Friday, June 26, 2009

Carl Jung and the absence of myth

I came upon a passage in Jung's autiobiography (Memories, Dreams & Reflections, which I named our little Babalon 1-off demo after) so serendipitously that I feel the need to transcribe it here.

It has equal relevance not only for my past work but one of the fundamental issues I've wrestled with the majority of my life. If anything it is this very problem which has driven me time and again back to the subject of myth, it is what I am again shooting at with the Immanence of Myth, though I feel I am shooting at a hidden target while blindfolded, and to make matters worse the target is moving around on me. But nevertheless it is the same target, and that is the psychological and cultural problems posed by the absence of myth. To many they seem an idea in the background, at the most of secondary importance. For me it has always been an issue of primary importance, to such an extent that as I said it is possibly the fundamental catch 22 that seems to underlie my life, at least from age 16 to the present. I have seen these traits in many of those who have walked aside me at least for a time, as well as, at times, in myself. (Which is to say, I don't think this passage is about me but rather prophetically touching upon a cultural/psychological crisis that he -- and many others -- have seen coming for a long time.)

So, to the passage:

"...It is obvious that in the course of his practice a doctor will come across people who have a great effect on him too. He meets personalities who, for better or worse, never stir the interest of the public and who nevertheless, or for that very reason, possess unusual qualities, or whose destiny it is to pass through unprrecendeted developments and disasters. Sometimes they are persons of extraordinary talents, who might well inspire another to give his life for them; but these talents may be implanted in so strangely unfavorable a psychic disposition that we cannot tell whether it is a question of genius or fragmentary development. Frequently, too, in this unlikely soil there flower rare blossoms of the psyche which we would never have thought to find in the flatlands of society.

...Among the so-called neurotics of our day there are a good many who in other ages would not have been neurotic- that is, divided against themselves. If they had lived in a period and in a milieu in which man was still linked by myth with the world of the ancestors, and thus with nature truly experienced and not merely seen from outside, they would have been spared this division with themselves. I am speaking of those who cannot tolerate the loss of myth and who can neither find a way to a merely exterior world, to the world as seen by science, nor rest satisfied with an intellectual juggled with words, which has nothing whatsoever to do with wisdom.

These victims of the psychic dichotomy of our time are merely optional neurotics, their apparent morbidity drops away the moment the gulf between the ego and the unconscious is closed. ... The spirit does not dwell in concepts, but in deeds and in facts. Words butter no parsnips; nevertheless, this futile procedure is repeated ad infinitum."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Abstraction and the Real

Last night I was working through several different ideas and hammered them down on my iPhone (because why get out of bed, really?)-- as with a lot of the more 'abstract' work, this deals as much with my personal life and inner experience as any research. However, many people assume abstraction is further away from that, or even disingenuous. So this deals with that, as well as several other points related to myth that I intend to unpack later. Pick up the Immanence of Myth for that.

Abstract questions / solutions (which take on the narrative metaphor form as myths) are at once more pure and multifaceted than the specific or concrete. It is never just THIS problem or THIS person, even when it originates from a personal experience or dilemma. This strength is also its greatest weakness as narrative metaphors are essentially untethered from necessity and thus from what many would refer to as reality.
This method of abstraction or metaphor requires an unfortunately "meta-" approach to an analysis of myth, or else the overrall method may get lost through a particular peculiarity, as with Freud and formative sexuality, or even the folk elements of a particular story about Hanuman. In dealing with myth as a subject I am therefor not entirely concerned with the details of a single story or meta-narrative. These particulars or peculiarities can & should be noted, but if we think that by exploding a single mythic/psychological complex we are uncovering the actual nature of myth, then we will continue to chase our own tail in misleading dialogue about trivial or even obsessive points. This is a methodological shortcoming of Frazier, (& ....)

This may seem an apology for the methodology to follow, and in a sense it is, but it is also a means of saying that both I and the reader must remain absolutely aware of the need to re-tether the abstract (myth) with the necessary. This very quandry is often posed in mythic fashion, for example in stories dealing with the problems of relating the needs of the spirit, or what we refer to as spirit, and the material world. (ref. Also Jesus not jumping, "thou shalt not tempt the lord your god." why?) Neither can be sacrificed for the sake of the other, and if they cannot be aligned, integrated, or otherwise rectified the result is death of one form or another. This particular dilemma- one of countless legions- is considered one of the principle purposes of alchemy, in fact all alchemy deals with the fusion of the substantial and insubstantial bodies (ida & pingala in kundalini for instance). This problem takes on an even more dire importance in our present age, where the material has become the only consideration, and the spiritual backlash is not one of integration but rather one of violent fundamentalism.

The conditions surrounding any of the important decisions in our lives can be known through simple observation and logic (and those could be any of them, as often the most trivial decisions lead to the most crucial, defining events). However, the only answers that can answer such questions are actions, informed by mental maps or "ways of being." Logic often does us less good here, or may even confuse the issues as we try to navigate the often conflicting demands of society and the varying systems of our own body. This again is where myth plays its role because our myth is this story, written in the interplay of personal, existential questions and our very lives given as our answer

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Escape Into The Forest

More for later digestion and discussion...

Escape may be possible for a favored few, but it usually leads to something worse. Resistance only animates the Leviathan by giving him a welcome pretext for repressive measures. In the face of such conditions only one hope seems to remain, that the process may spend itself like a volcano spends its fiery ashes. But at this point a question arises, which is not at all theoretical, but an inevitable concomitant of every contemporary existence whether there is not, after all, another road that may be traveled, whether there do not exist mountain passes which can be discovered only after a long ascent.

The retreat into the forest (Waldgang) is not to be understood as a form of anarchism directed against the world of technology, although this is a temptation, particularly for those who strive to regain a myth. Undoubtedly, mythology will appear again. It is always present and arises in a propitious hour like a treasure coming to the surface. But man does not return to the realm of myth, he reencounters it when the age is out of joint and in the magic circle of extreme danger. It is not a question therefore of choosing the forest or the ship but of choosing both the forest and the ship. The number of those who want to abandon the ship is growing, and among them are clear heads and fine minds. But it amounts to a disembarkation in mid-ocean. Hunger will follow, and cannibalism, and the sharks: in short, all the terrors that have been reported from the raft of Medusa. Hence it is advisable under all circumstances to stay aboard even at the danger of being blown up. This objection is not directed against the poet who reveals – through his life as well as through his work – the vast superiority of the artistic universe over the world of technology. He helps man to rediscover himself: the poet is a wanderer in the forest (Waldgänger), for authorship is merely another form of independence.


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Join My Cult! ebook introduction

Here is the new introduction to the Join My Cult! ebook presently available on Original Falcon's website.
Rewind the tape to 2000, suburban America. Our progress had reached an apex, and while it would in retrospect be seen clearly as Hubris, at the time, there was no end in sight. At this time, it seemed there was the beginnings of a second (or third?) wave American counterculture that never actually completely coalesced, derailed by the conspiracy theories and atrocities that defined the following near-decade.

1998-2000 is when the core of Join My Cult! was written, despite the publication date. I organized and wrote a great deal of it, but really it owes itself to a group of friends that shared a similar experience moving out of adolescence at that time. The bulk of the conversations in this book are real, derived from online and off-line interactions as we delved headlong into exploration of psychedelics, the occult, and sex.

One criticism often leveled at this text has been that "real people never speak like this." This makes me laugh because, although it is a perfectly valid criticism- sane people certainly don't- in this case, we did. And it is with a tongue-in-cheek mockery of our often overly enthusiastic, nevertheless earnest state that I left this material mostly as is, even though I shudder to think some might take it purely at face value.

It has been interesting, over the past six years or so, to receive letters from readers- most of them telling me, to my surprise, how much the book effected them or even "changed their lives." Of course, amongst these were also plenty of people who felt the need to tell me how truly awful it was, and the notable few who actually went so far as to threaten my life. (I take this as the highest compliment.) When I wrote this book, I was unsure it would ever be published, and certainly many of my friends told me it would be for the better if it wasn't. After it was accepted by New Falcon, I had some hopes of it becoming a break-away cult hit.

In the end, it was neither of these, remaining that odd book you might stumble across one day in the corner of an independent book seller. A puzzling, hilarious, train-wreck of an oddity.

I have come a long way since I wrote Join My Cult!, and (I hope) have grown a great deal as an artist and writer since. But there is an intensity that comes with the blind, youthful enthusiasm of a project like this that I doubt I could replicate. New Falcon never properly edited the first edition, and in retrospect, I'm not sure I can blame them. There are many things in this text that seem like grammatical mistakes, that are intentional (particularly changes between tense and point of view with psychotic frequency), and I can only imagine they gave it a go and threw their hands up at the prospect. I occasionally consider giving it a thorough edit myself, but that thought is quickly washed away when I plunge into the text. This edition does have some minor edits from the original which saw its way into print, and you will find some new additions in the appendix, but there is little I could see changing without possibly disrupting the oddly symmetrical whole of this book, which at first glance looks a lot like total chaos.

So I'm offering it for free now, warts and all, to whomever wants to come along for the ride- and I hope in the process I will introduce some of you to a repository of common experience that might seem strangely familiar.

James Curcio

For more of my work, (writing, music, interviews & more) see This free eBook is released under a Creative Commons License. You can share and print it to your heart's content, though you must get my permission for any other use at jamescurcio at gmail dot com

Read the PDF:

(Link for the image impaired.)

Sign up to the Fallen Nation blog feed (includes the Join My Cult! audiobook, presently in progress.)

Monday, June 08, 2009

Myth: Death, and Forgetting

I've taken to jotting down quick ideas and thoughts here, rather than the full-formed thoughts or articles that used to make up my blog posts in the long distant past, (e.g. 2007). This still allows me to breathe a bit more than the 140 character fragments I've been dropping on twitter with alarming frequency.

Here's a thought from the other night, which spun off of a conversation on twitter and thinking about Kundera's Book of Laughter & Forgetting:
Death is forgetting. A central motive in myth-making is the creation of meaning that counters both the meaninglessness of boundless existence (literally existing without meaning, not as a reaction to meaning or anti-meaning- it is a realm in which meaning would be unthinkable, where all thought is unthinkable), and also the forgetfulness which is a symptom of the passage of time, of entropy- death which reduces the very edifice of meaning and recollection to ash. Myth is an agent of an-entropy, all myth-making is heroic and promethean, though also in the long view ultimately futile.

This will obviously make its way into the Immanence of Myth.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Our personal myths

A bit this weekend on personal myth, when I wasn't otherwise immobilized by a migraine. (Or possibly an alien gestating in my skull.)

Whether as a result of these abstract metaphors, or the high-flung hero fantasies of the past or present, it would be all too easy to come to the conclusion that myths are stories told about other people, which in any event have only a transient relation to our lives. Yet the inner voice that creates myth is also the internal narrator that you are listening to, possibly even right now, which serves as our primary interpretor of life experience.
This personal narration may take the form of the stories we tell ourselves, as we narrate or explain the facts presented to us, as we understand or experience them; they also take on a micro-cultural role in the stories that we tell to those around us, which may or may not mirror those internal myths. This point may seem relatively insignificant in comparison to the myths that have captured imaginations for thousands of years, and certainly much of it can hardly be called art. Yet these myths have a profound effect on our lives, they effect how we feel, they put us into a mental framework that determines the nature of the next personal myth we will weave; what is most important, they determine the decisions we make. Personal myths determine how we live our lives.
Many different myths can be woven from the same grouping of facts. Losing everything can be the beginning of a hero's or fool's journey, or it could be the beginning of a descent into the abyss. As we will see, even the descent into the abyss has transformational potentialities.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Join My Cult! audiobook ep 2-6

iTunes long ago picked up this feed but the one from the Fallen Nation blog isn't showing yet so for the time being I guess I will continue to link the mp3s here.

Check 'em out if you haven't already, it's an odd ride.

Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6

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