Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Mystery of Motivation

I'm not sure if this is worthy of a blog post here, but I did want to just say something briefly-- though not so briefly that it would fit on my twitter feed, and it is relevant to this blog, so, why not...

The past few days have been challenging for me. I'm not going to go through details but to say that it's mostly neurochemical, and it has rendered even the things that normally drive me out of bed in the morning totally empty. Most of my other creative projects haven't held much interest for me the past couple days; I've shut off my phone, considered deleting all my social media accounts (I'm still considering that, but for other reasons), even pointlessly contemplated dropping everything and wandering off into some mysterious wilderness never to be seen again, and so on.

Yet, every single day, I get up, and the first thing I'm thinking about is the Immanence of Myth project. Aside from the very few closest to me that keep me tethered enough that I never would actually just disappear off the face of the planet without a word (for now, anyway), this is it. Every day, I have a book out, I'm going through looking for references, I'm writing. Even when it's hard to care about much of anything else. I honestly don't know why I care about this project so much at this point, and I certainly don't know if anyone else is going to give a damn when it is finally published. Despite all the hard work that has already gone into it by myself and all the other contributors and artists I've interviewed for it, it could just languish in print-on-demand purgatory. (Only with sufficient commercial demand will it make it to a full - in-store distributed print run.) But, unlike almost all the other projects I've worked on, there's a big part of me that simply doesn't care.

I do hope, of course, that it will be useful to other artists, writers, thinkers, for many years to come. On some level of course I care if it is read and discussed. But that's not what I'm doing this one. Not this one. I'll leave my delusions of fame and fortune for other projects. Right now, this is the one thing I seem to care about even when I don't care about anything else that I'm supposed to be doing. So who knows, maybe I'm onto something. Maybe I've finally gone round the bend. It does seem odd to me that it should be a book mostly composed of essays that would get its hooks into me like this. But who am I to say? Sometimes we're strangers most of all to ourselves, and I feel like I'm retracing my own footsteps when I work on this project in particular.

Well. That's all I have to say about that for now. If you don't mind, I have some research to get back to...

Initiation and Tuning Hammers

As I work more on my piece on Initiation for Immanence of Myth, there was something of an obscure comment I made, where I said "It is my present opinion that sometimes what cannot be accomplished with a sledgehammer may be arrived at with a tuning hammer. But time will tell." I got around to explaining that in a footnote, or at least beginning to. So this is my show and tell for the day:
FN This is rather obscure, however: Frederich Nietzsche regularly referred to "hammers" in his work, "How to philosophize with a hammer," the subtitle to Twilight Of The Idols, which he suggested be instead entitled "Hammer of the Idols" rather than "Twilight of the Idols," as his vitriol against Wagner at that point was supposedly already spent (ref fn. 3 pg .xiv Twilight of the Idols, Duncan Large translation) and the reference was taken to be meant as a parody of Wagner's "Twilight of the Gods." However, and this is the point here, within Twilight of the Idols the hammer is not one used for bashing but rather one used to "sound out" the true quality of idols, as one rings a bell. (ref. xvi, also the introduction. Duncan Large.) Not that it's important, but a tuning hammer isn't even "banged" with at all. Either way the metaphor is acoustic, it's about careful listening and resonant frequency, rather than the application of brute force. In regard to what I meant with this somewhat cryptic statement, the "resonant frequencies" that myths attempt to bring out in an audience must already exist within the audience, the way a certain pitch makes a glass or bell vibrate, or even shatter. One does not simply pound harder, or imply more shocking techniques in the hopes of drumming over the din of the polite and dispassionate speech of an audience as it strolls through the gallery. That glass has a specific frequency that derives that result from it. If the frequency is off, no result. The same may be true in regard to the task of the mythic artist, and so the challenging task for us, is to find the frequencies that will move the audience in such a way that it moves them beyond the detached mental state of mere entertainment, without falling into the opposite defensive posture of intellectual contemplation that much performance art does, where one goes "ah, that is interesting," and then tries to snaffle more wine and cheese before it runs out. This is of course, supposing that the intention of the mythic artist is an initiatory one, which it often is but certainly needn't be.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Gspot: Lady Gaga Hijacked

This is the true and faithful record of what happened when we tried to record a interview with Lady Gaga. We used to scoff at the allegations of her involvement with powers both  shadowy and nefarious. I have to tell you the truth now! It's all true! Don't be fooled. Hear this voice crying out in the wilderness! I must go now before they come back! Go to NOW while you STILL CAN!


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

THIS R SRS BIZNESS: with co-writer Jason Stackhouse

In which we discuss some of the finer points of literary theory. (Or maybe I'm just posting this to piss off you True Blood fans that are presently googling in hopes of finding some tid-bit of info on the forthcoming season. Spoiler alert: Bill was kidnapped by Raelians.)

And yes, his name really is Jason Stackhouse, get over it. And we really are working on a screenplay together, this isn't how we spend all our collaboration time. Just you know, most of it. 

Don't worry, I'll return you to actual content soon. Probably when the double-shot wears off.
(CLICK post title to read conversation)

Pretty Suicide Machine: Hints of a Solution

Some more thoughts I'm working on for Pretty Suicide Machine. (Everything you see up here is always in progress. If you want the final results, please pick up a copy of the book when it is released!)

We cannot say we have really looked at the ideological forces at play without also considering our cultural experience of time. While this may seem perplexing to some, it is indeed our experience of time that is colored by our cultural upbringings, not merely our ideas about time. Granted, there is an element to the passage of time that occurs the same regardless of culture, or so we must generally assume; but the way that we process our experience, in relationship to time, is a very cultural manner. Speaking generally, we may live with an emphasis on the past, the present, or the future. Many so-called primitive cultures are past-oriented; the focus of their cosmogeny, their festivals and rites and so on all relate towards connecting with the time "before," when the world was hewn, when man was taught to work with fire or tools, or so on. Examples of this exist throughout Eliade's Sacred & The Profane, as well as Alan Dundes' essay Thinking Ahead, which we will be turning to in a moment. There are also examples of present oriented cultures, as has been observed in several Australian Aborigine tribes (ref). We, however - and for this moment by "we" I am referring most specifically to Americans and those closely tied to American culture - live in the future. Dundes spells this out very thoroughly in Thinking Ahead, but a few examples may help clarify the point:
It is not only the past that is sacrificed for the future; it is also the past. Sometimes it is an unpleasant present which is denied in favor of a reference to a brighter future. "Better luck next time" and "Tomorrow's another day" are examples. In addition, there is the proverbial cry of baseball fans backing a loser: "Wait till next year." ... But it is not just the unpleasant present which is denied. Americans are so future-oriented they are discontent even with pleasant presents. For the present reality, no matter how good it is, can never be as good as the future might be. ... With Americans and their belief in efficiency, evolution, perfectability, etc., "The best is yet to come." Whatever one has, one hears, "You ain't seen nothin' yet." The same kind of sentiment is expressed in the American military slogan: "We have not yet begun to fight." Nevertheless, in American culture, one never does catch up with the carrot on a stick in front of the donkey; one never does reach the "pot of gold at the end of the rainbow." (Now there is a compact folkoristic expression of the American worldview!) (Dundes, pg. 76) 
    Now consider this observation in light of what we have been discussing. Is it any wonder that blind progress has yielded the results that it has? One cannot help but be reminded of the word of the "hungry ghosts" in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. For those unfamiliar with this image, Chogyam Trungpa provides a concise summary, "In the hungry ghost realm, there is a tremendous feeling of richness, of gathering a lot of possessions; whatever you want you do not have to look for." We only need to turn on the television to see that element of our psychology being worked upon; after all the Bardo refers not to just the state after death, but psychological realms we must contend with at all stages of existence. He continues, "...this makes us more hungry, more deprived, because we get satisfaction not from possessing alone but from searching. ... This is symbolized by the image of a person with a gigantic belly and extremely thin neck and tiny mouth. ... The joy of possessing does not bring us pleasure any more once we already possess something, and we are constantly trying to look for more possessions." (pg. 7 Fremantle and Trungpa). The economic system that we have developed, in accord with our cultural experience of time, in accord with our ideology of progress, and so on, not only promote the psychological state being described here: they depend on it. The American economy depends on consumption. And though it may prove nothing definitively, it is both interesting and horrifying to consider the growing obesity problem in this country, as we think of the image provided of the "hungry ghosts," eating food that provides no real sustenance; always hungry, never satisfied. Always yearning for a future that is yet to come.
    None of this is to say that the society we live in is the direct result of conscious planning on the part of a government, or some secret Illuminati or Masonic order. Though there are surely sociopaths at the helm of many major corporations, this "suicide machine" does not require any conscious malice to run its course. Even the best intentions, when rendered within the framework of this system, will yield the same results so long as you follow its definition of success and progress. Everything that we have discussed has been set in place and kept in motion by mass psychological factors. The machine is simply the result of unchecked ideological forces.
    There are other dimensions of this mythic complex to explore, but I'd like to sew a seed in the back of your mind to consider not only through the rest of this book, but hopefully far after you've put it down. At this point, you may be feeling a certain amount of despair at our predicament. In all honesty, it is something I've had to wrestle with many days of my life. We have thousands of years of history crushing down on our heads; and, if you'll pardon the mixed metaphor, it should be quite evident that any single attempt to change the course of this history will gain little more result than a pebble tossed into a river with the intent of diverting its flow. However, there is one thing that we might take solace in, and which may provide some hint at a future solution: all of this has been the result of accumulated myth, and the behavior that has followed from those myths. This, above all else, is why I think modern myths are so absolutely essential- not any one myth, unless it sets fire to the imaginations of a generation, but rather the collective force of all of our myths, if directed towards a goal. If any goal is worthy of such an effort, it would be to provide new perspectives, and new methods of being in the world, which result is something far better than our eventual, mutual annihilation.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Long Road Out of Hell: Jacob's Ladder & The Book of the Dead

This is an update of a piece I wrote on Alterati in 2007, and follows up on my previous post about the initiatory crisis. I hope you enjoy it-- and watch Jacob's Ladder!

Like most kids in America, I grew up on the programming that is made available through the mass media. We take it in as a given. The innocence of childhood is not so much innocence as a simple willingness to take in everything as face value. Whether or not it represents a lack of critical thinking, I don't know, but it is a kind of wonder that is incredibly easy to manipulate. How advertisers must wish we could remain so unjaded?

I grew up before the internet boom, even before the real boom of cable television, so I remained relatively inexperienced about what was out there, and what the possibilities of cinema really are. I watched PBS like it was crack, which I guess is somewhat unusual; the rest of my subconscious was populated by the likes of Transformers, or a sneaked peek at Friday the 13th. (Which, if I remember correctly, frightened me much less than it frustrated me at the relative brevity of all the sex scenes.) Movies were entertainment: nothing less, nothing more. I thought the only way to tell a story was from the beginning, to the end. This is precisely the view of movies and television that most people hold throughout their adulthood, from what I can tell.

Then, still relatively young, I saw Jacob's Ladder. I can't remember how. Maybe it was on late night. It doesn't really matter. The main thing I remember is a first inling of a sensation I had never before experienced: gnawing, existential terror. Despite its somewhat lurid imagery, Jacob's Ladder is not horrifying because of what it shows, like Hellraiser, not even because of what it doesn't show, as with Hitchcock's Psycho. It is horrifying because you really don't know how solid the ground beneath you is. If you let you take it in, if you begin to apply it to your perspective of your own life, you might begin to wonder: am I dead already, living in the feverish flash-forward of the impending end? Is my entire life a moment like this, a white-hot moment lived and relived from different angles, a moment simultaneously already finished and not-yet-begun?

This, before I'd ever encountered hallucinogens, before I explored the occult or read James Joyce; this was my first contact with that kind of uncertainty.

At the time, I didn't know why it made me feel so uneasy. Not really. At the time, it seemed like a weird movie about a troubled Vietnam vet who was uncovering some kind of government conspiracy. I wasn't at first aware of the fact that this "story" was just the feverish delusions in a dying man's mind. But I couldn't get the movie out of my mind, I found myself playing it over and again in my mind, piecing it together in different configurations, and then it dawned on me.

Later, I came to understand and to love the idea of a tale that contains many stories or layers within it; a story which changes, like a hologram, depending on where you are standing or what you bring to it. (A non-linear meta-narrative, if you will.) Jacob's Ladder isn't the only instance of this approach, I later found it in Grant Morrison's Invisibles, in Alan Moore's Promethea, a technique changed and rendered differently in the hands of hundreds of different artists. This is an idea and approach to myth and media making that has inspired my work ever since. I can't say it is the technique I employ in every work I've done, but certainly most, and it is one that I hope to master before my eternal moment is finished -- before it has ever begun.

The odd truth is, by the time I had started writing my first novel in my early college years, I had completely forgotten about Jacob's Ladder. It was only by sheer chance that I recently saw this movie again, and was reminded where many of these seeds were first sewn. Now, almost two decades since I first saw it, I could recognize this piece of storytellig for what it really is, and just how much I was indebted to it, (which is not to say I ever stole from it. This is not how inspiration works.)

So let's get to the movie itself, since I've talked around it so much. If this story isn't really "about" Jacob Singer, a man with post-traumatic stress disorder, forced to re-live his past again and again, then what is it about? It is a modern re-interpretation of many of the ideas of the Christian Mystic Meister Eckhart, and the Bardo Thodol, the Tibetan Book of the Dead. It is about the timeless final passage into the hinterlands which all of us must take - and which, in a manner of speaking, we have already taken. And which we are taking right this very moment. This is the only true hell, which results from clinging to the things of this world as they are stripped away, one at a time. The beings we encounter there, they too will be demons should we resist them.
 Or like Jacob's chiropractor, they can be angels, if we follow the natural order of things and let the bliss shine through. Every character serves as a metaphor for this psychological process: Jezebel, clearly an emissary of the lower realms of lust; Sarah, his wife in an alternate life, Sarah, mythologically, the first wife of Abraham, the princess, and the counterpoint of Jezebel, who could just as well be considered a stand-in for Lilith. There comes a point in film analysis where clearly the analyst is projecting, but there is amble evidence that most of this symbolism is intentional. Even when it isn't, a truly successful work of art succeeds both through intent and as a blank mythic canvas: it is what we say it is.
    In the process of building a modern myth, original sources must be bent and re-worked to fit the new form. Purists will snub their noses at this, but artists should recognize it for what it is: progress and creativity at work. For instance, an original Eckhart passage relevant to the subject of this movie goes:
"They ask, what burns in hell? Authorities [the Fathers] usually reply: “This is what happens to willfulness” [to individual will, self-interest]. But I say it is “Not” [it is the Nothing] that is burned out [that burns] in hell. For example: suppose a burning coal is placed in my hand. If I say the coal burns me I do it a great injustice. To say precisely what does the burning, it is the “Not”. The coal has something in it that my hand does not. Observe! It is just this “Not” that is burning me – for if my hand had in it what the coal has, and can do what the coal can do, it, too, would blaze with fire, in which case all the fire that ever burned might be spilled on this hand and I should not feel hurt." (Speech 5b, DW Ι)
    An interesting point but not exactly riveting material for a screenplay. In the movie, it becomes:
"The only thing that burns in hell is the part of you that won't let go of your life: your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away, but they're not punishing you, they're freeing your soul. If you're frightened of dying and you're holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. If you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels freeing you from the earth."
This idea of the dual nature of heaven and hell appears in Buddhism, in Hinduism, and Christian Mysticism. The same can be said for this idea of the duality of angels and devils, after all the root of the words "devil" and "deva" (angel) means "divine." They are the psychological agents of the "inbetween lands," depicted as the River Styx in Greek Mythology. The Bardo is the "inbetween state," the state between here and there. When we reach divinity, or unity, or nothingness, as we choose to call it, there is no room for ego, for separate divinity. All of those things have been burned away. That union is annihilation. As we see in the Jewish tradition, in Greek mythology, and many other places: to look upon the face of God is to be annihilated in fire. Heaven or hell. The end or the beginning. Neither and both. They are right here, if we open our eyes.

The name "Jacob's Ladder" originates from the Book of Genesis, where Jacob sees a ladder ascending into heaven. On the way up, one encounters different "spheres of existence," which were associated by Christian and Jewish mystics alike with the Sephiroth on the Tree of Life. There can be little doubt that all of these inferences were intentional on the par of the script writer and film-makers, they say as much in interviews on the Director's Cut of the DVD.

Psychological facts such as these, which transcend cultural boundaries (even if they wear different garb or go by different names) can truly be called "myths," and so, in the end, Jacob's Ladder is precisely what I mean when I refer to a "modern myth," and say that modern media, and art, can serve as modern myths. They can occur in the public sphere rather than in a pedestal or in some rarified temple in Tibet. They can happen in a place so profane as a movie theater. The producers just need to learn the tricks of the trade to sneak it by the profane gatekeepers that fund such endeavors.

Initiation: the Masks of Identity.

Forgive me if this repeats bits and pieces of some much older posts - it can be hard to keep track - but I believe strongly this is an important topic to discuss, and a key addition to the Immanence of Myth anthology. To that end, if you have personal experiences of initiation that truly changed your life, PLEASE pass that on to me for this anthology. I have a handful already, but this is a topic that I think deserves real attention, because it is a serious issue.

There are many works available that systematically explore the vicissitudes of initiation within tribal and so-called primitive or archaic cultures. At the forefront of the works that deal with this subject within archaic culture is Mircea Eliade's Rites and Symbols of Initiation, which covers the various functions which initiation can serve, and provides elaborate examples of all of them, from the shamanic process of rebirth to that of the men's rites whereby a boy becomes a man. Though a sketch of these ideas will serve us in regard to dealing with the main issue of this chapter, I will avoid elaborate restatement for the sake of brevity.
That issue is initiation, its importance, and its relevance to our “modern” lives. Initiation is in fact such a constant in the cultural body that it is evident in one form or another in nearly every human culture that has ever existed before the industrial age, at which point it became notably absent, at least on the surface. This absence has produced a very real psychological crisis, although as we will see in many ways the initiatory impulse has merely transferred itself, oftentimes to behaviors and beliefs which only shallowly fulfill that impulse.

(Click on post title for more.) 

Donate to the project

I know, you've heard it all before - but generating content takes time and money - and until I have the next series of books, comics, films etc that I'm working on released (which could take a solid year of work if not more), I'm living off the dole and a prayer as I was in my mid-20s. So I'm putting back up a donate button. By all means, don't feel pressured if it'd hurt you to chip in some, but it's always appreciated. And whether or not you do, I'm going to be moving a short distance soon to a place where I believe I can focus more on these projects - exclusively - and I hope that you might be able to join for our housewarming party when the time comes. Supposing you don't piss on the furniture.

On that note, I'm getting back to work.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Immanence of Myth: Editor's Introduction

To Be Published by Weaponized June 2011. 

Myths and legends die hard in America. 
We love them for the extra dimension they provide, 
the illusion of near-infinite possibility 
to erase the narrow confines of most men's reality. 
Weird heroes and mold-breaking champions 
exist as living proof to those who 
need it that the tyranny of "the rat race" is not yet final.
Hunter S. Thompson

    My essays for this book, though varying in scope and content, all deal with the overarching concepts of myth and art, and all of the issues that invariably are tied into them: from the nature of representation to issues such as that of initiation and its psychological and social roles.
    Much of this material expands on the ideas I first presented in “Living The Myth,” my contribution to the Generation Hex anthology, published by Disinformation Press in 2005. The idea of “living myth” implies at once two interpretations: that myth is in some way alive, and that we can live it. These two are, to use a cliché, like two sides of a coin. This idea underlies everything else that is to follow.    
    This is a concept that has guided all of the creative work I have done. However, as I have collaborated with other artists over the past decade, I came to realize that I was not at all alone in a mythic approach to art, even if all of our processes differ somewhat. (Ed. note: throughout this book I often use the word “artist” when I mean to include filmmakers, writers, musicians, and so on all under that term, because there is no better common term. The same is true for the term “art” which could just as well mean any myth with an intended aesthetic dimension.)
    This book began as a purely solo endeavor, a collection of essays based around the issues and ideas that arose naturally as I worked on various collaborative, mythic art projects. Eventually, it dawned on me that I should open this process up to others who might contribute their own thoughts on the subject of modern mythology. In retrospect, it is almost self-explanatory that an anthology such as this one would need to come about.
    In many ways this is a sideways glance at an art movement possibly already well underway, which, even with the release of this book, will likely remain somewhat in the shadows. “Man's world is manifold, and his attitudes are manifold,” Walter Kauffman writes in the prologue to his edition of Buber's I-Thou. “What is manifold is often frightening because it is not neat and simple. Men prefer to forget how many possibilities are open to them.” It is for this reason that I expect there will be some who find this exploration frustrating, as I do not present final solutions in any sense. If anything, I seek to open up the floor for more possibilities. Myth is never closed; it is the enemy of intellectual or ideological tyranny, even if it is a tool often used by tyrants.
    Perhaps it has always been underway. All art, except the exceptionally conceptual or technical, is at least partially mythological. Yet, to be blunt, much of the modern art world has lost touch with a conscious sense of this mythological foundation. Instead it wanders endlessly in a hall of mirrors, a kind of neurotic self-analysis. Perhaps it all comes down to a misunderstanding of Duchamp's urinal, “Fountain.” The urinal is not art, unless everything is. The message of the urinal is: the art world is a farce. If you place a piece of garbage in a gallery, it has been magically transformed into art. This comments on the nature of galleries and how we view art as a commodity far more than it does on the actual nature of art. In much contemporary, abstract art, signifier and signified are externally decoupled; the piece becomes completely self-referential, a conceptual ouroborous with no real entry or exit point back into personal experience.
     A piece such as “Fountain” also raises the question, “why does something require a point?” Right now, an artist I live with is building a four foot tall pink penis in the living room. This became the spring-board for the gonzomentary series “Clark.” Everyone is drawn to ask what the motivation behind something like this might be, what purpose does it serve? On the surface, its point is perhaps that it has no point. There is an argument to be made that much art in the past fifty years asks this question, “why do I need a purpose, an underlying narrative? Why can't I just be?” This changes nothing: we still mythologize these pieces and the lives of the artists that make them, even if they exist entirely without inherent purpose or narrative. A purposeless piece of art without a surrounding myth can be of interest to no one. Additionally, no work of art can actually be purposeless any more than any utterance can be. The subconscious plays a key role in the creation process. We'll discuss this at length later.
    An art world quarantined from everyday life is also a myth that may have outlived any imaginable purpose that doesn't have to do with art industry. As I discovered in my gonzo journalistic forays while working as editor of Alterati in 2007, much of the “real” art scene is isn't happening in the galleries. It is often occurring on the street, in seemingly abandoned factories, or behind closed doors in small studios. Art needn't be obsessed over either self-commentary or being terrified into proving its worth in the face of blind industry. There is much more to explore in the psyche, which is where art excels. If there is a universal bias in this work about the nature of art, it is that.
    Though I've gone through an editorial process with contributing authors, and editorial involves some amount of re-writing, I've attempted to preserve their ideology rather than make sure that everything coheres into a single system. As you will quickly discover, that approach would be entirely contrary to our position. Our methodology, tone, the very mission of this work is at once singular and multiplicity. It may be at times too scholarly for the average reader, and at others too congenial or crass for the average scholar. Maybe it was written by and for iconoclasts, although that was not the intent. It is my sincere hope that for many, it reaffirms and expands what you already know, and perhaps gives you a little more courage in the pursuit of your own myths.
    We will be exploring this subject from many angles, through articles, essays, and interviews from a variety of people actively engaged in mythic work and research. As our exploration progresses from chapter to chapter, we will move from a rather abstract view of myth as an existential dimension to increasingly specific instances of personal myth. Much as with the experience of viewing a painting, at twenty feet, ten feet, five feet, and up close, our experience will vary. It may even seem that the painting changes forms, as you'd see with an impressionist like Monet. This methodology and format will also shift to match our ongoing change of perspective. Keep this shifting scale in mind as you read through, as it should provide a frame of reference.
    The book is broken into four parts. In part one, we will take on a big picture exploration of immanent mythology as a philosophical concept. Many of these investigations will come from the initial materials I prepared for this book. In part two, we will take a look at  examples of modern myth in a variety of fields. Part three will open up yet more personal perspectives on immanent mythology, and the final section of this book is composed of conversations that I've had with artists and other would-be myth-makers.
    As you progress, you will likely discover that many of us have similar perspectives, framed in slightly different ways. Some of us may, on the other hand, flat out contradict one another. (Though, amongst the contributors of this volume, this happened so infrequently that it seems worthy of note.) Though the purpose of this introduction is to comment on the book itself, rather than myth, it seems an opportune moment to make this preliminary point. Variety is the nature of myth. Myth is naturally idiosyncratic. No one can expect a truly homogeneous tradition to arise, as myths naturally do, from life experiences in one location, and then another. The task of building a homogenized syncretism from a diverse tradition like Hinduism is not a mythological impulse, even if it's the bureaucrat's dream.
    All of this answers why I organized and wrote this material. Next, of course, is who is it written for? That's where you come in. The Immanence of Myth was written for anyone who wants to explore the possibilities myth provides, but especially for creative artists who, like myself, wish to inform their work with knowledge of the internal world that myth connects us to. It is this internal current that I hope to both amplify and emphasize. Together we will explore some of the endless possibilities provided by myth as a creative dimension, even if an essay must necessarily remain in the field of didactics. For those that work in some creative medium, it is my intention to assist you in shaping genuinely mythic experiences for your audiences.
     The next and final question that follows from our reportorial trinity: what is mythically inspired art? What is myth? That's a great deal more difficult to answer. At the outset let me say this: let's propose that everything we know about myth is wrong, or at least, subject to re-interpretation. Mythology is itself a myth. Admittedly, this is putting the cart before the horse, but it is the only way that we can resurrect what so many seem to consider dead.
    We are nowhere with this word “myth” until we can determine what its personal and cultural function is, and where the points overlap between these various elements. In other words, we need to build a map of a cognitive terrain that is not necessarily a “where” or even a “when," and so this book is dedicated towards exploring an ideological topology of myth. You might even say that such a topology might serve as a rough map of the potential elementary ideas of divinity. Even if, to that extent, a book such as this can only serve as a doorway rather than a destination. From these fragments we can begin to piece together the Gods of our image.
    It is worth noting that many books already exist which provide a systematic philosophical analysis of the history and function of myth. Though in various ways this work is indebted to those, my ultimate mission is not to explore what myth has been, except inasmuch as that can shed light on what its function is at present, nor is it to merely further the thesis of these works.  Indeed, there is no system at all. Rather, it is my aim to continue a movement already well underway, namely, the re-legitimization of myth and myth-making as one of the principal — if not the principal — means of human creative representation. (Borrowing in part from the scholarship of many that you will find quoted and alluded to throughout this work, including Jung, Campbell, Eliade, Kerenyi, and many others.)
    The approach we take nevertheless flies in the face of the majority of scholarly works in comparative mythology in the past. That is, in part, because the intention of this book is contrary to a historical, anthropological approach to the subject. It is invariable that some will encounter this work and write it off much in the same way Jaan Puhvel writes of Claude Levi-Strauss,
"The obvious danger is that the approach is by nature generalist, universalizing, and a-historical, thus the very opposite of text-oriented, philological, and time conscious. Overlaying known data with binaristic gimmickry in the name of greater “understanding” is no substitute for a deeper probing of the records themselves as documents of a specific synchronistic culture on the one hand and as outcomes of diachronic evolutionary processes on the other. In mythology, as in any other scholarly or scientific activity, it is important to recall that the datum is more important than any theory that may be applied to it."
    This leaves no room for differing intentions, and presupposes only one method of inquiry. His research in Comparative Mythology has been of use to me, but this is a different endeavor. I am not interested in a broken record written in cuneiform on a block of clay unless it can be used to shed some greater light on who we are right now, and furthermore add a deeper understanding to our own understanding of the world. It would appear that most of the contributors to this volume would agree with me. The chronological view of comparative mythology is not the only approach one can use to engage in a study of myth, though it is a valuable one.
    What you have before you is something quite different: an unconventional whisper in a dark room or the amplification of a movement. Only time will tell.

James Curcio, March 21, 2010. 

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mexican police ask spirits to guard them in drug war

Police running scared from drug gangs in one of Mexico's deadliest cities are using bizarre rituals involving animal sacrifice and spirit tattoos to seek protection from raging violence on the U.S. border.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Way of Transformation by Karlfried Graf von Durckheim

The man who, being really on the Way, falls upon hard times in the world, will not, as a consequence, turn to that friend who offers him refuge and comfort and encourages his old self to survive. Rather, he will seek out someone who will faithfully and inexorably help him to risk himself, so that he may endure the suffering and pass courageously through it, thus making of it a "raft that leads to the far shore." Only to the extent that man exposes himself over and over again to annihilation, can that which is indestructible arise within him. In this lies the dignity of daring. Thus, the aim of practice is not to develop an attitude which allows a man to acquire a state of harmony and peace wherein nothing can ever trouble him. On the contrary, practice should teach him to let himself be assaulted, perturbed, moved, insulted, broke and battered--that is to say, it should enable him to dare to let go his futile hankering after harmony, sure ease of pain, and a comfortable life in order that he may discover, in doing battle with the forces that oppose him, that which awaits him beyond the world of opposites. The first necessity is that we should have the courage to face life and encounter all that is most perilous in the world. When this is possible, meditation itself becomes the means by which we accept and welcome the demons which arise from the unconscious--a process very different from the practice of concentration on some objects as a protection against such forces. Only if we venture repeatedly through zones of annihilation, can our contact with Divine Being, which is beyond annihilation, become firm and stable. The more a man learns whole-heartedly to confront the world that threatens him with isolation, the more are the depths of the Ground of Being revealed and the possibilities of new life and Becoming opened. (from the book: The Way of Transformation by Karlfried Graf von Durckheim)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Looking At The Impact Of Symbols 3: Lilith, Babalon, Kali

(Read more Personal myth posts)

By way of another example of how symbols can enter and effect our lives, I wanted to touch on another fairly volatile image: Lilith, and the similar Thelemic Babalon, based in part on Crowley's drug-induced imaginings of the Whore of Babylon. (For those interested in exploring the psychological & historical history of the image, I suggest the book you'll find through that link.)

There are many interpretations of this symbol. As with all mythological symbols, she is a mirror; and it isn't my point in this post to follow its myriad permutations through time. Most to the point, her origins are not as a Goddess but as an air or desert demon. The distinction between Demon and God is somewhat in the eye of the beholder; it isn't so much a matter of power as of function. To quote a little from the Fallen Nation screenplay I've been working from, told by the present incarnation of Lilith in that script:
Women told tales of me...I would steal the men away from them. I would devour their children. I was an abomination. I lived inside mirrors to seduce the vanity of nubile girls. Can you imagine?
Lilith, the first Eve, has a positive element as a defier; she is another anti-patriarchal symbol. But to compare her to Dionysus, one might compare the Lust to Art or the Devil cards in Tarot. (Refer to the Book of Thoth.) In the terms of those symbols, her craft is most likely to lead to the Blasted Tower than any kind of immediate synthesis. Not even Lucifer has such a defiant nature. This is one of the things that distinguish Lilith from a "dark mother" symbol like Kali. Kali represents a synthesis. In Qabbalistic terms, you could say the entire tree is contained within her. In other terms, it is enough to simply consider the linkage of the womb and the tomb, of sex and death, of time and eternity. Kali may appear frightful from within the field of time, but she is a synthesizer. Alchemically, psychologically, synthesis is a process of union. Lilith is precisely the opposite: she divides, even seemingly without point. This too serves an important psychological / alchemical purpose, but it is often a destructive one. Perhaps synthesis is the result, but that is up to the individual. She certainly isn't going to do it for you-- she'll be on to the next mark. 

Enough with abstractions. My most obvious first contact with Lilith came through my relationship with my ex-wife. This was quickly became an intentional endeavor: our first music project together was called Lady Babylon. We changed the name to simply Babalon with a new lineup. Most of our music dealt with our relationship, and our relationship dealt in great part with our art, our dreams, and our magick workings. They bubbled one into the other. At a point I don't have any idea what meaning those songs had for anyone else, because they were so internally motivated; but there is no doubt, what we were invoking was potent, and it had teeth.

I mentioned in my first post in this series that symbols of these kind can actually obscure our genuine relationship with the person that evoked them. This was quite true with us, I think. I have the benefit of hindsight now. At the time, I couldn't make the distinction. In the process of bringing up such a potent, and destructive archetype, our relation ran constantly between explosive fire and torpor. I can only imagine that, whatever our conscious motivations in bringing such a symbol into our lives, we were truly yearning from a release from prior "karma." This is where her role and Kali remain somewhat the same. When the fire has burned everything to the ground, you are finally at a point where you can truly leave the past behind and begin anew- supposing that you survive the process with something intact.

That is very much what happened. The band and our marriage went up in flames. While I clung to the personal element, I was stuck in a downward spiral. All your attachments will be burned away, one by one, until you learn to truly let go, or there is simply nothing left. I eventually did let go, and, though many new trials have followed, I have become who I am today as a result. I very much believe that without having performed the working that we did - difficult as it was - I would in some way still be stuck where I was psychologically, still a child. In that way it was my initiation. And I think many Americans never get that, and are stuck in a kind of perpetual psychological limbo: not quite a child, not quite an adult. They yearn for an initiation, brought about by this symbol or another, but often don't even know what they're yearning for.

Dionysus may be a patron of sorts, but Lilith was my initiator. I bear her little love, but plenty of respect.

At this point - and I mean this quite genuinely - I am thankful for everything that happened. Nothing subtle could have helped me grow. It is only when nothing short of personal apocalypse can shake up the status quo that a sane individual would call upon a symbol like Lilith, certainly not with such regularity.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Looking at the impact of symbols (part 2, Dionysus)

My initial contact with Dionysus was probably not especially atypical. I was part of an "enrichment" program at my HS that included an English class that mixed in a great deal of mythology. In a way I feel pretty thankful for that; though we were mostly working with Bulfinch's, our teacher was especially passionate about the subject and repeatedly tried to get it into our heads that these were psychological metaphors. At the time I was mainlining Mountain Dew and fixated on most of the things adolescents fixate on, but it must've gotten in. Dionysus was portrayed as something of a sideline divinity in most of those texts; his real role in the pantheon or in my life wasn't at all clear.

Not long after, I became obsessed with Nietzsche- there's something about his writing that seems particularly attractive to young, intellectually-oriented outsiders. Especially, though not exclusively, males. (The same could be said of Crowley.) His framing of the Apollonian / Dionysian dichotomy in art was really compelling to me, but still, the symbol remained fairly intellectual. It did lead me to a class in college on Dionysus, which framed the Dionysian in the context of creativity, rather than the more mundane Roman rendering of the image as Bacchus. (Not the same image at all, but the distinction is often lost.) We read artists like Artaud. I remember a number of classes with particular amusement, like when the professor came in, clearly with a stiff back, and offhandedly commented that he'd injured himself during Tantric sex with his wife.

It started to gel at this point that there was something about the image of Dionysus that kept pulling me back. There are many approaches to creativity and the arts; Dionysian creativity in many ways is about getting out of the way of yourself. This is is one of the reason that drug use is so tied in with this current, for better and worse. Certain substances lessen the pull of the conscious self, letting what lies underneath to rise to the surface. The creative is a medium, the body is the point at which the upward and downward triangle of aspiration and the force of gravity meet, out of which alchemical transfiguration can occur. That sounds pretty high-minded and abstract, but it directly influenced my earliest approaches to writing, visual art, and music- diving in, often in chemically charged, manic binges. The result was characteristically intense and unfocused. There's no evaluation in that place. This is the creativity of the fugue, or channeling. Art has to be wed to this process through restraint, that comes with practice. The danger of the Dionysian approach is the complete lack of valuation; you will produce gems, but they'll be mixed in with the shit. You simply can't distinguish between the two, and later, in editorial, you may discover that they are very hard to separate from one another, as if the insights are connected to the dross through some invisible organ system. Kill the body and the head will die.

There was a more personal side to this connection, too. From my earliest memories on, women have always served a central role in my life. This is unsurprising, given that my parents were always women- my Mother, and her girlfriends. I didn't have a real male friend until I was thirteen, most of my early socialization was with girls- more out of preference than anything else, as well as the fact that the boys always seemed to sense something "other" in me and have a strong desire to attempt to squash it, like a bug. The most common insult from their quarter was always to call me "a girl." Even at the time I remember finding this curious. The insults stopped when I began meeting every slight related to this supposed insult with violence, but it always confused me: why was being a "girl" such an insult, when it seemed to clear to me that, before society had its awful way with them, women were closer to nature? Perhaps I didn't consciously think this last part just yet, but the feeling was there. I still remember it clearly. And even when the insults stopped, I still remained somewhat other, at least until the social dynamics of HS took me in for a while.

For those that are familiar with the Dionysus myth, this should be very familiar. For those that aren't, by the time he has attained the status of a deity, the first sign of his appearance is in the form of the bacchante, the wild women of Dionysus; in his earlier life, he was alternately hidden by his mother Semele from the wrath of Hera- he was raised by nymphs in seclusion- or he was hidden by Zeus "in his thigh." This is not to say that I was raised by nymphs, but the psychological significance of this element of the symbol is there. These symbols always must be read psychologically. In some ways I have grown further from him as my life has gone an, even as I've learned more about him and become mentally closer; I can only imagine that this is because of the effects of living in the society that I do. But the current is there, even when not clearly apparent. Still waters run deep.

Dionysus himself is considered effeminate, though I'm not aware of any direct reference to homosexuality that isn't juxtaposed there. We simply assume he is effeminate, bivalent, surrounded by wild female energy- there must be an element of homosexuality in the image. Perhaps there is, but it always struck me as something else. Certainly the consciousness represented by his symbol is beyond pairs of opposites in the social sphere, so there is a strong current of pansexuality throughout the symbol, but not strictly homosexual. And, as I said, this rarely enters into the traditional portrayals of the symbol.

I have an explanation for this. Dionysus is the mythological necessity of a feminine current that seeks to return a society divorced from nature back into accord with her, even if it is the nature that Lord Tennyson refers to, "bloody in tooth and claw." In Western mythological terms the male, solar energy is necessary to give the lunar, female energy light; you can read this as the sexist statement of an aeon of male dominated mythology, but there is a sense to it if we consider the meaning of the symbols themselves outside the context of human society. To whit, it is the lurking sense that the "passive" is "weaker" than the "active" that is the coloration of a male dominated mythology, rather than the meaning of the symbol. Is the negative pole or a magnet "weaker" than the positive? Perhaps the Chinese Yang and Yin are preferable; they mean "sunny" and "shady" side of the hill, which is to say two states of the same thing, the active and receptive. When you consider that Dionysus is a bull God, this inversion of roles gets even more complicated, but I'll save that for a later post as it wanders back into the historical rather than personal interpretation of symbol.

To get back to the point, Dionysus is a necessary symbol, in mythological terms, to focus the counter-patriarchal, counter-order forces of nature, nature being closer in many ways to the female energy than the male. In the screenplay and novel for Fallen Nation I deal with this a lot, the character Dionysus says "I am an agent of chaos." This is what he means. Not the chaos of the anarchist but the chaos of natural order, of Tiamat, existing before the discriminatory force of reason slayed that dragon and made a sensible world from her corpse. This idea shows itself nicely in the Garden of Eden as well, when Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, what happened is they became self aware. They knew shame because they had become divorced from nature, from themselves, by reason. This is the cost. The benefits we know all too well-- as I sit here in a cafe, typing this out on a laptop, music paying from a digital disc in the background-- none of these things could come to be without having stepped outside of the Garden. But at what cost? The Dionysian current attempts to lead us back to that primal source. Maybe we can wed the last 2000 years of our development with what we lost in the process: that would certainly be a step towards Nietzsche's deleteriously conceived ubermensch. But there should be no mistake, this path is a dangerous one.

All of these ideas are central to understanding the significance of the Dionysus symbol, though hopefully I explore that more successfully in my fiction than I could here. Should the screenplay make it to screen, and or comic book, I certainly hope you come along for the ride.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Looking at the impact of symbols (part 1)

I want to start to explore a couple symbols that have been reoccuring themes in my life here on Modern Mythology. They are symbols I've dealt with on here many times before but I want to take a look at how they played into my life, hopefully to serve as a sort of example. By "symbols" I'm actually referring to entire constellations of symbols that most people refer to as Gods- like Dionysus- or demons, like Lilith. I like the word "symbol" better because it is more open ended, and passes no real judgement on the nature of what's being symbolized. I don't want to get into a discussion of what is "real" or not. Let that play out in the rendering. Our lives are real enough, or if not, then nothing is.

I'll be talking about past events, though I'll not be using people's full names. It's all done to serve as part of that example. I've finally reached a point in my life where my past no longer lures or haunts me, even if I still have something of an ongoing struggle with my expectations of the future. The story isn't about them, it's about me. Maybe this is probably the first point to make about symbols like this- they reflect us, and they can even obscure other people in their place. Jung noted this about the anima and animus. We can be so overtaken by the symbol evoked by an individual that our internal relationship becomes entirely with the symbol; our relationship with the person behind that symbol atrophies, if it was ever there at all. There's a lot I could say about that, but it'd lead me far off course. Hopefully I'll remember to return.

There's also an extent to which these themes reoccur because we pick them out of the lineup- there are countless mythological symbols out there, but only certain ones stick out to us, almost as if the others didn't exist. This speaks volumes about us, but little else. I think a lot of damage has been wreaked throughout history as a result of people being overwhelmed by the power of an image that appears to them, followed by the miopic assumption that the presence, significance, reality of that symbol was an imperative for everyone else as well.

Immanence of myth: submission review

Now that I've wrapped up the first draft of the Fallen Nation screenplay, I have until April to pretty well tackle the submissions for the anthology and get everyone working on their second drafts, or other necessary writing or re-writing. I think a couple writers were a little taken aback by the fact that first drafts don't go straight to copy-editing-- frankly, I don't know a single writer who can pen a first draft that's ready for print. And I know some good writers. This is a labor of love, there's simply no other good reason to do it. It's not even about how good one is as a writer; the more we reflect on the subjects we are considering, the more refined the final result will be. I'm happy to see that so many of the contributors so far have understood that and are working to rise to the occasion.

While those pieces are being worked on, between now and mid-May, I'd like to offer an opportunity. I have a couple ideas for articles that I'd like to see penned, so I want to offer these as suggestions to the public. Even if they don't drop on your head like that apocryphal apple that whacked Newton on the skull... maybe something else will be shaken out of the tree. 

Yeah, an iffy metaphor but it's 5:15am here so bear with me: 
First, a piece on the mythological connection between sex and death. This is a well documented link, clearly seen in figures as disparate as Baron Samedhi and Kali. However, less explored is the significance of this link in our personal lives. If the link isn't strictly the result of a fairly obvious observation about the nature of reproduction, time and death, then what is it? How deep does it go? Most importantly -- and this is something to try to bring in to any piece written for this book -- how does it impact our lives? Bataille's Erotism might be a good place to start in terms of reference material, but as this belongs in the "personal myth" part of the anthology, if it starts and ends with one's personal experience of sex/death, it will work best. 
A look at the mythology behind a specific animal or activity. For instance, beekeeping. Apiaries go back to ancient Egypt, possibly before, and the bee / hive has obvious mythological significance that can be interpreted in both psychological and social ways. Look at the behavior of bees and conflate those behaviors to metaphors, that is, mythologize them. There's also something interesting about the relationship of bees to beekeepers, which I think is ripe for some interpretation, along the lines of thoughts about all symbiotic relationships in nature.
The myths of class and race within America obviously define our perspective of politics within this country. I think a solid look at this issue through the lens of mythology and symbol could be very interesting.
I've received a few pieces about working with specific divinities, and interpreting those symbols in ways that are both psychologically potent and practically useful. They have all done so in a way that is very persona, but also refer to the historical / mythological record. However, I'd really love to see this for a few more divinities / symbols. The point of this diversity, among other things, would be to help demonstrate that it can really be anything that speaks to you, that the methods of interpreting these symbols and the way they can impact our lives is as diverse and unique as we are, even though they refer to archetypical images. So more along these lines would certainly be appreciated.
I could write some of these pieces but I feel like the more voices that we can fit between the covers, the better. 

Also, if any of you have a piece ready between now and May, please feel free to pass it my way. Keep in mind that the closer to May that it is, the closer to "out of the park" it's going to have to be. So hit it hard! 

Monday, March 08, 2010

Trololo: Christoph Waltz, Russian legend, and amyl nitrate

Just going to show that myth is always a key element in meme-making, this video has been popping up all over the place recently. Brooke Burgess pointed this out to me, as I've apparently been living under a rock the past couple weeks working on Immanence of Myth, a script, and several other things. This video is -- I imagine -- something like doing amyl and DMT at the same time, without the machine elves and anal relaxation:

The recent spike seems to have preceded this absurdity:
Although Google Insights returns a years-long trend for “Edward Hill” it should not be assumed that they are all for this Edward Hill, as the name refers to a number of historical figures. However, searches for “Edward Hill” and “trololo” have shown a marked increase in Feburary of 2010.
However, the source of the video's popularity might not be quite so recent.

As those who frequent this blog regularly know, normally I would provide some context or analysis on how the myth ties into the more recent outcropping of the media. But in this case, I've got nothing on the connection between a Russian folksong about the returning hero and this. It's something like a synchronicity that pops up thirty times during your day, after ten instances of the number thirty one or ravens you start to wonder if the universe is telling you something, but what the hell are you going to make of it? Maybe I should try that amyl and DMT thing. I'll let you know if anything comes of that...

Saturday, March 06, 2010


We encourage all good citizens to sign up for the show. You will be housed within a wonderful Haze Treatment Facility and undergo unique psychological treatment, which will clear away the illness of individuality. This reprogramming will be broadcast to the eyes and ears of citizens in our New World, populated with previous contestants and patients. This is a reality show unlike any other!

There is a secret that haunts Haze01, the original treatment facility. Two patients, locked deep within its walls, contain archetypes that reject all reprogramming. They channel portents and omens of another future, a world where myth and divinity remake reality, manifesting a planet fit for Gods.

In this season of the Y show, the doctors of the facility make their final attempt to process these two patients, before they break free and unleash total anarchy. Tune in.

Presented by:

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Projection in psychology and myth

I've been thinking a lot today about the nature of psychological projection, and the role it plays in mythological thought and imagery. This was probably set off by an essay by Alan Dundes on the subject, Projection In Folkore: A Plea For Psychoanalytic Semiotics, which is a great deal more interesting than the title might imply. Dundes is in many ways a master essayist, portraying fairly complicated thoughts in a very straightforward manner, and making what could be very dry subjects interesting. So I will directly turn to a couple of his thoughts on the subject as I continue to process what I've read today:
"In psychology, projection refers to the tendancy to attribute to another person or the environment what is within one's self. What is attributed is usually some internal impulse or feeling which is painful, unacceptable, or taboo. The ascription of feelings and qualities of one's own to a source in the external world is accomplisehd without the individual's being consciously aware of the fact. The individual perceives the external object as possessing the taboo tendancies without recognizing their source in himself. I might mention Charles S. Peirce was aware of the existence of projection. He wrote, 'I think it is probably true that every element of experience is in the first instance applied to an external object. A man gets up out of the wrong side of the bed, for example, attributes wrongness to almost every object he perceives. This is the way in which he experiences his bad temper.' Despite the triviality of the example, the aptness of the insight remains valid. Of course, Freud said it too and with specific reference to folkore: 'As a matter of fact, I believe that a large portion of the mythological conception of the world which reaches far into the most modern religions is nothing but psychology projected onto the outside world.'"
It is funny to me that today, after reading this section, I got into a conversation on Facebook about this very tendancy and its role in myth, and following that, went to yin yoga class and our instructor commented repeatedly on the nature of projection, and how the negative sensations that we might experience in our daily lives arise within ourselves, even if they are triggered externally. This is further emphasized by the fact that one can contort their body, and experience an unlocking of energy (of one kind or another), that triggers these latent or "trapped" emotional responses. In fact that reaction can be so intense and surprising to many beginning practicioners that they assume something is wrong with them, and cease practice immediately!

This is really worth emphasizing. It is essentially impossible for any external event to in itself cause anger, grief, happiness, despair, or any other emotion that exists in the continuum of possible human emotions. Impossible. What is triggered is MY anger, MY fear, or desire, or so on. Yoga is especially direct in its ability to throw this in our face, but it is certainly not the only process whereby one can slowly, inch by agonizing inch, peel back the curtain obscuring this psychological sleight of hand. Doubtless completely removing this process would make us something other than human. But making us conscious of it-- that is part of what distinguishes the "sleepers" from the "awake." (To that, for my part, all I can claim is: I'm working on it.)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Celebrity Culture (via Aeolus Inc)

I recently came across this blog care of a potential contributor to the Immanence of Myth anthology. This post touches on something I wrote about recently, so I wanted to point you towards his blog, Aeolus Inc.:

"Stars are success personified. They represent a modern, coarse version of the old mythic narrative of the Hero achieving his rightful place as King against insurmountable odds and almost insuperable obstacles. Yet stars do nothing as or by themselves, and certainly nothing heroic (unless a ruthless determination for success at any cost can be considered heroic). They are actors who play heroic roles. The shaman-adventurer enacting his quest for the tribe from a place of Knowing, allowing others to share in his experience of gnosis, has become Arnold Schwarzenegger killing Arab terrorists and saving New York City from nuclear holocaust."
(Full article.)

Hillbilly tantra sex magic on the cheap

Today I want to share an article I wrote back in 2003, which was published in Immanion's Magick On The Edge, and several other magazines and zines in the years since,

"Erotism, it may be said, is assenting to life up to the point of death... If a precise definition were called for, the starting-point would certainly have to be sexual reproductive activity, of which erotism is a special form. Sexual reproductive activity is but only humans appear to have turned their sexual activity into erotic activity. Eroticism, unlike simple sexual activity, is a psychological quest independent of the natural goal." -Georges Bataille, Erotism: Death and Sensuality (1986.)
Imagine two sexual encounters, on the surface identical in every way. You went through every possible posture permutation in the Kama Sutra. All the paint on the walls is now clumped under your fingernails. Your neighbors hate you passionately.
However in the first encounter, both people’s energies are depleted as a result. Perhaps they feel like a dog that keeps getting scratched in that one spot and can’t keep it’s leg from twitching no matter how it might try. Now the alcohol has worn off as they slink into a dark hole somewhere to listen to The Smiths until the mascara has run so badly they look like they just did nine rounds with Muhammad Ali.
In the other case, they feel energized, more in synch with themselves and those around them. A feeling of being personally reborn accompanies it, a new springtime in the soul whether or not it was a tryst or the beginning of an extended engagement.
What is the distinction between these two events, absolutely indistinguishable on the surface?
Of course, to a certain extent, the answer must be specific to the context of the interaction. The “context” is merely the environment, the factors that play into creating a mood and state of mind that we find pleasurable. However “context” also includes elements like ideas, emotions, our past histories, and all of the minutiae that make up the subtext of our everyday reactions. So we can see the distinction between good and bad sex is subjective, and thus in no way moralistic. Well and good, but none of this does a whole lot to answer our question.
There is an organic dimension as well, and this may tell us more. Though the Kama Sutra puts a great deal of attention into the more physical side of this, how lovers can be trained to give each other more pleasure, a more crucial and subtle element that leads us to match or mismatch is electro-chemical. This of course includes the electro-chemistry of our brains, but as you explore this in practice (and as we will later see), the fact that consciousness is a field is part and parcel of the boundless bliss that some experience through sexual contact with others. Many relate experiences of unity, lack of a sense of anything but Self, the slowing or even stopping of time, and many other things which we associate both with religious experience and the pre-formative stage of human development before Self and Other is clearly demarcated. During this stage, magical thinking has also been largely untouched by cultural boundaries and definitions.
This is what we are hunting for, and why there is any sense in speaking of “sex magick” at all. I have experienced “it” many times myself, so I’m not going off what I’ve read in books here. At the same time I can honestly say I’m still trying to piece together exactly what “it” is.
A dissatisfying experience results when there is no transition of energy on both sides. There is harmonic dissonance between the “fields” of the participants. When there is harmonic congruence, and these flood gates do open, there is an active interplay in both directions like the Taoist yin-yang symbol which leaves each participant forever changed, touched in part by the divine presence of the Other, whether the event was the beginning of a long relationship or a so-called one-night-stand.
So we’re driven to have this experience, yet many personal and cultural factors block us from this bliss which is our birthright.
How do we begin?

(PDF of full essay.)

Monday, March 01, 2010

philosophy art and commerce

 There is a common misconception within the myths perpetuated by capitalistic culture, which claims that art and philosophy are useless endeavors – at best, a mental exercise, at worst, an activity for criminals and dilettantes. They forget that all of the great periods in human history, leaps of progress in terms of science, mathematics, and other disciplines that produce more "tangible" results, have occurred side-by-side with paradigm shifts in the arts and philosophy. It is impossible, and irrelevant, to definitively argue which came first. Art and philosophy, without trade, commerce, and application, is sterile and masturbatory. Similarly, trade and commerce is brutish and miopic when it isn’t applied with the sensibility that comes from in-depth philosophical and artistic debate. Both are crucial to cultural evolution, but only when applied together. This misconception is one of the dangers of prevalent capitalistic myths. It is possible that this misconception has actually further divorced these two currents, rendering art into the purely theoretical, a navel-gazing reflection upon itself. This in part came about through the hands of the art world itself, in the formation of the "art world," a world of happenings where nothing happens, of canvases painted white, and music performances where nothing is performed. Which is not to say that there has been no value produced, for instance, by John Cage's 4'33", but there can be little argument that this movement has unintentionally furthered the capitalist myth that art is purely masturbatory.
    What cannot be commodified cannot be useful, cannot be meaningful. In a Capitalistic society, the qualities of what cannot be quantified are irrelevant. Max Horkheimer deals with this in The Eclipse of Reason, for example:

"...the transformation of all products of human activity into commodities was achieved only with the emergence of industrialist society. The functions once performed by objective reason, by authoritarian religion, or by metaphysics have been taken over by the reifying mechanism of the anonymous economic apparatus. It is the price paid on the market that determines the salability of merchandise and thus the productiveness of a specific kind of labor. Activities are branded as senseless or superfluous, as luxuries, unless they are useful or, as in wartime, contribute to the maintenance and safeguarding of the general conditions under which industry can flourish. Productive work, manual or intellectual, has become respectable, indeed the only accepted way of spending one's life." (pg. 40)

    However, Horkeimer attributes this to the "subjective reason" which to his thinking performed a coupe d'etat of both so-called "objective reason," on the one hand, and the mythological impulse on the other. I would instead argue that this end result, which he is quite correct about, was not arrived at through the overthrow of objective reason, but it is instead its ultimate conclusion. It is the inevitable evolution of a specific mythology heritage, which gave birth to reason, which gave birth to the nation-state, which, through many other turn-abouts, gave birth to blind industry. Zeus consumed his own father, Kronos. That is not to say that he wasn't born by him. The same could be said of Horkheimer's objective and subjective reason, as presented in the Eclipse of Reason. No return to objective reason is possible: we are living in its aftermath. At the same time, it is arguable if it existed, save as an ideal, in the first place. Instead, the alternative can only come to life through the culture, embodied in the form of new art, and new myths.

Nothing Is Sacred - early design

Present tweaking the album art for the upcoming MTW album. This'll likely sit until we're further into mixing, at which point I'll revisit it.

Input welcome, though as always I reserve the right to ignore it.


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