Belowness, or the Ineffable Underground
We tend to associate wonder with the extension of the senses and the explosion of curiosity characteristic of the Scientific Revolution. This intellectual energy and optimism was connected to the relentless drive to experiment typical of the Early-Modern Period. The emergence, dissemination, and rapid diversification of a stunning range of optical instruments—especially during the seventeenth-and eighteenth-centuries-- revealed an immense and silent universe above as well as an animated ground-level panorama whose organic action-art was fleetingly captured, if not accounted for, through equally remarkable technology. This essay turns to a raw, less apparent phenomenon. It recounts the personal experience of descending into an abandoned Colorado gold mine at dusk. This sensation of a darker wonder also occurs in sunless caves, caverns, grottoes, karsts. Such experiences of saturated blackness are often accompanied by hallucinatory visions, stimulated by our literally -embedded primal consciousness confronting an inscrutable self-organizing matter.
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