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Shakespeare Anonymous

Doubt has been not only thrown on the identity of Shakespeare,but whether a single person could possibly have written the plays (BBC Radio 3 "Breakfast," last week). This is all part of a massive crisis of identity in the post-imperial English nation, which has led to a blizzard of self-destruction. The clearest proof that one individual wrote the plays is that Shakespeare tends to write in segments of 4 plays. His mind is not only incredibly fertile, but it is characterized by a distinctive symmetry.  Read More 
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keeping the enemy from the gates

With the integration of sectors of the University of London in the Gaddafi regime and St. Andrews University with the Syrian government, it is not surprising that academics have become surprisingly mute on Middle Eastern matters. I got to thinking thus about a soldier and his dog murdered by the Taliban recently:

HELMAND TRANSMIGRATION
He lived for others while his brief days lasted.
Nature had been traduced, that stream, that culvert,
some verge became a random death-sentence
beyond the vibrant senses of his innocent animal
the soldier`s dog, heart-broken at the last. Read More 
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Budick, Kant & Milton

Over the past 30 years, when wanting any literary criticism I have found myself returning to the great classics of the mid-last century - books such as J.F. Danby`s Shakespeare`s Doctrine of Nature or Caroline Spurgeon`s Shakespeare`s Imagery. Deliberate obfuscation has long overtaken contemporary criticism, with the exception of pioneering all-encompassing masterpieces like Norman O. Brown`s Love`s Body & Life against Death.

So it was with a sense of real intellectual excitement that I began to read Sanford Budick`s volume Kant & Milton (Harvard UP, 2010). Here at long last is a book that sets the philosophical gelignite fizzing beneath the negative judgments of Messrs T.S. Eliot and Leavis who dislodged Milton from favor those many years ago.  Read More 
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Maria Sibylla Merian & Metamorphosis

I`ve only recently caught up with a brilliant book (CHRYSALIS) by Kim Todd on the remarkable woman naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian. I first came across Merian in the Exhibition 3 years ago AMAZING RARE THINGS, part curated by David Attenborough - who seems to be more interested in the thrilling realism of wildebeests being savaged by lions these days.

Merian was one of the first after Jan Swammerdam to describe the processes of metamorphosis in nature, which she did directly from nature rather than the lab. As Kim Todd points out "Her portraits and descriptions of Surinamese insects were so definitive that Linnaeus, in compiling his systematization of natural life, used her drawings rather than actual specimens."

A blog is not the place to undertake an argument as to the full significance of insect transformation in the disputes over natural selection. But as I have shown in a series of published books (which are introduced on my accompanying website,) metamorphosis feeds into all the great artistic, literary and musical achievements of the human race. This may appear to be metaphysical, but sonatas, symphonies, Shakespeare`s dramatic evolution - all follow this entirely natural and physical parabola.

It`s just that most folk look down in insects as relatively insignificant when they`re not a positive menace (the infamous Scottish midge). But as a matter of sheer fact, they are more SIGNIFICANT in evolutionary terms than the higher apes which of course have their place. Read More 
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The survival of the Purple Emperor Butterfly

The Purple Emperor Butterfly is a rarity, and according to the magnificent compendium of American Lepidoptera by James A. Scott in his THE BUTTERFLIES OF NORTH AMERICA: A NATURAL HISTORY AND FIELD GUIDE, it appears in the USA only as a stray. Its behavior is seriously incorrect, because it hangs around at the tops  Read More 
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almost identical phenotypes of 2 moths with the same hostplants

At this time of the year, I spend at least part of every day
recording lepidoptera.

Today I noticed a curious similarity between two Noctuidae Moths which have the same specific larval foodplants - Campion and Ragged-Robin. The Moths in question are the Campion (Hadena rivularis) and the Lychnis (Hadena bicruris). These both have a pair of shorn antlers in the same positions on their wings. The wings themselves are of near identical overall patterning.

It is no doubt a mere Carlylean curiosity of nature without genotypic significance, but for a displaced Thoreauvian observer propels the heart into the mouth! Read More 
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Schumann & insect structures

Listening to David Zinman`s customarily dynamic rendition of Schumann`s 4 symphonies with the Tonhalle Orchestra - and broadcast in the UK for the first time last week - it struck me how these works which exude spontaneity traced a natural entomological pattern my writings have been highlighting for two decades now.

Beginning with the sprung rhythms of the First Symphony - the Spring - the succeeding works in the cycle follow a clear progression from this egg that provides the impetus, through No. 2 into the 3rd - the Rhenish -which quivers with chrysalitic impatience to be realized in the final liberated 4th Symphony.

Just as Romantic poets in Britain sought to emulate the massive presence of Shakespeare, so nineteenth-century symphonists always felt Beethoven looming over them. Here in the giant span of Schumann`s symphonic progression is an instinctive emulation that remains close to the nerve-ends of the performers and listeners. The fact is that human thought and true creativity follow processes in metamorphic nature, and our experience paradoxically allows us to share a process of nature apparently alien to our species. Read More 
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a mid-atlantic view of the forthcoming UK General E;ection

a mid-atlantic view of the forthcoming UK general election
March 30, 2010


Tags: UK election 2010

For the past decade, under the Labour government of Brown-Blair, there has been a chronic crisis of honesty in public life. Joust-ifications for the West taking its eye off Afghanistan and skedaddling into Iraq, gave rise to the master-grimoire of `spin` Alastair Campbell, who almost single-handedly intimidated and blunted the BBC`s critical news` faculties.

I pointed out in the Independent newspaper recently that `spinning` has infected all aspects of intellectual life, with the Climate Change `experts` based at the University of East Anglia salting and peppering the figures in conjunction with their Penn State counterparts. {as a lepidopteral recorder and conservationist, the problems and losses of butterfly species due to global warming and environmental degradation are entirely clear}.

I wrote last month: "The loss of honesty at the heart of this culture is near-terminal." So the election is as much about the culture as a whole as the economy. (Yes, Adam Smith has replaced Elgar on so-called British banknotes). The prevalence of ex-Stalinists in the high positions in the Labour Cabinet has led to Orwellian management of the minutiae of people`s everyday life. So `Health and Safety` is constantly invoked to obstruct everything from baking cakes for charity fetes, to leaving a woman to suffer and eventually die after she fell down an old mineshaft in Scotland, while the firemen and women stood and looked on for 6 hours, paralyzed by the State rules and threatening the job of their handler if they took action. Altruistic instincts in civil society have been severely damaged and in many cases destroyed by control-freaks on high.

Which brings us to Britain`s commander-in-chief, Gordon Brown. A son of the manse, he has brought Calvinism centre-stage. Yet Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrat Party, has pronounced the present political hierarchy the most corrupt in UK history - or as we might say, a fit successor to the "parcel o` rogues" who sold for gold (bawbees) Scottish independence over three centuries ago. We have had various postures of Brown - first as heir to the Red Clydesiders, blown away when he increased the tax level of the lowest paid. Then he pronounced himself a "Heathcliff" - clearly having never read Wuthering Heights since who but a paranoid would cast himself in that role? And then he presented himself to Parliament in a particularly entertaining moment as Jesus, or its contemporary equivalent, `world-saviour` - of the economy, that is. All this nonsense is the stuff of Student Union politics, and has led to the plundering of the nation`s resources in the name of unfulfilled schemes and promises.

It has recently been revealed that Tony Blair has been cutting deals with Iraqi oil interests for his own personal enrichment. The circle closes on the great folly of the last period - the invasion of Iraq - and closes out " a low dishonest decade." Read More 
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Jung, Wolfgang Pauli and "the dissociation of sensibility"

DECIPHERING THE COSMIC NUMBER by Arthur I. Miller is the most illuminating theoretical book to be published in recent years. It centers on the mental and personal battles of the Nobel prize-winning physicist, Wolfgang Pauli. Working together with Jung, he surmises there is an almost manichean war in the cosmos and in human psychology between the numbers 3 and 4. As Pauli put it:
"Modern quantum physics has come closer to the quaternary point of view, which was so violently opposed to the natural science that was germinating in the 17th century." Miller comments -"the archetype of the wholeness of man - depicted with the symbol of fourness, the quaternity - is the emotional dynamic that drives all of science."

It was the result of Pauli`s intuitive adherence to the quaternal that enabled him to conclude that each electron in an atom required 4 not 3 quantum numbers, and that no two electrons in an atom could have the same 4 quantum numbers. It was this so-called Exclusion Principle that was to earn Pauli the Nobel prize over two decades later in 1945. This discovery sidelined Bohr`s mini-solar system picture of the momentum of the electron around the core of the atom. And indeed it was a significant advance in the history of ideas for "it was a step into the unknown, into a world without visual images."

Miller speculates that Pauli had tapped into something beyond science, something touching on one of Niels Bohr`s favorite quotations from Schiller:
"Only fullness leads to clarity
And truth lies in the abyss."
There was no Dantesque pilgrim to lead the scientists who undertook this journey of discovery which effectively confronted, in the abstractions of physics, the dissociation of sensibility as T.S. Eliot termed the 17th century crisis of fractured thinking. So Pauli believed that in the interests of maintaining his own equilibrium he must continue to nurture elements of scientist and mystic within himself:
"that I carry `Kepler` as well as `Fludd` in myself and that it is for me a necessity to arrive at a synthesis of this pair of opposites, as best I can." [Robert Fludd it was, who railing against Kepler`s trinity had exclaimed "you force me to defend the dignity of the quaternity."]

From his intellectual exchanges with Pauli, Jung was able to draw out of the abyss this dramatic insight:
How could the quaternity arise in the unconscious? There must be something in the psyche adhering to a fourfold world of individual realization. This he saw as the source of "the existence of an archetypal God-image" in the human mind.
The re-association of sensibility, the achievment of true balance in the individual, can only be accomplished through the continuous battle to fuse science and the arts. Read More 
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Bugs & the Victorians

J.F.M. Clark`s "Bugs and the Victorians" offers a conspectus of the evolution of entomology in the nineteenth century.
Following Darwin who called himself a "decayed entomologist," Clark concentrates his attention on the social insects- bees, wasps and ants. The advantage of this to a writer who includes a chapter `The Politics of Insects` is that kings, queens, soldiers and workers are to the forefront, and homilies are the order of the day. The need to pontificate on every nuance of sociological significance is eagerly taken by the author as he books himself a place within the pious establishment of academia. This has now replaced the old Church of England hierarchy, itself the playground for Rowan Williams`s aspiration as littérateur.
The most serious error of J.F.M. Clark arises when he characterizes insect morphology as "utterly alien" which offers "no analogical or homological points of comparison for humans." My quartet of books published over the past 15 years argues precisely the opposite, that the "human" cannot be defined without going beyond the historical fact of evolution from the great apes to take in the way insect processes have defined the shapes of the great works of literature and music. Clark uses morphology in the superficial sense of `external structure` whereas the OED defines it as "that branch of biology that deals with the form of animals and plants, and the structures, homologies, and METAMORPHOSES which govern or influence that form."
The pedantry that is the Achilles heel of the one-dimensional fact-gathering taxonomists here fails the author. A richer line of evolution proceeds from the so-called `philosophical biologists` like E.B. Poulton.
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