“What’s so funny this time?” I asked.
“It’s just that you think you’ve made a deal with Mephistopheles, you’ve swapped yourself for knowledge, and yet you degrade the knowledge by reformatting it and trying to maintain your previous allegiance. That’s no way to do business!”
I had to laugh as well.
“But, listen,” he continued. “We’re also talking of a man’s ghost who enters another body because he wants something from that body and its mind.”
Like the heavens filled with sparkles he knows
The stars shine within him; the world is prose.
Cartouche sang, paraphrasing the alchemist Paracelsus. “The sage reflects and envelops the world in which he finds himself.” Cartouche said, emptied his box of stones onto the bed and began to sort them—big ones, little ones, special ones, ordinary ones.
“Around the beginning of the seventeenth century, a particularly hungry spirit foraging the meat of the thinking of the intellectual class, reached critical mass, and spread its consciousness over all of Europe.
Language, as it was known and practiced, ceased to exist. Thinking, speaking, writing, all expression changed. The way of knowing changed.
Descartes taught us Europeans that mathematics, algebra, is the language of God that he used to create and maintain the world, and eventually this became the idea that truth lies only within the realm of human reason. And they call this period the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason.”
“Unbelievable,” I said. “It seems backward, somehow!”
“Language and the World became disconnected. Language began to express man’s ideas about the world rather than being an articulation of the world itself,” said Cartouche comparing two long rose pink crystals. One went in the special pile, one in the ordinary.
“A new mapping process began. Words got lost, they no longer marked anything and were condemned to live only on the pages of books, from which they were borrowed to populate people’s speech.”
Cartouche pulled an olive green duffle bag, and a briefcase from under the bed. He wrapped the extraordinary rose pink crystal in wax paper and then a little plastic Ziplock bag. Ziplocks were rarer than rose crystals in India at that time.
“Things became nothing more than the sum of their component parts. Those who saw connections between things based on resemblances, were thought of as visionaries or madmen because magic lost its authority and was placed in the storage bin of the curious but false.
Sages like Hari Puri Baba, who read nature and books as a single text, were expelled to the margins of society and also stripped of their authority. You see, similarities no longer mattered. Differences became important.
This great spirit bloated with gray matter sprung a million legs and began to refashion the world by placing them in an order that was a negotiation between algebra and the fickle opinions of man, based on his so called rational mind. Castrated words became the components of knowledge.”
“Wow,” I gasped, “you certainly don’t hold the West in high regard, Cartouche.”
“I’m not making a moral judgment here.” he replied, “It’s not about good and evil, better or worse. It’s about witnessing, and therefore seeing.
The Great Shadow ate Language with relish
sang Cartouche in a funny British accent. “Like an anteater, he sucked it out from where it hid in the mystery of the mark, and left both the mark and Language empty. He granted Language only function, like a machine, but no other existence,” he said.
I knew what he said was right from my study of Sanskrit. It was one of the early dilemmas I had had to contend with.
“Language was emptied of all content. All that remains is representation,” said Cartouche. “Text ceased to exist, as well as it’s Commentary, so it that it may be known, and Language went from the safekeeping of knowers, from the safekeeping of oral traditions, to the ownership of a rational elite. The very existence of Language now depended on its rational analysis. Replacing commentary, criticism became the criterion of a statement’s precision, appropriateness, or expressive value.”
“But that’s the West and this is the East, and ‘ne’er the twain shall meet.’ Readers of the World still exist here, and the tradition is still alive and vibrant,” I said. “I know. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”
From a Western viewpoint, however, it is represented by something else. So when you came to India, you lent your body and your mind to this mapping enterprise. It doesn’t matter that you were thrown pearls. You chopped them up, like a good little zombie, mixed them with a healthy dose of imagination, and produced a fascinating board game about resemblance and illusion.”
“C’mon, Cartouche, I’ve always dropped my preconceived Western notions, and kept an open mind on everything,” I protested.
“You can leave the West, but it doesn’t leave you. This so-called open mind you’re speaking of has no interest in mapping, in representing? Your greatest illusion is that you have an open mind and free choice.”