Black Iron Prison

From time to time, I will toss out the phrase ‘Black Iron Prison.’ I picked it up from Philip K. Dick’s take on gnosticism and my use of it is sympathetic with his. It might be useful to unpack that a bit here because I’m also dialoging with his usage, remaking his meaning for my own.

There is a way to talk about the Black Iron Prison (BIP) that makes it congruent with the whole of creation. That isn’t how I approach it. I affirm the intimacy between creation (Malkuth) and the divine (Keter) that the Kabbalistic material posits. The BIP is not Malkuth, but those things that alienate us from the totality of Malkuth.

Only a small portion of those alienating influences seem to be spiritual intelligences proper. Even a smaller portion of those spiritual intelligences seem to be properly malign. Most of them seem to operate the BIP under the domain of Binah, as the principles of severity through which the structures of the BIP are made manifest and possibly ameliorated.

(Here we have the wisdom of Meister Eckhart by way of Jacob’s Ladder, that many of the demons are ministering angels working to liberate us. Here, too, we have the Zohar’s affirmation that the demons serve a noble purpose within creation.)

The BIP is, rather, anchored in our human world, in the ways we have embodied our understanding in networks and institutions. The BIP has more to do with empire that with creation. There are people invested in them, people who pull their strings and exploit them, but to a great extent they live in the world just like buildings. Heck, they are often expressed in the ways things are built and how we are conditioned (and condition ourselves) to live within those built worlds.

There is a spiritual dimension to all of that, but it isn’t otherworldly. Because the BIP structures so much of the lived world, it isn’t something that you can escape from once and for all, so much as the thing you can punch a hole through, something you can stumble out of, something you can sidestep here and again.

Sometimes, too, it is something through which holes are punched, through which eruptions of the total world, of Malkuth, break through and put into question the BIP structures that would neutralize it.

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