Moses Redux

Let’s get ready to ramble, shall we? This is one of those throat-clearing posts that tend to show up in the middle. I keep coming back to something Simon said in response to my last post on Moses in the medieval Jewish Kabbalistic material:

“SY is considered a text of the school of ma’aseh bereishit (work of creation), a complementary but separate school to ma’aseh merkavah (work of the chariot). The former is a school focusing on the metaphysics of creation as outlined in chapter 1 of Genesis and the latter school is based on visions of Ezekiel and Isaiah involving heavenly ascent. I would place the experience of Moses receiving the law as related to ma’aseh bereishit and the splitting of the sea of reeds as related to the school of ma’aseh bereishit.”

It was useful to have it said in these terms contrasted in just this way because it reopens a series of distinctions that has long animated my thinking (wizard/witch; the sumerian diasporas; though the diasporas posts are basically a pitch to break it out into wizard/sorcerer/witch). So, when we are talking about the early medieval fusion of the SY with an account of an ascent to heaven by Moses, we are looking at an interesting case where the two modalities have crisscrossed each other.

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Yeatsian Practice

When I first started to dig into the Vision materials, I remember looking around the occult scene a bit to see if I could find if anything had done much with them and was a little surprised to see that they hadn’t. Most of what I saw was of the “well, W. B. never really finished the work, and it is simply too incomplete to put into practice.” Which is…well, wrong, but wrong in the useful or, as Dudley Hersbach would say, interesting fashion.

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[NB] Obeah, Signification, Sorrow

“Obiya is about your soul set aflame in spiritual congruence and in this way the Obeahman is the maker of his or her own ontology made possible by manipulation of the transmutative matter inherited in the cosmic matrix. In this way the Obeahman is reminiscent of the modern Chaos magician but instead of sensitivity with social paradigms he or she holds sensitivity with the shifting arches of creation.”—Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold, Obeah (37)

I keep opening the book to this passage and it begins to dawn on me that the distinction Frisvold is making here sits atop a rich vein of wisdom. The distinction between Obeahman and Chaos magician sits well with my own distinction between witch and wizard (obeah and chaos magic each being instances of the patterns). That in turn sits atop the engine of signification, of metonymy (esp. synecdoche) and metaphor. All of which lies cradled in the human way of being in this world and of using the world to see into others.

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The Wizard Questions

I know, quelle surprise. After talking about the witch conceptual field, it makes sense to ask after the wizardly conceptual field. The two intersect with each other dynamically after all.

The wizard puts themselves before their spiritual experience and asks how to order it. How do I establish between the disparate elements of my experience a pattern that allows me to recall it and direct it?

It is here that command is important for the wizard. The pattern the wizard seeks to impose is that of a discipline, one through which they are able to reproduce the clarity of their concepts in the substance of their experience.

Looking back to the previous post, we can examine the two cases mentioned there from the wizard side. What W. B. Yeats does in producing A Vision is establish an order that he can then apply to himself, to others, and to the world itself. Examining this more closely, we can see more clearly the shift from the witchly to the wizardly conceptual field.

The identification of potencies and their interaction is an entirely witchly endeavor. However, in A Vision those potencies form the basis of a closed field. The 28 mansions of the moon become a rubric into which all souls can be categorized, distributed, and ordered. A Vision is interesting in part because the ordering is only partially successful and a witchly disorder can still be seen tugging at the seams; the march seems always on the verge of dissolving into revelry. But, then, William is a poet first.

There is something similar going on in Jung’s analytic psychology. While it begins with the rowdy spiritual encounters of The Red Book, it concludes in the neat discipline of self-integration, with each spirit subsumed to a category (anima, animus, senex, shadow, Self) to which specific psychological operations ought to be applied. Unlike Yeats’s work, Jung’s work tends toward a cold abstraction (though reports of his practice suggest something much livelier—again the dynamic interplay of the two fields).

Because it is systematic, the wizardly order can be reproduced through subjecting students to a course of study. Such a course propagates the ordering process. If it is carried out far enough, the wizard reshapes their environs in the image of the their order. This is the point at which the active discipline can be mistaken for a ‘natural order’ of some sort or another.

With the wizardly, it makes more sense to talk of schools and kingdoms, teachers and kings, than of fellow-travelers. Do they support my authority? Do they counter it? Are they rivals to it? The question of order brings with it the trappings of allegiance and diplomacy.

The wizardly is first and foremost a question of order and discipline enters as a means to an end. Discipline and order (like need and want) occupy overlapping semantic terrain and can be confused with each other. the confusion of discipline and order often form the basis for wizardly excess and a danger of tyranny and indifference accompanies the wizardly.

That danger is often best neutralized by a kind of vigorous and beneficent elitism. Acknowledging the peculiarity of the wizardly discipline under the aspect of elitism at least preserves its unnatural character and the fostering of superior beneficence minimizes the degree to which the discipline is applied.

In the tension between life and word, the wizard favors the word and attempts to put life in order according to their understanding of the grammar of the word.

Witches & Wizards, Oh My

Words are funny things. They have meanings but they can also be given meanings. I am a pushy and quirky sort, so when it comes to some words, I often care less about what they usually mean, than what they can possibly mean. That possible meaning takes place against the horizon of meanings they have had, but I aim to shoot past them.

It is with this attitude that I want to talk about how I like to use the terms ‘witch’ and ‘wizard.’ I know that the terms have a few centuries of struggle rolled up into them, and to a certain extent I am positioning myself in that struggle even as I try to move the line. Still, brass tacks, I can’t get into that other horizon if I pin myself down to fighting over the accrued meanings.

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