Forgotten tales

Magical revelation of the day: I was thinking about how television supplies us with pre-packaged narratives.

Each episode or documentary gives us a structure, beginning and end, occasionally with a carefully delivered challenge or question. These stories may be split over several episodes to keep us addicted, and the challenges can be subtle or obvious to promote discussion. It occurred to me that to manufacture these stories, life needs to be generalised, filtered and distorted c.f. NLP modelling ( http://www.expandyourworld.net/i+i-generalization.php ).

On the kaballistic tree of life, there is a strange place – DAATH – see Wikipedia for an intro. Strange for its omission from the structure. My relatively inexperienced perspective conjures the idea of forgetting, and the analogy of a lens or prism which is effectively invisible but known by its effect.

The reason I mention this is because I intuit a connection between this narrative artifice and corresponding exclusion of information to that end, and this core ‘gap’ in the tree of life where all things originate and dissolve.

It makes me look at stories and narratives afresh: I want to reject these narratives. This addiction to narratives is like a drug, or possible poison. To craft a narrative is to harm the complete narrative of existence. Try looking for the story behind the story, the aborted and stillborn foetuses strewn about us which we cannot see. See the world in all its horror and glory.

The other term which enters into my awareness is ‘silence’. To contain everything, there must first be emptiness. When the narrative coaxes you to speak, try breaking the flow. Experience what is happening rather than delivering the same old responses and patterns, time and time again. Words are like silk, which can bind us within our own prisons.

EDIT: After feedback, I want to clarify that this is not meant to be attacking narratives per se. I love narratives as I love breathing or eating. I am attacking an addiction to particular narratives, and even becoming accustomed to accepting a certain narrative structure. Narratives, like concepts, are both restrictive and empowering. They channel our thoughts and behaviours down some paths and not others.

Practical Magic – Awareness

A practical anecdote of magic in action.

I pause on the way back from taking out the recycling, noticing a strange awareness or ‘energy’ following the breeze traversing the grassy quadrangle of the housing estate, running NW to SE. I become aware of how vulnerable I would be to anonymous malevolence from a higher balcony. I feel drawn to sit on the giant hollow log in the centre of the deserted play area. I notice a group of lads dash along the balcony of the S flats to the SE corner.

Minutes later, a couple walking from SE to SW are egged from some hidden upper story assailant in the SW corner. I express my sympathies and they move on in distress. Minutes later a group of lads emerge, then hide, then emerge again from the SE corner and travel to the NW corner, exchanging a few wary glances at each other and myself.

Now, there’s an obvious narrative that the lads were the egg throwers, and that I might have been selected as target, but that’s all by the by. For me, the altered states of awareness invited by magic are the key, and facilitate breaking out of established patterns and into a fertile narrative landscape.

Practical Magic – Geburah

Practical magic anecdote: I’ve been meditating on Geburah (5th Sephiroth on the Kabbalistic tree of life) for a couple of months now, and have started to notice some odd stuff. When beginning exercise I can ‘invoke Geburah’ and I feel a warmth within my chest which invigorates me and dulls muscle pains and aches.

I had a powerful of idea of passing though some sort of crucible which burns away disconnected parts to leave the core identity. The warmth felt like my core being coming into focus, and the strength of unity it brings. I wonder if I can cultivate this for more prolonged periods?

During intense exercise, I started to visualise a door opening, but never opened. Focusing on this image helped push through the pain barrier. Initially I fantasised that this was some gateway to Geburah, but as Geburah is supposedly beyond human consiousness I guess it must be a reflection of Geburah. Then again, the idea that the gate is never fully opened reflects that.

I read a random internet article about Geburah and Chesed which raised some interesting parallels and symmetries. One concept (which is still fresh and likely incorrect or distorted) is that Geburah represents restriction/rules in the sense of ‘what you cannot do’. Limits I suppose, and comes across as a struggle. Chesed represents empowerment in the sense of ‘what you can do’, with corresponding power. Of course, the two seem to be flip sides of the coin in this sense, as what you can do describes what you cannot, and vice versa. Indeed, the empowerment of Chesed lends well to overbearing and constrictive states, and the restrictive struggle of Geburah lends to rebellion and liberation. The barriers between the Sephiroth should be considered for what they actually represent – a conceptual system. Don’t forget this!

 

 

Cutting the Youth of Tomorrow

For those who are not already aware, Devon Youth Service is one of the few remaining council run youth service provisions in the country, and is facing a death blow: http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Devon-youth-service-faces-1m-cuts-end-universal/story-20530795-detail/story.html

This is a joke. Actually – it’s the blackest kind of schadenfreude, that creeps after the Coalition’s not-so-subtle privatisation of NHS and Post Office. The motivations for these acts been highly questionable, with suspect financial involvement. The austerity regime is also highly questionable, and literally cutting the throats of the youth service to make savings that barely make a dent in the bonuses of the financial sector simply compounds error after error.

This is significant for several reasons.

 

1. There is (conveniently for some) no restriction on calling a provision a youth service. There is a great professional gulf between council based provision and community sourced or Church based provision. I have personally experienced the training and professionalism of the former, and the well-meaning but often inexperienced or idealistically biased efforts of the latter. A young person, isolated and confused, is liable to receive a very different welcome from each. The council based provisions are reinforced by strict practical and ethical guidelines.

2. In the youth service it is the real LIVES of future adults at stake. I have been witness to cases of rape, poverty, abuse, self-harm, cycles of violence, and loneliness which the Youth Service is dedicated to resolve. Don’t just see the numbers on the balance sheet – see the countless lives which are improved or saved by the youth service. Ask yourself whether this 3rd round of cuts to an impossibly stretched provision is an appropriate reflection of how much we value future generations. Also consider how much in resources is liable to be spent on future policing, legalities, rehabilitation and prison services.

3. The youth services have suffered greatly from a difficulty in justifying the good they do, because every life they improve or save does NOT make the media headlines. Preventative services are often easy prey. Do you recall the last time a youth service was nationally acclaimed for their achievements? It’s certainly not because there are none. Recently, extra bureaucratic measures have been imposed, ostensibly to facilitate quality control, but in reality only serving to overwork already overworked staff, and set them up to fail. Even the Youth Centres which have excelled themselves have seemingly nothing to gain from this paperwork.

4. The youth service is publically misunderstood. There was once a time, years ago, when youth services were run by well meaning volunteers and were effectively convenient creches. This has changed dramatically, and yet I have recently experienced leading government officials walking blithely into sessions without warning (violating safety policies), telling us how to do our jobs, and talking to young people (if at all) as if they were a different species. We are not youth enforcement officers. We do not mind-control young people into behaving. We do not exist to entertain young people and keep them off the streets. We do listen, and treat young people like young adults, help them to make informed choices and learn about the amazing world they stand to inherit, good and bad, and support them through the turbulent transition into adulthood. We help them become responsible adults. You may even have met one or two of them yourself, if you are fortunate.

5. I never used the youth service when I was young, but there were times when it would have helped. The youth service is not a plaster for broken families. Your family, I hope, will never need their services. Young people’s lives deserve a quality safety net, not a grimace and a pamphlet from an overworked school nurse.

6. Don’t believe for a moment that the years of experience within the youth service can be replicated adequately by outsourcing. Don’t just take my word for it. Go down to your local Council-based Youth Centre and ask them what they do and how it is going. If there is one left. Tragically, the greatest testament to the worth of the youth service is the voices of the young people they serve, and nobody seems to be listening.

 

Magickal Causality

From Aleister Crowley’s ‘Magick’ there is a brief discussion of the nature of Magickal cause and effect.

In summary – the efficacious nature of Magick and its practices is not necessarily to ‘directly’ effect a result. i.e. Magick in the high fantasy Harry Potter sense of pointing wands and fireballs erupting may be misleading. So in what sense can Magick be said to actually cause something to happen? Well, this is the bit I like as it chimes in perfectly with everything else I have uncovered so far! It works by transforming the agent, the relationships between agent and the world, and hence the world, making them all into the kind of things which accord with the will of the Magick user.

To clarify: I might perform rituals to focus my will on a particular task, build confidence and strengthen links with others who may assist in doing my will. But do the rituals ’cause’ the task to happen? Certainly the mental and emotional focus and strengthening of relationships with others assists in accomplishing the task.

This is why a spell that summons a person to you may ‘work’ even though the person in question started on their journey to visit you BEFORE the spell was cast. Practicing such spells makes you more powerful. The holistic nature of Magick is evident here – it thrums through all the strands of symbolism and power that guide and shape, a power that subtly whispers but in its crescendos there is indisputable puissance.

This touches on the purpose of prayer and worship too: By seeking communion with the divine will we are not necessarily diminishing ourselves by subjecting or demeaning what we are. Rather, we are becoming vessels dedicated to actualising divine will – our will. I think many people have conceptions of worship that stereotype and ridicule, alienating and stifling the possibility that it is something very important, practical and essential. I remember my GCSE Religious Education teacher saying something which stuck with me: Worship is ‘Worth-ship’, about showing how something is important to you. To those who remain Atheist and Agnostic as anything other than a reaction to established religious stereotypes I ask: What is it that you live for? What makes it all worthwhile?

Focus on those things, craft yourself about them, respect and celebrate them. After all, that is worship.

Neonomicon

Neonomicon and its prequel ‘The Courtyard’ are both graphic novels written by the acclaimed storyteller (and bearded dude) Alan Moore. Warning: Some spoilers may emerge! Details on the Wiki.

As most of the story is outlined in the Wiki article, I’m going to stick to personal impressions.

Positives:

1. It’s novel and graphic for a graphic novel! There is weird sex and rape, Lovecraftian nightmares and an interesting twist on traditional Mythos understanding. It received press when a library was prompted to censor it for its depictions – though frankly, an age rating on it would probably have avoided all that anyway – and after Moore’s ‘Lost Girls’ it’s clear that he has no fear of pushing the boundaries, making him one of the most interesting writers today.

2. Concepts are good. The prequel shows the descent into truth/madness of a federal occult investigator, and links in the significance of language. Neonomicon carries on that linguistic vein and promotes the Lovecraftian-sex theme.

3. The rape-orgy scene is very well done – both shocking in its topic and humane in execution. The characters are rendered as fat, skinny, old, young, mixed races etc. A great deal of the horror is the everyday nature of it.

4. Artwork is appropriate for the story, calling for beauty and lumpiness with a spattering of gore. The ‘Gargouille de la mer’ is a wonderfully brutish rendering, and effects a poignant death scene.

5. Inversions in the plot. There are lots of these, and I have always been fond of stories where the initial character point of view shifts and inverts as they experience the world. Agent Brears is rescued by the monster from the murderous humans. Agent Brears faces down the institutionalised murderer as she becomes a much bigger bee-atch than him!

Negatives:

Not many of these really.

1. That is was over too soon perhaps!

2. The graphical and Lovecraftian nature of the story will likely deter many, but given the interesting and challenging concepts contained perhaps that was unavoidable.

Conclusion:

I recommend the read to any like minded souls!

 

Abraham’s Dilemma

[Foreword: Though the language may seem abstract and probably pretentious, this piece is aimed at encouraging a possible reinterpretation of religious text in more practical terms. I hope you can bear (with) it!]

This came back to me recently, having touched upon it during my Uni days. The problem is outlined at http://www.slideshare.net/aquinas_rs/biblical-moral-dilemmas and summary below: God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am’. He said, ‘take your son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offerhim as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.’ Genesis 22:1-2 In Genesis 22 Abraham takes his son Isaac to be sacrificed as God has commanded (a ram is offered in Isaac’s place). Abraham and his wife Sarah had waited a long time to have Isaac. God had promised them a child in their old age and yet God asks Abraham to sacrifice him! Even if it does not raise moral questions, it is a least counter-intuitive. But Abraham does not falter. He takes Isaac as commanded and it is not until Abraham raises the knife to kill his son that God intervenes. Abraham’s willingness to kill Isaac is enough for God to know that the patriarch would not ‘withhold his only son’ from him. A ram is conveniently found in a thicket and offered in Isaac’s place.

The basic understanding of this story seems to be that it was about demonstrating Abraham’s great faith and willingness to sacrifice his son in obedience to God, who lets him off at the end. i.e. God would never actually demand such a sacrifice as it is patently horrific, but it serves to illustrate the kind of strength of will that faith may require. However, there are other puzzles arising from this scenario if we consider it as a hypothetical situation where divine and mundane morality conflict. i.e. What if God actually demanded such a sacrifice? (more…)

Trappings of Civilisation

There may come a point in an organism’s development where it becomes able to extensively control its own environment to the degree that external threats are pretty much nonexistent.  At this point the question arises: ‘What to do?’

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Cloud Atlas

#cloudatlas

I saw Cloud Atlas recently.  Twice.  I have read a bunch of reviews for it, which are pretty middling, describing it as many things. Dodgy prosthetics.  Trite moralising.  Overly long.  Disjointed.  Ambitious failure.  Feel free to chart these out yourself…

I agree that it was ambitious, and I agree that it failed to reach the mainstream, but I was very impressed.  A lot happens in the 2-3 hours of the film, and even more goes on behind the scenes.  The cinematography was lovely, and the music too.  My take: We are witnessing the lives and interactions of a group of souls across several generations.  In addition, certain souls remain typecast in fairly constant roles, whereas other seem to change and develop.  See the table below (from the Wiki):

Actor “The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing” (1849) “Letters from Zedelghem” (1936) “Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery” (1973) “The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish” (2012) “An Orison of Sonmi~451″ (2144) “Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After” (2321)
Tom Hanks Dr. Henry Goose Hotel Manager Isaac Sachs Dermot Hoggins Cavendish Look-a-like Actor Zachry
Halle Berry Native Woman Jocasta Ayrs Luisa Rey Indian Party Guest Ovid Meronym
Jim Broadbent Captain Molyneux Vyvyan Ayrs N/A Timothy Cavendish Korean Musician Prescient 2
Hugo Weaving Haskell Moore Tadeusz Kesselring Bill Smoke Nurse Noakes Boardman Mephi Old Georgie
Jim Sturgess Adam Ewing Poor Hotel Guest Megan’s Dad Highlander Hae-Joo Chang Adam / Zachry Brother-in-Law
Doona Bae Tilda Ewing N/A Megan’s Mom, Mexican Woman N/A Sonmi~451, Sonmi~351, Sonmi Prostitute N/A
Ben Whishaw Cabin Boy Robert Frobisher Store Clerk Georgette N/A Tribesman
James D’Arcy N/A Young Rufus Sixsmith Old Rufus Sixsmith Nurse James Archivist N/A
Zhou Xun N/A N/A Talbot / Hotel Manager N/A Yoona~939 Rose
Keith David Kupaka N/A Joe Napier N/A An-kor Apis Prescient
David Gyasi Autua N/A Lester Rey N/A N/A Duophysite
Susan Sarandon Madame Horrox N/A N/A Older Ursula Yosouf Suleiman Abbess
Hugh Grant Rev. Giles Horrox Hotel Heavy Lloyd Hooks Denholme Cavendish Seer Rhee Kona Chief

Hugh Grant and Hugo Weaving play characters bound to order and consistency, the former as some kind of profiteer who works the system to his advantage, the latter as the defender of the status quo.  Weaving’s Nurse Noakes was exquisite! By contrast:

Tom Hanks starts off greedy, then works his way towards happiness at the end.

Halle Berry is questing for truth, becoming increasingly empowered towards the end.

Jim Sturgess starts off struggling to develop a moral backbone, and towards the end is increasingly empowered in defence of his ideals.

Doona Bae starts off as Jim Sturgess’ love, meekly sharing his moral sensibilities, and is elevated to godhood at the end.

There are lots of stories here, and the interactions between them merit exploration too.  I know the prosthetics may be distracting, but they serve to identify the souls by a similarity of appearance.  Alternative devices may have been more subtle, but I suspect would have made the identification nigh impossible for people.

I have a soft spot for the words of Sonmi – very simple but elegant language, food for the soul.  To those who described the meaning as some wishy washy tale of cosmic interconnectedness, I’d say that a shallow man sees his own reflection in the deepest of ponds.

‘Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others. Past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.’ – Sonmi-451

Seeing the matrix

I started to see the matrix today.  More specifically, the semiotic web as described in Patrick Dunn’s text on Postmodern Magic.  The semiotic web/matrix is the totality of interrelated symbols and meaning that chart our experiences.

The term matrix or lattice has connotations of being crystalline and rigid – an oppressive sentiment that may be apt for the film the Matrix – which is why the web description is more appealing to me.  It occurred to me however that the description of the semiotic web is still lacking something, or at least, it was for me.

The symbols are ALIVE.  Do not view the semiotic web as a collection of things/points/nodes.  The Net of Indra is a beautiful metaphor worth thinking about, and although the gems are like things, their identity is partly eroded and partly composed by the fact they reflect all the others. i.e. the identity of a thing is contextual (its place in the semiotic web).  A change in one affects the others.  But even more than this, the symbols are the landscape of our desires, ideals and motivations – which makes them decidedly ACTIVE.  Imagine the landscape topology, with rivers flowing between peaks. Then consider the topology of the semiotic web:

In a crude sense, the symbol of a wall or obstacle serves to channel most ambulatory beings towards symbols of access and passage.  Otherwise we would walk into walls more often!  The very nature of the semiotic web serves to channel energy and direct us.  More significant symbols, like ideals (and arguably gods) similarly distort the web, so that energies flow in different directions.  As a ball rolls downhill into a depression, as the gravity well draws in objects, so too does the semiotic web guide and influence.

This is why I love Aikido so much: It works within the semiotic web so well.  Rather than cruder approaches which might strike blows to deal with threats, Aikido literally takes advantage of the individual’s situation and interrelations within the web.  Aikido is a form of magic made manifest – and as you get better at it you start to see the channels of people’s intentions.  A bit like the scene in Donnie Darko when he starts to see the space-time worms emerging from the solar plexus, you start to see these energy flow more clearly, and how to direct them in different ways.  I think a true master never has to fight, simply by virtue of avoiding conflicts before they even erupt.

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