Way, way back in the early days of my time on the internet (ca. 1994-95), I had the good luck to stumble into a dream interpretation community. It was a simple affair. Every cycle (I can’t recall how long that was, maybe a month or so?), everyone in the group would send in a dream they wanted to work on. The organizer would choose one or two (at random or by design, I can’t recall), and then the whole group would go at the dreams.
“…their Covens and Fleets have rhythm and pattern. This running together and running of all to a centre and yet without loss of identity, has been prepared for by their exploration of their moral life, of its beneficiaries and its victims, and even of all its untrodden paths, and all their thoughts have moulded the vehicle and become event and circumstance.”—W. B. Yeats, Per Amica Silentia Lunae (75)
This is beautiful, isn’t it? Yeats has such a graceful pen, knows how to turn poetry to the service of spiritual truth. The image of the dead of a people, gathered up beneath the spirit that guarded their religious life, whirling through the spirit of the world…I hope for such a fate. But let us not get too caught up in the beauty to notice the center toward which they are traveling. What is that journey about?
All gods and all religions and all magical traditions get cobbled together out of bits and pieces of previous traditions. All theology and all revelation look suspiciously like syncretism, and scholarship confirms this. Chaos magic adopts it as a guiding principle without apology or evasion.
This sort of thing strikes me as somewhat banal these days, true in a breezy sort of way that doesn’t mean a lot. I can agree wholeheartedly with the statement without necessarily agreeing with Carroll or anyone else who affirms it. I’ll probably have to actually read this book at some point, but for the sake of a post, I’m just going to talk about how I would cash out the statement. Continue reading “Syncretism”
Spinoza’s philosophical monism structures a lot of how I think about our interactions with the world of spirits. The specifics of his work, his way of thinking and arguing as well as his assertions, are worth some attention in and of themselves, but this really isn’t the vest venue for that. Heck, I may not even be the best person for that anyway. Behind those specifics there is a monist sensibility (I’m big on that notion, aren’t I?) that is even more useful to me. That can be usefully described here, so let me see if I can get at that.
I’m going to do that by breaking the sensibility down into some grounding intuitions, that sense of how the world is ordered and how that order ought to shape how we think about it. I’m going to play a little loosely with Spinoza’s logic in order to get at this sensibility, in part because I draw different conclusions from it. Continue reading “Spinoza and the Spiritual Labyrinth”
In the early days of anthropology, there was a lot of interest in exotic cosmologies. Part of the anthropologist’s job was to get at the model of the universe their informants had. That tendency had its roots in the philological habits of the ‘Enlightened’ European world and it produced a fair amount of scholarship that equated understanding a people with understanding their cosmology. This eventually gave way to a richer notion of culture that emphasized conceptual frameworks and sensibilities within anthropology, but it has had a lingering and stifling impact on occultism and occult-inflected new relgious movements.
The history of civilization is a river on whose waters soldiers and politicians are fighting and shedding ballots and blood; but on the banks of the river, people are raising children, building homes, making scientific inventions, puzzling about the universe, writing music and literature.–Will Durant
One of the charms of W. B. Yeats’s first effort to publish A Vision is its framing narrative, a work of fiction equal to the magical realists who would follow after him. The origin of that frame, though, derives from an injunction imparted by the spirits that the work as a whole was to remain secret. While George herself was opposed to the publication in general, the spirits made some allowances.
I don’t read as much as I used to, but over this holiday season I have been taking pleasure in the translation of Walter Benjamin’s work on Baudelaire, The Writer of Modern Life, and acquainting myself with Les Fleurs du Mal (I know, embarrassing that I haven’t done so before this, right?). I’m glad to have a bilingual edition of the latter–while Robert Howard’s English translation is poetically appealing, it elides Baudelaire’s singular and discomfiting French.