Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Life Returns to the Uroboros/ Space does not Go Anywhere/ Section 19/ Revision

Brian George

“I don't develop; I am.”—Pablo Picasso

In “The Republic, Book X,” Plato writes, “When all the souls had chosen their lives, they went before Lachesis. And she sent with each, as the guardian of his life and the fulfiller of his choice, the daimon that he had chosen, and this divinity led the soul first to Clotho, under her hand and her turning of the spindle to ratify the destiny of his lot and choice, and after contact with her, the daimon again led the soul to the spinning of Atropos to make the web of its destiny irreversible, and then without a backward look it passed beneath the throne of Necessity.”
As you read (or hear) this, my voice echoes in your short-term and then long-term memory. As I speak to myself I imagine your—as of yet—nonexistent face. We both ask, “Who let YOU in here?” Daylight savings time assaults the nocturnal light of dreams. It does no good. Earth suddenly goes black. The transparent moon returns. To what end should we argue about the title of the preexistent death-flash video? Dreams hang on the tree of knowledge. It continues to sprout branches. Images are waiting for whoever stops to try them on.

Though indifferent to their desire, the perfect reproduce. Cities land on clouds. At first, most bodies are approximate, more like holograms. Prone to static, they fade in and out. For this reason, there must be more of them all the time. An epileptic bird damns robots to the labyrinth, where they must labor until they rust and fall apart. In the process, they discover that they are able to shed tears, if only for themselves. Next, they go in search of blood. Their new oyster-like use-once-and-throw-away bodies soon provide them with an ocean of the stuff. In time, they learn to put the extra in a bank. Earth’s rulers act at a distance, as mechanics reverse the pull of the great magnet of dissociation, which, for the past 12,000 years, has arranged our actions in its field. YOU ARE NOT WHERE YOU ARE. Unlike me, you do not see with your eyes closed; no, you keep them open, for they show you many things. Only certain of them are true. Coming face to face with your shadow, you tend to jump out of your skin. This is not good for either one of us, and, too often, I have to surgically remove your shadow from my feet.
Like freight trains derailing, the planets screech from their orbits. But who is this standing at the foot of my bed? You have one eye too many, you are brighter than the sun, and your head is far too conical. We had agreed that you would stay in your own world, and I in mine. Your thin hands violate the precession of the equinox. It is clear to me stranger that your tribe grows monstrous. Your prehistoric boats now dare to take x-rays of Omphalos!
Of course, it is also clear that you do not approve of me. I copulate with a race of questionable gods. A starfish is my master. The most considerate thing would be for each of us to go back where we came from. Symbols exchange fluids. You wake smelling of the ocean. Someone has put seaweed in your hair. A squid snores beside you. Is everything ok? A spell enforces the inviolate order of appearances.
What a strange thing it is for the self to be inhabited by the other. How strange to be almost dead, to be viewed by other subjects as an object. What a strange thing it is to forget one's mother tongue. How strange to be an omnipotent mushroom trapped inside an atom. How strange to find yourself projected into someone else's dream—to know it is not yours, but not be able to get out.
There is a unique horror to such experiences. How odd, since they are nothing if not common. How quickly the disorientation is written off as over. Hermes goes in one ear; a pedestrian falls out the other. Amnesia voids the traveling violation. The ego is a useful construct; it allows us to take possession of even the most surreal of events.
Perhaps each of us inhabits and acts out not one but many dreams. Their intersection allows us to create a role for choice. If the role is real, it is also perhaps more circumscribed than we are willing to admit.
In the physical world each actor sees himself as the enormous central character, without whom no story would exist. The actor is provisionally conscious. Let us say that the ego gets with the preexistent program. The actor conscientiously follows where the death-flash video leads, as the future and the past trade places. You are that actor, the remnant of the shadow of an enigma, the warrior once swallowed by the dream. You will work with the phenomena that present themselves. You will use what is put before you.
Doors open as you pass. Impediments dissolve. Your head cracks like a seed, whose two halves split into four and then into eight and then into 64. Junk DNA becomes an encyclopedia, whose spiral stairway you are free to wander up and down, and whose volumes, A to Z, can be read from back to front or front to back, or from the middle out, or in no particular order at all. It does not appear that your memory is native to the Earth. Your arms reach for the land of no return, where a radioactive treasure blossoms. Again, proving the second law of thermodynamics wrong, the empires that were locked inside of an atom fall up, as do the terrible secrets that were coiled in your coccyx. Your heart is in your mouth. A breeze harvests you.
If you cooperate with the instructions that the Three Fates have embedded in the dream, it is possible that you may actually have fewer choices. Paradoxically, you may also experience a greater wealth of opportunities. Freedom becomes less of a burden in becoming less rational and more intuitive; action becomes an aspect of attention. An instruction manual on ecstatic death appears, a bit wrinkled from the floodwater, perhaps, but just lying on your doorstep and waiting to be picked up. As if we were creatures of habit! As if random events were able to diagnose our trauma and to prescribe a course of treatment before we knew that we had been hurt! As if we and not the Deluge had all along been the problem!
Once, even after it grew bigger than an atom, the world was much smaller than it is today. It was just about the same size as a human eye, although the beings that inhabited it were almost infinitely large. Sex leads us by a thread around each of 28 U-turns, where, in spite of its low status, it is always adept at interpreting the most arcane of symbols. Meanwhile, spirit’s avatars are exposed as being far hornier than we thought. It would seem that the lowest and the highest energies work all too closely together! Boundaries are plastic. Voices interpenetrate. Each time like the first, you meet those that you have met a great many times before. Faces serve as cues to prompt the interest of the dead, who, for the past 12,000 years, have had better things to do, but who, for whatever reason, seem to once again be motivated to collaborate on a project. As you exit the labyrinth, light towers to the sky. You are right at home. The hand of synchronicity throws gifts across your path.
(Illustration: Max Beckman, Journey on a Fish)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

"At the Crossroads: An Astrologer Looks at These Troubled Times"--Review

By Brian George

“The first man must have seen auguries everywhere, he must have trembled at each step that he took.”—Giorgio de Chirico, 1913

I was a great admirer of Jessica Murray’s book “Soul-Sick Nation; An Astrologer Looks at America,” which I regard as one of the most incisive, intuitive, and provocative analyses of the escalating crises faced by the US in the first decade of the 21st Century. I eagerly awaited her next book, “At the Crossroads; An Astrologer Looks at these Turbulent Times,” which was published in June of 2012. In the months that I have been savoring this work, again and again I have found myself—quietly—exclaiming, “Of course, of course, that’s it!” When an author is able to enter into the secret chambers of the Zeitgeist, it is as though she is also reading your own deepest fears and dreams and thoughts.

Murray refers to herself as an “archetypal astrologer”: Astrological transits are analyzed less in terms of their purely personal and predictive aspects and more in terms of the alchemical challenges that they pose. She writes, for example, ““As the transit of Neptune (spiritual yearning) to the US Moon suggests, beneath America’s panic about the economy is a malaise that has nothing to do with the material world. Clients who visit an astrologer these days and insist that all they want to talk about are ‘practical’ issues like their 401Ks are missing the point. As distressing as the financial facts are, the deeper issue is of psycho-spiritual health.” Astrology is predictive, yes, but this has to do with the arrangement and rearrangement of archetypal scenery on the stage. Every stage-set is provisional, and we act within a tiny cone of light, beyond which we must learn to see.

At each moment, a particular thing is waiting to occur—like a half-formed sentence in the unconscious of a writer—yet it is we who must translate impulse into action, and, by pulling a focused image from the Rorschach blot of forces, determine what this moment means. “Astrological archetypes work as an interpretive schema because ‘real life,’ just like dream life, is a flow of symbols. An angry dog barking at you on the day of a Mars transit is a symbol. So are big collective happenings like political movements, oil spills, and tsunamis.” As in a dream, each image has both an inner life and a certain open-endedness: The dream comes fully into existence only as we tell the story of it, which we are simultaneously in the process of enacting in our lives. I would refer to this as the primordial mode of vision: No event is so trivial that it cannot be seen within the context of an archetype. Conversely, no archetype is so great that it has ceased to have a moment by moment involvement—and even, perhaps, interest—in our actions.

James Hillman, in “The Soul’s Code,” writes, “Maybe the invisibles are interested in our lives for the sake of their realization and as such are inherently democratic: Anyone will do…The angel has no way of descent into the streets of the public common except via our lives. In the film ‘Wings of Desire,’ angels fall in love with life, the street life of ordinary human predicaments.”

For the archetypes are just gods that have not yet put on our clothes. Once doing so, they may no longer be able to read by the light of their own bodies, and fall victim to the next fad in full daylight spectrum lamps.

In the mid-1980s, I had a roommate who was very excited by his discovery of Jane Roberts, who, in “Seth Speaks,” was the originator of the meme that “we create our own reality.” This was the phrase that launched a thousand weekend workshops. At the time, however, I was surrounded by quite a number of occultists and ceremonial magicians—a plethora of competing Maguses—so that this idea did not have the impact on me that it did on many others. It did not seem especially challenging or unique. Early on, I came to regard the phrase as a kind of marketing slogan, like “You’re In Good Hands With Allstate” or “Things Go Better With COKE.” The imposition of one’s magical will upon the world did not strike me as a worthwhile goal. I was far more interested in Matthew Fox’s “Creation Spirituality,” and the idea that we are the “co-creators” of the cosmos, whose role within the scheme of things is both key and mercurial. It is this emphasis on the interplay between self and cosmos, in which neither term is more important than the other, which also excites me about Murray’s work.

If our proper role is to serve as catalytic agents in the drama of “world creation,” “world centering,” and “world renewal,” as many Mesoamerican cultures believed, then we should not be especially preoccupied with the fulfillment of our personal desires. We have bigger fish to fry, and, at any moment, the Earth might suddenly be pulled out from beneath us.

Even though, from about the age of 20, I have been fascinated by—if not obsessed with—the idea of time cycles, I tend, for the most part, to shy away from any type of linear predictions. It’s not that we can’t get a good sense of which archetypal forces are in play, but rather that, once we invest our energy in a particular year or date—such as 2012—it can too easily become a blank projection screen for all of our subconscious contents. It is here, indeed, that a trap has been set for us, if we desire to become full citizens of the Commonwealth of the Zodiac. In “At the Crossroads,” Murray does a terrific job of impartially charting the interplay of microcosmic and macrocosmic forces that conspire to create the shifting stage-set we inhabit. To some extent, this may be because she does not hesitate to give darkness credit for playing a central and quite necessary role. As she says, “Out of respect for the mystery of free will,” we should not “second-guess the energies afoot. There is plenty of fear in the air, and we should avoid it like the plague.”

If we desire to respond to the planetary crisis not with fear but with curiosity, “We cannot do this,” writes Murray, “unless we loosen our allegiance to the literal significations of the archetypes. Indeed, many astrologers see the literal level of events as being merely the universe’s ploy of last resort: the means by which the cosmos gets its point across when the recalcitrant human mind fails to comprehend it any other way…For those who believe that everything in life is a symbol, even catastrophic events can be seen as invitations into an unprecedented state of possibility. To view global warming and its attendant Earth changes this way is to see that an infinite number of potential scenarios are at our disposal. The years ahead start to look not like an ending, but a beginning: a tabula rasa.”

In analyzing the pathologies of our cultural moment—a moment that has been millennia in the making—I never feel that Murray is acting out of unresolved psychic conflicts, that she is trying to make herself seem important, or that she is manipulating data to prove some predetermined point. Too often, I find that writers give in to the temptation of using metaphysical concepts as the accessories of a lifestyle—the trap of “spiritual materialism” that Chogyam Trungpa spoke about. Subtle insights become grand CGI illusions. Their fears: a species die-off; their hopes: a paradise that is always just about to happen. They would like to be rock stars, but have somehow ended up as gurus, and, not having come to terms with the real but limited function of the ego, are constantly lecturing others on the need for shattering it altogether. Murray’s work, on the other hand, is the antidote to claustrophobia. It is bracing and, quite naturally, vast. As I read it, I can feel a wind from the edge of space begin to leak through all of my windows. There is nowhere to hide, and yet, curiously, nothing that needs to be hidden. Wounds and all, we are free to be the Promethean children that we are. For the sky is, indeed, a mother.

The sky is tolerant, and it is possible that she knows the end to every story, as do we, in our less combative moments. For better or worse, we must keep to the schedule that she has set.

Given our tendency to project our thinking in straight lines, or, to put this another way, due to our habit of seeing “with” and not “through” our eyes, we might like to imagine that we are “evolving” beyond the personal, whose vehicle is the “ego,” and that, once a critical mass of enlightenment has been reached, we will simply fix, transform, or transcend the planetary crises that we face. Perhaps we will; then again, perhaps we won’t: We act upon a stage-set where no results are guaranteed. But if we do not “create our own reality,” as this is conventionally understood, Murray nonetheless reminds us that we did, before birth, choose to experience our lives exactly as they are, and with whatever peculiar mix of forces are in play. She writes, “As meaning-seekers regarding these intimidating transits, we walk a fine line. We must neither lapse into unrealism about their severity, nor forget that although the trends they suggest are immutable, their specific manifestations are not.” Our attitudes do have some degree of importance, after all. We cannot use them to create “ex nihilo,” but, by finding the balance point of the forces now in motion, we may be able to determine how the megaliths were raised, and, again, with our hands, begin to shift them as they hover.

We have work to do. In front of us, we see footprints that we had left there long ago. If we fail, as well we might, our failure will most probably be due to a split-second lack of attention, and yet success will not in any way depend upon the accident of our survival.

Our freedom of action is moderated by our willingness to learn how to read. Far easier said than done, of course! How odd that simple things, which pertain to our primordial function in the world, can now seem almost infinitely complex, while complex things, which pertain to the development of a technological dream world, can seem, due to all of our dead habits, infinitely simpler than they are. By remembering how to read the language of the stars, and by adapting to the open-endedness of the challenge posed by the archetypes, we might, as Murray says, be able to “respond, rather than merely react, to these turbulent times.”