I came across this article thanks to Warren Ellis; I see Ellis’s point clearly enough and it’s one that I have been more than a little concerned about myself, especially in the greater occulture. Kingsnorth, the Dark Mountain, and the broader halo of thinking that surrounds and informs them has significant influence on the scene. It’s a trend that extends well-beyond the greens, too. A lot of folks who are committed to ‘preserving a culture’ are edging along similar terrain, looking to join national autonomy to cultural safety.
When I have sat down the last few days to start drafting a post, I find that there is a lot going on in my head at the moment. I will start writing a post about one thing, only to discover it morphing into a discussion of yet another thing. I’m not exactly complaining as it is a little refreshing to have the ideas flowing, but it’s going to take some discipline and work to extract cogent posts from that flow.
In the meantime, here are some of the things that have been setting my thoughts in motion.
I’ve talked a bit about my peculiar reworking of the geomantic planetary affinities based around my study of Sefer Yetzirah and the alignment of some of my personal gnosis with the Lurianic currents of Kabbalism (main post here, a correction here). While there are logical reasons for these sorts of changes, they also just better articulate the spiritual structures within which my spiritual work unfolds. When I revisited old charts taken to study spirits, they became much more intelligible once I read them in light of these assignments.
A long time ago now, I was discussing an article by Toshihiko Izutsu with a group of friends. I can’t recall the specific article at this remove (it was one found in Creation and the Timeless Order of Things), but it was one of his discussions of mystical experiences in Sufi literature. Over the course of the article, he made the comparison between descriptions of musical experience and descriptions of mystical experiences, highlighting how they are both resistant to direct description.
This is the post where I begin to move (I think) from interim phase toward whatever the next cycle is. There are a few distinct pieces that I want to highlight and talk about in that regard. This is sort of a notebook post and sort of not.
First, after I had mentioned Frater Acher’s recent article on magical tools in a recent post, a correspondent of mine asked if I knew much about him, mentioning that they had been doing some work with the Quareia material with which Frater Acher has been involved. It felt like one of those little nudges, so I went back and took a second look at his website (and Quareia’s, but that wasn’t where I found the hook). This little gem of an ebook caught my attention.
“Like it or not, we are slaves of the hour and its colors and forms, subjects of the sky and of the earth. Even the part of us that burrows deepest into itself, disdaining its surroundings, does not burrow along the same paths when it rains as when the sky is clear.”—Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet
I’ve seen this piece from the Business Insider frustrating folks, reporting that terms for the color blue weren’t widespread in the ancient Mediterranean world. Most of that frustrations seems misplaced. We’re missing an opportunity because, while this is a puff piece, what it describes fits into a discussion that has been going on for nearly half a century within cognitive anthropology. It’s easy enough to hear the results of these studies as generally pejorative, but that’s not what I see. This sort of thing allows us to appreciate past cultures more deeply as it makes clear their differences from us, not their inferiority.
I am probably going to be talking about the Saadia material for a bit. I am not talking about it from a sense of expertise with the material and its context, but from the way in which it seems to provide a solid model for talking about the spiritual work I have been engaged within. Heck, being able to explore the model without diving into that context is one of the model’s virtues—it has the quality of a theorem which I can examine and apply according to its inner logic.
I keep turning over the relationship between force and culture over in my head. It’s an old concern for me, and Gordon’s recent post about the potential failures of multiculturalism as a conceptual apparatus for dealing with the lived reality of cultural diversity has helped catalyze a few insights out of the churn.
I believe it was in Difference & Repetition that Deleuze specified that the foundation of any system of exchange was not exchange at all, but theft and gift. This fits into his broader argument in that text regarding the derivative nature of systems of equivalence and representation. Those are deep waters, beyond the scope of a blog to plumb, but I want to focus on that bit about theft and gift in regards to a discussion of spiritual syncretism and appropriation.
Since the work of spirit necessarily entails a relationship to sign, symbol, and imagination, it is often conjoined to a discussion of art. Good stuff comes out of that, but I want to think about it from a different direction, approaching the relationship to art as having a more fundamental connection to culture.
Partly, this is meant to counter my own habit of over-emphasizing aesthetics. What happens if I think of the alliance of Venus and Saturn as reaching its apex in cultures rather than more singular works of art?