22 Jan 2009

Tempestuous Intensities: Pent-Up Raging Winds of Aeolus in Bergson's Tense Body

by Corry Shores
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(Delacroix. Winter: Juno and Aeolus)

In Time and Free Will (Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience), Bergson writes:

We picture to our minds a psychic force imprisoned in the soul like the winds in the cave of Aeolus, and only waiting for an opportunity to burst forth: our will is supposed to watch over this force and from time to time to open a passage for it, regulating the outflow by the effect which it is desired to produce. (20-21)

Il nous semble que la force psychique, emprisonnée dans l'âme comme les vents dans l'antre d'Éole, y attende seulement une occasion de s'élancer dehors; la volonté surveillerait cette force, et, de temps à autre , lui ouvrirait une issue, proportionnant l'écoulement à l'effet désiré. (15d)

Aeolus, King of the Winds, kept guard over windstorms imprisoned in the caves of a mountain, to be unleashed at the gods' command.

From Ovid's Metamorphosis Book I:

Now Aeolus had with strong chains confin'd,  
And deep imprison'd e'vry blust'ring wind.

From Vigil's Aeneid:

Such thoughts revolving in her fiery mind,

Straightway the Goddess to AEolia passed,

The storm-clouds' birthplace, big with blustering wind.

Here AEolus within a dungeon vast

The sounding tempest and the struggling blast

Bends to his sway and bridles them with chains.

They, in the rock reverberant held fast,

Moan at the doors. Here, throned aloft, he reigns;

His sceptre calms their rage, their violence restrains:

IX. Else earth and sea and all the firmament

The winds together through the void would sweep.

But, fearing this, the Sire omnipotent

Hath buried them in caverns dark and deep,

And o'er them piled huge mountains in a heap,

And set withal a monarch, there to reign,

By compact taught at his command to keep

Strict watch, and tighten or relax the rein.

Him now Saturnia sought, and thus in lowly strain.

Bergson uses this potent metaphor to illustrate the theory that the physical activities of our muscles are driven by psychic forces.

(Boucher Juno Commanding Aeolus to Release the Storm Winds)

Images from the relevant Bergson pages, in the English Translation [click on the image for an enlargement]:

Images from the relevant Bergson pages, in the original French [click on the image for an enlargement]:

Bergson, Henri. Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness, Transl. F. L. Pogson, (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2001).

Available online at:


French text from:

Bergson, Henri. Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience. Originally published Paris: Les Presses universitaires de France, 1888.


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Vigil. Aeneid. 
Available online at:

Ovid. Metamorphoses.
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See also:

Delacroix. Winter: Juno and Aeolus.
Image from:

Boucher. Juno Commanding Aeolus to Release the Storm Winds.
Image from:

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