent to the Netherworld. The other terms for "lord" that were used in the main Sumerian dialect were en (cf. Hayes 2000: 6-7), as well as nin (this meant also "lady") and lugal ("king"), so u-mu-un meant "master," "king" or "queen." Umun was also used to designate "blood" (in Akkadian adamatu): u-mun, u-mu-un = /u/: pronominal prefix + /mu/: "to make grow" + /un/: "people" (cf. Halloran 2006: 287-288). 2) Munus = "woman," "female" (derived from mi = "woman" and nuz or nus = "egg"; cf. Halloran 2006: 181). In fact, as Sitchin suggested, the very term for mother, namely /mama/, which is used now universally to refer to motherhood, was indeed derived from Sumerian forms: the main goddess, Ninhursag/ Ninharsag, is also known as Ninmah (nin = "lady"; mah = "great," "big," "mighty") and as Mami (mah + mi) or Mamu (mah + mu, the latter word meaning also "woman," cf. Halloran 2006: 179). 3) Numun = "seed," "offspring," "progeny," "hereditary line" (from ning = "thing" + gun = "dots," "speckles"). As a verb, numun means also "to produce" (Halloran 2006: 211). Numun was thus explained by Sitchin to mean "an actual Seed of Life," by agency of which "Life on Earth began," after having been seeded from or by another planet (Planet X, Nibiru, Marduk, or other names by which one made reference to it); numun has also a correspondent in Akkadian: zeru; as well as in Hebrew: zera (Sitchin 2010: 158). To be noted here is that the Akkadian zerum/zeru or ziru (Old Assyrian zar um), meaning "seed" or "seeds" of plants, trees, etc., derives from the Sumerian she-numun (she = generic term for any "grain," cf. Halloran 2006: 249), and it also means human "semen" or human "offspring"/"descendant(s)" (cf. Black et al 2012: 446).
In the view above, therefore, meditation (also of the shamanic kind), in its nonreferential form is significantly associated with alpha and theta waves--relevant in precognition and extrasensory perception (Zohar), as well as--in its referential form--with gamma waves and ripples, relevant in extraordinary creativity such as manifest for instance in the brilliantly creative, inventive finding of solutions (what we generically call "Eureka acts"). These are explained by Andreasen (2006: 78) in neuroscientific terms as taking place by a disorganization (the "associative links run wild") of the brain--which is "a mass of feedback loops" (Andreasen 2006: 62), after which "self-organization eventually emerges" by a rewiring of the brain's deep (associative) cortical connections, thereby being brought into existence a new cognitive order out of chaos, expressed in a new artifact, a new theory, a new song, a new novel, a new poem, creed, language, mathematical formula, etc. This in the final analysis is the creative answer given by the powerful brain in its dealing with an anxiety, a desire to find novelty, a wish to reach original freedom from the past, a battle to express what it feels is the unexpressible, a fight to complete its imperfect predecessors, etc.
In doing so, the powerful mind and its vehicle, the powerful brain, seem to tap into a kind of internal "rainbow" of energies/rhythms/ oscillations (expressed physically as the "brain waves") in order to create between the inner dimension (the pure mind, drawing its energies probably from a higher realm, of spirit) and the interface dimension (the /mind-brain/ boundary space) a state of resonance, whereby harmonycoherence is created, with the following visible effect: in such a state, powerful creative energies "rainbow" of rhythms, operating by feedback loops, checks and balances, self-organization. Significantly, this seems to be a crucial mechanism, by which the rise of (extraordinary) creativity indeed takes place.
In quest of origins
The origin of art proper, however, is a territory that is difficult of access, "shadowy" and daemonic: art rises from are generated and, if the state of resonance is maintained, these energies become self-sustained and self-regulated, fine-tuned by an internal "shamanistic ecstasy" (Bloom 1997: 58) and from the wretchedness of man's eternal fear of his own mortal nature. Bloom believes that, in the attempt to find better ways to read poetry, the return to the origins is impossible to avoid: this is the process through which shamans--as specialists of survival--went when, in their total and terrifying initiations, they returned to the "primordial chaos" in order to make possible a new creation (Bloom 1997: 60).
A generalization here is inescapable: if one tries to discover better ways to read macrohistory, a return to the origins of mankind is most necessary, one possible way to do just that being an attempt to reconstruct the so-called "mother tongue," the hypothetic proto-language of humanity that was fragmented into the circa 5000 languages and dialects now spoken worldwide (Ruhlen 1994: 4).
Such a monumental enterprise, or at least the first steps in this direction, was undertaken, among others, by Charles Foster (1851-1854), Jacob Grimm (1882, 1883, 1888), Samuel Noah Kramer (1961, 1981), Zecharia Sitchin (1990-2010), Franz Boas (1911, 1911b, 1922, 1982, 1986, 1989), Joseph Campbell (1973, 1991, 2002), Joseph Greenberg (2005), Merritt Ruhlen (1991, 1994, 1994b), Allan Bomhard (1984, 1994, 2008), Aaron Dolgopolsky (1998), Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza (2001) (for the latter see also Stone, Lurquin 2005), and others, by using complex scientific tools including general, linguistic and cultural anthropology, anthropometry, comparative mythology and religion, genetic and anthropological linguistics, genetics, biology, etc.
In this sense, Greenberg (2005)--whose main principle in research for being certain that one's discoveries are not mere coincidences is the existence of double simultaneous affinities between words belonging to different languages, namely the existence of similarities both in form, as well as in meaning--came to the conclusion that, for instance, in the Americas only three main linguistic macro-families exist: Eskimo-Aleut, Na-Dene and Amerind, while Indo-European is part of a larger linguistic entity, called by Holger Pedersen "Nostratic" (see at least Pedersen 1962, Dolgopolsky 1998, Bomhard 1984, 1994, 2008). The "Nostratic hypothesis" characteristically posits the existence of genetic connections between the following: 1) Indo-European; 2) Uralic; 3) Altaic; 4) Afroasiatic (this includes Semitic); 5) Kartvelian (Southern Caucasian); 6) Dravidian. Greenberg's (2005: 331) version of it, however, is slightly different, and called by him Eurasiatic, which comprises the following: 1) Indo-European; 2) Uralic; 3) Altaic; 4) Yukaghir; 5) Gilyak; 6) Eskimo; 7) Korean; 8) Ainu; 9) Japonese. The monumental and revolutionary two-volume, 1800-page work by Allan Bomhard entitled Reconstructing Proto-Nostratic: comparative phonology, morphology, and vocabulary (2008) is no doubt the most important contribution to Nostratic research, which turns traditional linguistics upside down, just as Franz Bopp did in 1816, when he inaugurated comparative linguistics, this time the Nostratic project dealing with "mass comparison," that is to say comparison between not only five languages--as in Bopp's initial approach of Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Persian, and Gothic -, but between many many more. Nostratic is thus a super-phylum that includes also affinities with the Semitic family and with Sumerian, it showing more affinities with the Eskimo-Aleut macro-family, which basically implies that worldwide there are three main linguistic proto-macro-families or super-phyla: 1) Nostratic/Eskimo-Aleut, which is closest to the Indo-European languages; 2) Na-Dene, also called or related to Dene-Caucasian, which is genetically closest to Etruscan and Sumerian; and 3) Amerind (see also Sitchin 1990: 220ff).
Merritt Ruhlen (1991: 280, 286-289), one of the most important founders of "mass comparative" or "genetic" linguistics, came to the conclusion that worldwide there are seventeen major families or phyla: 1) Khoisan (in Southern Africa); 2) Niger-Kordofanian (Central and Southern Africa); 3) Nilo-Saharan (Central Africa); 4) Afro-Asiatic (Northern Africa, Near East; it includes Ancient Egyptian, Cushitic and Semitic); 5) Caucasian (Caucasus: Georgian); 6) Indo-Hittite (Europe, South-Western Asia, India, Americas, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand); 7) Uralic-Yukaghir (Finland, Estonia, Hungary, former USSR); 8) Altaic (Asia); 9) Chukchi Kamchatkan (North-Eastern Siberia); 10) Eskimo-Aleut (Alaska, Northern Canada, Greenland, North-East of former USSR) (the families 6-10 constitute Greenberg's Eurasiatic or Nostratic macro-family); 11) Elamo-Dravidian (South and East India, South Pakistan); 12) Sino Tibetan (China, Tibet, Nepal, India, Burma, Thailand, Laos); 13) Austric (South-Eastern Asia, Oceania); 14) Indo-Pacific (New Guinea, Timor, Solomons, Andaman Islands, Tasmania, etc.); 15) Australian (Australia); 16) Na-Dene (Alaska, Western Canada, Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico); 17) Amerind (North, Central, South America).
These attempts at a unified understanding of human language, which becomes possible only when we accomplish a reconstruction of the human proto-language by returning, like "linguistic" shamans, to the origins of man, have affinities with Joseph Campbell's efforts to understand mythological systems worldwide as springing from a global "mono-myth," which branched out, as history unfolded, into the many local myths we now know. In this sense, most helpful in the reconstruction of lost historical knowledge is precisely the realization, based on solid documentary evidence provided by genetic linguistics, that complex linguistic (and, more generally, cultural, mythological, religious) forms most often evolve by the divergence of a previously common proto-language (proto-culture, protomyth, proto-religion, etc., respectively), and not by the convergence of several already existing different languages (cultures, myths, etc.) (the latter process was proposed by Trubetskoy in 1939 as a linguistic explanation for how IndoEuropean was generated in the absence of an initial "Proto-Indo-European speech community"; cf. Greenberg 2005: 366). A most powerful example in this sense is the following: Avestan (the Proto-Iranian/Old Persian used in the Avesta) can be turned into Vedic Sanskrit "by the application of a few rules of phonetic replacement" (Greenberg 2005: 368). In other words, the mere information presented above can constitute a most powerful tool of decipherment in linguistic, mythological and generally cultural analysis. In his pioneering enterprise (he is now recognized as the founder of comparative mythology), Campbell indeed can be seen as a kind of shaman of the sciences and the humanities, both of which he used in his demonstrations, thus striving to unify them (see especially Campbell 2002, but also 1973, 1991i-iv) in order to reach the depth of perspective necessary for (re-)discovering the cultural unity of mankind in the confusing disguise of its vast cultural and linguistic diversity. In this acceptation, mythological diversity stems from a mono-myth, while linguistic diversity is the result of a complex process currently known as monogenesis, according to which either all known languages are modified versions of a mother tongue that had been created long long ago by a single, unique creative process (as is implied in the Bible, in the episode in Genesis in which Adam names things); or all currently surviving languages have come down to us as descendants from a single common linguistic source, parallel to which, however, there had existed also other languages formed independently (by earlier hominids or various other groups of Homo sapiens), but which did not survive (Ruhlen 1994: 3-4), having become extinct without leaving any traces in the fossil records of the earth.
The novelist and moral essayist James Baldwin is in this sense a good example of someone who wrote like a "shaman" of the letters, whose creativity arose from both a kind of "magic" linguistic ecstasy and from a fear that humanity is headed towards sure extinction if it does not mend its ways. He in fact demanded, like Jeremiah, but unlike Shakespeare, "a theology of origins," which he in fact discovered in "self-hatred." The latter he came to see as being universally rooted in mankind, as The fire next time (1963) shows. A consequence of this state of affairs is the birth of paradoxes such as the following, which became possible in America: "'The white man's Heaven,' sings a Black Muslim minister, 'is the black man's Hell.'" Baldwin's was a "prophetic stance," even if "not so much religious as aesthetic" (Bloom 2005c: 484). His divinatory-shamanic mission was however that of bringing to harmony the whites and the blacks, because only together they could hope to have a future at all:
[W]hen that vengeance [of God] was achieved, What will happen to all that beauty then? I could also see that the intransigence and ignorance of the white world might make that vengeance inevitable--a vengeance that does not really depend on, and cannot really be executed by, any person or organization, and that cannot be prevented by any police force or army: historical vengeance, a cosmic vengeance, based on the law that we recognize when we say, "Whatever goes up must come down." And here we are, at the center of the arc, trapped in the gaudiest, most valuable, and most improbable water wheel the world has ever seen. Everything now, we must assume, is in our hands; we have no right to assume otherwise. If we--and now I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of the others--do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world. If we do not now dare everything, the fulfillment of that prophecy, recreated from the Bible in song by a slave, is upon us: "God gave Noah the rainbow sign, No more water, the fire next time!" (James Baldwin, The fire next time; apud Bloom 2005c: 486-487)
The primordial element in poetry (and, by extension, in literature) is thus divination, the prediction of dangers that loom large over man's destiny, regardless of whether they come form the gods, from nature or even from oneself or from poems (or other artistic forms) written by others. Otherwise, even etymologically the idea of song/chant stems from the Latin cantare or camere--"to predict/foretell" (cf. Vico's explanations, apud Bloom 1997: 60). In this context of discussing poetic origin, Bloom declares himself the supporter of a "Romantic, prophetic humanism," whose "fountainhead" is Emerson; he embraces, however, also some of Vico's ideas. Thus, Vico was of the opinion that there is no knowledge without creation; the primitives--as "giants of the imagination"--in order to have control over their life, are believed to have created a system of ceremonial magic, which Vico named "a severe poem." In Vico's view, the primitives are believed to have been poets, their ceremonial-ritual wisdom (divination) being precisely what we also at present are looking for as "poetic wisdom."
In Vico's sense, poetic thought is proleptic, the Muse Mnemosyne (Memory) being invoked with a view to being implored to help the poet remember the future. In non-primitive societies, however, that are dominated by "guilt cultures," the return to origins is rare (but a must, if we are not to move altogether towards extinction, as is implied in Baldwin's message in The fire next time), the magic formalism of Viconian poetic wisdom being here inacceptable. Bloom believes that Empedocles is actually the last poet who used divination in an authentic manner, that is to say he believed he became a god by the successful practice of the art of divination. Compared with Empedocles, strong poets like Dante, Milton and Goethe seem to be consumed by the anxiety of influence; if, however, we compare them with the great romantics or with the moderns, they will appear to be miraculously freed from the chains of the anxiety of influence.
What Bloom seems to want to emphasize is that in evaluating poetic influence it is important to first appraise the nature of the initial point of reference that was chosen, which regulates the degree of transparence or opacity of the in-depth perspective. The poets of guilt cultures cannot be initiated into the mysteries of the return to chaos, they thus having to accept their failure regarding divination, this lack of success being the first among the many "little deaths" that prophetically announce a final and total extinction of the kind Baldwin talked about in fearful terms, emphasizing however that there is a small number ("handful that we are") in modern society, both among whites as among blacks, who might change history by changing the paradigm: instead of "self-hatred" and a perpetuation of "racial nightmare," with all its gruesome consequences scarring humanity as a whole with ancestral memories perhaps never to be wiped away entirely, mankind might choose universal freedom. In this sense, we can no doubt see in the "handful" of scholars mentioned above, who are engaged in the quest for finding the "mother tongue" and the unity of culture and language, revolutionary paradigm changers who just might crucially contribute to history being changed for the better in Baldwin's sense, namely changed in such a way as to make possible man's avoiding the extinction of mankind by embracing truth and freedom instead of hatred and falsity.
Paradoxically, the anxiety of influence has maximum power in the most lyrical and most subjective poetry and art forms, which spring directly from the personality of the poet/creator who attempts to define his most advantageous relation both with the Muse, as well as with the predecessor, in this process he being simultaneously hero and victim of poetic/art history, this victimization intensifying the more as history unfolds towards peaks such as "end-of-time" periods, which may signify either total extinction or new beginnings of new cosmic cycles.
In this context, Bloom invokes Hegel's idea that in an advanced lyrical poem the spirit is so much separated from the sensory sphere, that art is on the verge of dissolving into religion.
We are dealing here with a paradox that Bloom unmasked: if maximum lyricism means:
1) maximum anxiety, i.e. maximum tension in the relation with the predecessor (and maximum poetic misprision), which is related also to a maximum internalization of the depths of external poetic/artistic history connected to the predecessor; but also
2) maximum interiority of the soul/personality; then the consequence is that in maximum lyricism a great convergence takes place: two extremes unite in a chiasmic sense: the exteriority of poetic/artistic history becomes organic interiority of the poet, while the spiritual interiority of the poet comes out from the depths of his being (wherein occur the most profound and most terrible spiritual battles, comparable in ferocity with those that became manifest in the social sphere in what Baldwin called mankind's "racial nightmare[s]") in order to become the organic exteriority of poetic/artistic history. Two spheres chiasmically inter-organicize (external poetic/artistic history and the internal dimension of the human being/personality) which otherwise in the Cartesian view have no connection with each other.
In the Cartesian language adopted by Bloom, in other words, in maximum lyricism Cartesian extensiveness (the physical-material sphere, which corresponds to the Cartesian expression res extensa, the extended thing, i.e. matter) becomes organic intensiveness (the intellectual-mental sphere, which corresponds to the Cartesian expression res cogitans, the thinking thing, i.e. mind; the organicity springs from the tension of anxiety which the poet feels both somatically, as well as psychically), while intensiveness (the mental sphere) becomes organic extensiveness (the material sphere). This equation implies that the existence of such "racial nightmare[s]" as denounced by Baldwin is possible in humanity only as a consequence of there existing in the human spirit/mind a deeply wrong state of affairs, which needs correction, if humanity is to not go towards self-ruin.
This chiasmic process corresponds to the opening of communication portals by the romantics precisely between the Cartesian extensiveness and intensiveness, between matter and spirit, by the process of organicization of the natural outside into the inside of being, as well as by the reverse process, of projecting the inside of being into the natural outside. [See supra the meanings of the Sumerian /bar/--"outside"/ "outskirts" and "inside"/"soul"/"spirit"--related with the Akkadian pardesu, which may have derived from the Old Persian pairidaeza from which we have our word for paradise, whose meanings have oscillated between being considered: 1) a purely spiritual realm (the Venerable Bede); 2) a purely physical region that was geographically traceable (St. Thomas of Aquinas); or 3) a land both physical and spiritual (St. Augustin; also St. Thomas of Aquinas adopted this conception later; cf. Campbell 1991iv: 612)]. The process of matter-spirit convergence was in fact for the romantics the first step towards the recovery of the unity of being (intuited by Baldwin--1963--as the only solution: whites and blacks together in a universal brotherhood) that was fragmented after the Fall, which had as a last consequence the differential unification of all value spheres (science, art, religion), as well as the differential fusion of transcendence and immanence into the one paradox of trans-immanence or what Emily Dickinson (1961: 691) called "finite infinity" (in poem 1695, There is a solitude of space, dated 1914), while Blake defined as the "Marriage of Heaven and Hell." Bloom however underlines that no powerful poet/artist, who is at the beginning of his quest, can accept the Hegelian view on art's dissolving into religion, which, in Platonic terms, would mean the dissolution of the Beautiful ( techne, art as craftsmanship) into the notion of the Good (phronesis, prudence). Good poetry, contrariwise, is a simultaneous act of contraction and expansion, because all "revisionary ratios" are movements of contraction, but poetic/artistic creation in itself is a movement of expansion.
We observe in this Bloomian concept a profound influence coming from Blake (especially the poem Jerusalem), according to whom infinite life is an eternally oscillating assemblage defined by the contraction-expansion intermittence, which corresponds with the pulses of what we called the Pendulum of History: the oscillations towards matter (contraction) and towards spirit (expansion).
This model has interestingly strong affinities with Dewey B. Larson's image of the universe as governed by the principles stated in the Reciprocal Theory: matter traveling with increasing speed up to reaching the speed of light most probably transforms into light, while light slowing down morphs back into matter, these contractive and expansive processes taking place between two great assemblages of the same unique reality: the spacer-time1 continuum and the time3-space1 continuum--here the exponents show the number of dimensions space and time respectively have in the two different, but complementary, realities, both of which are just as "real" and as consistent with their own intercommunicating foundations.
For Bloom the poetic phenomenon (good poetry) is characterized therefore by the dialectics established between the revisionary movement (which is a contraction) and the "freshening outwardgoing-ness" (Bloom 1997: 95), the expansion, which, naturally, reminds us also of the "shamanic ecstasy" (which is related to divination). Therefore, poetic creativity in this acceptation takes place by processes that follow the trajectories of what we called the Pendulum of History.
It is indeed remarkable that Bloom's model of poetic evolution is pendular in nature, its symplex dynamics being by and large the following in a generalized scheme of cultural evolution, wherein the outset of every new evolutionary phase (or revisionary ratio) can be seen as symbolically corresponding to the activation of a new type of brain/mind waves, these now unfolding yet again as it were, from the moment of the new birth of the individual, this time as a poet or creator, so that now the individual, even though he may be mature, experiences a new birth and goes on again through the ages of man--infant, small child, child, teenage, young adult, mature adult, very mature adult, etc.:
1) Clinamen (I symbolical "delta waves activation": 0-3 years of age as a creator after poetic/creative birth of genius): cultural assimilation of tradition into new forms in the present which are slightly different from the old ones. The element of novelty is yet modest, perceived largely as a distortion of the old traditional forms. The creator may feel like an intruder in the context of the tradition he "exceptionally" distorts.
2) Tessera (I symbolical "theta waves activation": 3-5 years of age as a creator): cultural recuperation of key elements of tradition that were thought to be lost; how complete the recovery is will prove to be essential for the future evolution, since this stage is the mold of all subsequent evolutionary dynamics, a kind of skeleton key that will unlock many doors of many understandings, being a foundation of all future cultural, artistic, scientific, etc., creativity.
3) Kenosis (I symbolical "alpha waves activation": 5-8 years of age as a creator): cultural rejection of tradition with a view to creating space inside the individual so that he becomes transparent in his inner world, and begins to be able to read his own self, thus reaching self-definition and self-understanding.
4) Daemonization (I symbolical "beta waves activation": teenage to young adulthood--ca. 1020 years of age--as a creator): cultural over-assimilation of tradition. Having reached the transparence of spirit, the creator who passed through kenosis will know that all tradition is to a certain degree a manifestation of a much deeper reality spiritual in nature. He now engages in quest of what is beyond tradition itself, he searches for the daemonic/spiritual energy that made tradition possible and hides behind the scenes. In a way, this is a revolutionary movement similar to one that happened at the time of the Neo-Platonic revolution: as mentioned, Plato had stated that Nature is a copy of the Eternal Ideas, and that Art is the copy of a copy, hence the insignificance of artists for him, who were only copiers of second degree; Plotinus, on the other hand, stated that artists do not copy Nature, they copy directly the Eternal Ideas, so their status was higher than Nature itself. In the phase of daemonization, the creator therefore assimilates (also by distorting to a certain degree, as in the clinamen phase) tradition in its aspect as manifestation of a transcendental, nouminous power.
5) Askesis (I symbolical "gamma waves activation": young to mature adulthood as a creator): cultural over-rejection of tradition. After having experienced and assimilated to a certain degree the depths of Spirit, the creator retreats again to himself, in order to probe again his own inner world, this time having been already enriched with the spirituality of the transcendent world. He will now be able to observe that individuality and otherness, transcendence and immanence meet in himself, he being an interface of the two worlds, that of matter and that of spirit, that of immanence and that of transcendence, that of the phenomena and that of the numina.
6) Apophrades (I symbolical "ripple band activation": mature to very mature adulthood as a creator): cultural revival of tradition. After having been again purged spiritually, the ascetic creator reconstructs in himself the entire past like a veritable shaman, now past, present and future fusing in a magnificent encounter of the old and the new: Spirit meets spirit, the origins return in all their might, the process being possible mainly because the creator engaged in the quest for the skeleton keys of universal knowledge and creation, opening the "gates" separating time from eternity, the finite from infinitude. Now the shaman-author has access to the mother tongue, the golden language of the divinity, the theandric code of creation as encrypted in the ultimate equation of God-the-Creator who became flesh inside Creation (see supra the section on Bloom's connection to pataphysics). As in the actual state in which brain ripples are activated, in apophrades the creator reaches coherence and harmony, integrating in himself the plenitude of the outside world and the inside world (see the Akk. pardesu), matter and spirit, macrocosmos and microcosmos, and becoming himself an unutterable paradox, a jivan mukta, a powerful shaman, a point of convergence who sees and understands as one unified whole "all possible worlds," "all forms of existence," just like Jarry's pataphysician, who comes to demonstrate by the use of geometry that "God is the shortest distance between zero and infinity [...] in either direction"; that his "first name is Plus-and-Minus"; and that "God is the tangential point between zero and infinity. Pataphysics is the science ..." (Jarry 1996: 114)
This pattern is akin to the model of cultural evolution governed by the simplex mechanism of "challenge-and-response." Complexity and simplicity in this pattern rise and fall alternately one into the other, thus being permanently created new forms of expression from the old, and old forms of expression from the new. This way, the recuperation of the past and of the future into the continuous present is possible in a context in which creativity is the master key factor: creativity is the perpetual process of rising and falling of forms of energy and matter into, alternately, forms of complexity and of simplicity, the entire mechanism being regulated constantly by simplexity, a checks and balances "engine," operating by virtue of structures of the golden section type, as demonstrated by Nassim Haramein (2011, 2011b).
The mystical wheel of genius
The theory of poetry presented by Bloom in The anxiety of influence is rather clearly akin to the theory of genius offered almost thirty years later, in 2002, in Genius. The latter is based on Emerson's idea according to which genius is "the God within," or the "Self" in "Self-Reliance," which belongs to the inner transcendental sphere, to which shamans of all traditions and religions have the most direct access. Emerson probably derived his ideas on genius and self-reliance, among others, from Edward Young's powerful romantic protomanifesto, that emphasized the concept of genius as the "god within" and the notion that man needs to start trusting himself--or else he might lose his chance at eternal greatness--by beginning to appreciate his own divine gifts, which most of the time remain undiscovered unless man turns his eyes inwards into the infinite worlds within (as Blake, the arch-romantic poet, never tired to urge his compeers to do):
A star of the first magnitude among the moderns was Shakespeare; among the antients, Pindar; who (as Vossius tells us) boasted of his no-learning, calling himself the eagle, for his flight above it. And such genii as these may, indeed, have much reliance on their own native powers. For genius may be compared to the natural strength of the body; learning to the superinduced accoutrements of arms: if the first is equal to the proposed exploit, the latter rather encumbers, than assists; rather retards, than promotes, the victory. Sacer nobis inest Deus, says Seneca. With regard to the moral world, conscience, with regard to the intellectual, genius, is that god within. (Young 1918:
14-15) [Lat. cf. Seneca: "Sacer nobis inest Deus"--Sacred within us is a God." A similar concept appears in Ovid, Fasti 6.5: "est Deus in nobis"--"there is a god within us"; likewise in Seneca's Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium 41.2: "sacer intra nos spiritus sedet"--"a holy spirit indwells within us," cf. Vickers 2004iv: 406, n. 1]
Since it is plain that men may be strangers to their own abilities; and by thinking meanly of them without just cause, may possibly lose a name, perhaps a name immortal; I would find some means to prevent these evils. Whatever promotes virtue, promotes something more, and carries its good influence beyond the moral man: To prevent these evils, I borrow two golden rules from ethics, which are no less golden in Composition, than in life. I. Know thyself; 2dly, Reverence thyself. (Young 1918: 23-24)
The one hundred human geniuses that Bloom identifies are presented below, in a Kabbalistic classification about which he asserts that it is perpetually in motion, the one hundred authors passing in the course of time through each and every knot of the sephirothic tree made up of ten Sephiroth, each with ten authors, divided into two series of five:
1) Keter (Crown): Shakespeare, Cervantes, Montaigne, Milton, Tolstoy; Lucretius, Virgil, St. Augustin, Dante, Chaucer.
2) Hokmah (Wisdom): the Yahwist, Socrates, Plato, St. Paul, Mohammed; Dr. Johnson, Boswell, Goethe, Freud, Th. Mann.
3) Binah (the receptive Intellect, Intelligence open to Wisdom): Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Kafka, Proust, Beckett; Moliere, Ibsen, Chekhov, Wilde, Pirandello.
4) Hesed (the generous Love of the covenant that goes out of God, or out of man): Donne, Pope, Swift, Austen, Murasaki; Hawthorne, Melville, Ch. Bronte, Emily Bronte, Woolf.
5) Din (strict Judgment) or Gevurah (the Power making possible the strict Judgment): Emerson, Dickinson, Frost, Stevens, T. S. Eliot; Wordsworth, Percy Shelley, Keats, Leopardi, Tennyson.
6) Tiferet (Beauty) or Rahamin (Compassion): Swinburne, D. G. Rossetti, Ch. Rossetti, Pater, Hofmannsthal; Hugo, Nerval, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Valery.
7) Nezah (God's Victory, the eternal Resistence that cannot be defeated): Homer, Camoens, Joyce, A. Carpentier, O. Paz; Stendhal, M. Twain, Faulkner, Hemingway, F. O'Connor.
8) Hod (Splendor, Greatness that has prophetic force): Whitman, Pessoa, H. Crane, Garcia Lorca, Cernuda; G. Eliot, W. Cather, E. Wharton, Fitzgerald, I. Murdoch.
9) Yesod (Foundation, Fundament; a meaning which is akin to the Roman significance of the Latin genius: conceiving or generative force): Flaubert, de Queiroz, Machado de Assis, Borges, Calvino; Blake, Lawrence, T. Williams, Rilke, E. Montale.
10) Malkhut (Kingdom) or Atarah (the Diadem) (a Sephiroth which is identified with the Shekinah that has descended into manifestation, i.e. the feminine brightness of God): Balzac, L. Carroll, H. James, R. Browning, Yeats; Dickens, Dostoevsky, I. Babel, P. Celan, R. Ellison.
Without doubt, by this ontodynamic Canon (which is in permanent internal structural motion) of literary Geniuses that constitutes a kind of meta-Canon (a sephirothic, gnosticmystical Canon of the world literary canon), offered in 2002, Bloom continues his severe battle, which he led unremittingly all his life, against the destruction of the Canon, without which "we cease to think"--since, as Young (1918: 42) admirably put it, "good books are the medicine of the mind."
By choosing one hundred human geniuses, Bloom seems to make poetic reference--after almost 200 years -, indirectly, to the one hundred plates of William Blake's masterpiece Jerusalem. [ Be it noted that the significance of the name of Jerusalem is itself relevant: 1) Uru-shalem = "city of peace/justice/plenitude/perfection"; cf. Sumerian uru or eri = city; Hebrew shalem = friendly; complete, perfect, whole, full, just, peaceable, made ready, quiet; peaceful; Shalem was an early name of Jerusalem (Strong 2001: 856); also Ur-shalem = "City of the Comprehensive God" (Sitchin 2008: 128). Or, in a different interpretation: 2) Ur-shulim: in Sumerian, "the city of Shu-lim," i.e. of "the Supreme Place of the Four Regions," which points to the city's nickname: "the Navel of the Earth" (cf. Sitchin 2007iii: 180; 2008: 14); Sumerian limmu, lim = "four" (Halloran 2006: 159)]. On these one hundred plates of the prophetic poem Jerusalem that describes the "synchro-history" of mankind (past, present, future as a unity), Bloom seems to inscribe, in a belated act, the one hundred names of the most brilliant and gifted authors of all times and places, whom he considers as being the most magnificent pillars of human culture, his purpose being to thereby discover--inside the labyrinth of history--the deep meanings of the masterworks of these human geniuses, these acts of discovery themselves being the equivalent of just as many Blakean acts of building the foundations of Jerusalem--the earthly central city of peace and perfection--all of which for Blake meant gaining spiritual freedom.
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Mihai A. Stroe
University of Bucharest
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