Interview with: Cigarettes After Sex

Creativity

Interview by: Alexis Petridis

greggonzalez

Interview with Cigarettes After Sex – Band chat and Youtube

How has your music developed from the first EP, and do you feel like you’ve grown as an artist since then?

“It took ages to make something after the first EP as it felt like we couldn’t really top it for the longest time. I was trying different methods to top it too, going back to recording in different ways. The same way with a new band ended up working with Affection [second EP], when we did that. But I think it’s a pretty close sound, just a refined version somewhat. I didn’t want to go too far off, so I suppose it hasn’t changed much. That sound has become my identity and I’ve just been making it tighter and sharper and as good as I can. As a person, I think I’ve just changed through seeing more of the world and the music’s brought that about. I feel like maybe I’ve gotten better at dealing with some things… but that I’m probably more detached too, cause it’s harder to have relationships and stuff like that if you’re on the road. Before, I had more long-term relationships, now on the road there is more of having to manage a long-distance kind of thing. Touring changes a person that way.”

What’s the favourite song you’ve written, and your favourite song to perform?

“It’s probably ‘I’m a Firefighter’. That one took a lot longer than usual, and it feels really cinematic to me – in the sense that while each image is about falling out of love, it’s elaborated upon in a way that is much more imaginative. The other songs are more like retellings of real stories. Take for example ‘Affection’ or ‘K’ – those kind of line by line describe things that have happened to me. In them I’m telling the story almost 100%, like a memoir. But ‘I’m a Firefighter’ uses an emotion and turns it into some kind of story. I really like that aspect of the song; it’s different from the other stuff. It’s actually based on a really true feeling; a break up I was going through. So I like that one. I also like singing it too, because the way it was written, it feels like it’s a really good place for my voice. I like the way the two work together – the lyrics and my vocals.”

Who or what would you say were your major influences?

“For the first EP (I), we were inspired by primarily the Cowboy Junkies. They did a record called Trinity Session – I love the sound of ‘Sweet Jane’ – and I figured out when I read about the album that they recorded over the course of just one night, live, with just one mic. And I thought it was great, and that we should do a record like that. I began doing it that way because I felt like I was wasting too much time in the studio overdeveloping stuff and I just wanted to do something live and just have it over with. I in a sense was totally spontaneous, and that’s become the style of the band – we always record live now. It was kind of a happy accident. So that was a big stylistic one.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I was also listening to ‘Fade Into You’ by Mazzy Star a lot, and revisiting Red House Painters’ ‘Katy Song’, along with a lot of 60s records, like the Paris Sisters’ ‘I Love How Your Love Me’, music with that really romantic kind of feeling. Françoise Hardy is a big influence too because of how soothing her music is and how it’s really mysterious and beautiful. Those are the main ones; you put those together and you kind of get what we’re doing. We’re a good mash up of those and, oh – Cocteau Twins – that was also a good one!

Lyrically I was also inspired by Richard Brautigan. He had this collection of poems called The Pill vs. the Springhill Mine Disaster, and our lyrics are kind of taken from that vibe. It’s in how he says somewhat bluntly sexual things, but manages to find a way to make them kinda sweet and kinda funny, so that was a big thing.

Goodreads.com The Pill vs the Springhill Mine Disaster

I was also inspired by romantic films like L’Avventura, or French New Wave films, like A Woman Is a Woman – the feeling in those films was the feeling I wanted for our music.

10 great french new-wave films

lesfemmes

You’re very popular on YouTube – ‘Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby’ has garnered over 30 million views – how would you say online platforms have affected your career?

“YouTube’s the main one, definitely – it seems to have made all the difference for us. We kinda get confused actually as to how that happened, because the EP came out in 2012 and it was online, we toured for it, but no one really cared about it much. There was just a really small cult of fans I would talk to – maybe every month someone would send me an email saying the music changed their life, or that it was really helpful for them. But then someone took it upon themselves to post our music on YouTube (as I wasn’t really involved in it at the time), and when we finally announced Affection that was something of a catalyst that made everything take off. It seems like it was a sort of word-of-mouth thing. People said they got to our music through recommended videos on YouTube, sometimes even through music that hasn’t got much to do with us – through Black Sabbath and Nirvana and the like. It’s quite a mystery. But YouTube definitely made us.

Where do you see Cigarettes After Sex in 5 years?

“Pretty much doing the same thing, just more traveling the world and more recording, in bigger places and hopefully more exotic places, too. People seem to want us to tour to India and Japan, so I figure maybe we’ll go to those places. Hopefully this time next year we could do Singapore, South Korea, Tokyo and Thailand. We meet a lot of fans from Thailand at our shows in the States. Basically it’ll be just an extension of how it is now for us – I really love how things are going at the moment, so I just want it to build into a stronger, more powerful version of itself!”

Cigarettes After Sex’s eponymously named ‘Cigarettes After Sex’ debut album is out now. For more from the band, head to Facebook.com/cigarettesaftersex

#music

(The word and (positive) experience of) ‘Silence.

Where emotions exist, but don’t prevail.Image

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01gnq8y/Start_the_Week_Creativity_Jonah_Lehrer/

Andrew Marr discusses creativity with science writer Jonah Lehrer, experimental sound artist Scanner, nano-scientist Rachel O’Reilly and author Joanna Kavenna.

More Programme Information

‘His second insight is that the ability to be creative, to think new thoughts, is crucially dependent on one’s relationships with other people and society as a whole. This is because the individual brain, “is always situated in a context and a culture” which may either discourage or support a person’s creativity.

  • Taking a break from struggling is helpful, in part, because it allows the brain to produce more alpha waves, which are associated with spontaneous insights. So crucial are these waves that, “it’s possible to predict that a person will solve an insight puzzle up to eight seconds before the insight” reaches that person’s conscious mind.
  • Going for a walk or talking with friends at a café can also free one’s mind to wander and lead to unexpectedly useful associations. A person who is in a more relaxed mood may become more intuitive as his or her thoughts break free from their habitual patterns. (The down-side, however, as Daniel Kahneman explains in his brilliant, Thinking, Fast and Slow, is that, when in a good mood, a person also has a tendency to be “less vigilant and prone to logical errors.”)
  • Imagine helps to demystify creativity, to show how we can break through old patterns of thinking, and how much society can help — or hinder — us in achieving our creative potentials.

How Creativity Works, Jonah Lehrer

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/Creativity+more+social+than+think+author+argues/6895212/story.html#ixzz1zseo1GBt

Creativity, Psychology

Symbolist Movement

Creativity, Poems, Psychology

Moréas’ Symbolist Manifesto

as translated by C. Liszt

I am interested in how literature can influence, inspire and effect art, and as such want to concentrate on reading more and painting more! I am going to start with symbolist poetry influences. I came across a website that translates the Symbolist movements manifesto, here

http://www.mutablesound.com/home/?p=2165

and am going to develop research and exploration within this post around the theme of the symbolist movement.Image

INTRODUCTION

French Symbolism was a complex and influential literary movement that flourished during the last two decades of the nineteenth century. Although the term Symbolism was first applied by Jean Moréas in 1885, the stylistic, thematic, and philosophic tenets of this poetic movement were established earlier in the works of Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, and Stéphane Mallarmé. In overview, the works of the Symbolists were characterized by a concern with moods and transient sensations rather than lucid statements and descriptions, a desire to apprehend the existence of a transcendental realm of being where one could commune with the innate but inscrutable essences of life, a hermetic subjectivity, and an interest in the morbid or esoteric. Like the Decadents, their contemporaries in late nineteenth-century French literature,

the Symbolist poets rejected conventional religious, social, and moral values, embracing instead a world-negating escapism, the lure of exoticism, and an aggressive individualism. They also reacted strongly against the traditional techniques, rigid forms, and descriptive propensities of their poetic forebears, the Parnassians, and repudiated the then dominant fictional mode of the Naturalists, writers who sought to represent human life in terms of physical and biological forces and rendered their works in uncomplicated, journalistic prose. Instead, the Symbolist poets were primarily concerned with the expression of inward experience, and their approach often resulted in works that were intentionally obscure and highly personal.

Although it can be said to have originated decades earlier, the Symbolist movement emerged formally in the mid-1880s as a reaction to adverse criticism that had been directed at poets associated with the Decadent movement. Responding to critical attacks aimed at the “decadent” style of writers who had drawn their inspiration primarily from the works of Baudelaire, Moréas published an essay in the journal Le XIXe siècle in 1885 defending the search for a new language, one that progressed beyond the previous conventions of French versification to convey a poetic reality independent of rhetoric and surface descriptions. In this essay, Moréas coined the term “symbolism” in its modern sense, believing it a more accurate and less derogatory word than “Decadence” to describe his work and that of his contemporaries. In a continuation of the debate over the validity of the movement, Moréas published “Manifeste littéraire de l’école Symboliste” a year later in Le Figaro, in which he proclaimed Symbolism the dominant school of French poetry. The same year, Moréas joined with Gustave Kahn and Paul Adam to found Le Symboliste, a short-lived periodical devoted to the cause of Symbolist literature. Perhaps the best-known journal of the movement was the Mercure de France, which was co-founded by Remy de Gourmont, one of the most prominent critics to support the Symbolists. Defining the principles of Symbolist art, Gourmont asserted that Symbolism meant “individualism in literature, liberty in art,” and the “abandonment of existing forms.”

Long before the 1886 publication of the Symbolist manifesto by Moréas and the subsequent critical codifications of the movement, however, the aesthetics and ideology of Symbolism were embodied in the poetic works of its principal proponents: Baudelaire, Verlaine, Rimbaud, and Mallarmé. Baudelaire’s verse collection Les Fleurs du mal (1857; The Flowers of Evil) represents a catalogue of qualities that would appear in the writings of the later Symbolist writers: individualism to the point of misanthropy, perverse eroticism, fascination with the exotic, extreme cynicism, occult reverence for the power of language, and nostalgia for a spiritual homeland that exists beyond the visible world. In particular, Baudelaire’s poem “Correspondences,” first published in Les Fleurs du mal, articulates two important principles of Symbolist poetry: first, that esoteric parallels exist between material and spiritual worlds; second, that human sense perceptions, such as those of sight or hearing, may correspond to one another in a phenomenon known as synesthesia. The contribution of Verlaine to the development of Symbolism derives from the intense lyricism of his verse, which inspired an emphasis in late nineteenth-century poetry on the musical possibilities of language, and also prompted a poetic concern with mood rather than meaning. In the poetry of Rimbaud, the visionary nature of Symbolism is conspicuously revealed as the poet assumes the role of seer and advocates the derangement of his senses and abandonment of reason for the illuminations of mysticism. In such works as Le Bateau ivre (1871; The Drunken Boat) and Les Illuminations (1886; Illuminations), which were composed before the author had reached the age of twenty, Rimbaud offers a hallucinatory mode of perception and an intensely original style of poetic expression. Similarly noted for his stylistic innovations in service of a transcendent vision was Mallarmé, who became the central figure in the Symbolist movement both for his role as a mentor to younger poets and for his poetry, which many critics regard as the epitome of Symbolist art. With such poems as “Hérodiade” (1869) and “L’Après-midi d’un faun” (1876; “The Afternoon of a Faun”) Mallarmé not only provided supreme examples of Symbolist themes and techniques but also engaged in literary experimentation to a degree that anticipated the new direction of modernist literature.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the Symbolists had virtually disappeared from the French literary scene. The deaths of the movement’s leading figures, including Mallarmé in 1898, prompted a steep decline. Although the moment of the Symbolist poets was a short-lived one in French literary history, its effect on the subsequent course of world literature has been lasting and profound; Symbolist poetic influence predominated for decades throughout the world, particularly in Russia, Germany, Eastern Europe, and Japan. Furthermore, a number of the leading French writers of the modernist period, most prominently Paul Valéry and Paul Claudel, continued to follow many of the principles of Symbolism in their work. Succeeded by various avant-garde movements of the twentieth century, Symbolism is often recognized as the source of the modern artistic temper as characterized by formal experimentation and alienation from society. Finalizing scholarly assessments of Symbolist poetics, however, has remained as elusive as some of most deeply enigmatic works composed by Baudelaire or Mallarmé.

Synesthesia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For other uses, see Synesthesia (disambiguation).

How someone with synesthesia might perceive certain letters and numbers.

Synesthesia (also spelled synæsthesia or synaesthesia, plural synesthesiæ or synæsthesiæ), from the ancient Greek σύν (syn), “together,” and αἴσθησις (aisthēsis), “sensation,” is a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.[1][2][3][4] People who report such experiences are known as synesthetes. Recently, difficulties have been recognized in finding an adequate definition of synesthesia[5][6], as many different phenomena have been covered by this term and in many cases the term synesthesia (“union of senses”) seems to be a misnomer. A more accurate term for the phenomenon may be ideasthesia.

In one common form of synesthesia, known as grapheme → color synesthesia or color-graphemic synesthesia, letters or numbersare perceived as inherently colored,[7][8] while in ordinal linguistic personification, numbers, days of the week and months of the year evoke personalities.[9][10] In spatial-sequence, or number form synesthesia, numbers, months of the year, and/or days of the week elicit precise locations in space (for example, 1980 may be “farther away” than 1990), or may have a (three-dimensional) view of a year as a map (clockwise or counterclockwise).[11][12][13] Yet another recently identified type, visual motion → sound synesthesia, involves hearing sounds in response to visual motion and flicker.[14] Over 60 types of synesthesia have been reported,[15] but only a fraction have been evaluated by scientific research.[16] Even within one type, synesthetic perceptions vary in intensity[17] and people vary in awareness of their synesthetic perceptions.[18]

While cross-sensory metaphors (e.g., “loud shirt,” “bitter wind” or “prickly laugh”) are sometimes described as “synesthetic”, true neurological synesthesia is involuntary. It is estimated that synesthesia could possibly be as prevalent as 1 in 23 persons across its range of variants.[19] Synesthesia runs strongly in families, but the precise mode of inheritance has yet to be ascertained. Synesthesia is also sometimes reported by individuals under the influence of psychedelic drugs, after a stroke, during a temporal lobe epilepsy seizure, or as a result of blindness or deafness. Synesthesia that arises from such non-genetic events is referred to as “adventitious synesthesia” to distinguish it from the more common congenital forms of synesthesia. Adventitious synesthesia involving drugs or stroke (but not blindness or deafness) apparently only involves sensory linkings such as sound → vision or touch → hearing; there are few, if any, reported cases involving culture-based, learned sets such as graphemeslexemes, days of the week, or months of the year.

Although synesthesia was the topic of intensive scientific investigation in the late 19th century and early 20th century, it was largely abandoned by scientific research in the mid-20th century, and has only recently been rediscovered by modern researchers.[20] Psychological research has demonstrated that synesthetic experiences can have measurable behavioral consequences, while functional neuroimaging studies have identified differences in patterns of brain activation.[8] Many people with synesthesia use their experiences to aid in their creative process, and many non-synesthetes have attempted to create works of art that may capture what it is like to experience synesthesia. Psychologists and neuroscientists study synesthesia not only for its inherent interest, but also for the insights it may give into cognitive and perceptual processes that occur in synesthetes and non-synesthetes alike.

Zinaida Serebriakova

Creativity, Feminism, Psychology

I have been reading from the following site, http://www.escapeintolife.com and using passages from the text there to start of this post, influenced by the Russian female artist Zinaida Yevgenyevna Serebriakova  (December 10, 1884 – September 19, 1967)

What then of the Serebriakova nudes? They are not in the sense of the modernist art canon really striking – there is no deconstruction of the female body, nor are they particularly provocative in their poses. One needs only have to compare them with the other nudes of the period by Henri Matisse or Amedeo Modigliani. But this might not be the whole truth because when she painted her nudes during the Silver Age period she did so as a challenge to the male dominated genre – as did Goncharova. The very act of a woman artist painting a nude of herself was a feminist act in that she became the subject rather than object.

ImageAt The Dressing Table, 1909, by Zinaida Serebriakova

This notion of the artist or even the model being able to engage in the same practices as men, without succumbing to alienation or gender heresy, is very contentious. Today in the era of post-pornography, where pornography as a cultural space of the male has been opened to feminist empowerment (through “cunt” power politics), the re-framing or re-figuring of women’s art on those terms has perhaps over emphasised the synchronic over the diachronic or historical context. They also often forget that women artists had to earn money, and this meant they had to negotiate with a male dominated art market. Consider by way of example, Anais Nin’s apparently duplicitous role in her writing pornography for a male orientated market, and her private-but-public erotic exposes in her autobiographical writings. What’s the difference? That’s at the heart of the problem of the nude.

Reclining Nude, 1930, Zinaida Serebriakova

This painting below would not have passed the Stalinist-run art institutions’ standards as the pose is 1) not maternal (connoting Mother Russia or Soviet Mother) 2) atheletic 3) ethnic or ethographical. But the head with rosy apple cheeks is typical of socialist realist women’s heads. The Soviet Union would have to wait many years until a nude like the below could be accepted – and now such paintings are in great demand, the market directed by the fact it is Russian and erotic to a certain extent. If we compare the painting with the 1911 nude, we see that it is altogether rougher in the outlines and the flesh tones, especially the pinks, are in the ascendant – exaggerating the nipples. Also note the pubic hair, something that troubled the censors for years.

Reclining Nude, 1935, Zinaida Serebriakova

What of Serebriakova’s pastels like this one:

A Young Moroccan Girl, 1928, Zinaida Serebriakova

Is the work beautiful because the “object” is different? Does her difference make the pastel more “desirable”? Again, the painting is anachronistic and similar to, say, the French and German Orientalists – the very artists who Edward Said deconstructed! An example of this is the Odalisque by Ingres:

Odalisque with Slave, 1839, by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867)

This painting above actually provides us with an excellent point of departure for re-reading the Serebriakova nudes – because nearly all her nudes have an identical pose with the arms behind the head, and many have that generalised palette which gives the impression of a sculpture. The Ingres painting has often been interpreted as a male fantasy – the woman who is a slave and available whenever the man needs her. If we could in a rather flippant manner compare the erotics of art to drug addiction, then these nudes are like C class drugs or C class (soft) pornography with all the problems that entails. Does Serebriakova deserve her reputation? Can we criticize her art after the Silver Period as being anachronistic, and racist at times? Can a female nude painting by a woman of a different ethnic background be excused because the painting is by a woman?

These questions perplex and confront those campaigning to recover the woman artist and her canon. Does she “own” the female body when she paints it – or is the painting like all art open to arbitariness? When someone takes “an innocent” picture of themselves, where they sincerely believe that it is “beautiful”, the same photograph taken out of context becomes pornography. Can the body lose its carnality? The Soviet nude shows us that like the Nazi nude, she is at once a symbol of the power of the state, a mother, a symbol of healthiness, of racial supremacy (or dominance), and at the same time the object of carnal interest.

Left brain / Right brain

Creativity, Nature, Psychology, Uncategorized

20120603-112133.jpg

I will begin with showing this link to a 20 minute Youtube video on the subject of some differences between right brain and left brain activity.

Reading this review of Daniel Kahneman’s book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ has caught my attention. Not for the first time has the subject of duel ways of processing our environment interested me. I am interested in the quick, intuitive ways of behaviour and not so capable when it comes to delibarate and labourous ways myself, so the whole subject is one I am familiar with –
Here is a review of the book in question, see if it interests you too.

20120527-160435.jpg

Discussing the famous “gorilla study” kahneman writes,

The gorilla study illustrates two important facts about our minds; we can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness.

The latter point is an ongoing theme of the book: not only do our powers of observation and reasoning fail us, but we rarely become aware of those failures.

The following words are from the Financial Times review of the book; Kahneman presents our thinking process as consisting of two systems. System 1 (Thinking Fast) is unconscious, intuitive and effort-free. System 2 (Thinking Slow) is conscious, uses deductive reasoning and is an awful lot of work. In Kahneman’s words, System 1 is “indeed the origin of much that we do wrong” but it is critical to understand that “it is also the origin of most of what we do right – which is most of what we do”. Kahneman’s book will help you Think Slow about what Thinking Fast gets very wrong, and what it gets very right.

‘. . . We have only risk management. The spinning of the given moment’s scenarios. Pattern recognition.’ William Gibson, ‘Pattern Recognition.’

20120603-110736.jpg

20120603-110800.jpg

20120603-110826.jpg

<a

Here is another googled image of ‘right brain, left brain.’

20120603-112947.jpg

..and other..

20120603-114002.jpg

Prophetic Dreams

Creativity, existentialism, Nature, Psychology, Spirituality

‘Divine Calling!’ Does such a concept really exist? Mohammed was an illiterate before he heard God talking to him, giving him a task on this earth, a mission to follow through. I will be exploring some more on this topic and finding other referances to similiar stories of humans claiming direct dialogue with God, or a higher being..

20120605-121119.jpg

The Golden Rule of Dream Work

Before embarking on the adventure of engaging your Dream Oracle, there is one rule that must be heeded: even when attempting to incubate a question for others, ninety-nine percent of the time, the dream is for the dreamer. As simple and obvious as that sounds, too many dreamers assume their dreams of friends or family are urgent messages for those people, rather than messages coded in symbol and intended for self. While eventually you will learn to distinguish a true precognitive dream involving another person, in the beginning the tendency is to mistake typical dream content as information you need to pass on in real life, to those in the dream.

20120605-121834.jpg

Vaticinium Ex Eventu:
The Fallacy of Prophecy

Vaticinium ex eventu is a famous Latin dictum that when translated into English means prophecy from the event. That is to say a the results of an event (i.e. a battle) are attributed and alluded to a prophecy made previously that at the time of documentation did not have a meaning attributed to it. Throughout history, there have been many prophecies which when looked back upon, seem to accurately describe and predict future events. Often times these prophecies come via dreams and in that case the maxim in somnis veritas, in dreams there is truth, comes into play. For centuries, before the technology and the scientific approach of today was used, prophetic dreams were taken to be truth; vaticinium ex eventu would only further prove the theory. Are these prophetic dreams fate, or simply just mere coincidence. In examining three famous premonitions: Calpurnia’s dream of Julius Caesar’s assassination, Joan of Arc’s vision of being captured and killed by the English, and Abraham Lincoln’s prophetic dream of his own death, two critics, Lucretius and Ethan Allen provide an alternate explanation to the nature of prophecy and dreams. Dreams that seem to be of prophetic nature are in fact interpreted in such a way that vaticunium ex eventu is the cause or influences from waking life are found in the dreams, and therefore in sonis veritas plays a role.
In the article “Lucretius on the Gates of Horn and Ivory: A Philosophical Challenge to Prophecy on Dreams”, the author Mark Holowchak examines Lucretius’s stance on prophetic dreams and elaborates on them. Holowchak states that Lucretius’s main theory is that “…dreams, like mirrors, reflect our waking personality” (Holowchak). He goes further to state that “…dreams have no divine character and are not at all prophetic…they originate from the influx of certain images” (Holowchak). Lucretius establishes first off that dreams are the result of images and experiences from out waking lives. The content of our dreams is neither unique nor divine. Continuing with this thought, Holowchak writes, “…he [Lucretius] notes that we tend to dream about our daily deeds and thoughts. Barristers dream of law. Generals dream of fighting battles. Sailors dream of waging war with the wind” (Holowchak). Advancing Lucretius’s point he states that, “The reservoir of images from which dreams would certainly contain a predominance of images related to a dreamer’s daily thoughts and experiences” (Holowchak). Dreams are a random images and thoughts influenced by one’s daily waking life. Because “Generals dream if fighting battles”, it is therefore no surprise that they might dream of a victory against a foe. It is not prophecy but mere coincidence combined with previously conceived thoughts and influences from daily life that in the dream the general foresaw prophecy and it happened to come true. Therefore, prophecies are simply just coincidences based off of experiences, pre-conceived thoughts and ideas, and images from waking life, and are not visions of the future.
Likewise in chapter seven of Ethan Allen’s book Oracles of Reason, Allen states his opening argument on the nature of prophecy by saying

Prophecy is by some thought to be miraculous, and by others to be supernatural and there are others who indulge themselves in an opinion, that they amount to no more than mere political conjectures. Some nations have feigned an intercourse with good spirits by the act of magic; and most nations have pretended to an intercourse with the world of spirits both ways (Allen, 51)

Here, Allen suggests the idea of prophecy is of a supernatural nature or if that not be the case, that the idea of prophecy and prophecies in general are a political tool used to advance a particular agenda. He furthers his opening argument by saying that “…prophecy, as well as all other sort of precognition must be supernaturally inspired, or it could be no more than judging of future events from mere probability or guess-work” (Allen, 52). Allen argues that one could “have a prophetic dream” about tomorrow’s weather conditions and be able to predict them. However, if one is already proficient in field of meteorology, than it was not so much as prophetic as it was good guesswork. Additionally, Allen states

…provided some of the prophecies should point out some particular events, which have since taken place, there might have been previous grounds of probability, that such or such events would in the ordinary cause of things come to pass…” (Allen, 55)

Similarly to the previous argument, Allen argues that prophetic dreams are not premonitions if there are “…previous grounds of probability…” that events predicted would be likely to happen. He sights an example from the bible to help support his argument. Allen provides the example by saying, “…it is in no ways extraordinary that the prophet Jeremiah should be able to predict that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, should take Jerusalem when we consider the power of the Babylonish [sic] Empire” (Allen, 55). Parallel to how it was considerably easy to come to the conclusion that Babylon was going to take over Jerusalem ante facto, many prophecies “are dreamt” according to the same fashion.
In conclusion, both Lucretius and Ethan Allen both argue the invalidity of prophecies. Lucretius argues that dreams are reflective of waking life, and therefore if you’re waking life gives you reason to believe an event will come to pass, it could arrive in your dream. In that case, the dream would be recognized as “prophecy”. Likewise, Ethan Allen argues that prophecies could and tend to be more of an “educated hypothesis” nature, rather than divine intervention, as is the case with Jeremiah and the Babylonian invasion.
In applying these two theories to historical accounts, the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BCE is one of the most famous. According to historical sources, including the famous historian Plutarch as well as many others, the day before Caesar’s assassination, Calpurnia, Caesar’s wife, had a prophetic dream that predicted Caesar’s death. The account goes as follows

…the night of 14 March [44 BCE] Calpurnia suffered a nightmare in which she is variously claimed to have seen either the pediment of the house collapsing or that she was holding his [Julius Caesar] murdered body in her arms. Then the morning sacrifices on the 15th were repeated several times, but the omens were always unfavorable. Caesar is suppose to have been surprised because his wife was nor normally given to superstition… (Goldsworthy, 507)

According to the source by Plutarch, Calpurnia had terrible nightmares and when she recounted them to her husband they all mentioned his murder. As one can see, multiple sources confirm Calpurnia’s premonition regarding Caesar’s assassination. To the untrained eye, it would seem that Calpurnia’s dream was in fact prophetic, for the next day, Caesar was found on the senate floor with “…twenty-three [stab] wounds to his body” (Goldsworthy, 508). However, upon closer examination of the context of Rome in March of 44 BCE, the word “prophecy” and “premonition” might be unfound.
At this time in Rome, it was not unknown that Caesar was not popular among all citizens. In fact, “there is little reason to doubt that in the weeks before his death the atmosphere of Rome was somber in the extreme” (Bradford, 286) and furthermore, “…small groups of men were known to be meeting behind closed doors in private houses, and the air was full of rumors” (Bradford, 286). With these ideas in mind, it is not so unusual that Calpurnia dreamed of her husband’s death. According to Lucretius, experiences in Calpurnia’s waking life i.e. rumors of an assassination plot would have lead her to her premonition in her dream. Similarly, according to Ethan Allen, Calpurnia’s dream of a collapsing house, if we take it in the more symbolic approach, could be hypothesized to have meant Caesar’s death, especially if educated guesswork was involved due to the political environment at the time. In that case vaticinium ex eventu would be an appropriate conclusion. As one can see, Calpurnia’s dream, although accurately predicted Caesar’s death, is most likely the result of influences from waking life and other factors that would lead her to draw the conclusion and have a “prediction” when in fact it is merely coincidence.
Another example of a prophetic dream is that of Joan of Arc. During the latter part of the Hundred Years War between England and France, France was in desperate need of a hero, or in this case a heroine. Driven by her visions and prophetic dreams of saints and other Christian figures, Joan of Arc went from an unknown farmer’s daughter to the general of the French armies. Joan of Arc died on the 30th of May 1431 sentenced to burning at the stake. Before her trail and execution by the English, Joan of Arc was captured by the Burgundians and later sold to the English.
In a prophetic dream Joan had in March of 1429, she foresaw her own capture and death by the hands of the English. Recounting her dream as well as her interpretation to her king Charles VII, Joan of Arc tell him, “ ‘I shall last a year, and but little longer. We must think to do good work in that year.’ Later, she elaborated by saying that she would be captured by mid-summer day…” (Sullivan, 152). Only fourteen months later, as predicted, Joan was captured by Burgundian soldiers. During that year, she was sold to the English and put on trial, the affirmative argued that “

the accused [Joan of Arc] had performed, composed, participated in, and enacted numerous sorceries and superstitions not only this year but from childhood…she prophesized the future… (Hobbins, 125)

On one hand, it would seem that Joan’s dream was indeed prophecy especially considering that throughout her life Joan of Arc claimed to have visions and prophecies. Additonally, “During the late Middle –Ages, when Joan of Arc claimed to have voices speak to her, women visionaries were increasingly prominent…” (Sullivan, 21). However, in view of Lucretius and Ethan Allen’s critiques of prophetic dreams, perhaps it was mere coincidence. Like the context surrounding Julius Caesar and the political and social atmosphere engulfing the city of Rome in 44 BCE, France during the Hundred Years War was also in an unstable setting. Due to this atmosphere, it would not be unusual for people to dream of their own demise in some fashion, particularly those of high rank and of great importance, like Joan of Arc. Furthermore, it was not a hidden truth that the English and the Burgundians despised Joan of Arc, as she was the one who had turned the war around. Therefore, because of this knowledge and experiences in Joan of Arc’s waking life, it is not surprising that she had a dream of her capture and death and moreover that she could have easily hypothesized such events. In conclusion, when taking in account the events surrounding Joan of Arc’s waking life, it is clear that it was influential in her having a dream where she prophesized her death and therefore the fact that she was captured and killed post facto is a coincidence.
A final example of prophetic dreams as mere coincidence is the story of Abraham Lincoln prediction. According to a source, “Lincoln accurately forecasted his own death only a few days prior to his actual assassination on Good Friday, 14 April 1865” (Brennan, 51). In his dream, Lincoln recounts that

…he heard sobs…I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room; no living person was in sight…where were all the people who were grieving…I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered…[there] rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments… ‘Who is dead in the White House?’ I demanded… ‘The President…he was killed by an assassin!’… (Brennan, 52)

It is clear, similar from the other two dreams of Calpurnia and Joan of Arc , that the message behind the dream is the ultimate death of Lincoln .Three days after he prophesized his death in a dream, Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilks Boothe on April 14th 1865.
In examining the context of Lincoln’s life and the atmosphere of 1865, it seems quite plausible that the environment and waking life influenced this dream. First off, Marcia Brennan in her article “Tragic Dreams and Spectral Doubles: The Metaphysical Lincoln”, Brennan states that

viewed aethetically, Lincoln’s apparitional visions can be seen as expressions of memento mori, or remainders of death as projected through the prism of an overarching fatalism (Brennan, 52)

From this, one can see that Lincoln had a taste for works of a dark nature. Taking that into account combined with the background knowledge of the era, the Civil War, where there undoubtedly countless threats from Southerns against Linocln, it is not surprising in the least that Lincoln dreamed of his assassination. As Lucretius would say, influences from waking life attributed to Lincoln dreaming his assassination. In conjunction with Ethan Allen’s view that hypothesized guesses and the situation that Lincoln found himself in (i.e. enemy of the South, subject of distaste by the South, etc.), it is clear that Lincoln’s premonition is chance and not fate.
In conclusion, although prophetic dreams seem to foretell future events, and as the past three examples have shown, accurately predict the future, there are other forces at work. Two philosophers, Lucretius and Ethan Allen, both have presented alternate views to prophetic dreams, other than the obvious prophetic dreams predict the future. Waking life experiences, combined with other factors such as educated guesses and understanding the context of the socio-political environment, directly influence dreams. Perhaps therefore, dreams are not fate but just mere influxes of images which in a strange occurrence of events are manifested in a vision that seems to be of the future.

Works Citied

Allen, Ethan. “Chapter VII.” Reason. the only oracle of man; or, a compendious System of natural religion, by Col. Ethan Allen; to which is added, Critical remarks on the truth and harmony of the four gospels, with observations on the instruction given by Jesus Christ, and the doctrines of Christianity, by a Free Thinker. 51-68. New York, NY US: G W & A J Matsell, 1836. PsycINFO. EBSCO. Web. 28 Apr. 2011.

Bradford, Ernle. Julius Caesar: the Pursuit of Power. New York: Morrow, 1984. Print.

Brennan, Marcia. “Tragic Dreams and Spectral Doubles: The Metaphysical Lincoln,” PN Review 188 (Manchester, UK: Carcanet Press, 2009), pp. 49-53.

Goldsworthy, Adrian Keith. Caesar: Life of a Colossus. New Haven: Yale UP, 2006. Print.

Hobbins, Daniel. The Trial of Joan of Arc. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2005. Print.

Holowchak, Mark. “Lucretius on the Gates of Horn and Ivory: A Psychophysical Challenge to Prophecy by Dreams.” Journal of the History of Philosophy 42.4 (2004): 355-68. Web. 14 Apr. 2011.

Sullivan, Karen. The Interrogation of Joan of Arc. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1999. Print.

20120605-122005.jpg

Retreat

Creativity, Nature

I am off on holiday as from tomorrow, on a canal boat – obviously the attraction is being peaceful, relaxing and just generally cruising along. I wonder thus what other extremes a person might make to find a higher state of peace from the general speed of life. It seems natural that humans should feel the need to bond closely with nature, to benifit from getting in tune with her. ImageClick here for a link to a website offering such an experience as retreating into nature to recharge ourselves.

Why did Henry Thoreau live in the woods?

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Thoreau wanted to get the most from his life by determining what was really important, and he did that by removing himself somewhat from the normal life of Concord, Massachusetts in the 1840’s. One side of this was economic: he reduced his material needs by living simply, so that he would not have to spend much time supporting a lifestyle that he did not need or care about. The other side was spiritual, not unlike the spiritual retreats of eastern and western religions.
And it worked. Thoreau liked it so much that he lived in his cabin for more than two years, and came back with a great story. He worked on this story for several years after leaving the Pond, until it became the Walden we know today. Image

It’s definitely getting me thinking about doing something beyond an ordinary relaxing holiday – I would like to enrol on a retreat such as this one – Where creativity and calmness can come together in a synthesis: The Art of Stillness.

This is an interesting link to a Guardian interview with a guy who went to a primitive cultured
people with the intention of converting them to Christianity. He ended up being converted by them.. Check it out here

20120526-114836.jpgAnd here is a nice interview with Daniel Everett on the excellent organization ‘Future Primitive.’ http://www.futureprimitive.org/2012/03/daniel-everett-the-grammar-of-happiness/