Prelude Theory I

Annotation of Theories I: The Proustian Equation and Revelation

            The first section of MHT is primarily focused on exploring the theories relating to the Proustian Equation, which I have simplified as X = ∞ . The main components of the Equation are listed below; I will expand upon them throughout this section:

  • TIME
            • Of an OBJECT – attainment leads to HABIT
            • Of another MOBILE SUBJECT – impossible
      • HABIT
        • Periods of Abandonment
          • Access to full faculties
            • Can incite or be incited by Revelation
    • MEMORY
      • Subject to the Laws of Habit
        • Voluntary
        • Involuntary
          • Evocation
          • Leads to Revelation
    • Extratemporal sensory experience
    • Negation of time = the negation of death
      • “Lost Time” – outside of measured time and space (liminoid)
        • “Time Regained” = Death regained
          • Return to measured liminal time and space.

This annotation is organized similarly to the previous section in the following format:


“Quote(s) from Beckett Essay, if necessary, to further clarify the meaning or contextualize the subsequently defined components, which are indicated in bold.”

My (often translative) notes and comments on the theories in the essay.

            Questions or points of clarity to pursue, likely via whiteboard charts.


“The Proustian Equation is never simple.”

Beckett insists upon the complexity of this equation; I immediately insist on simplifying it.

“The unknown, choosing its weapon from a hoard of values, is also the unknowable”

An equation has two sides – thus, one side (the unknown) can be expressed as infinity. Moreover, basic algebraic equations prompt you to solve for X – and while one side is this infinite unknown value, I am expressing it as infinity. What then, is X? Potentially, X is a constant with ∞ as the variable, but if X is an expression of or perception of the self, we will later find that X is also a variable as we are constantly deformed mobile subjects (see 18.2, 19.1; 20.2). Something known (i.e. the unknown) implies a being with the ability to know, to be aware, to perceive. So, X = ∞ , in which X is human perception and ∞ is all we have not yet, or simply cannot, perceive. Additionally, or perhaps alternatively, ∞ = is Time, or the knowledge or awareness of Time (or is expressed through time).

“dualism in multiplicity […] spear of Telephus”

∞, (the unknow/n/able) has a dual effect of “damnation” (later related to Habit) and Salvation (i.e. Revelation). The same thing hurts and heals us.


“But he will refuse to extend his submission to spatial scales, he will refuse to measure the length and weight of a man in terms of his body instead of in terms of his years.”

While this section primarily relates to the Proustian Demonstration of mutually inclusive form and content (discussed in the next section), the idea of Spatial versus Durational scales or modes of (constraining) measurement is integral in the discussion of Habit, Suffering of Being, and Memory.


Beings have greater place in or capacity for perception in/of TIME as opposed to in/of SPACE. It is impossible to be in or perceive multiple physical locations, but we can be in or perceive multiple locations in/of time via MEMORY.

What is the relationship between physical space and time?

Does time hold space or does space hold time?

Or are they equal and inclusive, on different axes of same graph/field?

Graph Awareness (point) in relation to the dual axes of an Awareness (read: man) existing in time and space

            Is it Borgesian (i.e. “everything is precisely now”; various futures) – no.

Are these spatial and durational times inclusive of what has not happened in the past (no) or yet to happen in “various futures”? (Borges). – yes, to the future.


“There is no escape from yesterday because yesterday has deformed us or been deformed by us. […] We are other, no longer what we were before the calamity of yesterday.”

There is no escape from TIME or SPACE (except, one will later find, in the rapture of the extratemporal; REVELATION). The Proustian Equation finds simplified clarity by inserting human awareness-of and location-in the equation of the unknown (i.e. X is this human awareness).

It’s not a math problem – this is our actual and consequential phenomenological reality.

We cannot escape from the Time nor Space due to constant DEFORMATION, caused by our movement through physical space and progression forward in durational space. Additionally, we are not cumulative beings – we are new and changed beings every day, we are adaptations of our successive selves (thus, if X is human awareness, X is not a constant; it is a variable, rendering each value in X = ∞ a variable, and therefore ultimately unknowable as we progress through time and space).

“The aspirations of yesterday were valid for yesterday’s ego, not for today’s. We are disappointed at the nullity of what we are pleased to call attainment.”

ASPIRATION: pursuit of desired object (i.e. something outside of oneself); ATTAINMENTis rendered impossible by DEFORMATION, as the subject is constantly in flux; however, Beckett goes on to say that the impossibility of attainment does not have impact on the subject in flux, as a deformed subject does not retain previous aspirations. When attainment is realized by chance,

18.2 (continued) (Aspiration and Attainment Continued)

the subject views the impossibility of attainment instead as the inevitability of attainment (i.e. absolute, guaranteed), preventing apperception of their own malleability and deformation in/by time and space. Perceived inevitability of attainment creates a false certainty in the Proustian Equation, which becomes manifest in HABIT, disallowing REVELATION.


As this perceived inevitability of attainment is false, VOLUNTARY MEMORY elicits false and superficial EVOCATIONS (read: intentionally recalling impressions; what happens when you experience these intentional impressions). Beckett tables this discussion of to 27.2.


TIME, i.e. durational space, is changed and marked by us as we pass through it; we see the form of past time via how we have deformed it, and this (de)form is located within our memories. Since we have yet to pass through future time, it has no observable material qualities in physical space nor in our memories. Abstract future time, an unknown, is unknowable and therefore unperceivable; when given “any temporal specification” (i.e. a concrete, measured time or date), it becomes tangible and therefore knowable, even if not definite. Beckett says we have an acute awareness of semi-definite futures via anticipation of what could happen, which weakens our awareness of what has already happened to us.


            “The observer affects the observed with his own mobility.”

Beckett further asserts that attainment is impossible via an uncited extension Schopenhauer’s theory that “the entire world is only object in relation to its subject, to perception; that is, phenomenon, or idea, subjectively perceived, no object without its subject” (Ackerly and Gontarski 509). Beckett states that there are no ideal objects as they are all deformed by our subjectivity; additionally, attainment is especially impossible when the object of our desire is another mobile subject (i.e. independent human being). MEMORY and HABIT are mechanisms which point to the wisdom of the person (i.e. have they solved or not solved the equation; are they aware that any and all attainment is impossible) who applies them.


HABIT is paralysis in a lack of awareness and apperception; habit subdues non-essential perception, limiting our sensory experience of physical and durational space; habit carries over into each successive self after deformation day after day. Habit, with these qualities of blissful ignorance, gives us a false certainty of ourselves in physical and durational space. ABANDONMENT (of habit) can occur in the transition from formed to deformed / adapted subject, when the subject is faced with the reality of an unknown becoming known (which habit usually does not allow, nor does it prepare us to confront).

20.3/21 (continued)

From these moments of abandonment can arise THE SUFFERING OF BEING, during which, while an unknown is becoming known, our cerebral and visceral senses fully engage in this confrontation with Habit (or perhaps, false certainty of self and the world around you) as it attempts to “reduce to the condition of a comfortable and familiar concept.”


Sometimes, Habit wins immediately; “the creature of habit turns aside from the object that cannot be made to correspond with one or other of his intellectual prejudices, that resists the propositions of his team of syntheses, organized by Habit on labour-saving principles”. In other words, we cannot physically, mentally, nor emotionally sustain a state of suffering (indicated by the inference of pain); usually we avoid states of suffering altogether.


“[…] Habit has transformed the individual capable of suffering into a stranger for whom the motives of that suffering are an idle tale, when not only the objects of his affect have vanished, but also that affection itself […].”

When brief Suffering is strong enough to defeat a former Habit, this new mode of being will eventually normalize and become new Habit. Our senses and awareness will atrophy.


Beckett infers that the Suffering of Being is a “victory over time” (i.e. when measured habitual time is lost), and that the eventual return to habit (or the formation of new habit after suffering) is a “victory of time” (i.e. time regains measurement; the subject re-enters measured time).


“The most successful evocative experiment can only project the echo of a past sensation, because, being an act of intellection, it is conditioned by the prejudices of the intelligence which abstracts from any given sensation […] a discordant and frivolous intruder.”

Voluntary memory yield false evocations; only involuntary memories (which occur “by accident”, usually as a result of phenomenological experiences which confront and destroy habit) yield evocations in which “the central impression of a past sensation recurs as an immediate stimulus.” Measured (i.e. restricted) physical and durational space disappear during an involuntary memory, and the subject cerebrally and viscerally experiences the past and the present simultaneously. Beckett also says that these “past sensations” can only be experienced in this way through involuntary memory if they have been forgotten, rendering them an intensely pure and new experience.


Beckett identifies the phenomena that incite involuntary memory do so through unconscious associations of sensory experiences located (lost) in measured time and space.


Beckett states that if involuntary memory, “at once an evocation and a direct perception”, is extemporal (outside of time), so is the subject experiencing the involuntary memory. This extratemporality of being equates to the Proustian Solution, or, Proustian REVELATION, in which, for a real moment, the subject exists outside of a reality in which death is possible (i.e. outside of measured physical and durational space – “lost time”). However, this Revelation, occurs alongside or produces Suffering, and is therefore not sustainable in real (measured) physical and durational space, and Time (and therefore Death) is regained.

The Proustian Equation and Solution is stated in the following simplification:

X = ∞ in which X (the successive, constantly adaptive subject) is an unfixed variable, and therefore unknown. ∞ is the unknown and also unknowable.

When either X or ∞ transforms from a variable to a constant, when it becomes known (or possible to be known) through apperception and awareness via Suffering, the other variable is also rendered known.

The transition from being unknown to known is actually a negation of self and of time (t), in the sense that a negative multiplied by a negative is a positive. What is specifically negated is the measurement (and therefore limitation of) the self in physical and durational space, therefore we “lose time” in Revelation. This negation can be expressed as X x – t = ∞ x – t, or –tX = –t∞. It is these instances of extratemporal awareness in which Death (d) is impossible and we are truly alive, or, –tX = –t∞ = –d.

Therefore, the full statement of the original Proustian Equation (of which the solution is found via Suffering and Revelation) is X = ∞ = d. Fully stated, the successively deformed subject without perception of its total self in time and space is condemned to a constant state of insignificance, of nullification, of death. This nullification, underlined by Beckett in his assertion of the inevitable return to Habit, can be expressed as X = ∞ = d = 0. This is a nihilistic proof that even when we solve the equation via what may be more accurately defined as the Beckettian Revelation: –tX = –t∞ = –d = –0 = 0, or, nothing can only be, and will always be, nothing.