Who is number two?
..and who does he work for?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

On The Absolute & Bagels - A Collection of Writings Examining the Infinite Hypersphere, the Centre of Which = Everywhere, and the Circumference Nowhere by Borges

Pascal's Sphere

Perhaps universal history is the history of a few metaphors. I should like to sketch one chapter of that history.

Six centuries before the Christian era Xenophanes of Colophon, the rhapsodist, weary of the Homeric verses he recited from city to city, attacked the poets who attributed anthropomorphic traits do the gods; the substitute he proposed to the Greeks was a single God: an eternal sphere. In Plato’s Timaeus we read that the sphere is the most perfect and most uniform shape, because all points in its surface are equidistant from the center. Olof Gigon (Ursprung der griechischen Philosophie, 183) says that Xenophanes shared that belief; the God was spheroid, because that form was the best, or the least bad, to serve as a representation of the divinity. Forty years later, Parmenides of Elea repeated the image (“Being is like the mass of a well-rounded sphere, whose force is constant from the center in any direction”). Calogero and Mondolfo believe that he envisioned an infinite, or infinitely growing sphere, and that those words have a dynamic meaning (Albertelli, Gli Eleati, 148). Parmenides taught in Italy; a few years after he died, the Sicilian Empedocles of Agrigentum plotted a laborious cosmogony, in one section of which the particles of earth, air, fire, and water compose an endless sphere, “the round Sphairos, which rejoices in its circular solitude.”

Universal history followed its course. The too-human gods attacked by Xenophanes were reduced to poetic fictions or to demons, but it was said that one god, Hermes Trismegistus, had dictated a variously estimated number of books (42, according to Clement of Alexandria; 20,000, according to Iamblichus; 36,525, according to the priests of Thoth, who is also Hermes), on whose pages all things were written. Fragments of that illusory library, compiled or forged since the third century, form the so-called Hermetica. In one part of the Asclepius, which was also attributed to Trismegistus, the twelfth-century French theologian, Alain de Lille - Alanus de Insulis - discovered this formula, which future generations would not forget: “God is an intelligible sphere, whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” The Pre-Socratic spoke of an endless sphere; Albertelli (like Aristotle before him) thinks that such a statement is a contradictio in adjecto, because the subject and predicate negate each other. Possibly so, but the formula of the Hermetic books almost enables us to envisage that sphere. In the thirteenth century the image reappeared in the symbolic Roman de la Rose, which attributed it to Plato, and in the Speculum Triplex encyclopedia. In the sixteenth century the last chapter of the last book of Pantagruel referred to “that intellectual sphere, whose center is everywhere and whose circumference nowhere, which we call God.” For the medieval mind, the meaning was clear: God is in each one of his creatures, but it not limited by anyone of them. “Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee,” said Solomon (I Kings 8:27). The geometrical metaphor of the sphere must have seemed like a gloss of those words.

Dante’s poem has preserved Ptolemaic astronomy, which ruled men’s imaginations for fourteen hundred years. The earth is the center of the universe. It is an immovable sphere, around which nine concentric spheres revolve. The first seven are the planetary heavens (the heavens of the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn); the eighth, the Heaven of Fixed Stars; the ninth, the Crystalline Heaven (called the Primum Mobile), surrounded by the Empyrean, which is made of light. That whole laborious array of hollow, transparent, and revolving spheres (one system required fifty-five) had come to a mental necessity. De hypothesibus motuum coelestium commentariolus was the timid title that Copernicus, the disputer of Aristotle, gave to the manuscript that transformed our vision of the cosmos. For one man, Giordano Bruno, the breaking of the sidereal vaults was a liberation. In La cena de le ceneri he proclaimed that the world was the infinite effect of an infinite cause and the divinity was near, “because it is in us even more than we ourselves are in us.” He searched for the words that would explain Copernican space to mankind, and on one famous page he wrote: “We can state with certainty that the universe is all center, or that the center of the universe is everywhere and the circumference nowhere” ( De la causa, principio e uno,  V).

That was written exultantly in 1584, still in the light of the Renaissance; seventy years later not one spark of that fervor remained and men felt lost in time and space. In time, because if the future and the past are infinite, there will not really be a when; in space, because if every being is equidistant from the infinite and the infinitesimal, there will not be a where. No one exists on a certain day, in a certain place; no one knows the size of his face. In the Renaissance humanity thought it had reached adulthood, and it said as much through the mouths of Bruno, Campanella, and Bacon. In the seventeenth century humanity was intimidated by a feeling of old age; to vindicate itself it exhumed the belief of a slow and fatal degeneration of all creatures because of Adam’s sin. (In Genesis 5:27 we read that “all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years”; in 6:4, that “There were giants in the earth in those days.”) The elegy Anatomy of the World, by John Donne, deplored the very brief lives and the slight stature of contemporary men, who could be likened to fairies and dwarfs. According to Johnson’s biography, Milton feared that an epic genre had become impossible on earth. Glanvill thought that Adam, God’s medal, enjoyed a telescopic and microscopic vision. Robert South wrote, in famous words, that an Aristotle was merely the wreckage of Adam, and Athens, the rudiments of Paradise. In that jaded century the absolute space that inspired the hexameters of Lucretius, the absolute space that had been a liberation for Bruno, was a labyrinth and an abyss for Pascal. He hated the universe, and yearned to adore God. But God was less real to him than the hated universe. He was sorry that the firmament could not speak; he compared our lives to those of shipwrecked men on a desert island. He felt the incessant weight of the physical world; he felt confused, afraid, and alone; and he expressed his feelings like this: “It [nature] is an infinite sphere, the center of which is everywhere, the circumference nowhere.” That is the text of the Brunschvicg edition, but the critical edition of Tourneur (Paris, 1941), which reproduces the cancellations and the hesitations of the manuscript, reveals that Pascal started to write effroyable: “A frightful sphere, the center of which is everywhere, and the circumference nowhere.”

Perhaps universal history is the history of the diverse intonation of a few metaphors.

Everything And Nothing

There was no one in him; behind his face (which even in the poor paintings of the period is unlike any other) and his words, which were copious, imaginative, and emotional, there was nothing but a little chill, a dream not dreamed by anyone. At first he thought everyone was like him, but the puzzled look on a friend’s face when he remarked on that emptiness told him he was mistaken and convinced him forever that an individual must not differ from his species. Occasionally he thought he would find in books the cure for his ill, and so he learned the small Latin and less Greek of which a contemporary was to speak. Later he thought that in the exercise of an elemental human rite he might well find what he sought, and he let himself be initiated by Anne Hathaway one long June afternoon. At twenty-odd he went to London. Instinctively, he had already trained himself in the habit of pretending that he was someone, so it would not be discovered that he was no one. In London he hit upon the profession to which he was predestined, that of the actor, who plays on stage at being someone else. His playacting taught him a singular happiness, perhaps the first he had known; but when the last line was applauded and the last corpse removed from the stage, the hated sense of unreality came over him again. He ceased to be Ferrex or Tamburlaine and again became a nobody. Trapped, he fell to imagining other heroes and other tragic tales. Thus, while in London’s bawdyhouses and taverns his body fulfilled its destiny as body, the soul that dwelled in it was Caesar, failing to heed the augurer’s admonition, and Juliet, detesting the lark, and Macbeth, conversing on the heath with the witches, who are also the fates. Nobody was ever as many men as that man, who like the Egyptian Proteus managed to exhaust all the possible shapes of being. At times he slipped into some corner of his work a confession, certain that it would not be deciphered; Richard affirms that in his single person he plays many parts, and Iago says with strange words, “I am not what I am.” His passages on the fundamental identity of existing, dreaming, and acting are famous.

Twenty years he persisted in that controlled hallucination, but one morning he was overcome by the surfeit and the horror of being so many kings who die by the sword and so many unhappy lovers who converge, diverge, and melodiously agonize. That same day he disposed of his theater. Before a week was out he had returned to the village of his birth, where he recovered the trees and the river of his childhood; and he did not bind them to those others his muse had celebrated, those made illustrious by mythological allusions and Latin phrases. He had to be someone; he became a retired impresario who has made his fortune and who interests himself in loans, lawsuits, and petty usury. In this character he dictated the arid final will and testament that we know, deliberately excluding from it every trace of emotion and of literature. Friends from London used to visit his retreat, and for them he would take on again the role of poet.

The story goes that, before or after he died, he found himself before God and he said: “I, who have been so many men in vain, want to be one man: myself.” The voice of God replied from a whirlwind: “Neither am I one self; I dreamed the world as you dreamed your work, my Shakespeare, and among the shapes of my dream are you, who, like me, are many persons—and none.”

From Someone to Nobody

 In the beginning, God is the Gods (Elohim), a plural that some believe implies majesty and others plenitude, and which some have thought is an echo of earlier polytheisms or a prefiguring of the doctrine, declared in Nicaea, that God is One and is Three. Elohim takes a singular verb; the first verse of the Law says, literally: "In the beginning the Gods [He] created the heaven and the earth." Despite the vagueness this plural suggests, Elohim is concrete; God is called "Jehovah" and we read that He walked in the garden in, as the English versions say, "the cool of the day." Human qualities define Him; in one part of the Scriptures we read: "And it repented Jehovah that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart"; and in another, " For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God"; and in another, "In the fire of My wrath have I spoken." The subject of such locutions is indisputably Someone, a corporal Someone whom the centuries will magnify and blur. His titles vary: "Strength of Jacob," "Rock of Israel," "I Am That I Am," "God of the Armies," "King of Kings." This last-which no doubt conversely inspired Gregory the Great's "Servant of the Servants of God"-is, in the original text, a superlative of "king": as Fray Luis de Le6n writes, "It is a property of the Hebrew language to use the same word twice when one wants to emphasize something, either favorably or unfavorably. Thus, to say 'Song of Songs' is the same as our 'A Song among Songs' or 'he is a man among men,' that is, famous and eminent among all and more excellent than many others." In the first centuries of our era, theologians began to use the prefix omni, which previously had been reserved for adjectives pertaining to nature or Jupiter; they coined words like omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, which make of God a respectful chaos of unimaginable superlatives. That nomenclature, like the others, seems to limit the divinity: at the end of the fifth century, the unknown author of the Corpus Dionysiacum declares that no affirmative predicate is fitting for God. Nothing should be affirmed of Him, everything can be denied. Schopenhauer notes dryly: "That theology is the only true one, but it has no content." Written in Greek, the tracts and letters that make up the Corpus Dionysiacum find a reader in the ninth century who puts them into Latin: John Erigena or Scotus, that is, John the Irishman, whose name in history is Scotus Erigena, or Irish Irish. He formulates a doctrine of a pantheistic nature: particular things are theophanies (revelations or appearances of the divine) and behind them is God, who is the only reality, "but who does not know what He is, because He is not a what, and is incomprehensible to Himself and to all intelligence." He is not sapient, He is more than sapient; He is not good, He is more than good; He inscrutably exceeds and repels all attributes. John the Irishman, to define Him, used the word nihilum, which is nothingness; God
is the primordial nothingness of the creatio ex nihilo, the abyss where first the archetypes and then concrete beings were engendered. He is Nothing and Nobody; those who imagined Him in this way did so in the belief that this was more than being a What or a Who. Similarly, Shankara teaches that all mankind, in a deep sleep, is the universe, is God.

The process I have illustrated is not, of course, aleatory. A magnification to nothingness occurs or tends to occur in all cults; we may observe it unmistakably in the case of Shakespeare. His contemporary, Ben Jonson, loves him "on this side of Idolatry"; Dryden declares that he is the Homer of the dramatic poets of England, but admits that he is often insipid and pompous; the discursive eighteenth century attempts to appraise his virtues and rebuke his faults; in 1774, Maurice Morgann states that King Lear and Falstaff are nothing but modifications of the mind of their inventor; at the beginning of the nineteenth century that opinion is recreated by Coleridge, for whom Shakespeare is no longer a man but a literary variation of the infinite God of Spinoza. Shakespeare as an individual person, he wrote, was a natura naturata, an effect, but "the universal which is potentially in each particular opened out to him . . . not as an abstraction of observation from a variety of men, but as the substance capable of endless modifications, of which his own personal existence was but one." Hazlitt corroborated or confirmed this: "He was just like any other man, but that he was unlike other men. He was nothing in himself, but he was all that others were, or that could become." Later, Hugo compared him to the ocean, which is the seedbed of all possible forms.

To be something is inexorably not to be all the other things; the confused intuition of this truth has induced mankind to imagine that being nothing is more than being something and is, in some way, to be every thing. This fallacy is inherent in the words of that legendary king of India who renounces power and goes out to beg in the streets: "From this day forward I have no realm or my realm is limitless, from this day forward my body does not belong to me or all the earth belongs to me." Schopenhauer has written that history is an interminable and perplexing dream of human generations; in the dream there are recurring forms, perhaps nothing but forms; one of them is the process reported on this page.

Monday, July 14, 2014

When speaking on different subjects.... by The Tiger of The Turkestan

When speaking on different subjects, I have noticed how difficult it is to pass on one's understanding, even of the most ordinary subject and to a person well known to me. Our language is too poor for full and exact descriptions. Later I found that this lack of understanding between one man and another is a
mathematically ordered phenomenon as precise as the multiplication table. It depends in general on the so-called "psyche" of the people concerned, and in particular on the state of their psyche at any given moment.

The truth of this law can be verified at every step. In order to be understood by another man, it is not only necessary for the speaker to know how to speak but for the listener to know how to listen. This is why I can say that if I were to speak in a way I consider exact, everybody here, with very few exceptions, would think I was crazy. But since at present I have to speak to my audience as it is, and my audience will have to listen to me, we must first establish the possibility of a common understanding.

In the course of our talk we must gradually mark the sign posts of a productive conversation. All I wish to suggest now is that you try to look at things and phenomena around you, and especially at yourselves, from a point of view, from an angle, that may be different from what is usual or natural to you.

Only to look, for to do more is possible only with the wish and cooperation of the listener, when the listener ceases to listen passively and begins to do, that is, when he moves into an active state.

Very often in conversation with people, one hears the direct or implied view that man as we meet with him in ordinary life could be regarded as almost the center of the universe, the "crown of creation," or at any rate that he is a large and important entity; that his possibilities are almost unlimited, his powers almost infinite. But even with such views there are a number of reservations: they say that, for this, exceptional conditions are necessary, special circumstances, inspiration, revelation and so on.

However, if we examine this conception of "man," we see at once that it is made up of features which belong not to one man but to a number of known or supposed separate individuals. We never meet such a man in real life, neither in the present nor as a historical personage in the past. For every man has his own weaknesses and if you look closely the mirage of greatness and power disintegrates.

But the most interesting thing is not that people clothe others in this mirage but that, owing to a peculiar feature of their own psyche, they transfer it to themselves, if not in its entirety, at least in part as a reflection.

And so, although they are almost nonentities, they imagine themselves to be that collective type or not far removed from it.

But if a man knows how to be sincere with himself—not sincere as the word is usually understood, but mercilessly sincere —then, to the question "What are you?" he will not expect a comforting reply. So now, without waiting for you to come nearer to experiencing for yourselves what I am speaking about, I suggest that, in order to understand better what I mean, each of you should now ask himself the question "What
am I?" I am certain that 95 percent of you will be puzzled by this question and will answer with another one: "What do you mean?"

And this will prove that a man has lived all his life without asking himself this question, has taken for granted, as axiomatic, that he is "something," even something very valuable, something he has never questioned. At the same time he is unable to explain to another what this something is, unable to convey even any idea of it, for he himself does not know what it is. Is the reason he does not know because, in fact, this "something" does not exist but is merely assumed to exist? Is it not strange that people pay so little attention to themselves in
the sense of self-knowledge? Is it not strange with what dull complacency they shut their eyes to what they really are and spend their lives in the pleasant conviction that they represent something valuable? They fail to see the gailing emptiness hidden behind the highly painted façade created by their self-dlusion and do not realize that its value is purely conventional.

True, this is not always so. Not everyone looks at himself so superficially. There do exist enquiring minds, which long for the truth of the heart, seek it, strive to solve the problems set by life, try to penetrate to the essence of things and phenomena and to penetrate into themselves. If a man reasons and thinks soundly, no matter what path he follows in solving these problems, he must inevitably arrive back at himself, and begin with the solution of the problem of what he is himself and what his place is in the world around him. For without this knowledge, he will have no focal point in his search. Socrates' words "Know thyself" remain for all those who seek true knowledge and being.

I have just used a new word—"being." To make sure that we all understand the same thing by it, I shall have to say a few words in explanation.

We have just been questioning whether what a man thinks about himself corresponds to what he is in reality, and you have asked yourselves what you are. Here is a doctor, there an engineer, there an artist. Are they in reality what we think they are? Can we treat the personality of each one as identical with his profession, with the experience which that profession, or the preparation for it, has given him?

Every man comes into the world like a clean sheet of paper; and then the people and circumstances around him begin vying with each other to dirty this sheet and to cover it with writing. Education, the formation of morals, information we call knowledge—all feelings of duty, honor, conscience and so on—enter here. And they all claim that the methods adopted for grafting these shoots known as man's "personality" to the trunk are immutable and infallible. Gradually the sheet is dirtied, and the dirtier with so-called "knowledge" the sheet becomes, the cleverer the man is considered to be. The more writing there is in the place called "duty," the more honest the possessor is said to be; and so it is with everything. And the dirty sheet itself, seeing that people consider its "dirt" as merit, considers it valuable. This is an example of what we call "man," to which we often even add such words as talent and genius. Yet our "genius" will have his mood spoiled for the whole day if he does not find his slippers beside his bed when he wakes up in the morning.

A man is not free either in his manifestations or in his life.

He cannot be what he wishes to be and what he thinks he is. He is not like his picture of himself, and the words "man, the crown of creation" do not apply to him.

"Man"—this is a proud term, but we must ask ourselves what kind of man? Not the man, surely, who is irritated at trifles, who gives his attention to petty matters and gets involved in everything around him. To have the right to call himself a man, he must be a man; and this "being" comes only through self-knowledge and work on oneself in the directions that become clear through self-knowledge.

Have you ever tried to watch yourself mentally when your attention has not been set on some definite problem for concentration? I suppose most of you are familiar with this, although perhaps only a few have systematically watched it in themselves. You are no doubt aware of the way we think by chance association, when our thought strings disconnected scenes and memories together, when everything that falls within the field of our consciousness, or merely touches it lightly, calls up these chance associations in our thought. The
string of thoughts seems to go on uninterruptedly, weaving together fragments of representations of former perceptions, taken from different recordings in our memories. And these recordings turn and unwind while our thinking apparatus deftly weaves its threads of thought continuously from this material.

The records of our feelings revolve in the same way—pleasant and unpleasant, joy and sorrow, laughter and irritation, pleasure and pain, sympathy and antipathy. You hear yourself praised and you are pleased; someone reproves you and your mood is spoiled. Something new captures your interest and instantly makes you forget what interested you just as much the moment before. Gradually your interest attaches you to the
new thing to such an extent that you sink into it from head to foot; suddenly you do not possess it any more, you have disappeared, you are bound to and dissolved in this thing; in fact it possesses you, it has captivated you, and this infatuation, this capacity for being captivated is, under many different guises, a property of each one of us. This binds us and prevents our being free. By the same token it takes away our strength and our time, leaving us no possibility of being objective and free —two essential qualities for anyone who decides to follow the way of self-knowledge.

We must strive for freedom if we strive for self-knowledge.

The task of self-knowledge and of further self-development is of such importance and seriousness, it demands such intensity of effort, that to attempt it any old way and amongst other things is impossible. The person who undertakes this task must put it first in his life, which is not so long that he can afford to squander it on trifles.

What can allow a man to spend his time profitably in his search, if not freedom from every kind of attachment?

Freedom and seriousness. Not the kind of seriousness which looks out from under knitted brows with pursed lips, carefully restrained gestures and words filtered through the teeth, but the kind of seriousness that means determination and persistence in the search, intensity and constancy in it, so that a man, even when resting, continues with his main task.

Ask yourselves—are you free? Many are inclined to answer "yes," if they are relatively secure in a material sense and do not have to worry about the morrow, if they depend on no one for their livelihood or in the choice of their conditions of life.

But is this freedom? Is it only a question of external conditions?

You have plenty of money, let us say. You live in luxury and enjoy general respect and esteem. The people who run your well-organized business are absolutely honest and devoted to you. In a word, you have a very good life. Perhaps you think so yourself and consider yourself wholly free, for after all your time is your own. You are a patron of the arts, you settle world problems over a cup of coffee and you may even be interested in the development of hidden spiritual powers. Problems of the spirit are not foreign to you and you are at home among philosophical ideas. You are educated and well read. Having some erudition in many fields, you are known as a clever man, for you find your way easily in all sorts of pursuits; you are an example of a cultured man. In short, you are to be envied.

In the morning you wake up under the influence of an unpleasant dream. The slightly depressed mood disappeared but has left its trace in a kind of lassitude and uncertainty of movement. You go to the mirror to brush your hair and by accident drop your hairbrush. You pick it up and just as you have dusted it off, you drop it again. This time you pick it up with a shade of impatience and because of that you drop it a third time. You try to grab it in midair but instead, it flies at the mirror. In vain you jump to catch it. Smash! ... a star shaped cluster of cracks appears in the antique mirror you were so proud of. Hell! The records of discontent begin to turn. You need to vent your annoyance on someone. Finding that your servant has forgotten to put the newspaper beside your morning coffee, your cup of patience overflows and you decide you can no longer stand the wretched man in the house.

Now it is time for you to go out. Taking advantage of the fine day, your destination not being far away, you decide to walk while your car follows slowly behind. The bright sun somewhat mollifies you. Your attention is attracted to a crowd that has gathered around a man lying unconscious on the pavement. With the help of the onlookers the porter puts him into a cab and he is driven off to the hospital. Notice how the strangely familiar face of the driver is connected in your associations and reminds you of the accident you had last year.

You were returning home from a gay birthday party. What a delicious cake they had there! This servant of yours who forgot your morning paper ruined your breakfast. Why not make up for it now? After all, cake and coffee are extremely important! Here is the fashionable cafe you sometimes go to with your friends. But why have you remembered about the accident? You had surely almost forgotten about the morning's unpleasantness. . . . And now, do your cake and coffee really taste so good?

You see the two ladies at the next table. What a charming blonde! She glances at you and whispers to her companion, "That's the sort of man I like." Surely none of your troubles are worth wasting time on or getting upset about. Need one point out how your mood changed from the moment you met the blonde and how it lasted while you were with her? You return home humming a gay tune and even the broken mirror only provokes a smile.

But what about the business you went out for in the morning?

You have only just remembered it . . . that's clever! Still, it does not matter. You can telephone. You lift the receiver and the operator gives you the wrong number. You ring again and get the same number. Some man says sharply that he is sick of you—you say it is not your fault, an altercation follows and you are surprised to learn that you are a fool and an idiot, and that if you call again . . . The rumpled carpet under your foot
irritates you, and you should hear the tone of voice in which you reprove the servant who is handing you a letter. The letter is from a man you respect and whose good opinion you value.

The contents of the letter are so flattering to you that your irritation gradually dies down and is replaced by the pleasantly embarrassed feeling that flattery arouses. You finish reading it in a most amiable mood.

I could continue this picture of your day—you free man.

Perhaps you think I have been exaggerating. No, this is a true scenario taken from life.

This was a day in the life of a man well known both at home and abroad, a day reconstructed and described by him that same evening as a vivid example of associative thinking and feeling. Tell me where is the freedom when people and things possess a man to such an extent that he forgets his mood, his business and himself?

In a man who is subject to such variation can there be any serious attitude toward his search?

You understand better now that a man need not necessarily be what he appears to be, that the question is not one of external circumstances and facts but of the inner structure of a man and of his attitude toward these facts. But perhaps this is only true for his associations; with regard to things he "knows" about, perhaps the situation is different.

But I ask you, if for some reason each of you was unable to put your knowledge to practical use for several years, how much would remain? Would this not be like having materials which in time dry up and evaporate? Remember the comparison with a clean sheet of paper. And indeed in the course of our life we are learning something the whole time, and we call the results of this learning "knowledge." And in spite of this knowledge, do we not often prove to be ignorant, remote from real life and therefore ill-adapted to it? We are half-educated like tadpoles, or more often simply "educated" people with a little information about many things but all of it woolly and inadequate. Indeed it is merely information. We cannot call it knowledge, since knowledge is an inalienable property of a man; it cannot be more and it cannot be less. For a man "knows" only when he himself "is" that knowledge. As for your convictions—have you never known them to change? Are they not also subject to fluctuation like everything else in us? Would it not be more accurate to call them opinions rather than convictions, dependent as much on our mood as on our information or perhaps simply on the state of our digestion at a given moment?

Every one of you is a rather uninteresting example of an animated automaton. You think that a "soul," and even a "spirit," is necessary to do what you do and live as you live. But perhaps it is enough to have a key for winding up the spring of your mechanism. Your daily portions of food help to wind you up and renew the purposeless antics of associations again and again. From this background separate thoughts are selected and you attempt to connect them into a whole and pass them off as valuable and as your own. We also pick out feelings and sensations, moods and experiences and out of all this we create the mirage of an inner life, call ourselves conscious and reasoning beings, talk about God, about eternity, about eternal life and other higher matters; we speak about everything imaginable, judge and discuss, define and evaluate, but we omit to speak about ourselves and about our own real objective value, for- we are all convinced that if there is anything lacking in us, we can acquire it.

If in what I have said I have succeeded even to a small extent in making clear in what chaos is the being we call man, you will be able to answer for yourselves the question of what he lacks and what he can obtain if he remains as he is, what of value he can add to the value he himself represents.

I have already said that there are people who hunger and thirst for truth. If they examine the problems of life and are sincere with themselves, they soon become convinced that it is not possible to live as they have lived and to be what they have been until now; that a way out of this situation is essential and that a man can develop his hidden capacities and powers only by cleaning his machine of the dirt that has clogged it in the course of his life. But in order to undertake this cleaning in a rational way, he has to see what needs to be cleaned, where and how; but to see this for himself is almost impossible. In order to see anything of this one has to look from the outside; and for this mutual help is necessary.

If you remember the example I gave of identification, you will see how blind a man is when he identifies with his moods, feelings and thoughts. But is our dependence on things only limited to what can be observed at first glance? These things are so much in relief that they cannot help catching the eye.

You remember how we spoke about people's characters, roughly dividing them into good and bad? As a man gets to know himself, he continually finds new areas of his mechanicalness—let us call it automatism—domains where his will, his "I wish," has no power, areas not subject to him, so confused and subtle that it is impossible to find his way about in them without the help and the authoritative guidance of someone who knows.

This briefly is the state of things in the realm of self-knowledge: in order to do you must know; but to know you must find out how to know. We cannot find this out by ourselves.

Besides self-knowledge, there is another aspect of the search —self-development. Let us see how things stand there. It is clear that a man left to his own devices cannot wring out of his little finger the knowledge of how to develop and, still less exactly what to develop in himself.

Gradually, by meeting people who are searching, by talking to them and by reading relevant books, a man becomes drawn into the sphere of questions concerning self-development.

But what may he meet here? First of all an abyss of the most unpardonable charlatanism, based entirely on the greed for making money by hoaxing gullible people who are seeking a way out of their spiritual impotence. But before a man learns to divide the wheat from the tares, a long time must elapse and perhaps the urge itself to find the truth will flicker and go out in him, or will become morbidly perverted and his blunted flair may lead him into such a labyrinth that the path out of it, figuratively speaking, will lead straight to the devil.

If a man succeeds in getting out of this first swamp, he may fall into a new quagmire of pseudo-knowledge. In that case truth will be served up in such an indigestible and vague form that it produces the impression of a pathological delirium. He will be shown ways and means of developing hidden powers and capacities which he is promised, if he is persistent, will without much trouble give him power and domain over everything, including animate creatures, inert matter and the elements.

All these systems, based on a variety of theories, are extraordinarily alluring, no doubt precisely because of their vagueness. They have a particular attraction for the half-educated, those who are half-instructed in positivist knowledge. In view of the fact that most questions studied from the point of view of esoteric and occult theories often go beyond the limits of data accessible to modern science, these theories often look down on it. Although on the one hand they give positivist science its due, on the other, they belittle its importance and leave the impression that science is not only a failure but even worse.

What is the use then of going to the university, of studying and straining over official textbooks, if theories of this kind enable one to look down on all other learning and to pass judgment on scientific questions?

But there is one important thing the study of such theories does not give; it does not engender objectivity in questions of knowledge, less so even than science. Indeed it tends to blur a man's brain and to diminish his capacity for reasoning and thinking soundly, and leads him toward psychopathy. This is the effect of such theories on the half-educated who take them for authentic revelation. But their effect is not very different on scientists themselves, who may have been affected, however slightly, by the poison of discontent with existing things.

Our thinking machine possesses the capacity to be convinced of anything you like, provided it is repeatedly and persistently influenced in the required direction. A thing that may appear absurd to start with will in the end become rationalized, provided it is repeated sufficiently often and with sufficient conviction. And, just as one type will repeat ready-made words which have stuck in his mind, so a second type will find intricate proofs and paradoxes to explain what he says. But both are equally to be pitied. All these theories offer assertions which, like dogmas, usually cannot be verified. Or in any case they cannot be verified by the means available to us.

Then methods and ways of self-development are suggested which are said to lead to a state in which their assertions can be verified. There can be no objection to this in principle. But the consistent practice of these methods may lead the over-zealous seeker to highly undesirable results. A man who accepts occult theories and believes himself knowledgeable in this sphere will not be able to resist the temptation to put into practice the knowledge of the methods he has gained in his research, that is, he will pass from knowledge to action.

Perhaps he will act with circumspection, avoiding methods which from his point of view are risky, and applying the more reliable and authentic ways; perhaps he will observe with the greatest of care. All the same, the temptation to apply them and the insistence on the necessity for doing so, as well as the emphasis laid on the miraculous nature of the results and the concealment of their dark sides, will lead a man to try them.

Perhaps, in trying them, a man will find methods which are harmless for him. Perhaps, in applying them, he will even get something from them. In general, all the methods for self- development which are offered, whether for verification, as a means, or as an end, are often contradictory and incomprehensible. Dealing as they do with such an intricate, little-known machine as the human organism and with that side of our life closely connected with it which we call our psyche, the least mistake in carrying them out, the smallest error or excess of pressure can lead to irreparable damage to the machine.

It is indeed lucky if a man escapes from this morass more or less intact. Unfortunately very many of those who are engaged in the development of spiritual powers and capacities end their career in a lunatic asylum or ruin their health and psyche to such a degree, that they become complete invalids, unable to adapt to life. Their ranks are swelled by those who are attracted to pseudo-occultism out of a longing for anything miraculous and mysterious. There are also those exceptionally weak-willed individuals who are failures in life and who, out of considerations of personal gain, dream of developing in themselves the power and the ability to subjugate others. And finally there are people who are simply looking for variety in life, for ways of forgetting their sorrows, of finding distraction from the boredom of the daily round and of escaping its conflicts.

As their hopes of attaining the qualities they counted on begin to dwindle, it is easy for them to fall into intentional charlatanism. I remember a classic example. A certain seeker after psychic power, a man who was well off, well read, who had traveled widely in his search for anything miraculous, ended by going bankrupt and became at the same time disillusioned in all his researches.

Looking for another means of livelihood, he hit on the idea of making use of the pseudo-knowledge on which he had spent so much money and energy. No sooner said than done. He wrote a book, bearing one of those titles that adorn the covers of occult books, something like A Course in Development of the Hidden Forces in Man.
This course was written in seven lectures and represented a short encyclopedia of secret methods for developing magnetism, hypnotism, telepathy, clairvoyance, clairaudience, escape into the astral realm, levitation and other alluring capacities.

The course was well advertised, put on sale at an exceedingly high price, although in the end an appreciable discount (up to 95 percent) was offered to the more persistent or parsimonious customers on condition that they recommend it to their friends.

Owing to the general interest in such matters, the success of the course exceeded all the expectations of its compiler. Soon he began to receive letters from purchasers in enthusiastic, reverent and deferential tones, addressing him as "dear teacher" and "wise mentor" and expressing deepest gratitude for the wonderful exposition and most valuable instruction which gave them the possibility of developing various occult capacities remarkably quickly.

These letters made a considerable collection and each of them surprised him until there at last came a letter informing him that with the help of his course someone had, in about a month, become able to levitate. This indeed overran the cup of his astonishment.

Here are his actual words: "I am astonished at the absurdity of things that happen. I, who wrote the course, have no very clear idea of the nature of the phenomena I am teaching. Yet these idiots not only find their way about in this gibberish but even learn something from it and now some superidiot has even learned to fly. It is, of course, all nonsense. He can go to hell. . . . Soon they will put him into a straitjacket. It will serve him right. We are much better off without such fools."

Occultists, do you appreciate the argument of this author of one of the textbooks on psychodevelopment? In this case, it is possible that somebody might accidentally learn something, for often a man, though ignorant himself, can speak with curious correctness about various things, without knowing how he does it. At the same time, of course, he also talks such nonsense that any truths he may have expressed are completely buried and it is utterly impossible to dig the pearl of truth out of the muckheap of every kind of nonsense.

"Why this strange capacity?" you may ask. The reason is very simple. As I have already said, we have no knowledge of our own, that is, knowledge given by life itself, knowledge that cannot be taken away from us. All our knowledge, which is merely information, may be valuable or worthless. In absorbing it like a sponge, we can easily repeat and talk about it logically and convincingly, while understanding nothing about it.

It is equally easy for us to lose it, for it is not ours but has been poured into us like some liquid poured into a vessel. Crumbs of truth are scattered everywhere; and those who know and understand can see and marvel how close people live to the truth, yet how blind they are and powerless to penetrate it. But in searching for it, it is far better not to venture at all into the dark labyrinths of human stupidity and ignorance than to go there alone. For without the guidance and explanations of someone who knows, a man at every step, without noticing it, may suffer a strain, a dislocation of his machine, after which he would have to spend a great deal more on its repair than he spent damaging it.

What can you think of a solid individual who says of himself that "he is a man of perfect meekness and that his behavior is not under the jurisdiction of those around him, since he lives on a mental plane to which standards of physical life cannot be applied"? Actually, his behavior should long ago have been the subject of study by a psychiatrist. This is a man who conscientiously and persistently "works" on himself for hours daily, that is, he applies all his efforts to deepening and strengthening further the psychological twist, which is already so serious that I am convinced that he will soon be in an insane asylum.

I could quote hundreds of examples of wrongly directed search and where it leads. I could tell you the names of well-known people in public life who have become deranged through occultism and who live in our midst and astonish us by their eccentricities. I could tell you the exact method that deranged them, in what realm they "worked" and "developed" themselves and how these affected their psychological makeup and why.

But this question could form the subject of a long and seperate conversation so, for lack of time, I will not permit myself to dwell on it now.

 The more a man studies the obstacles and deceptions which lie in wait for him at every step in this realm, the more convinced he becomes that it is impossible to travel the path of self-development on the chance instructions of chance people, or the kind of information culled from reading and casual talk. At the same time he gradually sees more clearly—first a feeble glimmer, then the clear light of truth which has illumined mankind throughout the ages. The beginnings of initiation are lost in the darkness of time, where the long chain of epochs unfolds. Great cultures and civilizations loom up, dimly arising from cults and mysteries, ever changing, disappearing and reappearing.

The Great Knowledge is handed on in succession from age to age, from people to people, from race to race. The great centers of initiation in India, Assyria, Egypt, Greece, illumine the world with a bright light. The revered names of the great initiates, the living bearers of the truth, are handed on reverently from generation to generation. Truth is fixed by means of symbolical writings and legends and is transmitted to the mass of people for preservation in the form of customs and ceremonies, in oral traditions, in memorials, in sacred art through the invisible quality in dance, music, sculpture and various rituals. It is communicated openly after a definite trial to those who seek it and is preserved by oral transmission in the chain of those who know. After a certain time has elapsed, the centers of initiation die out one after another, and the ancient knowledge departs through underground channels into the deep, hiding from the eyes of the seekers.

The bearers of this knowledge also hide, becoming unknown to those around them, but they do not cease to exist. From time to time separate streams break through to the surface, showing that somewhere deep down in the interior, even in our day, there flows the powerful ancient stream of true knowledge of being.

To break through to this stream, to find it—this is the task and the aim of the search; for, having found it, a man can entrust himself boldly to the way by which he intends to go; then there only remains "to know" in order "to be" and "to do." On this way a man will not be entirely alone; at difficult moments he will receive support and guidance, for all who follow this way are connected by an uninterrupted chain.

Perhaps the only positive result of all wanderings in the winding paths and tracks of occult research will be that, if a man preserves the capacity for sound judgment and thought, he will evolve that special faculty of discrimination which can be called flair. He will discard the ways of psychopathy and error and will persistently search for true ways. And here, as in self-knowledge, the principle which I have already quoted holds good: "In order to do, it is necessary to know; but in order to know, it is necessary to find out how to know."

To a man who is searching with all his being, with all his inner self, comes the unfailing conviction that to find out how to know in order to do is possible only by finding a guide with experience and knowledge, who will take on his spiritual guidance and become his teacher.

And it is here that a man's flair is more important than anywhere else. He chooses a guide for himself. It is of course an indispensable condition that he choose as a guide a man who knows, or else all meaning of choice is lost. Who can tell where a guide who does not know may lead a man? Every seeker dreams of a guide who knows, dreams about him but seldom asks himself objectively and sincerely—is he worthy of being guided? Is he ready to follow the way?

Go out one clear starlit night to some open space and look up at the sky, at those millions of worlds over your head. Remember that perhaps on each of them swarm billions of beings, similar to you or perhaps superior to you in their organization. Look at the Milky Way. The earth cannot even be called a grain of sand in this infinity. It dissolves and vanishes, and with it, you. Where are you? And is what you want simply madness?

Before all these worlds ask yourself what are your aims and hopes, your intentions and means of fulfilling them, the demands that may be made upon you and your preparedness to meet them.

A long and difficult journey is before you; you are preparing for a strange and unknown land. The way is infinitely long.You do not know if rest will be possible on the way nor where it will be possible. You should be prepared for the worst. Take all the necessities for the journey with you.

Try to forget nothing, for afterwards it will be too late and there will be no time to go back for what has been forgotten, to rectify the mistake. Weigh up your strength. Is it sufficient for the whole journey? How soon can you start?

Remember that if you spend longer on the way you will need to carry proportionately more supplies, and this will delay you further both on the way and in your preparations for it. Yet every minute is precious. Once having decided to go, there is no use wasting time.

Do not reckon on trying to come back. This experiment may cost you very dear. The guide undertakes only to take you there and, if you wish to turn back, he is not obliged to return with you. You will be left to yourself, and woe to you if you weaken or forget the way—you will never get back. And even if you remember the way, the question still remains—will you return safe and sound? For many unpleasantnesses await the lonely traveler who is not familiar with the way and the customs which prevail there. Bear in mind that your sight has the property of presenting distant objects as though they were near. Beguiled by the nearness of the aim toward which you strive, blinded by its beauty and ignorant of the measure of your own strength, you will not notice the obstacles on the way; you will not see the numerous ditches across the path.

In a green meadow covered with luxuriant flowers, in the thick grass, a deep precipice is hidden. It is very easy to stumble and fall over it if your eyes are not concentrated on the step you are taking.

Do not forget to concentrate all your attention on the nearest sector of the way—do not concern yourself about far aims if you do not wish to fall over the precipice.

Yet do not forget your aim. Remember it the whole time and keep up in yourself an active endeavor toward it, so as not to lose the right direction. And once you have started, be observant; what you have passed through remains behind and will not appear again; so if you fail to notice it at the time, you never will notice it.

Do not be over curious nor waste time on things that attract your attention but are not worth it. Time is precious and should not be wasted on things which have no direct relation to your aim.

Remember where you are and why you are here.

Do not protect yourselves and remember that no effort is made in vain.

And now you can set out on the way.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

domine delivre danikon daljinom "pax requiescat ineffabilis"

step by step,
Fragility shatters
bleak blackouts in lamentation.
Cacophonous wails
grief strewn & shock stricken,
filled with pain unspeakable.
Trapped & surrounded by lengthening shadows
upon tattered souls submerged in dismay.
Barely pumping
piercing putrefaction,
dripping somber anathema involuntarily
over the pale glamours

o christ, child
i wish it could be easier.
this raw & piercing cold
keeps getting colder.
smoldering our endurance,
blowing out the pilot light,
cutting the connection during prime time.
cruelly irreparable
with nothing
not a single one can undo.

All succumb
All devoured
conquered at the
inevitable crossroads into
the abyss
deep, morose & mourning
ever comatose
in the crash common coryza machinations of fate
& callous commerce
sustain the rusted chrome pumping
saturnine cancerous gasoline
grating taciturn diseases careening
on the pallid stale grey tundra
crushed under unspeakable feats

there can be no denial of dharma
in the perilous parallax of existence.
1st point = suffering, tribulation & precious brevity.
all one yet alone.
a part but still never apart from
the paradox
encompassing sorrow
staring down eternity
as the world turns
on a dime
without reason.
without rhyme.
...or so it seems upon this stage sublime...

can liberty be attained beyond struggle?
will these bound empty tombstone bones ever resist the urge for restriction?
is there only despair amongst melancholic catatonia
betwixt the dried crumbling ruins of petrified airspace
gone dead
tuned to strains of static
fatally fragmented for perpetuity?

accidental split decision
jagged hesitation pulsating
rapid vermilion careening
clasping at clutches
the moment slips into the stream.
sudden oblivion.
redemption lost.
& only regret remains
while the dance carries us to
the curtains fall,
as bright new snow veils
over the old ashes

reprocussive concrete
active consecrations
still ringing in reverberation of
cathartic echoes
energetically produced & caught
on carbon particle imprints
where matter evaporates aetheric.
where information transforms
undeniably irrepressible
off-color signals that transcend the bonds of phenomena.
breaking repetitive restraints,
chains of thanatotic mantras
reiterating that
"all things must pass"...

acceptance reflects
"yes, i agree...
but love conquers all things."

it shall always come & it shall allways go
one cannot but carry on.
even this mystery can be beautiful:
that nothing ceases
except the tears which find clarity
reflecting amidst the disillusion
&which find that moment
right before the everglowing apparition rises

try without trying.
seek not this,
nor that,
just release
& return.

you are home now.
you are free

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Spare's Ontology by St. Mace

The whole question of "What is real?" is one that has plagued the pursuit of knowledge ever since people became sufficiently aware of themselves to realize it needed an answer. A major difficulty is the problem of what is objective and what is subjective, or what is really out there and what is just projected out onto it by our own biases—our hopes, needs, fears and preconceptions, conscious and unconscious, admitted and denied. All we can know is what we perceive, so it is impossible to be perfectly objective, and yet objective reality is real enough, as anyone knows who has been in an automobile accident. The elimination of the perceiver's bias is one major aim of the scientific method, with its emphasis on measurement and replication intending to ensure that scientific theories work for anyone competent to apply them. But these safeguards reach their limit as soon as we begin to study anything that may be conscious, for mind may not be measured and will show a perverse defiance to attempts to fit it into repeatable experiments. Even so, certain academic psychologists still work to reduce all mental functions to what may be quantified in a laboratory setting, and come to the wholly logical conclusion that mind is no more than a side effect of the existence of nervous tissue. This makes as much sense as trying to set a broken leg with prayer and is the clearest possible proof that strict scientific methodology breaks down at this point.

Magick attempts to provide a middle ground between science and credulity, but this does not mean we escape the objective/subjective conundrum. Instead we rephrase the problem as that of macrocosm and microcosm. In magickal usage the macrocosm consists of the powers in the universe beyond us. The microcosm consists of the powers we have inside us. Traditionally, magicians have presumed that one or another of the ancient planetary mythologies can provide a symbolism descriptive of the powers available to us. The powers are personified as "the gods" who somehow project their particular powers in from the outside, and the human entity—as the "creation" or "emanation" of these gods—is a composite of these powers, which we thus experience from the inside. Once the magician chooses such a symbolic architecture, he or she has available the techniques of ceremonial magick to manipulate the powers this architecture includes, and through these techniques can either exalt a power or abase it, either draw on it or diminish it as his or her will might determine.

Thus does the magician acquire a symbolic interface through which he or she might manipulate power, and this without being obliged to deal with the question of what power as such really is.

The key to the effective use of any symbolic system is the complete unconscious assimilation of its components by the magician who uses it. In the Golden Dawn tradition this is done by memorization of the symbolism, ceremonial initiation in terms of the symbolism, and, most importantly, astral discipline. That is, one must be willing to impose the Rosicrucian structure onto one's astral visions, to require that whatever displays they choose to make be in terms of the imagery used by that system. Aleister Crowley, for one, is quite clear about this, insisting that we banish as demonic deceivers any entities who resist the requirement that they so conform. In my own personal experience this was hardly necessary, for my visions seemed anxious to do so. This was hardly reassuring to me, making it obvious that my unconscious was willing to take on any imagery, so long as it was self-consistent and able to include all the more conspicuous dualities that entertain our existence. This the Golden Dawn system surely does, and admirably so. Nonetheless, I found the whole notion of self-programming of symbolism to be personally repugnant. Thus as soon as it was clear to me that this was, in fact, the purpose of Rosicrucian training, I wanted no more part of it. My teacher at the time, Frater O.T.L., hearing my loud and articulate denunciation of the Rosicrucian option, graciously recommended that I look into the writings of an English sorcerer named Austin Osman Spare.

The essence of Spare's magick lies in his solution to the objective/subjective, macrocosm/microcosm conundrum that we just covered. Spare addressed the problem with a direct attack, coming up with what can only be described as a practical solipsism— solipsism being the belief that the self is the only object of knowledge and thus, by extension, the only thing that exists. "What is there to believe, but in Self?" he asks in The Book of Pleasure. "And Self is the negation of completeness as reality. No man has seen self at any time. We are what we believe and what it implies by a process of time in the conception; creation is caused by this bondage to formula." (p. 1) Which is to say, what we believe determines what we experience, which determines what we are, which, over time, determines what is, because through our presumptions we shape whatever comes into contact with us, according to our power. Reality is the objective residue of a subjective process. In his Focus of Life, Spare elaborates:

Eternal, without beginning is Self; without end am I; there is no
other power or substance. The everchanging modifications and
diversities we see are the results of forgetfulness, misinterpreted
as nightmare senses. When the Self again desires, then I only and
nothing else shall remain. Permitting all things, whatsoever is
imagined comes out of it. (p. 21)

To give an idea of the dynamic in all this, in The Book of Pleasure Spare offers the argument of me (the reader) and a butterfly. I am conscious of being "I," the butterfly is conscious of being "I," and therefore my consciousness and that of the butterfly are the same. Spare errs in presenting this as a logical syllogism, in which terms it must fail, but it isn't really logic he's giving. Instead it's a description of the facts of his perception, upon which he based his magick, which worked.

The consequences of accepting that my "I" (me!) is the same as your "I" and the same as every other self-aware "I" in the whole of existence—that it's all at bottom a common experience made separate only by our belief in our alienation—are somewhat far-reaching. The Golden Rule becomes a truism and the decision to eat flesh presupposes a willingness eventually to be eaten. But to think that I am fundamentally the same as that bitch mosquito I just swatted, or that sonofabitch who cut me off on the Turnpike this afternoon, well, it's just too difficult to believe and so we don't, mostly. Creation is the result of this separation, the result of all the points of view—identical in source, essence and being both with each other and with the primordial I—seeing Self as something to eat, to fuck, or to flee from so as to keep from being eaten. From, again, The Focus of Life.

And in this living nightmare, where all is cannibalism. Why dost thou deny thyself? Verily, Man resembles his creator, in that he consumes himself in much filth.
Heaven gives indiscriminately of its superabundance to make the ghastly struggle called existence.
The necessity was a deliberate serving of its own pleasure— becoming more alien. Remoteness from self is pain and precocious creation. (p. 7)

The necessity of creation was a deliberate serving of pleasure to the I, letting it see Self as a ground to be mined for pleasure, an object, not really Self at all. With this split came pain, and a desire to avoid pain even as pleasure was more fervently pursued. The split spawned millions of species and thousands of stratagems from fins to hard shells, from flight to pheromones, all the efflorescent life of the natural world. And in essence the split is simply belief embodied in flesh, the biological reification of "a process of time in the conception." To the extent we can recognize and reintegrate these, if only through an erasure of our own belief, the Cosmic Momentum behind Infinite Creation will be ours to tap, to do our wills.

At least that's the way Spare had it, which certainly does not mean that's the way things really are, even though his magick was effective. We can just as easily say that his self-alienated solipsism is simply an effective attitude to have when addressing power to do magick, even if existence in itself is not solipsistic. After all, the only way we can encounter the powers of magick is through our perception; we can even say that everything in consciousness is either a source of power for manipulation or else something that inhibits our manipulation of it. The fact is that what is really out there is not that important magickally. What matters is the way we take it in, the underlying assumptions we have over what it is, and what we are able to do with it. Optimism and pessimism are obvious examples of such assumptions, attitudes that can color our whole approach to life. More subtle are our preconceptions concerning what is possible, on what is and isn't connected in the "outside" world. Through taking the solipsistic attitude that All is Self, Spare evades the problem by making everything "inside," and All Things have their connections there.

So for Spare it is our habitual attitudes that hold us back, our beliefs as opposed to our ideas. [The English Chaos magician Peter J. Carroll proposes the intriguing notion that the difference between a belief and an idea is that an idea may be true, while a belief is always false. Ideas may be true because they are merely recognitions of patterns in what is perceived. Beliefs are always false because they define the way things are in an absolute sense, and the Absolute is something that does not permit any manner of definition.]

 It is as if our beliefs are tracks that run parallel to power, drawing on it to move us along but without allowing us to address it directly, to tap it deliberately and exploit it. We must leave these tracks if we would do so.

For Spare, belief is the main obstacle to the work of the magician, with beliefs concerning the nature of spirit and psyche the most insidious of all. "Religions are the projections of incapacity," he writes in The Book of Pleasure, "the imaginations of fear, the veneer of superstition...while oftimes the ornament of imbecility... What you have ordained in your righteousness is your very rack, imagined though it be!" (p. 1) Faith he condemns as mere self-delusion, since it "'protects' but does not change the vital." For instance, if a man has faith that some benevolent deity has saved him from his personal pack of demons and that he is thus no longer their puppet (in spite of usually ample evidence to the contrary), then he will believe that there is nothing more to be done and will not take the trouble to meet them on their own ground and bind them into submission, which is the only way to control them with any degree of reliability.

"When faith perishes, the 'Self' shall come into its own... Myself, I have not seen a man who is not God already."

But then even beliefs that define man as a god do not escape Spare's condemnation, for he is equally derisive of traditional magick. "Others praise ceremonial Magic, and are supposed to suffer much Ecstasy! Our asylums are crowded, the stage is overrun! Is it by symbolizing that we become the symbolized? Were I to crown myself King, should I be King? Rather should I be the object of disgust or pity." (p. 2) He tells us that magick is a natural thing, our ability to spawn events as if by chance, ceremony more a style of living than any sort of production. And he dismisses the traditional practice of classifying different types of power according to their places in a theosophical scheme. "The freedom of energy is not obtained by its bondage, great power not by disintegration. Is it not because our energy (or mind stuff) is already bound over and divided, that we are not capable, let alone magical?" (p. 3)

The unbinding of mind-stuff is the essence of Spare's approach to magick—that and also its channeling in ways that do not bind it, that allow it to be focused according to will without putting any restrictions on the magician's ability to specify its use.

For Spare, it isn't just beliefs concerning the nature of the divine architecture that bind our power, but any belief short of Self-love. Self-love is an acceptance of and ecstasy in the Self as a whole, the sum of all possibilities in all times and places, what he calls Kia. Without definition, its name a designation rather than a description, Kia is a typical mystic Absolute [Whole] and can be equated with the Chinese [Wuji], [the Hindus Parabrahman], [the Buddhists Nirvana], the Qabalistic Ain Soph, [the Gnostic Pleroma] and the Neoplatonic One. "Obvious but unintelligible, without form, its design most excellent... How mighty it is, in its assertion of 'Need not be—Does not matter'![See also "The Tao which is Tao is not Tao" of Taoism & "Neither this, nor that" of Hinduism] Self-love in complete perspective, serves its own invincible purpose of ecstasy. Supreme bliss simulating opposition is its balance... Could we but imitate its law, all creation without command would unite to serve our purpose in pleasure and harmony." (p. 8) Which is to say, our cosmic purpose as nodes of perception in Kia is to enjoy it, taking all seeming contradiction and conflict as variations on its infinite power—power which, once we recognize it for what it is, will be ours to use. But we cannot so long as we are enthralled by beliefs smaller than love for Kia, for these inevitably trap us in the snare of duality—simulated opposition, to be sure, but deadly enough for those who are caught in it. It is out of our conceptions that duality comes, out of our tendency to make distinctions.

Whenever we make a distinction—whenever we say "It is this and not that"—we are unconsciously affirming that that is equally real to this, and thus must in time supplant it. If I believe order exists, then so also must disorder. If disorder did not exist then order would be a constant state and would never assert itself enough to be believed in. If I say male exists, then so also must female; if there were only asexual reproduction, then there would be no way to make the distinction, and only life would be recognized, whose opposite would be death. And so it is with any distinction we allow ourselves to make. "Duality in some form or another is consciousness of existence. It is the illusion of time, size, entity, etc.—the world's limit. The dual principle is the quintessence of all experience, no ramification has enlarged its early simplicity, but is only its repetition, modification or complexity, never is its evolution complete." (p. 9)

Now for distinctions like predator and prey, male and female, and life and death, the dual principle is obvious and easy enough to accept, at least in the abstract. Nor, on this level, is it anything we can easily render down for the power in it, these distinctions being the result of the collective machination of Self and I—the pattern of Creation itself. So if we are to tap the power of Kia behind duality, the dualities have to be closer to home. A good place to start looking is among those distinctions at the root of our emotional reactions—energetic responses whose power will be available to accomplish our wills, if only we can reconcile the distinctions.

The distinctions that we enforce, that we insist are truth, are the ones that constitute the crippling beliefs. Suppose, for instance, that a farmer looks at his field and tells himself that it is lush. If he has accepted the dual principle, he will simultaneously affirm that there is also land that is arid, and that in time his field may become arid, too. But if his self-interest requires that his land will be lush, and the rainfall diminishes, then his belief in lushness will cause him to irrigate. For a time, perhaps even for several lifetimes, this tactic will succeed, but ultimately the salts in the water will build up in the soil, making it not only arid but a stinking desert, sterile to all life. His enforcement of his belief makes the poles of the duality more extreme, bringing on the violent intervention of the opposite—crippling to Self-love and the power that comes out of it. As Spare writes in his Anathema of Zos: "Belief foreshadows its inversion. Overrun with forgotten desires and struggling truths, ye are their victim in the dying and begetting law." (p. 13)

The way of no belief would simply be to change crops to account for the shifting rainfall, going from corn to grain to grass as required, always taking care not to strain the soil for the sake of short-term profit. This requires sensitivity and thought, a mind brimming with ideas, but not belief, which only stifles the creativity needed to be in harmony with what is perceived, to truly love Self.

Of course scientific technologies can be applied to situations like this to extend the reign of one element of a duality over its opposite. To cut down on salt build-up, drains may be installed in a field to carry off waste water. But the reversal will still come eventually and will be that much more extreme—for instance salty soil littered with clay tiles instead of just salty soil. Any technology that does not account for all elements of its component dualities will ultimately fail. The whole perspective of scientific materialism, by treating all things as dead and devoid of spirit, will also.

But while the dual principle is a subtle problem in physical technology, in moral and social technology it is overtly malignant. The most blatant example of a moral duality is that of good and evil. To exalt what is perceived as "good" or, worse, to try to wipe
out "evil," only strengthens what we don't want, causing it to manifest in ever purer forms. The Catholic Church's desire to wipe out the perceived evil of disunion and heresy caused it to create its Inquisition, which itself became an unsurpassed instrument of horror. America's attempt to banish the evil of Communism culminated in the abscess of the Vietnam War. And then when it lightened up and just pushed the equilibrium in an abstract military sense, Communism collapsed under the weight of its own dogma.

The good/evil duality plays havoc with our inner states of mind as well as the course of history. If we allow the situations or people we encounter to in any way offend us, Self-love and the power it supplies will be impossible to maintain. To believe that something is offensive and combat it, even if only in our minds, is to split it off from Self and lose our power to perceive it accurately and manipulate it decisively. Also, the energy we devote to opposing it will give it a sharper definition and a greater strength.Of course it isn't just anger and offense that can alienate us from Kia. Fear does it, too, as does guilt, sentimentality, greed and pride. In Spare's published work he implies that the source of these is our limited beliefs. For myself, I must say that I don't think he goes deeply enough. In my own experience, beliefs that have a foundation in an emotional response to circumstances are generally products of biases that are wired into personality, psychic reflexes that may be interpreted as independent spirits or demons and managed through an ongoing program of evocation and magickal control.

Spare, on the other hand, treated the problem as one of beliefs as such, and attempted to dismember them through two more general techniques—an exercise he called "the death posture" and the use of a logical tool he called "the Neither-Neither principle." The death posture is just that—a posture—so it isn't really relevant to this essay, but the Neither-Neither fits right in, it being the corollary of the dual principle—its precise counterpart, in fact.

The point of the Neither-Neither is that just as the assertion of any distinction makes necessary its opposite, so the combination in mind of a distinction and its opposite will nullify the duality and release the energy of the original assertion as an undifferentiated power that should then be used in magick. This energy Spare called "free belief."

The Neither-Neither works against any belief, from a belief in the existence of any "permanent" object (just imagine it over time) to emotional necessities to the airiest philosophies. Of course the more committed one is to a belief, the more difficult it will be to conjure up the necessary opposite; in cases where the belief seems absolutely necessary, it will take great personal power just to see the other half of the duality, and even more to transcend the two halves to leap to the level where both may be held in mind simultaneously.

Also, just because a person is able to accept both halves intellectually doesn't mean that he or she must accept them both as equally valid courses of action. That is, it is important to distinguish matters of Fact from matters of Will. To apply the Neither-Neither to the statement "I am alive" is to affirm that "I will die," but this does not mean I am thus obliged to make it so. So long as it is my will, I may fervently promote the Life half of the duality. But my purpose will be supported if I can accept the reality of the Death half, for by dancing close to it great power may be snatched, power that may be used to live all the more triumphantly.

To close, I would only remark that once you generate free belief, you should always focus it into some sort of magickal working, for if you leave it lying around it will energize one or another of your dominant demons, bringing the alienation back all over again, even if in a different form.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Everything Must Go - On! by C. Abrahamsson

"For nature applied to nature
transforms nature.
Such is the order of tbe natural law
throughout the whole cosmos, and
thus all things hang together."

PLEASE CONSIDER THIS IDEA: new, consciously made, magical, talismanic totems as members/parts of a new divinity. Artworks of different kinds become cells and building blocks of a new pagan pantheon of intelligence, of whose essence future generations can rely on and partake of. Special importance should be given to indigenous, traditional, tribal folk culture, woven into the mosaic fabric of genuine human creation. The final times of our mercurial technocratic culture could actually help in setting this up before these new gods are properly established enough to live on through the rituals of the post-technocracy-survivors.

In ancient grimoires, forces were evoked to visible appearance in order to be questioned and/or commanded through certain arcane techniques and mind-frames. This was also true of art up until High Priest Duchamp celebrated the mental and conceptual while discarding two-dimensional bourgeois thought and a wordly Weltanschauung. When art suddenly became intellectual, intangible and non-personal, the power of the old forces by no means decreased. They just went into a slight hibernation, awaiting the duchampian antithetical fulfillment. The coming synthesis of tangible, will-driven talismanic art and an anti-bourgeois, non-commodified approach will be a distinct characteristic of our new pantheon's magical bag of tricks.

Is it a far-fetched idea or one worthy of consideration? I think it should be considered as a project where individual seeds are sown in communal ground, where each garden patch then in itself becomes a new seed, and so on. I believe it is possible to make a quantum quilt of new creative possibilities.

I wouldn't be surprised at all if the sacrament of the new religion will be psychedelic - either organic or chemical. The transubstantiation process in itself and the integration of the divine in edible, digestible form has been with us since the dawn of human time. The psychedelic age, with its chaotic beginnings in the mid 1960s, has been instrumental in bringing forth a radical re-evaluation of art, aesthetics, thought, philosophy, etc. I can foresee this pleasant open-mindedness becoming a prerequisite for future communications with the very principles of life, of nature, of human interaction as well as those of art and culture. We discover things when they're apparently badly needed. We seem to have a built-in intuition in situations of dire emergency. An expansion of the mind and a related expansion of art are crucial emergency routes at this point in time and space.

What's wrong with the old grids and frames of reference then?

Well, I don't think anyone really doubts the sincerity of some religious believers or entertainment industry people, but the focus on greed in both areas help facilitate what I call the "180° phenomenon." What's put on for show actually, in reality, signifies the opposite. An example: although the "moral" key in disaster movies - that we should all work together as one human race post the big disaster - seems fair, fine and human(istic), the effect of the movies actually engender subconscious fear of disasters that will very likely never happen. What on the surface appears to be benevolent cathartic entertainment in fact cements the biggest lie of all: that humans are victims of nature, separate from general biospheres and eco-systems. Well, in a sense we are the victims now, but i t's certainly no fault of nature's! What does this huge fear create in human beings? As with all fears, a desire to be safe. How do people handle this today? They consume.

Here's another example: If it's so painfully obvious that many people are starving today, why then not, as a first step at least , celebrate, encourage or even enforce the use of contraceptives among the cultures and people who can't, at this point in time, deal with their own fertility? The gilded pro-life (so called) benevolence of the Catholic Church and State makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. They simply engender fear through fiction so that people remain loyal to the herd. And pay their dues. The same old story over and over again. Our contemporary Axis of Evil is the epiphytic effect stemming from the Vatican and Hollywood, both enticing dream factories working overtime to create very real nightmares.

However, everything must go, disintegrate, fall down, evaporate . . . As all empires crumble, so will the hegemonial grip of fragmenting entertainment and the parasitic power of the monotheistic power structures. After this huge "paradigm shift " has taken place, I foresee a development towards a post-technocratic neo-feudal culture, where food access will be the driving force. A variety of land owners will protect what they have through privately owned armies and regional skirmishes will be common. The technological "daze" will have created a new breed of mindless serfs who will be forced into manual labour. Basically: when the
technological culture has gone overboard and greed disguised as misdirected altruistic charities (as in the ongoing NGO swindles) have created very hollow human infrastructues, we are faced with Homo Talionis and desperate living again.

In this scheme of things, the artist will no longer be a state-funded iconoclast of irony, but one of religious stature and active function. The art has to be relevant to the times, as always. One gets the culture one deserves. If artists conscious of this already now start working in their own pantheonic cellular bio-art-work, the transition may be gentler and more intelligent, with less violence and devastation. Showing the past in its often violent manifestations through art can help change how we approach the future. Non-dogmatic instructions are just some of the building blocks I'm referring to.

The escapist aspects of wishful thinking are easier to distill in hard times. That's why art in our present times is thin, evanescent, transparent, dreamy, infantilistic, afraid. The current core of thought on a deeply rooted emotional level is spelled S-U-R-V-I-V-A-L. If our own culture is afraid to deal with it because of complacency or ingrained fear best cured with entertainment, then pioneers and movers and shakers will have to take responsibility and show new models and possible avenues. It really is time for our culture to grow up.

By "growing up" or "taking responsibility", I'm not specifically referring to technological solutions of "saving" energy, the environment, nature etc - humans in panic seemingly always need to "save" something ! - but rather of multidimensional artists evoking new behavioural patterns, intelligence interchanges, existential models. These experimental engineers will very likely not use the commonplace given methods (art history, empirical science, interest-based economy, etc) but rather seek out entirely new ways based on visionary perspectives and, not forgetting, common sense.

When we meta-program the future through our art, we are very aware that our will is not singular and its manifestations may not be exactly as "wished" (analogous dynamics may occur in traditional magic). If we do good according to our own plans, yet the world is breaking apart in cataclysmic upheavals of politics and
geo-shudders, we shouldn't be discouraged. We cannot fully grasp the mechanics of art, at least not until a greater kind of illumination has taken place. Whether one is secure, safe and pampered or vulnerably naked in the rubble, it is important to never lose [confidence] in art and its transformative powers. Instilling will and soul in artworks has created, creates and will keep creating major changes in the world outside your own.

We are accustomed to art being a secluded area of activity for kooks and experts. Some become successful and take on the roles as clowns or jesters. Some remain unsuccessful and take on the roles as tragic clowns and derogatory objects of ridicule. The experts, like similar people in high finance, do essentially nothing but are expert in meta-trading adjectives dealing with "worth" and "relevance". What could be a free-flowing exchange of irrational (in the good sense, I have to emphasize), emotional and radical ideas, has become hi-jacked/lo-jacked and dragged into an arena of stress, trade, illusion and mere decoration. I'm not merely talking about fine art in the traditional sense, but about our entire culture. Everything's commodified and marketed except perhaps events (performances, temporary installations, etc) which are usually handled by a sub/supra-economy of institutional funding. The direct communication between artwork and viewer is perhaps best handled by classic structures like museums and publicly available collections. The shady relationship between these kinds of structures and the art dealers is more than well-known though. Kickbacks mean the possibility to kick back and who could ask for more in stressful times like these?

Grassroots reactions in the form of art are seldom vital in themselves in the long run, but definitely interesting as phenomenae where art in itself is actually looked upon as more powerful than throwing a rock at a building. The expression of aggression and frustration by proxy is an emotional-magical act that could be integrated in mainstream culture if it's loud enough (punk culture being one clear example). That's how the overall culture works, by sucking up new, radical and aggressive seeds into its own slow-grinding soil. Whether the seed later becomes a bland garden flower or a nutritious vegetable no one powerful curator or institution can singularly decide. Herein lies not only great stimulating mysteries but also great optimism for the future.

And here we come again to the crux, so to speak: history shows, again and again, that change in direction, culture and behaviour comes not through divine providence but through distinctly human initiative. People with ideas and the will to manifest the ideas in question take on the role of creators and leaders and then change everything. How does this revolutionary process begin? It begins in fractions of thoughts and invisible inspiration that gradually conglomerate into ideas or feelings that in their turn eventually take on the shape of communicable forms (words, images, "memes", etc). Then, through a suitable medium, these formulations are spread and given by talismanic proxy to the world outside the mind(s) of the formulator(s). The sparks drifting towards the fuel.

Our culture is currently saturated with opportunities of communicating which, quite paradoxically, make it harder to communicate. If everything is apparently ablaze, who can see the flame of Prometheus? Our culture is saturated with possibilities of travel and discovery, but to an increasing degree we are only met by a globalised culture similar to the one on our own street. Our culture is saturated with concepts like freedom and choice but advertising, expertly using feelings of insecurity, make most people strive for complacent and comfortable homogenity. It's literally the emperor's new clothes designed by black magic: everyone wants a piece of the exclusive but everyone looks exactly the same!

Is it far-fetched to call our present culture one of illusion? We are presented with givens but none can really tangibly be taken, unless you very clearly leave the trodden paths. "Who dares wins "is something we are taught, but the culture as such does not encourage its manifestation in action.

At this point, we can touch upon the concept of magic in itself. As with most terms, it is used as the tribal leaders see fit. Today, it is undoubtedly synonymous with stage magic, tricks, illusions, extravagant, flamboyant magicians and their scantily dressed assistants. The magical aspects of pre-science and pre-culture, the pioneering seed-sowing work, are humourously disposed of. The aspects of empowerment of the individual. tribe, society, etc, ditto. The aspects of consciousness training also. Anything or anyone that distinctly brings magic back to a tangible surface, will be associated with certain negative keywords that are inherited from one indoctrinated generation to another. Why is this? The fear of real tangible change in one's life is greater than the fear of abstracted demons and wizards in our entertainment-drenched contemporary mythology.

Is my view of the future too dystopic? Isn't it better to try and get along in peace and harmony instead of painting things black? Well, of course it is, but not to the point of cheating ourselves that human happiness comes from dictated consumer patterns. Or that genuine happiness comes from obeying those one intuitively feels are ripping you off (or even apart) . My view is not dystopic. It is realistic. The varnish of our civilization is wearing thin and that is neither bad nor good. We, as caretakers of the present times, can probably enjoy our lives in wealth and comfort until we die. But the lives of our children may not be so blessed. The present superstitious belief in science, technology, urbanisation, globalisation, etc, is making a big pooh-pooh mess and unfortunately I believe there will be a big and violent "baptism of fire" in the centuries up ahead.

Counter-seeds of change can and will have to be planted today. And they are. The spirits of the elements and other spheres will have to be evoked to visible and tangible appearance. Let nature in her splendour, beauty and philosophy be the guide. The guidelines are readily available. If we are currently living in a so called technological heaven, then the gates of hell should be opened and minions of pro-human demons should be warmly welcomed to create havoc and tear apart all the digital illusions that enfeeble and fragment us. Regardless of our languages or terminologies, let's just agree that change is necessary. Not the transparent "change we can believe in", but one where future generations can look back at us and nod in proud approval rather than shake their heads in utter despair.

It could be appropriate to end as we began, with a full quote from the Gnostic philosopher Zosimos. Not necessarily to tie this in with the "ancients", but rather to give another fine example how the basic, well known conditions of life that we all share are preserved for future evaluation - and resonance. It is through poetry, literature, art and music that we decode and then encode ourselves, our children and those around us. We can indeed set examples for ourselves and for the future.

"BEAUTIFUL IT IS TO SPEAK AND BEAUTIFUL TO HEAR, beautiful to give and beautiful to take, beautiful to be poor and beautiful to be rich. How does nature teach giving and taking? The brazen man gives, and the moist stone receives; the metal gives, and the plant receives; the stars give, and the flowers receive; the sky gives, and the earth receives; the thunderclaps give darting fire. And all things are woven together and all things are undone again, and all things are mingled with one another, and all things are composed, and all things are permeated with one another, and all things are decomposed again. And everything will be moistened and become desicated again, and everything puts forth blossoms and everything withers again in the bowl of the altar. For each thing comes to pass with method and in fixed measure and according to the weighing of the four elements. The weaving together of all things and the undoing of all things and the whole fabric of things cannot come to pass without method. The method is natural, preserving due order in its inhaling and its exhaling; it brings increase and it brings stagnation. And to sum up: through the harmonies of separating and combining, and if nothing of the method be neglected, all things bring forth nature. For nature applied to nature transforms nature. Such is the order of natural law throughout the cosmos, and thus all things hang together."