With a Straight Face

‘All the regulations of mankind are turned to the end that the intense sensation of life may be lost in continual distractions.’

Untimely Meditations, Friedrich Nietzsche

‘In Reich’s view, such traits as rigid politeness, evasiveness, apprehensiveness, and arrogance had originally developed in childhood as a way of warding off strong emotional stimuli from within or without, stimuli once associated with pain, frustration, and guilt.’

Fury on Earth, Myron Sharaf

‘These were the most expressive, most fully human faces I have ever seen. They made me feel pity and shame for the cosmetic, contrived, acquisitive, vain, uniform, despairing and empty faces that are familiar even among the elderly in the cities of the West. Every conceivable emotion was etched into the faces of the Anaguta as deeply and as harmoniously as the herringbone scarifications that ran symmetrically down each side, from temple to chin. No single emotion or idea dominated; there were no caricatures, no masks.’

In Search of the Primitive, Stanley Diamond

‘See how cruel the whites look, their lips are thin, their noses sharp, their faces furrowed and distorted by folds. Their eyes have a staring expression; they are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something. They are always uneasy and restless. We do not know what they want. We do not understand them. We think that they are all mad.’

Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Carl Jung

‘The man in which genius lives and works is easily distinguished by his gaze; both lively and steadfast, it bears the character of thoughtfulness, of contemplation, as we can see in the portraits of the few faces belonging to the geniuses that nature now and then brings forth among the untold millions: on the other hand, a prying look – the true opposite of contemplation – can be seen in the gazes of other people, when they are not simply dull or commonplace, as they usually are..’

Arthur Schopenhauer

‘At 50, everyone has the face he deserves.’

Extracts from a Manuscript Notebook, George Orwell

‘…the greatest understanding lies in the signature, wherein man may not only learn to know himself, but therein also he may learn to know the essence of all essences; for by the external form of all creatures, by their instigation, inclination and desire, also by their sound, voice, and speech which they utter, the hidden spirit is known.’

The Signature Of All Things, Jacob Boehme

‘If beautiful face have man or woman, always I know is merde. If lawyer or engineer I need, never I choose beautiful face – merde is. I choose monster. He is not spoiled. He study when young, is clever.’

George Gurdjieff

The abnormally delicate and mobile play of his features reflected a soul of extremely emotional and unusually delicate sensibility.

Steppenwolf, Herman Hesse

…one might call the faces at a large assembly of people a history of the human soul written in a kind of Chinese ideograms. As the magnet arranges iron filings, so the soul arranges around itself the facial features, and the difference in the situation of these features is determined by the differences in that which has given them this situation. The longer one observes faces the more one will perceive in so-called commonplace faces things the make them individual.

Georg Lichtenberg


Two nights ago I came across this gif…

Then yesterday morning I watched an interview with a Tory-party candidate talking about her support for Teresa May and the difficulties of a disappointing election. Look into her eyes, if you dare…

Putting aside the fact that this woman is talking about politics (and not, say, discovering a small dinosaur in her sink cupboard), something has clearly happened to her face since she was six months old when, presumably, it was forming shapes similar to the little chap above. What could it be?

Firstly, consciousness is expressed in intensity of expression, but intensity doesn’t mean intense or violent concentration. When the baby expresses surprise and horror the whole face is involved, all the muscles around the eyes, the cheeks and the mouth, even the shoulders and the rest of the body. Secondly, consciousness is expressed in range of expression. The baby’s face goes through five or six subtle shades of meaning in the space of a few seconds. The Tory MP expressed one unmeaning for the whole interview.

As Wilhelm Reich pointed out, intensity and range of consciousness are a threat to an unconscious world and, through an extraordinarily subtle and sophisticated programme of lifelong brainwashing, relentlessly punished. At the same time concentration (aka self — ‘what I like,’ ‘who I am,’ etc.) is rewarded. Result: the face is sucked of expressiveness and mobility — what we call character. Facial expression (like tone of voice) becomes fixed, intense and monotone and the muscles of the face — and even, over time, the bones — slowly form into a stiff caricature, or mask.

seventy years of self

The reason why many people find it hard to read faces — and why they hire, fuck, believe or elect fools, cowards and psychopaths — is for the simple reason that they do not pay attention to them. And by ‘do not pay attention’ I mean ‘are not conscious’, which is to say; are slowly building masks of their own.

My philosophy of all and everything, Self and Unself, includes an extended meditation on physiognomy, or ‘the face of the world’ and how it is enigmatically one with character.