Arthur Koestler is one of the leading writers of the 20th century, but he’s rarely read today. Since he’s a generalist, a universal intellectual, he doesn’t fit into any academic department. His novels, such as Darkness at Noon, often have a political edge, so students of literature overlook him. His interest in the occult makes him a persona non grata in the eyes of the intellectual establishment.
Koestler deserves a higher reputation: he’s prolific, wide-ranging, profound, at home with art, science, and philosophy. His thinking is modern, cutting-edge, but he expresses himself in a straightforward, readable manner. He’s a master of the interesting quote, the interesting anecdote, but he doesn’t let anecdotes smother his thesis.
In a recent issue, I discussed the childhood of F. Scott Fitzgerald. I said that Fitzgerald was very close to his mother, perhaps too close, perhaps spoiled. I described this kind of upbringing as “Jocasta mothering,” after the mother of Oedipus, Jocasta, who was too close to her son. Jocasta mothering is often found in the childhood of genius. The “son of Jocasta” is often unpopular with his peers (Fitzgerald exemplifies this), and he’s often timid.
Arthur Koestler had several of these traits. “My mother’s love was excessive, possessive, and capricious,” Koestler writes. “I grew up without playmates. I was an only child and a lonely child; precocious, neurotic, admired for my brains and detested for my character by teachers and schoolfellows alike.”1 Koestler had another trait that’s probably characteristic of the sons of Jocasta: immaturity.
|Looking back on my intellectual development, [Koestler writes,] I find a curious contradiction. I was a precocious child, far in advance of my age. But as an adolescent, and even during my twenties, I was less mature than others of my years, and not only looked younger, but was also markedly childish, both mentally and emotionally. In psychiatric terms, there was a strong trend towards infantilism with pronounced fixations. In plainer language, I acquired cleverness rapidly, but wisdom very slowly. At ten I was an infant prodigy; at twenty-five still an adolescent.2|
As a young journalist, Koestler went to interview the king of Iraq. The king’s aide mistook Koestler for the journalist’s son, and asked Koestler “what young boys were taught in European schools.” After further attempts at conversation, the aide asked, “When is your father coming?” Koestler responded, “Mon père, c’est moi.”
Koestler’s description of himself at 16:
“I was short, slim, wore my hair parted on the side and plastered down with water and brilliantine, had a rather handsome face with unformed, infantile features and a constant smirk which looked impudent and masked my boundless timidity and insecurity.”3
In an earlier issue, I said, “one of the chief characteristics of the intellectual is a weak ego.” Intellectuals often try their hand at teaching, but they struggle to control the students. In photos, the intellectual is often at the edge of the group, head tilted (I included several such photos in my earlier piece). Below is a picture of Proust’s high-school class; Proust is in the middle row, far left, head tilted.
Koestler says that he had a weak ego, too. Koestler says he adopted various “attitudes and poses to mask my extreme insecurity and lack of self-confidence.... Underneath, there was no definite personality, no solid core, only fluid emotions, contradictory impulses, an amorphous bundle of tensions.”
But Koestler’s work as a journalist forced him to develop a persona, a carapace, a social personality. “The great variety of social contacts which my job required forced me to develop a superficial technique in coping with them.... The facade became smoother and more urbane. I became what is called a good mixer.”
Koestler grew up in a Jewish family in Budapest and Vienna; his father’s family had roots in Russia, his mother’s family in Prague. His father had little education, but enjoyed some success in business; his father owned a factory that made radioactive products like soap and cleaning powder (before the dangers of radioactivity were understood).3B
Koestler had a scientific education, and he’s known for his interest in science. One of his best-known books is The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe. I find Koestler’s ideas very interesting, but he rarely mentions philosophy. One might say he approaches philosophy through science, as Ruskin approached philosophy through visual art, and Jung through psychology. Koestler describes his education thus:
The educational system of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy provided three types of secondary schools for pupils from the age of ten to eighteen: the Gymnasium, which prepared for a career in the humanities, with emphasis on Latin and Greek; the Realschule, which specialized in science and modern languages; and the Real-Gymnasium, a mixture of the two. I went to the Realschule, which suited me perfectly.
From my childhood to my university days, mathematics and science remained my almost exclusive interests, and chess my main hobby. I was particularly fascinated by geometry, algebra, and physics because I was convinced — much as the Pythagoreans and the alchemists had been — that these disciplines contained the clue to the mystery of existence....
For people who regard mathematics as dry and the sciences as boring, this kind of mentality is difficult to understand. It is a peculiarity of our present civilization that the average educated person will be ashamed to admit that a work of art is beyond his comprehension although, in the same breath, he will proclaim not without pride his complete ignorance of the laws which make his electric switch work, or govern the heredity of his offspring. He uses his radio set and the countless gadgets surrounding him with no more comprehension of what makes them function than a savage. He lives in an artificial world of cheap, mass-produced mysteries which he is too lazy to penetrate.
Koestler says that his happiest years were his college years in Vienna, from age 17 to 20. He describes his college as a “polytechnic” (perhaps comparable to MIT). He joined a fraternity, and spent much of his time with his “fraternity brothers.”
The fraternities followed traditions that went back to the Middle Ages; they marched wearing their “colors,” they duelled (fought with swords), and they had drinking parties. When Koestler attended college (around 1920), there were three types of fraternity in Vienna: pan-German fraternities that accepted only Aryans, Liberal fraternities that accepted Czechs, Hungarians, Jews, etc., and Zionist fraternities.
Koestler belonged to a Zionist fraternity. The first Zionist fraternity was founded by Theodor Herzl, often called the father of Zionism and of Israel. Koestler says that the Zionist fraternities were determined to “disprove the legend of Jewish cowardice,” so they practiced sword-fighting diligently, and “made mincemeat” of the pan-Germans and Liberals.4
Perhaps to avoid becoming mincemeat, the pan-Germans decided that Jews were “devoid of honor,” and therefore one shouldn’t duel with them. So they brawled instead, and beat each other with clubs. The Zionists marched with “sashes and bowler hats,” stuffing newspaper under their hats to protect their heads from enemy clubs.
Sword fights still took place. “Duels between evenly matched opponents, lasting two or three hours, with both men bleeding like stuck pigs, were no rarity.” A scar on the face from a duel was a source of pride, and sometimes lasted for life. “I fought a single duel, against an opponent from a Liberal Korps, who fortunately was as bad as I. He gave me a cut on the chin which, to my deep regret at the time, left no conspicuous scar.”5
Koestler says that one of his friends “lost all his back teeth on the left upper jaw” when a sword drove into his face.
Koestler says he had never experienced anti-Semitism, and had never thought about Zionism. So his fraternity brothers explained to him that
|the Jews had been persecuted during some twenty centuries and that there was no reason to expect they would not be persecuted in the twenty-first. To argue with anti-Semites was all the more hopeless as the Jews were in fact a sick race. They were a nation without a country, which was like being a man without a shadow; and they were socially top-heavy, with a disproportionately great number of lawyers, merchants, intellectuals, and with no farmers or peasants — which was like a pyramid standing on its top. The only cure was: return to the earth. If Jews wanted to be like other people, they must have a country like other people and a social structure like other people.|
Among his fraternity brothers, Koestler overcame his awkwardness. There were no quarrels between fraternity brothers, perhaps because their gatherings were governed by protocol and tradition, perhaps because they were united by having common foes. Koestler says the fraternities were
|psychologically healthier than any closed community or clique that I have come across since.... At that long table in the festive hall, surrounded by jolliness, laughter and songs, with the pleasant glow of a liter or two of new wine inside me, I felt as if I were emerging from a dark tunnel into a new dazzling light. For the first time I experienced that strongest of all social emotions: the feeling of comradeship, the feeling of belonging.|
Koestler also enjoyed the atmosphere of Vienna — “summer nights in the vineyards of Grinzing... picnics on the Danube... sitting with a book in the sunbathed public parks... nocturnal processions with lighted candles along the ‘Ring’... Richard Strauss first nights at the Opera or Alexander Moissi’s performance in Hamlet.... That Vienna is as distant from us today as the lost continent of Atlantis.”6
Koestler became a leader in the Zionist fraternities, and then he became acquainted with prominent Zionists like Jabotinsky. Jabotinsky disagreed with the Zionist establishment, hence Jabotinsky is called a “Revisionist Zionist.” Establishment figures like Chaim Weizmann didn’t state publicly that they aimed to create a Jewish State; Weizmann’s slogan was, “Always to think of it, never to speak of it.” Jabotinsky, on the other hand, stated publicly that his aims were
Jabotinsky started the Jewish Self-Defense Organization in his native Odessa; he also started paramilitary organizations in Palestine such as the Irgun, and he started the Jewish Legion of the British Army in World War I. In an earlier issue, I quoted Jabotinsky: “Jewish youth, learn to shoot!” Jabotinsky’s secretary was Benzion Netanyahu, father of Israel’s current leader. Jabotinsky inspired the right-wing Likud Party. Menachem Begin was Jabotinsky’s “closest protégé.”7
“Jabo” was more than a military man, he was an accomplished man-of-letters, public speaker, and journalist. This may explain why he took an immediate liking to the 19-year-old Koestler. Shortly after they met, Koestler heard Jabotinsky speak in Vienna:
|Jabotinsky’s speech in the Kursaal, the largest concert-hall in Vienna, was a remarkable event. I have heard many political speakers since, but no one who could cast a similar spell over his audience for three solid hours without ever resorting to cheap oratory. There was not a cliché in his speech, delivered in a German worthy of the traditions of the Imperial Burg Theatre; its power rested in its transparent lucidity and logical beauty. One of Jabotinsky’s admirers... has called him the greatest orator of his time and the only man, besides Lloyd George, who was equally outstanding as a speaker, journalist, and politician.|
Despite his admiration for Jabotinsky, Koestler often refers to Jabotinsky’s followers as “terrorists.”
Koestler had a deep interest in evolution; he’s one of the toughest critics of establishment Darwinism. He realized that the establishment’s “modern synthesis” couldn’t explain evolution, he realized that complex structures like the eye and the brain couldn’t be the result of random mutation, followed by natural selection. He realized that there must be some sort of purpose or will or destiny in evolution. He realized that the establishment was over-stating the role of chance.
Philosophers can give a better account of evolution than biologists; when dealing with the mystery of evolution, “biology is reduced to helplessness and must hand over to metaphysics.”8 As I said in an earlier issue, “Understand the world in general, and you’ll understand biology. Try to explain biology by looking only at biology, and you won’t succeed. As Schiller said, ‘Only wholeness leads to clarity’ (Nur die Fülle führt zur Klarheit).”
Koestler was interested in the “alternative biologist” Paul Kammerer. He quotes Kammerer: “It is not the desperate struggle for survival alone which governs the world, but rather out of its own strength everything that has been created strives upwards towards light and the joy of life.”9 Koestler contrasts Kammerer’s view with that of an establishment biologist, George Gaylord Simpson. Simpson argues against anything metaphysical, anything purposeful; the establishment is comfortable only with matter and chance.
|It does seem [Simpson writes] that the problem [of evolution] is now essentially solved and that the mechanism of adaptation is known. It turns out to be basically materialistic, with no sign of purpose as a working variable in life history.... Man is the result of a purposeless and materialistic process.|
The establishment doesn’t understand anything but matter and chance; if you look beyond matter and chance, you’re a heretic, and you’ll be shunned by the establishment. Every biology professor accepts “pure Darwinism” because you can’t become a biology professor if you don’t accept it.
Darwin himself didn’t accept “pure Darwinism,” as I noted earlier. His editor and granddaughter, Nora Barlow, wrote, “In the later editions of the Origin Darwin showed an increasing belief in the inheritance of acquired characters and in the importance of use and disuse in the total picture of evolution.” Koestler says,
|Darwin himself remained all his life half a Darwinist and half a Lamarckist.... In 1875, towards the end of his life, he wrote to Galton that each year he found himself more compelled to revert to the inheritance of acquired characteristics because chance variations and natural selection alone were apparently insufficient to explain the phenomena of evolution.10|
Pure Darwinism might make sense if you’re trying to explain the talons of a falcon, or the neck of a giraffe. But pure Darwinism struggles to explain something as complicated as the human eye or the human brain, and it fails completely to explain an evolutionary process in which several components evolve together. As Michael Behe wrote,
|Darwin’s theory encounters its greatest difficulties when it comes to explaining the development of the cell. Many cellular systems are what I term “irreducibly complex.” That means the system needs several components before it can work properly. An everyday example of irreducible complexity is a mousetrap, built of several pieces (platform, hammer, spring and so on). Such a system probably cannot be put together in a Darwinian manner, gradually improving its function. You can’t catch a mouse with just the platform and then catch a few more by adding the spring. All the pieces have to be in place before you catch any mice.|
Koestler cites the example of the reptile egg, which evolved from the amphibian egg.
The decisive novelty of the reptiles was that, unlike amphibians, they laid their eggs on dry land; they no longer depended on the water and were free to roam over the continents. But the unborn reptile inside the egg still needed an aquatic environment: it had to have water or else it would dry up at an early stage. It also needed a lot of food: amphibians hatch as larvae who fend for themselves, whereas reptiles hatch fully developed. So the reptilian egg had to be provided with a large mass of yolk for food, and also with albumen — the white of egg — to provide the water. Neither the yolk by itself, nor the egg-white itself, would have had any selective value.
Moreover, the egg-white needed a vessel to contain it, otherwise its moisture would have evaporated. So there had to be a shell made of a leathery or limey material, as part of the evolutionary package-deal. But that is not the end of the story. The reptilian embryo, because of this shell, could not get rid of its waste products. The soft-shelled amphibian embryo had the whole pond as a lavatory; the reptilian embryo had to be provided with a kind of bladder. It is called the allantois, and is in some respects the forerunner of the mammalian placenta.
But this problem having been solved, the embryo would still remain trapped inside its tough shell; it needed a tool to get out. The embryos of some fishes and amphibians, whose eggs are surrounded by a gelatinous membrane, have glands on their snouts: when the time is ripe, they secrete a chemical which dissolves the membrane. But embryos surrounded by a hard shell need a mechanical tool: thus snakes and lizards have a tooth transformed into a kind of tin-opener, while birds have a caruncle — a hard outgrowth near the tip of their beaks which serves the same purpose, and is later shed by the adult animal.
Now according to the Darwinian schema, all these changes must have been gradual, each small step caused by a chance mutation. But it is obvious that each step, however small, required simultaneous, interdependent changes affecting all the factors involved in the story. Thus the liquid store in the albumen could not be kept in the egg without the hard shell. But the shell would be useless, in fact murderous, without the allantois and without the tin-opener.
Each of these changes, if they had occurred alone, would have been harmful, and the organisms thus affected would have been weeded out by natural selection.... You cannot have an isolated mutation A, preserve it over an incalculable number of generations until mutation B occurs in the same lineage and so on to C and D. Each single mutation would be wiped off the slate before it could be combined with all the others. They are all interdependent within the organism — which is a functional whole, and not a mosaic.11
We can only understand evolution if we view the organism as a whole; evolution doesn’t make sense if we focus on individual genes, individual mutations, chance mutations. All parts of an organism, including its DNA, are entangled, inter-connected. It’s difficult for a rational thinker to grasp this entanglement, just as rational thinkers can’t grasp quantum entanglement. But the evidence for quantum entanglement is solid, though entanglement is mysterious and inexplicable. The biology establishment is uncomfortable with the mysterious and the inexplicable, so they insist on a theory that they can grasp, they insist on an explanation that doesn’t actually explain.
Koestler focuses not only on physical characteristics, such as the reptile’s egg, but also on behavior, such as a bird building a nest, or a spider weaving a web. Lamarck’s theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics might be applicable to acquired skills, such as nest-building. Establishment biologists struggle to explain such behavior. Koestler writes, “How else but through some process of phylogenetic learning and memory-formation could the complex inherited skills of building a bird’s nest or weaving a spider’s web have arisen? The official theory... has no explanation for the genetics of such inherited virtuosity.”11B
The mystery of complex behavior, like the mystery of the origin of life, can’t be solved by the Darwinian mechanism of random-mutation-followed-by-natural-selection. The anti-Darwinians can build a better theory, a theory that will apply to physical structure, behavior, and the origin of life. The anti-Darwinian theory won’t discard random mutation or natural selection; rather, it will combine these factors with other factors — will, instinct, synchronicity, destiny, inheritance-of-the-acquired, etc.
As Koestler put it,
|Darwinian selection no doubt plays a part in the evolutionary process, but only a subordinate part... There is a growing realization that there must be other principles and forces at work on the vast canvas of evolutionary phenomena. In other words, the evidence indicates that evolution is the combined result of a whole range of causative factors — some known, others dimly guessed, yet others so far completely unknown.11C|
These causative factors surely include factors that are found in history and psychology. Thus, the humanities can throw light on biology. We can build a large theory, a large synthesis, that applies to both man and nature, both the humanities and biology.
Is it possible that the whole biology establishment is mistaken about the central theory of their discipline? Yes, it’s possible, we see this in the English Department — the whole English establishment is mistaken about the identity of Shakespeare. Once a Big Mistake becomes established, it’s perpetuated for generations. You can’t become an English professor unless you accept the Stratford Theory, just as you can’t become a biology professor unless you accept Darwinism. So the Big Mistake is handed down from generation to generation.
In an essay called “The ABC of ESP,” Koestler focuses on an important intellectual leap: the kinship between psychic phenomena and quantum physics. Telepathy between people and entanglement between particles are kindred phenomena. Only cutting-edge thinkers see this kinship; Koestler deserves credit for seeing it. “Theoretical physics,” Koestler writes, “has become more and more ‘occult,’ cheerfully breaking practically every previously sacrosanct ‘law of nature’.... The unthinkable phenomena of ESP appear somewhat less preposterous in the light of the unthinkable propositions of physics.”12 Koestler is a wide-ranging thinker, not a narrow specialist, so he can see the kinship between telepathy and entanglement.
Koestler discusses the research of J. B. Rhine and his wife, Louisa Rhine, at Duke. The Rhines (and other researchers) have made psychic phenomena into a rigorous field, a field that uses “complex mathematics.” But the Rhines have also made the occult somewhat “sterile” and “monotonous.” Writing in 1972, Koestler says that psychic phenomena (also known as “psi” or “parapsychology”) is a growing field, studied all over the world, especially in Russia. “The majority of academic psychologists remained hostile, although the giants had always taken telepathy and allied phenomena for granted — from Charcot and Richet through William James to Freud and Jung.”
The Rhines have learned to accept, Koestler says, “the periodic storms of defamation that break over their heads every two or three years.” Most scholars loathe the occult. One scholar, Warren Weaver, said “I find this [ESP] a subject that is so intellectually uncomfortable as to be almost painful. I end by concluding that I cannot explain away Professor Rhine’s evidence, and that I also cannot accept his interpretation.” ESP is painful because it doesn’t fit into our conception of reality, it requires us to re-think our fundamental ideas about the universe.
Koestler says that the Rhines noticed a decline in telepathy as people became bored with an experiment.
|Guessing card after card [Koestler writes] a hundred, a thousand times is a very monotonous and boring exercise; even the most enthusiastic experimental subjects showed a marked decline in hits towards the end of each session.... This “decline effect” [was] considered as additional proof that there was some human factor at work influencing the scores, and not just chance.|
The results of an ESP test depend partly on mood, emotion, unconscious factors, so ESP tests don’t yield the same result every time. “In the exact sciences,” Koestler writes, “an experiment should be repeatable and its outcome predictable.” But ESP experiments are different, they depend on emotion, excitement. Koestler compares ESP to sex:
|Erection of the penis of the human male is, alas, rather unpredictable, and so is the female orgasm. The type of stringent controls applied to ESP experiments, and the presence of skeptical observers, would certainly not facilitate their occurrence. This is not a whimsical analogy, because sex and ESP are both governed by unconscious processes which are not under voluntary control; moreover, attempts to produce them by conscious effort may prove to be self-defeating.|
Despite the elusive nature of ESP, and despite the “decline effect,” the Rhines came up with solid evidence of telepathy. “This was in fact the first important break-through of ESP into respectability.” Guessing cards is dull, but it’s solid evidence. (I prefer evidence from history, literature, and one’s own experience.)
Koestler discusses the ESP experiments carried out by Gilbert Murray, classical scholar and president of the British Society for Psychical Research in 1915, and then again in 1952. Murray’s approach was more casual than Rhine’s, more like an after-dinner game. Koestler writes,
|Gilbert Murray was not only the most prominent classical scholar of his time, but a public figure comparable to Bertrand Russell; he drafted the Covenant of the League of Nations, and was showered with honors by learned societies from all over the world. Yet his experiments in telepathy remain practically unknown to this day, and are thus worth a few paragraphs — the more so as they convey a quite different atmosphere from the card-guessing ESP factories.|
Eminent as he was, Murray wasn’t the most eminent ESP researcher. Koestler lists all the presidents of the Society for Psychical Research, and notes that the list includes “three Nobel laureates, ten Fellows of the Royal Society, one Prime Minister and a galaxy of professors, mostly physicists and philosophers.” Koestler notes that Einstein wrote a preface for Upton Sinclair’s book on telepathy, Mental Radio.
Murray describes his method thus:
|I was sent out of the drawing-room either to the dining-room or the end of the hall, the door or doors, of course, being shut. The others remained in the drawing room: someone chose a subject which was hastily written down, word for word. Then I was called in and my words written down.|
Murray notes that he wasn’t guessing facts (“mere cards or numbers”), but rather “a feeling or an emotion.” Example:
The group wrote, “Thinking of the Lusitania.”
Murray says, “I have got this violently. I have got an awful impression of naval disaster. I should think it was the torpedoing of the Lusitania.”
Telepathy is the transference of thought or emotion from one person to another. After years of experimenting with telepathy, the Rhines tried something different: influencing an inanimate object with the power of will. “After four years of successful experiments with card-guessing, ‘J. B. Rhine was asking himself, If the mind can know without ordinary means of knowing, can it perhaps also move objects without the ordinary means of moving?’”13
Koestler speaks of,
|the folklore concerning Poltergeists, pictures that fall off the wall, watches that stop at the time of a relative’s death, and so on. But the decision to embark on serious research in a territory where angels fear to tread was triggered off by a chance remark one day by a young gambler “who said that upon occasion when he was properly keyed up, he could make dice fall as he willed.”14|
Notice that the gambler needs to be “keyed up,” i.e., excited. This kind of excitement can’t be duplicated in a laboratory.
In an earlier issue, I discussed a telephone book that falls off the wall in The Great Gatsby.
The Rhines’ experiments with dice turned up solid evidence. The experiments were repeated by several researchers, in the U.S. and in Britain, “and they all gave positive results.” The Rhines waited ten years before publishing their findings; “it had seemed best to wait a while before throwing a second bombshell.” Influencing an inanimate object was called PK (psychokinesis, also called telekinesis). PK and ESP were both placed under “the blanket name psi.”
Koestler says that the experiments with dice were replaced by experiments with more sophisticated machines (such machines are sometimes called RNGs, Random Number Generators). Koestler credits Helmut Schmidt, Rhine’s successor at Duke, with developing these experiments. In an earlier issue, I discussed Dean Radin’s experiments with a person influencing an RNG. Radin says, “As the mind moves, so moves matter.”
Though Koestler sees the shortcomings of laboratory experiments, he left money in his will to establish an institute to research psychic phenomena.
I recommend a documentary by A. N. Wilson called “Narnia’s Lost Poet: The Secret Lives and Loves of C. S. Lewis.” It can be streamed through Youtube or Kanopy. The documentary says that, when Lewis was 20, he began a long relationship with a woman who was 46. In an earlier issue, I said “Many intellectuals have relationships with older women.”
Lewis wrote several volumes of literary criticism, focusing on Medieval and Renaissance English literature. (Strange to say, English literature was a neglected field when Lewis was beginning his career, probably because Greco-Roman literature was emphasized.) Lewis also wrote Christian apologetics (such as Mere Christianity), and fantasy with Christian symbolism (such as The Chronicles of Narnia).
Lewis was a friend of Tolkien, and Tolkien influenced his conversion to Christianity. Lewis was a professor at Oxford and Cambridge; his lectures were popular, and the crowds often overflowed the venue. During World War II, Lewis was a popular radio broadcaster, discussing Christianity.
The movie Shadowlands (1993) deals with Lewis’ relationship with American writer Joy Davidman (also known by her married name “Joy Gresham”). Davidman was an accomplished writer in her own right, 17 years younger than Lewis. She became acquainted with Lewis after corresponding with him. She became, for Lewis, a friend, a soul-mate, a mistress, and a wife. Her death at 45 from cancer was a blow to Lewis, and inspired him to write A Grief Observed.
Another film, The Most Reluctant Convert (2021), deals with Lewis’ journey from atheist to believer. It draws on Lewis’ autobiography, Surprised by Joy.
|1.||Arrow in the Blue, Ch. 2, p. 35 and Ch. 4, p. 42 back|
|2.||Ch. 6, p. 64. Kierkegaard said, “Volatile natures have no difficulty in adjusting themselves to themselves, their self is from the very beginning current coin; so then trade begins at once. It is not so easy for the deeper natures to find themselves.”(Either/Or, Part II) back|
|3.||Arrow in the Blue, Ch. 9 back|
|3B.|| Koestler’s father was eventually ruined, and became dependent on Koestler for support. Koestler’s father was swindled by a prominent businessman with whom he had become partners. Koestler writes, “I had seen my father become the victim of a spectacular act of injustice, and my family go to the dogs.”
Koestler’s father probably lost the capital that he had invested in the partnership. Then he sued his former partner, and the suit “devoured [everything that] remained of his capital.” He lost the suit, perhaps because his former partner was well-connected, perhaps because his former partner bribed judges.
My father was the victim of a similar swindle. He entered into a partnership in Puerto Rico; he and a local man became co-owners of a gravel pit, if I remember correctly. My father’s partner took my father’s share and disappeared.
After my father died, my family was the victim of a real-estate swindle. A neighbor tried to buy our road, limit our access to the road, and lower the value of our property. So I have considerable experience with swindles, and Koestler’s “swindle story” struck a chord with me. back
Are Czechs Aryans? Czech is a Slavic language, and Slavic languages are part of the Indo-European language family. The Aryan migrations brought Indo-European languages to Europe. So I would say that Czechs are Aryans. “But were they considered Aryans in the Vienna of 1920?” The Nazis looked down on Slavs, they regarded Slavs as sub-men, untermenschen. So it’s possible that the Germans of Koestler’s day did not view Czechs as Aryans. back
|5.||Ch. 11 back|
|6.||Ch. 11 back|
Koestler says that, in his youth, he admired various men. “Some I deserted in bitter resentment when I discovered that they did not come up to my expectations; to two of them I remained devoted unto their death. One of them was Vladimir Jabotinsky, the spiritual father of the Palestine terrorists; the other, Willi Münzenberg, the Communist leader.” I discuss Münzenberg in a later issue. back
|8.||Janus: A Summing Up, Ch. 11, quoting Pierre Grassé. back|
|9.||Janus, Ch. 10. Kammerer’s words are a good description of the life-instinct. The drives that we see in history and psychology, such as the life-instinct, can help us to understand evolution; the humanities can throw light on biology. If we view evolution through the narrow lens of biology, we can’t make sense of it; only a broad view can provide a plausible explanation of evolution. back|
|10.||Janus, Ch. 10 back|
|11.||Janus, Ch. 9 back|
|11B.||Janus, Ch. X, #5|
Freud suggests a way for human behavior to be influenced by a Lamarckian process: “The experiences of the ego seem at first to be lost for inheritance; but, when they have been repeated often enough and with sufficient strength in many individuals in successive generations, they transform themselves, so to say, into experiences of the id, the impressions of which are preserved by heredity. Thus in the id, which is capable of being inherited, are harbored residues of the existences of countless egos.(The Ego and the Id, Ch. 3) back
|11C.||Janus, Ch. 10, #3|
According to George Bernard Shaw, Darwin would agree, Darwin viewed random-mutation-and-natural-selection as only one factor in evolution. “He revealed it as a method of evolution,” Shaw wrote, “not as the method of evolution. He did not pretend that it excluded other methods, or that it was the chief method.... He was careful not to claim that he had superseded Lamarck or disproved [Lamarckism]. In short, [Darwin] was not a Darwinian.”(Back To Methuselah, Preface, “Why Darwin Converted the Crowd”) back
|12.||The Roots of Coincidence, Ch. 1 back|
|13.||Koestler is quoting Louisa Rhine. back|
|14.||David Udbjorg read this paragraph, and wrote an essay about his own experience with dice. His essay describes a backgammon game in Crete:|
“Everyone gathered around our table to watch the phenomena unfolding at our table. I got exactly what I wanted throughout the game, which was 30 double strokes out of the 40 or so strokes I made in total. Let’s acknowledge that the likelihood for this to happen by chance is astronomically small.
“I looked my opponent in the eyes and kept them there, then I asked him to look at the table as I threw the dices, I told him that I would throw double six... I kept my eyes on him, felt the dices leave my hand, looked down to follow them, the two dices danced on the board and finally lay still, showing in all their horror the two sixes. I couldn’t believe it, nobody could. I won quite a few bottles of retsina, and we had a fun night.” back