Monday, December 23, 2013

Dedicated to a Dead Dog - Further thoughts on the Kali Yuga

Sharp crack in the distance, a man shooting a dog for no other reason than the fact that he'd bred too many.

Earlier in the evening he asked me if I wanted a dog for Christmas. Knowing I couldn't responsibly afford to take care of one I declined. Untrained, but raised unleashed, the dogs he had with him were good dogs, they listened to commands and were well socialized.

When I heard the gun shot I knew that the dog I turned down was dead.

I sat there for a long time, unmoved and unmoving. Up in North Georgia where I often spend time in the woods, I don't even kill scorpions when they come around, I let the spiders build webs where they will, and don't worry too much about what the forest brings forward no matter how inconvenient it is to my sense of security. Facing the death of an intelligent, lively dog that I could have saved by simply opening my door put me face to face with the visceral realities of life and death and the meaning of suffering.

To get angry or sad, would be to forget that every moment there are uncountable deaths from the dissolution of atoms to stars exploding in unseen galaxies. In between there is the insurmountable amount of suffering as conscious beings are torn apart by the ebb and flow of phenomenal existence.

Here in the Georgia night, there was a gun shot in the distance and a dead dog. A man shooting a dog for no other reason than the fact that he'd bred too many.

I just wrote a piece over on Reality Sandwich asking the question, who mourns the coming of the Kali Yuga? Thinking now on that dog, I have tears in my eyes, but I sit above the sense of pain at the pointlessness of it. It's Saturnalia after all, there used to be sacrifices of a much more direct kind, there's official and unofficial wars ripping apart the world right now, and there's a dog on some guy's compost heap...and I mean that literally, one of the folks who has lived in the area for a long time said that the compost heap in a place like that is essentially where everything ends up that doesn't need to go to the dump, dead dogs included.

In writing that Kali Yuga piece Camron Wiltshire, of Sacred Geometry International, asked me what the astrological components of the age are, to tell whether or not this is actually the Kali Yuga. I have no idea. Jeremy Johnson, a Contributing Editor at Reality Sandwich, said that he felt we're already in the Kali Yuga in relation to the title referencing 'the coming' of that age. He pointed out a post on his Tumblr feed with a quote from Mircea Eliade's book, Images and Symbols:
“The syndrome of kali yuga is marked by the fact that it is the only age in which property alone confers social rank; wealth becomes the only motive of virtues, passion and lust the only bonds between the married, falsehood and deception the first condition of success in life, sexuality the sole means of enjoyment, while external, merely ritualstic religion is confused with spirituality. For several thousand years, be it understood, we have been living in kali yuga.”

This is the same sense that Mark Stavish, Director of the Institute for Hermetic Studies, said he references the term to mark the material excess of our age. Stavish pointed out that he has "used the notion of the Kali Yuga as a wake-up call or contrast to the wonderfully seductive ideas of a technological paradise. As for astrology, there are several ideas floating around, and each needs to be addressed in their context. I think one of the easiest and most obvious contradictions is that of the Age of Aquarius being bliss and freedom when it is ruled by Saturn is one of those areas of inconsistency that I try to point people towards. Also the possibility that the world is really turned on its head in terms of values."  Wiltshire, Johnson, Stavish and some others provided conceptual addendums to the piece. Another fellow, Daniel Gill, offered up some sources on a Vietnamese sorcerer whose work he is interested in, and whose philosophies have helped Gill conceptualize his own experiences. A few of the comments the piece received bore a randomness that made them koan like in trying to relate them to what was written, but that's fairly common in digital media.

In all that though, I'm still stuck on the startling crack of a gun shot in the distance, and the memory of a trusting, sweet dog running up to me that's probably now rotting on a heap of garbage waiting for the crows, maggots, ants and vultures to get the hint and strip it down to bone. This world is a complete trap my friends, a complete and utter trap. It's amazing, every second another distraction from the source of all being, even when we try to think about avoiding those distractions we distract ourselves defining the distraction. No avoidance of the 'world' is necessary, I'm not saying stick your head in a hole, but a proper view/practice is. Without it, the subtle seduction of false self and false goals is supremely elusive.

This time of fire and isolation is a beautiful opportunity, the deepest sense of loneliness if used properly is the poison that kills the root of illusion. There's a dead dog on a compost heap slowly moldering to bone and then dust, and that is the best mantra I can think of to meditate on if I want to get to the core of being. Somewhere in the truth of that, much deeper than I know, is the practice of Tantra. It also gives a sense of the alchemical art, that's why all those alchemical recipes have ingredients that are extremely deadly if used improperly.

As an anonymous Italian alchemist pointed out to me once, “people love to forget that Nature does not need us, that she is without space and time, and that her teachings are always actual and a mystery to us.” He also mentioned a very useful point, and he was very kind in how direct he was in providing this clue:
"The Dragon will not easily give access to the entrance of the Palace: it’s guarding a Princess and a Treasure. To be the Knight who may kill the Dragon does not mean to be simply a good man: you must be a real Knight, and a long and appropriate training, a veil, and a vow, should be performed as it was once upon a time.

That’s a real thing. The combat is real. Mother Nature enters your Laboratory, and that’s not to play around with good manners and wordly, nice, New Age mantras. You may risk your real life. Remember that Alchemy is an Art done with your hands, with minerals, in a small Laboratory. Forget those who speak of Self, Enlightenment, Spiritual bodies, Angels in the bedroom, Mystical Visions and so on. These things do of course exists, but not in the form we may think of; they will come in light with time, but after when they will sense that the student is currently walking on the ancient paths. And this may happen only after at least two or three decades of continuous studying, learning how to switch off Ratio and to live life with simplicity, silence, Love and compassion."
As I said in the article on Reality Sandwich, there is no fraud in this if you are truly looking to discover what is hidden in plain sight, if you seek to cheat the ferryman's fee you're still heading straight into the gates of death. Two or three decades of continuous study and practice, and there are no guarantees, yet we want a quick answer, or some conceptual solution that will give us entry to the palace of being. I've been chewing on that alchemists words for nearly 3 years now, and as simple, somewhat silly and obvious as they seem, it may take me a life time more to even begin to enter into what he really means.

Now, however, I have a Christmas gift that I didn't even realize I'd accepted, and I'm dedicated to a dead dog shot by a guy for no other reason than that he bred too many, and that sweet, trusting dog can show me things about nature that I might not have otherwise accepted if I'd tried to conceptualize the pathless path.


David Metcalfe is a researcher, writer and multimedia artist focusing on the interstices of art, culture, and consciousness. He is a contributing editor for Reality Sandwich, The Revealer, the online journal of NYU’s Center for Religion and Media, and The Daily Grail. He writes regularly for Evolutionary Landscapes, Alarm Magazine, Modern Mythology,, The Teeming Brain and his own blog The Eyeless Owl. His writing has been featured in The Immanence of Myth (Weaponized 2011), Chromatic: The Crossroads of Color & Music (Alarm Press, 2011) and Exploring the Edge Realms of Consciousness (North Atlantic/Evolver Editions 2012). Metcalfe is an Associate with Phoenix Rising Digital Academy, and is currently co-hosting The Art of Transformations study group with support from the International Alchemy Guild.

In collaboration with Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut, Chair of Catholic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and Liminal Analytics, Metcalfe's most recent efforts have been focused on studying the growing devotional tradition associated with Santa Muerte (Saint Death) in the Americas.


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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Myths of the Holidays: Who Makes The Krampus Seem Jovial By Comparison?

Krampus by Alexey Andreev
for Nyssa Part 1:
Love Notes To A Stranger
Have you noticed you can’t go far this Christmas season without seeing the krampus, a devil-like consort to Saint Nicholas? All of the sudden, the devilish fellow seems to be everywhere.

But it is far less likely that you have encountered another Christmas-time mythic character, that of Frau Perchta. She makes the Krampus seem amiable to boot.

Perchta asks,"have you been weaving your flax little girl? Have you been good? Are you eating the awful gruel and fish that are to be consumed on my holiday?" If the answer is no, the poor children are disemboweled, and their insides are stuffed with straw and stones. So, you know. Don't mess up. By comparison to the two of them, Saint Nicholas' 'present' of coal seems benign.

We may wonder what the sense is in these dark figures, during a time that we mistakenly assume should be lighthearted and merry. All three of them are the same in this one way: All of them represent the darkest time of the year, a time when the fields lie fallow, when the unconscious gestates. Sounds pretty abstract, what it means is that there’s a part of our conscious mind that wonders “What have I done well this past year? What can I do better in the future?”

There is also something to be said for the fact that in the parts of the world these myths came from, it is bitter, bleak and awful cold.

The solstice is a passage from darkness back to light. And out of that can spring guilt. The Germanic psyche demanded something else, a force both benevolent and terrible, to keep them in line. Krampus charges out of the frigid night, howling, beating the christ out of women and children with sticks, and carrying the especially bad ones away.

If we are in doubt of the sacred origins of holidays, we might consider some of the ideas put forth in Eliade’s The Sacred and the Profane,
(photographer site)
The New Year coincides with the first day of Creation. The year is the temporal dimension of the cosmos. ‘The world has passed!’ expresses that a year has run its course. At each New Year the cosmogony is reiterated, the world re-created, and to do this is also to create time - that is, to regenerate it by beginning it anew. This is why the cosmogony myth serves as paradigmatic model for every creation or construction; it is even used as a ritual means of healing.
Thus, the role served by this entity which rewards and punishes, is to cut what we might call the karmic ties with the previous year. This seems an unusual attribution for the seemingly benevolent Santa Claus, but this is only because the holiday has become so desacralized that he has merely become a stand-in, a cardboard cutout, signifying nothing. This connection between karma and the eternal return of the holiday cycle is not without precedent.

Again we can turn to The Sacred and the Profane, “ Indian thought, this eternal return implied eternal return to existence by force of karma, the law of universal causality. Then, too, time was homologized to the cosmic illusion (Maya), and the eternal return to existence signified indefinite prolongation of suffering and slavery.”

These karmic ties don’t require an actual belief in karma within the Buddhist or Hindu framework of reincarnation. What it refers to is an element of our memory. Consider something that you own that has a great deal of “sentimental value.” Pick it up. Hold it in your hand. Think about the people you associate with it. Grab hold of those emotions, and travel back to the time that the object brings you to. That’s your karmic tie. You are bound to those things.

The same is true of the memories and emotions we hold onto of those we love, who are now gone, and of the life we lived which is also gone. Of course, outside a framework that espouses transcendence, these are neither positive nor negative in themselves, but they are attachments. From this, we can see that a mythic symbol serving some kind of ethical function would arise, when it comes to recapitulation and renewing. To renew, the soil must be tilled. Some attachments can be maintained but others must be severed.

The winter solstice is a passage from darkness back to light, and out of that can spring guilt, no pun intended. It is the negredo process, the fallow soil, frosted over; petrifaction. We need something that comes from outside, a bestial or demonic Other, a force both benevolent and terrible, to keep our sorry asses in line.

The joyous, peaceful facade of the deritualized festival, stripped of any reference to a surrogate victim and its unifying powers, rests on this basis of sacrificial crisis attended by reciprocal violence. That is why genuine artists can still sense that tragedy lurks somewhere behind the bland festivals, the tawdry utopianism of the “leisure society.” The more trivial, vulgar, and banal holidays become, the more acutely one senses the approach of something uncanny and terrifying. The theme of holiday-gone-wrong dominates Fellini's films and has recently surfaced in various different forms in the work of many other artists.

Maybe something could be drawn from the relation between the much the kinder, gentler Coke-a-Cola Santa, Saint Nick, Christ and his misattributed birthday (if “he” had one at all), and these Pagan throwbacks from the Swiss Alps. It's late and I don't care enough at the moment.

This much I know: Krampus and Frau Perschta would totally kick both Santa and Jesus' ass. That's for damned sure.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Doll-house Narratives

gordie grant
The recent "Married To A Doll" piece on the Atlantic highlights a story that has been going around for years, about "iDollators," those that take on dolls as love partners.
Rather than do the usual gawking and commenting about how "weird" it all is, I'd rather comment on something that occurred to me as I was reading the interview: when the other person is removed from a relationship, and their shell remains, you get a clear view of just how much projection is involved in all so-called "normal" relationships. So many of us are taught to make a possession of our lovers or mates, to evaluate ourselves, even our value, based on their perceived value.

This is something less than hyperbole. A December 2013 "Psychology Today" article asks, "Is Your Partner Good Enough?", going on to explain,
In the book Passions Within Reason, Robert Frank writes about a woman who asked her friend the following questions: Why do I fall in love with people that are not interested in me? And why don't I care about those that fall in love with me? Her collegue replied, "you're an 8 chasing after 10's and being chased by 6's." How could this woman know she is an 8 and not a 7 or 9? And should she stop dreaming about 10's?

Once you evaluate your partner is inferior to you, you are faced with making a romantic compromise. The concession here does not refer to whether the person loves you or is a suitable partner but whether -- in your opinion -- he or she is above, below, or equal to you or to the other partners available to you.
We act as if this behavior is somehow normal, and Davecat's is abnormal, but both of them show the exact same kind of thinking. He has merely applied those needs and the narratives that feed them to a synthetic proxy. And moreover, as dolls don't have agency, what he is doing isn't reducing a person to the status of possession in the process.

The narratives that we tell ourselves about our partners are in many ways realer to us than they are. What if they are so satisfying that we in fact live within a relationship to those narratives, rather than to the people themselves?
Both Sidore and Elena have two backstories. One in which Sidore is the daughter of a Japanese father and an English mother, and was born in Japan and raised in Manchester, England. Elena's is similar; she grew up in Vladivostok, Russia. The other backstory they have is that they're Dolls. Self-aware Dolls, but Dolls nonetheless. In one backstory they have favorite foods; in the other, they don't eat, becaus they don't have digestive tracts... because they're Dolls. You get the idea.
I've had that dichotomy for as long as I've had Shi-chan and Lenka, and it doesn't seem to be going away any time soon. As I write their characters, they each express themselves through the Internet; they both have their own Twitterfeeds, and Shi-chan has a Tumblr. Playing up the Doll aspect allows me to get comedy from the situation, such as when Sidore wonders why I don't just remove my sinuses when my allergies flare up, but writing detailed histories for them exercises my creative writing skills, and makes them more 'human'. Like I said, the dichotomy probably won't be solved any time soon.
Isn't the goal of a relationship to take, accept and love them as they are? Certainly not to evaluate their value as a commodity... except of course that the entire history of marriage is based on property and ownership. Perhaps it is little surprise that we should still be carrying around that cultural baggage.

To let a relation be what it is, enrich and challenge our lives, and pass on when it is their time. These are a few the assumptions that let me to polyamory, because I noticed a trend in myself when I was in monogamous relationships that I tried to change the people I was with, tried to make them "the one," because, after all, if you only have one partner they had best satisfy those needs. But other people don't exist to satisfy our needs.

Dolls, perhaps, can do that. But not human beings.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

American as Fuck - What Had Happened Was Ep. 38 - a grumpyhawk collective production

What Had Happened Was Logo
by Susan M Omand, Omand Original, All Rights Reserved

  GHCstitcher Subscribe via RSS, or download the episode directly.
What Had Happened Was is a grumpyhawk collective podcast co-hosted by grumpyhawk (that would be me) and Benjamin Combs. In this "week-in-review style" show, we cover and comment on stories with a tech, science, weird, or strange sort of angle. Visit to see and hear more from the collective. 

Hey everyone, today grumpyhawk and Benjamin Combs discuss being American as Fuck, legally killing bald eagles, how dumb XboxOne owners are bricking their devices, Santa getting a Fighter Jet escort from NORAD this year, getting kids high, and Crazy ants invading the US. Also we spend some time with Salomé Jones and talk about her new book "Red Phone Box".  

Show Notes:
  1. Updated US policy permits accidental bald eagle death via wind turbine
  2. Bricking your XboxOne (thanks 4Chan!)
  3. Father duped on Ebay after he ordered £450 XBox One for his son for Christmas... but received a PICTURE of a console instead
  4. Defense Officials Defend Santa’s Fighter Jet Escort
  5. 8 year-old gets higher than you do
  6. Crazy Ants Invading US Soil

Where to find Salomé on the interwebs:

TwitterSalomé Jones [dot] com, & Ghostwoods Books

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Saturday, December 07, 2013

The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick by R. Crumb from Weirdo #17

“I saw God,” Fat states, and Kevin and I and Sherri state, “No, you just saw something like God, exactly like God.” And having spoke, we do not stay to hear the answer, like jesting Pilate, upon his asking, “What is truth?”

–Philip K. Dick, VALIS

In the months of February and March, 1974, Philip K. Dick met God, or something like God, or what he thought was God, at least, in a hallucinatory experience he chronicled in several obsessively dense diaries that recently saw publication as The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, a work of deeply personal theo-philosophical reflection akin to Carl Jung’s The Red Book. Whatever it was he encountered—Dick was never too dogmatic about it—he ended up referring to it as Zebra, or by the acronym VALIS, Vast Active Living Intelligence System, also the title of a novel detailing the experiences of one very PKD-like character with the improbable name of “Horselover Fat.”

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Thursday, December 05, 2013

A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History

If you haven't read this book already -- read it. It will likely take a while. I had to look up a great number of terms and details... in the process you will learn a lot about systems theory. But it is well worth the effort.

Pick up the book if this format is too hard to read. 

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