Wednesday, November 18, 2015


by Guido Mina di Sospiro 

Prophets are the incarnation of a dilemma. Their message is quintessentially esoteric, yet they are driven to make it exoteric. As all dilemmas, this cannot be solved, and the usual outcome is the immolation or downfall of the prophet, unless exceptional circumstances temporarily suspend this predicament. Moreover, that there should be the initiate (the prophet) and the uninitiate (the disciples), has become a rather indigestible concept.

Indeed, traditional values such as the teacher-disciple relationship, training, patience, methodicalness, and constancy, have been lost in the sacred and profane spheres alike. For example, in the figurative arts, think for a moment of Jackson Pollock, who based his life’s work on trying to reproduce in paint the patterns made by his long-lost father urinating on stone. Such paintings, to which I used to refer, perhaps flatteringly, as “unappetising spaghetti”, are on display in many major museums the world over. Clearly, this is not the environment for Cimabue to say to his pupil Giotto, “You have surpassed your teacher.”

And yet, a “prophetic” forum such as this, one that rethinks one’s basic assumptions, feels the duty to promote and divulge esoteric ideas into the public domain. But, what is the state of  popular western culture in the year 2000?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Why Can't People Disagree Without Taking Things So Personally?

I think a not-so-obvious reason is the relativism of modern moral discourse, best expressed in the theory known as “emotivism.”
In After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre wrote that “emotivism has become embodied in our culture.
He defined it as “… the doctrine that all evaluative judgments and more specifically all moral judgments are nothing but expressions of preference, expressions of attitude or feeling.” In other words, emotivism holds that there can be no way of rationally justifying one’s claims about those controversial issues mentioned above. (Intellectual Tackeout).
The basis of our actions aren't rational. Rationalizing is mostly the process whereby we narrativize what we've already done or were going to do anyway. So the issue isn't just about emotional relativism -- it's deeper than that.

It's that we literally don't know why we do what we do, but we have involved stories about why we do what we do, which we call "my beliefs" or even, "me." Might some be rational and some not?  I'm still somewhat unsure about this, based on the various interpretations I've read of post hoc consciousness etc. Maybe research has pointed in directions I haven't caught yet but it seems equally possible that our more cogent rationalization is still a blind, it just might also lead to more valued or preferred results. So we call this "truth" -- and yes I know this is a very William James kind of thing to say.

All It Takes Is The Right Story. Mythos Media

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Questions Toward The Impact Of Human Nature

I've been doing a great deal of research and thought toward The Glorious Revolutions series we've been running over on Rebel News. Much of this kind of work occurs behind the screen. For instance, the rough document for the first two essays was over 20,000 words long, while the essays themselves wound up being about 1,500 words a piece. Similarly, each required the reading of 5 to 10 books. (In addition to whatever was ready at hand from past reading, with a little Internet refreshing.)

So... it's a process. But the next one I have planned has had me held up for a while. I've had a few conversations that have helped me spell out where I'm stuck, which have been both illustrative and interesting, so I wanted to share one here, while I continue to mull it over...

Friday, October 16, 2015

1491 before Columbus

From The Atlantic:
Before it became the New World, the Western Hemisphere was vastly more populous and sophisticated than has been thought—an altogether more salubrious place to live at the time than, say, Europe. New evidence of both the extent of the population and its agricultural advancement leads to a remarkable conjecture: the Amazon rain forest may be largely a human artifact.
The claims about the Amazon seem, at least on their face, more open to skepticism than what now fairly well known -- that the civilizations of the Americas were more developed, and more populated, than once thought. Though archaeological evidence of American civilization isn't quite as bare as the naysayers seem to be saying -- I've been reading about earthworks and the like found in North America from fairly credible sources for a while. And we shouldn't be surprised how quickly "nature" reclaims our civilizations, though also what an effect we can render on the world.

Either way, this article is admirable in its approach. The author manages to dig into what psychological motivates different factions likely have behind their theories. Though it's not fully explored, this is something I think that needs to get much more attention in the social sciences. Even a passing interest in history will show such a wide range of contested theories by intelligent people. Some might say "they all can't be right," which is true, but given what we have to work on I think our unconscious motives for constructing a particular narrative might play more of a role than anything else. A lot of it we can simply never know for sure. And that's what we will forever butt our heads against -- the intractable and uncertain, lost past, and the ways our narratives can render a very real effect in the world, whether or not they are grounded in fact, after all.

All It Takes Is The Right Story. Mythos Media

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Glorious Revolutions Series

READ: The Whole Series To Present In Its "Glory" (reverse order)

All free on Rebel News, consider joining our Patreon so we can continue to produce independent news, editorials, and activist reporting.

I still remember when the Wall fell. November 9, 1989. If you were alive, you remember.
A newscaster on the television, his image warped and tattered by static around the edges, was talking about the end of nuclear threat. It was a revolution of culture, some said. Then President Reagan appeared, and took credit for the fall of Communism.
Revolutions leave an indelible stamp on those lived through them. But how did a falling wall end the Cold War, let alone stanch the tide of violent revolution? This is the kind of rhetoric we are fed. We’re given the pieces to this puzzle, but never told what image they’re supposed to make.
If it wasn’t already painfully obvious in 1986, it certainly is now. No one should have thought that violent uprising was a thing of the past. The legacy of globalization has generally been more revolutions, not fewer. It’s as if, with every generation, we forget the lessons learned by those that came before. This “nightmare of history,” to refer to Joyce’s famous quote, calls to mind several essential questions. Are revolutionaries incapable of hearing the ghosts of the past? Is this forgetting itself the nature of revolutions? Finally, how can we keep others from using our own hopes and ideas against us? These questions are hard to answer, and any analysis is likely to sound irrelevant to those that have lived through the mute horror of violent conflict.
Still, we must wrestle with this legacy if we are to have any hope of freeing ourselves from it. The cycle of loss and vengeance itself is a crucible for revolutionary ideology.

Read The Series

Friday, October 09, 2015

Cultural Cartography

From Rebel News

We’re suckers for simplistic, captivating pictures, mostly because we don’t even realize that we’re being sold a “frame”; we think we’re just seeing “the way things are,” when, in fact, we are buying into a paradigm. That’s why, all too often, while trying to talk our way out of a problem we only dig deeper holes.
... Now imagine the picture holding us captive is a conceptual map that carves up the boundaries of ideas and disciplines, charting the course of intellectual history. A faulty map is the kind of captivating picture that is bound to mislead us. In that case what we’d need is a therapeutic cartography.
— "A Therapeutic Cartography," James K. A. Smith.


In the previous essay in this series, we looked at how we interact in a marketplace where surface identities drive our purchase choices. We have a very peculiar relationship with the things that we buy — both through and with our iPhones and cars, and soon enough, our sex robots.

More broadly, we identify ourselves and each other through the consumer choices we make, or even the ones we don't make. This is often called signaling, and it's an important part of nonverbal and implicit social communication. That's what the lifestyle brand is all about — integrating consumer choice with our lives, becoming grinning robots in some Orwellian hellscape ourselves, and so forth.

Thankfully that's not entirely how it plays out. Theories about the pervasiveness of brands and media brainwashing fall short of reality. Nothing is quite so simple as the behaviorist “image in, behavior out.” We may signal our queerness or our religion through what we wear and buy, but that isn't all we are. We still have inner lives, and an experience that can't enter into this marketplace, and our identities and beliefs are shifting landscapes more than fixed, binary wastelands.

The idea of Qualia refers to the irreducibility of this inner life. The world of surfaces may be superficial, but there is something lurking somehow beneath all of that, that’s somehow authentic. Erwin Schrödinger, creator of the famous living/dead cat thought experiment, said the following in What is life?: The Physical Aspects Of The Living Cell,
The sensation of color cannot be accounted for by the physicist's objective picture of light-waves. Could the physiologist account for it, if he had fuller knowledge than he has of the processes in the retina and the nervous processes set up by them in the optical nerve bundles and in the brain? I do not think so.
But this way also points toward reductive either-ors. If we're going to distinguish between the commodifiable “dead shells” referred to in the previous article and some kind of deep seated, internal identity, what is that identity? How do we know it's authentic? We are wandering dangerously close to a schema of the false and replaceable versus the fixed and true, and that is not a frame that I’d like to imply. This has become a common sense distinction for most of us: surface and interior. Fake hipsters, and real trendsetters. But the distinction itself is superficial.

Another way of contrasting the idea of real and false self, the figurative and literal, is through mimesis. Here we must challenge the “tyranny of the literal”,
In ‘Realism,’ the opening chapter of J.M. Coetzee’s most recent novel Elizabeth Costello, the eponymous heroine, a successful Australian novelist, gives a speech in which she ironically likens herself to a talking ape from a short story by Franz Kafka. The story’s ambiguities lead her to reflect on this historical loss of certainty, the way it seems to have undone the very possibility of direct communication and unproblematic representation. 
There was, she argues, ‘a time when we knew’: We used to believe that when the text said, ‘On the table stood a glass of water,’ there was indeed a table, and a glass of water on it, and we had only to look in the word-mirror of the text to see them. But all that has ended. The word-mirror is broken irreparably, it seems. ... There used to be a time, we believe, when we could say who we were. Now we are just performers speaking our parts. The bottom has dropped out. 
Her speech is not well received. Elizabeth Costello spends most of Coetzee’s novel acting the role of a celebrity writer. She travels the world making appearances, delivering lectures, fielding questions about the meanings and motivations behind her writing. It is not something she enjoys. Often her appearances do not run smoothly; her ideas tend to provoke dissent and dissatisfaction. ... The audience wants literal confession; but Costello’s aim is to keep ‘her true self safe.’ Or so her son John believes; for Costello the issue cuts deeper than this. She has come to doubt the very existence of such a thing as a ‘true self.’ The word-mirror is irreparably broken, yet she is compelled to appear before an audience. Inevitably, what she presents them is ‘an image, false, like all images.’
So, we are drawn to question the authenticity of both surfaces and interiors. The mirror itself becomes the closest that we have to any kind of certainty — as the image and its reflection can both be called into question.


We have to contend with this tension between surface and interior, and amongst all the principalities thereof. That's true, even in the face of such uncertainties. Many of us struggle against these seemingly geological forces, without even knowing what we're struggling against.

The self and society as landscape is a frame suggested by Structuralism, and later by Post-structuralism when written in relief. Both position history as structure composed of geological flow rather than events; this was done, in terms of the latter, because the very structures imposed by theory could reify imperialist “grand narratives.” For example,
The history of events, Braudel was to scathingly write, were merely the history of “surface disturbances, crests of foam that the tides of history carry on their strong backs” (Braudel, 1980: 10). The outcome of the struggle for supremacy in the Mediterranean, then, was viewed by Braudel as the outcome of longer term structures (political, social, economic and geographic) and not at all the result events or the actions of individuals. —Extending the Longue Dureé: Manuel De Landa and a Thousand Years of Nonlinear History.
The tension of surface appearance against deeper identity, and the constant anxiety that there is such a thing as a central or deep identity, drives the tectonic forces between what I'll be referring to later as cultural borderlands and centers. We needn’t know which is authentic, but merely recognize the tensions between these principalities. This might still seem a baroque metaphor, even if it’s far from unprecedented in the social sciences, but it's nevertheless apt. Dynamism in the self or the state arises from difference, conflict from too sudden changes; often arising where one identity abuts another, and all are also ever changing.

This is borrowing from the frequent use of geological and even cartographic metaphor in such works. These metaphors are essentially impersonal, even when they refer to parts of personal psychology. For this reason, they have been vastly preferred within post/structural analysis, over the earlier mythopoeia of Freud or Jung, for instance, which paints all inner experience as personal, in reaction to a mythologized external world.

Manuel Delanda’s odd but brilliant 1000 Years of Nonlinear History is possibly the penultimate example of this sort of device. In fact, the entire book is constructed as a series of geological, biological, physical-psychological-historical metaphors (even if he is insistent that it is not a metaphor but rather an “engineering diagram”),
We live in a world populated by structures — a complex mixture of geological, biological, social, and linguistic constructions that are nothing but accumulations of materials shaped and hardened by history. Immersed as we are in this mixture, we cannot help but interact in a variety of ways with the other historical constructions that surround us, and in these interactions we generate novel combinations, some of which possess emergent properties. In turn, these synergistic combinations, whether of human origin or not, become the raw material for further mixtures. This is how the population of structures inhabiting our planet has acquired its rich variety, as the entry of novel materials into the mix triggers wild proliferations of new forms. ...
And so on. It's important to recognize that all the structures on these these maps ebb and flow, empires rise and fall more less the same as colonies of coral might. More prosaically, just as one might stand on the Pacific rim and hundreds of millions of years later, they might spy a new continent on the horizon, a 19th century American Republican might find more in common with many of today's Democrats. Our labels are not what ultimately defines us. After all, nothing is fixed. And what of the center of the world? As Umberto Eco observed, you can hang Foucault's Pendulum anywhere.

Thus, all domains are conceptual maps, even including the inscrutable, uncertain, and ultimately implicit world of qualia. A map does not provide a certificate of authenticity, of course — as so many counterculturists are bound to point out, “the map is not the territory.” But without it, we can’t begin to track our way out of the shifting hinterlands. We cannot properly understand society, or ourselves, until we've charted the surfaces of this never-ending symbolic fault line. But we mustn't find ourselves limited by the names, labels, and borders that happen to be written in this fleeting moment.

So let's look at an example framework...

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Symbols and Signs

Via. Rebel News

How can we decrease the commodification of these empty signifiers? We can continue to build spaces, both virtual and material, that can be utilized by people who share common goals. We can continue to evolve as people and avoid over-identification with easy to replicate symbols of identity. Our interests and digital footprint aren’t who we are. We mustn’t let the map of our identities — personal or social — become the territory. But the border skirmishes on that map are never ending.


This is far from easy. Products themselves have become secondary, as symbols have overtaken the things they symbolized. Fight Club parodied this tendency as the “Ikea nesting impulse.” This is a challenge of modern life, but it’s hardly a singular observation. Guy Debord’sSociety of The Spectacle, now a standard text amongst neo-Marxists and counterculturists alike, deals with this matter in nearly aphoristic style,
The first phase of the domination of the economy over social life brought into the definition of all human realization the obvious degradation of being into having. The present phase of total occupation of social life by the accumulated results of the economy leads to a generalized sliding of having into appearing, from which all actual “having” must draw its immediate prestige and its ultimate function. At the same time all individual reality has become social reality directly dependent on social power and shaped by it. It is allowed to appear only to the extent that it is not.
We live in a culture where appearances count for a lot more than reality, and so it is little surprise that we may have a hard time actually making this distinction. We are what we seem. When Ludwig Feuerbach wrote the introduction to the 2nd edition of his The Essence of Christianity, he was speaking to Hegel and Marx’s world, the rapidly industrializing 19th century. But he may as well have been speaking of the present,
But certainly for the present age, which prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to the original, fancy to reality, the appearance to the essence … illusion only is sacred, truth profane.
Symbols of success matters more than the things they represent. The symbol becomes the value, rather than the thing signified. The sports car, the expensive watch, the designer suit are all, from a utilitarian perspective, equally or even less valuable than items half their cost. Though luxury items such as these are said to cost more because of increased craftsmanship – which may well be true – the customer is still buying them because they are symbols of wealth and success. To have either of these on their own is not enough; the symbols are of greater value. We are performing wealth at one another. Though this seems harmless enough in itself, a common indulgence of the upper class, it is the same mis-match of value (weighing the symbol over what is represented) that characterizes the ennui of our lives. Nihilist Arby’s quite simply wouldn’t make sense as a joke if we didn’t grasp this on an implicit level.

  Read Full Article for Glorious Revolutions series.  

All It Takes Is The Right Story. Mythos Media

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Creative Relation of Whole and Part

The following article is by Philip Franses, Senior Lecturer at Schumacher College, who has for seven years been co-holding and teaching the Holistic Science Masters Programme. This piece encapsulates in a simple way the essence of what Holistic Science for him is about, not always an easy thing to articulate, and also inquires into some of its implications for the relation of science and faith.

It serves as an introduction to the book Time, Light and the Dice of Creation, which is a journey of the encounter of spirit through the stories of science. The book is coming out on October 22nd with Floris Books.

Part 1: The Dance

Creative novelty

Our starting point is a simple shift in the relation of whole to parts. Normally we imagine the whole as something already there and the parts as the logical constituents. This article follows a long tradition, where the whole comes into being through the part; and the part is representative of the whole. The whole and the part are in a dynamic interaction. There is no whole without the part, and no part without the whole. The relation of parts to the whole inhabits the novel, which is thereby given the means of expression.

Circular definition

One of the dilemmas is that of circular definition where we define the whole through the parts and the parts through the whole. Immediately there is a problem in this circular definition. Do we start with the whole and get to the parts and then go back to the whole? Or do we start with the part and through this get to the whole? We seem to find that the dynamic of whole and part is illogical. We need another approach before we can deal with this circular definition.

That which is not yet set

The approach requires an attitude of that which is not yet set. This could also be described as something emerging, or about to emerge; still undefined; not yet categorised, fixed or compartmentalised.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Satan Never Tempted Me - A brief digital history of an odd little tune

“Ol' Enoch he lived to be three-hundred and sixty-five when the Lord came down and took him up to heaven alive. .” - Bascom Lamar Lunsford, Dry Bones

There is an old song recorded by the folklorist Bascom Lamar Lunsford in 1928 under the title Dry Bones (Click Here to hear the song via, I draw your attention to it due to the fact that it has rather odd lyrics for what seems to be an ordinary folk hymn. The lyrics of the last verse in this recording are odd enough that the Wikipedia entry on the song actually omits them in favor of an alternate version found on the webpage of contemporary folk singer Judy Cook.

The song begins without any controversy, yet after a few brief verses recounting the story of Enoch’s translation into heaven, Paul’s escape from prison, Moses and the burning bush, and Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones coming to life, Lunsford intones an eerie concluding verse that takes us back to the temptation in the Garden of Eden:

Adam and Eve in the Garden, under that Sycamore tree, Eve said to Adam, Satan never tempted me. I saw, I saw the light from Heaven shining all around. I saw the light come shining, I saw the light come down.”

In Cook’s version she changes Eve’s statement to the more orthodox - “Adam, Old Satan is a’tempting me.” Although Cook discovered the song via Lunsford’s recording, the version she uses changes the last verse to fit a rendering of the subject that balances with the standard Christian reading. Ironically Lunsford was known to alter and omit lines himself when he felt that they were too risqué for the educated Appalachian ‘hillbilly’ persona that he cultivated in his performances. The fact that this verse was included in his song means that they did not strike a particularly off chord with him. It's interesting to note that the description of the song on does the same alteration as the Wikipedia entry and quotes the verse that Cook uses rather than Lunsford's clear singing of "Satan never tempted me" in the recording.

On her web-page where the altered lyrics of her version are found she includes some history on Lunsford’s recording saying that ‘he first heard (the song)…from a traveling Black preacher named Romney who came through western North Carolina.’

Lunsford was a lawyer in professional life and a careful folklorist, the idea that he might have mistaken the controversial last verse seems unlikely and it proves to be much more fruitful if we return to the previous examples and examine what underlying theme connects all of these familiar Biblical stories and ties them together with this strange rethinking of the story of the Fall.  The answer is surprising considering the source – the theme is gnostic revelation, not the mixed bag of heretical doctrines that so inflamed the early Christian church, rather it is gnosis in its technical sense, that of a direct and intimate revelation of the Divine source. It’s a different sort of heresy, the kind that got Jesus nailed to a cross.

It also appears to be the kind of heresy that causes innumerable sources to innocently skew the lyrical content of a simple folk song without recognizing that they are damaging the oral transmission of a very potent spiritual teaching.  This simple little tune contains within it a key that opens up the Biblical narrative in a way that centuries of scholarly theological speculation, academic acrobatics and comparative analysis has failed to do – and it came from an itinerant evangelist passing through North Carolina in the early 20th century.

I can’t take any credit for discovering Lunsford’s recording, it was a link to the piece on and a brief note from the contemplative mystic David Chaim Smith that lead me to it. He said quite simply – “This song has a very esoteric meaning if you understand the implications.” Mercifully Smith’s book The Kabbalistic Mirror of Genesis, now in its second edition thanks to Inner Traditions, helps illuminate the issue:
“The serpent is called “Nachash,” which has a numerical value of 358. This number shares gematria with the word “moshiach” (messiah). This suggests that the same power that can awaken the hearts of human beings can also cause confusion and antagonism. Creative tension is such a power. If its essential nature is recognized, then gnosis can be realized. However, if conventional fixation habitually contracts the brilliance of Ain Sof, then endless grasping will continually usurp creativity to manifest endless egoic nightmare scenarios. Life is what mind produces, and its habits determine the manner in which it will manifest. Thus the power of creativity inherent in the serpent stands at the cusp of discernment between the two trees in the garden and the two paths they represent.”
Smith’s book focuses on the first three chapters of Genesis, however, as we can see from the song and his explanation of the term nachash the implications of these teachings stretch throughout the Old and New Testament. In the introduction he indicates how exceptional the mystery implied by this song truly is when he points out that “hidden within the first three chapters of Genesis rests one of the greatest jewels of Western mystical literature. Proper appreciation of this is rare. For millennia religious literalism has dominated the role of the Bible, imprisoning its subtle inner wisdom within the most coarse and superficial aspects of the narrative.” Those familiar with the writings contained in the Zohar, Sefer Yetzirah and other classic kabbalistic texts will be surprised at the ease in which Smith opens up their seemingly impenetrable mysteries and reveals the Biblical narrative as a powerful source of non-dual contemplative teachings. Those unfamiliar with kabbalah will still be astonished at how the Bible, a text that has become so commonplace and derided in our society, offers them far more insight into gnostic contemplative practice than the material being churned out for the contemporary spiritual market.

So how did a wandering evangelist in North Carolina end up with a folk song that contains a core aspect of one of the deepest contemplative mysteries of the Judeo-Christian tradition? Perhaps he simply “saw the light from Heaven shining all around.” The oral tradition has a living power to it that defies attempts at easy explanation. Suffice to say, after listening to Lunsford’s tune or reading The Kabbalistic Mirror of Genesis the next time you’re in a hotel room you’ll look at that Gideon’s Bible a bit differently.

Click Here to visit the Inner Traditions website for more information on The Kabbalistic Mirror of Genesis.

Click Here to visit David Chaim Smith's webpage for more information on his work. 

All It Takes Is The Right Story. Mythos Media

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

The Theater of Ultra-Violence

On last Wednesday, a man approached a couple talking on a patio, a man and a woman. It became apparent that the two were News reporters. How they spoke, the too put-together clothes and makeup all gave it away. We see the scene in the first person, as if we’re watching Half-life or Call of Duty. This sense is increased when the point of view pulls a guns and fires repeatedly into the bodies of three reporters.

So runs Bryce Williams’ video footage that was discovered on social media minutes after the shooting. Traumatic real world violence, performed for the camera both on live TV and social media. We discovered his account moments before CNN did, so I didn’t know what I would find when I clicked it.

When I saw it, for a moment, I couldn’t believe it was real. This is a common reaction even in the midst of real violence — somehow the surreal cuts in. But soon I lost myself in my job as an editor — getting the story up, seeing it’s updated, pushing to social media, reacting to the reactions…

Nevertheless, this troubling sense of cognitive dissonance grew through the day. Especially as I heard all the same narratives over and again on CNN that always follow a violent tragedy. When we talk about psychology we are always talking about the killer’s motive. Were they a loner, a disgruntled worker, a jilted lover? But we never hear a dialogue about mass psychology, or about our relationship with violent media that gets past this surface level. We never talk about how we are all a part of this theater.

So, I don’t want to talk directly about what happened yesterday. Instead, I want to explore the related, larger issues in a way that never seems to get on the news. And maybe that’s because it’s too complicated, or that it doesn’t have simple answers. Those aren’t good enough. It’s a conversation we should be having.

Let’s begin not with the violent act itself but in the fall out, and how we talk to each other about traumatizing media.

Full article

All It Takes Is The Right Story. Mythos Media

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Blackbirds and Fox Bones – Notes from an imaginal pilgrimage

By David Metcalfe

We that walk at nights, looking after our sheep, see many strange sights, while other men sleep, (from the 2nd Shepherd’s Play, Wakefield Cycle)

Surprise and excitement accompanied a note I received from Phil Legard mentioning that Hawthonn was ready for release.  As a collection of music that he and his wife Layla recorded in honor of Jhonn Balance, a creative soul who has long been a personal inspiration, I’d been eagerly awaiting the album. As a topic of conversation between my roommate and I just minutes before Legard’s email arrived I was surprised that the first digital release of the collection had come at such a coincidental and timely interval. Yet, so it goes when one walks the borderlands of reality and imagination.

With the song of blackbirds and rattle of fox bones Hawthonn opens an invitation to journey through the imaginal landscape of Jhonn Balance’s post-mortem pilgrimage from Worlebury Hill in Weston-Super-Mare to where his ashes were scattered by his lover beneath a Hawthorn tree which sits on the grounds of St. Bega’s church overlooking an inland lake at Bassenthwaite. Ethereal atmospheres of sound and voice draw the listener to the edge of that summerland beyond the veil, where spirit supplants flesh and all time comes together – a place well walked by Balance long before his transition.
If you kill me, I'd have to live forever,
(Jhonn Balance in response to an audience member at a concert in 2004)
Best known for his experimental sound work with Peter Christopherson under the moniker of Coil, Balance is one of the premier visionary artists of the late 20th century.  As a testament to their vision – Coil’s multiphasic amorphous musical assemblage continues as one of the most challenging, primal, and beautiful examples of contemporary sound experimentation by way of “pop music,” despite the passing of both Balance in 2004, and Christopherson in 2010. Hawthonn’s success as a conceptual album can be seen in its eerie evocation of Coil’s underlying themes – ghostly sketches of possibility emerge from these sonic landscapes, a peculiar and specific spirit hovers over the work. Using what can in some sense be described as musical necromancy the Legards have created a series of sound evocations that allow the listener to embark on a mythopoetic voyage beyond the waking world. Diving deeply into the album’s compositional techniques one begins to understand the delicate process which lead to this effective evocation of Balance’s spirit.
Don't believe AE, see for yourself the summer fields. See for yourself the summer fields, before the tractor comes and wakes you, before the cereal is sown, (Beestings, lyrics by Jhonn Balance)

Friday, May 29, 2015

Half of the Literature Is False Science Journalism

The realities of the daily grind don't always mesh well with the necessities of good journalism, let alone good science.


Why A Journalist Scammed The Media Into Spreading Bad Chocolate Science
"He's really only scratching the surface of a much broader, much deeper problem," Schwitzer says. "We have examples of journalists reporting on a study that was never done. We have news releases from medical journals, academic institutions and industry that mislead journalists, who then mislead the public." And the pressure to publish or perish, he says, can lead well-intentioned scientists to frame their work in ways that aren't completely accurate or balanced or supported by the facts.
And this is even more damning, supposing of course that the supposition is correct,
In the past few years more professionals have come forward to share a truth that, for many people, proves difficult to swallow. One such authority is Dr. Richard Horton, the current editor-in-chief of the Lancet – considered to be one of the most well respected peer-reviewed medical journals in the world.
Dr. Horton recently published a statement declaring that a lot of published research is in fact unreliable at best, if not completely false.
“The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.” (source)
This is quite distrubing, given the fact that all of these studies (which are industry sponsored) are used to develop drugs/vaccines to supposedly help people, train medical staff, educate medical students and more.

All It Takes Is The Right Story. Mythos Media

Bullying and the Cycle of Abuse

Research suggests my experience isn’t unusual. UC Davis sociologists Robert Faris and Diane Femlee have studied bullying extensively; in a CNN interview, Faris summarized their findings:
"Kids are caught up in patterns of cruelty and aggression that have to do with jockeying for status ... It’s really not the kids that are psychologically troubled, who are on the margins or the fringes of the school’s social life. It’s the kids right in the middle, at the heart of things … often, typically highly, well-liked popular kids who are engaging in these behaviors. When kids increase in their status, on average, they tend to have a higher risk of victimization as well as a higher risk of becoming aggressive."
Abuse isn't restricted to one history or narrative. Abuse compounds abuse. That cycle passes from hand to hand and person to person.

Such truisms can be deceptive, but that doesn't make them invalid. For one person it's their childhood trauma, for another, its when their brother was killed by Palestinians. For another it was growing up poor and having a meth addicted mother. Whether you turn around and take it out on someone else or whether it changes you in more subtle ways, you can't help but react to your history with every action you take, and inflict that history on others, maybe even without knowing it. Given how endemic cycles of abuse are, it seems unlikely we can heal all wounds, so long as you have to remain in this world to heal from the world. How do you get the goose out of the bottle? 

More than any of these simple categories, more than even what we think we know about ourselves, our lives are conditioned by the unspoken and the unconscious. Yet there must be some commonality to our experience, for us to be able to even begin to understand one another, so maybe it isn't all shadow and silence.

What can we say? In a statistical sense, certain populations are more systemically fucked than others. No doubt. So understanding may have to begin with these generalities. But it can't remain there, or we're just stereotyping one another in a new way. Do we not want to know other people's stories, because they might contradict what we already think we know about the world? Or is the complexity of difference simply too much for us to comprehend?

All It Takes Is The Right Story. Mythos Media

Friday, May 22, 2015



In 2023, Hive (human interface for virtual evolution) is an augmented-reality technology that consolidates an individual's devices and technology into a holographic visual display that is projected from their mind. Millions connect and become a collective consciousness, while The Disconnected are left in its wake; forced to adapt to a primitive lifestyle in the outskirts of Hive cities. Conflict is inevitable, however the reality behind Hive may be even stranger than anyone realized. Propolis follows nine-year-old Samantha Plessis, as she witnesses her family opt-in to beta testing this new product to receive health insurance benefits to treat her immune disorder. Since her disease prevents her from connecting to Hive, she becomes gradually alienated by her family whose method of communication is now changing. Hive is a science-fiction transmedia project told through a series of books, films, social media and real-world interactive events. This six-part novella series is the main narrative. The story takes place from the year 2023 to 2050.

All It Takes Is The Right Story. Mythos Media

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Lifespan of a Fact

The Lifespan of a FactThe Lifespan of a Fact by John D'Agata
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Lifespan of a Fact caught my attention recently, in the course of a number of project-related conversations about truth and journalism. Overall, I would say that it delivers on exactly what it promises: a discussion, sometimes debate, about the nature of literature and fact. The Talmudic formatting is interesting, and allows the conversation to flow around the central text. The only way I think you're liable to be disappointed by this book is if you're looking for any final conclusions. But this is not a subject that can — or should! — have a final conclusion. It is meant to be struggled with.

I think all writers that have worked in "nonfiction" wrestle with this issue — how narratives can't help but manipulate an audience. Literary journalism is kind of inherently manipulative, certainly you can bring out nuances and the complexity of a character, but ultimately you're painting a sympathetic or unsympathetic picture. The closest you can get to the facts would be to read out a list of data points — at this time, according to this source, this thing happened.

The further we stray from that, the more it's didactic. But I think that narrative speaks directly to how we actually engage with the world. We aren't, fundamentally logical creatures, so that "pure fact" approach is actually more alien in some ways than appealing to people through a narrative that you've constructed out of a *particular evaluation* of the facts.

The main issue with full out gonzo journalism is that it was often used to intentionally lie, or use people's ignorance against them. Like when Hunter S. Thompson went after Muskie by making a wild claim about ibogaine, knowing people take the mere suggestion of a possibility, frequently repeated, as fact. We can laugh about that, but I'm not sure there's much difference between that and what Fox News does, except that we might personally agree with Hunter's politics more.

So there's a kind of contradiction here, the understanding that we make sense of our day-to-day world primarily through narrative, that journalism should play to that, and yet on the other hand, recognizing that narratives are inherently misleading, if not outright duplicitous. There are many ways of dealing with this complexity. My inclination is to own a bias, rather than try to cover it up with feints toward "fair and balanced objectivity." But there is no one, or easy solution.

View all my reviews

All It Takes Is The Right Story. Mythos Media

Monday, April 27, 2015

Debord on Riots

From Situationist International:
AUGUST 13 - 16, 1965, the blacks of Los Angeles revolted. An incident between traffic police and pedestrians developed into two days of spontaneous riots. Despite increasing reinforcements, the forces of order were unable to regain control of the streets. By the third day the blacks had armed themselves by looting accessible gun stores, enabling them to fire even on police helicopters. It took thousands of police and soldiers, including an entire infantry division supported by tanks, to confine the riot to the Watts area, and several more days of street fighting to finally bring it under control. Stores were massively plundered and many were burned. Official sources listed 32 dead (including 27 blacks), more than 800 wounded and 3000 arrests.
Reactions from all sides were most revealing: a revolutionary event, by bringing existing problems into the open, provokes its opponents into an unhabitual lucidity. Police Chief William Parker, for example, rejected all the major black organizations’ offers of mediation, correctly asserting: “These rioters don’t have any leaders.” 
Since the blacks no longer had any leaders, it was the moment of truth for both sides. What did one of those unemployed leaders, NAACP general secretary Roy Wilkins, have to say? He declared that the riot “should be put down with all necessary force.” And Los Angeles Cardinal McIntyre, who protested loudly, did not protest against the violence of the repression, which one might have supposed the most tactful policy at a time when the Roman Church is modernizing its image; he denounced “this premeditated revolt against the rights of one’s neighbor and against respect for law and order,” calling on Catholics to oppose the looting and “this violence without any apparent justification.” 
And all those who went so far as to recognize the “apparent justifications” of the rage of the Los Angeles blacks (but never their real ones), all the ideologists and “spokesmen” of the vacuous international Left, deplored the irresponsibility, the disorder, the looting (especially the fact that arms and alcohol were the first targets) and the 2000 fires with which the blacks lit up their battle and their ball. 
But who has defended the Los Angeles rioters in the terms they deserve? We will. Let the economists fret over the $27 million lost, and the city planners sigh over one of their most beautiful supermarkets gone up in smoke, and McIntyre blubber over his slain deputy sheriff. Let the sociologists bemoan the absurdity and intoxication of this rebellion. The role of a revolutionary publication is not only to justify the Los Angeles insurgents, but to help elucidate their perspectives, to explain theoretically the truth for which such practical action expresses the search.
Through theft and gift they rediscover a use that immediately refutes the oppressive rationality of the commodity, revealing its relations and even its production to be arbitrary and unnecessary. The looting of the Watts district was the most direct realization of the distorted principle: “To each according to their false needs” — needs determined and produced by the economic system which the very act of looting rejects. But once the vaunted abundance is taken at face value and directly seized, instead of being eternally pursued in the rat-race of alienated labor and increasing unmet social needs, real desires begin to be expressed in festive celebration, in playful self-assertion, in the potlatch of destruction. People who destroy commodities show their human superiority over commodities. They stop submitting to the arbitrary forms that distortedly reflect their real needs. The flames of Watts consummated the system of consumption. The theft of large refrigerators by people with no electricity, or with their electricity cut off, is the best image of the lie of affluence transformed into a truth in play. Once it is no longer bought, the commodity lies open to criticism and alteration, whatever particular form it may take. Only when it is paid for with money is it respected as an admirable fetish, as a symbol of status within the world of survival.

All It Takes Is The Right Story. Mythos Media

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Choice of Ants

Caitlin Murphy
I’m sitting, my arms wrapped around my legs, staring at ants crawling to and fro on the pavement. This was once a pastime of mine, when I was a child. When you are a certain indeterminate age, you can do things like spend hours a day watching ants. Eventually there are groundings and girls and grades and abortions and jobs and you pretty much forget altogether about the world that the ants live in. That is, until a moment like now.

If they've missed me over the years, they show no sign of it. Dutiful. Dedicated. Did you know that sometimes they will build a bridge out of their very bodies, drown themselves, just so that others can cross a stream?

Don’t judge. It isn’t the ants themselves that fascinated me, even as a child. It is the scale that they live in, and the truly magical way that they self-organize. I know it isn’t really magic, but we have no other word for it. Magic is what we call things that we don’t understand. (We don’t really understand anything, when you get right down to it, so the truth is that the entire universe is magical. But that’s something else entirely.)

I can hear sirens in the background. The cops, dutifully, are arriving in a rush, and there will be questions and I’m sure at some point I’ll have to deal with the emotional weight of what just happened. But for right now, there’s just me and the ants—the not-so-benevolent God and His useless subjects. Sometimes I would squash one of them and watch it wriggle. It wasn’t viciousness. I didn’t revel in their suffering. It was just some primal urge. Every now and then when you see a long line of ants marching you just have to reach in and pick one. YOU, you say. And their body, half crushed by the mass of your finger, struggles against the inevitable fact that, for no reason at all, a choice was made, or it wasn’t, but either way, there is no turning back.

That’s really what I’m getting at, I think, through all the shock. One moment everything is a certain way and the next it is completely different, and for no other reason than that you were picked out of a line because that’s just how it is, how it will be, forever and ever, Amen.

My wife Sheila—she would have legally been my wife in three months but we had lived together for years—was broken just like one of those ants, a carcass tangled in the metal that used to be our new car. No more marriage planning, no more—well, none of it matters really. I reached down and pushed down, hard, on one of those ants. I picked his abdomen. It popped and spurted whatever ant abdomens contain onto the sidewalk, and he tried to drag the flaccid thing around for a while. Eventually other ants showed up to the scene and carried it off. I wondered if they were the cops and emergency personnel of the ant world, or if they just switched roles.

The cops wanted to know a lot of details that seemed pointless. What was the make of the third car that hit us? Where were we headed? I looked at him dully and said, “Her favorite flavor was mint chocolate chip.” I couldn't think of anything else. Anyway, there were pieces of the car that hit us from behind scattered across the roadway. Did I look like a mechanic? It was a pileup. I remember the bus. The rest happened too fast.

I thought back a moment. How many breaths separated me, now, breathing alone with the ants, and my wife and I in the car, breathing the same air together? A few hundred breaths? An endless chasm.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Beyond New Age The Problem Isn't Just Belle Gibson

It's a well known truism that, in life, we tend to find what we're looking for.

I realize this truism is tautological, and it's been rendered down so far that it seems meaningless, yet it is something we repeat to one another in so many forms.

This idea has been central to the 'positive thought movement' for well over 100 years, with many different off-shoots, but all can be considered unified in regard to this particular idea: "our mental states are carried forward into manifestation and become our experience in daily living".

The belief is that Somehow (and this is The Secret), our mental picture effects the world. This produces the "law of attraction," whereby like attracts like, and our thoughts somehow manifest reality. This is the very foundation of what's happened with Belle Gibson, as JR Hennesey explored on the Guardian today:
Gibson needed to fake cancer, because the New Age narrative of transcending physical and spiritual sickness is so ingrained into its marketing. New Age philosophy is the clearest example of a utopian movement utterly absorbed by capitalism, which it once (feebly) opposed.
This is a good article on the subject, and I recommend you read it. However, that's not what I want to focus on here,. Instead, I want to look at a deeper process. When we look out into the world, how surprising is it that we see our presuppositions and even past experiences reflected back at us? Are we actually manifesting our thoughts, or could something else be at work? Finally, can we really consider this a phenomenon that's entirely unique to the New Age movement?

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Society of the Spectacle

It's hard to believe Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle was first published in the 60s. Consider the world we live in today: a world of social media, where the mediated space is on equal footing with our lived experience. In fact, the virtual seems positioned to entirely replace the material in the course of history, a point at which we can truly say would be the end of history.

Now, these quotations, directly from the text:

In a world that is truly topsy-turvy, the true is a moment of the false.
The spectacle presents itself as something enormously positive, indisputable and inaccessible. It says nothing more than "that which appears is good, that which is good appears."
The present phase of total occupation of social life by the accumulated results of the economy leads to a generalized sliding of having to appearing, from which all actual "having" must draw its immediate prestige and its ultimate function.
The spectacle is the existing order's uninterrupted discourse about itself, its laudatory monologue.
... The fetishistic, purely objective appearance of spectacular relations conceals the fact that they are relations among classes: a second nature...seems to dominate our environment. If the spectacle, taken in the limited sense of "mass media" which are its most glaring superficial manifestation seems to invade society as mere equipment, this equipment is in no way neutral but is the very means suited to its total self movement. If the social needs of the epoch in which such techniques are developed can only be satisfied through their mediation, if the administration of this society and all contact among men can no longer take place except through the intermediary of this power of instantaneous communication, it is because this "communication" is essentially unilateral. 
We need not call to mind the PR debacle of Facebook "emotionally manipulating" its users. This is, after all, nothing but the type of marketing manipulation all companies attempt, with varying degrees of success. No. It is the much more casual way that these technologies integrate with our lives that bears the most consideration. It is the business of these platforms to set themselves up as the intermediary, the go-between when you engage anyone in this "topsy-turvy" world.

More anecdotally, (and prosaically), it has been somewhat disturbing to me of late that the few times I've left my Facebook account, many people have ceased contact. When I returned, caving into what has increasingly felt like a Stockholm Syndrome like situations, the refrain was "I'm happy you're back, now we can talk to you again." The virtual is increasingly the world in which we exist in, socially. What then is the fleshy present? The mechanism of mediation is increasingly the "lived world."
To the extent that necessity is socially dreamed, the dream becomes necessity. The spectacle is the nightmare of imprisoned modern society which ultimately expresses nothing more than its desire to sleep. The spectacle is the guardian of sleep. 
Couched in the sort of "pomo speak" that seems to be less in vogue these days, it's not likely to be a top seller anytime soon. The tone almost strikes one as the bullet points read off through a bullhorn at a rally by a chain-smoking Frenchman with a megaphone. There are countless ways that we can critique, interrogate, and ultimately narrate technology. Whether it is our salvation or damnation is almost a literary conceit. But that makes this particular critique no less lucid, or downright prescient.

Next up I'm going to start looking into how Situationism influenced Debord's work. And dig back at the anarchist primitive movement that was fire-bombed in Philadelphia. I'll report back what thoughts seem worth sharing.

All It Takes Is The Right Story. Mythos Media

The 404 Attacks: Project Monarch

I was at the high school dance. Waste of an evening. I mean, I wouldn't have even considered going to something like this. It was embarrassing. But I knew she'd be there. I spent the whole night wishing I could get closer to her. Excuses to brush by, to look just a moment more. I didn't want to be creepy. I want to be her friend.

And then the song started. You know the one. "You spin me right round baby, right round." Cheesy shit but we can all dance ironically. That makes it safer somehow.

Yeah I, I got to know your name. Well and I, could trace your private number baby. Amber. That was her name. Different hair color every week it seemed. Different piercings and tattoos. Same eyes. Nothing could change them. I wanted to.

So I stood in the corner. Gibberish numbers were bouncing around in my head, blocking everything else out. They seemed to come from the music but compound themselves, a feedback loop of infinite proportions. 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, ... She turned to look at me when the words "Watch out, here I come" seemed to blow the eardrums out of my cheap skull. 21, 34... ACTIVATE LEVEL 5.

Something horrible happened. A snake slithered through my intestines and wrapped its coils like a vice-around my brain, and it squeezed, squeezed, squeezed. The juices in my pineal gland squirted all over my shoes. I fell to the ground. Everyone around me looked on in terror, but the music kept playing.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Backfire Effect

You think your beliefs are informed by facts. Yet, research is demonstrating facts couldn't matter less...
Science and fiction once imagined the future in which you now live. Books and films and graphic novels of yore featured cyberpunks surfing data streams and personal communicators joining a chorus of beeps and tones all around you. Short stories and late-night pocket-protected gabfests portended a time when the combined knowledge and artistic output of your entire species would be instantly available at your command, and billions of human lives would be connected and visible to all who wished to be seen.
So, here you are, in the future surrounded by computers which can deliver to you just about every fact humans know, the instructions for any task, the steps to any skill, the explanation for every single thing your species has figured out so far. This once imaginary place is now your daily life.
So, if the future we were promised is now here, why isn’t it the ultimate triumph of science and reason? Why don’t you live in a social and political technotopia, an empirical nirvana, an Asgard of analytical thought minus the jumpsuits and neon headbands where the truth is known to all?
Among the many biases and delusions in between you and your microprocessor-rich, skinny-jeaned Arcadia is a great big psychological beast called the backfire effect. It’s always been there, meddling with the way you and your ancestors understood the world, but the Internet unchained its potential, elevated its expression, and you’ve been none the wiser for years.
The backfire effect is constantly shaping your beliefs and memory, keeping you consistently leaning one way or the other through a process psychologists call biased assimilation. Decades of research into a variety of cognitive biases shows you tend to see the world through thick, horn-rimmed glasses forged of belief and smudged with attitudes and ideologies. When scientists had people watch Bob Dole debate Bill Clinton in 1996, they found supporters before the debate tended to believe their preferred candidate won. In 2000, when psychologists studied Clinton lovers and haters throughout the Lewinsky scandal, they found Clinton lovers tended to see Lewinsky as an untrustworthy homewrecker and found it difficult to believe Clinton lied under oath. The haters, of course, felt quite the opposite. Flash forward to 2011, and you have Fox News and MSNBC battling for cable journalism territory, both promising a viewpoint which will never challenge the beliefs of a certain portion of the audience. Biased assimilation guaranteed.

The Backfire Effect

All It Takes Is The Right Story. Mythos Media

Monday, March 23, 2015

Peter and Paul: Lost in the Wonderland

Most of us see life as a period we spend wading through morasses of daily challenges just so that, one day, if we’re lucky, we might retire in the never-never land we refer to as heaven, and spend the rest of eternity doing absolutely nothing but basking in the eternal light of G
In order to make such a dismal prospect achievable, we’d created a God in our own image, and endowed Him, or possibly Her, with an abundance of very, very noble attributes. The alternate permanent residence is the exact opposite of this prospect, yet equally as dismal.
Because they are both based on the assumption that eternal dolce far niente, known to us as “sweet doing nothing”, which due to their proximity to the Vatican the Italians had brought to near-perfection, is the way to be.
It is.
And it is a reward.
For a day. A week. Maybe two weeks. But Eternity? Any definition of hell would be preferable.
Peter and Paul: Lost in the Wonderland: Most of us see life as a period we spend wading through morasses of daily challenges just so that, one day, if we’re lucky...

A valuable, very necessary post for all those of us struggling to cope with unrewarded creative output!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Congress

The real meat of this narrative hangs on an old but incredibly fruitful frame: is an artist's work or their persona ultimately of value? The pop-cult of personality certainly points in the direction of the mask. She is offered the opportunity to sell the mask to Miramount studios, and go on her merry way. Live her life, but never act in anything ever again. They own the mask.

Robin Wright acts in her own narrative gonzomentary,
and does it with the gravitas of a fallen angel.

This film sets up an incredibly tight first act, and then veers in an entirely unexpected, psychedelic direction from there.

As at-times interesting and surreal as the rest of the movie is, it could've been done in a way that was more consistent with where the movie seemed to be going, although that course change isn't so joyfully pointless as Tarantino's Dusk Till Dawn. Vampires and crotch cannons don't suddenly appear in the middle of a crime drama. Rather, you're dropped into the middle of Waking Life, with a bit more Matrix revolutionary zeal and a bit less philosophical speculation.

Might consistency have bit deeper and bled a bit longer? Maybe. That depends on your tastes.

But whatever flavor suits you, this film hearkens to a time, now lost to the haze of distant memory, when movies sought to make us question our culture, and our place in it. (I think it might have been the late 90s.)

Pop-art often employs repetition of the mask or container. (Think Warhol.) The Congress, in its way, can be considered a part of this tradition. In a movie that seeks to analyze an industry that functions only by cannibalizing itself, and doing so often off the flesh of its talent, the only tools available are a pastiche of what has come before. This is a sense in which The Congress is deeply postmodern, in a more than passing sense.

Its inveigh against Hollywood uses self-referential bricolage as a device for their own deconstruction. Tropes from nearly every genre available to Hollywood are used toward that end. Pointillism, bricolage, etc. are only useful devices to the extent that they relate back to a single thread. In this case, that thread is not a single narrative, not plot or resolution, but the theme of alter-ego as product. The alter-ego as icon, as obsession, as the lure painted over the heavens when the Gods of old will no longer do.

How much can you drill down into a single theme, how many fourth walls can you break, before the sublime turns into the redundant?

That line is seriously tested through the final act, but not, I think, ultimately broken.

All It Takes Is The Right Story. Mythos Media

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Steiner's Philosophy and an Alternate View of Spiritual Context
Goetheanum by rosmary
Rudolf Steiner is a largely forgotten thinker in virtually all circles of Western philosophy. Even many in esoteric circles who know the names Crowley or Blavatsky often fail to recognize his name. Despite this, Steiner’s influence is felt today in Waldorf schools, biodynamic farming, social finance, and prisoner outreach, and his school of anthroposophical thought is still debated and taught in Rosicrucian style organizations like the Anthroposophical Society in America. I was first introduced to Steiner through Gary Lachman’s excellent book, Rudolf Steiner: An Introduction to His Life and Work, which detailed the life and work of Steiner in such a way as to be easily approachable. Lachman’s recommendations included Robert McDermott’s The Essential Steiner (later updated as The New Essential Steiner), and there were enough similarities between my own personal philosophy and Steiner’s, that it was an easy purchase to further devour this great thinker’s expansive writing.

Steiner had a great impact on me personally because of his views on geometry and other mathematics are pure, and his insistence that any spiritual belief or experience could be met with the same scrutiny with which the hard sciences were met—essentially, Steiner believed that scientific inquiry could penetrate the spiritual. Steiner’s refusal to tell his readers/listeners to take things on blind faith, and his insistence on additional inquiry, made him different amongst his esoteric peers—less a guru and more an advisor. On a philosophical level, he was well-verse with the great German philosophers, and even upon disagreeing with others, took it upon himself to diligently argue from another’s perspective in order to better understand their point of view. His writings in support of Nietzsche (for Nietzsche’s daughter) are case in point for this. Steiner wasn’t searching for followers. His goal was the pursuit of knowledge; something that can be appreciated, whether you agree with his more esoteric philosophy or think they are just outlandish.

Steiner understood the principles of evolution as they were during his time. The difference was that he applied evolutionary principles to the spiritual as well as the physical—even spiritual entities such angels. Everything evolved. Although scientists don't assume that evolution "ceases" they also don't seem to contemplate whether the consciousness of today is the same as the consciousness of older times, or at the very least, it isn't something that is highly contemplated when examining historical context. So, for example, when we examine the literature of ancient cultures, we take a lot of what those cultures say to mean literally how they said it, but their descriptions have been written within their own consciousness, and their consciousness could have been quite different back then.

Steiner talks about the positioning of the astral body (which also evolves) through the evolution of the human being to show how insight into the spiritual has changed, but he's quick to note that stories and statements made that seem far-fetched for our physical reality are likely to be glimpses of the spiritual world that those individuals could still see, and most importantly, interpret. Many today look upon ancient cultures and think that they believed what they did because they weren't "as smart as us," but we really don't know "what" they truly believed. Steiner also makes the comment that older cultures believed these spiritual things because they weren't that far removed from ancestors that could see directly into the spiritual, and some of their own people still could. He gives them the benefit of the doubt, whereas modern science and history assumes them often ignorant, misled, or not as culturally evolved.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Conspiracy Against The Human Race

The Conspiracy Against the Human RaceThe Conspiracy Against the Human Race by Thomas Ligotti
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Years of meditating and reading books on philosophy, psychology, years of lucid dreams and night terrors, do not make a person unique. But it is singularly unique to find what feels like your own thoughts reflected back at you when you didn't pen them. As I read The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, I had a strange feeling, as if deja vu and vertigo had somehow been blended together. Had I read this before, if I hadn't written it?

Yet that disturbing familiarity regards an utterly useless process. Reading or writing about philosophy has long had a negative connotation in the United States, thanks to a long anti-intellectual culture in some corners. But here the useless, and indeed the negative, have an absolutely finality that have nothing to do with anti-intellectualism. This is ontological uselessness, the nightmare of being.

Ligotti's core thesis  the self as we know it is a contrivance of evolution, self consciousness an accident. To be deceived into thinking we are a self, that's the situation we find ourselves in, without hope of reprieve or reprisal. Of course, he isn't the first pessimist to set pen to paper, but he is the first to do so starkly, with such uncompromising clarity, without back pedaling or that ultimate cop out, the happy ending, “it was all a dream.”

There is a certain intentional irony here, as indeed our waking lives are a type of dream, and the self we grant some sense of ultimate reality is nothing other than a character in that dream. But to the extent anything is real, that dream character's suffering is legitimate.

Our choice as he sees it is simple — self deception, or insanity. He shows us the basis of horror, rooted not in the supernatural beyond, but much closer to home. It stares back at us in the mirror. The supernatural in a sense gives us a glimpse of our own uncanny ghoulishness, without requiring identification with the absolute truth of the matter. We can close the book, and shake off that chill, for after all, it was just a story.

But this is not merely a thought experiment. It isn't satirical hyperbole, like A Modest Proposal. There is no hope or happy ending to soften the blow. Because the game of life is all fixed anyway, it couldn't matter less if you deceive yourself and write this book off as pessimistic belly aching. Whatever it takes to get you through another day, and prop up the illusion that you are a self in the first place.

Although some may argue about what constitutes “serious philosophy”  as Ligotti himself says, he eschews the circuitous argumentation that generally grants a work that unapproachable aura of seriousness  I would argue that this book belongs within any introductory study of nihilism and even post-modernism. To do so I'd like to demonstrate what I mean. Those purely interested in The Conspiracy Against The Human Race may as well stop here, but I believe this claim demands a little context and backtracking. You'll forgive me if I need to broaden the scope to come back to task.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Limits of Physics

A very interesting article over on Aeon:
On the one hand, then, physics is taken to be a march toward an ultimate understanding of reality; on the other, it is seen as no different in status to the understandings handed down to us by myth, religion and, no less, literary studies. Because I spend my time about equally in the realms of the sciences and arts, I encounter a lot of this dualism. Depending on whom I am with, I find myself engaging in two entirely different kinds of conversation. Can we all be talking about the same subject?

All It Takes Is The Right Story. Mythos Media

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Liminal Spaces pt 2: The Hidden Architecture

Part 1: Get Creative: The Liminal State

Most people understand writing as a function of the conscious mind. You have an intention, you sit down and express it best you can.

However, the actual writing process is far more convoluted than that, and there are many "off-label" uses for the lesser understood parts of consciousness, where writing is involved. Nowhere is this more true than with the long-form creative process, which is more like a marathon than a sprint, and more like a surrealist "drift" than even a marathon.

Indeed, many of these byways, alleys and side-paths lead us through a meandering labyrinth, and we may even care to engage the physical process of one foot before the other.
Ambiguity is the labyrinth’s central nature. It is always unstable, changing its personality and ours as we change perspective. ... Like a psychic nuclear reactor, the labyrinth generates creative emotional and psychic processes in whatever guise it appears. It is continually breeding new versions of itself that demand we revisit our categories and redefine what the symbol means to us in our time. ... the experience of the labyrinth is not only ancient, it is hardwired into the brain structure of the earliest humans, biologically indistinguishable from us, who first recognized its ineffable potency.
In pre-literate antiquity, the labyrinth design and its cousins, the spiral and the meander, were symbols that occurred worldwide in rock art and weaving patterns, on pottery, and was scrawled as ancient graffiti on a wall in Pompeii. From the Near East to New Grange in Ireland, and from the American Southwest to Siberia, the labyrinth pattern is one of the oldest symbols in the history of mankind and one of the most universal.
--Dancing at the Edge of Death, Jodi Lorimer.
Much that has been written about "drifting" might be equally applied to writing, and vice versa.
One of psychogeography's principle means was the dérive. Long a favorite practice of the dadaists, who organized a variety of expeditions, and the surrealists, for whom the geographical form of automatism was an instructive pleasure, the dérive, or drift, was defined by the situationists as the 'technique of locomotion without a goal', in which 'one or more persons during a certain period drop their usual motives for movement and action, their relations, their work and leisure activities, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there'. The dérive acted as something of a model for the 'playful creation' of all human relationships.
Unlike surrealist automatism, the dérive was not a matter of surrendering to the dictates of an unconscious mind or irrational force. Indeed, the situationists' criticisms of surrealism concluded that 'the unconscious imagination is poor, that automatic writing is monotonous, that the whole genre of ostentatious surrealist "weirdness" has ceased to be very surprising'. Nor was everything subordinated to the sovereignty of choice: to dérive was to notice the way in which certain areas, streets, or buildings resonate with states of mind, inclinations, and desires, and to seek out reasons for movement other than those for which an environment was designed. It was very much a matter of using an environment for one's own ends, seeking not only the marvelous beloved by surrealism but bringing an inverted perspective to bear on the entirety of the spectacular world. 
--The Situationist International in a postmodern age by Sadie Plant
I've found this to be nowhere so true as in a city such as Boston, where the streets themselves seem to serve as a spatial metaphor for the creative process -- not a circle cut into 4 quadrants, as in the classical plan, but rather an organic structure built from original Indian walking paths, grown, cut-down, re-structured and -purposes over the years. Get lost in the city, letting your mind get lost as well, and you just might find the solution to that scene you've been struggling with for a week.

But maybe even this will not do. Some problems will not dissolve by way of drifting, and the only means I've found left at that point is to fall asleep.

I've often joked that the best parts of my novels are written when I'm asleep. Like many jokes, this isn't entirely untrue. How often do you suddenly happen upon inspiration, or unexpected connections, as you drift off? If you manage to wake yourself, you might scribble notes that can later take a form, or merely serve to perplex you. "The slashes on her hands, the angel's trumpets, a flower," the note reads. What did you mean by that? The transcription process is not the writing process.

As I've shared in many interviews about my novels, this isn't as absurd or uncommon as you may think. However, the common wisdom that inspiration has been born from dreams is, if my experience is any indicator, a misunderstanding. It is not the dream state that is so fertile, as the threshold of sleep, those liminal lands that offer up many connections and solutions, if we can only drag their glamour from those depths and connect them with more substantial matter.

Of course, not all such fragments are captured. And fewer still take to the soil they're given.

There is probably a hidden architecture behind most texts, of what never made it to the page. Like an actor holding a prop none of us can see on screen, I'd like to believe these "hidden architectures" still inform the corpus.

I have developed a number of fairly simple practices to help capture more of this gossamer stuff, and I'll share what I can with you, though as is often said, "your mileage may vary."

...To Be Continued...

All It Takes Is The Right Story. Mythos Media


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