As I am talking about the sefirah, the Sefer Yetzirah, the book of Revelation, and Pharaoh’s spiritual function, I am also becoming increasingly aware of a difference in scale between this work and the work with which I began this blog. I named it Disrupt and Repair to reflect the texture of spiritual processes with which I was engaged. Following them out to my current work, I can see a family of practices centered upon formation and demolition.
So, Leonard Cohen died. I have a hard time putting into words what that feels like. I am surprised by how little sadness plays into it, though I am sad. I am surprised, too, by how little I wanted to talk about his death. Those two are related. Cohen’s death illuminates his great dignity and sadness seems a paltry thing in the face of it. So, too, that dignity’s passing from the living to the dead merits silence, because nothing else can properly encompass it. Like one of Walter Benjamin’s storytellers, he was already far away even though he leaned so close.
Just some more “what I am reading from around the web” posting.
While we seem to have a much better sense of the early modern grimoire archive (e.g., Owen Davies’s Grimoires), of the history of the grimoires as commodities in circulation, I still haven’t seen a lot that gives us insight into the reception and lifeworld of those grimoires (though that could be simple ignorance on my part). Though not about grimoires proper, the role played by literacy and self-education in The Cheese and the Worms provides a useful point of departure for that line of thought.In a peculiar fashion, The Dictionary of the Khazars is another such opportunity.
This article seems like another avenue. While it does not address grimoires directly, it opens a window into the early modern publishing world in which grimoires circulated and to which both authors and publishers would have their expectations set. Positioning grimoires and grimoire spirits as part of the advancement of secularism and an early do-it-yourself sensibility…well, that fits nicely with entertaining the possibility that school networks might have facilitated the transmission of some grimoire materials and captures some of the Promethean, fire-stealing elements of the spirits.
Then there is this window into work going on around the study of the dead and what happens in the body after death. How is this for a curiosity:
“Some genetic activity, like a gene that’s responsible for embryonic development, baffled the scientists. Noble suspects that this gene becomes active because the cellular environment in dead bodies must somehow resemble those found in embryos.”
Gives new meaning to the phrase from womb to tomb.
When the Sefer Yetzirah summarizes the essence of the sefirot, it does so by describing them as “of nothingness.” More so than any of the channels, they are united in a common being, which is no being, or a being so full that it exceeds being as a specific beings like planets and stars and animals. This nothingness divides itself and in dividing itself sets the tree in motion.
Gordon’s latest post has me thinking about what it means to have goals in magical work. I often feel like a bit of an outsider to the ‘do magic for x, get x’ school of magical work. In most cases, it feels like if I really want x, there are usually more direct routes toward x than magic. I know, the get it camp tends to favor doing magic as a way of securing the route, but it’s never been a major part of my work.
Our moon is distinctive by virtue of being an extrusion of the Earth itself, a dead twin. It’s occult power derives in part from this doubling process, for it is not just a neighbor but an affine, an ancestral body. Remember Lucretius who suggested that substances formed from atoms because of an inherent tendency to swerve? Well, look to the moon and its influence on us as a constant introduction of subtle swerves, on the physical and occult planes. Consider the way the moon slowly churns the ocean and where life began.
I’ve been thinking about the Symbolist and Decadent movements of the fin-de-siecle life more generally (which makes Gordon’s recent post timely in a sidelong way; this is the other side of France’s enshrining of Reason, the aesthetic Avignon). Obviously, there is more than a superficial resemblance between Europe on the cusp of the 20th century and the United States on the cusp of the 21st, but there is something else going on, too. Beneath the parallels in situation, there is an inheritance. We aren’t just ‘repeating’ the decline of fin-de-siecle Europe, in part because we are encountering it with the legacy of fin-de-siecle Europe available to us.
It’s a strange time, isn’t it? The last few days it feels like the strains on this modern world have given way to full-blown cracks and that we have begun to tilt inexorably toward a future we are ill-prepared to face. Israel surges into Gaza, a plane falls from the Ukrainian sky. The last few days where I live, the weather has been clear, crisp, delightful in a way summers in the Southern U.S. rarely are. The natural world has been closer: a turtle directly on my path, a young mockingbird exploring the window at which I stood, a corner crow cocking its head at me as it regarded me through the window. They are speaking softly, meaningfully, without yet meaning anything. While tensions flare around the wreckage of the plane, while Israel commits itself to expanding its attack. There is worry and despair, but also exhilaration and hope.
I’ve been wondering about writing while all this goes on, but for the moment I have decided to work away as I have. It may not be much, but it is one of my disciplines and I do believe that discipline ripples outward. Though it cannot stay the tide, perhaps if there is enough discipline, it will at least hold back some of the flood. If not, well, then at least I am occupied with something other than anxiety.
This plays against the notebook post about the great mother. I don’t want to conflate the ancient Mediterranean with the more contemporary Polynesian societies, but I think between the two we can glimpse the lineaments of a human potentiality that isn’t reducible to these specific cultural moments. I want to type it out and see where it goes. Notebooking, so don’t put too much weight on this. Similarly, try not to read this romantically, as a utopic form of social life. It isn’t; but it is another form that might inform our future.
I have seen more than one person praise geomancy for its clarity, for its utility in answering questions clearly and directly. No doubt, this is one of the system’s virtues, especially when you transpose the reading onto an astrological frame. The passing of signs and their affiliations with each other provides reams of information about opportunities and obstacles.
That said, that clarity rests partly upon a fixed pattern of meanings and associations which contain a fair number of presuppositions about what is good and bad, strong and weak. Some cross-cultural comparison can be useful here, because the values of the signs shift somewhat between cultures.