Periodizing This Blog

Version 1.0

There are a few major periods of work on this blog, which I tend to think of broad trajectories or arcs of effort. Across each of those arcs, I am thinking my way toward something which, once I reach, sets me free to think toward something else. Themes and texts cross-link those arcs, making them fairly repetitive, hopefully in a good way, with each arc developing what is a minor chord in another arc. There is also a perspective, a disposition, that drives more than a little of this work, but I don’t want to talk about that here; that will take up a good bit of what will define closing time.

I. August ’13 to January ’14

The first major arc begins with my first post in August 2013 and comes to a proper conclusion in the Necronomicon material of January 2014. That first phase is a little hectic; for the first month, I am forcing myself to post as a way to get out of my own head and start working through the spiritual experiences I was having more critically. My time on the margins of Lucumi religion had changed my life, but also pointed me down a very personal and private path which seemed to demand something else.

I kept getting pointed at the European tradition of magic, back at hermetic kabbalism and the Golden Dawn, so I started with that. That, along with neopaganism, had been the framework available to me in my youth for nontraditional religious experience, but it didn’t quite fit the experiences I was having so I during the first few months of the blog I pushed really hard on that framework, seeing how I could stretch and deform it to accommodate my changing sense of the world. I brought it into conversations with my philosophical training, so you get a mix of purple hermetic kabbalism and philosophical speculation; I’m still fond of it, but it is messy.

I am gently critical of the European magical tradition, aware of its imperial baggage, but it gets me to Yeats, who gets me to Anglo-spiritualism. From there, I can see some bridges that can be made between Anglo-Euro spiritualism and Afro-diaspora spiritualism. By then, I was convinced that a proper account of the Anglo-European spiritualism needed to open onto a bigger tent in order to make sense. It needed to accommodate more—Ginsberg and Dante, Blake and Dick, but also the weird Christian movements that often get glossed over as nothing more than proto-evangelicalism or proto-mormonism. I can see that, but I’m definitely not developing it much at this point.

There is a great deal in this period about the relationship between European/Anglo-American modernity and occultism. Lovecraft becomes the centerpiece of that for me and a close examination of his use of the Necronomicon as a fictional device helps to unpack what I need to get at there. Namely, that modernity is simultaneously a recuperation of an older truth about human life in the world as well as an alienation from that truth through the medium of fiction and art, and that occultism is a perpetuation of that double movement.

For me, it is about understanding and overcoming a piece of my past, of clearing out old ways of thinking that aren’t useful for me anymore. If this speaks to you, maybe you are living in a similar trajectory? I don’t know, I can only tell you about my own process here. Just because I am leaving one crossroads doesn’t mean that you might not benefit greatly from staying there.

II. January ’14 to February ’15

The second arc lasts a good bit longer, beginning in January 2014 and concluding with a post on February 21, 2015. That phase is broadly historical and philosophical, working in two registers at once. Arguably, this is the most spiritualist phases of the blog since these two registers can also be clearly understood as the cultivation of a spiritual court and the development of mediumship, albeit in more peculiar ways than most. Moreover, despite the scope of the historical reading, this also results in the deepening appreciation for the distinctiveness (please, let’s not say exceptional, okay?) of the American situation.

First, I am digging into the recent past in order to revisit people like C. G. Jung, Philip K. Dick, and the Yeatses with fresh eyes, doing some philosophical and literary work to reveal how much their work exceeds the narrow boundaries we tend to draw around them (psychology, fiction, and literature, respectively). Second, I am digging into deeper layers of history in order to point out how deeply interconnected we human beings are in how we experience the divine rushing into our lives. Both of these aspects picked up on work I had been doing before I started this blog.

Philosophically, I had been interested in how Jung and PKD could be used to teach us about our spiritual nature, turning away from the more popular and overly literal theory of archetypes and toward an account that focused on human capacities for active understanding and interaction. During this phase of the blog, I discovered how rich the Yeatses spiritualist work had been and spent a great deal of time reading and writing about them.

Historically, prior to the blog, I had been researching the origins and movements of geomancy as a magical and spiritual practice in history. As I started to talk about things like hermetic kabbalism, I also became aware of an increasing number of people revisiting the magical tradition from a historical perspective, seeking to sink the roots of European magic more deeply into the past. It was an interesting project and intersected with my historical interests, but I wasn’t necessarily pleased with the manner in which others were proceeding.

I came to that with a preexisting skepticism of historical reconstruction which I had picked up from my encounters with neopagan efforts at reconstruction, but I really enjoyed using the scholarship to reveal just how lively and interesting the world has been, how deeply millenia of migration have shaped human culture, especially in religious, magical, and spiritual matters. Following on an insight of Bruce Lincoln, I wanted to point out how commonalities in spiritual experience could only partially be linked to linguistic interconnection and so likely revealed more fundamental dimensions of human spiritual experience.

This is probably the phase that is most in dialogue with the Anglo magical scene, not in the sense of actually talking to people a lot, but in the sense of being aware of and responding to intellectual trends within it. While I never read any of Jake Stratton-Kent’s books, I was aware of his influence while being generally critical of the sort of historical claims being made by him and those in his circle. I was also quite critical of their efforts to use these historical claims as a means to lay claim to a tradition that they posited was both specific, continuous, and old.

My historical work served as an rejoinder to those assumptions while my philosophical work was an effort to undermine the assumption that such antiquity was even particularly desirable or necessary. It wasn’t a matter of saying that there weren’t historical threads to follow, but that they were far too diverse and interpenetrating to use as the basis of defining a practice. I didn’t directly address Stratton-Kent directly often (though, stat wise, the one post where I did that was one of the most viewed on the blog), in part because the sort of antagonistic argument muddies the waters and takes time away from building up an alternative account modeled on my experience rather than argument.

This was a rich period in my spiritual work, as many of the spirits in my circuit took the opportunity to relay more information about themselves under the cloak of historical parallels. Some of those parallels ran deeper than others; Mesoamerica and Mesopotamia have an especial gravity in my work, for example. The way in which those interactions developed provided the basis for my sense that what I called spirits have a much more complicated relationship to time than strict historical work tends to allow, which is where Walter Benjamin’s messianic dialectical materialism became ever more vital to me.

III. February ’15 to March ’16

The third arc is where things really took off for me with Kabbalism and geomancy. Thanks to Blogos, I discovered how wonderful the Sefer Yetzirah is and set out to rediscover the kabbalistic work more directly, without the layers of accreted meanings from hermeticism. Alongside this, I began undoing my connection to European geomancy, reworking the way in which I understood the relationship between sign and heavens, informed by my work with the Sefer Yetzirah. The Bible also becomes a more vital and living text for me.

This is the most gnostic phase of the blog, in both a historical and spiritual sense. I am working more closely than ever with the strands that composed historical gnosticism and experiencing them as an axis for spiritual experience. The historical work that drives much of the last phase takes a back seat to making use of specific texts. The sense of connection to America becomes more intense, more present and located within the United States and its immediate horizons.

This is also when I discover the book of Justin through A Refutation of All Heresies, which helps me to relate an important strand of personal gnosis to broader movements within the Mediterranean. What I called Mohaveh acquires new clarity and I talk a little more freely about it at this point. I have since wound that back a little, but it is a very important phase. That work reconnects me more firmly to the channels of gnosis that I had also encountered winding my way backwards out of West Africa and into the Islamic world studying geomancy. Weird, I know, but such is life.

It was liberatory. Putting some degree of mythological order into the Mohaveh work helped me redirect my attention to my own present again (the Yeatses were onto something there with there talk of arcons and art). It actually loosens its hold over my spiritual imagination and the spiritual ground starts to shift again, bringing me back around to the place from which I began. It’s strange, because none of the spiritual influences fade, but the masks through which I was relating to them faded. I can still call them up, but it’s different.

In the middle of this phase, there is an important inflection point: Viridis Genii. The change of scenery and intellectual stimulation helps, but having a consulta from a Quimbandero and a cleansing from a curandera start me on the path to setting my feet on the ground. It is on the airplane back from Portland that it hits me, with utter clarity, that I couldn’t keep hiding that I am transgendered. It takes a while to get everything moving there, for me to break my patterns of detachment and find the right medical support for the transition, but the rally begins there.

You can see the influence of my being transgender before that, of course, if you pay attention to the asides on gender and ecstasy, in my commitment to articulating a modus of spiritual-magical experience that is more tightly associated with women than men, but that’s all indirect, a means of talking while still hiding. Being done hiding also means a shift away from the indirect historical work that I had been doing and a redirection toward working with my spiritual court more directly and with an eye toward its direct correlation to my own well-being.

IV. March ’16 to September ’17

If we were in Spring and Summer with the last two phases, this is definitely the Fall phase. The tenor of the posts are more in line with the first arc, groping a little more and not quite as focused. There are more notebook and historical posts, more day-to-day one-offs, the substantive material largely being a reworking and clarification of the work that went on in the previous phase. I had toyed with a set of pages and in this phase those pages are rolled back into the blog.

The substantive bits are hints as to where I am refocusing, on the Americas, most especially on the African and Indigenous Americas. The trip to Boston is delightful, flashing up for me something truly beautiful in the European tradition, making clear to me how vigorously the best of what is there can be joined to the American world more broadly understood. That’s a relief, but it also leaves me feeling ever more free to dive into the rest of the Americas that I admire, the world born in beauty and hardship of empire’s cruelty, to see a future in which this Euro-American moment is, well, more properly a moment. There are hints of my thinking on that, in my posts on Mary, on Kalunga, on kingodi.

But that doesn’t quite fit into this blog’s arc. It is some other arc, though like all these arcs, it is entangled with this blog.

V. Closing Time

And here we are, in late October of 2017, drawing this together one last time. Disrupt, repair, formation, and demolition. The geomantic figure in reverse, the movement of an individual from ignorance into new clarity, and it begins & ends with a rupture. But demolition, too, is a contingent end, too. There’s more, just not to be had here. What I can do is give clearer voice to what is animating that movement and point out some of the beyond contained within it for me (who knows what, if any, this beyond will have for you).

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One thought on “Periodizing This Blog

  1. Pingback: [Flashback] A Parliament of Vultures – Disrupt & Repair

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