Notes on Abram’s “Spell of the Sensuous”

p. 9  the traditional magician cultivates an ability to shift out of his or her common state of consciousness precisely in order to make contact with the other organic forms of sensitivity and awareness with which human existence is entwined. only by temporarily shedding the accepted perceptual logic of his culture can the sorcerer hope to enter into relation with other species on their own terms; only by altering the common organization of his senses will he be able to enter into a rapport with the multiple nonhuman sensibilities that animate the local landscape.  it is this, we might say, that defines a shaman:  the ability to readily slip out of the perceptual boundaries that demarcate his or her particular culture- boundaries reinforced by social customs, taboos, and most importantly, the common speech or language-in order to make contact with, and learn from, the other powers in the land.

24 om mani padme hum   o the jewel in the lotus

38 husserl-phenomenology-intersubjectivity    Lebenswelt=’life-world’ (exformation)  1934 notes on conception of ‘space’ overthrow of the copernican theory-the Ark does not move, the earth is ‘the ark of the world’

45 merleau-ponty rejects notion of transcendental floating ‘ego’

52 perception in m-p’s work, is precisely this reciprocity, the ongoing interchange between my body and the entities that surround it.  silent conversation that i carry on with things…

58 the magician induces us to assist in the metamorphosis of his objects, and then startles us with what we ourselves have created.  it is when the magician lets himself be captured by the magic that his audience will be most willing to join him.

68 we can experience things-can touch, hear, and taste things-only because, as bodies, we ourselves are entirely a part of the sensible world that we perceive.  we might as well say that we are organs of this world, flesh of its flesh, and that the world is perceiving itself through us.  m-p’s notion of the flesh of the world, along with his related discoveries regarding the reciprocity of perception, bring his work into startling consonance with the world views of many indigenous, oral cultures.

to touch is also to feel oneself being touched, to see is to also feel oneself seen

74 although it confounds the causal logic that we attempt to impose upon it, perceptual experience has its own coherent structure; it seems to embody an open-ended logos that we enact from within rather than the abstract logic we deploy from without.

77  at a time when meaning has become impoverished (demands no effort of expression or comprehension)

82 saussure la langue, la parole

83 by describing any particular language as a system of differences, saussure indicated that meaning is found not in the words themselves, but in the intervals, the contrasts, the participation between the terms

the weblike nature of language ensures that the whole of the system is implicitly present in every sentence, in every phrase

96 wen, chinese word for writing, signifies a conglomeration of marks  (rabbit tracks, deer tracks/what do we know).

98 sumerian life arrow ti

99 semitic aleph-beth  22 letters, breath sound (what would be vowels) chosen through context by the individual speaker

105 rhapsodian ‘to stitch song together’

109 socratic dialect-asking speaker to explain what he has said-Havelock suggests this was primarily a method for disrupting the mimetic thought patterns of oral culture, (separate yourself from your own words)  small wonder that some Athenians complained that Socrates’ conversation had the numbing effect of a stingray’s electric shock

in every case Socrates attempts to induce a reflection upon the quality as it exists in itself, independent of particular circumstances.  the specific embodiments of ‘justice’ that we may encounter in the material world are necessarily variable and fleeting; genuine knowledge, claims Socrates, must be of what is eternal and unchanging. (only once written down=fixed form independent of both speakers and situations) not so in Chinese ideograph, Greek alphabet first writing system to render almost any utterance into a fixed and lasting form

112 alphabetic writing deflects our attention from its visible aspect, effectively vanishing behind the current of human speech that it provokes….the process of learning to read and to write with the alphabet engenders a new, profoundly reflexive sense of self.

psyche-psychein-to breathe or to blow- Socratic-Platonic psyche=the literate intellect, that part of the self born and strengthened in relation to written letters

113 phaedrus:  Egyptian king Thamus approached by Thoth, he refuses  (see derrida and plato notes here, also ref cortazar notes)

123 impact of phonetic writing on human experience of wider natural world

126 divergent parts of myself are drawn together by the object, and i thus meet up with myself over there

127 last chapter of m-p’s last unfinished work is “The Intertwining – The Chiasm” derived from ancient Greek word meaning “crisscross” optic chiasm in neurobiology is only common use today

128 vision and hearing are the 2 distance senses

130 There is an expectancy to the ears, a kind of patient receptivity that they lend to the other senses whenever we place ourselves in the mode of listening

Direct, prereflexive perception is inherently synaesthetic, participatory, and animistic, disclosing the things and elements that surround us not as inert objects but as expressive subjects, entities, power, potencies

131 the animating interplay of the senses has been transferred to another medium (written text)

132 talking leaves (written pages)

148-150 bird language

hermit thrush speak Koyukon words sook’ eeyis deeyo:  it is a fine evening; nahutl-eeyh, literally:  “a sign of the spirit is perceived”  The thrush first uttered these words in the Distant Time, when it sensed a ghost nearby, and even today the call may be heard as a warning.  (Nelson, Make Prayers to the Raven)

the lesser yellowlegs, a shorebird, sometimes flies straight up, then utters a piercing call as it descends: “Siyeets, siyeets, siyeets,” which means “My breath, my breath, my breath.”

preeminent prophet or seer among birds is the great horned owl, mmmm mmmm lil growl is stormy weather coming, etc.

150 “Even the birds are changing.  The robins don’t say their song plainly anymore-they only say it halfway, like a kid would when it’s learning.”

151 Distant Time stories told are told only during the late Fall and the first half of the long Northern winter.  Indeed, scholars of native lore have found this to be an almost continentwide rule:  throughout North America, at least prior to 1900, native communities listened to their most sacred stories only at night and only during the winter.

Women, because they have an excess of spiritual power, must avoid calling the otter by its real name, lest they frighten it, and so refer to the animal only indirectly as biziya-“shiny black.”

153 No event for the Koyukon is ever wholly accident or chance, but neither is any event entirely predetermined.  Rather like the trickster, Raven, who first gave it its current form, the sensuous world is a spontaneous, playful, and dangerous mystery in which we participate, an animate and articulate field of powers ever responsive to human actions and spoken words.

155 Apache man told Basso that he often “talked names” to himself  “I like to” he told the anthropologist “I ride that way in my mind.”  Another Apache told Basso that his people like to pronounce place names “because those names are good to say.”

156 the land is always stalking people

158 someone was working with words on his mind

159 i know that place.  it stalks me every day ‘agodzaahi

167 spirit children decide which stanzas

170 with words of pidgin thrown in

217 the inside of things and the other side of things

221 uvatiarru = long ago/in the future (Inuit of Baffin Island)

231 we started existing where Darknesses, lying on one another, occurred.

232 when the baby is born, the Navajo say that the wind within it “unfolds him” and it is then, when the infant commences breathing that another, surrounding wind enters into the child


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