the psychoanalysis of electricity

I'm the High Voltage Messiah.
… The Electric Christ…

I saw my son Jamie die.
He had a cancer at the base of his spine...
and one in his head.
They put the black spider treatment on him.
They crawled all over,
cracking the body vermin with its nippers!
I can cure your bursting.
Fire a laser beam into you to clear away the sick pus...
the sack of pus, the white pus,
the dead fetus!

- The Ruling Class

Gustave Jäger is best known today as one of the coiners of the word, homosexual. In his day, though – the 1890s – he was a well known naturalist. In the book in which he dropped his coin to fame, the Discovery of the Soul, he also wrote a sort of materialist prose poem to that thing, the brain. If we have decided that the Geist – the mind/spirit – is material, Jäger reasonably asks, what form of matter does it take? Is it a gas, a liquid (tropfbar fluessig – dissolvable into liquid drops), or a solid?

“The answer easily reveals itself. The first two forms of aggregation are completely expluded, since the midne obviously doesn’t follow the laws of diffusion which governs all fluids – otherwise it couldn’t be localized in the brain surface; and as a gas it must rarify and be at least quantitatively injured by the process of filtering, which, according to what we have described previously, is not the case. As a fluid dissolvable into drops it must, in case it is supposed to move, mix with blood and lymph, and then it would be everywhere – but if it didn’t move, then movements as those that have been shown by the faculty of attention wouldn’t be possible.”

So, the mind doesn’t drip and it doesn’t rarify. And, since it has to move, it isn’t, Jaeger insists, a solid. He concludes, then, that it is another form of matter, and this takes him to “the often made comparison between the mind and electricity.” Jaeger likes the analogy in some ways – for instance, both seem to exist on the surface of their carriers; both are unities even in motion; and both do move. However, two things are dissimilar. Electricity can be discharged in contact with a metal conductor – and that seems to have no analogy with the mind; and the mind is plastic, and electricity isn’t.

“One million volts.
Two million volts.
Three million volts.
Four million volts!
Five million volts!
Six million volts!
Seven million volts!
Eight million volts!
Nine million! Ten million!”

This naïve inventory of the mind’s characteristics interests me not so much for the physiology behind it as for the mythology it reveals. For the connection between electricity and mind is of the utmost importance in the creation and spread of the polarity affects model. Reading Hartley, whose mental metaphysics are taken from Newton’s corpuscular theory of vibraticules, I’ve been struck with how the substitution of electricity for ‘animal spirits’ plugs into a mystique, a mythology of electricity, that most scientific of substances for the 18th century, on the one hand, but a substance deeply steeped in folk myth, on the other. Electricity has a natural affinity with the more elaborate cosmologies of the insane, from James Matthews’s Air Loom to Schreber electrified body. Lenin plugged into the way the peasants’ world and the scientific world view crossed when he said that “Communism is Power of the Soviets plus Electrification.” Nobody has yet done a Bachelardian psychoanalysis of electricity, but I am longing for one as I venture into the lumberyard of notions about the passions, the sentiments, the affects in the 18th and 19th century.

No god of love made this world.
I have seen a girl of four whose nails had been torn out by her father!
I have seen the mountains of gold teeth and hair...
and the millions boiled down for soap!
S- S-Sometimes God...
turns his back on His people...
And breaks wind...
and the stench clouds the globe!
I am the High Voltage Man...
closer to God than you,
you sentimental clishmac-laverer!


northanger said…
People are exhausted by a conversation that we've never had [P6]. Sherrilyn Ifill's discussing lynching in this country. probably relevant also to Ahmadinejad's two questions about the root causes of the Holocaust in Europe. he's getting the same "we've exhausted this already" response.

does hegemony have a psychology? that has nothing to do with the need for oil but the need for supremacy? does this .. whatchacallit? polarity affects model thingy provide any clues?

what seems strange to me is that the Jews (Israel) remain just as vulnerable today in the Middle East as they were in Europe. but today it's religious, not racial supremacy (fundamentally, i don't see much difference). it's like the Holocaust never stopped, it just moved location & created Hitler 2.0.
roger said…
Ah, they should put more of the Ruling class up.
North, I'd link to an article yours truly wrote reviewing a book about an exhibit on lynching in around ... 2000? But for the life of me, I can't remember who I did that for. You probably saw it - it was calledWithout Sanctuary.
roger said…
oh, and I should say, before I write any of my posts, I always pray to myself much like O'toole does in that clip:

"For I am the creator and ruler of the universe.
Khoda, the one supreme being and infinite personal being.
Yaweh, Shangri-Ti and EI,
the First Immoveable Mover, yea,
I am the Absolute, Unknowable, Righteous, Eternal,
the Lord of Hosts, King of Kings, Lord of Lords,
the Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
the One True God, the God of love,
the Christ!"

Or, LI - among the thousand unknown names of the Lord of Hosts.
northanger said…
isn't that a good clip? i adore Peter O'Toole. he's one of my favorite Mr. Chipping.

found Wall Street Lynching (Joseph Jett is an African-American bond trader whose recently published memoir, "Black and White on Wall Street: The Untold Story of the Man Wrongly Accused of Bringing Down Kidder Peabody," is a real corker -- and Jett himself makes for one of the most compelling narrators I've read in years). not by you, but this is: it takes a worried man (i think by you).
northanger said…
oh wow. Courtney B. Vance plays Jett in my favorite all-time L&O eppie. didn't know that.
northanger said…
figures, they thought Jett was a white guy. what got me in the eppy was an authentically fuckingly brilliant black guy. ok, so he killed somebody, but still! which brings me to Oliver Stone's ability to parse 9/11 conspiracy theories when he casts a white actor when the actual guy is black.
northanger said…
but i digress. discipline must be maintained. our focus is the polarity affects model thingy. i worked a long time on that comment, dammit!
roger said…
Well, you should watch the longer clip of The Ruling Class, which has the great 'dem bones scene where Peter O'toole, cured of being jesus by the electric messiah, is now convinced he's jack the ripper. And of course, talking as Jack the Ripper, he makes the Tories in his district all giddy with conservative pride. They, too, want to know: IS You mean there's no death penalty in England's green and pleasant land!
I especially like the giddy look on Dinsdale's face when he says, I shall campaign actively for the reintroduction of the death penalty.

"The punishment for blaspheming was to be broken on the wheel. First the fibula - Crack! Then the tibia, fetella and femur - Crack crack crack! Then the corpus, ulna and radius - Crack!

Disconnect dem bones dem dry bones..."
Oh, O'toole would certainly win a gop presidential debate in a walk.
northanger said…
I'm lying to you, Alan. He won't really go that easily... just clop away, like some nice old carthorse. When Equus leaves, if he leaves at all, it'll be with your... intestines in his teeth [+]