Sunday, April 20, 2014

Carl Jung: In Defense and Critique

Mandala on display at the
Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Much has been said about Carl Jung over the years, and despite the fact that many now in psychiatry and even some therapists seem to find him irrelevant, the amount that has been written about his ideas belies this claim. So much as is possible in a short article, I would like to consider both his contribution as well as provide a possible critique of some of his thought. Through that I hope to highlight the value of relating to symbols as psychological facts.

I think it best to begin with a psychological event that Jung himself considered important enough to mention in at least two of his published works. (Man and His Symbols and Memories, Dreams and Reflections.) This was a reoccurring dream he apparently had for some time, and we might turn some of his own approach toward it, though not nearly as thoroughly as there is only one point I'm looking to get at, rather than building an individual's personal mythology- which is the means by which Jungian psychology can effectively get its teeth as something more psychological and less merely analytic.
 I was in a house that I did not know,which had two stories. It was "My House". I found myself in the upper story, where there was a kind of salon furnished with fine old pieces in rococo style. On the walls hung a number of precious old paintings. I wondered that this should be my house, and thought , "Not bad". But then it occurred to me that I did not know what the lower floor looked like. Descending the stairs, I reached the ground floor. There everything was much older, and I realized that this part of the house must must date from about the fifteenth or sixteenth century. The furnishing were medieval; the floors were of red brick. Everywhere it was rather dark. I went from one room to another, thinking, "now I really must explore the whole house". I came upon a heavy door, and opened it. Beyond it, I discovered layers of brick among the ordinary stone blocks, and chips of brick in the mortar. As soon as I saw this I knew that the walls dated from Roman times. My interest was by now intense. I looked more closely at the floor. It was of stone slabs, and in one of these I discovered a ring. When I pulled it, the stone slab lifted, and I again I saw a stairway of narrow stone steps leading down into the depths. These, too, I descended, and entered a low cave cut into the rock. Thick dust lay on the floor, and in the dust were scattered bones and broken pottery, like remains of a primitive culture. I discovered two broken skulls, obviously very old and half disintegrated. Then I awoke.
In this dream, the house is built up in layers, a level and room atop the next, and it later occurred to him that these showed an ideological history which shaped his thought to that point, but in which he was also an active participant -- the basement was built upon by the first floor, and so on, just as the "primitive" world was, according to this narrative, proceeded by the dark ages and Christian eras that were quickly losing power by the late 1800s.

To his thinking, this dream demonstrated the way that what he calls the collective unconscious overlaps the personal one, or perhaps, how it is all a progressive shade of grey without a single defining line, save the ones we bring.
We can at this point move away from his own interpretation to consider it in its own context. This specific history he is referring to is in fact quite telling, as it is the history of western "progress," or even of the Enlightenment most specifically. A linear history, as presented within a worldview or ideology such as the Enlightenment, is also a narrative. In fact, in literary analysis, the basis of narrative is generally understood as just that: the arrangement of a collection of facts in a particular order. From the choices made in terms of which pieces to value, and in what order they are presented, ones authorship is defined.  The very idea these epochs are built one atop the other, and that it should be arranged in such and such a way, is a symptom of that Enlightenment desire to hang Foucault's pendulum in the center of the city of ones birth, and arrange the whole world round that psychological center.

Friday, April 04, 2014

The Fallen Cycle -- Writing Hiatus

Over the past six months I've been doing research and note taking, and looking over the narrative work I've done through Mythos Media. Several years back I made the decision to release pieces of a larger puzzle one piece at a time -- serialization, in other words -- but I've come to the conclusion that this isn't the best way to present this material to you. I want to have the entire codex before I release the breadcrumbs.

The working title for the trilogy is the Fallen Cycle, and some of the inspiration for it goes all the way back to when I started writing. It's taken me this long to build the chops to even hope to come close. As presently planned it comprises three books: Party At The World's End, Tales From When I Had A Face, and Center of the Spiral. Although the latter two include arcs written in sequential (comic) format, so they may wind up being broken up differently by the end. I continue to share snippets in progress at Tales From When I Had A Face.

So I have been pulling the projects I intend to reprise or slash from Amazon, and will continue working with all the energy I have to put together a series that lives up to my notes and plans, an urban fantasy / magical realism series that draws heavily on past myths but also has enough original symbol and 'meat' to hang on those bones.

This may take a while -- so bear with me. Pick up one of the nonfiction books if you're looking for something to sink your teeth into in the meantime. And if you're a publisher or agent that releases this kind of material, feel free to contact me before I begin the real submission process. That'd be a first, I know, but a writer can dream.

I'll leave you with a bit of rough draft from the Party At The World's End intro:

She went down beyond the mountains and disappeared between the crease of sky and land, like a great eyelid folding shut. No one knows what happened out in the Black Hills, but I imagine she lies buried in a rusty coffin under the stars. And on nights when the desert crickets sing her tune, one day she will rise again. On that day, there will is no telling the kind of vengeance she'll demand of us. Fair is fair. 

She rubbed the skin off your headstone of a sternum and painted a sad picture of herself in your eyes. 
I love you, they said, meaning nothing more than cricket song and the thirsty moon over a spot of bloody ground. Those weren’t the nothings we knew: no place no home no song. We heard her song and we followed.  

I know what you were asking us, even if you don't. Lover, why must you deceive me with those eyes; lie with laughing; obfuscate the obviousEverything is already written. You are you, I am I, unyieldingly ourselves, blindly certain only of ourselves, giving way to the inevitable: we two will die. Time is laid out before us, clean and bare, whole. It fools us into thinking we are free. Time, erotic in its blank submission, a body that needs you to fulfill its desires, and write your life story on its flesh. We must act, we must fight, we must scuttle in the dirt to appease that body. Life demands a performance. But we have foresight. Unlike those pill bugs you once told me of, your first memoryin the garden dirt to your knees and elbows, the insects squirming about you. The only difference between their struggle and our own: I've never seen a pill bug give up. So don't deceive me with those lips and hands, with that smile that hasn't changed since you were four because it alwaysalways!got you what you wanted. That is the great lie, that in losing ourselves in one another we are free.  

They say when she fell from Heaven she wore a crown of jagged stars that slit the skies throat. They say say loved them all, in the secret corner of their shallow sleep. Like her grave, all nameless, all loveless. Strangers, at the last. They say a lot of things. They’re all lies. Everything is already written.





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The Hope We Seek (review)


The Hope We SeekThe Hope We Seek by Rich Shapero
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It was an interesting coincidence that the publisher for "The Hope We Seek" offered an ARC right around the time when my general research was leading me back to the history and myth of the American West. This book fits very soundly within the current, as it is essentially an exploration of those symbols--mining, in some sense, for an American myth, rather than gold.

The prose is at its best when it describes the land itself as an outpouring of the human spirit; at times the craft actually reaches the sublime that the author is clearly reaching for throughout. However, the flip side of this is that at times it feels as though we aren't so much coming along on the journey as watching someone else's religious experience from afar. That goes a way toward saying that my experience of the book is that it isn't nearly as gripping or even interesting as it is good -- and this raises a big question for me of what "good" even means, in this context.

But that question will have to wait for another day. I applaud the effort invested in plumbing the shared psychological history of hope and loss which represents not only the best and worst of the West, but also all of our own personal journeys. That it doesn't seem to speak to the heart as much as it seeks, however earnest the effort seems, is the only flaw in what might otherwise be a five star effort.

View all my reviews

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Coyote Llixgrijb


Llixgrijb 

“I was just thinking,” said Coyote/Llixgrijb, “that maybe I’ve chosen the wrong realm to live in altogether. I created this physical, temporal realm, and put Brillig in it to experience it for me. But, really, all this physicality spells nothing but trouble. It seems that suffering, ignorance, and mortality are the only things that hold the temporal realm together. It leads to more grief than gratis.”
“Indeed,” said Wolf. “Buddha taught us that suffering and sacrifice are key ingredients in this realm.”
“Then why stick around? I believe I’ll scrap the whole thing and move on to the mythic realm—the world of flow, of determinacy. A world without surprises. I like the sound of that.”
“So are you contemplating destroying our world altogether?”
“What do you think?”
“Be careful, my friend,” said Wolf. “If you try to scrap this world, you may find the mythic world extremely boring. There will be no meaning or purpose to it, without information from our temporal realm leaking into it. The mythic world is only important because of the physical world, and the physical world is only important because of the mythic world. Here, at least, you get to experience the heroic myth of the mystic experience, because death is real here.”
Coyote/Llixgrijb grinned at him. “You’re trying to scare me out of it, aren’t you?”
“Besides,” continued Wolf, “getting rid of either realm would prove rather difficult. Dividing the mythic from the physical or the temporal is like cutting a magnet in two; the pieces will divide into physical or mythic wherever you make the cut. It’s either both realms, or nothing. It’s a cosmic/mythic complementarity. You must have both to have your dream.”
“I think you’re bluffing,” said Coyote/Llixgrijb.
—physicist Fred Alan Wolf in conversation with Llixgrijb, 
from The Jamais Vu Papers newsletter and book by Wim Coleman and Pat Perrin.  
Reprinted in Jamais Vu Views along with additional material.

Now Llixgrijb has entered into our own mythology. Here’s how that came about.
By the time we’d published a few issues of The Jamais Vu Papers newsletter, we’d talked with several brilliant and open-minded people, posing nosy questions about the nature of reality, Story, and just what we think we’re doing in this tangle of phenomena that we call a universe.    
Then an entity named Llixgrijb turned up in our story.
We thought we were making him up.
We were wrong.
Here’s the premise:
Living in a reality of which we know nothing, an entity named Llixgrijb becomes trapped alone in an extra-dimensional cave-in. The entity is faced with the inexorable prospect of untold purgatorial eternities of infinite loneliness and boredom. What would you do if you were Llixgrijb? We ventured a guess:
“You’d create worlds in your imagination, worlds within yourself. You’d create universes with exotic dimensions no one ever dreamed of before. You’d become strange creatures, and share the company of other such creatures. You’d try to make these realms and beings so real you could completely forget the horror and boredom of your real situation.”
So Llixgrijb created a world—our world, in fact. Real though we may imagine ourselves to be, we are nothing but intricately flawed manifestations of Llixgrijb’s imagination. Our reality worked out nicely for Llixgrijb—an entertaining distraction from its cosmic plight. But Llixgrijb had one worry. The entity knew that if any one of us illusory mortals should become aware of its existence, the splendid fantasy would vanish. So how could Llixgrijb keep this from happening?
The answer was so obvious that you’ve probably guessed it already:
“It created a character so obtuse, so unimaginative, so dull and mechanistic that it could never figure out its own true dilemma.”
That’s right—Llixgrijb had to incarnate in the form of a college English instructor. Thus was created Llixgrijb’s alter-ego, Professor Joseph Xavier Brillig, the most thickheaded academic in the histories of a bazillion universes. Having no idea of his true identity, Brillig joined our cast of characters.
We were a little worried about Llixgrijb. Was the whole idea too silly for reader consumption? Would our newsletter be scoffed out of existence? Or to the contrary, might the very concept of Llixgrijb put reality itself in perpetual danger of unraveling?
It seems that the latter was the case. We started getting the message when Wim visited physicist Fred Alan Wolf, hoping to interview him for the newsletter. Wim warily started telling Wolf all about Llixgrijb, bracing himself for a reaction of impolite incredulity.
“Oh, you don’t have to tell me about Llixgrijb,” Wolf said. “I’ve known Llixgrijb for years. Let me tell you all about Llixgrijb.”
The National Book Award-winning physicist then went on to describe Llixgrijb in intimate detail. Thus was confirmed the independent reality of a creature we thought we’d invented.
Llixgrijb escaped from the story. It wandered away and remains at large today. Decades after we first created (or discovered?) the entity who dreams our reality into being, Llixgrijb continues to crop up in the infoworld. We’ve come across Llixgrijb …
If you google Llixgrib, you’ll get about 12,000 results. Some are quotes, usually (but not always) attributed to The Jamais Vu Papers, and sometimes translated into various other languages. Many are said to be posts by Llixgrijb, who apparently speaks Russian and a bevy of other languages as well as English and lives in various parts of the world. Here are just a few Llixgrijb links:
offering to be a pen pal
playing music
playing chess
tweeting
lurking
The lesson is this: Never underestimate the power of Story to alter the nature of reality. Alas, the lesson came with dire consequences. With so many mortals aware of Llixgrijb’s existence, how can our reality—time, space, matter, energy, mortal consciousness, the whole enchilada—continue to exist? Llixgrijb might zap us out of existence at any second.
Indeed, that outcome seems all too probable …
… perhaps even inevitable.


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Friday, February 28, 2014

SACRED GEOMETRY AND ALCHEMICAL TRANSFORMATION: THE MYSTERY OF SQUARING THE CIRCLE



Hosted by Scott Olsen and (Modern Mythology contributor) David Metcalfe
5 Sessions, Starts March 5


Explore the geometry of the ancients, and revive integral theories and practices that open you to a wider vision of reality.

The harmony of the universe is demonstrated in the mystery of the squared circle -- which has been a core tenet of sacred geometry throughout the ages. You can find the squared circle encoded in pyramids, temples, tombs, cathedrals, and as Leonardo da Vinci famously demonstrated, in the canons of human proportion. Once you look for it, you’ll see the squared circle everywhere.

  • What ancient mysteries does the squared circle reveal, and how can you apply this knowledge in your daily life? 
  • How can the squared circle help you become more conscious of the natural mathematical order that surrounds us? 
  • How can awareness of the squared circle transform your consciousness?

Join The Course


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Beauty Under The Knife: Cultural and Personal Standards



By now, you have probably heard some of the outsider outrage, confusion and consternation. "Everyone in Korea wants the same face!"
It seems, pardon the pun, cut and dry, but as you'll see it is anything but. Any cultural slant might be laid bare through similar scrutiny, so beware: those publications that seem to want to the headline to read "Dumb Asians All Want to Look The Same" are incapable of seeing their own cultural bias. We are all, in a sense, blind to ourselves.
Let's try to open our eyes a little. I want to look at this, leading off with one of the better articles I've found on this phenomenon, 
"There's a real problem when you make generalizations about a whole country full of women, that they're all culturally duped," Hejiin Lee said in an interview. "There are certain economic situations happening in Korea and America that might impel different choices. We -- Americans -- might not see plastic surgery on the same level here that we see in Korea. But we do see people looking to the consumer market for help in their personal lives. Weigh that through an economic framework, and it's what you're seeing in Korea today." (Atlantic)
The racist stereotype of looking the same may have little bearing in this case -- rather it seems more a matter of shooting for the same standard of beauty. But why should so many people in a culture feel there is something wrong with them to begin with? Is this some kind of nascent, cultural illness?
We are want to react against that. I know my first reaction was to think how sad it is that perfectly beautiful, "normal" people look at themselves like the elephant man and want to get fairly intrusive surgery to meet the ideal in their head.
But hold on a second. Those feelings shift quite a bit when they are applied to those who feel their sex doesn't match the gender in their head. Rightfully so, I think, a recent author on Reality Sandwich who didn't feel there was any difference had been called out for her ignorance. 
 Yet there is a single thing she may have been correct about: they are nearly the same. Someone feels that their physical self does not match their internal self, and they want to take what measures are available to right that. The issue is the moralizing. The judging from the outside. Someone that isn't trans, isn't even close to those issues, wants to tell people who are that they're wrong? What gives her the right. 
Isn't that what we're doing when I, neither Korean nor female, want to say such desires are sick? 
Well. Now we aren't quite so fixed in our surety, at least for those of us that are unwilling to throw the Trans- community under the bus as well. Perhaps we can glean un-generalization, albeit unproven, from this tangle: while Westerners oftentimes want to stand out from the crowd, there may be a cultural pressure in Asian cultures to be at one with the crowd. To be the crowd. I can't say for sure, but I think there might be something to that. (Not that either perspective is "right" or "wrong," those labels hardly apply. They are simply different reactions to the problems that face us in the course of being human. As all culture is.)
One thing seems for certain: we have no right to call it wrong. Is it lest our own cultural peculiarities get similar judgement? No. It is because if there is one thing we should all support, it is the intrinsic freedom of an individual to make such decisions for themselves, as we as outsiders cannot, will not ever know their internal experience.
But yet again we must hold off on such certainty. There is a deeper side to this issue -- which I can't hope to truly explore in a short post, though damnit I'll try anyway -- an issue that complicates the idea of personal freedom. You might get an inkling of what I mean from the following quotation,
"A global ideal doesn't stop at the face, says dental surgeon Jung Hak. Dr Jung says he's been fighting a trend. Korean mothers who have been bringing in their toddlers to have the muscle under the tongue that connects it to the bottom of the mouth surgically snipped.
The belief, explains Dr Jung, is that it will help a Korean speak English more clearly. People from the Asia Pacific region have difficulty in pronouncing the "L" sound, says Dr Jung. But he calls the surgery, if it's only for pronunciation, misguided, and caused by the hyper-competitive drive in Korea."
In other words, where is the line between a person's freedom to choose, and the cultural pressures that influence that decision? And where does it lie when we're talking about performing such surgery on children too young to decide for themselves, cultural pressure aside? 
Such questions are essential to get a grips on the topic; but in a practical sense, there is little hope for legislation to single-handedly correct the way many Koreans are socially pressured to be "white," in the sense that white does not so much refer to a historic or actual people but rather to the myth of whiteness which represents beauty, wealth, and all that is desirable. (After all many Irish have historically know how possible it is for their whiteness to actually confer none of these supposed privileges of whiteness.) 
In any event, legislation aimed at correcting our behavior by making us act in our own best interest almost always damaged what it seeks to most aid: our increased freedom and well-being.
For if we ourselves cannot say what that is, no one can. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Retrospective




  • Where do you create?
  • Do you live there or just visit sometimes?
  • How important is creating art to your identity?

Pardon me if I have to cut a somewhat circumambulatory route to cut to the heart of this question, as the nature of such questions and answers are always labyrinths, and the process of hammering them into a straight line always takes something away.

All we can really talk about honestly is ourselves, so at least I can be honest. I’d really like to hear how others of you answer these questions, though. Feel free to comment or PM.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Happens All The Time

“Happens all the time,” says Coyote.
“That’s what myths do. They happen all the time.”
—Ursula K. Le Guin, Dancing at the Edge of the World

"Caan sees a ruined city, empty of human souls.
Many of the temples and palaces are crumbling and
half-consumed by the encroaching, low-lying jungle.
Some have been reduced to piles of rubble as serpentine
vines tug and pull at loose boulders and stones."
(Photo from Uxmal, quote from Mayan Interface.)
Researching a novel rooted in Maya culture, we attended a workshop on glyphs, visited the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula, and read every authoritative book we could get our hands on. We also studied Mayan storytelling. Especially fascinating was Allan F. Burns’s 1983 collection, An Epoch of Miracles: Oral Literature of the Yucatec Maya. The stories that Burns brings together are a crazy quilt collage of old and new, traditional and contemporary, fictional and true. Incongruity reigns as Christianity collides with Mayan myth and religion, and as worldly personae mingle with the mythic and the holy—for example, Jesucristo, “Beautiful Woman Honored María,” and “Wonderful True God” turn up in the same tale as Richard Nixon.

In Burns’s book, we noticed that a Yucatec tale never seems to take place in time at all. One notably haunting story tells of a Mayan hunter who slays a magical deer belonging to the Master of the Deer. The hunter perishes because of his hubris, and at the end of the tale the storyteller emphatically says,
WHEN I PASSED BY, HIS FUNERAL WAS IN PROGRESS.
We almost get the feeling of having glimpsed that funeral going by.

Maybe we did …

… or do …

… or shall.

Verb tenses in a Mayan story float freely between past and present. Perhaps all stories actually happen in the times of their telling, verb tense notwithstanding. After all, myths happen all the time. And strictly speaking, myths aren’t really told at all, but shared. Burns writes,
In Yucatec Mayan, it is not possible to say “tell me a story.” Instead, the only way to bring a story into verbal expression is to ask someone to “converse” a story with you.
In his introduction to Burns’s book, Dennis Tedlock explains further:
For the Yucatec Maya, even an asymmetrical genre such as narrative formally requires performance not only by “the person who knows the stories” but by “the person who knows how to answer,” the latter being much more than a mere member of an audience.
Or as the protagonist of our novel, Lydia Rosenstrom, puts it,
All speech is dialogue to the Maya.
A timely concept when so much visual art and theatre (to say nothing of subatomic waves and particles, and cats in Schrödinger’s boxes) require the participation of the viewer. And if Harold Bloom regards something as comparatively tame as poetry slams “the death of art,” what on earth will he say if Maya-style storytelling finds its way into our bars and cafes?

We took up this conversational concept of storytelling in our book, modeling whole chapters on the Mayan oral tradition. And we hope the conversation continues after the book has been read, passing on to other people. In every story we write, we’re not interested in imparting truths so much as in prompting questions, getting dialogues going, and generally stirring the hot, tasty, and variegated stew of evolutionary possibilities.

Mayan Interface is a genre story, a thriller that plunges into reality-shifting mythology and the consciousness-shifting theories of Julian Jaynes. Here’s the beginning of a chapter in which current-day Mayans and a Mexican guest converse a story. You can read the entire chapter as it was reprinted in SOL: English Writing in Mexicohere.
The three people all understood their parts perfectly. As the principal storyteller, Nacho would do most of the talking. As his designated respondent, César knew the story, too, and would prod the narrative along with questions and comments. As for Julio, he knew better than to commit the unspeakable rudeness of keeping utterly silent during Nacho’s tale. He, too, would make his voice heard in small but crucial ways as the story unfolded …

NACHO: We’re going to converse right now
of a story of very long ago,
of a time before time,
of a time before the Epoch of Miracles, even.
We’re going to converse of two Spirits:
The Spirit of San Juan Bautista,
and the Spirit of Mr. Savior Jesucristo.

CÉSAR: But before they came among us.

NACHO: Right, before they joined the human race,
before the Word became Flesh,
back in the time when they were just Spirits,
twin Spirits, Holy Ghosts, haunting the unborn world.
Mr. Savior Jesucristo hadn’t been born as God just yet,
and not as a man, either.
Because there are no people yet, you see?
This is a time before time,
a time before the Epoch of Miracles, even,
so people are just some idea in the mind
of Wonderful Rey de Dios Padre,
who didn’t yet know how to give birth to them.

JULIO: Ah.

NACHO: So they aren’t gods or people, but spirits, these twins,
the Spirits of San Juan Bautista and Mr. Savior Jesucristo,
before they even had the names we know them by today.
NOW …
this story is of the time before time,
before the sun rose for the first time ever,
and of a very dark world awaiting any kind of light,
including stars and the moon.
And the only light there was came from the feathers,
from the bright red plumage of a bird.

CÉSAR: The macaw.…

Wim Coleman and Pat Perrin write books together. They are the authors of The Jamais Vu Papers, an experimental novel that has maintained a following for over two decades. They also wrote the popular thriller Terminal Games, which was discussed by literary critic Kate Hayles in How We Became Posthuman and taught in courses about literature and contemporary culture at several leading universities. Their articles and essays have appeared in various publications, including the Reality Club anthologies Speculations and Creativity.  Pat and Wim met and married in Los Angeles more than 25 years ago. They have lived in several other U.S. cities and in the beautiful historic town of San Miguel de Allende, Gto., Mexico. These days they’re in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Visit them at playsonideas.com.

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Dedicated to a Dead Dog - Further thoughts on the Kali Yuga

Sharp crack in the distance, a man shooting a dog for no other reason than the fact that he'd bred too many.

Earlier in the evening he asked me if I wanted a dog for Christmas. Knowing I couldn't responsibly afford to take care of one I declined. Untrained, but raised unleashed, the dogs he had with him were good dogs, they listened to commands and were well socialized.

When I heard the gun shot I knew that the dog I turned down was dead.

I sat there for a long time, unmoved and unmoving. Up in North Georgia where I often spend time in the woods, I don't even kill scorpions when they come around, I let the spiders build webs where they will, and don't worry too much about what the forest brings forward no matter how inconvenient it is to my sense of security. Facing the death of an intelligent, lively dog that I could have saved by simply opening my door put me face to face with the visceral realities of life and death and the meaning of suffering.

To get angry or sad, would be to forget that every moment there are uncountable deaths from the dissolution of atoms to stars exploding in unseen galaxies. In between there is the insurmountable amount of suffering as conscious beings are torn apart by the ebb and flow of phenomenal existence.

Here in the Georgia night, there was a gun shot in the distance and a dead dog. A man shooting a dog for no other reason than the fact that he'd bred too many.

I just wrote a piece over on Reality Sandwich asking the question, who mourns the coming of the Kali Yuga? Thinking now on that dog, I have tears in my eyes, but I sit above the sense of pain at the pointlessness of it. It's Saturnalia after all, there used to be sacrifices of a much more direct kind, there's official and unofficial wars ripping apart the world right now, and there's a dog on some guy's compost heap...and I mean that literally, one of the folks who has lived in the area for a long time said that the compost heap in a place like that is essentially where everything ends up that doesn't need to go to the dump, dead dogs included.

In writing that Kali Yuga piece Camron Wiltshire, of Sacred Geometry International, asked me what the astrological components of the age are, to tell whether or not this is actually the Kali Yuga. I have no idea. Jeremy Johnson, a Contributing Editor at Reality Sandwich, said that he felt we're already in the Kali Yuga in relation to the title referencing 'the coming' of that age. He pointed out a post on his Tumblr feed with a quote from Mircea Eliade's book, Images and Symbols:
“The syndrome of kali yuga is marked by the fact that it is the only age in which property alone confers social rank; wealth becomes the only motive of virtues, passion and lust the only bonds between the married, falsehood and deception the first condition of success in life, sexuality the sole means of enjoyment, while external, merely ritualstic religion is confused with spirituality. For several thousand years, be it understood, we have been living in kali yuga.”

This is the same sense that Mark Stavish, Director of the Institute for Hermetic Studies, said he references the term to mark the material excess of our age. Stavish pointed out that he has "used the notion of the Kali Yuga as a wake-up call or contrast to the wonderfully seductive ideas of a technological paradise. As for astrology, there are several ideas floating around, and each needs to be addressed in their context. I think one of the easiest and most obvious contradictions is that of the Age of Aquarius being bliss and freedom when it is ruled by Saturn is one of those areas of inconsistency that I try to point people towards. Also the possibility that the world is really turned on its head in terms of values."  Wiltshire, Johnson, Stavish and some others provided conceptual addendums to the piece. Another fellow, Daniel Gill, offered up some sources on a Vietnamese sorcerer whose work he is interested in, and whose philosophies have helped Gill conceptualize his own experiences. A few of the comments the piece received bore a randomness that made them koan like in trying to relate them to what was written, but that's fairly common in digital media.

In all that though, I'm still stuck on the startling crack of a gun shot in the distance, and the memory of a trusting, sweet dog running up to me that's probably now rotting on a heap of garbage waiting for the crows, maggots, ants and vultures to get the hint and strip it down to bone. This world is a complete trap my friends, a complete and utter trap. It's amazing, every second another distraction from the source of all being, even when we try to think about avoiding those distractions we distract ourselves defining the distraction. No avoidance of the 'world' is necessary, I'm not saying stick your head in a hole, but a proper view/practice is. Without it, the subtle seduction of false self and false goals is supremely elusive.

This time of fire and isolation is a beautiful opportunity, the deepest sense of loneliness if used properly is the poison that kills the root of illusion. There's a dead dog on a compost heap slowly moldering to bone and then dust, and that is the best mantra I can think of to meditate on if I want to get to the core of being. Somewhere in the truth of that, much deeper than I know, is the practice of Tantra. It also gives a sense of the alchemical art, that's why all those alchemical recipes have ingredients that are extremely deadly if used improperly.

As an anonymous Italian alchemist pointed out to me once, “people love to forget that Nature does not need us, that she is without space and time, and that her teachings are always actual and a mystery to us.” He also mentioned a very useful point, and he was very kind in how direct he was in providing this clue:
"The Dragon will not easily give access to the entrance of the Palace: it’s guarding a Princess and a Treasure. To be the Knight who may kill the Dragon does not mean to be simply a good man: you must be a real Knight, and a long and appropriate training, a veil, and a vow, should be performed as it was once upon a time.

That’s a real thing. The combat is real. Mother Nature enters your Laboratory, and that’s not to play around with good manners and wordly, nice, New Age mantras. You may risk your real life. Remember that Alchemy is an Art done with your hands, with minerals, in a small Laboratory. Forget those who speak of Self, Enlightenment, Spiritual bodies, Angels in the bedroom, Mystical Visions and so on. These things do of course exists, but not in the form we may think of; they will come in light with time, but after when they will sense that the student is currently walking on the ancient paths. And this may happen only after at least two or three decades of continuous studying, learning how to switch off Ratio and to live life with simplicity, silence, Love and compassion."
As I said in the article on Reality Sandwich, there is no fraud in this if you are truly looking to discover what is hidden in plain sight, if you seek to cheat the ferryman's fee you're still heading straight into the gates of death. Two or three decades of continuous study and practice, and there are no guarantees, yet we want a quick answer, or some conceptual solution that will give us entry to the palace of being. I've been chewing on that alchemists words for nearly 3 years now, and as simple, somewhat silly and obvious as they seem, it may take me a life time more to even begin to enter into what he really means.

Now, however, I have a Christmas gift that I didn't even realize I'd accepted, and I'm dedicated to a dead dog shot by a guy for no other reason than that he bred too many, and that sweet, trusting dog can show me things about nature that I might not have otherwise accepted if I'd tried to conceptualize the pathless path.


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David Metcalfe is a researcher, writer and multimedia artist focusing on the interstices of art, culture, and consciousness. He is a contributing editor for Reality Sandwich, The Revealer, the online journal of NYU’s Center for Religion and Media, and The Daily Grail. He writes regularly for Evolutionary Landscapes, Alarm Magazine, Modern Mythology, Disinfo.com, The Teeming Brain and his own blog The Eyeless Owl. His writing has been featured in The Immanence of Myth (Weaponized 2011), Chromatic: The Crossroads of Color & Music (Alarm Press, 2011) and Exploring the Edge Realms of Consciousness (North Atlantic/Evolver Editions 2012). Metcalfe is an Associate with Phoenix Rising Digital Academy, and is currently co-hosting The Art of Transformations study group with support from the International Alchemy Guild.

In collaboration with Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut, Chair of Catholic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and Liminal Analytics, Metcalfe's most recent efforts have been focused on studying the growing devotional tradition associated with Santa Muerte (Saint Death) in the Americas.


 

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Myths of the Holidays: Who Makes The Krampus Seem Jovial By Comparison?







Krampus by Alexey Andreev
for Nyssa Part 1:
Love Notes To A Stranger
Have you noticed you can’t go far this Christmas season without seeing the krampus, a devil-like consort to Saint Nicholas? All of the sudden, the devilish fellow seems to be everywhere.

But it is far less likely that you have encountered another Christmas-time mythic character, that of Frau Perchta. She makes the Krampus seem amiable to boot.

Perchta asks,"have you been weaving your flax little girl? Have you been good? Are you eating the awful gruel and fish that are to be consumed on my holiday?" If the answer is no, the poor children are disemboweled, and their insides are stuffed with straw and stones. So, you know. Don't mess up. By comparison to the two of them, Saint Nicholas' 'present' of coal seems benign.

We may wonder what the sense is in these dark figures, during a time that we mistakenly assume should be lighthearted and merry. All three of them are the same in this one way: All of them represent the darkest time of the year, a time when the fields lie fallow, when the unconscious gestates. Sounds pretty abstract, what it means is that there’s a part of our conscious mind that wonders “What have I done well this past year? What can I do better in the future?”

There is also something to be said for the fact that in the parts of the world these myths came from, it is bitter, bleak and awful cold.

The solstice is a passage from darkness back to light. And out of that can spring guilt. The Germanic psyche demanded something else, a force both benevolent and terrible, to keep them in line. Krampus charges out of the frigid night, howling, beating the christ out of women and children with sticks, and carrying the especially bad ones away.

If we are in doubt of the sacred origins of holidays, we might consider some of the ideas put forth in Eliade’s The Sacred and the Profane,
(photographer site)
The New Year coincides with the first day of Creation. The year is the temporal dimension of the cosmos. ‘The world has passed!’ expresses that a year has run its course. At each New Year the cosmogony is reiterated, the world re-created, and to do this is also to create time - that is, to regenerate it by beginning it anew. This is why the cosmogony myth serves as paradigmatic model for every creation or construction; it is even used as a ritual means of healing.
Thus, the role served by this entity which rewards and punishes, is to cut what we might call the karmic ties with the previous year. This seems an unusual attribution for the seemingly benevolent Santa Claus, but this is only because the holiday has become so desacralized that he has merely become a stand-in, a cardboard cutout, signifying nothing. This connection between karma and the eternal return of the holiday cycle is not without precedent.

Again we can turn to The Sacred and the Profane, “...to Indian thought, this eternal return implied eternal return to existence by force of karma, the law of universal causality. Then, too, time was homologized to the cosmic illusion (Maya), and the eternal return to existence signified indefinite prolongation of suffering and slavery.”

These karmic ties don’t require an actual belief in karma within the Buddhist or Hindu framework of reincarnation. What it refers to is an element of our memory. Consider something that you own that has a great deal of “sentimental value.” Pick it up. Hold it in your hand. Think about the people you associate with it. Grab hold of those emotions, and travel back to the time that the object brings you to. That’s your karmic tie. You are bound to those things.

The same is true of the memories and emotions we hold onto of those we love, who are now gone, and of the life we lived which is also gone. Of course, outside a framework that espouses transcendence, these are neither positive nor negative in themselves, but they are attachments. From this, we can see that a mythic symbol serving some kind of ethical function would arise, when it comes to recapitulation and renewing. To renew, the soil must be tilled. Some attachments can be maintained but others must be severed.

The winter solstice is a passage from darkness back to light, and out of that can spring guilt, no pun intended. It is the negredo process, the fallow soil, frosted over; petrifaction. We need something that comes from outside, a bestial or demonic Other, a force both benevolent and terrible, to keep our sorry asses in line.

The joyous, peaceful facade of the deritualized festival, stripped of any reference to a surrogate victim and its unifying powers, rests on this basis of sacrificial crisis attended by reciprocal violence. That is why genuine artists can still sense that tragedy lurks somewhere behind the bland festivals, the tawdry utopianism of the “leisure society.” The more trivial, vulgar, and banal holidays become, the more acutely one senses the approach of something uncanny and terrifying. The theme of holiday-gone-wrong dominates Fellini's films and has recently surfaced in various different forms in the work of many other artists.

Maybe something could be drawn from the relation between the much the kinder, gentler Coke-a-Cola Santa, Saint Nick, Christ and his misattributed birthday (if “he” had one at all), and these Pagan throwbacks from the Swiss Alps. It's late and I don't care enough at the moment.

This much I know: Krampus and Frau Perschta would totally kick both Santa and Jesus' ass. That's for damned sure.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Doll-house Narratives

gordie grant
The recent "Married To A Doll" piece on the Atlantic highlights a story that has been going around for years, about "iDollators," those that take on dolls as love partners.
Rather than do the usual gawking and commenting about how "weird" it all is, I'd rather comment on something that occurred to me as I was reading the interview: when the other person is removed from a relationship, and their shell remains, you get a clear view of just how much projection is involved in all so-called "normal" relationships. So many of us are taught to make a possession of our lovers or mates, to evaluate ourselves, even our value, based on their perceived value.

This is something less than hyperbole. A December 2013 "Psychology Today" article asks, "Is Your Partner Good Enough?", going on to explain,
In the book Passions Within Reason, Robert Frank writes about a woman who asked her friend the following questions: Why do I fall in love with people that are not interested in me? And why don't I care about those that fall in love with me? Her collegue replied, "you're an 8 chasing after 10's and being chased by 6's." How could this woman know she is an 8 and not a 7 or 9? And should she stop dreaming about 10's?

Once you evaluate your partner is inferior to you, you are faced with making a romantic compromise. The concession here does not refer to whether the person loves you or is a suitable partner but whether -- in your opinion -- he or she is above, below, or equal to you or to the other partners available to you.
We act as if this behavior is somehow normal, and Davecat's is abnormal, but both of them show the exact same kind of thinking. He has merely applied those needs and the narratives that feed them to a synthetic proxy. And moreover, as dolls don't have agency, what he is doing isn't reducing a person to the status of possession in the process.

The narratives that we tell ourselves about our partners are in many ways realer to us than they are. What if they are so satisfying that we in fact live within a relationship to those narratives, rather than to the people themselves?
Both Sidore and Elena have two backstories. One in which Sidore is the daughter of a Japanese father and an English mother, and was born in Japan and raised in Manchester, England. Elena's is similar; she grew up in Vladivostok, Russia. The other backstory they have is that they're Dolls. Self-aware Dolls, but Dolls nonetheless. In one backstory they have favorite foods; in the other, they don't eat, becaus they don't have digestive tracts... because they're Dolls. You get the idea.
I've had that dichotomy for as long as I've had Shi-chan and Lenka, and it doesn't seem to be going away any time soon. As I write their characters, they each express themselves through the Internet; they both have their own Twitterfeeds, and Shi-chan has a Tumblr. Playing up the Doll aspect allows me to get comedy from the situation, such as when Sidore wonders why I don't just remove my sinuses when my allergies flare up, but writing detailed histories for them exercises my creative writing skills, and makes them more 'human'. Like I said, the dichotomy probably won't be solved any time soon.
Isn't the goal of a relationship to take, accept and love them as they are? Certainly not to evaluate their value as a commodity... except of course that the entire history of marriage is based on property and ownership. Perhaps it is little surprise that we should still be carrying around that cultural baggage.

To let a relation be what it is, enrich and challenge our lives, and pass on when it is their time. These are a few the assumptions that let me to polyamory, because I noticed a trend in myself when I was in monogamous relationships that I tried to change the people I was with, tried to make them "the one," because, after all, if you only have one partner they had best satisfy those needs. But other people don't exist to satisfy our needs.

Dolls, perhaps, can do that. But not human beings.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

American as Fuck - What Had Happened Was Ep. 38 - a grumpyhawk collective production

What Had Happened Was Logo
by Susan M Omand, Omand Original, All Rights Reserved


  GHCstitcher Subscribe via RSS, or download the episode directly.
What Had Happened Was is a grumpyhawk collective podcast co-hosted by grumpyhawk (that would be me) and Benjamin Combs. In this "week-in-review style" show, we cover and comment on stories with a tech, science, weird, or strange sort of angle. Visit grumpyhawk.com to see and hear more from the collective. 

Hey everyone, today grumpyhawk and Benjamin Combs discuss being American as Fuck, legally killing bald eagles, how dumb XboxOne owners are bricking their devices, Santa getting a Fighter Jet escort from NORAD this year, getting kids high, and Crazy ants invading the US. Also we spend some time with Salomé Jones and talk about her new book "Red Phone Box".  

Show Notes:
  1. Updated US policy permits accidental bald eagle death via wind turbine
  2. Bricking your XboxOne (thanks 4Chan!)
  3. Father duped on Ebay after he ordered £450 XBox One for his son for Christmas... but received a PICTURE of a console instead
  4. Defense Officials Defend Santa’s Fighter Jet Escort
  5. 8 year-old gets higher than you do
  6. Crazy Ants Invading US Soil

Where to find Salomé on the interwebs:

TwitterSalomé Jones [dot] com, & Ghostwoods Books

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Saturday, December 07, 2013

The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick by R. Crumb from Weirdo #17


“I saw God,” Fat states, and Kevin and I and Sherri state, “No, you just saw something like God, exactly like God.” And having spoke, we do not stay to hear the answer, like jesting Pilate, upon his asking, “What is truth?”

–Philip K. Dick, VALIS

In the months of February and March, 1974, Philip K. Dick met God, or something like God, or what he thought was God, at least, in a hallucinatory experience he chronicled in several obsessively dense diaries that recently saw publication as The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, a work of deeply personal theo-philosophical reflection akin to Carl Jung’s The Red Book. Whatever it was he encountered—Dick was never too dogmatic about it—he ended up referring to it as Zebra, or by the acronym VALIS, Vast Active Living Intelligence System, also the title of a novel detailing the experiences of one very PKD-like character with the improbable name of “Horselover Fat.”

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