She wears a see-through dress, accentuating her femininity, but combined with male, soldier attire.
Four of the Muses have musical instruments even a piano! A playful atmosphere, quasi innocent, youthful. A Pan-like nature-spiritual atmosphere pervades this detail. The Cupids are independent standing and running on their own feet cf. In the and paintings Mary had just received the message that she was expecting the Saviour, and she conserved the message in her heart. Her face is one of wonder; she apparently stands on the moon and a cloud and is supported by baby-like angels.
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The angels are in amazement and adoration. St Bernard is seen in adoration of Mary in Plate G. She has baby Jesus in her left arm, and has an open breast so as to feed the baby, but is looking at the Saint. St Bernard is pointing to the Scriptures: 'so that the Scriptures may be fulfilled The atmosphere is one of wonder, silence, humility, adoration and upliftment cf. The similarities between the Vico frontispiece and the VoltaireNewton frontispiece Plate A and B may provide some explanation as to the shifts in the intellectual atmosphere of the age.
The pretence of the Enlightenment was emancipation aided by scientific knowledge under the leadership of reason. This was not easily done, tripped up constantly by the Reason the elite who imposed its sense of emancipation. By the mid-twentieth Horkheimer would write about the 'end of reason', others about 'the end of the subject'; yet others about 'the end of man' or 'the end of history'.
Of course 'reason', 'subject', 'man' and 'history' have been largely overlapping categories: the end of one would imply the end of the others. In the era from Defoe up to Kant, Hegel and Fichte, a new view of reality and history came into being: Lessing had recovered Joachim of Fiore's mystical view of history, and Rousseau had re-invented the state as a mystical unity. Against the background of the idea of group mysticism following the Joachimist tradition reality was believed to be in progress with the human being as the leading light.
Natural history and human history were in one another's extension.
In fact the history of humankind was seen as the history of god-becoming-in-the-world - through self-loving competition, science, technology, and organisation in a civil community. The poisonous sting of the faith in progress lies in the assumption that some humans have a natural advantage and right of control over others, as groups, races, or nations. Defoe's especially Robinson Crusoe characters represent groups, such as a rational Western world traveller, Crusoe, would have met.
Crusoe sets about enlightening them, guided by Lockean tolerance. But note: in Defoe history is 'storied' - it is an imaginative narrative reading contemporary cultural 'levels' back into history. Within decades Vico developed this into the earliest Modern 'scientific' method of historiography. The 'enlightened' often want to be good to the 'unenlightened'. This was rooted in the Platonist and Augustinian views on 'illumination': the distinction between philosopher-kings and other citizens in Plato, and between clericals and laity in the Medieval Church.
Modernity had some dangerous roots in Medieval illuminative mysticism. Medieval mysticism, however, was mostly individual; Modernity's had become a dangerous, very elitist, group mysticism mostly centred in the state. He not much of a 'she' , has been seen and acted as part of a collective - a collective superior to its predecessors; an elite, claiming high office on the basis of scientific or rational insight guided by intellectual intuitions.
Depending on how 'crafty' one was, one could reach the summit in and of the collective. Voltaire, the Caesarist centre of the picture, did not draw this illustration himself, but he surely approved of it. In a later essay Voltaire explicitly propagates the Platonist ideal of the philosopher as disinterested adviser to the prince, and even the ideal of the philosopher king cf. DSDP, 8. Voltaire, prime mover against superstition, in Plate A establishes Newton himself as a 'divinity'.
Newton is located in heaven measuring the universe, with one of the Muses, symbol of inspiration or illumination, in this case in feminine subjection but in control of her status , projecting the light from Newton to Voltaire. The latter works at his desk with a mere earthly globe near him.
In a still very male dominated context, that of natural science, Voltaire at least recognised the major contribution made by the woman in his life. Pre-Christian mythology provided him with support: the Muses were female, all nine of them, giving and revealing intellectual culture to humankind. In Plate C the traditional erotic context is quite up front; so also in the Voltaire frontispiece. This has Ancient roots: Aeschylus lets the 'humane' god, Prometheus, claim invention of intellectual literacy, revealed via the Muses:.
Voltaire wears the laurel wreath of a Roman official a Caesar , not the angelic halo of a Catholic saint. The scientific writer is becoming Caesarist. In Plate G above St Bernard is down on his knees in total submission: his vision is that of the fulfilment of the Scriptures in the baby Jesus; this is all he has. Newton and Voltaire have instruments of geometry and construction nearby: squares, fitters, et cetera. Instead of Vico's religious and socio-cultural hieroglyphics down below, Voltaire is surrounded by Masonic instruments including the triangular level that became the symbol of perfect balance during the Revolution probably reflecting the perfection of the equilateral triangular face of the Providential Eye - divine reason, the Supreme Revolutionary.
In Rotthammer's painting Minerva, the goddess of war, is also the goddess of fine and intellectual arts, that is 'numbers, the chiefest of sciences' and 'the combining of letters, creative mother of all the Muses' arts' quote . This mixture of Roman militarism and intellectual culture is present in Voltaire and in all of Modernity since Descartes geometrical designer of weapons and Hobbes. Voltaire is thus a diviner in a double sense: making a divine out of a scientist and divining his message via a Muse. For at the second level the erotic Muse is sitting, mirror in hand.
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She reflects the Logos' light down to Voltaire. The genitally nude Cupids hang from her dress and legs - cupiditas under control of scientia according to the Modern sense of purity?
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The eroticism seen in the Rotthammer painting is present too, but the relationships are different: Rotthammer's Cupids, in the face even of Minerva, walk about freely on own feet on the ground. In the Conceptions Mary has one foot on the moon, the age old symbol of femininity, and the other on a cloud.
She is supported by angels, indicating her human dependence on heaven. The angels are nude and babylike, but the genitals of those in front are tactfully covered by cloth. In the first painting Mary is praying in amazement about what is happening to her; in the second one she 'conserves in her heart' - by crossing her hands over her chest - what the Holy Spirit revealed to her. Even though it represents a very human event, a 'conception', there is nothing erotic or sexual in the paintings.
Mary is fully dressed and spiritual in attitude. The Voltaire-Newton frontispiece is symbolic of the return of Classical science theoretical reason and eroticism will as desire : the Muses' open breast is protruding in a challenging way. Love, as Voltaire understood it, was a human form of desire. Murillo's St Bernard and the Virgin - Plate F shows a similarly open-breasted Mary, shyly uncovering her left breast with her fingers, in the way of a mother preparing to nurse a baby.
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Again nothing challenging or erotic. The Christ-baby is in her right arm, but she is looking at St Bernard as if offering to nurse also the mystic. In the Voltaire frontispiece there is nothing of this shyness.
The Muse's breast is challenging, in fact flirtatious: to nurse on the one hand but on the other confidently occupying a position in 'the great chain of being', with the human Logos as keystone. The Muse is independent. A deistic God maybe the hidden light source behind Newton. Though the Cupids are dependent on the Muse's stability on high, she is important as alternative mediator, but nothing more than a mediator.
She carries a mirror truthfully reflecting the divine light coming from around or behind the Logos, Newton. Voltaire is down below with his Caesarist laurel and his Classical outfit, working at his desk - a similar dress-code was given to Minerva, as protector of Reason, in the Revolution's symbols.
We here find a structural similarity with the Medieval idea of illumination, but an antithetical difference in content. The structural similarity is this:. God illumines the mind through his mediating Logos the Word, or Christ , in such a direct way that the mystic does not need the Bible anymore. Voltaire was a natural scientistic rationalist 'Masonic': thus he crowned himself with the Caesarist laurel connected with the Mithraic cult, which was protected by Jupiter.
He is sitting at his desk writing the revelations he receives; Murillo's St Bernard Plate H is on his knees in humble subjection in front of the Mother, referring to a revelation beyond herself. John Calvin, traditionally, has been the supposed culprit for preaching a deterministic elitist divine election even though Thomas Aquinas had been more of a deterministic predestinationist.
Concerning a philosophy of reminiscence: few remember the suffering caused by the doctrines of these self-appointed divine elect. Voltaire's laurel crown had consequences: scientific illumination in the form of 'scientific socialism' and 'scientistic Behaviorism'. Voltaire was an older contemporary of Condorcet, Revolutionary minister of education who changed France's education system into technicism. Condorcet's god, 'reason', was scientific reason; Voltaire had an upper story of practical civil reason. The laurel crown signifies three things:.see url
Natural Law and a Nihilistic Culture
Caesarism was militaristic, in Voltaire it becomes scientistic. I belong to the initiated, the 'elect'. The fasces, used during the Revolution, may not have been Voltaire's choice for a heraldic emblem. However, when one eliminates Ancient atrocities from history, yet adopts a Modernised version of Ancient culture, one overlooks the foundational issues involved: Caesarism, militarism mixed with intellectualism, and the nature-freedom-culture issue.
Voltaire's hermeneutic of changing the facts of the past has remained the format of revolutionary presentations of history.