I picked up a copy of Frisvold’s latest, Ifá: A Forest of Mystery pretty early out of the gate. I started in my usual way, dipping in and out of the book at random or as some specific curiosity prompted me (what does he say about Ogun? What about Òbárá Meji?). That left me with a favorable impression of the text—each time I came away with a sense of having my understanding both confirmed and expanded.
In general, I enjoy reading John Michael Greer’s Archdruid Report. He’s got a take that I appreciate. The last few posts have been something of an exception to that, though, in their inability to confront the color line (as spiritual and material reality) as it bears on the future he is trying to sketch out. He loses touch with a moral thread in U.S. history, over-emphasizing abstract patterns rather than the concrete actions fo individuals that give those patterns shape.
Various iterations of this post have been bumping around my drafts folder for a bit and after my last post where I complained a little about the popular use of ‘culture’ I feel like it is time to work the draft into a proper post. I want to talk a little about truth, teachings, culture, and appropriation.
This begins for me with W. E. B. DuBois and his observation about the nature of the color line. While he was keenly aware of its reality and the necessity to confront it in its many manifestations, he was also clear that the color line was something of a lie. Or, to quote Leonard Cohen, that it was “real, but it ain’t exactly there.” One of the most important challenges that we can mount against the color line is an assault on that reality and an effort to realize the “there” that is actually there.
Still slowly moving through Kripal’s Esalen. It isn’t a difficult read, but I find myself putting it down a lot to chew over this or that discussion. I’ll admit to finding Esalen itself less interesting than the cultural networks in which it partakes and I think that makes me a little grumpy about some of Kripal’s approach. The central place he gives Esalen strikes me as excessive–it isn’t just that Esalen takes center stage because it is the topic of the book, but it seems like Kripal really believes it is the central stage.
Anyway. That isn’t what I want to jot down here. I have finally gotten to the point where he gives George Leonard direct attention. Leonard plays a big role at Esalen but what really catches my attention is the role of events outside of Esalen play in shaping George Leonard. Leonard’s conception of a ‘human potential movement’ is so much deeper & broader than the Esalen material, and I want to just make a note of how.
The would-be black savant was confronted by the paradox that the knowledge his people needed was a twice-told tale to his white neighbors, while the knowledge which would teach the white world was Greek to his own flesh and blood. The innate love of harmony and beauty that set the ruder souls of his people a-dancing and a-singing raised but confusion and doubt in the soul of the black artist; for the beauty revealed to him was the soul-beauty of a race which his larger audience despised, and he could not articulate the message of another people. This waste of double aims, this seeking to satisfy two unreconciled ideals, has wrought sad havoc with the courage and faith and deeds of ten thousand thousand people,—has sent them often wooing false gods and invoking false means of salvation, and at times has even seemed about to make them ashamed of themselves. (W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, 5)
The color line may seem like an odd thing for a gnostic and spiritualist blog to talk about, but the veil that defines the color line is one of the many that separates us from understanding and enlightenment. And, like Du Bois said, it isn’t just any old veil, but one of the defining veils of our era.
(Have I said this before? If not: while the obstacles to (human) gnosis are common to people regardless of place and time, the degree to which this or that obstacle manifests depends on the historical situation of the gnostic. That includes the gnostic’s personal history, their autobiography if you will, and the network of historical situations from which that autobiography is woven.)