Revisiting Marija Gimbutas

Being sick last week had the silver lining of getting to spend a fair bit of time with both Marija Gimbutas’s The Living Goddess and The Language of the Goddess. There is enough accumulated opinion around her work that I might not have otherwise done that had not sickness whittled my world down to a spare space around the couch, where her books, fresh from the library, sat within easy reach. That’s more than a little ridiculous, when you think about the scholarship I would otherwise tolerate from within the greater magical community.

Of course, that’s part of it, isn’t it? The magical community has garnered for itself a sense of academic credibility (at least in its own mind) in part by accepting certain fashionable academic opinions as givens, including the ones that basically suggest Gimbutas is full of it. The spirit of seriousness lures us with the promise of acceptance if only, as Michael Serres observed, we exclude this third man from our dialogue. Or, well, pace Serres, not a third man, but a woman.

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[NB] Virtual World

[This is the first of the pages being fed back into the blog. It’s a bit heady, but it has some bearing on the matter of correspondences which I will be talking about in the near future.]

I picked up the idea of the virtual from Gilles Deleuze and it is a concept that has much utility as we set out to discuss what it means to talk about the spiritual world. On this page, I am going to provide a brief introduction to the concept and its applications to occult philosophy. To get at this Deleuzian approach to the virtual I will need to do four things:

  1. distinguish this use of the term from another popular use of the term.
  2. define this term.
  3. detail the relationship between the two uses of the term which partially justifies the same word being applied to both.
  4. highlight how all of this can inform occult thinking.

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Dirt, Klippot, What is Being Worked

Segol talks for some time aboue the golem operation which is almost always closely related to the Sefer Yetzirah in the manuscripts she studies. As she talks about the gathering of dirt, I am thinking over the long relationship my practice has had with dirt, beginning almost a decade ago when a spirit suggested that I might find the ‘church of dirt’ more suited to my work and disposition, a church that my spirits have repeatedly rooted in an ambiguously Levantine antiquity. It seems like just one more way in which the SY work seems to be one of the capstones of the practice that I already have.

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[NB] Sefer Yetzirah historical notes: trees and recensions

I realized recently that I didn’t have a solid grasp on the historical horizon of the SY’s transmission, so I thought to do a little more digging. That is where I came across Segol’s Word and Image in Medieval Kabbalism. It is a compact work of scholarship—a fair amount of information and argument in a very brief monograph. I’ve already talked a little about what that has set me to thinking about, but I want to flag a few other details that might be useful and/or interesting in thinking about the SY.

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[NB] Spirit Grammar

I’ve started to work through the second of the three seals. Pacing has been a key element of this process. I had an idea of how the remaining seals should go ever since I finished drafting a version of the first, but the idea and the reality have differed in some essential ways. Had I tried to jump into the second seal before letting the dust settle from the first, I would have carried too much intellectual expectation in and botched it. As it is, I am just now starting to receive the dreams and intuitions that allow me to set to work on the second.

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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] Indo-European Permutations

Stacey’s been reading up on her Indo-European myths lately, most especially the rival god/brothers, and it has brought Dumezil circling back into our discussions. Because I have been thinking so much about the Kabbalistic material from the point of the view of the Fall, I started to plug that into his model. What happens if we look at Dumezil’s exploration of Indo-European myth as the study of a thorough permutation of the sefirotic diagram? It goes interesting places almost right away.

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On Seeing and Naming Color: Blue Alienation

“Like it or not, we are slaves of the hour and its colors and forms, subjects of the sky and of the earth. Even the part of us that burrows deepest into itself, disdaining its surroundings, does not burrow along the same paths when it rains as when the sky is clear.”—Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

I’ve seen this piece from the Business Insider frustrating folks, reporting that terms for the color blue weren’t widespread in the ancient Mediterranean world. Most of that frustrations seems misplaced. We’re missing an opportunity because, while this is a puff piece, what it describes fits into a discussion that has been going on for nearly half a century within cognitive anthropology. It’s easy enough to hear the results of these studies as generally pejorative, but that’s not what I see. This sort of thing allows us to appreciate past cultures more deeply as it makes clear their differences from us, not their inferiority.

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[NB] Myth in History, briefly considered

I feel like I should say something about the place of myth in history given the last few posts emphasizing the Biblical ‘history’s’ mythological character. It’s a deep pool to wade into but I think there are some statements that I can make which hold in a general sense for most myths, Biblical and otherwise. For those interested in the gritty details of the Mesoretic material I’ve been discussing, let me just point you toward the two Wikipedia articles on Source Criticism and the Documentary Hypothesis as guides for deeper diving.

Keep in mind that one of the reasons we have so much detail about the Biblical material is because we have put so many scholarly resources toward this; consider how comparably fewer have been put toward analyzing other myths.

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