Thursday, July 16, 2009

Wisdom from D.H. Lawrence's book "Apocalypse"

"The strange thing is that even true scholars, who write scholarly and impartial books about the early Greeks, as soon as they mention the autochthonous races of the Mediterranean, or the Egyptians, or the Chaldeans, insist on the childishness of these peoples, their perfectly trivial achievement, their necessary Urdumheit. These great civilised peoples know nothing: all true knowledge started with Thales and Anaximander and Pythagoras, with the Greeks. The Chaldeans knew no true astronomy, the Egyptians knew no mathematics or science, and the poor Hindus, who for centuries were supposed to have invented that highly important reality, the arithmetical zero, or naught, are now not allowed even this merit. The Arabs, who are almost "us". invented it.

It is most strange. We can understand the Christian fear of the pagan way of knowledge. But why the scientific feat? Why should science betray its fear in a phrase like Urdummheit [primal stupidity]? We look at the wonderful remains of Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Persia, and old India and we repeat to ourselves: Urdummheit! Urdummheit? We look at the Etruscan tombs and ask ourselves again, Urdummheit? primal stupidity! Whit, in the oldest of peoples, in the Egyptian friezes and the Assyrian, in the Etruscan paintings and the Hindu carvings we see a splendour, a beauty, and very often a joyous, sensitive intelligence which is certainly lost in our world of Neufreichhiet. [....]"

On edit: I should point out something that some editions of Apocalypse omit but that some include, and that is that the book really isn't D.H. Lawrence's work. In the Penguin edition there's a short note where Lawrence explains that what the book really is is a rewrite of a book called "The Dragon of the Alchemists" by an occultist named Frederick Carter.

No comments: