Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Scrooge the Healer

I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach! - Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Like all of us, the artist suffers from the spirit of the age. The creative artist, like a shaman and magician, however, is able to be in-formed by and constructively channel, transmute, and out-picture the seemingly obscuring daemonic energies of wetiko in a symbolic form that takes away wetiko’s spell-binding power over themselves, while at the same time helping to nonlocally dispel the collective enchantment pervading the entire field of consciousness. Discovering novel, creative, and ever-evolving articulations of language to express experience is a “spell-casting” activity, in that it serves to dispel the veil of illusion which limited forms of language can cast which seemingly obstructs us from the true richness of our own experience. Creatively expressing what is moving us is the very act which liberates us from the compulsion of having to unconsciously re-create these energies (self)-destructively in a way that continually retraumatizes both ourselves and the world around us. In the figure of the artist, the creative spirit realizes itself through us, while at the same time we, as artists, reciprocally realize ourselves through it  - Paul Levy, Dispelling Wetiko

My first meeting with him entirely changed my opinion of him and of what I might expect from him. I remember this meeting very well. We arrived at a small café in a noisy though not central street. I saw a man of an oriental type, no longer young, with a black mustache and piercing eyes, who astonished me first of all because he seemed to be disguised and completely out of keeping with the place and its atmosphere. I was still full of impressions of the East. And this man with the face of an Indian raja or an Arab sheik whom I at once seemed to see in a white burnoose or a gilded turban, seated here in this little cafe, where small dealers and commission agents met together, in a black overcoat with a velvet collar and a black bowler hat, produced the strange, unexpected, and almost alarming impression of a man poorly disguised, the sight of whom embarrasses you because you see he is not what he pretends to be and yet you have to speak and behave as though you did not see it. He spoke Russian incorrectly with a strong Caucasian accent; and this accent, with which we are accustomed to associate anything apart from philosophical ideas, strengthened still further the strangeness and the unexpectedness of this impression. .... G.'s [Gurdjieff's] words, in addition to their ordinary meaning, undoubtedly contained another, altogether different, meaning. I had already begun to realize that, in order to arrive at this hidden meaning in G.'s words, one had to begin with their usual and simple meaning. G.'s words were always significant in their ordinary sense, although this was not the whole of their significance. The wider or deeper significance remained hidden for a long time. - P. D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous


The new film The Man Who Invented Christmas is a psychological masterpiece. An origin story for A Christmas Carol, it depicts Charles Dickens writing that book as a way to understand and come to terms with his painful past. Dickens, whose father went to debtor's prison and who had to black shoes in a workhouse as a very young child, was traumatized by poverty. He gave compulsively to the poor, wrote socially conscious novels about the plight of the lower classes, and yet couldn't help getting himself in debt. He was bound to scarcity, as it were: it repeats itself in him. He is fettered by the chains he (unknowingly) forged in life. By writing A Christmas Carol, he meets his pain, talks to it, and integrates it.



In the film, Scrooge is the face of that pain. He is Dickens' shadow side, the aspect of him he does not acknowledge and which acts out in unexpected cruelty. He is scarcity; he is fear; he is the terror of not having enough. Of course, this "squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner" is ridiculously larger than life, a bit absurd. But for good reason! Like all cliches, he covers up the writer's baggage. And baggage works itself out there despite the cliche, for The Man Who Invented Christmas discerns the hidden truth that Scrooge, as Dickens' shadow side, carries Dickens' wholeness. Scrooge is secretly a healer. In the film, Scrooge (played by Christopher Plummer) has a twinkle in his eye. He reminds me of a Zen master, of Rumi, of the profound spiritual rascal G. I. Gurdjieff, but most of all my therapist when he impersonated my negative voices. This Scrooge is Dickens' wholeness impersonating his pain with a thinly veiled theatricality, fanning the flames at just the right intensity so Dickens can realize that pain without getting too hurt. And though it can seem cruel at times, it is one of the best therapeutic techniques I know.

However, this cathartic integration of Dickens' shadow side happens through writing, and The Man Who Invented Christmas says what I said in my last post: that writing, as the shadow side of our collective conscious attitude, carries that attitude's wholeness. If we want to heal, there is no better way than to start writing! By writing, what lives itself out in me unconsciously can shunt itself out and present itself anew to me through the medium of pen and paper. The page is an external hard drive, another brain, a way by which pain can live itself out away from my habitual restrictions. Works which heal in this way carry and perpetuate that healing in and through whoever reads them. And so it is no accident that A Christmas Carol is so popular, that it's basically the reason we still celebrate Christmas, that my folks' theater puts it on every year to sold-out audiences. Dickens was a wounded healer; the book is the medicine he distilled from that wound's poison. And we can tell.

More specifically, A Christmas Carol is a way we can heal our past baggage, and that's because (among other things) it has a lot to do with the past. For the book's ghosts are spirits of time, time-spirits, "Zeitgeist" in German: Past, Present, and Future. There is a mystery contained here that no one has seen. For I suspect that the book is so healing because it struggles to this conclusion: we will only heal--as people, as a species, as a world--when past and future stop fighting each other. For all pain is an enmity of past and future.

When we experience great pain and refuse to look at it, a part of our personality is trapped at the moment when that pain happened. Through trauma, the past has been hermetically preserved, and we look forward to our goals and projects in life with that part of ourselves uninvolved. The life in the past and the numb corpse of the future have been severed from each other. There is no memory; time unravels.

This book, then, is a great act of memory. Scrooge remembers being a boy, remembers Bob Cratchit, remembers his guilt. And as the film's postscript says, the skyrocketing acts of charity that followed its publication are also deeds of memory.  Through memory, pain knows itself in the present and the present is no longer cut off from the life trapped in pain. Memory is the mark of the world on the body, the mark of the other on the self. Without it, we are as solitary as an oyster. With it, our shut-up hearts open freely.

Whenever we read or A Christmas Carol, that reintegration, this re-embodiment gets played out like a great collective sacrament. In it, something new is born in us from a long conflict. The child, who would otherwise die, does not die. We no longer squeeze or wrench; we open our palms, tenderly, vulnerably. And the life in our hearts comes out onto the world stage. It is Christmas.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Writing is Repression

Kids, the fiction is the truth inside the lie, and the truth of this fiction is simple enough: the magic exists. - Stephen King, It
And so, my most worthy and impartial colleagues ,It must now be clear to you that if, for some reason or other, the useful information concerning knowledge already attained by men about past events on the Earth fails to reach our descendants through genuine initiates, then thanks to this new means of transmission I have proposed, men of future generations will always have the possibility of discovering and understanding for themselves, if not everything now existing on the Earth, at least those fragments of common knowledge which chance to reach them through these "works of the hands" of our contemporaries as well as through those various ceremonies existing today, in which, in accordance with this great Law of Sevenfoldness, and by means of these "artificial" indications of ours, we shall now put what we wish. -G. I. Gurdjieff, Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson
But now that we are facing an incarnation of Ahriman in the third millennium after Christ, Lucifer's tracks are becoming less visible, and Ahriman's activities in such trends as I have indicated, are coming into prominence. Ahriman has made a kind of pact with Lucifer, the import of which may be expressed in the following way. — Ahriman, speaking to Lucifer, says: “I, Ahriman, find it advantageous to make use of ‘preserving jars’. To you I will leave man's stomachs, if you will leave it to me to lull men to sleep — that is to say to lull their consciousness to sleep where their stomachs are concerned.” You must understand what I mean by this. — The consciousness of those human beings whom I have called devourers of soul and spirit is in a condition of dimness so far as their stomachs are concerned; for by not accepting the spiritual into their human nature, they drive straight into the Luciferic stream everything they introduce into their stomachs. What men eat and drink without spirituality goes straight to Lucifer! And what do I mean by “preserving jars”? I mean libraries and institutions of a similar kind, where the various sciences pursued by man without really stirring his interest, are preserved; these sciences are not really alive in him but are simply preserved in the books on the shelves of libraries. All this knowledge has been separated from man himself. Everywhere there are books, books, books! Every student, when he takes his doctor's degree, has to write a learned thesis which is then put into as many libraries as possible. When the student wants to take up some particular post, again he must write a thesis! In addition to this, people are forever writing, although only a very small proportion of what they write is ever read. Only when some special preparation has to be made do people resort to what is mouldering away in libraries. These “preserving jars” of wisdom are a particularly favourable means of furthering Ahriman's aims. - Rudolf Steiner, Lucifer and Ahriman

Writing is repression. When we write, we do it to ignore something we'd rather not think or feel. So we put it down on paper instead, maybe ignoring it, maybe publishing it, maybe making millions off of it, but nevertheless still forgetting it. The life we refuse to experience ends up in our books. And it teems there.



Apart from what we write, we talk. Idly, mindlessly, we chatter with each other about nothing in particular, nothing important, always kind of numb. We check our social media accounts; we scroll through Instagram; we may double tap a post occasionally to like something. But without the life in our books, we're lifeless.

This situation, where speech pretends not to notice everything that it leaves behind in writing, is actually a kind of muscle tension. Our shoulders, back, or legs, like writing engraved in muscle, are constantly tight, but that tension is always unnoticed. And this tension, like all tension, comes from trauma. Something violates an intrinsic wholeness, which then ignores that violence, dissociating into a conscious aspect that steels itself against the pain and an unconscious one that repeats it unconsciously. Here, speech is that conscious "ignore-ance" and writing is the movement of the trauma it ignores.

This trauma is *consciousness*. When human beings gained an awareness of themselves as beings separate from the world, when they started to build cities and cultivate the land, they experienced great alienation and exposure at being cut off from the unity every animal takes for granted. For animals, speech is writing and writing is speech: body language is instinctive and there is no need to plan or record. But when we cut ourselves off from the world, we had to repeat that severance by severing those feelings from ourselves, storing that pain somewhere we can look away from: in our cuneiform tablets, our illuminated manuscripts, our blogs.

And this pain, this life, is intelligent. It has volition, and it plans. Books want to be found. For anything in literature is really the aspect of us that we've ignored and choose not to face, but by doing so, we're denying it a place in the light of day. So of course our media (for all media, by definition, are kinds of writing) predict great world events before they happen. Events think themselves fictionally before they incarnate in flesh and blood, whether it shows up as The Wreck of the Titan or The Simpsons predicting both 9/11 and Trump's election. This cunning life is working within us whenever we watch a movie, read a book, or create any work of art. It is working toward the time when it can be integrated into the great body of the collective psyche. Literature wants to become conscious. Fiction wants to become real.

To heal as a species is to let the written speak. We must take fiction at face value, not as something entertaining or cathartic, but as something more real than everyday life. Only then can we invest "everyday life" with the reality heretofore only found in fiction. This will be painful: we invented writing in the first place to hide from our experience of that life. But it will be worth it. Speech will be kind of writing; writing will be a kind of speech. The fictive will be real; the real will be fictive. Life will return to a dead world.

Pray for the books.

The Final Problem: Sherlock Holmes, Trauma, and the Nature of Identity

Here's a paper I wrote for my class on Victorian literature and art. Enjoy!



There are two ways for the whole to relate to its parts. In one, the whole occurs as a function of the parts, where parts combine and rearrange themselves mechanically to create a generalization, an abstraction. In the other, the parts occur as a function of the whole. Here, the parts are expressions of the whole, which is present—wholly—in each of those parts. Here, the whole reproduces itself, even perpetuates itself—through the parts. The parts are the way the whole “wholes.” In the first, the whole is an abstract, generalized concept, ultimately unreal. In the second, the whole is the reality of the part, not “apart” from it, reproducing its own qualities intensively throughout. In one, the whole occurs as the uniform abstraction of what parts have in common. In the other, the parts express—in their differences—different metamorphoses of that whole. In one, the whole is something reached by a consensus, a least common denominator. In the other, the whole expresses itself through the differences of the parts. One opposes identity and difference. The other furthers identity through difference.

Following the example of Henri Bortoft, I will call the first relation of whole to part “unity in multiplicity” and the second “multiplicity in unity.” (Bortoft Location 1031) For “unity in multiplicity,” unity holds itself inviolate and can only relate to multiplicity as something “outside.” Thus, the only unity is that of the atomistic part. For “multiplicity in unity,” however, multiplicity is something in unity, not opposed to it. Multiplicity, together, makes a unity that is not inviolate but instead composite. Unity in multiplicity sees multiplicity as a threat to unity. Multiplicity in unity sees multiplicity as unity’s necessary sustenance. One identity is exclusive; the other is inclusive.

These two models of relating the whole to its parts can occur in human beings both individually and in groups. As such, we can read history and the products of history as the interactions of these two models of identity. Exclusion, or unity in multiplicity, sees difference as a threat. If a nation, a culture, or a person has an identity, this model sees the intrusion of another identity as a threat to the first. Partes extra partes, anything foreign, anything deviant, threatens the coherence of the party line. On the other hand, inclusion as partes intra partes sees every different identity as an elaboration of its own. The “other” here is always an extension, a perpetuation, a metamorphosis of the “same.”

However, a political mindset bent toward inclusion in this sense has never existed. Every culture, to be itself, sees the other as a threat to that “itself.” This is obvious for autocratic or authoritarian governments. However, even democratic cultures—in their talks of bi- or non-partisan politics—cannot get away from a “partisan” model, where even if there is to be “tolerance” of one side for another, the sides remain separate. And even if one side were to disappear or be absorbed into the other, this is always at the expense of the side that disappears or is absorbed. A model in which one political perspective becomes itself more by becoming the other has never entered consciousness. The other and the same are always opposed.

However, this unity in multiplicity is nevertheless only a permutation or metamorphosis of that multiplicity in unity. Exclusive identity is a way inclusive identity forgets itself. However, this observation means that we can treat an ostensibly “exclusive” relationship of whole to parts as one where that relationship is inclusive. A “self-subsistent” whole is always undermined by the wholes of its parts and, indeed, can only say it is a whole in the inclusive sense of the word. Every identity is constituted by difference, and the more it pretends to define itself, the more violently unconscious is that constitution.

This paper will examine the relationship between these two models of identity. If it is true that exclusive identity is only a permutation or metamorphosis of inclusive identity, the question arises: why does it conceal itself in this way. Why does identity pretend to oppose itself to difference when it strongly depends on it? We seek to discover this origin, and thereby we undertake a “genealogy of exclusion.” And to discover where the illusion of “unity in multiplicity” begins, we must find the ways a totalitarian unity relies on what opposes it. In Freudian terms, we must find the return of the repressed. By doing this, the original act wherein multiplicity in unity veils itself becomes apparent, repeats itself like a forgotten trauma.

As a part of this, we are also seeking way to heal and integrate this trauma into the body politic of modern identity. We are seeking not only the original veiling of inclusive identity in exclusion, but also the means whereby that inclusive identity can unveil itself once more. By finding the emergence of the repressed inclusion, we are looking for what happens as it does so, that we can discern how to re-enact this process for the sake of healing and insight.

But we must find a starting place for this analysis. In pondering the history of identity in the sense we have been describing it, we realize that the model of exclusive identity has never been more dominant than in the Victorian era of British history. In this epoch, the triumph of unity over multiplicity became absolute and unquestioned: the few control the many, the rich beat down the poor, men control women, the sun never sets on the Empire. Britain, as the ultimate avatar of “identity,” opposes any dissenting threat to that identity. There can be no dissent, no rebellion, no contrary social mores. Difference is outlawed.

This period will be our starting place. We must find a place in the Victorian relationship of part to whole wherein an authentic relationship of multiplicity to unity occurs. And while there are a few places that could serve for this purpose, for ease of analysis, I will choose the Sherlock Holmes canon by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlock Holmes is a character who defies Victorian convention: he is improper, wears disguises, is a drug user, and associates with the lowest strata of society. And yet, as a detective, he ultimately serves the law and order of Victorian society. In fact, he is indispensable, as any casual reader of the canon will know. This makes Sherlock Holmes an incarnation of a reliance on difference, of multiplicity in unity. Sherlock Holmes therefore is the return of Victorian society’s repressed. The bulk of this paper will, therefore, consist in reading the Holmes canon to discern the return of inclusion from inclusion.

However, in reading the Sherlock Holmes canon, we will read it in a way proper to multiplicity in unity. Only such a reading will be appropriate for the subject at present, which is the self-forgetting and return from repression of that inclusive identity. To do anything else would be to oppose ourselves to the text as something outside, an act that implicitly exclusionary. By doing this, we would only ourselves with the dynamic we are trying to study. However, by reading the text in an inclusive way we will come to realize the ways in which things beyond the text can perpetuate themselves in the text through its movements, not unlike the flow of water in and out of an eddy in a river.

But how can we do this? By reading it for a wholeness or identity in the text that transfigures itself into all of its parts without losing that identity. We will look for that element in it which reproduces itself in each of its parts, that in it which organizes and orders the canon as a whole, as a gestalt. Naturally, this is not a meaning or even a set of meanings but rather a movement. For inclusive identity, as something that perpetuates itself through its parts, is far more like a verb than a noun. Inclusive identity is what happens when you slice an apple with a knife: here, the wholeness can be reduced to neither the apple nor the knife nor the counter but instead the slicing. Reading Sherlock Holmes in this way, we will read it for the verb that occurs throughout the text, for which all the entities in the text (whether they be words, sentences, chapter headings, characters, settings, etc.) only serve as an expedient means.

But we cannot read the whole canon in this way. This would be ungainly and impractical. Instead, we will look for a place in the canon where this implicit movement, this “verb,” this inclusive quality, comes most fully into view. This is following the scientific method of Goethe, who looked for the archetypal manifestation of what he was studying, not abstracting from it from many iterations of it, but seeing where the “Ur-Phenomenon” of that object of study comes most fully to the fore. It is our thesis that this inclusive quality reveals itself most clearly in The Final Problem and The Return of Sherlock Holmes, with the conflict between Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty, and most specifically with the literal events involving Holmes’ apparent death at the Reichenbach Falls. Once we uncover this movement, we will then apply our discovery to features of the whole canon and, thereupon, to the whole Victorian epoch and the history of identity as a whole.

If we take Sherlock Holmes as an embodiment of the return of inclusive identity from repression in exclusive identity, we could say that Professor James Moriarty is the inversion of exclusive identity. In The Final Problem, Holmes describes him as the paragon of Victorian values:

“His career has been an extraordinary one. He is a man of good birth and excellent education, endowed by nature with a phenomenal mathematical faculty. At the age of twenty-one he wrote a treatise upon the Binomial Theorem, which has had a European vogue. On the strength of it he won the Mathematical Chair at one of our smaller universities, and had, to all appearance, a most brilliant career before him.” (Doyle 440)

Moriarty, as the Victorian Wunderkind extraordinaire, is the perfect embodiment of exclusive identity. He is a “man of good birth,” inducted by default into the upper strata of the Victorian society that championed it. He received “an excellent education,” and not only that, but pursued a career in mathematics. Mathematics is the science of exclusion. Mathematics and logic implicitly or explicitly rely on Aristotle’s “law of excluded middle,” where one term is either equal to another term or unequal, where difference is always opposed to identity. James Moriarty is a caricature of exclusive identity; in a sense, he is exclusion

But if one excludes the middle, one can only ever leap to the other side. For Moriarty has abnegated his Victorian mores:

…the man had hereditary tendencies of the most diabolical kind. A criminal strain ran in his blood, which, instead of being modified, was increased and rendered infinitely more dangerous by his extraordinary mental powers. (440)

Moriarty is the embodiment of Victorian exclusive identity, but he abandons that identity. However, he does not abandon exclusion. He has merely flip-flopped. The Victorian paragon he once was, he now opposes; what he once opposed, he now is.

This exclusionary quality even appears in the description given of his countenance. In the first conversation he has with Holmes, Moriarty appears, “clean-shaven, pale, and ascetic-looking, retaining something of the professor in his features.” He moved from side to side “in a curiously reptilian fashion” and peered at Holmes “with great curiosity in his puckered eyes.” These descriptions are of a predator. Moriarty, with no hair, no pigment, no joy, has opposed himself to the milling throngs of life. He is an observer, a detached analyst, a mathematician of being. All this can be summed up by saying that Moriarty “stands back,” for he does not participate. He waits, watches, and then pounces.

The first words that Moriarty says to Holmes evince this reptilian quality: “you have less frontal development than I would have expected…It is a dangerous habit to finger loaded firearms in the pocket of one’s dressing gown” (441) Whatever else this means, the surprise Moriarty shows at Holmes for having “less frontal development” points to the reality we have been alluding to. For neither Holmes nor Moriarty have frontal development. Holmes, of course, is the detached observer, always noting developments, reading the crime scene, etc. However, Moriarty’s eyes, as we have seen above, are “puckered.” That is, they do not look toward the front but instead inward, backward, restrained, retained. They hold onto themselves, never leaping but only, as Nietzsche would say, “blinking.” (Nietzsche 13) And all exclusion “blinks.” It stands back, never acting but only watching, erecting an absolute barrier between thinking and doing, between identity and difference. Identity cannot change without losing itself: to itself, it must be changeless. And Moriarty, the professor of mathematics, with his restrained eyes, perpetually thinks himself.

As such, an exchange on the possibility of knowing then takes place:

“‘You evidently don’t know me,’ said he. “ ‘On the contrary,’ I answered, ‘I think it is fairly evident that I do. Pray take a chair. I can spare you five minutes if you have anything to say.’ “ ‘All that I have to say has already crossed your mind,’ said he. “ ‘Then possibly my answer has crossed yours,’ I replied. (Doyle 441)

Here, Holmes and Moriarty perfectly know each other. Any action the one does is foreseen by the other, and so neither does anything. The intellect has stalemated action; identity has trapped difference. This recapitulates exclusive identity as a whole: it traps the possibility of change. In this game of identity, no change can ever take place, since change by its very nature violates identity. The next lines put this sentiment in startling brevity:

“ ‘You stand fast?’ “ ‘Absolutely.’ (440-441)

In exclusion, the only option is to “stand fast,” to remain what one is, to never relinquish the hold one has upon himself, to never become but only to be forever and ever. As if to further elaborate this point, Moriarty then takes out—not a pistol—but “a memorandum-book in which he had scribbled some dates” (442). Moriarty, who then goes on to recount the places and times that Holmes had crossed his path, is doing what exclusion always does and never stops doing: think. Mathematically, abstractedly, Moriarty has forgone action.

But this cannot last forever, as we see in one of the following paragraphs:

“‘Tut, tut,’ said he. ‘I am quite sure that a man of your intelligence will see that there can be but one outcome to this affair. It is necessary that you should withdraw. You have worked things in such a fashion that we have only one resource left. It has been an intellectual treat to me to see the way in which you have grappled with this affair, and I say, unaffectedly, that it would be a grief to me to be forced to take any extreme measure. You smile, sir, but I assure you that it really would.’ “ ‘Danger is part of my trade,’ I remarked. “ ‘That is not danger,’ said he. ‘It is inevitable destruction. You stand in the way not merely of an individual, but of a mighty organization, the full extent of which you, with all your cleverness, have been unable to realize. You must stand clear, Mr. Holmes, or be trodden under foot.’ (442)

The stalemate of exclusion does not continue. Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty, two embodiments of exclusive identities, each seek to destroy the other, and here we can discern a movement away from exclusion altogether. Exclusion, in its nature, seeks to end what it excludes, to ignore it, to suppress it, even to kill it. However, to do this is to kill itself, for an exclusive identity with nothing left to exclude loses its reason to be. Exclusion is therefore literally suicidal. In perpetuating itself, it inches closer and closer to its own death. By eliminating every enemy, by killing what does not fit its model, it is left with no referent by which it can define that model. In a struggle like this, one is either killed or loses one’s footing: what Moriarty correctly discerns as “inevitable destruction.” Exclusion will give way, like it or not.

This is what Freud observed when he discerned the existence of a “death drive” in the human psyche. In his Beyond the Pleasure Principle, he noticed that in the compulsion victims of trauma have to repeat that trauma in a disguised, symbolic way, a drive more fundamental than all others is showing itself: the drive to return to “an old state of things, an initial state from which the living entity has at one time or another departed and to which it is striving to return by the circuitous paths along which its development leads” (Freud 613). Let us read Freud’s “old state of things,” this state devoid of tension, as the original condition where identity perpetuates itself through difference. This is pure movement, loose, fluid, lithe, uncontaminated by the fixity of exclusion. Exclusion repels, steels itself, defends, and as we have seen, it necessarily seeks its end. Freud’s death drive, then, would be the way the original contradiction of identity in multiplicity seeks to right itself, to liberate of difference from the prison of identity, to bring the life of difference. to an identity cut off from it.

The repetition of trauma, then, is the way difference seeks to perpetuate itself in and through a stubborn identity. This makes sense, of course: trauma is always some violation of a perceived boundary, a safety compromised, a bubble popped, what Freud calls “any excitations from outside which are powerful to break through the protective shield.” (607) Freud notes that war veterans who have injuries rarely experience trauma, whereas those who don’t sustain those injuries endlessly repeat the trauma to process it (610). We can see the injury as the mark of difference on the stubbornness of the body’s identity, and we can read trauma in the uninjured veteran as an attempt of difference to establish itself freely through its exclusive contours.

As a side note, we should note that the characteristics we have noted of Holmes’ and Moriarty’s identities bear the mark of dissociation from an early trauma. Both aloof, both unconcerned with human relationships, both somewhat “inhuman,” they nevertheless seek out fast-paced dangerous situations somewhat compulsively. As such, we could read Holmes and Moriarty’s penchant for crime (whether that shows up as solving or perpetrating them) as ways to relive an early violence against their person. On this note, it is worth noting that the otherwise absurd work Ms. Holmes of Baker Street hits wrongly on the right chord when it asserts that Holmes is a woman in disguise: Holmes does have a crisis of identity, but it is one of trauma and not one of sex or gender (Bradley et. al. 1). Holmes is also addicted to cocaine, and addiction is common for victims of trauma. As such, both are trying to understand, to process, to “master’ an original violence. And this is dangerous for them, as it often is in repeating dangerous traumas.

As Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty make their way to their “inevitable destruction” at the Reichenbach Falls, this trauma—and the difference in it that seeks to weave freely through identity—is compulsively trying to consummate itself. More broadly, the tension of exclusion is here striving to give way. This can happen in two ways. First, identity can perish altogether: it can die, losing itself in the waterfall’s crags and foam. However, it can also maintain itself through the release of tension, coming to terms with difference by realizing not exclusive but inclusive identity. In one, identity would rather die than include; in the other, identity is reborn in inclusion. And we notice that Moriarty and Holmes embody these responses, respectively.

Although The Final Problem ends with Holmes ostensibly perishing in the depths of the waterfall locked in mortal combat with Moriarty, as the subsequent story The Adventure of the Empty House makes clear, Holmes survives. Specifically, won the fight against Moriarty and hurriedly climbed down the cliff side to safety (Doyle 456-457). Reading the waterfall as the portent of exclusion’s extinction, the way it swallows Moriarty and not Holmes points to the two ways that identity responds to the threat of inclusion. Moriarty, as one who flip-flops from the upper crust to the sordid underbelly of society, dies. But Holmes lives. And this happens because Holmes can entertain the possibility of identity in and through difference.

Holmes is removed and abstracted, yes, but he can also impeccably impersonate people very different from himself. He is an actor. Moreover, he can discern the significance of the concrete, reading the significance of a stain on a boot or the length of one’s fingernails in solving a crime. These factors point to a peculiarity of Holmes’ character: he is able to contain tension. As an actor, he can keep track of both his identity and the identity of that person he is impersonating. This is multiplicity in unity, inclusive identity, identity that persists in and by means of change and difference. This propensity toward inclusive also shows up in the details of his observational method: he does not only notice the bric-a-brac of what he sees but the way those bric-a-brac combine to create the details of a scene. He sees neither just the individual details nor the abstracted whole but instead the ways in which those details contribute to the whole. Without its inherent multiplicity, without the relationships that those multiple parts form, without the inclusive factor that arises thereby, he would be able to do no work. In both impersonating and deducing, he can contain the tension of difference in the cauldron of identity.

Speaking in terms of trauma, this means that Sherlock Holmes embodies the healthy response to it. Typically, the trauma repeats itself compulsively in a way that the person is unable to consciously understand. He just does it; he does not know why. He acts out and then pulls himself back to the conscious attitude, in a cycle. He is unable to integrate the trauma’s perspective into his identity. He is unable to entertain the difference the trauma is trying to weave through his being. And in this way (often literal muscular) tension emerges, a defense, a rigid wall against difference that integrates the identity even more. Holmes, however, is broad enough in his identity that he can maintain it between both poles. He can “be both” consciously. And it is only this that enables the trauma to weave difference throughout an identity without killing it altogether.

In the waterfall drama, this means that Sherlock Holmes undertakes the same descent that Moriarty does, but with one crucial difference: he holds on. In descending into the bottom of the waterfall, where exclusion must necessarily give way, he retains his hold. That is, he remains conscious. He keeps a hold of himself; he doesn’t let go. And yet he uses this grip not to ascend but to descend. In other words, he does not try to escape the pit; he goes right into it. That is, what Moriarty does involuntarily, Holmes does voluntarily. Moriarty’s compulsion is Holmes’ volition. Moriarty falls; Holmes climbs down. In terms of identity, this means that Holmes faces the pain of his original trauma, the unbearable movement of difference that threatens self-contained identity, and does so with his identity intact. He does not die but instead only pretends to die. In the Heideggerian vocabulary, he has authentically and resolutely let himself be called forth to his ownmost Being-guilty (Heidegger 353). He “plays out” death and, freed from the compulsion to seek it, rejoins the land of the living.

We thereby arrive at the following formula: Moriarty is identity that comes to terms with difference by losing itself; Holmes is identity that comes to terms with difference by perpetuating itself through difference. In other words, Moriarty is the death drive fulfilled through death; Holmes is the death drive lived through and satisfied without having to die. Moriarty is the futility of literal death; Holmes is the hope of life within and beyond death.

If we now come to our original question, we can ask: what does the emergence of inclusion into exclusion teach us about the origin of exclusion? We have discovered that inclusion emerges into exclusion by a descent: into trauma, into pain, into the threat of difference’s movement, either through literal death or a figurative death whereby unity rediscovers itself in multiplicity. This descent is also an immersion, a headlong rushing into, an enclosure. Each permutation of this movement is one that goes from the expansive toward the compressed, from the outside in, from the above down. It is one of compression, of condensation, of densification. As Holmes must descend into the waterfall’s depths to be “reborn” in this way, identity must always descend to perpetuate itself beyond exclusion.

However, if identity must descend, must intensify, must condensate, to free itself into inclusion, this suggests that the original problem that precipitated inclusion’s self-forgetfulness is descent, is intensification, is condensation. We therefore suggest that exclusion is the repetition of an original, primordial descent, intensification, and condensation. Moreover, notice that these are all words we could use to describe tension, and tension always occurs together with some trauma. Therefore, if trauma can be read as the attempt of difference to weave itself freely through identity, might we also suggest that this is traumatic not only for the exclusive identity proper to the person but also the inclusive identity that weaves through him or her? The trauma repetition compulsion, then, is not proper to exclusion itself but, instead, the inclusion that ontologically precedes it, that lies within and around it, what the philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty calls “the anonymous existence, of which my body is continually the trace” (Merleau-Ponty 370). Trauma repetition, and therefore all tension, is therefore a battle between inclusion and the exclusion that occurs within it as something that “it” surely sees as a cancer.

We therefore suggest, finally, that exclusion was imposed on inclusion as something that upset its freedom of movement. This is the trauma that exclusion violently resists and inclusion vehemently pursues. Exclusion longs to perpetuate itself as itself; inclusion longs to perpetuate itself as other. Inclusion sees the imposition of exclusion as a violence that it strives to repair; exclusion sees this reparation as violence. And while they are both right, they are also both wrong. For the more that exclusion strives to perpetuate itself apart from inclusion, the more inclusion resists those efforts by trying to weave through exclusion. Neither acknowledges the possibility, nay, the reality that trauma is the way inclusion repeats the pain of being passively violated by exclusion by actively violating what has violated it. No one except Sherlock Holmes, that is.

For if trauma is really the way inclusion mimics its violation by exclusion, the way it revenges itself on that exclusion, both sides of being are traumatized. Inclusion feels victimized by exclusion and exclusion feels victimized by inclusion; neither accepts the other. In our presentation of Sherlock Holmes’ death, we observe that he does what very few iterations of being anywhere do: accept the violence done to him as a revelation of his own being. This ends the war: for as soon as exclusion stops fighting, inclusion has nothing to fight for anymore, for inclusion is paradoxically in a war against war. By accepting inclusion as a part of its own being, exclusion forgets itself and so gives to inclusion a cathartic repetition of its own self-forgetting in exclusion. By forgetting himself, Holmes undergoes the original and perpetual pain of being for his own separate existence. And in doing so, he not only heals himself; Holmes heals being.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Incarnation of Goddess

"One can say that the incarnation of the feminine principle in a woman is still on the program for the coming centuries, and is beginning to become urgent today." -Marie Louse Von Franz, The Golden Ass of Apuleius: The Liberation of the Feminine in Man

"In the matriarchal era preceding the patriarchal era, spiritual power was in the hands of the priestesses. Some of the patriarchy’s fear and persecution of the feminine can be traced to these ancestral memories." - Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Spiritual Power

"And it came to pass that Enoch looked upon the earth; and he heard a voice from the bowels thereof, saying: Wo, wo is me, the mother of men; I am pained, I am weary, because of the wickedness of my children. When shall I rest, and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me? When will my Creator sanctify me, that I may rest, and righteousness for a season abide upon my face?" Moses 7:48

And awake, and arise from the dust, O Jerusalem; yea, and put on thy beautiful garments, O daughter of Zion; and strengthen thy stakes and enlarge thy borders forever, that thou mayest no more be confounded, that the covenants of the Eternal Father which he hath made unto thee, O house of Israel, may be fulfilled. - Moroni 10:31

Something is happening. This "something" has been brewing for a very long time, and it will keep brewing for a lot longer, but right now (in a time as short as a year or even shorter) we have the opportunity to help it happen. If we miss this opportunity, there will be others. But we shouldn't ignore it. What is this "something?" It is the incarnation of the Divine Feminine.



Right now we have a caricature of everything wrong with "masculinity" (which has nothing to do with real masculinity, by the way) as president. But even in this cesspool of a situation, in the last month or so, we have had legions of women coming forward to accuse men in Hollywood of sexual misconduct. For a few weeks, Facebook and Instagram feeds ran rampant with a single, haunting hashtag: #metoo. Women are losing their fear. 

Even as this happens, wildfires, earthquakes, and hurricanes rage across the planet. The earth, who has always been seen as a woman, is waking up. And she is angry.

In the last year or so, we have seen many stories of women who save the world from a life-threatening darkness with ancient power and fierce compassion. Moana was one of them. So was Wonder Woman and the video game Horizon Zero Dawn. In all of these and others, women step into their roles as the fierce guardians of innocence, not the meek housewife, not the fawning sycophant, but the incarnation of love in all its fury.

In my life, women have been stepping into their power. My friends are realizing that the feminine was never weak, but far more powerful than anything typically seen on the world stage. I too am realizing the presence in me of a fluidity, a lithe power, a movement and a dynamism that I previously was too afraid to bear. This power, she, is Shakti and the Kundalini serpent; she is Isis (the goddess and not the blaspheming terrorists) mending the broken Osiris;  she is "the woman clothed with the sun" in Revelation; she is the countenance of sheer power that instills more fear in most men than anything else. 

She is coming, and she will petrify whoever opposes her. Enemies of the goddess beware.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Making Things Truer

In contrast, however, suppose that I stand alone and quite independently face in my own heart the necessity of making a “yes” or “no” decision. Then, having answered “yes,” suppose I go forth and do what must be done. This “yes” will have released a strong force within me. When you thus place yourself in consciousness before a choice of alternatives, you allow strength to prevail over weakness simply from the manner in which your decision is made. This is important because in this way the control of the ego over the astral body is greatly strengthened. Try to carry out what I have just described and you will find it will do much to strengthen your will. - Rudolf Steiner, Overcoming Nervousness
Anything, including astrology, can be practiced at any level. One can go to an astrologer and get a negative-6,000 superstitious, fear-inducing reading or a negative-3,000 conformist reading, or a negative-1,500 predictive reading. The reason predictions are unpredictable is that they completely depend on the level on which they are staged. This is why Visionary Activist Principle Zero exhorts: "Believe nothing, entertain possibilities." Even if, because of some fluke, something we believe happens to be true, we are still giving our Saturn away. If we believe in the truth, but we have not earned it through our own work and observation, we are still limited by negative-6,000 superstitions or negative-3,000 group-mind social edicts. - Caroline Casey, Making the Gods Work For You
For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility. - 2 Nephi 2:11 
Let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. - Matthew 5:37 
You write the line. Then, you touch it an compare it to the golden thread you are following. If it is not right, there is a sense of wrongness, an uncomfortable feeling. So, you change the line. You feel into the meanings that are held in the words. You feel how the words sit with each other. You listen to and feel the sound patterns of each individual word and the sentences they create together. And you make slight adjustments, shifting meaning by altering the container. Micro-molecular adjustments. The tiniest of shifts. Now, how does it feel? If you are closer to congruency, the sense of wrongness lessens, the discomfort's not so great. Yet, you can still tell something's not quite right. So, you adjust it again. Eventually, a sense of rightness occurs. A yes that comes from the deep self. Ah. This one is done. - Stephen Harrod Buhner, Ensouling Language: On the Art of Nonfiction and the Writer's Life
So I tend to get lost in my thoughts. A lot. In fact, this is such a problem that I often don't know what I think, don't know what I believe, don't even know who I am. I can think one thing, but as soon as I come across something that contradicts it, I jump ship and believe that. This happens on an hour-by-hour basis. I'm the anti-skeptic: I believe everything, but never at the same time.



This is a problem, yeah? So much so that it's come to a crisis point a few times in the last month. But how can you solve a problem when you need a coherent plan, a thought, to solve a problem, and thoughts are the very problem you're trying to solve? There's no way out.

Except by grace, that is. When I was watching an episode of Swedenborg and Life last Monday, they brought up this quote from Swedenborg's huge interpretation of the first few books of the Bible, and it changed everything:

In addition it should be recognized that it is in accordance with the laws of order that no one should become convinced of the truth instantaneously, that is, should instantaneously be made so sure of the truth that he is left in no doubt at all about it. The reason for this is that when truth is impressed on a person in that kind of way, he becomes so fully convinced of it that it cannot be broadened in any way or qualified in any way. Truth like this is represented in the next life as that which is hard, not allowing good into itself to make it pliable. This goes to explain why in the next life as soon as some truth is presented through plain experience to good spirits, some opposing idea giving rise to doubt is presented. In this way they are led to think and ponder over whether it is indeed a truth, gather reasons in support of it, and so introduce that truth into their minds by the use of reason. This enables their spiritual vision in respect of that truth to be broadened, seeing even into the ideas that are opposed to it. They therefore see and perceive with their understanding every characteristic of the truth, and from this are able to let in the influences coming from heaven as the situation demands; for truths take varying forms as dictated by circumstances. - Emanuel Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia 7298
In the spiritual world, angels and spirits never receive truth by itself. They receive truth, yes, but always together with a falsity that provokes doubt. The pro comes with a con; the yea comes with a nay. So you have a tension, an opposition, where you're no longer able to believe the truth uncritically and without examining it. You have to really look at it, figure out why the one is true and why the other is false.

And that's just what I needed. Lost in beliefs like I was, I was believing them wholesale, without examination.. Truth was truth was truth, I thought: manufactured, ready-made, to-go. But truth isn't truth; truth is just the detritus of good's movement into context. And, by placing a hypothetical truth against its opposite, I can probe for this goodness.

And the way one does this is through feelings. Feelings belong to goodness, and so when one compares the feeling one has of x belief with y belief that directly contradicts it, you have followed truth to its divine source. One will feel relatively brighter and one will feel relatively darker. And this is very, very useful.

For instance, when I run across a belief, I consider that the exact opposite of that belief might just as well be true. For instance, if I found a video by Teal Swan that says that "self-love is the shortcut to enlightenment," it might seem compelling, but in contrast with the contrasting belief, "self-abnegation is the shortcut to enlightenment, it's not so clear. Surprisingly,  "self-abnegation" feels brighter, even if "self-love" feels like it has a smidgin of vitality that the other one doesn't have. Here, the line between truth and falsity has been poorly drawn. Both beliefs have truth, but different aspects of truth shine out in each. So let's ask: what is the "vitality" in "self-love?" How can we assimilate that vitality into the "brighter" self-abnegation? And the answer comes: it is the quality of embodiment, of existing as the body you are, of living life in the physical world, and you don't need to adopt "self-love" to assimilate that vitality. So if I were to group the two good aspects of those beliefs together into a greater truth, it would look like this: "The shortcut to enlightenment is embodied self-abnegation." This feels good. Instead of loving myself against the world, here I am loving the world as it embodies itself in me. The opposite: "The shortcut to enlightenment is disembodied self-love" feels awful. So we've gained some objectivity, some clarity.

And a cool thing with this is that every "truth" is relatively false. Every embodiment of goodness could better embody that goodness. For if you take any truth, any belief, you can ask yourself: what modification to it would make it more true, would make it "brighter?" And you mess with it until you feel that brightness.

This works for any form of goodness. Even the "feeling signatures" of people. There's a girl in my class who I don't normally think about, but on the edge of sleep, I had the (loopy) thought that I could embody her feeling signature and then "one-up" it in this way, make the energy I emanated that much brighter in comparison. So I did, and I was immediately overcome by the strongest spiritual light I've ever felt in my body. To make the bright seem dark is to become really bright.

Moreover, this works not just for light vs. darkness but for any feeling signature. Let's say you're buying a present for a friend. You have two options of what to get her: a book or a rolling pin. Reading the "feeling signature" of both options, you aren't reading for "light vs. darkness" but for "feels like my friend vs. doesn't feel like my friend." One will feel more "like her" than the other one. Instead of feeling toward God in your gift-giving, you're feeling toward her.

You can also use this to "home in" on spiritual beings. Say you've isolated a feeling signature for a certain spiritual presence. By feeling out what feels more or less like that presence, you can learn a lot about it. What books feel "like" it? What movies? What quote? Before you know it, you've built a complicated gestalt that "traces" that spiritual being's countenance. You've spray-painted the Invisible Man.

Finally, if you're set on embodying a certain "feeling signature," a certain "vibration," at a given moment, you can use similar tools. If I want to embody a certain chakra's energies, for instance, I'll compare to feeling states to each other and ask myself which one is more desirable for that chakra. Then I'll embody the more desirable one and look for a feeling even further in that direction. There's no limit here.

In short, be smart with your feeling senses. We aren't living up to our privileges here.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

How to be Good

Someone fully taken over by the wetiko bug is like a kitten endlessly reacting to her reflection in a mirror, thinking it is another kitten separate from and other than herself, as she becomes conditioned by her own energy. Wetikos react to their own projections in the world as if they objectively exist and are other than themselves, delusionally thinking that they have nothing to do with creating that to which they are reacting - Paul Levy, Dispelling Wetiko
While Lucifer sucks the juice out of the lemon, as it were, Ahriman presses it out, thereby hardening what remains. - Rudolf Steiner, Inner Impulses of Evolution: The Mexican Mysteries and the Knights Templar 
I was a hidden treasure; I longed to be known. Hence I created the world so that I would be known. - Islamic Hadith
There are only two principles: goodness and truth. Goodness is merely the desire for truth; truth is what goodness desires. Anything true is desired by goodness; anything good desires truth.



But the priority between love and truth can invert itself. Instead of goodness loving truth, through a slippery slope, "what is" determines the desire for it. You think “Ah! A wild x appears! That must be what I want.” In this inversion, you think that wherever you happen to be is all there is to life, which does not at all follow. This "wherever you happen to be" is what Swedenborg called a falsity, and the desire for it is what he called evil. When George Bernard Shaw said that “patriotism is … a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it,” he wasn’t just being polemical. Nationalism and bigotry happen because we assume that the falsity of the “here and now” is more important than the "thee and then" because it's here.There's no problem with your country; it may be great, but it's not great because you were born in it. Likewise, your football team may be the best, but it's not best because it's your hometown's team. If you fall into the trap of evil and falsity, the near swallows the far and the now swallows the then. 

But wickedness was never happiness. Desires always have goodness at their heart, but they have become hypnotized by falsity and fallen in love with that hypnotism.  If we really want to be happy, we’ll desire what really fulfills that desire, not the convenient, falsified substitute. Every sinful desire, its impulse purified by the truth's context, becomes a virtue. You will not be angry but instead zealous; not lustful but full of everlasting burnings; not egotistical but boastful of God. And this desire, this love, isn’t exclusive to you. Really, anyone’s joy is your joy. The good of each is the good of all. With this shift of perspective, scarcity vanishes. You live as anyone that you talk to, that you see on the street, on TV, or in the history books. This love living in you plays our near and far. It is not constrained by “here” and “now.” It takes no thought for space and time.

And yet space and time are not evil; they are merely the source of evil, and this is only because they appear to separate us from each other and lead us to think that we really are separate. But we are not. Space and time have been in charge, but they belong in the back seat. Space and time are truth, but truth should serve goodness and not vice versa. Then, no longer constrained by where I happen to be, I can finally enjoy where I happen to be. The here and now become a gift instead of a compelling burden. The present ceases to be a fleeting treasure to be hoarded; it, like every other moment, reveals itself as the face of God. The universe becomes transparent, no longer an opaque war of each against each.

So, "how to be good?" Love truth, not abstractions. That is, love the twisting, folding, mutually implicating play that is life itself and not the wooden substitute of your own thoughts. Don't love one side of an arbitrary line over another, whether that line be a fence between countries or your very skin. Put in a different way: don't give up on what is, and don't give up on your happiness. These two great evils are based on the falsity of a crude opposition between truth and goodness, between reality and our longings. We either resign ourselves to being life's slave or try to make life our slave. We must conquer or submit, no in-between. But God isn't a slave driver, and neither are you. Life isn't a chess game. It seems that way because of the wide spaces and long stretches of time in this world, but these emptinesses and intervals, seen properly, do not separate but unite. Imperfection, like the space between the eyes of two people in love, is the absence that allows presence. If you get rid of ol' imperfect you, God has no reality to love. And if you put yourself in charge, you become as lonely as a God without creation.  In neither case are you together. One is the loneliest number, but two - and the emptiness that two needs, is company. And that's the truth.