Formation and Demolition

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.

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Geomantic Tav (Moon, Monday, Right or Outer Nostril)

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Geomantic via.svg          Geomantic populus.svg

Within the planetary circuit, Tav circles the Earth and is the mirror of the Kaf. In the sequence of the week it follows Kaf and precedes Dalet. Upon the plane of orifices that constitute the face, Tav forms the right nostril alongside Bet. Within the Tree of Life, it is the bottom of the central pillar, crowned with Yesod and resting upon Malkuth. In all of these assemblages, it finds expression through the geomantic figures of Via and Populus.

Tav, like many of its witnesses, is fluid and dynamic and I find it one of the more difficult to give verbal form.

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[NB] Grimoire and Reception + Life in Death

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.

[NB] Trees of Wisdom and Life

I spend a fair bit of my time trying to parse out the Neoplatonic inflections from the Kabbalistic material I am studying, but it’s worth keeping in mind the antiquity of the interactions between the two streams of thought. In part, that is just being intellectually honest. In part, though, it is also because there may be useful Kabbalistic insights entangled in more syncretic models. So, two texts to share and briefly comment on, one from the medieval period, the other from antiquity.

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[NB] Experience-first language

A long time ago now, I was discussing an article by Toshihiko Izutsu with a group of friends. I can’t recall the specific article at this remove (it was one found in Creation and the Timeless Order of Things), but it was one of his discussions of mystical experiences in Sufi literature. Over the course of the article, he made the comparison between descriptions of musical experience and descriptions of mystical experiences, highlighting how they are both resistant to direct description.

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A Vision and the Image of Life

I haven’t talked about the Yeatses’ Vision materials in a dog’s age. There isn’t much more to be said that wouldn’t involve getting over-invested in the obscurities particular to their experience. Reversing the direction somewhat, though, there is one thing worth mentioning by way of extraction and magnification. Alongside the traditionally spiritualist model in A Vision, there  is also a biological model of spiritual life in play. William aligns the lunar cycle that sits at the heart of the Yeatsian model with a life cycle, most especially a plant’s life. So, by way of a somewhat late footnote:

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[NB] New Ideas of Evolution

This is a proper notebook post, intended to amplify the sort of discussions which are shaping my discussion of an evolution aesthetic here. Don’t worry, these are all links to popular science writing that frame the discussion in lay terms.

The first is just a little fluff piece about the romantic and nationalist fantasies that underpin certain forms of conservationism. Fluffy or not, that’s going to come in handy when I revisit the apocalypse, with its nationalist underpinnings.

The next two dig a little deeper into the logic of evolution and pushback on genetic determinism. The first does so by pointing out the role played by the environment as part of the feedback loop shaping evolution. The second focuses more on the organism and its development rather than evolution in specific, but its shared focus on the role played by the feedback loop gets us back to the importance of the algorithm.

Finally, let’s round out the link fest with a couple that reframe what it means to call something an invasive species within this sort of unguided but directed evolutionary perspective. There is an article I really quite liked on this topic, but I can’t seem to locate it.

ETA: Oh for goodness sake I forgot two other links on the early phases of life. The first I found thanks to Gordon which describes how we may be getting closer to understanding the organic potentials of inanimate matter. (Bonus points that this very golem-like discussion is being kicked up by a Jewish scientist.) The other is a discussion of the trickster-cells that might link both plant and animal cell biology.

The Powers of the Earth

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.

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What you make of it

I think it was Churchill who said that if a point was worth making once, it was worth making three times. In that spirit, I am going to hammer on a little more about fate and destiny. In order to make the most of them as spiritual concepts, we need to separate them from some of the associations they have picked up in fantasy and fiction. Here I am thinking about the sorts of stories, like Harry Potter, where destiny and fate tend to equate to a specific achievement. This doesn’t help much when we are trying to apply the concepts spiritually because, for the most part, we aren’t destined or fated to specific events. Rather, the spiritual forces that support our fate and destiny tend to manipulate events with an eye toward realizing certain potentialities in our spiritual make-up.

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