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] Dreams and Visions, C. G. Jung

Jung gets a bad rap sometimes for over-psychologizing religious experience. While the accusation is true enough, it obscures important dimensions of his work. While popular understandings of Jung were skewed by the way they became popular around Joseph Campbell’s use of his work to explain and interpret world mythology, the core of Jung’s method remained active, hands-on. To get at that, I want to look at Jung with different eyes, scrub off some of the accretions that came to define and distort his work.

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To Be More Specific

As a general rule, we think generally too often. Contrary to some romantic notions of savage immediacy, human beings on the whole seem naturally disposed to conceptual and symbolic thinking. We compare and empathize easily, to the point that it is only a slight exaggeration to say that what we call our self, our ego, is nothing more than the conflation of our being with that tendency and its products. As a corollary, we can with just a little exaggeration say that a ‘culture’ is simply the dynamic organization of this habit and its products.

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On a whim, I pulled up that dinky of dinky drawing programs, Paint, and doodled an image that has been at the center of my contemplatio lately. It took no time (because there is nothing much to do with Paint) and when I was done I chuckled to myself, “Well, that’s very 1995.”

1995. As soon as I said it, I felt the weight of spirit settle upon it; it isn’t even the first time I’ve gotten a nudge around that date this month. I started to do a little digging to see if I could find that message. It’s a busy time and seems absolutely pivotal to the decades between now and then. I’m going to ramble around that, mostly thanks to Wikipedia and a little supplementary Googling (this is very U.S. focused; in part because it is where I am and in part because this time has to do with the character of U.S. ascendancy).

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Lovecraft and Modernity (Take 1)

I keep hammering on about this connection between modernity as a literary sensibility and modernity as a spiritual/religious/occult one. I’ve admitted that I have more a sense of how not to talk about it than I do of how to talk about it. It seems like what I need is a figure I can pore over easily–I love Benjamin and I’m enjoying Baudelaire, but that is too far-removed from what I know to provide a ready handle. Which, well, makes me think about H. P. Lovecraft.

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Dumezil and the Promise of Tradition

I first read Dumezil’s Mitra-Varuna in the Spring of 2008. It was a chaotic period for me and I only took from it some broad but intelligible points. A few weeks ago, a copy of the book made its way to me and I have been chewing slowly through it, taking more time with each subsection. It doesn’t hurt that most of those subsections are only a couple of pages in length, perfect bathroom reading (Hey, I’m not made of time–I take my reading where I can).

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A World of Experiences

The principle that I am adopting is that consciousness presupposes experience, and not experience consciousness.

Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality (Corrected Edition, 53)

Whitehead and spiritualism seem a bit like peanut butter and chocolate to me, so I thought I would throw up a post about this quote. I’ll unpack the two key terms in it before diving into the spiritualist angle.

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A little Jungian typology can go a long way

One of the things I really appreciate about Gordon’s account of the Necronomicon is that it allows us to posit a unity to it that exceeds its otherwise disparate manifestations, that we can think of it as “a spaceship crashing to earth and flinging pieces over time and space.” That concept of a spiritual message manifesting across disparate points is useful and sits well with some of my own ideas on how the eternal and temporal interact. Here I am going to suggest that we ought to apply this to Jungian typology.

(I suspect you could apply to it to Jungian psychology more generally, with the critical caveat that one of the problems with Jung is that he too quickly falls back on psychology and philology or, to use a Gordonism again, fails to dig a deep enough well.)

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Breathing Out

I have spent some time thinking about what I need to be doing with this blog going forward. Some of it will follow the pattern already established: talking in fairly broad gnostic terms about this or that topic. I am also going to start writing about my specific practice and work, most especially about the spirits underpinning it.

I don’t expect that will be easy. The spirits that I work with don’t seem to have much historical precedence and to the extent that they do, they give me the sense that it has been through syncretic relationships with other spirits. They do have a penumbra of stories, but they aren’t ones that have been passed down and polished through generations of retelling. I don’t think of myself as a good storyteller or theologian, but that seems to be where the next phase requires me to go.

I don’t have a clear idea of what this will look like, except a bit clumsy and hopefully earnest.

Okay, that’s the news for now. I’ll be picking back up regular posting shortly.

Unintended Consequences

In my last post, I proposed that a portion of what we might call spiritual technology is a good deal like other sorts of technology, i.e. it results from human experimentation rather than direct divine inspiration or straightforward exploration. From this perspective, spiritual traditions are a mish-mash of spiritual guidance, spiritual accident, and human cleverness.

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