[NB] “A Most Extraordinary Myth”

I just thought I would share this story. It is a thing of beauty, packed tight:

“But in Oturupon Meji Maupoil stumbled upon a most extraordinary myth: Orunmila, beset with melancholia, consulted Ifa for himself. How to renew his zest? He was told to bring a sacrifice to his mother, upon whom all joy in his life depended. She was far away. It was Eshu who volunteered to go find her. When he got there he told the woman that her son was dead and that he would lead her back to perform the funeral if she would give him a certain he-goat, which had been entrusted to her care by Oduduwa—life itself. Reluctantly she agreed to give the animal up. Eshu-Elegba promptly slaughtered it, and the blood that flowed forth, covering Eshu’s body, was fire. Having at that time none of his own, Eshu took he-goat’s indestructible head and placed it in a jar turned upside down upon his shoulders. And worn by Eshu, that jar was discovered to contain the sun. (To the king of death Orunmila’s mother gave a ripe fruit; this became his head.)”—Judith Gleason, A Recitation of Ifa (149; emphasis Gleason’s)

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[NB] Dick, Dahomey, Aesthetics, and Revelation

Most of this is just pulling a reply I made to the last post up and elaborating it a little bit. Here is the relevant bit:

Dick and this Dahomean story, by way of contrast, join the personifications uneasily against the impersonal dimensions of the binary.

Valis is sometimes just the ‘AI voice’ and in the Dahomean myths the descriptions of Gbadu emphasizes her as that which broadcasts the (mathematical/binary/generative) principles of heaven, as a set of eyes.

We also have Dick with his idea that Valis can speak by composing herself of the very stuff of the world and in the Dahomean story we can see that most of the spirit’s strange attributes refer to the materials that compose the apparatus and shrines of the Fa cult. There is a real zest for metonymy, for winding the words around the solidness of things, sometimes punning back and forth between the material and symbolic.

That is part of what makes the articulation of the two stand out to me and it is part of what defines the operation of both in the world, and their proximity to it.

The spiritual work cannot be separated from its entanglement in the visible world. The entanglement may begin in confusion, but through the entanglement becomes open to a process of clarification. At the same time, the invisible forces are not identical with those material entanglements even as the entanglement provides a vehicle for the transformation of the spiritual realm.

Which is to say: the work is a kind of life. It has a duration in our material world, is subject to the forces operating within it, expresses itself within it, and yet there is an aspect of it that outlives its life in the material, changed by its life in ways difficult to grasp from the persepctive of life. That manifests, first and foremost, in its alien-ness, and we should be able to glimpse how a culture understands that alien-ness in its aesthetic responses to revelation.

[NB] Philip K. Dick and Gbadu

Let’s make the needle really dance over this record. I’ve been doing some jumping around in time and space, and here I want to close the gap, bring us even closer to the present, but zig-zag a stitch between two superficially disparate blocks of recent time.

“More and more this binary computer model of Valis seems to be the correct one. ‘On’ is the linking of two parts which I saw: ‘on’ equals junction; ‘off’ equals disjunction or not inclusion in the vast assembly which I equate with Valis.”—The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick (498-99)

I won’t repeat my issue with the computer model, but I find it terribly suggestive that this is the model Dick goes for when he tries to grasp the nature of Valis. Suggestive, too, that the I Ching will serve him well in his work.

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