I have been dipping into Wassily Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spiritual in Art (Über das Geistige in der Kunst). It is a small volume, but I have been reading it in downright tiny portions. It is hardly complex or densely packed, but it is one of those books where the simplicity and directness of the presentation permits the material’s potency, it’s weightiness, to manifest all the more.
This post began a bit far afield and so ranges widely to circle closer to home.I’m revisiting some old ground here, and this is very notebook-post, more observation and juxtaposition than well-articulated statement.
Today, Stacey and I were driving into Greensboro and talking about the clever use of doors in Jessica Jones, about the way the doors serve to mediate interactions between characters, and about how the doors where the characters live tells us more than a little about the sorts of people they are.
That set me to thinking and talking about the tail end of the first season of Person of Interest (haven’t seen beyond that; I’m a slow consumer that way), where the almost invisible eye of the Machine starts to acquire its own independence, where its camera-eye view shows signs of being guided by some peculiar machinic sense of interest and concern. That, in turn, set us off talking about how disappointing, how banally villainous, the Ultron AI of the last Avengers movie was.
I quite like this description of righting the world from Hermetic Lessons:
In Kabbalah we speak of Tikkun ha Olam – the rectification of the worlds – the idea being that in the Shevirat Ha Kelim, the Shattering of the Vessels, the world became broken and overwhelmed by evil. The Ari used the partzufim (personifications, countenanves) in order to complete this reparation – for while the kelim could not contain the light and so shattered, the partzufim, by being able to enter dialogue with each other, could both give and recieve the light**. We could speak of our task on Earth being Tikkun ha Partzuf, the repair of the face.
The language is virtually identical to that of the espiritistas: identify your spirits [i.e., partzufim] and give them light. It’s worth pointing out what those asterisks in the quote specify, too: that ‘light’ is here synonymous with attention. In other words, to give and receive light is to give and receive attention, and it is through attention that the rifts in creation are bridged.
The similarity between the two is, of course, not accidental. Spiritism emerges from a soil that has been throroughly saturated with Kabbalism, sometimes so much so that it has become all-but invisible.
When I talk about getting to know a spirit, I am usually talking about a lengthy ritual process through which the spirit becomes manifest, divination performed upon it, and a personal connection established. The personal connection part of the process is absolutely essential but difficult to describe. Even after a lengthy ritual manifestation and divination, the nature of the spirit is often opaque. It is only after weeks and months of living with it that the spirit’s place in my broader spiritual court becomes manifest.
One of the things that I like about Dina Katz’s work on the Sumerian netherworld is that she chips away at the notion that the Sumerians had a rich notion of multiple souls. Reading the material we have on their afterlife closely, we seem to see quite a bit of variance about what exactly the afterlife consisted in and, even, if there was an afterlife to speak of. That kind of minimalist reading is so useful when you’re trying to have a dialogue, however broken and one-sided, with people of another era.
I always enjoy when a post ends up being one point on a wave of posts on a topic, like there is some schooling going on in this enervated blogosphere. Alexandra’s most recent post touches sidelong at something I have wanted to talk about again, a point at which I often feel myself at odds with how people talk about magic, namely the mutability of reality.
I’m not one of those folks who likes to draw many comparisons from studies of computing processes and apply them to human behavior. I tend to think that computers mimic human consciousness more because of the human beings that structure and use them rather than them being intrinsically conscious. I may be wrong about that, but that’s my working hypothesis.
One of the things I like about an account that distinguishes different sorts of klippoth is that it provides me with a simple but well-structured model of the ‘physics’ of the gnostic fall and the sorts of existence it made possible. I am not big on ‘results centered’ magic, but I do like my models to be as actionable as possible. Here, when I say ‘actionable,’ I mean it to refer to action in its rich, ethical dimensions, not just to its practical, ‘can I do it?’ sense.
I’m grooving on Frater Acher’s recent post on closing down his current temple work and releasing it into the earth (thanks, Simon, for linking to it). It reminds me of something quite important that I don’t often see discussed in the current lovefest around necromancy. While there has been a good bit of talk about cultivating your ancestors, it doesn’t seem to have blossomed into a full ancestral reverence. More often than not, that care for the ancestors is put in quite practical terms like “having your ancestors happy means you can call on them more readily for help” or “if your ancestors are unhappy, they can interfere with what you want.”
Following on the last post, let me talk a bit more about what I mean when I say that the Sa’adia diagram might provide the basis for a better ontological account of what exactly is going on with the talk of qlippoth. If we look at the tree as a manifestation of the archetypal forces of creation interacting with an alien matrix that receives it (which isn’t Sa’adia’s point, but one to which his model well extends), then the alien matrix’s own being has to be taken into account. Far from a passive mirror, it responds to the archetypal forces of creation according to difficult to discern internal properties of its being.
On some level, if for no other reason than they are capable of interacting, we can grasp that there is a deep affinity between archetype and matrix. There are many dimensions to the matrix just as there are many dimensions to the archetype. Whether as a result of the interaction with the matrix, or on the basis of its own self-differentiation, the archetype manifests such that it develops multiple points of reflection on itself, the seeds of individual souls. Those seeds possess the same constituting properties of the archetype on a smaller scale.