22 March 2008

The Hermetical Phantom

As a civilization, Egypt no longer existed, and for the Europeans it was not yet a land for future conquest. Ignored in its geopolitical inconsistency, it became a Hermetical phantom. In this role it could be identified as the spiritual ancestor of the Christian West, the progenitor of the occident's patrimony of mystic wisdom. China, by contrast, was no phantom but a tangible Other. It was concretely there, still a political force of respectable dimensions, still a culture alternative to that of the West. ... The Americas, by contrast, were designated as the land of conquest; here there would be no compromise with idolaters and their low-grade species of writing: the idolaters were to be converted, and every trace of their original culture, irredeemably polluted with diabolic influences, was to be wiped away.
- Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, p. 161

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