Mystical and Magical Hands

Whew, doing a little house cleaning (and sprucing, note the new theme I’m toying with) and found this one sitting in the queue. Applying the time-old test of share, delete, or revise, this one falls into the share category. I don’t think it benefits from more revision and it has enough going on that deletion seems a bit much. It’s old, though. Notice that the first link goes to a blog that isn’t even available anymore and dates from nearly a year ago. Pretty quiet blogosphere these days, no?

[Total aside: one of the big draws of this theme is its ragged edge. I liked the last theme, but it did this thing with line breaks…friend, it did not do a pleasing job of breaking a word across lines.]

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[NB] Evidentiary Ghosts

So, now for something entirely different.

Stacey and I have been talking about ghosts a bit lately, particularly the parasitic sort, and I realize that there is probably something to be said about ghosts that I haven’t said before. The family of pretenders that often first appear to us as we set out on a magical path (which we hopefully learn to distinguish from the higher powers with which our destiny entwines) do provide a useful service; they educate us about ourselves and our spiritual make-up.

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[NB] John Brown’s Body

A report of Harriet Tubman’s dream:

“She thought she was in a ‘wilderness sort of place, all full of rocks and bushes,’ when she saw a serpent raise its head among the rocks, and as it did so, it became the head of an old man with a long white beard, gazing at her ‘wishful like, just as if he were going to speak to me,’ and then two other heads rose up beside him, younger than he,—and as she stood looking at them, and wondering what they could want with her, a crowd of great men rushed in and struck down the younger heads, and then the head of the old man, still looking at her so ‘wishful.'”

After meeting John Brown in 1958, Tubman knew the dream to be of him, though she appreciated its import only after the failed raid on Harpers Ferry.

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[NB] Time, Angels, Daimons, Heroes, and Gods

I often find it easier to think about time in terms of space, in terms of the way we can abstract and spatialize time for a number of broadly mathematical operations. I think that’s pretty common, because we are better suited to conceiving of space than we are to conceiving of time. We can use our better grasp of space to ‘sneak up’ on time.

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[NB] Exploded Cosmologies

“Fragments of a vessel which are to be glued together must match one another in the smallest details, although they need not be like another. In the same way a translation, instead of resembling the meaning of the original, must lovingly and in detail incorporate the original’s mode of signification, thus making both the original and the translation recognizable as fragments of a greater language, just as fragments are part of a vessel.”—Walter Benjamin, “The Task of the Translator” in Illuminations (78)

I fondly recall discovering Milorad Pavić’s Dictionary of the Khazars in an airport bookshop in Atlanta, probably not long before or after I was accused by a classmate of being a “closet Jewish mystic” for the way I read Benjamin’s work. The text was a marvel of weaving together the discontinuous threads of Eastern European religious experience, juxtaposing Christian, Islamic, and Jewish conceptions of the sacred through an ablative rather than conjunctive methodology.

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Yesod, Nephesh, and Animal Spirits

Continuing the longer responses to some of the questions Iago posed, I want to talk a little more about Yesod as it came up in the discussion. One of the things I feel that I need to do before I start into some of the specific elements under discussion, though, is clarify a little about how my Kabbalism differs from Crowley’s. Don’t take these as gospel; they are just my efforts to make sense of my work.

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[NB] Kabbalism and Spiritualism: Dramatis Personae

I keep coming back to this. The questions that animate spiritualism seem like they find many answers in Kabbalism both narrowly (e.g., through texts like the Sefer Yetzirah and the Zohar) and broadly (e.g., in relationship to the broader horizon of Middle Eastern mysticism, be it Christian, Islamic, Jewish, or other) construed. At the heart of this is the interplay of the material and spiritual, especially around the question of idolatry and iconography.

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[NB] The Ghosts that Haunt Me

I have been dipping in and out of the Friedson’s exceptional Remains of Ritual. The book is a delightful fusion of philosophy, ethnography, and musicology. More than that, Friedson takes seriously the world of gorovodu, reporting seriously spiritual and magical experiences, neither sensationalizing them nor downplaying them. While the book focuses on Ghana, Friedson’s work clear applications to the Americas and the dynamics that shape religious life there parallel (with differences, of course) those in the Americas.

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