Anarchism, Architectural follies, Astrology, Daniel de Monfreid, Edmund Stillman, Frederic V. Grunfeld, Gothic Novel, Herbert Marcuse, Hippie Trail, Horace Walpole, India, J.H. Plumb, New Left, Paul Gauguin, Paul Goodman, Peter Quennell, Tahiti
This issue’s cover shows a detail from Paul Gauguin’s Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?:
An illustrated letter to his friend Daniel de Monfried:
Also in this issue:
‘The Call of India’ by Frederic V. Grunfeld describes how in 1969 ‘thirty thousand young Westerners are on their way across Asia. What are they seeking: spiritual rebirth – desperate poverty – tantric visions – or Mother?’
Our newly conceived passion for India, then, is only superficially concerned with the classic disciplines of Vedanta or Tibetan mysticism. It has more to do, I think, with the great nostalgic quest for our own past that begins in the romantic era when the Mediterranean, das land wo die Zitronen blühen, became the cynosure of all eyes. India to us is what Italy was to Shelley, Byron and Stendhal – a place to recover (or lose) our innocence, where we may solve our most pressing problem of re-entry: the difficulty we all experience of getting a sense of poetry to re-enter our lives.
J.H. Plumb’s ‘In the Light of the Past’ series considers the history of astrology:
I suspect it strikes few readers that the silly astrological columns [in today’s newspapers] are the sad end of an extraordinary human enterprise…
The Earl of Shaftesbury, the violent Whig who nearly toppled Charles II from his throne by exploiting the hysteria of the Popish Plot in 1678-79, believed absolutely in astrology…Nor was Shaftsbury an isolated crank. The great Habsburg general Wallenstein, a leader in the Thirty Years’ War, took no action, military or political, without consulting the stars, and no one thought him either eccentric or pagan…
There is a need in man to know and to rationalize his universe through magic and through very precise and detailed knowledge. He derives a sense of security from knowledge…Man has always been, as it were, scientifically oriented, even if his earlier and more primitive sciences did not work very well…Many of their facts were right and beautifully observed; their pursuits led them to invent instruments of great ingenuity. What was wrong was their set of premises.
In ‘The Moon Stood Still on Strawberry Hill’, Peter Quennell writes about English Gothic Horror, whose creation is attributed to Horace Walpole. He is seen in the library of his ‘little Gothick castle’ Strawberry Hill:
The fashion for gothic also manifested itself in architecture, with fake-mediaeval follies becoming popular. One design was for a hermit’s abode – with hermit:
The political upheavals of 1968 continued into 1969. Along with a hostile article on Herbert Marcuse by Edmund Stillman, there is ‘The Anarchists (who are with us again)’ by J.W. Burrow, who looks at the anarchists of the 19th and early 20th centuries – including Peter Kropotkin, François Ravachol, Mikhail Bakunin, and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon – and their 1969 parallels:
The use of violence not so much for limited ends but as a form of propaganda, the repudiation of all centralized social organization as a denial of human freedom and spontaneity, the rejection of party hierarchies, left as well as right, are themes that bring the New Left far closer to the doctrines of nineteenth-century anarchism than to ‘orthodox’ communism. In place of a scientific and technological meritocracy the radical student movement and the New Left profess to offer decentralization, workers’ control of factories, student power, and a return in all activities to the human scale. These, as Paul Goodman recently pointed out, are virtually the standard anarchist proposals for a voluntary federation of self-governing enterprises. The enemy is seen as ‘the system’, an impersonal machine for turning human beings into cogs, components of the machine; and the classical protest against the machine is undoubtedly anarchism.