Barry Cooper Beethoven

barry-cooper-beethovenBarry Cooper proposes in this medium-sized biography to give us a picture of Beethoven through a study of his music as the central theme of the composer’s life. In part, this is an endeavour to correct the many vituperous and fanciful biographies and commentary that became fashion after the middle of the 20th century to denigrate any historical European figure that might pose as a kind of hero; such dirty tactics often employed cryptic Freudian readings and other such magical means of divining colorful thoughts shaped more according to the writers of such nonsense than to what we could, in fact, confirm or see clearly in the object of their decadent trains of thought.

What Cooper shows us is he portrait of a genius of a composer along with all the quirks and vulnerabilities that Beethoven suffered from. We are shown his idealistic ramblings and acts, from a well-meaning but also quite believable point of view. For the music enthusiast, the passion that Cooper transmits along with the copious yet not overbearing amount of technical details and descriptions is more than a delight, it is the concretion of the figure of the composer who gives his life for higher art; and in so doing, someone like Beethoven crafted works that are either immortal, or at least the future benchmark for Western classical music.

An impartial reader might also, however, be drawn to notice the negative effects of such an imbalanced asceticism, which suffered from such neglect on part of Beethoven towards so great portions of his life and being that one might contend whether he was actually a genius or simply an obsessive nerd whose whole ego rested on his musical accomplishment. At least ‘equally great’ composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach (which I am inclined to consider superior as a whole) certainly did not destroy or neglect their lives as a kind of payment; rather, greater artists seem to live a life of nurture and an impulse away from their natural indulgence and sensitivity towards maturity to some extent (see Sibelius, for instance).

Among the things that Groome does not hide from us, is the great emotional immaturity that Beethoven always displayed, and that he at least recognized as a part of himself, thought he may perhaps not have called it immaturity or indeed a completely negative trait. The music of Beethoven is the technical peak of Western European classical tradition in music, and it achieves such a feat by a brutal dedication by the composer who virtually gave his life for such an immortality of name. His dreams aligned with a kind of Masonic worship of the quasi-gnostic Godhead, and an ignorant artist’s dreams of human equality and what not (which superficiality can be observed in his changed dedication of his 3rd Symphony). A great work he left, but a poor example of a life well-lived.

David Groome An Introduction to Cognitive Psychology

groome-psychology

Psychology as a scientific endeavor is not a particular interest of mine, but rather I see it as a necessary means to several ends, one of which is simply the understanding of the relationship between human beings and reality. What is interesting and revealing is how some theories of mind have come to be supported by observed fact, even though this does not necessarily ‘prove’ them in the scientific sense of the word (scientific theories are never proven, they’re only continually not disproven, as Karl Popper would say).

Mandler’s organisation theory suggests that memory is structured into a semantic network of related items, and accessing each item activates the whole network.

—p. 170, in Chapter 6: ‘Long-term memory’. Reference: Mandler, G. (2011). From association to organisation. Psychological Science, 20, 232-235.

What is fascinating about cognitive psychology, as presented by Groome, is that it attempts to bring all methods under the most scientific, and thus impartial and objective, approach that will look for physical/biological parallels and observable events of complex but distinguishable aspects of the mind.

Even very early in the visual system there appear to be (at least) two basic distinct streams of information flowing back from the retina (Shapley, 1995). These streams are referred to as the parvocellular and magnocellular (…) These pathways carry information back to the primary visual cortex. (…) [Then] the visual infrmation is maintained in (at least) two distinct streams. One stream is termed the ventral stream and leads to inferotemporal cortex and the other, leading to parietal cortex, is known as the dorsal stream.

—p. 46, in ‘The Difference Between Sensation and Perception’. Reference: Shapley, R. (1995). Parallel neural pathways and visual function. In M.S. Gazzaniga (ed.), The Cognitive Neurosciences (pp. 315-324). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

It should be by now evident, to those with a certain independence of mind, self-honesty and a realist logic, that most people live their lives in illusion; this statement can be extended and made specific by saying that a greater part of people’s perceptions and memories are at least distorted, if not outright fabrications. This has to do with the capacity for reception and then the host of factors that affect the storage and subsequent retrievals of memory.

Bartlett concluded that subjects tended to rationalise the story to make it fit in with their own expectations, based on their own experience and understanding of the world [schema].

—P. 161, in Chapter 6: ‘Long-term memory’, reference: Bartlett, F.C. (1992), Remembering, Cambridge Press University.

The beauty of a scientific endeavor such as the practical study of cognitive psychology is that it can show us this is demonstrable in terms of the complex systems of sensation and perception, and the manner in which they are constantly liable to frequent and irredeemable distortion. What was most interesting to me as I read the early chapters, was how much, to my mind and limited understanding of what little I was able to grasp of Critique of Pure Reason, the modern theory of psychology in its most refined and scientific carrying out corroborated more than a few of Kant’s philosophical derivations about the mind and its limits.

Sensation will be considered to be the ‘raw’ bottom-up input from the senses, and perception will be considered to be the end result of the processing of that sensory material within the visual system.

—p.36, in ‘The Difference Between Sensation and Perception’


§ History and Human Fallibility


For better or for worse, in today’s world it is history, and certain narratives of it, which shape our conception of reality, with some degree also relying on a politicized interpretation of scientific research. Hence, it makes sense to concentrate on the perception of the world as a whole from the case of the recording of what we know as history and its subsequent retelling, supposed confirmation and utterly-unscientific moral/cultural judgement.

There is a very good reason why eye-witness accounts are the lowest and most distrusted form of evidence in a modern court of law worth its salt: not only can eye-witnesses be convinced to say anything, either by others or by themselves, but human impression and memory itself is known to be so fallible and prone to distortion that very little stock can be placed on it, in general.

Di Lollo et al. (2000) demonstrated that changing one stimulus rapidly for another disrupted processing of the first stimulus, a process referred to as masking.

—p. 43, in ‘The Difference Between Sensation and Perception’. Reference: Di Lollo, V., Enns, J.T. and Rensink, R.A. (2000). Competition for consciousness among visual events: The psychophysics of reentrant visual processes. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 129 (4), 481-507.

Most of what we consider history, however, boils down to eyewitness accounts of people with preconceived ideas, or opinions and judgement arising later. Where we may find some physical evidence indicating a series of possibilities, historical narrative is, most of the time, based on the greatly distorted view of an interested party. The historian himself, moreover, usually spouses a certain narrative himself and is never a truly neutral and impartial agent.

Distortion of eyewitness testimony by previous schemas has also been investigated, (…), memory was likely to be distorted for any events they had witnessed which were inconsistent with their previous knowledge and schemas.

—p. 164, in Chapter 6:’Long-term memory’, reference: Tuckey, M.R. and Brewer, N. (2003). How schemas affect eyewitness memory over repeated retrieval attempts. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 17, 785-800.

One would think that historians have taken serious account of this already throughout the 20th century, but the truth of the matter is that, for all their so-called ‘corroboration tactics’, their conclusions and opinions always remain their sole judgement of situations that at best could be considered murky. This is how, even today, there is a great divide in opinions, among scholars, about the nature of the series of events that we know today as The Crusades. For the major events, even in recent history, such as the two World Wars for instance, very little besides specific events such as major battles or troop and logistic movements are actually verifiable, and only up to a certain degree. All else is affected by trauma, propaganda, prejudice or outright lies that are spread by rumor and become consensus and which consensus forms the basic material that historians study: their ‘truth’ amounts to whatever the documents of some people said they saw.

Context reinstatement is only effective when the participant is paying attention to their surroundings, and its effects may be masked by distraction or stress.

—p.176, in Chapter 6: ‘Long-term memory’. Reference: Thompson, L.A., Williams, K.L., L’Esperance, P.R. and Cornelius, J. (2001). Context-dependent memory under stressful conditions: the case of skydiving. Human Factors, 43, 611-619.

When asked to recall autobiographical events from earlier in their lives, people in a sad or depressed mood tend to recall a disproportionate number of sad and depressing events…

—p. 177, in Chapter 6: ‘Long-term memory’. Reference: Miranda, R. and Kihlstrom, J.F. (2005). Mood congruence in childhood and recent autobiographical memory. Cognition and Emotion, 19, 981-988.

It has been discovered that practising the retrieval of a memory trace not only strengthens that trace, it also apparently inhibits the retrieval of rival memory traces.

—p. 187, in Chapter 6: ‘Long-term memory’. Anderson, M.C., Bjork, R.A. and Bjork, E.L. (1994). Remembering can cause forgetting: Retrieval dynamics in long-term memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 20, 1063-1087.

…there is evidence that people are able to deliberately suppress a memory if instructed to do so, and this is assumed to involve effortful and conscious processing.

—p. 190,  in Chapter 6: ‘Long-term memory’. Barnier, A.J., Conway, M.A., Mayoh, L. and Speyer, J. (2007). Directed forgetting of recently recalled autobiographical memories. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 136, 301-322.

For all intents and purposes, the greater fallibility of the historian himself comes into play when he judges the sparse accounts; which are by no means actual evidence of anything except a consensus that may arise from a variety of situations, non of which actually means things actually happened as claimed. The more scientific approach is to, of course, only submit to the highest level of verification and the highest forensic standards. Some cross-verification works: two or more truly and completely independent sources stating the exact same details. But this last is very rare in history.

Many experts argue that most recovered memories are actually false memories. —p. 378

Highly emotional states, both negative and positive, impair deductive reasoning. —p.395


§ All in all


 Groome’s book is a gold mine for those wishing to understand why the field of History is such a fickle area of study that is only supported by the political inclinations of the status quo and society’s religious respect for academic figures. Studies in amnesia, significant memory distortion and how common it is, disorders of cognition, witness manipulation and more are included in the book if only as ways to discuss the introduction to the scientific studies.

There is more actual history to be learnt from archeaologists with a bent for the chemical sciences than from so-called Historians, which we might be better off comparing to paper-research-based story-tellers. So much rides on this fanciful story-telling that the status quo will always go out of its way to create ‘educational’ campaigns, propaganda and even laws to protect the myths that shape a certain directed ‘reality’.

False memory studies offer a possible explanation of the way that recovered memories, or at least some of them, could have been created by misinformation and possibly even by the therapeutic process itself.

—p.199,  in Chapter 6: ‘Long-term memory’.

  • Reference 1: Loftus, E.F., and Davis, D. (2006). Recovered Memories.. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 2, 469-498.
  • Reference 2: Geraerts, E. Schooker, B.J., Merckelbach, H., Jelicic, M., Hauer, B.J., and Ambadar, Z. (2007). The reality of recovered memories: corroborating continuous and discontinuous memories of childhood sexual abuse. Psychological Science, 18, 564-568.

[M]ost judges have little knowledge of research findings about eyewitness memory, and jurors know even less.

—p. 200,  in Chapter 6: ‘Long-term memory’. Reference: Benton, S. et al (2006). Eyewitness memory is still not common sense: Comparing jurors, judges and law enforcement to eyewitness experts. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 20, 115-129.

Marie Cachet Le Besoin d’Impossible


To begin with, we should make it clear that whatever is written here on the ideas proposed in Le Besoin d’Impossible by Marie Cachet are the sole interpretation in the understanding of this reader. French is not my strong suit, though it is manageable in writing, and though Cachet’s propositions are set forth in a very formal and logical manner, metaphysical treatises are not known for their accessibility. That said, I am glad to have been able to make it through with a dictionary in hand and a resonance with many of the ideas being put forth, especially towards the end.

It should be clear that this is but a casual, and rather short, commentary on and an emphatic recommendation of the book; the book is short but dense, and is designed to take the reader step by step in logical derivations. It is not precisely a ‘fun’ read, for it is straight up metaphysics, but it does make some bold and interesting points as part of the journey of reason it takes the reader on. If I have misunderstood, I hope the reader and Marie Cachet will forgive me; on my part, I also try to elaborate my own thoughts on this wonderful book.

It is also worth mentioning that upon finishing this book, it struck me that it is actually an excellent formal companion to Varg Vikernes’ Reflections on European Mythology and Polytheism, also published in 2016. Besides that, it seemed to me like the remarks of Cachet towards the end of her book pertaining artistic creation and the ‘temporalization’ of the Eternal in them were an excellent descriptor of the whole intent of Burzum‘s music.


§ The Need for Transcendence


   The main idea of Le Besoin d’Impossible is that humans not only have a predisposition towards the need of finding meaning in the things they do and their life as a whole, but are even hardwired to do so. That means that the moment they find themselves in a position where all transcendent ideas, such as religion, myth, and ideals in general, are taken away from them, they enter a cycle of despair. These ideas are understood beyond what moderns would refer to as ‘superstition’ or ‘mere beliefs’, and require the comprehension of a different mode of thought in a world where religion attains the character of the objective in the eyes of the individual.

The topic is rather well-suited for our modern world, in which a greater part of the population has fallen into this mode of thought; the lower way of life that cycles between the need to survive and the need to escape from the life of survival. Today, humankind believes it has been freed from what it sees as the chains of religion; in truth, it has only changed a kind of religion for another. When before it looked towards the gods and the priests, perhaps, now it looks towards the government and the science establishment. Whether people want to dispute the validity of such claims does not change the fact that people in general do treat these authorities as their new anchor for meaning and purpose.

 The book is divided into three parts in which it presents the claim, elaborates a metaphysical core of thought and thence presents a higher conclusion based the first two. Not deeming myself completely in command of the arguments, I will only briefly explain what each of the three chapters of the book were roughly about.

The first was an establishment of certain premises for the book, including the idea of despair as motivation in modern man to surrender to faith (concentrating on the Christian religion); how this also part of the entertainment humans look for to distract them from the desperation that arises from their own realization of how little they understand and have within themselves. The book necessarily starts from an accurate condemnation of Darwinist Evolution and Freudian Psychology as the companions of the Judeo-Christian faith as the main promoters of guilt and thence blind faith in modern man.


§ We live the Beauty of Eternity


The second chapter goes into a brief metaphysical exposition of the point of view that matter is all there is. That space may permeate matter but that there is no such thing as space without matter; furthermore, that time is the evolution (the change) of matter. This seems to be roughly put together with the Descartian idea of cogito ergo sum (something I was never convinced of, and now am sure is not valid —think hard enough on your own, or read Kant), to then, basically, put forth the idea that all there is for us to know is what is experienced. The latter I consider, perhaps, one of the weakest points in the book, if only because I digress with Descartes.

More interestingly, and arising from the trinity of existence in space, matter and time, is the idea of Eternity within each moment. Such a derivation needs but self-honesty and a logical, mentality stripped off sophistry and unnecessary convolutions that can see through to the bases and simple origins. The idea is that your recollection of the past is merely a present interpretation of reconstructions and hints of memory, the future that has not come to pass does not really exist, and so all that you really have is a continuous fluxion of states that we call the immediate present.

Since in that moment we are perceiving a finite bit of the total of existence, that is, we as finite beings are presencing the all that is, by our available means of perception, essentially infinite, we can say that Eternity, the Eternal, as a whole, is captured or peeked through in every waking moment. That is to say, the window is there, and we are living through it throughout or continued existence. The option to actually stop and witness it or to keep summoning the imagined past or the non-existent possible set of future situations is a decision. The door is there, says Marie Cachet, and it is the individual who chooses to open it as much as he will, or to close it completely.

Le point de vue seul doit changer pour transposer le sujet humain et fini dans l’Éternité, le présent. En effet, le corps, ou même la conscience humaine, est fini(e) et limité(e), mais l’Éternité est bien présente, partout, et l’unique présent. Nous pouvons comparer l’accès de l’homme à l’Éternité à une porte que le sujet peut ouvrir plus ou moins ou fermer totalment.


§ Knowledge of the maze we tread


 As a direct consequence of the derivation of the accessibility of the Eternal in the experience of every conscious human being, the idea of divinity is discussed. Divinity as an amoral (as in lacking the idea of good and evil) state of what is and what permeates reality, as opposed to what humans project onto it. Our relationship to this Eternal, and to the Divine, would appear to lie in the degrees in which we are aware of it and in how we think of it or make use of it.

Its amoral —neutral, as Cachet says— nature in itself is uncaring in the human moral sense; and any distinctions lie only in how close we humans get to perceiving it as it is. Cachet wanted us, from the beginning of the book, to move away from the modern concept of subjective and objective as if they were dichotomies that represent what is real and what is imaginary. And so this ‘subjectively’ perceived divinity is ‘objetive’ in that it is a thing in itself, though perhaps not in the sense that modernity uses the term to signify ‘scientific material confirmability’, and must be approached through inner changes of oneself.

In tandem and as an introduction the concept of will is presented; the will not as a creator, but as the instrument that enables us to redirect and channel forth the Eternal —the infinite— into finite forms that are reproducible in one way or another. Will is also presented as the attraction between spaced out particles of the eternal, which through this separation and polarity create every kind of motion and ultimately represent love at both a higher and more earthly levels.1

The crown of the book, and of these beautiful derivations, is found in the arrival at the traditional idea of the labyrinth of life lived with a transcendental awareness; that in presencing the Eternal, and so connecting with the Divine in ourselves and in everything else, we may rise in that Present and contemplate the maze that life is; in so doing we descry the center of the maze, and so attain our own secret purpose and meaning.

Such words may appear as mere words to those who will not plunge into the depths on their own and need to be guided; but such a feat, and such a world, can only be attained and traveled to through that contemplation and by that stopping of time into essentially what is. To do so is an individual effort, and one that requires simply that one directs one’s senses; it is a simplifying towards what is always there, and away from the complex illusions that abstractions and hubris have created.


Footnotes

It bears mentioning that this idea echoes ancient Indian cosmogony, and Greek philosophy; both of these also find more obscure and esoteric correspondences in the incredibly ancient lore of Hyperborean Europe. More than a few serious works have been written on this topic, but a certain one should be referenced that touches on the traces of Scandinavian lore which can be found in Vedic lore with remains in certain vestiges in ancient Persia. These three constitute the main trilogy of ancient Aryan foundation, as I understand. The interested reader should refer to The Arctic Home of the Vedas, by Bal Gangadhar Tilak.