Ancestry and lineage are hot topics in magical circles these days, but in talking about these things we often fall into vague and romantic notions about how kinship is constituted and defined. Having talked about the very concrete connections between kinship and kalunga recently, Lucien Scubla’s Giving Life, Giving Death: Psychoanalysis, Anthropology, Philosophy has been a timely read. The way in which Scubla repositions kinship studies to emphasize the central fact of maternity (and highlight how it is often overlooked) resonates with much of my own thinking.
Continuing the longer responses to some of the questions Iago posed, I want to talk a little more about Yesod as it came up in the discussion. One of the things I feel that I need to do before I start into some of the specific elements under discussion, though, is clarify a little about how my Kabbalism differs from Crowley’s. Don’t take these as gospel; they are just my efforts to make sense of my work.
That is the question that has been on my mind. I mean the future in a big way, in the hope of a time different than this one, less walled in by the invasive repetitiveness of the current black iron prison. I mean, too, in the way that opens the door toward that future, the ground which must be forged from the world we have.
There are plenty of ancestral forces that strive to preserve, but there are also the ones that strive to forge, to make something new and better for those that follow. That is tied to the past, but in the past as it seeks outside itself.
That can’t really be about fighting the power because it the nature of the fight to invigorate the forms against which it struggles, to adapt to them even if it is in struggle. This sort of founding has to be firm without opposing. There seems to be a strong vein of this in Chinese thought and it is one of the reasons that I still turn to the I Ching, still read about blandness, and wander down some Taoist alleys. Not precisely for the substance of the thought, but for a way of thinking.
How do you hold a world that might not be? How do you hold a world so that even if it doesn’t come to be, it’s possibility exerts influence upon the one that does exist?
When I think about the afterlife, this is what I think most about, a projection into the ancestral current that keeps whispering and winding into the fabric of the street corners and forest paths.
This article helped to congeal for me what has been a growing problem in the magical community, at least the bit I keep an eye on, namely a tendency toward fatalism and despair. It is perhaps nowhere more clearly articulated than in Peter Gray’s talk of ‘apocalyptic’ witchcraft, but it appears elsewhere, in the pseudo-medicalization of magic, which turns it into a first aid kit for the imagined post-apocalyptic world, and in the profound cynicism toward institutionalized forms of knowledge.
But, extinction is not the likely outcome in the coming century. It could happen for a host of reasons, but it is not likely to be the result of our current economic and ecological crises.
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.
Witchcraft as I tend to think of it seems to do its best work when perched at the boundary between destruction and creation. It takes apart, but it also infuses what has been taken apart with new force, new potency. Witchcraft is an art of decline, but it is also the art of rebirth. If I were pushed into saying why this is the case, I would say that it is because witchcraft is concerned with the life of the world, the cosmos, the life that precedes and exceeds the life of individuals. The work of destruction is done for the sake of that life, in much the same way as its serving as the ancilla of creation.
“The decadence will descend, by perpetual moral improvement….The decadence of the Greco-Roman world with its violent soldiers and its mahogany dark young athletes was as great, but that suggested the bubbles of life turned into marbles, whereas what awaits us…may suggest bubbles in a frozen pond—mathematical Babylonian starlight.”—W. B. Yeats, A Vision (176)
Spiritualism is full of prognoses for the future of mankind, ranging from the unbelievably optimistic to the unbelievably grim. Given that I don’t entirely take the linear direction of our lives in history to be all there is and that I take the nonlinear elements to have an influence on the linear elements, I have a hard time taking any pronouncement on the future as final.
Walter Benjamin’s “Theses on the Philosophy of History” remain one of the lynchpins of my understanding of the relationship between the world of spirit and the world of historical reality. Benjamin disassembled a strictly linear notion of history, one thing after another, to emphasize the potencies inherent in the present moment, what he called the now-time (Jetztzeit), the moment of crisis that lays hands on whatever it can to proceed forward.
Jake Stratton-Kent’s ‘What is Goetia?’ is making the rounds. His approach to doing magic, centered in the individual rather than the art, the cthonic rather than the celestial, is familiar (in the sense of being resonant with my way of doing things; see the witch / wizard discussions), but I’m going to suggest that there is a better way to approach the matter than he does in that essay, one that takes the work outside the (to my mind stultifying) conventions of talking about a Western Magical Tradition ™.
In general, I enjoy reading John Michael Greer’s Archdruid Report. He’s got a take that I appreciate. The last few posts have been something of an exception to that, though, in their inability to confront the color line (as spiritual and material reality) as it bears on the future he is trying to sketch out. He loses touch with a moral thread in U.S. history, over-emphasizing abstract patterns rather than the concrete actions fo individuals that give those patterns shape.