by Bodwyn Wook
A commentor in Bodwyn Wook replied to a previous article, on the historianship of the fact of the legendary curse on Mankato, Minnesota:
‘…[Y]ou throw in a few facts and then make up stuff, and then go on to that say it can’t ever finally be figured out. What’s the point? Somewhere though you did mention changing the past, but the only way to do that is through objective social history and holding people responsible in a clear analysis of abusive power-relations for hurting and holding back society. Even then you can’t change [what] has gone down… [According to you, history is] all “personality”, big deal….’
In a nutshell, they have have touched on the key point of it all in historianship, namely the thorny problem of the interplay in history-making between ‘objectivity’; and, the needed developed subjectivity of the worker, the critical role of the personality indeed of every individual historian. Needless to say, whilst one concedes the physical (NB) substance of a therefore objective past, by definition it is only as experienceable by individuals as is any momentary ‘present’: subjectively, that is to say. And this be equally so, whether one fingers a potshard; grubs through an old newspaper file; or — carefully — conducts a constructive meditation, in this case on an historical topic. Or perhaps one should write, in a particular period in historical time.
Hence, as in all material matters, our direct experience of outward molecular things goes ahead in the brain on a different gauge, namely the electromagnetic.
So perhaps the post-modern historian of your era reading rhis — ‘to-day’s’ evolving actual history-maker — may be said to have to contend paradoxically with the same problems as those of the mathematician: and, most certainly when an exact definition or clear, concise information is demanded, by the feckless layperson. In Bodwyn Wook already from a sufi angle Nejmi Mohammed has pointed out the necessary caveat that alone in these studies ‘who tastes, knows’. Likewise, with history-making or mathematical operations, it is actual operation alone, personally ‘doing’ re-memberance or math that is to say, which only can bring a deeper or wider understanding. In other words, participation in the direct technical sense conducts the perceptions of the historian onto a different order of magnitude.
As matters now stand, to-day’s present beggarly ensemble of public techniques — called ‘de-constructive’ and ‘post-modern’ — are like Bilbo Baggins’ too-little butter spread ever-more thinly, on to too, too much bread.
It is now only through disciplined methods of comprehension neglected since the neo-platonism of the Middle Ages that, therefore, we may hope to resume again any possible progress in historianship. Indeed, this now is the case for all of our western sciences, largely moribund as they are objectively become, and in thrall mainly to ‘markets’; immediate if not actually infantile continuous demands for technological application; and, the inevitably weary, exhausted tertiary or quartenary elaboration. So it is that here one refers yet once again to the methods of so-called ‘active imagination’; first rediscovered by C. G. Jung (pbuh) ninety years ago; and, at the World War I dead high noon of late-modernity.
If any reading this have made it their business to take up the suggestion made here occasionally before, namely to read the recommended manuals esp by misses Barbara Hannah and Marie-Louise von Franz, you will now have some idea of what this is about. Therefore, you at least will not be surprised to read the assertion, to-day, that indeed in the end something very like ‘time travel’ is increasingly available and practically possible; and, indeed, well before physical death: certainly so, too, at least in the case of those who make it their business to practice regularly, and with a lively moral sense, the techniques of an ethical reverie.
In history as far as it had come in the late-modern age, the picture of the past was concrete, clear, and thus subject to misunderstanding only when taken out of the rhetorical context of that era. In that narrative mode, history indeed tells us all that it contains. But just as soon as one tries to enter into the heart of the matter, the whole affair ‘goes straight to Hell’, in Mr Judson Andersen’s memorable Eagle Lake, Minnesota, phrase; and, straightaway, everything relapses into an infuriating hopeless muddle: of conflicting accounts, fragmentary images and momentary recollections.
This sort of mess is especially familiar to the recorder of oral history, who must both impose a big enough narrative container and yet not censor. Therefore, in order to more fully understand the living function of any work of history, historianship, history-making, we must let the opus remain an organic whole on its own: that we may then go forth to meet, in thought and meditation and nowhere else, but nonetheless as a true ding an sich; and, moreover, one with its own further tales: then to be told.
This is what living history is, namely a participatory process going on ‘now’; and, in childhood or early adolescence it well may begin outwardly to happen, here in America, with such activities as Civil War and Renaissance Fair re-enactment activities, such as those put up for instance by the Society for Creative Anachronism; or, by Mr Jack McGowan at his annual History Fair in rural Mankato, Minnesota….
Of course history is a distinct entity, but the days when we could dissect it in the manner of a corpse are nonetheless effectively over. Such methods have their place naturally; but, simply put, they no longer can supply across a broad-enough perceptual range the true sensual encounter, the urgently needed sufficiency of in-formation: the all-important inner formation of the history-worker.
[Indeed, the demand for the “direct experience” of historical life in all its eras is now so real that the drive really must be deemed a true archetype. So, it should also come as no surprise now to learn as well that many a respected emeritus of history and psychology professional regales him- or herself, in the secretive privacy of their off hours, with the classics of historical film-making, for example Gone With The Wind and The Battle Of the Bulge, or Soldier Of Orange. Or else the treasures of Vincent Price and the endless library of Asian martial arts confections. Nor does this brief list do justice, not really, to the entire body of SF film-offerings on the whole thorny topic of future-history, as well as the virtually uiniversal taste for pornography in all of its most stultifying forms. The depths and differentiation of decadence in the minds of the professional classes is nowadays just mind-boggling! — Dr Wayness Tamm-Clattuc ]
In view of the enormous complexity of historical phenomena, it follows then that a purely phenomological view is and must be, and for good long time to come, still the only one possible; and, the only one as well to offer even a remote possibility of success: which alone lies in the acquisition of new in-ward impressions of the — precisely — re-membered past. ‘What happened’ and ‘why’ particularly in the field of history are questions that typically call forth the untimely academic attempts on inadequate rational foundations, at ‘explanations’ with which we are all, alas, entirely too familiar; and which, as is well-known from the notoriously extraverted blunders of the neo-conservative theorists in Mesopotamia, are mainly subjective in the entirely-wrong sense: whereas, altogether unconsciously, they are only about our debatable ‘here-and-now’. Such speculations generally are based far more on not-so-secretly-held philosophical or political premises; careerism; the desire to be on Tee Vee and so forth; all of that, indeed; and, all of that, far, far rather than on the nature and integrity of the phenomena themselves: of individual and public memory.
Historical phenomena occasioned by the initially-unconscious processes of perception of what is heard and read and studied are so rich and many-sided that increasingly one expects that one may well in future be describing more and more ones own active journeys into the past: and, especially, drawing the true wisdom from the thought experiments to be conducted there. This is entirely congruent both with the new bigger picture of historianship, now evolving; and, as well, entirely it is all of a piece with the demands of ones personal life, of the old age now beginning for your writer: in his embodiment of to-day at any rate; and, on the threshold of a stage in life, always in which the work of the world is far more — and, more — an interior affair.
In closing, one quite realises that this is a lot to take in; and, so, one shall leave it all, for now, by saying that what may never ‘finally be figured out’ in history is, nevertheless, roundly subject also to being actively changed in retrospect, at least by persons living with knowledge and design their embodied lives ‘now’; and thus, for that reason if none other, the participatory and, hence, truly working historian must necessarily strive continuously, to form as complete a picture as they can; and, then — in all piety indeed! — to depend for success on their encounters on other levels of thought, with the collegial figures of other historians and colleagues, past and present: together to make the decisive difference for us all, certainly in any terms really of THE big picture. It is by now, because of all of the popular music of some sixty years or more, as hackneyed as can be to say it yet once again, but indeed love is the motive and purpose of all this compassionate…solipsism.
[Emmett R Smith all rights reserved 21 July 2008]