[NB] Reading around in the Key of Mater, Wolf, and Lucifer

I don’t want to leave this place quiet too long, so how about a smattering of what I have been reading and thinking about ?

In what follows, I am going to engage in numerous comparisons that crisscross well-defined cultural and geographic milieus. I want to talk a little about that before we get going, because the comparative modality can both nourish and starve our spiritual wellsprings. In order to nourish our wellsprings, we need to preserve their singularity, their distinctive character in place and time. Think of the network of comparisons like a net of lights lifted up over the spiritual work in which we are engaged. That net of lights isn’t intended to catch hold of anything. If you take away the net, the mysteries they illumine are still there, invisible in the dark.

Don’t get caught up in these comparisons in order to put a name on something. As soon as the comparisons become a tool for pinning down a commonality between spiritual manifestations, we’re starting to head down a dangerous road that will have us worshiping the words on our tongues and the images in our minds rather than the mystery that stimulates both. If you don’t have a spiritual presence with which you are contemplating these comparisons, well, I guess this will at most be a list of historical curiosities.

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Five Books on Possession, Music, Language, and History

Remains of Ritual emphasizes, again and again, how gorovodu and religions like it are musical more than discursive. Friedson attempts to get at that through phenomenological tools, but he also works hard to give voice to gorovodu onits own terms. Reading through it right now, I’m struck by what makes music so central to this form of religiosity.

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Getting Axial: Magic, Spirits, Responsibility

This is one of those posts that started forming a few days ago and crystallized in response to this post of Andrew’s and this one of Chris Knowles. It’s the post about what it means if we take seriously the ideas that (1) we are constituted by a network of souls, only one of which is properly ‘our’ own, and (2) that what we do in undertaking magical work is open ourselves to a series of engagements with these other souls.

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[NB] Tradition is Always Plural

I guess I’m still chewing on the tradition and appropriation bone, but there is one more reason that I am suspicious of people getting up in arms about appropriating ‘traditions’ on the internet. The people doing the policing often work hard to firm up the borders of the tradition they are policing, pushing the ‘tradition’ into increasingly dogmatic directions.

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[NB] Viridis Genii (Pt. II)

I don’t find myself wanting to write too much about the conference. Or, rather, I want to write about it, but there is a disconnect between what happens when I start writing and what I want to talk about. I’m having a hard time even reading the proceedings. I have definitely talked a lot about it, but writing seems to run a little counter to what I took from it.

That probably tells you more about where I am at right now than anything else. It is definitely not because there aren’t things to say or because the conference proceedings aren’t interesting. When it comes to the proceedings, at least, I have a good idea of why I am not reading them too vigorously. The proceedings are a good reflection of the workshops and lectures, but I don’t want to quite revisit them like that. Not yet, at least.

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[NB] Winding Evolution and Consciousness More Closely

I’m building up to a larger idea, but I want to start with some small steps, taking my discussions about consciousness and evolution just one increment further. This started with my comparison of consciousness and evolution in order to preserve the concept of consciousness as a process and retain the practical reality of individual consciousnesses (which I will try to call ‘intelligences’ to help differentiate the two levels).

This will be a little abstract to start, but I hope to start digging down into the dirt of it as time goes on.

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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.

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[NB] Demonic Mimesis

Yesterday was a good day in numerous small ways and one of them was following a little nudge to wander by the library. I walk by the new books shelf and the first thing I see is Divine Scapegoats: Demonic Mimesis in Early Jewish Mysticism by Andrei A. Orlov. After having just had a lengthy post about mimesis, it feels like someone dropping an anonymous note through my mail slot, so I picked it right up.

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By Theft and By Gift

I believe it was in Difference & Repetition that Deleuze specified that the foundation of any system of exchange was not exchange at all, but theft and gift. This fits into his broader argument in that text regarding the derivative nature of systems of equivalence and representation. Those are deep waters, beyond the scope of a blog to plumb, but I want to focus on that bit about theft and gift in regards to a discussion of spiritual syncretism and appropriation.

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