Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
This skull resides in the workshop in Nürnberg where a good friend practices her craft. The workshop is rather unusual because it houses a printing technique known as Xylography.A design is cut out in wood, then a limited run of imprints are made using a special machine. You may know of the artist and political thinker William Morris. He was a famous xylography artist but I know my friend is his equal for fine cutting! This is the web site of artist Anke Vogler so that you can see the kind of detailed work that's possible. Nürnberg is famous for Albrecht Dürer, another xylography artist. You may even have seen his famous picture of a hare, which is a symbol of Nürnberg. But that doesn't tell us about skulls! The skull is a repository of life and is part of alchemy. The scene above looks quite alchemical doesn't it? The skull is the seat of control, centre of operations and ultimately the womb of knowledge. Most famous for its place above the St Andrew's crossed bones in which skull and crossbones represents the four quarters of nature and perfection. The reason for the symbol's adaptation as the pirate "Jolly Roger" is not known - but "giving no quarter" springs to mind. As an alchemical symbol the skull connotes putrefaction, but putrefaction involves rebirth and the cycle of life and death. In alchemy, the new man arises from the crucible in which the old was annihilated. There are only a few people left who can do this kind of skilled work. Perhaps the skull is there to remind us of that.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Nürnberg. I guess if you visit Nürnberg you have to go there - although I did find it uncomfortable. It's rather a massive place, although much was demolished after the war and more recently in the sixties. I hadn't realised it was used as a prisoner of war camp. Many Allied prisoners helped to build this daunting place until they were replaced by German prisoners - the wheel of time revolves. In the thirties, the Nazi Party even had a funfair housed in wooden building within the site. But I was feeling a little sad after I explored the interior where the museum is housed - and when I saw the Big Wheel I snatched a shot because I had to. It's the sky that makes the picture - it was that kind of day and I reflected. The ceaseless turn of the wheel leads to renewal but nothing can stop the direction of the wheel. We may not turn it back, yet it always moves. Unlike the circle however, spokes suggest the sun. In Hinduism, the wheel is not only solar. It is cosmic and hence intergalactic. A single horse pulls a single wheeled chariot like a voyaging star. But perhaps this particular wheel means something more - wheel symbolism also includes the wheel of fortune and of course the Tarot springs to mind. Where Jungian thought is concerned, the rise and fall of the cars connote alteration and compensation. Some say this means justice.
Monday, July 14, 2014
I find it interesting to come across the grave of someone I've read. This is the resting place of Ludwig Feuerbach, a teacher of Karl Marx and the subject of one of his most famous works. Long years ago, my old college chums would amuse me by criticising Feuerbach for not being a Marxist. Of course, it's hardly possible that he would be. Without Feuerbach, there would be no essay on Feuerbach and that was seminal to Marx's development and outlook. It is within "Theses on Feuerbach" that we meet the famous line, "Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it." Marx emphasised the practical activities of humans and to some extent psychoanalysts do also - although we can often sink into the marshes of ideology. Thought on its own doesn't go anywhere. It emerges in practice and only then is it a vehicle for change. People in analysis want to change. So the contemplation process that we encourage must eventually be practiced in the real material word by the real flesh and blood person. Feuerbach himself was a great thinker but I'm afraid I was more fascinated by his beard than his writing. A beard is a sign of bravery. Many cultures insist on them and the greatest of gods are depicted with beards. In Ancient Egypt, they were often imitation with a curled point at the end. I'm not a beard person - I'm a moustache person and I appear to be in luck, because the symbolism is much the same.
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
The shot was taken from a platform seat in Fürth metro. I modified it a little because it was nearly monochrome and I wanted the roof to stand out. But what symbolism should I employ? Seats, roofs, holes and maps - there's a lot to chose from. The train itself is recent addition to symbolism and the received opinion is that certain structures apply - structures of timetables, regulations and authority. I take a different view. Every train has a number and attached to that is a departure time (from somewhere). The train is always called strictly by it's departure time, not the actual time it left. For example, a train might be the 3.20 from Fürth and so it remains even if it's late. The name of the train contains the nominal time. Now that may be a semiotic point, but theory is grey and green is the tree of life. Isn't it a wonderful feeling when you're satisfied you are on the right train? You look at your watch and hear the guard's whistle blow. The wheels screech and very slowly the train moves off. It's not long before it picks up speed and begins to glide across the city. The destination station is set - but of course it can and occasionally does change. Instead of arriving at our chosen station, we find ourselves somewhere else and have to make new arrangements for our final destination. It doesn't matter where the train ends up. It's still the 3.20 that left from Fürth.And so it is with people. Our date of birth, a number, is the one we have to carry. A name can always be changed but never your date of birth. That's the time you left on your journey. You know where and when you departed but the destination is up to you.
Thursday, May 22, 2014
This is a clock I saw in Nürnberg in the National Museum. I love old clocks like this, with faded paint and numbers. Something about the duration of time is encapsulated in a way that a brand new clock can't attain. That clock has certainly seen some time, but I don't know much about the clock. Perhaps there was a picture there in the centre, because it looks a bit like an atlas. That's our reference to space, because time and space are bonded. Clock and watch makers often feature square frames - said to be an attempt to get away from the endless wheel of the clock face, a design to join time and space. Old grandfather clocks often had graphics, a pictorial view of time and duration - day and night, sun and moon. In mythology, Kronus, one of the most important Titans, seized world dominion and swallowed all his children. He was a destructive God, representing time as all-consuming - the past tries to stop the future. It points to the ravages of time, which are really the ravages of duration. The experience of time leads us to judge it. Think back. Have you been having a good time? It's always about judgement! If we dream of clocks, are we judging our experience of temporal phenomena in our lives?
Friday, May 16, 2014
The cherub with grapes is in a small park in Nürnberg. There are two of them and they appear to guard the way to a beer garden. Wine is the blood of the grape and so cross culturally, intoxication from alcohol (and wine in particular) is associated with immortality, knowledge and initiation. Muslim mystics called wine the divine love (The Wine Ode: Ibn Al-Farid). Wine was so much the elixir of the Gods that consumption of alcohol was part and parcel of the ancient Gods’ fabric. Christianity followed suit and placed wine at the centre of ritual. The bearer of grapes looks similar to the way that Eros is depicted and since there are two, that would make sense. Eros lost his space in mythology and became relegated to the world of art, where there would be more than one of him and most likely winged. Gilbert Durand (1963) pointed to the connection between wine and youth as secret and triumphant. The archetype of both wine and milk contain sexual and maternal qualities. If you dream of wine, it’s unlikely to be about drinking as such. From an archetypal point of view, wine is divine. It’s a miracle that transforms from plant into free spirit. So within the psyche it may be connected with a higher state and a positive inner life.