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Category: Jorge Luis Borges

The Universe as a Book

The Christians went even further. The thought that the divinity had written a book moved them to imagine that he had written two, and that the other one was the universe.

At the beginning of the Seventeenth century, Francis Bacon declared in his Advancement of Learning that God offered us two books so that we would not fall into error: the first, the volume of the Scriptures, reveals His will; the second, the volume of the creatures, reveals His power and is the key to the former. Bacon intended much more than the making of a metaphor; he believed that the world was reducible to essential forms (temperatures, densities, weights, colors), which formed, in limited number, an abecedarium naturae or series of letters with which the universal text is written.

[…]

Two hundred years passed, and the Scot Carlyle, in various places in his books, particularly in the essay on Cagliostro, went beyond Bacon’s hypothesis; he said that universal history was a Sacred Scripture that we decipher and write uncertainly, and in which we too are written. Later, León Bloy would write:

“There is no human being on earth who is capable of declaring who he is. No one knows what he come to this world to do, to what his acts, feelings, ideas correspond, or what his real name is, his imperishable Name in the registry of Light … History is an immense liturgical text, where the i’s and the periods are not worth less than the versicles or whole chapters, but the importance of both is undeterminable and is profoundly hidden.” (L’Ame de Napoleon, 1912).

The world, according to Mallarmé, exists for a book; according to Bloy, we are the versicles or words or letters of a magic book, and that incessant book is the only thing in the world: more exactly, it is the world.”

Note 3: Galileo’s works abound with the concept of the universe as a book. The second section of Favaro’s anthology (Galileo Galilei: Pensieri, motti e sentenze; Florence, 1949) is entitled “Il libro della Natura.” I quote the following paragraph: Philosophy is written in that very large book that is continually opened before our eyes (I mean the universe), but which is not understood unless first one studies the language and knows the characters in which it is written. The language of that book is mathematical and the characters are triangles, circles, and other geometric figures.”

–Jorge Luis Borges, “On the Cult of Books.”

http://www.filosofiaesoterica.com/ler.php?id=1459#.U88K61Ydvfo

Mirrors as Labyrinths.

“My other nightmare is that of the mirror. The two are not distinct, as it only takes two facing mirrors to construct a labyrinth. I remember seeing, in the house of Dora de Alvear in the Belgrano district, a circular room whose walls and doors were mirrored, so that whoever entered the room found himself at the center of a truly infinite labyrinth.”

— –Jorge Luis Borges, “Nightmares,” Seven Nights, 1984, pg. 29. 

Borges on the Demonic Origin of Nightmares.

“In all of these words there is an idea of demonic origin, the idea of a demon who causes the nightmare. I believe it does not derive simply from a superstition. I believe that there is–and I speak with complete honesty and sincerity–something true in this idea.”

 –Jorge Luis Borges, “Nightmares,” Seven Nights, 1984, pp. 28-9.

Borges, Dreams, Nightmares, Metaphysics.

“For the savage and for the child, dreams are episodes of the waking life; for poets and mystics, it is not impossible for all of the waking life to be a dream.

This was said, in a dry and laconic fashion, by Calderón: “life is a dream.” It was said, with an image, by Shakespeare: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on.” And splendidly by the Austrian poet Walter von der Vogelweide, who asked, “Ist mein Leben getraäumt oder ist es wahr?” –have I dreamed my life or is it real?

I am not sure. It takes us certainly to solipsism, to the suspicion that there is only one dreamer and that dreamer is every one of us. That dreamer–let us imagine that I am he–is, at this very moment, dreaming you. He is dreaming this room and this lecture. There is only one dreamer, and that dreamer dreams all of the cosmic process, dreams all of the world’s history, dreams everything, including your childhood and your adolescence.

All of this could not have happened; at this moment it begins to exist. He begins to dream and is each one of us–not us, but each one. At this moment I am dreaming that I am giving a lecture on the Calle Charcas, that I am looking for things to say (and perhaps not finding them); I am dreaming you.

But it is not true. Each one of you is dreaming me and the others.”

–Jorge Luis Borges, “Nightmares,” Seven Nights, 1984. Pp. 26-7.

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