[NB] “I do solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”

I picked up The Book of Oberon recently. It’s a real beauty of a book—clean and attractive illustrations of all the figures and sigils, Latin and English translations of the orations, and excellent front matter from the editors contextualizing the work and its discovery.

One thing caught my eye specifically in the front matter. As they were talking about the creation of the hazel wand, they noted that this had clear ties to the disciplining used in the school system. The selection of a young, flexible, branch of hazel was also encouraged for teachers, because its flexibility gave it a sting without inflicting serious injury, contrary to the staff.

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[NB] Sex, Embodiment, Gender, Ecstatic Religion

Breathe. Breathe in through your nose, exhale. Breathe in through your mouth, exhale. Consider that with these two breaths you have fed your senses, bringing in the scents that surround you, bringing in the subtle tastes that move through the air. Consider your eyes, your ears, how closely they are to the channels of breath, how they are channels, too, of sights and sounds.

Follow your breath into your lungs, follow your breath out to its sympathy with your heart, pumping the blood, both oxygen and carbon dioxide rich, through your body. Consider how far the sights and sounds that reach you may be, and how close all of this is, how all of this pulls together the world into a tight knot of awareness, whether that awareness be acute or limpid.

Are you in pain? If not, recall the last time you were, recall the last time you felt yourself gathered on sharp jolts or rocked by dull aches. Recall the last time you really wanted something, how similar to pain that can be. Consider, now, the animal roots of all this. Consider what it means to articulate so much of your conscious being through this fleshy vessel organized by animal desire. Consider how rich an instrument this body is, but how few the notes it oft employs.

Because today I want to talk about our bodies, about a peculiar dimension of our embodied experience, gender and sex. That will take me through some terrain which can get a little abstract, but as you follow me through that terrain, I want you to keep in mind this sort of entanglement. I want you to think about how breath, smell, and taste comingle though we casually and technically differentiate them. This is similar.

Keep in mind how viscerally desires express themselves, how difficult it is to fully separate from each other, from our embodied awareness. Consider how entangled those bodies are with subtle realities like our DNA and gross realities like the environment to which our bodies are modeled. Consider how basic sex is to the continuation of the species and how fundamental sexual differentiation is in that. Try to keep an eye, at all times, on the ever-present knot this forms in experience, and how startlingly flexible this anchoring reality can become in conscious experience.

Keep that in mind as I proceed through abstractions. Run the abstractions back down toward this potent knot of your embodiment, because when I think about the Kabbalistic material and its broader gnostic horizon, it is difficult to ignore its gendered dimensions.

The question as to how seriously to take the gendering takes me down into the realities of our embodiment. This is present implicitly in the Saadia diagram, where the sefirot are anchored in direction, in time, in moral behavior. When you look at what the sefirot orient, it is a body. Though it is absent from the sefirot, it manifests in their interaction. This mystery opens into the embodiment of consciousness in other bodies, but I’m going to dive deeply into this human one here.

It will take me in an (surprise) unusual direction, so don’t expect too much familiar terrain here. Or, well, actually do expect familiar terrain but a very different path through it.

Continue reading “[NB] Sex, Embodiment, Gender, Ecstatic Religion”

Sobriety is a Witch’s Virtue

If you read around Deleuze and Guattari’s Thousand Plateaus, you see all kinds of weirdness that, superficially, looks like a blanket endorsement for ecstasy. The talk of deterritorialization, war machines, strange masochistic acts, solar anuses, wolf men, sorcerers, lines of flight (‘the witch’s flight’), demonic alliance, romantic love, Burroughs’s heroin addiction, lobster God, and the undoing of the mesh of concepts that sustains specific ways of perceiving subjects and objects, all sounds pretty darn ecstatic.

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[NB] Traits of Tradition

When folks start talking about getting back to ‘tradition,’ their is often a counter-cultural element at play. They are often defining tradition in counterpoint to ‘this modern life.’ There are reasons to be a little cautious of such gestures since they can become more protest than viable alternative, but there is something to this approach. The more we look at modernity, the more exceptional it seems.

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