First, this: Most users of the Internet are aware of Godwin’s law that states, ”As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.”
We’ll come back to that shortly.
One of the books I’m reading at the moment is Richard Holmes’s luscious book, ‘The Age of Wonder.’ I just finished the chapter, ‘Dr Frankenstein and the soul’, which was as entertaining and informative as the others I read – and I especially enjoyed the very brief presentation of the obscure (& obscurantist) Scandinavian geologist Henrick Steffens.
First though, a short introduction to the idea of Naturphilosophie, as copied almost literally from Holmes’s chapter:
“At the end of the 18 th century there was a popular doctrine, called ‘Naturphilosophie’ (or ’science mysticism’), that defined the entire natural world as a system of invisible powers and energies. According to the originator of this idea, Friedrich Schelling, the whole world was filled with spiritual energy or soul, and all physical objects ‘aspired’ to become something higher. There was a ‘world soul’ constantly ‘evolving’ higher life forms and ‘levels of consciousness’ in all matter, animate or inanimate. All nature had a tendency to move toward a higher state.”
This concept was succinctly, if slightly ludicrously, encapsulated by Scandinavian geologist Henrick Steffens, who once wrote that
“[t]he diamond is a piece of carbon that has come to its senses.”
It’s a pity that this rather elegant, if optimistic doctrine doesn’t quite survive first contact with humans, who, more often than not, compare unfavourably to even the least ambitious bit of coal.
As far as I know, there is no single case of any piece of crackpot carbon comparing apples with epileptic Episcopalians, the way that a rather large subgroup of humans will always see Hitler’s moustache in even the tiniest shadow thrown by the blameless midday sun.
Enter Israel’s ambassador to the USA for instance, who’s showing signs of that earlier mentioned doctrinal ‘tendency to move toward a higher state’, the way lead tends to imitate the dizzy weightlessness of butterflies…:
“The US acted under similar international law when it fought the Germans and the Japanese in World War Two.”
… or the way the biographer Joe Mc Ginniss is proving himself to be as ludicrous as his intended victim Sarah Palin, when he is seen to evolve to ‘levels of consciousness’ not seen this side of ‘Roadkill: Revenge of the Zombie Hedgehogs’:
“I’m not calling her a Nazi, but that’s the same kind of tactic that the Nazi troopers used in Germany in the ’30s and I don’t think there’s any place for it America.”
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