JF Ptak Science Books Poster Series #5
There are some other more recent contributions in our Outsider Logic collection that reach the limits of outside, reaching far into the aspects of knowledge that lies more or less completely hidden and inaccessible to the vast majority of readers. Sometimes bumping into outré thinking like this is very useful because it is just so very different; and sometimes this thought process is just and only that: very different.
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This last bit is probably the case for W. Clarissa Christeen’s (“D.D.A.T.O.M.”)The Universal Color Keyboard for Body Building, published in beautiful Los Angeles in 1925. In the many eyebrow-raising and vastly unexpected segments that she manages to share in her thin pamphlet she certainly strays into many unknown conclusion-processes and uniquely personal observations about the physical and spiritual world, testing the reader's patience in many ways in 16 pages. But what Ms. Christeen absolutely does have going for her is her and which is easily appreciated is her artwork, which is, in its own special way, quite sensational—I’m really sorry that the pamphlet is limited to only two pieces of her work, as I’d really like to see more.
Her philosophy is at the very least odd, though it may spring from a synesthesia. Or not.
"Syn" (Greek, "together" and "Aisthesis" ("sensation") combine to form this very interesting word and ability, being an automatic response to a stimulus by one sense when that stimulus is usually associated with another sense. For example, there are "synesthetes" who perceive color as an auditory input, basically hearing yellow and so on; more famously are the musicians composing tone poems associating sound with color. There are letter-color and number-color associatons, as well as taste-senses from colors and sounds and so and on. For example in Kandinsky's On the Spiritual in Art there is an attempt to relate color theory to touch and smell; Franz Liszt wrote color music; Isaac Newton attempted to establish the common distribution and association between color and tone frequencies; Rameau constructed a clavencin oculaire while Rimington made a color organ; Richard Feynman spoke of colored equations, and Nabokov recorded (Speak, Memory) letter/color visions. These are just a few examples of some of the more well-known practicing synesthetes.
In any event Ms. Christeen may be of that mold, and is attempting the universal perfection of mind and body through the combination of color and music (and scent), which “is valuable in building body-tissues of a harmonized order…the music chosen for social functions, the key notes being for the planet ruling or governing the day or the hours etc.. This brings celestial and terrestrial vibrations in direct contact, without interrupted angles which produce in harmony; in other words the creative powers which produce these various waves f light and sound or color or tone, acts upon the lower octave, matter or material manifestations recreating it, transforming it, and raising the vibrations of the said matter or material manifestations, thus, refining the temperature and quality of germ or tissue, etc.”
This is a long passage, but I include it because, well, I just had no idea when an abrupt turn was going to be made in the discourse; nor did I have any idea of what the principles were of what was being discussed. And this is still all on page one. Sometimes passages like these are breathtaking, as in leaving you without breath, because their foundation for understanding is so elusive. All you’re left with, sometimes, is a “wow!” reaction, like appreciating a pitcher who has just struck you out on three roughed-up-greasy-spit-laden nastiness pitches that were invisible and illegal, and didn’t matter at all.(What the figure in the cover illustration is saying. by the way, is "Ether air motions creates cell activity", with a couple of Biblical references, somehow.)
I do know that the major divulged secret is the Universal keynote (and “keyboard”) and its control through music and fragrance of all that is, “each individual is to harmonize his or her astral colors to the universal keynote that he or she may be surrounded by a correcting aura, which sends out its streamers of light rays into the cosmos”. Things get more deeply possessed after this, stretching into the Old Testament and astrology, which we don’t need to get into here.
As I said, perhaps Ms. Christeen was a synesthete, and perhaps multiply so. In 1925, when this book was written, there mayn’t’ve been a place for people to go who had advanced sensibility of seeing colors in music, and perhaps colors in fragrance. Perhaps Ms. Christeen was working out there in Los Angeles completely alone, trying to figure out just what her special and very different gift actually was. Perhaps her life was greatly enlivened by her synesthesia, and sent herself out on a mission to the world to have other people experience it, too,, with the help of her color-relational charts. I do feel for her, though I have absolutely no connection to what she was trying to explain. I do find the artwork fascinating—a true “outsider” contribution.
(By the way, I don't think that we ever got to the "body building" part in this work. Also, I think the "DDATOM" after Ms. Christeen's name meant something like "Doctor of Divinity of the Atom" or something like that--it wasn't mentioned in the text.)
And so there you have it. I think that I'm just making the point that the outcome of some of this very provocative work doesn't necessarily come into play in its ultimate evaluation, and that it should all be judged by what short of thinking that it excites in its reader.