Let me get started by positioning the point at which “Of the Refrain” enters into the discussion. It opens up in the middle of the world that I have just painted using Whitehead’s concepts, a cosmos in which two immanent powers (God & World) enter into communication with each other, a cosmos in which consciousness flickers along and between the feelings that are an expression of the world in flux. The ‘refrain’ defines a point at which consciousness and feeling find a rhythm between themselves that puts them in sympathy with the immanent powers composing them.
With the two interpenetrating domains in play, it’s time to turn to the wind-up that ends Whitehead’s account by focusing on what the most intense expressions of the interaction between God and World looks like (350–51). It’s a dynamic process (no surprise), but Whitehead does suggest a basic fourfold pattern that describes it. It is along this axis that complex and durable spiritual entities form, most importantly our selves. That process (not the subject of the process) loops back upon itself, the result being the initiating element in another dynamic process.
Of late, I keep coming back to Althusser’s conception of interpellation. The basic idea is simple enough—namely, that your subjectivity becomes constituted on the receiving end of an ideological system that expresses itself through and in the apparatus of political power. When you are called a criminal, you are made a criminal, subjected to practices that compel you to accept that assignment, not just performatively, but in your own self-conception.
This post over on Hermetic Lessons hit close to home. The frank discussion of how slippery depression can be, how it can take hold and manifest in beliefs that impair us, is important. We need to talk about that, need to be aware that we, magical and creative people, are often especially prone to it. So much magical work deploys symbolic and imaginal forms as an essential feature that we can pick up forms alien to our practice and weave them into our lives as nasty little depressive cages. Worse yet, because we produce symbolic and imaginal forms, we are an especially good vector for toxic ones to proliferate along.
I have seen people trap themselves like this, and have hobbled myself for years with these sorts of mistakes. The ones that can mask themselves in respectability are definitely some of the most insidious. Learning to read these cages as symbolic forms we are using to talk to ourselves helps (it makes clear their externality, breaking some of their spell), and reorienting toward ourselves, cleaning ourselves of other people’s business is a big part of getting on the right track again.
His follow-up post is also good, putting on the table a good strategy for breaking out of those habits. As the I Ching has put it to me before, put your ideas to the test. Let the work of moving toward a goal clean and clarify you.
Also, you know, be kind to folks who are trying to do this. If they are doing it right, they will tear through their own illusions. You don’t need to walk up and kick them around for having to stumble through some foolishness en route.
However far our gaze penetrates, there are always heights beyond which block our vision.—Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality (Corrected Edition), 342
Enough with the throat clearing; let me get down to business with Whitehead. I am not sure how long this is all going to take, or how many posts it will run. Maybe this will take three posts and a couple weeks, maybe it will take eight posts and a few months. Gender transition, too, is something of a wild card in all this, requiring a significant share of my intellectual and emotional resources; I may not always have the time or energy to work on this. This will need to take as long as it takes.
Alfred North Whitehead’s summation in Process & Reality forms the foundation for my own here. I spoke of the dikenga as a vital element in my coming to terms with it, but Whitehead’s work is also a sophisticated latter-day articulation of quite ancient and widely-dispersed philosophical intuitions. Those intuitions are not developed in precisely the same way in all places, but where they are developed and preserved, we find sympathetic parallels with Whitehead’s work, parallels which allow me to place otherwise disparate religious and spiritual practices built in response to those insights into dialogue with Whitehead.
Here that parallel with Gnosticism. Here, too, why I suspect that what I am writing here and what gets written over at Hermetic Lessons intersect, even where our terminology and points of departure are at variance.
Now that I have cleared out my drafts folder, published or trashed everything there, and emptied the trash, I am ready to start in on the summation proper. The summation will present an organic and (hopefully) dynamic model that moves beyond the more partial conceptual frames that I have employed here over the last few years. Metaphor and metonymy, witch and wizard, gnosis and doctrine, duality and triplicity, will find their ground.
I have wanted to pick up a few threads from earlier pieces and weave them together. The discussion of aesthetics and occultism at the end of Phase I and my concern with the disruptive role of capital in spiritual practice come together in this piece focusing on Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” It also has some connection to the hesitation I have around relying on narrative discourse for a deeper understanding of spiritual experience, too.
This is a post that has been floating around in my drafts for almost a year. I come back to it, consider posting it, consider revising it, and never quite do either. I don’t quite like the tone here, it is a little too abstract, a little too analytical, but there is something useful going on in inside it, which might provide some fodder for the summation. So, with these caveats, enjoy.
We have been talking about hauntings around the house a bit and Stacey mentioned that she had recently seen a book note that most hauntings seem to be the response of land spirits having their land disturbed. That can be obvious disruptions, like plopping a house down on a sacred bit of land, but it can also be more subtle violations, the sort of taboos you might not know about until you thoughtlessly break them.
I almost deleted this one, but the question of metaphor and metonymy is going to come into play in the summation phase, so I decided to post it anyway. For the heck of it, I have left in some of my revision notes (the bracketed text at the end). I was writing this one mid-December, 2016, so not so long ago.
. . .
I have been reflecting about how to talk about the nature of the work undertaken and on how often I write/talk about it through a mitten, and how to find my way to a glove. I don’t think I’m always working the mitten, that I have been closer to glove at some points rather than others, and to that end I want to list some of the writings that helped me shift how I work in the hopes of working back toward changing how I talk and write.