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.
A powerful urge last night just to gather together all of this and take a picture, put in front of myself the trajectory of this long trajectory of writing I have been involved with. It looks a little mad, doesn’t it?
The top row begins somewhere in 1993 and those numerous, tiny notebooks were filled in front to back, then back to front. They are crammed with thoughts, excerpts from books, quotations of people that I knew, drafts of poetry (some of it is, well, let’s say not terrible; philosophy absorbed my poetry and nowadays I tend to only use poetry as a gesture in my thinking, to tell myself to change my speed, alter my rhythm). I had one of those on me almost all the time.
I have enjoyed watching folks talk about the latest season of Twin Peaks and around the home we have been talking about it quite a bit. I appreciate this post over on the Nightshirt, not least of which for reminding me that this isn’t just a David Lynch joint, that Frost’s influence is key, too. Pointing out the series’s connection to Kubrick’s The Shining also clarifies and I find it exciting to consider how this connects the series to Stephen King and his particular Americana.
Rewatching the original run of Twin Peaks is an illuminating experience, especially alongside the third season. The show establishes joins the surreal and magical to an increasingly traumatic series of scenes in a way that suggests the traumatic material forms the axis of the series. More than that, it suggests that there is a kernel of suffering and cruelty at the center of the ‘mysteries’ that distract us from it.
Every time I think I have a handle on what that trauma is, it deepens and broadens itself, encompassing a wider gyre. There is a question that opens here about the nature of time that necessarily entails asking after the particular shape time takes in relationship to human consciousness. Part of the temporal patterns of repetition have their roots in an inability to confront our culpability in suffering, that we repeat certain patterns precisely because we use them as a form of distraction, a dream from which we dread waking. There is a hint of Freud in this, but in many ways Freud performs this distraction more than he is able to grasp it.
Being sick last week had the silver lining of getting to spend a fair bit of time with both Marija Gimbutas’s The Living Goddess and The Language of the Goddess. There is enough accumulated opinion around her work that I might not have otherwise done that had not sickness whittled my world down to a spare space around the couch, where her books, fresh from the library, sat within easy reach. That’s more than a little ridiculous, when you think about the scholarship I would otherwise tolerate from within the greater magical community.
Of course, that’s part of it, isn’t it? The magical community has garnered for itself a sense of academic credibility (at least in its own mind) in part by accepting certain fashionable academic opinions as givens, including the ones that basically suggest Gimbutas is full of it. The spirit of seriousness lures us with the promise of acceptance if only, as Michael Serres observed, we exclude this third man from our dialogue. Or, well, pace Serres, not a third man, but a woman.
Fiscal responsibility is one of those earthly virtues, no doubt, but when it comes to understanding our present moment in history, we have to grasp that money is a fire. While we have inherited a tradition of tarot interpretation that joins money as coins to the suit of earth, money in late- to crumbling capitalism belongs to wands, to passion, to control. While money can, well-used, provide the means for acquiring and cultivating our patch of earth, the fire is always in the roots and capable of flaring up to consume our homes, both in the literal and extended senses of the term.
Think about this when you bring money to the graveyard. You are bringing fire with you, you are heating up the dead, summoning them forth to take form in the crux of your desires. Do this often, do this in a place where you do not have roots, and what are you doing but stoking the flames that will consume you life? Without fire we will surely die, but without caution fire will destroy us and all that for which we care.
On a recent family trip to Boston, we spent some time walking through the McKim Building of the Boston Public Library. I wasn’t at all prepared for how spiritual experience it would be—my sister had suggested it because there were supposed to be some good murals to see. They were that, but the entire structure was wired for sound, built up like a temple as much, or more than, a library. By the time I got to the top floor, to the John Singer Sargent murals, my mind reeled with excitement. This was a place that anchored a peculiarly Euro-American vision in deep and old mysteries that transcend them.
I wonder if the place could be set in motion ritually, set to humming, or if it is primarily a place capable of triggering latent patterns in the person contemplating them, but either way it is an amazing structure. I overlooked the gallery dedicated to time, but hopefully there will be another opportunity. As it is, I want to talk about what I did see and start to unpack the wisdom packed into it. I do so first and foremost for someone who might go to the building and use this to intensify their experience of it. Secondarily, though, I hope that the insights will have some general application even for someone who hasn’t experienced the building.
To do that is going to take quite a long post since I will need to talk about both the exoteric and esoteric dimensions of each gallery. Please, avail yourself of the title links to look at the actual murals; the Boston Public Library has a lot of other material beyond what I’m linking, so let yourself wander a little.