Who would not admire this chameleon?
– Pico della Mirandola
My conscience is captive to the Word of God
– Martin Luther
Yet within ourselves we are somehow double creatures
Glory and scum of the universe
– Blaise Pascal
In his seminal study, The Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy, Jacob Burckhardt claimed that in the medieval period men and women had been conscious of themselves only as members of a race, people, party, family or corporation – only by being submerged in some general category. In fifteenth-century Italy, however, certain highly gifted individuals began to speculate on the fitting nature of the good society and, at the same time, turned inwards to affirm a sense of innate and subjective difference. At this moment, Burckhardt wrote: man became a spiritual individual and recognised himself as such. A revolution in consciousness began.
It was as if, after a prolonged period of collectivisation, individuals sensed within themselves a range of new, as yet unexplored possibilities. Sometimes this potential was felt to be benevolent and energising, at other times daunting, even paralysing. It was the French philosopher and physicist, Blaise Pascal, who, towards the end of the Renaissance, most powerfully expressed this broad, ambiguous and dialectical perception of human life: What a chimera. What a novelty. What a contradiction. What a prodigy. Judge of all things, imbecile, earthworm: depository of truth, sink of uncertainty and error, glory and scum of the universe.
Wherever we look through the long period of turbulent crisis, beginning in the fifteenth century and ending around the middle of the seventeenth, we discover baffling and extreme images of contradictory existence, of the self in anxious quest and inner turmoil. Perhaps the conflict is caught most starkly in the emerging genre of self-portraiture. In 1500 Albrecht Dürer painted himself with unprecedented audacity as Christ embodying a sublime conception of the artist, not as submissive artisan but as divine maker; yet only fourteen years later he engraved the haunting Melancholia where the mood of dejection at the failure to understand and master the universe (religious, scientific and technological paraphernalia surround the central depressed figure) is, at once, pessimistic and deeply personal. Then, in 1522, Dürer depicted himself as the dejected Man of Sorrows, clad only in a loin cloth, a whip and scourge in his hand: the artist as penitent and flagellator. Three extreme images of the same man subvert each other and evoke contrary states of consciousness.
A comparable interrogation marks the opus of Rembrandt. In the closing decades of the Renaissance he painted a sequence of self-portraits faithfully documenting his life from the age of twenty-two to the year of his death. Viewed chronologically the paintings form a visual autobiography, a vivid chronicle of changing moods and shifting dispositions, a record of a multi- faceted life. The images move from raw spontaneous youth to the safety of the theatrical persona through to the isolated, vulnerable man confronting irreversible decay and possible extinction. Seen as a whole, the sequence of paintings offers a dynamic narrative of individuation marking the summation of the northern Renaissance. The 1669 self-portrait (in the National Gallery, London), painted a few months before his death, reveals a stubborn, perplexed and self-questioning man: a man who has found the courage to discard the masks he had once employed to establish himself. The light illuminating his brow expresses the radiance of reflexive consciousness, a mind which has dared to face all the darknesses and still looks out, and still questions with a quizzical openness. The gaze of being confronts the impermanence of things. It must be one of the most Socratic paintings in western culture. This momentous inward shift into the self animates and agitates the whole of the Renaissance. How did it begin?
Certainly, one of the early intellectual catalysts was the neo-Platonic Academy founded around 1462 just outside Florence. The Academy was established at the villa of Careggi, under the patronage of Cosimo de Medici and was directed by Marsilio Ficino. It attracted an eclectic group of talented individuals: philosophers, poets, rhetoricians, lawyers, priests and physicians. The small informal Academy embodied and developed the best Humanist aspirations of Petrarch. It worked at three related levels: there were conferences, often taking the ritual form of a Platonic banquet; there were courses in rhetoric, and there was an ambitious programme of translation of newly discovered classical texts. The Academy was more a community of sympathetic minds than a formal institution. Members addressed each other Fratres in Platone: Brothers in Plato, and the relationships were seen as spiritual and dialogical friendships. The small intellectual community created a vital cultural space which, while not in apparent conflict with the church, was separate from it. Its autonomy was crucial. It was able to evolve a body of learning, a stock of texts and techniques, and a set of scholarly and philosophical practices which could flourish on their own terms. The villa became an enclave for an Apollonian form of self-possession.
Perhaps most potent of all was the emphasis the Academy placed on human dignity, on the power of each member to reach, through a dialectical process of thinking, an inner state of illumination: theoria. Individuals were no longer envisaged on bended knee, helpless victims of a depraved human nature or the passive recipients of dogma; rather, they existed as the grounded subject of their own thinking – creative and intellectual agents of their own lives. This assumption lay at the heart of the emerging Humanism. Ficino delineated the soul as the dramatic midpoint between the higher and the lower: the lord and juncture of the universe. In his hierarchical cosmology, following the metaphysics of Plato and Plotinus, human nature was given a central but volatile position. Unlike that which lurked below in the animal kingdom or that which soared above in the angelic kingdom, the individual psyche had a marked potentiality to change, to develop, to move ever upwards towards the intoxicating light.
The self was prismatic in nature. Ficino’s metaphysical vision ushered in a higher and more dynamic conception of life. This incandescent idealism is found in the paintings of Sandro Botticelli – a painter who, in the composition of Primavera, was directly guided by the philosophical master.
The neo-Platonic humanists also expanded the range of both literary and ethical models. The Medieval period had access to a limited number of classical texts: Virgil, Ovid, Cicero, Aristotle. During the fifteenth century, however, many other authors were rediscovered. Homer, Sophocles, Plato, Lucretius, Plotinus, Tacitus now joined the cultural arena. In 1469 Ficino himself brought out the first complete translation of Plato in Latin. He followed it in 1492 with a translation and commentary on the works of Plotinus. A formidable achievement. The introduction of so many authors immediately opened up the horizons of intellectual and existential possibility. The writers provided a more diverse theatre of human existence: of competing exemplars, of jostling prototypes. The saintly figures of absolute faith and missionary fervour remained, but to them were added other psychological types, both mythical and historical, representing a range of experience: sceptical speculation, intellectual vision, military courage, political acumen, erotic love and intrepid adventure. Some of the more radical neo-Platonists argued that, through a syncretistic act of understanding, the many religious traditions (Hebrew, Egyptian, Greek, Christian) together with their many sacred characters – ‘Saint’ Plato and Saint Peter, ‘Saint’ Socrates and Saint Paul, ‘Saint’ Plotinus and Saint Augustine – could be synthesised and brought into a single philosophical and cosmological account. An emerging cultural multiplicity could only culminate in a greater unity. Such a daring conception of culture and theology was revolutionary.
The most charismatic thinker of the Academy was the young Pico della Mirandola. His preface, written in 1486, to a series of nine hundred theses (for a conjectured open debate in Rome), propounded a radical view of identity. In his remarkable account of the Creation, God ran out of archetypes so that when He came to fashion the human soul there was no mould left to determine its form: He therefore took man as a creature of indeterminate nature and, assigning him a place in the middle of the world, addressed him thus: ‘Neither a fixed abode nor a form that is thine alone nor any function peculiar to thyself have we given thee, Adam, to the end that according to thy longing and according to thy judgement thou mayest have and possess what abode, what form, and what functions thou thyself shalt desire … Thou, constrained by no limits, in accordance with thy own free will … shalt ordain for thyself the limits of thy nature. In the fifteenth century such a conception was as daring as it was original, while the related notion of indeterminacy carried deep within it a dizzy paradigm shift. At a single conceptual blow it released humanity from the static notions of both Christian Providence and Classical Fate. Individual life had suddenly become a matter of choice in a world of infinite possibility. Freedom was a rousing new note in the evolving sound-track of humanity. And yet it is characteristic of the turbulent shifts of the period that Pico himself became, in the last years of his short life, a devoted follower of the puritanical Dominican monk, Savonarola. He disowned his broad humanist principles and burnt his poems in the bonfire of the vanities.
The nine hundred theses were never discussed in Rome, though thirteen of them were quickly condemned by the Vatican as heretical. Nevertheless, after Pico’s early and suspicious death (through poisoning?) in 1494, his humanist work had a large circulation right across Europe. It is more than possible that Dürer’s image of himself as divine artist was inspired by it. What cannot be doubted is that the eloquent manifesto served to dissolve the settled and stultified scholastic categories of the late medieval world and promoted a more dynamic and fluid conception of life. The self, by turning inwards, by practicing a kind of self-auscultation, could create and re-create itself. Shakespeare’s most introspective characters – Hamlet, Edmund and Iago, who over-hear themselves to shape their chosen destinies and thus become, in Hegel’s memorable words, free artists of themselves – seem to follow with a certain historical inevitability.
Thus the Academy changed the intellectual and artistic climate, first of Italy, and then, through the dramatic dissemination of its work, the whole of northern Europe. Printing was the internet of the day. The invention of movable print in Germany around 1450 was the most significant technological invention of the Renaissance. Within thirty years of its discovery there was a printing press in every major city of Europe.
Publishing quickened the pace of thought and brought with it an all but utopian sense of freedom and possibility; though with it came a disquieting sense of relativity, that paralysing condition of doubt recorded so powerfully in Dürer’s Melancholia. By contrast, that same state of relativity was positively embraced by Montaigne, who was born eleven years after the Platonic Academy finally closed in 1522. While condemning what he saw as the unreal loftiness of the Florentine humanists, Montaigne shared their love of classical literature, their cultivation of eloquence and their definition of philosophy as the personal search for life-wisdom. Through his literary genius and psychological acumen he transformed the humanist treatise into a new genre of introspective autobiography. As Montaigne’s essays developed, so they became a minute revelation of his daily, idiosyncratic self – an inner witnessing to psychological complexity and existential difference. In their frank and detailed disclosures, they were unlike anything that had been composed before. Life was no longer a spectral rehearsal for a greater life to come but valuable in and for itself, here and now. With that momentous shift psychology began to supplant eschatology. It was an historic moment in the story of deep autobiography, dramatically extending the range of the established form of spiritual confession established by Augustine. A small part of Montaigne’s subversive aim was to turn the neo-Platonic humanists on their heads, to puncture their inflated ideals and to secure a wry recognition of the carnal and the contingent as inescapable features of human experience.
In this period the first sustained humanist autobiographies were written. Perhaps most important among them were The Memoirs of Benvenuto Cellini: A Florentine Artist Written by Himself (composed in the middle of the sixteenth century and first published in 1730) and Girolamo Cardano’s The Book of my Life (first published in 1575). But, less dramatically, a preoccupation with the self can be glimpsed in changing cultural conventions and emerging technologies. It can be detected in the development of the soliloquy, used extensively by Shakespeare and Marlowe and later by Jacobean dramatists. The soliloquy enabled characters to turn away from the outer collective action to express their inner motives, to articulate deeper strands of ambivalences in their thought and feeling, to make visible subterranean and unseen streams of consciousness. The startling creation of Hamlet, inwardly tormented, equivocal, and soliloquising, must surely represent the emergent, highly wrought, divided self-consciousness of the Renaissance psyche?
In the visual arts rudimentary self-portraiture was transformed by the invention of the Venetian mirror. In the early sixteenth century the Venetians developed (through the application of a mixture of mercury and tin-foil) the technology to manufacture a superbly accurate looking-glass. These new mirrors became the acme of fashion. They had a profound impact on the sense of identity, on the immediate mirroring of the self – on reflection – and made possible the sudden burgeoning of the free-standing self-portrait. Even the Renaissance convention of signing and dating paintings pointed to a new relationship between the art made, the identity of the maker and the historic moment at which it was painted. Before 1400 the painting belonged to God, the Church, and the Community; after 1500 it belonged as much to the individual painter, being expressive of an individual style and personal vision at a particular point of linear time. Indeed, significantly, the work came to be named after the artist. The painting was a Michelangelo, a Leonardo da Vinci, a Rembrandt. This was the triumph of Pico’s divine self-creating individual.
No account of reflexivity during this period can leave to one side the immense power of the Reformation which was to shatter forever the hegemony of Western Christendom. Riddled with paradoxes and contradictions, the Reformation brought a radical freedom in religious belief but also, in its wake, new sectarian terrors, dividing country against country, town against town, family against family, individual against individual. It nurtured passionate forms of confession and introspection but also engendered a tribal fanaticism: an unyielding dogmatism breeding endless bloody wars between rival sects, and catalogues of atrocity against those who did not conform to whatever doctrine prevailed. New spiritual aspirations were accompanied by new traumas of conscience. While in spirit the Reformation was partly a reaction against the Apollonian classicism represented by the Platonic Academy, the religious reformers – Luther, Calvin, Knox, Zwingli – were indebted to many of the skills and values it had developed. There was an ardent return to the authority of original texts and a commitment to translation and dissemination. Luther’s
translation of the New Testament into German (written in eleven weeks) came out in 1522, to be followed in 1534 with a version of the whole Bible. Like Ficino’s translation of Plato and Plotinus, it was a monumental achievement. Luther conceived himself as a pilgrim of the word dedicated to the Word. There was a recognition of the value of scholarship among the reformers and a sense of the genius of the gifted author: the translator who possessed the art of finding the pithy vernacular expression or the memorable cadence, the writer of hymns and sermons who had the gift to strike the heart of the congregation with a homely analogy or an uplifting melody. Even in the exultation of the figure of Christ and of the Christ within each person – as in Dürer’s 1500 self-portrait – a kind of humanism was in play: a witnessing to the humanity of the divine Son.
Yet most of the Reformers were opposed to the rational idealism and the pagan aestheticism of the Italian Renaissance, albeit generally only as part of their much larger rebellion against the over-arching authority of the Roman Church. At the beginning Luther confined his attack to the meretricious selling of indulgences claiming to offer the remission of sins. In the Ninety-Five Theses, which may or may not have been hammered defiantly to the door at All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg on 31 October 1517, Luther announced his brusque opposition. His twenty-seventh thesis rang out: It is merely man’s word that is preached by those who say that the soul flies out (of purgatory) immediately the money clinks as it drops into the chest. For Luther, a troubled Augustinian monk and teacher of theology, the Church could never possess a monopoly on individual salvation. If the Pope, the wealthiest of wealthy men, aspired to extend Saint Peter’s in Rome he should do so with his own fortune, not with money extracted from the poor by counterfeit rituals which betrayed the very teaching of the Bible.
Through an inexorable logic, Luther’s partial protest grew quickly into a comprehensive and uncompromising attack on the whole authority of the church. His words before the Imperial Diet of Worms in 1521 reveal the extent of the attack and the existential courage of the man: Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason, I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen. Luther, in his own words, raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. The reflexive mind confronted tribal consciousness and refused to yield.
This submission to the inner dictates of conscience was the most radical and creative element of the Reformation. By exposing the rituals of the Roman church as little more than manifestations of tyranny the Reformation opened the way to a personal responsibility for the inner life: to freedom. For Luther each individual believer was a priest of the Faith and part of the son-hood of God. In spiritual matters, the category of the collective was giving way, at least for a time, to that of the existential. The salvation of the soul was no longer to be determined by the established hierarchy of the church or manipulated by collective rituals controlled by the clergy. Tellingly, one of Luther’s most influential treatises, published in 1520, was simply named Christian Liberty. In some of his letters Luther questioned the state of amnesia fostered by the power of habit and the fixed mould of formulaic speech. In March 1545 he wrote: Here is my case, you should observe how hard it is to struggle clear of errors which have been confirmed by the example of the whole world, and which long habit has turned into second nature. The personal quest for spiritual truth required discrimination. Looking back on his early life Luther confessed to being amazed at the way in which he had held on uncritically to so many questionable doctrines promulgated by the church. In the best of Luther one senses the self-interrogation of the dissenting individual as he struggles to release himself from the invisible manacles of inherited assumptions.
Even so, Luther was a man riven by conflicts. He was subject to what he called anfectungen: afflictions. He suffered from fits of depression, from anxiety and, in his later years, paranoia. His evangelical and protesting life was lived in extremis. The way in which he decided to enter a monastery against his father’s wishes was characteristic. On 2 July 1505, riding through a thunderstorm, Luther was so terrified of death and the prospect of eternal damnation that, as the lightning flashed above him, he cried out in fear and trembling: Help me Saint Anna and I will become a monk. It is characteristic, also, that after joining the monastery he suffered from a brooding state of despair claiming that, in spite of all his fasting and prayers, he had lost touch with Christ who he had made the jailor and hangman of my poor soul. In brief, an aura of drama surrounds the man. Luther himself confessed that the best moment in his life came on 10 December 1520 when he publicly burnt the papal bull threatening him with excommunication. Whenever the impetuous man speaks, he resembles an Old Testament prophet. One sees that fierce bolt of lightning; one hears the crescendo of thunder.
Luther’s insistence on the primacy of the Bible – Sola Scriptura! – is well known, but his particular way of reading scripture has, also, to be grasped. In the medieval world – in the philosophy of Aquinas and in the literature of Dante – there was a fourfold method of reading Biblical texts. The first was literal (the immediate historical meaning); the second allegorical (the way it prefigured what was to follow in the history of Christianity); the third tropological (the immediate moral import for living) and, lastly, the anagogical (the mystical meaning in terms of eternity and the Last Judgement.). As his theology developed, Luther discarded three of these categories and developed the tropological. What he valued was the ethical and existential: the personal meaning that was apprehended as one exposed oneself to the revelatory word.
Luther’s conversion in the tower as he was reading Paul’s Epistle to the Romans 1:17 was exactly that: an inner revelation. His theological insight – if insight it was – concerning his cardinal doctrine, Justification through Faith, came as a transformative ecstatic experience: Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered Paradise itself through open gates. The tropological encompassed not only the interpretation but also the life- changing quanta of energy that went with it. The emphasis on the instant moment brought scripture to life and made the figure of Jesus so close that He was felt by many of Luther’s followers to be a contemporary, all but speaking for the first time the vigorous and intimate German vernacular of Luther’s New Testament. In Lucas Cranach’s painting of The Last Supper, Luther can be seen sitting at the table with Jesus and his disciples. All are dressed as earnest German burghers and all are painted without the traditional haloes: each believer an equal, each a son of God, each a priest of eternal life. The historic supper of remembrance is made contemporary. For the Lutheran the spiritual was here and now: always an advent, a beginning, a rebirth.
The Reformation spread rapidly across Northern Europe carrying an evangelical fervour and a high seriousness. It fostered a fresh psychology of introspection and conversion. If the movement lessened the collective power of the church, it increased, at the same time, the level of inner anxiety about personal salvation. It cast a darker light. It disseminated a Northern angst. In many of the popular testimonies written by Protestants in England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries there is recorded, not infrequently, a dread that the author may have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost for which there was no forgiveness. Luther himself had been haunted by the terror that he might be damned, simply by inheriting what was seen as the universal curse of Original Sin. As the Protesters abandoned the sacrament of Confession, so they cultivated in its stead the literary forms of the journal, the diary, the testimony. Indeed, in the puritan testimonies the sins were often tabulated in much the same manner as the penitent on his knees in the confessional box. In this way the spiritual and psychological functions of the Confessional became further internalised. The very form of expression allowed more time for the amplification of experience, for a fuller dramatisation of moral lapses, as well as the exultant moments of spiritual conversion.
It can be no accident that at the very same time as these accounts were being written, new compound words relating to the self entered the English language for the first time: self-sufficient (1598), self-knowledge (1613), self-made (1615), self-examination (1647), and selfhood. (1649).
Most of the Protestant confessional testimonies followed a sequential movement conforming to five key stages outlined by Calvin: earnest childhood, sinful youth, formal righteousness followed by an inner struggle culminating in a state of final illumination. The movement was linear and developmental, but the broader spiritual pattern was circular as it all took place within the all-comprehending knowledge of God. For all these pious writers the Bible provided the necessary language, exemplars and metaphors. Written as personal testimonies they read like allegories. The specificities of individual and idiosyncratic life so manifest in Montaigne’s Essays became lost in the Biblical analogues: the lost sheep found, the Prodigal Son returned, the journey from captivity in Egypt to the Promised Land. Life was read backwards to conform to one paradigmatic master-narrative. They may well have prepared the ground for later self-exploratory autobiographies and autobiographical novels like Robinson Crusoe, but it has to be said there is little psychological acuity in the analysis and the range of variation is small. Each story became a predictable sub-narrative of the Bible. In many ways they repeat, in a rough and rudimentary manner, the pilgrim’s journey of loss and return established, centuries earlier, in Augustine’s Confessions.
In truth, much of the Reformation has to be read historically as a regression to the earlier fundamentalist theologies of Paul and Augustine. Luther’s theologica crucis derived almost entirely from the epistles of Paul; and he regarded Augustine as the greatest theologian until his own late arrival on the stage. Typically, he sympathised with Savanorola, asserting that the church should have made the fiery iconoclast one of its saints. Following, once again, in the footsteps of Paul, the young revolutionary Luther, representing the supreme freedom of conscience, was destined to become the aging reactionary. Defending his own religious movement he could become as autocratic as any Pope he railed against. When the peasants and millenarian revolutionaries inspired by his words rose up to claim their spiritual and political rights, Luther urged that they should be brutally suppressed: You cannot meet a rebel with reason. Your best answer is to punch him in the face until he has a bloody nose. Even worse was his anti-Semitism. In his later years Luther castigated the Jews as the devil’s people. He advocated setting light to their synagogues, confiscating their wealth and either forcing them into labour or expelling them from the German provinces. His racist rhetoric left a dark deposit in the Lutheran heritage which, centuries later, was to be relentlessly mined by the National Socialists.
In effect, Luther (and Calvin) snuffed out the warm candle flame which Ficino had lit before the effigy of Plato in the villa of Careggi. In the sparse and darker rooms of Wittenberg and Geneva there were no recesses for pagan images. The demanding dialectics of the classical quest for wisdom gave way to the either/or extremities of an evangelical mode of Christianity, rooted in a wretchedly negative view of human nature: innate depravity. In the writings of Luther and Calvin one encounters little speculative intelligence, no generous encompassing of the multiplicities of religious experience. In the first instant, Luther’s twin battle-cries Sola Scriptura and Sola Fides may have dug a crucial site for the rights of conscience and religious freedom. They may also have brought about a further strain of acute introspection; but they cast, at least, two sombre shadows: a sauerkraut provincialism of mind and the tragic replay of an outdated fundamentalist theology.
Any comprehensive study of the Renaissance and the development of reflexivity has to include the tremendous impact of science and technology. Culturally, it was the third giant force. The religious and sectarian conflict sparked by the Reformation was the background against which the new Science developed, positioning itself (often with the greatest caution for fear of torture and execution) against both superstitious belief and scholastic speculation. Indeed, the discoveries of Science – such as that made by Copernicus in 1543 that the earth was not the centre of the universe – often sabotaged the authority of both Classical and Christian positions. The scientific and experimental approach, in turn, nurtured a disposition of mind that was more neutral, more observant, more calculative, requiring before all judgements both empirical data and rational coherence. It began to change the contours of consciousness, carving out an intellectual space free from the competing and murderous absolutes of contending Christian sects, an alternative mode of being-in-the-world, prefiguring the Enlightenment. But if it brought a certain calm and objectivity, the nature of the world it disclosed often brought an acute feeling of dispossession and alienation. For where and how did the individual belong in this suddenly de-centred cosmos? Looking up at the stars at night Pascal confessed that the silence of the infinite spaces terrified him. Through the advances in Science and technology a further disquiet entered the soul.
It would seem that what we call, rather glibly, the Renaissance – the term was not used as a historical demarcation until well into the nineteenth century – may best be conceived not as a unified period, not as a high cultural synthesis, but as a long phase of effervescent disintegration, a creative crack-up right across Europe, from which we have still to recover. The worlds of Classical Humanism, Reformation Theology and the new Science simply did not cohere. They mostly collided. They destroyed a common tribal culture and created a sense of dizzy floundering, a restless uncertainty: now the apprehension of further possible brave new meanings, now a feeling of foreboding and despair. John Donne lamented: Now philosophy puts all in doubt/The element of fire is quite put out/Tis all in pieces; all coherence gone.
It is symptomatic of this period of acute breakdown that one of the most celebrated Greek gods, referred to constantly by the neo-Platonists and reincarnated in endless texts, plays, poems, essays and treatises, was Proteus, the sea-god of restive change and transformation. During the Renaissance the individual had become protean, a multi-faceted creature, often divided within, capable of many roles, of many selves. Both psychologically labile and philosophically enigmatic, he was a creature of conscience and contingency, as well as being reflexive – someone who, by turning inwards, could shape himself to fit any number of possible patterns, moral or immoral, with unpredictable consequences. The individual could now be seen, almost at the same moment, as a prodigy, a judge, an imbecile, an earthworm, a depository of truth and a sink of uncertainty: as the glory and scum of the universe.
For further details on the story of the self see: www.peterabbs.org