Friday, February 01, 2013

Magic = Spirit x Birth²

A gnote of order before we begin: in discussing this letter -- and the whole book, really -- I will be "attempting" to demonstrate its meaning -- and the meaning of its meaning -- in real timelessness. Yes, the old Raccoon Promise: eternity while you wait! (Or double your lousy karma back.)

I place "attempting" in scare quotes, because one of the central points of this first letter is that no such attempt is possible. For one cannot try to play. There is no such thing as compulsory spontaneity. Except maybe at an Obama rally.

Really, the best I can do is to simply give up and find out, with the rest of you pslackers, where the windbag blows, because I sure don't know.

Nor do I have any authority, if that's what you're thinking! (And only a troll would think that.) To the extent that "authority" becomes present, I can assure that it's not coming from me. However, that doesn't mean the authority isn't fully real, if you catch his draft.

Thus, Letter I, the Magician, begins with the following well known crack by this mysterious master named Jesus: "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but you have no idea where it comes from and not a clue where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

What is the context of this puzzling statement, and what does it have to do with the Magician? Jesus has just explained that seeing what he calls the "kingdom of heaven" requires undergoing a "second birth," this one of spirit, not of water.

Now -- little sidebore here -- the further back in history we travel, the more concretely and palpably words such as pneuma, psyche, and nous are understood. In his classic The Discovery of the Mind, Snell writes that psyche, for example, is "the force that keeps the human being alive" and "forsakes man at the moment of death" (d'oh!). It is "breathed forth" and exits through the mouth or through a wound.

Likewise, nous may often "simply be translated as 'to see.'" Thus, Homer can say that the nous of a god such as Zeus "is ever stronger than that of men," which implies that it -- the divine intellect -- is a kind of "mental eye which exercises an unclouded vision."

More generally, Snell makes the important point that, instead of translating Homer to contemporary English, we really need to translate our own speech -- and by implication, our own way of thinking -- into the language and thought of antiquity.

The same holds true of biblical language, for when Jesus uses a word such as "wind" it has a palpable link to spirit and soul (breath). We don't know -- nor does anyone else -- where thoughts come from and where they blow.

So, as to how the Master knows these things -- i.e., the source of his mysterious authority -- he says that he simply speaks of what he knows and describes what he sees. You might say that the kingdom of heaven is what the awakened or illuminated intellect (nous) sees; or, this dimension called heaven "comes into view" with the second birth. There is no need to strictly define it before the birth, any more than you want to plan your child's life before you even meet him.

Spirit, birth², authority, heaven, intellectual vision. I guess we'll have to get to the end of the chapter to fully understand how these relate to the Magician, but in any event, Tomberg says that Jesus's words here are the key to opening this image, and that this image is the key to all the others. To put it inversely, the meaning of this image -- and of all the others -- is closed to the onceborn.

Tomberg says that the purpose of the arcana is to awaken the deeper layers of the soul. The image that immediately blows into my mind is the earth's atmosphere. Herebelow the air is usually pretty stable, punctuated by breezes and zephyrs, with the occasional hurricane or tornado thrown in.

But this is just an illusion, because not too far overhead we have the howling vortex of the jet stream blowing wherever the hell it wants to, and there's not enough xanax in the world to stop it.

Tomberg points out that the arcana are not just allegories, but authentic symbols. An allegory is a figurative and concrete representation of an abstract notion, and therefore involves the opposite of the cognitive movement Snell describes above. In other words, we want to go from abstract to concrete, not the other way around.

An authentic symbol, on the other hand, will simultaneously "conceal and reveal" (what I call "reveil") its essence, depending upon the depth of vision. (Remember Jesus's statement that he is simply describing what he sees, and the etymological link between sight and nous.)

So none of this is "secret." Or, to be perfectly accurate, it is an "open secret," but a secret that protects itself. The image comes to mind of a hybrid CD, in which one layer has the standard CD encoding, while a deeper layer contains the SACD encoding. A standard machine will read the CD layer, but know nothing of the SACD layer. It's there, of course, but for the standard player it may as well not exist.

You playa's out there may want to give that some thought, because there's a whole world of highdef information you're missing out on.

Now these highdef secrets are not "out there," so to speak, but rather, they inhere in here. This "kingdom of heaven" is within, don't you know.

However, it's like a field or a womb, a kind of generative matrix. And, just like a field or a womb, it needs to be fertilized. Yes, things grow in there, but not unless we become fertile. No fertility, no harvest, no bread, no eat. Again, very concrete, not abstract at all.

Assuming fertility, in order to conceive we will need a seed, a ferment, an enzyme, a catalyst, some yeast. Little help, please! The presence of these will stimulate our "spiritual and psychic life." Bearing in mind those literal meanings, they should make the windbelow a little more gnosisable.

Fertility should lead to birth. But that's not the end of it. Rather, as you parents out there realize, it's only the beginning. Furthermore, birth -- and prior to that, conception -- is the quintessential mystery, isn't it? And we are of course speaking both literally and literally, i.e., of both persons and of spiritual ideas (and their consequences!).

Again, spiritual ideas don't just come from nowhere. Rather, like people, they come from somewhere, we just don't know where. What we do know is that in both cases we need fertility (preconception), fertilization (conception), birth (concept), and nurturing (growth).

For Tomberg there is only one Mystery. We shall call this Mystery O for short. When our light strikes O, it breaks out into a rainbow-like prism, and this indeed is our proper prismhouse with all those mansions.

This prismhouse contains all the slackraments needed for further growth into and toward O. Each slackrament is a color in the heavenly reignbelow, and each color has virtually infinite shades.

I don't know why, but I am always entranced by this palette of colors, and our freakish ability to make these tiny distinctions in the realm of light.

Look at the many types of blues, for example. I remember Willie Dixon saying that you can get one type of blues from your girlfriend leaving, another kind when she comes back. One kind from being unemployed, another kind from having a job. You cry when you're born, but dying is no picnic either. That's just how it is down here in this world of fluctuation and enigma.

Well, we really didn't get too far today, did we? Oh well. You know what they say about the wind.

23 Comments:

Blogger Magister said...

blues power

2/01/2013 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Heh. One time I was working on a design project, and the print job came back with the wrong blue. I had been using rgb to design, but printing was in cmyk, and that particular hue didn't translate. The difference was subtle but noticeably worse and somewhat unpleasant. We came up with a workaround, but it was a challenge.

2/01/2013 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Many shades of blue.

I'd dropped my wife off at the doctor's office the other day and headed off to do some stuff -- including airing up the tires on her vehicle. While I was doing that, a black gentleman on the bus bench started talking to me. He had just gotten off work. He had to be home before his daughter got off school, and he had just missed the previous bus. It wasn't too far -- but old knees are sympathetic, so I told him to hop in and I'd run him over there.

He sits down and says, "Ah, I got woman trouble."

I said, "The worst kind."

2/01/2013 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Re. fertilization, it's been going through my mind lately that whatever grows from the ground is in fact the ground. The seed, after all, is in a sense merely a set of instructions. The mature plant consists entirely of earth, sunlight and water, rearranged. The fertile field, in a sense, is already alive; it just awaits a cosmic depth charge to express that life...

2/01/2013 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Tomberg says that the purpose of the arcana is to awaken the deeper layers of the soul.

He uses the word "enzyme". We could probably say catalyst or template or jig -- it's something you can use to get things in order, aligned and in the right place.

2/01/2013 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

They do call DNA a blueprint.

2/01/2013 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

And also speaking of fertility, this is what happens when culture becomes so secularized that it remains unleavened by any higher Truth than simple, self-centered (and ultimately onanistic) materialism.

Why is the population imploding? Because they have forgotten that it is good to be fruitful and multiply.

2/01/2013 12:07:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Yes, life is raised from the ground below by the light from above. But even the below comes from above: We are made from stardust and sunshine. But it's been quite a while since the star part, admittedly.

2/01/2013 02:58:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

When I point out the coming population implosion to those on the left, they generally see it as a good thing. Because, according to them, there are "too many people" and not enough resources.

Of course, that doesn't prevent most of those types from taking full advantage of the comforts of modern life. Nor does it prevent them from reflexively endorsing the enlargement of the welfare state.

Unconcerned, as to who exactly is supposed to provide all that for them. Certainly not the children they--like myself, alas-- will never have.

Unsurprisingly, they are unable to see the irony.

2/01/2013 04:11:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

One fun game is to reply, "I don't think there are too many people."

Watch the synapses burn!

2/01/2013 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Hmmmmm those blues got me searching, found nice
spectra
so dogs don't pick up 'red'...

2/01/2013 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger Christina M said...

I sat in on a botany class this week and the instructor did a good job of describing how water molecules move up through a huge tree from the roots to the pores on the underside of the leaf. It reminds me of this discussion. It's the water molecule that evaporates from pore exit that pulls the next molecule out, which in turn pulls the next one out like a long train of water.

I had a chance to think about the terrifying nature of Pentacost wind this week as very strong winds moved through middle TN during the night. The tornado alarm kept going off, and you could hear this massive amount of wind coming towards you, but I found I can not describe what it sounded like.

I still have the battered index card that I carried in my pocket from my first reading of this first chapter. The reason it took me so long to read the MOTT, was that I got stuck on the first instruction and never felt I got anywhere near to mastering it: "Learn at first concentration without effort; transform work into play; make every yoke that you have accepted easy and every burden that you carry light!"

2/01/2013 05:40:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed in the past couple of days that Tarot card images are suddenly popular? Vanderleun has had a few in his sidebar/ side blogs, and there's one in the overnight thread at Ace's tonight. I want to say I've seen a couple of others, too, but don't remember where off the top of my head.

It just seems an odd meme for right-leaning blogs, and funny that they should come up the same week as MOTT...

2/01/2013 07:22:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Christina - yes, that's one of those concepts that is very simple, and also very difficult to implement, especially when life gets difficult.

Back to fertility, the WSJ has an editorial up about the American demographic decline. Ultimately, though, it all boils down to the same thing: it doesn't matter how many incentives are handed down from the State. If the culture doesn't value life more than it values "fun" and "happiness" (the modern version, which probably doesn't much resemble what the Founders had in mind), then the population will fall.

Also, I find it sadly amusing that so many people seem to buy into the idea that fertility can be outsourced, as though immigrants and their descendents will somehow be immune to the same forces that make their host countries infertile. The only cases where that tends to be happen are where the immigrant culture refuses to assimilate, but of course there are serious problems with that approach, too...

2/02/2013 07:15:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

"Learn at first concentration without effort; transform work into play; make every yoke that you have accepted easy and every burden that you carry light!"

Is it just me or does it take a massive amount of effort to become effortless?

2/02/2013 07:15:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

This may be a contentious explanation of the demographic crash, but I think it goes a long way to clarifying the issue.

Warning: it is a 35 minute long video. From Canada!





2/02/2013 07:45:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Jack said "Is it just me or does it take a massive amount of effort to become effortless?"

Yes...and no (Or no and yes). :^)

2/02/2013 08:53:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

An allegory is a figurative and concrete representation of an abstract notion, and therefore involves the opposite of the cognitive movement Snell describes above. In other words, we want to go from abstract to concrete, not the other way around. An authentic symbol, on the other hand, will simultaneously "conceal and reveal" (what I call "reveil") its essence, depending upon the depth of vision. (Remember Jesus's statement that he is simply describing what he sees, and the etymological link between sight and nous.)"

That's an important distinction.
The Mob ain't the only ones who like concrete.

2/02/2013 08:57:00 AM  
Blogger whitney said...

I was just listening to a cooking show and they were talking about making your own mustard. My mind drifted to the parable of the mustard seed. Then they talked about how mustard seeds are notoriously difficult to grind up and you must soak them first. I think I just realized the addendum to the parable. Soak us in iniquity and then we will be much easier to grind up.

2/03/2013 03:39:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

For those of you open to transcendental shoegaze dream pop, big news! Last night MBV released a follow up to their classic album "Loveless" 22 years later...it sounds compelling!

MBV's New Album

2/03/2013 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Excellent observation and insight, Whitney!

2/03/2013 01:19:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Ted, MBV sounds similar to Tangerine Dream. Personally, I like Tangerine Dream better but MBV ain't bad.
Of course, music preferences are definitely subjective.

2/03/2013 01:24:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Lovechild
of Janet Reno & Janet Napolitano

[the guy can sure pick winners dept.]

2/03/2013 03:20:00 PM  

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