This is a roundabout way of talking about spirit work and education. I want to talk about a little work that I have been doing. I don’t want to get into the details of it (I can be a little cautious that way, my nod to the injunctions toward secrecy or, at least, intimacy), but I’m hoping the sketch might still serve as an case study.
I was going to sit down and write about history and evolution, but instead the ancestral shrine tugged at me. Have I told you that story? Probably not. A few years ago now, I had the opportunity to participate in an ancestralization ceremony for my maternal grandparents with one of Malidoma Some’s students, Emenike La. It opened many doors to me spiritually. The elevation of my ancestors was like nothing so much as lifting the lintels on a door I didn’t even know was there; a whole world opened up to me.
Hard to talk about some of that stuff, though, because it’s, well, family business. Even if it’s weird family business. Maybe because it is weird family business?
This is bone simple notebooking, but I want to keep track of this anyway. One of the things I have been trying to keep in mind as I read the Kabbalistic material is that there are going to be parts that are less intuitive for me because they reference, implicitly, daily practices and everyday concepts from Judaism.
One of the things I have been doing to rectify that a little is read through the Amidah. Besides being core liturgical material, it has likely been recited in close to its contemporary form for nearly two millenia (and probably recited in recognizable form for centuries before that).
I have to muddle through this sort of thing pretty slowly, looking at Hebrew text and some translations of them, then digging around to verify and expand upon details. I welcome the input of folks with Hebrew fluency (because I effectively have none).
That is the question that has been on my mind. I mean the future in a big way, in the hope of a time different than this one, less walled in by the invasive repetitiveness of the current black iron prison. I mean, too, in the way that opens the door toward that future, the ground which must be forged from the world we have.
There are plenty of ancestral forces that strive to preserve, but there are also the ones that strive to forge, to make something new and better for those that follow. That is tied to the past, but in the past as it seeks outside itself.
That can’t really be about fighting the power because it the nature of the fight to invigorate the forms against which it struggles, to adapt to them even if it is in struggle. This sort of founding has to be firm without opposing. There seems to be a strong vein of this in Chinese thought and it is one of the reasons that I still turn to the I Ching, still read about blandness, and wander down some Taoist alleys. Not precisely for the substance of the thought, but for a way of thinking.
How do you hold a world that might not be? How do you hold a world so that even if it doesn’t come to be, it’s possibility exerts influence upon the one that does exist?
When I think about the afterlife, this is what I think most about, a projection into the ancestral current that keeps whispering and winding into the fabric of the street corners and forest paths.
At some point during the Quimbanda workshop at Viridis Genii, Jesse mentioned that Kalunga, the Kongo term for the great spiritual sea in which the dead swim, is generally thought to begin about handspan from the body. The dead are just that close, and during exceptionally dangerous times, even closer.
I had heard something like this before, but this time it settled against the Kabbalistic thoughts I had been posting (interesting trivia: one of the older strains of spiritualist work that feeds into Quimbanda was called, simply enough, ‘Kabbalah’). What else surrounds the material world, close but not identical with it? Chokmah and Binah, perhaps?
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.”
I figure it might be worthwhile to talk a little about why I am spending so much time with the text of Revelation. There are a few reasons for that. It’s part of establishing for myself a sense of the rich terrain against which gnosticism of all varieties developed and of framing more pointedly my own. It sits within a deep and long history that stretches continuously from its authorship into the present.
The intellectual work of the last few posts has value in itself, but I undertook as a run-up toward contemplating the tree, i.e., sitting down in the dark and slowly unfurling it. As a rule, sitting with the tree prior to thinking through the Saadia model has turned into a modestly useful intellectual exercise.
This wasn’t that. I only worked with the spare structural dimensions of the tree and it was qualitatively different than the usual intellectual exercise.
So far, the new year shift seems to be toward less frequent posting. Partly, that is because I am thinking about some different sorts of things and thinking a little differently all around. That shift hasn’t quite congealed into a pattern that I can sit down and just write about. But I write to think, too, so I want to keep up the habit of posting.
This weekend I’ve been reading Alfredo López Austin’s Tamoanchan, Tlalocan: Places of Mist in a way that I haven’t read anything in a while. He’s an exceptionally good comparative thinker, triangulating from several contemporary Mesoamerican religious practices to better pin down a model of pre-Columbian Nahua thought. It’s funny, every time I find myself working through an account of Mesoamerican or Caribbean or Amazonian philosophy, I can just feel all the little gray cells standing up in recognition of their insight.
Just a couple quotes. These relate to two earlier posts, one on the Sumerian diasporas and their legacy in occult thought and another discussing the way in which this material has helped illumine my own spiritual experience.
These are both from Dina Katz’s The Image of the Netherworld in Sumerian Sources. I have made some changes to her transliteration of names to avoid using special characters.