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.
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.
So, first, there is this post that seems to be making the rounds, especially the specifics of “David’s” experience. The there is having David Gordon White’s bits about sinister yogis going through my head (he makes the point in miniature in his book on Patanjali). There is the recent post over at enfolding.org about therapy and mindfulness. The story of David, the experiences with mindfulness as part of disruptive reform program, and the history of revolutionary yogis, opens onto a broader discussion of adopting practices from other cultures. There is a common narrative about these that I think we ought to undercut.
That narrative kicks up around the occult scenes in the face of stories like that of David. There is more than a little ethnic Romanticism at the foundations of self-identified ‘Western’ occultism (both among ‘magical’ and ‘religious’ strands). When confronted by these stories about the dangers of spiritual work, it manifests as otherwise sensible people muttering gnomic warnings or patting themselves on the back about how careful they are engaging with ‘foreign’ or ‘exotic’ cultural practices to which ‘Westerners’ aren’t well-suited.
Following the ancestor nudging that kicked off an earlier post, I found myself flipping open a book that has been sitting on my shelf. It’s got some useful material about the different ways of conceiving spiritual and intellectual transmission. A little notebooking, then?
Before springing too quickly into an occult consideration of the Necronomicon, I want to take some time to discuss its fictional and literary context. This won’t be anything fancy (though it will be long), just some descriptive account of how it tends to appear, the way those uses change over time, and some biographical / historical context for those changes.