Ferdowsi's Shahnameb: The Persian Book of Kings (c. 1000) Illustration Public domain. ?Miniature from the Berlin Manuscript of Firdausi's Shahnameh (1605)?


Imagine Goethe’s inner gaze marveling at majestic Mount Damāvand, the highest peak in the Middle East, immortalized in Persian literature through masterful works like Ferdowsi’s Shâhnameh. From its seemingly timeless lofty heights, Mount Damāvand, remains as unconstrained as the wind, in contrast with the social, political and historical changes unfolding all around it.

I was looking for the fertile, picturesque places with names like warm valley and seven creeks where the judge’s grandson grew up when I came across images of Mount Damāvand and learned of its history.

Illustrations inspired by Abolghassem Mansour-ibn-Hassan Firdausi Tousi (Ferdowsi)’s epic work entitled Shâhnâmeh (Book of Kings) (1010) were submitted by Iran for inclusion inclusion in the Memory of the World Register in 2007. They now host a gallery of illustrations.

“Abolghassem Mansour-ibn-Hassan Firdausi Tousi (Ferdowsi) was a prominent figure in Iranian poetry and the nationalist poet of the Persian Empire. He was born in the Iranian city of Tous in 941 and died in 1020, ten years after he finished his major epic work, the Shâhnâmeh (Book of Kings). This is one of the classics of the Persian-speaking world and is on a par with the ‘Iliad’ and the ‘Aeniad’ of the Greco-Romano cultural communities. An important feature of this work is that although during the period of its creation, Arabic was the main language of science and literature, Ferdowsi used only Persian and therefore helped to revive and maintain this important world language. Today Persian is spoken by over 65 million people in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan and diaspora communities. The Shâhnâmeh has also become an important text throughout Central Asia, India and the former Ottoman Empire. It has been copied countless times and three of these copies could be said to have universal value: the “Demotte Shâhnâmeh” made in the early 1300s for the Il-Khanid patron, Giyath al-Din ; the 16th Century “Houghton Shâhnâmeh” ; and the “Bayasanghori Shâhnâmeh”, which was made in 1430 for Prince Bayasanghor (1399-1433), the grandson of the legendary Central Asian leader Timur (1336-1405). Only the “Bayasanghori Shâhnâmeh” has survived and is kept under lock and key in the Imperial Library of the Golestan Palace in Tehran. The Shâhnâmeh represents the quintessence of aesthetic and literary values of the elite rulers of the Timurid Renaissance who dominated Central and Western Asia in the 15th Century.”

In the nineteenth century, Goethe considered Persian literature to be one of the four main bodies of world literature (Ferdowsi 2006) and his “Verstandnis des West-Ostlichen Divans” was inspired by Persian literature.

“When we turn our attention to a peaceful, civilized people, the Persians, we must — since it was actually their poetry that inspired this work — go back to the earliest period to be able to understand more recent times. It will always seem strange to the historians that no matter how many times a country has been conquered, subjugated and even destroyed by enemies, there is always a certain national core preserved in its character, and before you know it, there re-emerges a long-familiar native phenomenon. In this sense, it would be pleasant to learn about the most ancient Persians and quickly follow them up to the present day at an all the more free and steady pace (Goethe 1819 in Wiesehofer and Azodi 2001: Preface).”

For over 2600 years Persia has been at the geographic centre of trade and cultural exchange, friction If you draw lines from the Mediterranean to Beijing or Beijing to Cairo or Paris to Delhi, they all pass through Iran, which straddles a region where East meets West. Over 26 centuries, a blending of the hemispheres has been going on here—trade, cultural interchange, friction—with Iran smack in the middle.

“If we could realize that great works such as the Shahnameh [of Ferdowsi] exists in the world, we would not become so much proud of our own works in such a silly manner (Saint-Beuve cited in Wiesehofer 2001-08-18).”

1. This UNESCO site entitled Memory of the World hosts digital images like this 1430 illustration from the “Bayasanghori Shâhnâmeh” for Prince Bayasanghor (1399-1433). It illustrated one of the stories in Ferdowsi’s Shahnameb (1010) showing the tyrant Zahhak, nailed to the walls of a cave in Mount Damavand.

2. Some Poems in English

3. “FERDOWSĪ,ABU’L-QĀSEM (329-410 or 416/940-1019 or 1025), one of the greatest epic poets and author of the Šāh-nāma, the national epic of Persia. See also ŠĀH-NĀMA. […] The sum of such heartfelt, mature, and eloquently expressed views and ethical precepts regarding the world and mankind have led to his being referred to, from an early period, as ḥakīm (philosopher), dānā (sage), and farzāna (learned); that is, he was considered a philosopher, though he was not attached to any specific philosophical school nor possessed a complete knowledge of the various philosophical and scientific views of his time. [His sobriquet or pen name], Ferdowsī means “[man] from paradise” (Khaleghi, 1988, p. 92). From Encylopedia Iranica

4. The concepts of freedom and human rights allegedly originated in the first Persian Empire, as early as the c. 539 BC with the Achaemenid Persian Shāhanshāh Emperor Cyrus the Great (c. 600/576 BC – c. 530/29 BC). His successors including Darius ruled over a stable global superpower, the world’s first religiously and culturally tolerant empire administrated with the first human rights charter (Farrokh 2007:44, Robertson and Merrills 1996:7, Lauren 2003:11, Xenophon and Hedrick 2007:xiii) with a central government in Pasargadae for more than a thousand years. The borders of the Persian Empire ultimately extended from the Mediterranean to the Indus River, encompassing 23 different peoples and including nations and regions that by 2008 were called Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Jordan, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, and the Caucasus region (Del Giudice 2008-08:5).” It was Emperor Cyrus the Great who freed the enslaved Jews of Babylon in 539 B. C. providing them with necessary funds to rebuild their in Jerusalem through the Edict of Restoration. (Del Giudice 2008-08:5)”

5. Cyrus the Great Cylinder, The First Charter of Rights of Nations: (Farrokh 2007:44, Robertson and Merrills 1996:7, Lauren 2003:11, Xenophon and Hedrick 2007:xiii)

“In short, the figure of Cyrus has survived throughout history as more than a great man who founded an empire. He became the epitome of the great qualities expected of a ruler in antiquity, and he assumed heroic features as a conqueror who was tolerant and magnanimous as well as brave and daring. His personality as seen by the Greeks influenced them and Alexander the Great, and, as the tradition was transmitted by the Romans, may be considered to influence our thinking even now (Frye 1963).”

6. Richard N. Frye (1920- ), now a professor emeritus at Harvard devoted more than sixty years to teaching, learning and research on Persian history. He founded the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard and is the Aga Khan Professior of Iranian history at Harvard University. Frye’s books entitled the Nation of Archers (1954) and The Heritage of Persia (1962) The Heritage of Persia (Bibliotheca Iranica, No 1). Islam and the West. Proceedings of the Harvard Summer School Conference on the …
His mentor and predecessor, Arthur Pope was director of the Asia Institute in Shiraz.

“Thus, to refer to the Sasanian period of Iran’s history, Vahram-i Varjavand, seems to me to be a greatly heroised example of the millenary tradition, for he is a truly messianic personality, even though probably a greatly heroised form of the historic Bahrám Chobin. As I have frequently stated, in the past of Iran, for the people, history was not what really happened, or even what they thought had happened, but what they thought should have happened. This is a fundamental characteristic of the view of the past among a people who have a strong epic tradition and a messianic tradition of time speculation (Frye, 1974:57-69 1964: 36-54 cited in Buck 1998).”

7. Some useful translations
Shâhnameh Shahnameh (Farsi) Emperor
Kūrošé Kabīr or Kūrošé Bozorg Kurose Kabir or Kurose Bozorg (Farsi) Emperor Cyrus the Great
Koresh (Hebrew in Bible) Emperor Cyrus the Great
Dhul-Qarnayn (Arabic in Qur’an) possibly referring to Emperor Cyrus the Great.
Damāvand – Damavand
West-Ostlichen (German) West-Eastern

Webliography and Bibliography

Buck, Christopher. 1998. “Bahá’u’lláh as Zoroastrian saviour.” Baha’i Studies Review. 8. London: Association for Baha’i Studies English-Speaking Europe. pp.14–33.

Farrokh, Kaveh. 2007. Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War. History.

Frye, Richard N. 1963. The Heritage of Persia: The pre-Islamic History of One of the World’s Great Civilizations. World Publishing Company: New York.

Ghasemi, Shapour. “The Cyrus the Great Cylinder.” History of Iran. Accessed February 24.

Knappert, Jan. Ed. 1999.Encyclopaedia of Middle Eastern mythology and religion. Longmead, UK.

Robertson, Arthur Henry; Merrills, J. G. 1996. Human Rights in the World: An Introduction to the Study of the International. Political Science.:7.

Lauren, Paul Gordon. 2003. The Evolution of International Human Rights: Visions Seen. Political Science. p.11.

Xenophon; Hedrick, Larry. 2007. “Xenophon’s Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War. History. p.xiii.

Del Giudice, Marguerite. 2008-08. “Persia: Ancient Soul of Iran: A Glorious Past Inspired by a Conflicted Nation.” National Geographic. PP. 34-67.
Ferdowsi, Abolqasem. 2006. Translated by Davis, Dick. 2006. Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings. Viking.

Goethe. 1819. Noten and Abhandlungen zu besserem Verstandnis des West-Ostlichen Divans.

Levinson, Von David; Christensen, Karen. 2002. Encyclopedia of Modern Asia. Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Wiesehofer, Josef; Azodi, Azizeh. 2001-08-18. Translated by Azodi, Azizeh. “Preface.” Ancient Persia: From 550 BC to 650 AD. I. B. Tauris. New Ed Edition.

Nurian, Mahdi. 1993. “Afarin Ferdowsi az Zaban Pishinian [The praises of Ferdowsi from the tongue of the ancients].” Hasti Magazine. 4. Tehran: Bahman Publishers.

Effendi, Shoghi. 1991. “Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster.” The Compilation of Compilations.Volume I. Baha’i Publications Australia.

Effendi, Shoghi. 1944. God Passes By. Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust.

Frye, Richard N. (1992), “Zoroastrians in Central Asia in Ancient Times.” Journal of the K. R. Cama Oriental Institute. 58: 6–10.

Richard Frye, 1974. “Methodology in Iranian History,” in Neue Methodologie in der Iranistik. (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1974): 57-69 [66]. Cf. idem, “The Charisma of Kingship in Ancient Iran,” Iranica Antiqua 6 (1964): 36-54.


http://maps.nationalgeographic.com/map-machine#s=h&c=35.6907639509368, 52.032623291015646&z=9


Novel Tourism: Web 2.0

February 13, 2009

Methodologies change over time in relation to descriptions of haunts and scenes of novels and film productions based on them. Easily identified Parisian settings for Marcel Proust novels evolved into a thriving tourist industry. Web 2.0 Virtual Tourism is yet another way in which we can engage with our favourite stories from the classics and popular culture, situating them in the liminal space between the fictional and real.

In the 1980s television series were filmed in spots that were already booming tourist attractions expanding interest to include geographical features, archaeological sites and objects, architecture, pubs, gardens, estates, colleges, etc. The Inspector Morse series was filmed in the Thames Valley area, mainly in Oxford. The charming countryside along the Thames River has attracted tourists following in the carriage wheels of London aristocracy who built fine and stately country homes like Blenheim around which picturesque villages developed. The Inspector Morse series filled with bodies found floating in the Isis, the Cherwell or the Thames, also overflows with culture-rich references. In every episode there are many photo opportunities for local tourist venues and even tour buses and guides make appearances as memorable “objects.”

Charles Dickens stage was modern with its “lime-lights, trapdoors and elaborate sets (Rideing 1885).” There is a much greater opportunity for readers to identify specific locations through Charles Dickens’ powerful word painting in which he elaborates with great fidelity, minute descriptive details (that would be boring if not humourous) of the furnishings, everyday objects and the haunts of his characters making the settings as memorable as the people who inhabited them. Rideing compared Dickens’ methodology to Thackerey’s. Thackerey’s stage for Vanity Fair (1847-8), for example, was classic “with a dais of drapery of green baize before the time of scenery (Rideing 1885). Dickens localized his characters, Thackerey did not.

Using a gaggle of Web 2.0 technologies, including customized Google Maps, I began to map some of these references as yet another way to engage with nonlinear space and time. Possibilities are virtually infinite.

Webliography and Bibliography

Rideing, William Henry. 1885. Thackeray’s London: Description of his Haunts and the Scenes of his Novels. London: J. W. Jarvis and Son. King William Street, Strand, W. C./ Boston, U.S. CUPJ-Les, Upham and Co. Isaac Foot Library. Copyright, 1885. Washington, D. C.

Thackeray, William. 1847-8. Vanity Fair.

Thackeray, William. 1847-8. A Roundabout Chapter between London and Hampshire.” Vanity Fair.

Read the rest of this entry »

A summary by Maureen Flynn-Burhoe of Hornung (1998 ) on Luhmann: Complexity: non-intervention and observation

In Fuchs discussion of the work of Niklas Luhmann, an impassioned theorist. Luhmann argued that the role of sociology was to develop a theory that would provide a better and more complex understanding of the world. This could be done by developing a description and analysis of modern society through observation of society in its minute details. However, in its role as a science, sociology should not try to provide recipes to improve the world. The functional differentiation between sociology and politics should be respected.

In this way ethics should not determine sociological theory rather ethics depends on sociological theory.

Professor Hornung, the President of the University of Marburg, acknowledged that Luhmann’s restriction to observation and non-intervention may seem to be an unaffordable luxury in crisis-ridden times. Hornung admits that sociologists “are in fact under daily pressure in our jobs to “produce” both scientific results and students to the precise profiles requested by the economy and the “market”. But he cautions against ignoring Luhmann’s lesson that

“complexity can be handled only by complexity (Hornung 1998).”

Shifting Words, Shifting Worlds

In the address written at the time of Niklas Luhmann death in 1998, Dr. Bernd R. Hornung, , described Luhmann as the “most important contemporary intellectual leader and representative of systems science in sociology.” The influence of his new challenges and new perspectives extended far beyond sociology. Empassioned by theory, Luhmann provided new and influential perspectives which challenge the “army of “regular scientists.” Luhmann combined the theory of the organization of the living of Maturana and Varela with his own complex reasoning and “transferred it to sociology, where it became soon a cornerstone of his own monumental construction of theory.” In this theory the observer plays a key role by observing minute differences which impact on shifting terms, words and worlds (Hornung 1998).

“A considerable part of his life work consists in applying his abstract, complex frame of theoretical reference to virtually all areas of society, from the internal workings of administration to global ecological problems, from politics and economy to arts, love, and religion. Aiming at a universal theory of society no sector of society was left out in his attempt to apply, test, and further develop his theory.” In order to expand his theory Luhmann entered into a scholarly confrontation with Habermas’ theory (1971). See Hornung (1998).

Luhmann, a student of Talcott Parsons at Harvard in 1960-1, is a successor to but not a follower of, Parsons. They both attempted to develop a grand sociological theory that was universal and all encompassing (Hornung 1998).

In 1968, as Professor of Sociology at the newly founded Reform University of Bielefeld he devoted his full energy to his theory of modern society. He was inspired somewhat by Husserl’s phenomenology but primarily by systems theory and cybernetics in his own efforts to develop a description of society (Hornung 1998).

Luhmann’s Methodology: History, Legal Theory not Empirical Measurement

Informed by his love for history and using the tools of legal theory which involved library research and case studies Luhmann’s project was to study society as a whole and develop a theory of modern society. His methods were not those of a natural scientist. He did not use an ethnological style of participant observation nor empirical measurement, data collection, and statistical hypothesis testing as a way to construct theory (Hornung 1998).

More reading

Hornung, Bernd R. 1998. Obituary Niklas Luhmann (1927 – 1998) written for The Research Committee 51 (RC51) on Sociocybernetics of the International Sociological Association (ISA).

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2008-06-18 “Luhmann: Complexity can be Handled only by Complexity.” First uploaded.

Wharton’s Icefields

August 27, 2008

Wharton's Icefields

Wharton’s Icefields,
originally uploaded by ocean.flynn.

In a seamless blend of mountaineering, history, botany and fiction, Edmonton author Thomas Wharton revisits the shifting social and cultural events that took place on the edge of the Columbia icefields in the late 19th and early 20th century. In 1898 while on an expedition in the Columbia (Arcturus) glacier, doctor and amateur botanist Edward Bryne fell through a crevasse where he was held upside down in the icy grip of the narrowing walls of the chasm suspended in a liminal state between reality and dreams.

Using Adobe Photoshop I created this digitage inspired by descriptions and interpretations of the angel in Dr. Bryne’s icy vision. I layered images of ice taken at the Glenmore reservoir in Calgary, a Calypso orchid taken on Heart Mountain in June 2008 and my mother’s portrait from the early 1900s.

The Calypso orchid was elegantly selected as a character in the novel, as the origin of its name signifies concealment. It is a fragile plant with a wide, circumpolar distribution, that requires a highly specific ecosystem. Once it was an edible and medicinal plant for the First Nations who gathered plants in the Rockies but with increased traffic on what were once remote montaine trails, it is now an endangered species. At a certain height on Heart Mountain Trail when the scree became too difficult for me to manage, I was looking for an easier route a bit farther back from the steep edge of the trail when I came across a couple of these tiny purple orchids in a delicate floral embrace.

stoney, concealment, edible, circumpolar, ethnobotany, fairy slipper, Venus’s slipper, tagging, taxonomy, walkingtrails, wildflowersnorthamerica, wfgna, rockymountains, rockies, geotagging, geotagged, geotag, creativecommons, calgarydaytrips, alberta, CalypsoFairySlipper, Calypso.Bulbosa,


“bare, windswept slope of ice … projecting spine of ice … stepped backward into the abyss . . . (Wharton 1995 [2007:2]) . . . deep blue gloom p.3 . . . ”
“I prefer words on a page. They don’t gesticulate.”

“restless crowd with its panoply of cameras (Wharton 1995 [2007:274]).”

Wharton, Thomas. 1995 [2007]. Icefields. Nunatak Fiction. NeWest Press. Edmonton, AB.


1. The calypso orchid The Calypso bulbosa, Calypso orchid, Fairy’s slipper, Venus’s slipper or Plantae < Magnoliophyta < Liliopsida < Asparagales < Orchidaceae < Epidendroideae < Calypsoeae < Calypso < Salisb. < Calypso bulbosa

Nunatak is a word in Inuktitut meaning “lonely peak,” a rock or mountain rising above ice. During Quaternary glaciation in North America, peaks stood above the ice sheet and so became refuge for plant and animal life. Magnificent nunataks, their bases scoured by glaciers, can be seen along the Highwood Pass in the Alberta Rocky Mountains and on Ellesmere Island. The Nunatak fiction series are especially selected works of fiction by new western authors. Editors for Nunataks for NeWest Press are Aritha van Herk and Ruby Wiebe.

Sexsmith’s expedition is based on the 1859-1860 expedition undertaken by James Carnegie, Earl of Southesk.

Bibliography of research resources acknowledged by auhtor Thomas Wharton

Adassiz, Louis. 1967. Studies on Glaciers. Trans. Albert Carozzi. New York: Hafner.
Carnegie, James. 1875. Saskatchewan and the Rocky Mountains.
Gadd, Benn. 1987. Handbook of the Canadian Rockies, Jasper, Alberta: Corax.
Kagami, Yoshiro. 1951. “Edward Bryne: a Life on Ice.” Journal of Alpine Exploration. ii:6.
Stuffield, Hugh; Collie, J. Norman. 1903. Climbs and Explorations in the Canadian Rockies. London: Longmans, Green and Company.

Uploaded by ocean.flynn on 26 Aug 08, 3.16PM MDT.

Fearful symmetry

June 27, 2008

Ian Stewart traced the history of the mathematics of four or more dimensions as it evolved from an an obscure and esoteric collection of ideas during the Victorian period into something “straightforward and ubiquitous.” Victorian spiritualists attempted to use emerging concepts of the fourth dimension to explain their esoteric beliefs using mathematical logic. This is echoed today in a myriad of print and virtual publications and postings where quasi-scientific explanations are offered by well-meaning people and charlatans alike to promote their views on spirituality using “mathematics” and “physics.” Rather than strengthening their own spiritual orientations or religions, they undermine more profound philosophical arguments by deflecting uplifting conversations into the realm of science fiction and transforming potential conversations on spirituality into arguments about fractals, numerology, quantum physics, etc.

“Why is it so hard to apply reasoning with the aspirational symmetry of mathematics to the other aspects of our lives?”

It is indeed more difficult to apply reasoning since the process of tracing sources of knowledge claims has become even more time-intense with the proliferation of information. In order to reason and use logic we need to start with some truth claims we can trust. We live in a period of democratization of knowledge management. Whose information do we trust?

“We do not see how things are. We see things as we are.” Talmud

In contrast, Ian Stewart (1945-), Fellow of the Royal Society (2001-), professor of mathematics at Warwick University, UK, and a science and science fiction writer as well as Director of the University of Warwick’s Mathematics Awareness Centre has popularized mathematics by making it more accessible. In his most recent publication is entitled Why Truth is Beauty: A History of Symmetry, he writes eloquently about the resonance between mathematics and the natural world:

“Throughout history, mathematics has been enriched from two different sources. One is the natural world, the other the abstract world of logical thought. It is these two in combination that give mathematics its power to inform us about the universe…The story of symmetry demonstrates how even a negative answer to a good question can lead to deep and fundamental mathematics . . . The true strength of mathematics lies precisely in this remarkable fusion of the human sense of pattern (Beauty) with the physical world, which acts both as a reality check (Truth) and as an inexhaustible source of inspiration (Stewart 2007 WTB: HS).”

Webliography and Bibliography

Abbott Abbott, Edwin. 1884. Flatland.

The Victorian clergyman, schoolmaster, and Shakespearean scholar created the character Hex, a small talking orange heretic hexagon living in a (flatland) Euclidean plane, granddaughter of Arthur Square. Hex pondered on the possibility that, “[A] square … moving somehow parallel to itself … can make something else, [a] supersquare that represents three to the third power, or 27 units; [A] supersquare in the third dimension!”. In an elegant, old-fashioned style Abbott Abbott described the “dimensional analogy” between the “Flatland view of 2-space and the human view of 3-space with some biting social criticism of the Victorian treatment of two disadvantaged groups: women and the poor.” See Stewart (2007-11).

Banchoff, Tom. geometer and Flatland authority,

Dewdney, Kee. 1984. The Planiverse.

Hinton, Charles Howard. 1907. An Episode of Flatland.

Stewart, Ian. 2007a. Why Truth is Beauty: A History of Symmetry. Basic Books

“Hidden in the heart of the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, string theory, and modern cosmology lies one concept: symmetry. Symmetry has been a key idea for artists, architects and musicians for centuries, but within mathematics it remained, until recently, an arcane pursuit. In the twentieth century, however, symmetry emerged as central to the most fundamental ideas in physics and cosmology. Why Truth is Beauty: A History of Symmetry tells its history, from ancient Babylon to twenty-first century physics. It is a peculiar history, and the mathematicians who contributed to symmetry’s ascendancy mirror its fascinating puzzles and dramatic depth. We meet Girolamo Cardano, the Renaissance Italian rogue, scholar, and gambler who stole the modern method of solving cubic equations and published it in the first important book on algebra. We meet Evariste Galois, a young revolutionary who single handedly refashioned the whole of mathematics by founding the field of group theory—only to die at age nineteen in a duel over a woman before publishing any of his work. Perhaps most curious is William Rowan Hamilton, who carved his most significant discovery into a stone bridge between bout of alcoholic delirium (cover).”

Stewart, Ian. 2007-11. Review of Flatland: The Movie . Notices of the American Mathematical Society. November. pp. 1317-1321.


“The late Victorian era, in short, was a period of remarkable progress and free thinking. Science and the Church came to a gentleman’s agreement not to tread on each others’ toes, and many a country clergyman became the world expert on six types of beetle or the reproductive habits of slugs. Scientific advances were discussed along with the price of sugar and the increasingly parlous state of the British Empire at garden parties and polite social gatherings. Victorians, in particular, were fascinated by “the” fourth dimension. Mathematicians had come to recognise that the dimensionality of our own familiar space did not necessarily impose constraints on the dimensionality of any other structure. Mathematics was littered with “spaces” of dimension four, or ten, or a hundred. Many of these spaces accurately represented aspects of the physical world—for instance, as “degrees of freedom” of a mechanical system. Spiritualism, another flourishing Victorian interest, latched on to the fourth dimension as a convenient location for the spirit world. Ghosts could enter our world “sideways” along a dimension that mere humans could not observe or experience. Hyperspace theologians seized on the fourth dimension as an excellent place in which to put God and His angels, though they quickly realised that the fifth, sixth, and seventh dimensions were even better, and the infinitieth dimension added a satisfactory element of closure. While well-meaning people and charlatans of every kind were appealing to the fourth dimension to justify their beliefs and scams, the mathematics of four or more dimensions was changing from an obscure and esoteric collection of ideas into something straightforward and ubiquitous (Stewart 2007-11:1318-9).”

“[At] the dawn of the New Millennium, Arthur receives a visit from Spherius the sphere, an extradimensional being from the mysterious world of Space. But this is no dream. A quick run through the dimensional analogy fails to convince Arthur that Space can possibly exist, so Spherius bumps him out of Flatland. Now he sees the entire plane spread out before him. “I can see inside everything … I can see inside everyone’s bodies and I’m going to be sick.” He even sees the artifact in Area 33H, which is a slowly spinning cube. Now Arthur realises that Hex was right—a supersquare does exist. And back to Flatland he goes, to spread the gospel of the Third Dimension.” (Stewart 2007-11:1321).

Stewart, Ian. 200. Does God Play Dice?

Stewart, Ian. 200. Nature’s Numbers.

Stewart, Ian. 200. The Annotated Flatland.

Stewart, Ian. 200. Flatterland.

Travis, Jeffrey. Flatland: The Movie — A Journey of Many Dimensions. Flat World Productions.


folksonomy: mathematics and symmetry, music and mathematics, theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, string theory, and modern cosmology lies one concept: symmetry, dynamics, pattern formation, chaos, mathematical biology, aspirational symmetry, human psyche, authority, knowledge claims, validity, elegant arguments, physics’ hoax, mathematics’ hoax, science and religion, science-fiction, Marko Rodin, crystals,

Categories: Science and religion >

Haraway’s work examines how ideology informs science both through legitimization of claims and the intrusion of values into ‘scientific’ facts. In her introduction Haraway describes how the concepts of love, power and science are intricately intertwined in the constructions of nature in the late twentieth century. In the eighteenth century Linneaus named the order of Primates. Since then in western life sciences, ‘nature’ has encompassed themes of race, sexuality, gender, nation, family and class. Projects of colonialism developed ideologies of the control of nature and the civilization of native cultures (Haraway 1989:1).

The concept of ‘civilization’ as a benchmark for evaluating the evolution of culture had been an accepted and integral part of colonialism. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century the control of nature by technology, the machine, had become ambiguous. Nature, a potent symbol of innocence, was female and she needed protection from technology.

The American Museum of Natural History near Central Park, New York, was opened after the Civil War. In 1936 the African Hall was unveiled, a vision of the communion between nature and man, made possible through the craft of taxidermy. Carl Akeley’s, the chief taxidermist, greatest success was his display of a giant silverback gorilla from Congo-Zaire. This silverback is exhibited in a specially created diorama against a backdrop of Akeley’s own burial site in Congo-Zaire where he died in 1921. Haraway notes that in the same year, the Museum of Natural Science hosted a meeting of the International Congress of Eugenics. (Haraway 1989:26 -27).

Haraway reveals how the funding of the Museum of Natural History and related projects, such as public education, scientific collection and eugenics was provided by wealthy philanthropists. These men were often sports hunters who hunted in the African jungle and were enamoured with nature (Haraway 1989:54). They created a Hall of the Age of Man which museum trustee H. F. Osborn hoped would provide children with “…the book of nature written in facts” in order to prepare them to be “…better citizens of the future.” These early trustees and scientists believed that the nature they knew and were showing was not an interpretation. Nature was real. This realism also informed aesthetic choices in exhibitions.

Haraway reveals how it was also designed to “…make the moral lessons of racial hierarchy and progress explicit.” Osborn was an ardent eugenicist. Another Museum trustee was a white-supremacist author, Madison Grant, who was deeply concerned by the increase of immigration of non-white working classes whom he feared would outnumber the “old American stock”. Non-white included the Jewish and Eastern European cultures (Haraway 1989:57).

Haraway traces the way in which primates: monkeys, apes and chimpanzees, represent a privileged relation to nature and culture. In the chapter on the work of Robert Yerkes (Yale) on Human Engineering and the Laboratories of Primate Biology (1924-1942) she examines his research in comparative primate psychobiology. Human engineering was a term and tool developed c. 1910 to establish and maintain a stable, productive, non-conflictual workplace to prevent lost time and resources. Workers who were properly managed, or ‘engineered’, would ensure industry’s profits. The engineering included concern for stable family situations to encourage the maintenance of a constructive force. In Yerkes research chimpanzees became physiological models of humans. Through them Yerkes investigated instinct, personality, culture and human engineering. In the process he was reformulating the relationship between nature and culture (Haraway 1989:66).

In her final chapter Haraway narrates a link between primatology and science fiction. She tells the story of Lilith, an Octavia Butler character in the science-fiction Dawn. Lilith, a woman of colour, out of Africa, becomes the primal mother, the Eve to a polymorphous species. The story unfolds in a post-nuclear, post-slavery world overtaken by an alien species. It is a survival fiction about the “… resistance to the imperative to recreate the sacred image of the same (Haraway 1989:378).” Haraway refers to a part in Dawn when Lilith talks about her feelings of being impregnated with something that is not human, a metamorphose. “I had gone back to school.” [Lilith] said. “I was majoring in anthropology.” She laughed out bitterly. “I suppose I could think of this as fieldwork – but how the hell can I get out of the field?” (Butler 1987: 262-3)

In this monumental, thorough work Haraway examined the various ‘border disputes” about primates including those between biology and psychiatry, scientists and administrators, specialists and lay people and historians of science and real scientists. “The primate field, naturalistic and textual, has been a site for elaborating and contesting the bio-politics of difference and identity for members of industrial and post-industrial cultures (Haraway 1989:368).” She traced the history of the science of primatology down an exciting path through Central Park, into the dark jungles of Africa, to taxidermy laboratories, to museum dioramas, to Disney homes for chimps and women scientists who serve as a kind of missing link in a long evolutionary chain. She concludes with a fiction, the beginning of a myth of Eve without Adam. She ends her narrative with that of a female scientist who becomes part of the experiment, part of the field study unable to escape (Haraway 1989:14).

Her work is so deeply intertextual and detailed that it confounds but does not prevent criticism. Haraway looked at the way frameworks become acceptable on the basis of value systems or world views held by particular interest groups or power groups which in turn provide the criteria for the legitimization of truth claims. She describes how ideology informs science.

Debates in sociology revolve around sociology’s function as a discipline within academia. Conflicting oppositional viewpoints are often defined as extreme and exclusive dichotomies: nomologism vs. historicism, generalizing vs particularizing, positivism vs relativism, scientific facts vs discourse, Science vs journalism, uncritical vs self-reflexive, occupation vs profession, value-free vs. social, hard science vs soft science, centre vs periphery, intra disciplinary vs interdisciplinary, optimistic vs sceptical; scientific elite vs the public; liberal vs illiberal; objective vs engaged political thinker.

These debates are somewhat like a conversation that takes place over centuries. The character of the debates often takes on the form of rhetorical assertions coupled with evidence. However, the evidence is often grounded in oppositional stances. The most diametrically opposed players then face an impasse which Joan Huber’s and Goldthorpe describe as an unbridgeable chasm. Empirical positivists “know” Science deals in Scientific facts which are predictable, replicable and guaranteed results of pure scientific methodologies. There is no need to theorize because they already know this to be true. SSK, relativists and postmodernists assert that the tools with which scientists work, their methodologies and the very environments in which they work, have to be constantly revisited and theorized. This they know is true. Those who attempt to enter into the conversation, need to first gauge the level of credibility of the discourse on either side. A legalistic strategy of the weighing of evidence might be useful. However, the weight of evidence can be valid only if all the major arguments on both sides are reviewed, a monumental task.

Webliography and Bibliography

Haraway, Donna. 1989. Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science.

My Summary: Haraway looked at the way frameworks become acceptable on the basis of value systems or world views held by particular interest groups or power groups which in turn provide the criteria for the legitimization of truth claims. She describes how ideology informs science. In Primate Visions (1989) Haraway reveals how Yerkes’ Human Engineering projects (1924-1942) used chimpanzees as physiological models of humans. Through them Yerkes investigated instinct, personality, culture and human engineering. In the process he was reformulating the relationship between nature and culture (Haraway 1989:66).

“I ask your indulgence if I close on a personal, existential note. We live in a time when we are flooded with information in every field of endeavor, a deluge from which Freud scholarship is not exempt. It has has become a veritable industry over which it is difficult to maintain even bibliographical control. The amount of sheer information increases incessantly. I confess that I have reached an age when I am haunted by the question of when information becomes knowledge. What I have presented here is only a special instance of that larger Angst. I am perhaps not yet old enough to seek the further line where knowledge becomes wisdom (Yerushalmi Series Z 1997).”

Flynn-Burhoe. 2000. ‘Memory – The Question of Archives’ Review of Yerushalmi, Yosef Hayim. 1997. Series Z: An Archival Fantasy’ Journal of European Psychoanalysis – Number 3-4 1997

Derrida’s presentation Archive Fever at the 1994 conference “Memory: The Question of Archives” was dedicated to Yerushalmi whose book Freud’s Moses had moved him. The conference was hosted by the Freud Museum and the Société Internationale d’Histoire de la Psychanalyse, London, June 3-5, 1994 and organized by Elisabeth Roudinesco. [Y.H.Y.]

Yerushalmi began his text with a Kakfaesque description of the archives’ doorkeeper. It is a thinly disquised reproach for the exclusivity of access to Freud’s archives, particularly to series Z. Yerushalmi was dismayed to find that access to Series Z, Freud’s archives in Washington, was severely limited to a group of insider scholars.

Yerushalmi notes the unique published citation by Freud where he used the term ‘archives,’ in an early paper (1898) on “The Psychical Mechanism of Forgetfulness” (Zum Psychischen Mechanismus der Vergesslichkeit). He writes:

Thus the function of memory, which we like to imagine as an archive open to any who is curious, is in this way subjected to restriction by a trend of the will…

Yerushalmi chose to focus his discussion only on archives. An archive is not a memory bank nor are the documents in an archive part of memory; “…if they were, we should have no need to retrieve them; once retrieved, they are often at odds with memory.”

Although Yerushami, the historian, has done research in archives in Lisbon, Madrid, Valladolid, Salamanca, Venice, Verona and Jerusalem but rarely in the Freud Archives.

Yerushalmi illustrated the persistence and continuity of the archivist as gatekeeper through the 1909 case of Robert Ross. Ross presented Oscar Wilde’s original manuscript of De Profundis to the British Museum on condition that it be sealed for sixty years to prevent it from falling into the hands of Lord Alfred Douglas, the agent of Wilde’s ruin. Through a 1913 libel suit Douglas, received a copy which he intended to publish. Ross speedily had his own copy published in New York which secured copyright. In 1949 Wilde’s son published the full and correct text but the British Museum respected Ross’ agreement and access is still denied.

Yerushalmi questions the logic behind restricting or forbidding access to certain documents well into the 21st century! He was not alone. Janet Malcolm’s 1984 publication “In the Freud Archives” made the inaccessibility une cause celebre.

Meanwhile, attacks against psychoanalysis, fused with assaults against the personal integrity of Freud himself, have by now reached an unprecedented crescendo of vilification. One result is a widespread belief that the real truth, for better or worse, is in the Archives, and that once they are fully accessible the truth will out. What both attackers and defenders of Freud have in common is a faith in the facticity of archives, in the archival document as somehow the ultimate arbiter of historical truth.

Yerushalmi traced the cult of the archive to the 1830’s and especially after 1860, when national governments eager to protect their collective histories, opened their archives to research. Lord Acton put the reason succinctly:

“To keep one’s archives barred against the historians was tantamount to leaving one’s history to one’s enemies.” Lord Acton

“The historians came, the writing of history (at least political history) was put on a firmer basis than ever before. It was the heyday of scientific history, full of optimism. The crisis of historicism was not yet on the horizon and the archival document seemed to herald a historiographical millennium. Paleography became a science and the archivist a professional, nowhere more superbly trained than at the École des Chartes, established in Paris in 1821. By the end of the century one spoke somewhat bemusedly in France of la fureur de l’inédit, the furor to publish the unpublished document.”

In “Monologue with Freud” Yerushalmi calls Freud’s archivists “zealous epigoni [who] have stationed themselves, like gnostic archons, to bar the way to the hidden knowledge.” (FM 1991:81)

By the late 20th century historians were more sophisticated; recognized the limitations of archival documents. And at that time series Z is unlocked. leading to anothfureur de l’inédit’. Yerushalmi questioned what that will change.

He described the ideal archival material:

  1. It should be naive, created for other purposes than research: the production, storage and maintenance of personal correspondence, tax records, contracts, deeds.
  2. It should be dusty from lack of handling. Half a century after the French Revolution a Prussian historian finally opened the dust-laden papers regarding the Reign of Terror, a proof of their legitimacy.
  3. The researcher recognizes that all archives are incomplete: not all documents are collected, archived and/or preserved. And any document requires contextualization by data both in and outside the archives and even the field of study.
  4. The “…archive is not a repository of the past, only of certain artifacts that have survived from the past, and we encounter them in the present. The contents of archival documents are not historical facts except on the most primitive level dates, names, places. The truly vital data in these documents do not become historical until, filtered through the mind and the imagination of the historian, they are interpreted and articulated.”

The zealous guardians of The Freud Archives including Anna Freud, Freud’s devoted daughter protected Freud’s reputation in the creation and maintenance of the archives. Yerushalmi compares these documents to “… André Gide’s journals, where one senses that as he writes one eye is gazing at posterity.” This contrasts with Kafka’s diaries, whose publication he never dreamed.

Freud’s papers have been handled regularly. Yerushalmi cites examples of discrepancies between Freud’s correspondance with Fliess and actual publications in which passages were excluded. “The most significant and irremediable gap in the Freud Archives is the result of Freud’s own doing. On two occasions [in 1885 and 1907], Ernest Jones observed, he completely destroyed all his correspondence, notes, diaries and manuscripts. The letter of April 28, 1885 to Martha, announcing his determination to thereby frustrate his future biographers, is too well-known to be quoted yet again.”

Yerushalmi concludes that “[n]othing in the Freud Collection nor in any other archive can possibly decide any of the major scientific or philosophical issues that have arisen in the ongoing controversies over Freud. No document can prove or disprove the validity of Freudian psychoanalytic theory nor the efficacy of psychoanalytic therapy. Infantile sexuality, the existence of the unconscious, the mechanisms of repression, and other central tenets of Freudian theory, are not subject to archival arbitration.”

“What do we really want to know, and how can the Archives be of help? My own order of priority would be: To understand Freud’s teaching; to understand the history of the psychoanalytic movement; to understand Freud’s life insofar as it relates to the first two goals.” “…[I]t entails coming as close as possible to his own intentions. This, as I have argued elsewhere must take pride of place. At least in his published works Freud was consciously trying to communicate various ideas to his readers. That these works, like all texts, also contain latent meanings of which he was unaware, that they can be approached with a variety of hermeneutic strategies, does not absolve us from rigorously seeking their conscious intentionality which, alone, can keep us from flying off the deep end. For that, not only is the value of a correct text self-evident, but any information relevant to its evolution, whether through variants or revisions, or through letters in which Freud discusses work in progress. It is in this sense that the letters in Series Z may make their most important contribution. But even then the archives are only an aid. Ultimately the student must bring to an understanding of Freud’s work his or her philological, literary, and historical instincts, and an entire culture derived from other fields. Philip Rieff’s Freud: The Mind of the Moralist (1959) remains, in my opinion, one of the most penetrating explorations of Freud’s thought. And Rieff never even consulted an archive. “

The history of the psychoanalytic movement (I have in mind only Freudian psychoanalysis). Here, surely, our men and women from many countries will have reaped abundant harvests. But how much wheat and how much chaff? Any history of the psychoanalytic movement cannot ignore the archives, but it must also transcend them. Once again all depends on how we conceptualize the problem. If we have in mind a historical narrative of its leading personalities, its congresses and schisms, its dispersal after the German catastrophe of 1933 and the Austrian of 1938, then certainly these and many other aspects will have been fleshed out by Series Z. But this kind of history remains business as usual. I shall take as an instance Phyllis Grosskurth’s The Secret Ring: Freud’s Inner Circle and the Politics of Psychoanalysis published three years ago to considerable acclaim. Assuredly the book contains new and sometimes vivid details Ms. Grosskurth had spent time in several archives, including the Rank papers at my own university, and she writes well. For me, however, the book, like so many others in the genre, represents yet another missed opportunity. That Freud’s secret entourage, the Committee was racked by dissentions, backbiting, competition for Freud’s imperious favor, was essentially known. The issue that is never addressed, is how this group of quite imperfect and in many ways incompatible men were able to sustain and propogate not only a therapy, but a teaching that became a vital component of Modernism around the globe. And, in a larger sense, is this not the issue for any history of the psychoanalytic movement worthy of itself not merely to describe its inner workings or proselytizing activities, but to ask what prior spiritual or cultural needs did Freud’s teaching fulfill that enabled it to spread from a small group of Jews meeting in 1902 at Berggasse 19, to become what W.H. Auden called after Freud’s death a whole climate of opinion?”
I come finally to the vexing question of Freud’s biography and here I am prepared to abandon my parable. I am only certain that the men and women from many countries will not find anything of significance about Freud’s childhood and adolescence. That stumbling block to biographers, especially those who are psychoanalytically oriented, will remain. Some information about Freud’s parents may perhaps yet be found in Moravian and Viennese archives. As for Freud’s mature life, for reasons already given I doubt that very much of a sensational nature will be found in Series Z, though of course one cannot be sure. Once again, however, I feel that the really important issues extend beyond the archives.

“The other issue is so vital and so complex as to require a conference of its own. I have in mind the relation between biography and a person’s achievement. How much of the former do we need to know in order to understand the latter?[…] How much about Freud’s life must we know in order to interpret The Interpretation of Dreams? Or would our interpretation simply be different, with less ferreting for biographical links and more concentration on what he was trying to teach us? […]Ironically, it may have been Freud himself who first opened this Pandora’s Box, but let’s not hold this against him. Rather, let us ask must we really know whether Freud slept with Minna? Those who want to discover that he really did, are gripped by an unstated and faulty syllogism: a) Freud presented a public image of a devoted husband; b) Freud comitted incest with his sister-in-law; ergo Freud is not to be trusted, and so neither should his work… “

“I ask your indulgence if I close on a personal, existential note. We live in a time when we are flooded with information in every field of endeavor, a deluge from which Freud scholarship is not exempt. It has has become a veritable industry over which it is difficult to maintain even bibliographical control. The amount of sheer information increases incessantly. I confess that I have reached an age when I am haunted by the question of when information becomes knowledge. What I have presented here is only a special instance of that larger Angst. I am perhaps not yet old enough to seek the further line where knowledge becomes wisdom.”



Contact � Maureen Flynn-Burhoe 2000 for comments, corrections and copyright concerns.