Today when I sat down with the ancestors, I started to get this mad little bug to tidy. That isn’t particularly surprising–the ancestors tend to like tidiness. But I found myself grabbing hold of this box that I have been carrying around for a few years without opening. As I finished sorting through it, I widened my efforts to its immediate neighbors.
That is when I came across the notebook that I thought lost. I can’t date it precisely, but it is from my first few years of college back in the mid-1990s. My best guess puts it somewhere in the 1995-1996 range. I had started it as a supplement to a philosophy course I was taking, but it became something very different the summer afterward.
Been thinking (as a note, the semester is over—the notebook was of limited usage)—seems that in much of the writings here I approached the thinkers in a far too confrontational manner; not only is this not useful (one does not water orchids with boiling water), but it is really antithetical to who I am. The attitude puts me outside myself, taking my ability to absorb and contemplate. Remember this.
Oh, yes, hello crazy little me. Whew, why did you think the academy was a good idea again?
It’s a timely discovery. Reading about Esalen has kept putting me in mind of that crazy little me, but it is exactly at this point that I begin to take a different track. The notebook that didn’t see much action in the semester becomes a record for a summer of sorcerous tutelage under Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, and Jacques Lacan.
I had been reading and reading along the Jungian track, working through James Hillman and Thomas Moore. After reading Moore’s early book, Dark Eros, I was looking for more books that explored similar themes. The book I stumbled upon was Gilles Deleuze’s Coldness & Cruelty.
To give Kripal, California, and Big Sur their due, this French junction intersects with theirs. Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault both spent some time on that ragged edge of the country, productively. I am fond of the cover of Desert Islands, which features Deleuze wandering the beach of Big Sur. Heck, I first heard of Foucault and Deleuze in a book by the California therapist Charles Ponce.
Still, this was something different and much more exciting to me. I spent the summer doing little more than working, going to summer school, and locking myself up in my room reading Coldness & Cruelty, Expressionism in Philosophy, Ecrits, and A Thousand Plateaus (in that order). Looking at this old notebook…
I would read until I got to a passage that floored me, left me aching to understand it more deeply. I would draw a little symbol in the notebook and then proceed to write out that quote longhand. The symbols that preceded the quotes were themselves a little ritual. the symbol before each quote was an elaboration of the previous symbol. None of those symbols took up more than few centimeters of space, crude and baroque at the same time. I had discovered sigil magic by this point and these symbols were strange little magical signs of the understanding I was working toward.
It goes on like that for 48 tightly-packed [“NARROW RULED (green tint pages)”] pages, supplemented with marginalia and occasionally interrupted to summarize or explicate.
Here is an early quote, preceded by a horizontal line with a crescent above and below it:
“Intermediate between the first mother and the third mother, or lover, the oral mother functions as an image of death, holding up to the ego the cold mirror of its twofold rejection. But death can only be imagined as a second birth, a parthenogenesis from which the ego reemerges, liberated from the superego as well as from sexuality. The reflection of the ego in and through death produces the ideal ego in the conditions of independence and autonomy which obtain in masochism. The narcissistic ego contemplates the ideal ego in the maternal mirror of death…”—Gilles Deleuze, Coldness & Cruelty (131)
In the margins of this quote are three words, a potent name that I once used for a dear spirit. Right, this was when I was doing some actual mirror work.
Here is one quote, preceded by three vertical lines, the first line bisected by a small circle:
“A truth, it must be admitted, is not easy to recognize once it has become accepted. Not that there are established truths, but they then become so easily confused with the reality that surrounds them that no other artifice has yet been found to distinguish them from it than to mark them with the sign of spirit, to pay them homage, to regard them as coming from another world.”—Jacques Lacan, Ecrits (120)
Oh, bless me, a whole series of quotes preceded by permutations of triangles and stars, the basis for my conic thinking. It begins with:
“We know that many beings pass between a man and a woman; they come from different worlds, are borne on the wind, form rhizomes around roots; they cannot be understood in terms of production, only in terms of becomings.”—Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (242)
And ends with:
“Sorcerors have always held the anomalous position…. They are at the borderline of the village, or between villages…. The relation with the anomalous is one of alliance. The sorceror has a relation of alliance with the demon as the power of the anomalous.”—Ibid (246)
Damn. Talk about spirals of growth and returning to know a place better. (Oh, and look, the next series of quotation symbols begins with a spiral.) Funny, too, the way the work begins at the cusp of 1995 and begins to bloom again for me now. Which reminds me, 1995 is also the year Deleuze dies. I didn’t find out about that until sometime in 1996 or 1997; I cried.
Well, this is getting long for what it is. Let me end with a little bit of music that was and is entangled with all of this work.
A good day to you all.