Tuesday, January 11, 2011
I don't recall who turned me on to Mr. Constance's excellent little tome, but it's fantabulous. Constance was an intelligence officer working for the English who occasionally got locked away for extreme manic depression. His descriptions of the states is certainly the best I've read--I liked it much more than either Darkness Visible or An Unquiet Mind. To be fair, however, I should point out that Madness, Wisdom, and Folly is not simply a memoir of madness. Its subtitle is, after all, "The Philosophy of a Lunatic."
And what a philosophy! The opposite poles of his disorder, combined with the crisp intelligence and far-ranging knowledge of a true intellectual, gave Mr. Constance a unique and entertaining take on not only his disease, but the cycles of history and the troubling duality of existence.
Readers of Aldous Huxley or Jung or Spengler might find much which is familiar here, but Constance argues clearly his belief in a sort of Negative, feminine unitive consciousness associated with the Unconscious, and its contrary Positive, masculine divisive consciousness associated with the modern Western mindset, and he succinctly explains these ideas and their influences on individuals and civilizations.
Then things go a bit haywire with his prophetic visions--but they're great and entertaining, even though they were to come to pass in the '60s, and let's just say he either misinterpreted them or they were (as he suggested might be the case) simply the ravings of a certified lunatic; as far as I know Stalin was not arrested and tried for crimes against humanity in Vienna following an atomic holocaust. But as Constance writes in his philosophy, it doesn't matter if things are really real, so long as they are Actual to someone they are true.