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Java’s Heart of Light & Darkness — Franz Wilhelm Junghuhn

History of JavaAs a young man, after the friction with his father drove Yunghuhn (1809-64) to try suicide — but before he went to medical school, joined the miliary and ended up in Java, he’d wander through Brunswick, Thuringia and especially the Harz mountains. At about the same time his first articles on mushrooms began to appear “out of the botanical twilight zone” (Mirror of the Indies, at 71)

Heart of Javanese Darkness“Many years later when [Junghuhn (which means “young hen”) ] returned to his old haunts he recognized only “the plants, shrubs, trees and geological formations [with] nary a word about people. He found Germans generally “a bunch of fat, arrogant and intolerant priests” (74) and surmised that “only in Holland had he encountered “such a bigoted lot of people. (Mirror 75)”

Old Java Looking at Ancient JavaIndologist Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 –1860) quotes Yunghuhn’s Images of Light and Shadow. He was a little over 20 years older than Yunghuhn.

Giant Ferns of Java

Four brothers — Night, Day, Dawn and Dusk — trip across Java telling tales. Junghuhn accounts for their experiences with some splendid descriptions of volcanic and other geological formations. Night is the orthodox Christian. Day is Junghuhn (deism tinged with pantheism) or “natural religion.” Dawn and Dusk atheists. (69) [Ed.: sounds like camping in Utah].
Losing my cool

“He often describes nature in terms of animal shapes or human emotions. A motionless volcanic lake can momentarily be stirred by such passions as to destroy overnight what it took years to grow, much the same way man will let his emotions destroy his own happiness. “Coming close to confession,” and though nature defies description, describe it he does — despite the fact he’s writing in a foreign language. “Indeed like someone who can suddenly cause a stone to spark, Junghun time and again manages to convey his sense of joy, elation, and relief while looking down from some “labyrinthine landscape” that looks “torn and gutted (Mirror 68).”

Pastoral Java (drawing)

“Compared to Junghuhn’s observations and descriptions of nature, all others pale. He goes well beyond noting, as Van Hoevell did, the ‘beauty and loveliness of the landscape,’ or ‘splendid, although rugged and wild, natural vistas.’ Junghuhn unfailingly prefers his landscapes rugged and wild, and majestic – majestic in her great silences and majestic in her forces; and alive too. (Mirror 68)”

Antique Java

Junghuhn relates that in Java he saw an immense field entirely covered with skeletons, and took it to be a battle-field. However, they were nothing but the skeletons of large turtles, five feet long, three feet broad, and of equal height. These turtles come this way from the sea, in order to lay their eggs, and are then seized by wild dogs (Canis rutilans); with their united strength, these dogs lay them on their backs, tear open their lower armour, the small scales of the belly, and devour them alive. But then a tiger often pounces on the dogs.(see Wright below)

Java, seine Gestalt, Pflanzendecke, und sein innerer Bau

The four volume treatise, Java, seine Gestalt, Pflanzendecke, und sein innerer Bau (Images of Light and Shadow from Java’s interior) was released anonymously between 1850 and 1854. The work was controversial, advocating socialism in the colonies and fiercely criticizing Christian and Islamic proselytization of the Javanese people.

Dr Seuss on Java

“The work was banned in Austria and parts of Germany for its “denigrations and vilifications of Christianity”, but was a strong seller in Holland where it was first published pseudonymously. It was also popular in colonial Indonesia, despite opposition from the Dutch Christian Church there. The publisher of the first volume, Jacobus Hazenberg, refused to continue his association with the work; the remaining four were published by the outspoken liberal, Frans Günst, from volume three as installments (from October 1, 1855) of the newly founded journal for freethinkers, De Dageraad (Dawn).” #wikipedia

Day trips from Jakarta

“Now all this misery is repeated thousands and thousands of times, year in year out. For this, then, are these turtles born. For what offence must they suffer this agony? What is the point of this whole scene of horror? The only answer is that the will-to-live thus objectifies itself. (Ecological Thoughts: Schopenhauer, JM Coetzee and Who We are in the World by Laurence Wright

Javanese femininity

Needless to say, our only response to such an enormous body of illumination, experience, and will to live is “Pak — itu jamur apa, pak? [Sir, but what type of mushrooms ?]”