Following on the success of poetry collections Night Giver (self-published) and Ghostlord (Solar Luxuriance, 2014), the Uranian gnostic poetry and caustic visionary tales of Chris Moran find their newest and most complete expression to date in Psyche and Specter, released in 2021 on Terror House Press.
We are told early on in this collection that relation of the human spirit to the higher and upper airs is best explored with Tangerine Dream on the stereo. The outer and inner worlds are explored from esoteric enclaves where monastic reverie happens upon a clash of forces incomprehensible yet beckoning.
“I sense that I am in deep trouble with these rebel angels. I owe them something. I owe them something and it is not money.”
There is not enough garlic in your quinoa to keep the vampires at bay; in fact, these fetch-beasts eat protection magic for breakfast. There’s no point summoning anything whatsoever: the shades, the Old Ones, and the Men-in-Black have breached the walls some time ago. The self and wakeworld are already dissolving into unrecognizable states of consciousness. There’s no crack in the firmament… until you see it, and then you can never return. Your voice is your voice, until it’s not – in that moment when you yourself echo that daimonic command issued here in the poem THE BODY HARP: “Take what I give you and disembowel the sky.”
A FRAGMENT from “PLUTO’S LAW” by Chris Moran iron phosphate a fine network of veins
neural gematria triangulate
the spirit, the sphinx, the Sefer Yetzirah
syndicate of black sorcerers
gaseous membranes intelligent clouds arrive on Urantia to siphon the air into another dream
And while the gnosis Moran is detailing here does not so much set out in search of experience as much as become beset, set upon, by the forces of the outer dark, he does leave us an Ariadne’s thread of references: oblique and obvious, to Carlos Castaneda, Phillip K Dick, John Keel, Herman Hesse, Roberto Bolaño, Whitley Strieber, kabbalistic angelology and goetic sigils, The Shiva Sutras of Vasgupta, conspiracy channels on YouTube… And it all culminates in the epic “CHANT OF THE NETHER SPHERES”, the longform and ultimate piece which occupies the latter half of this collection. I suspect that “the last Romantic poet” and early weird fiction writer, Clark Ashton Smith, would be quite proud of the ethereal violence on display in this text. Perhaps we also hear echoes of Will Alexander or Eugene Thacker in the dissonant verbal concretions which seem to go beyond poetry into the realm of anonymous materials, the place where a “wave of biometric cadavers embraces oceans of the invisible.”
These poems occupy the nonplace of all dreams – where the blunt light illuminates Kafka-esque rueful cosmic laughter and cybernetic ventriloquist deception more often than anything recognizable as what we call “enlightenment” or “salvation”. Much is made nowadays of the term “unverified personal gnosis” – I imagine this text might wear that insult as a badge of honor. Grace descends to us only to the extent that we charge the gates and occupy the spectral cathedrals of the higher airs, but it is not apparent that we can remain ourselves if we tarry there for long.
The volume is a fine paperback; the attention to enjambment and page layout distinctive in Moran’s work is apparent throughout. The artwork and jacket are thoughtfully designed; the cover art leaves me very curious about the attributions of the moon and the sun. It is clear that this poet dances inbetween and further than the spheres, spheres beyond system, worlds without end.
A FRAGMENT from “APOPLEXY OF THE STARS” by Chris Moran yes in this black dimension I radiate DNA in the silver way
a matrix of sword and sound dissolved in decay
in the underworld the lion-headed man stalked me, magnetized to my fear siphoning the dream-stream into darker dimensions
yet Bhairava has set a flame in my heart magnetized to the density of decay-
Recommended for further sci-fi gnostic exploration:
The Last Oblivion – Clark Ashton Smith, Hippocampus Press Cults of the Shadow – Kenneth Grant, Starfire Press The Voudon Gnostic Workbook – Michael Bertiaux, Weiser Press
Roberto Calasso’s legacy as a thinker, writer and publisher has yet to be truly reckoned with in our times. After his passing in July 2021 at the age of 80, numerous posthumous translations of his later works are beginning to appear in English.
The Book of All Books (FSG, 2021) is the tenth entry in a gripping, sprawling, untitled series of tomes exploring connections between mythology, literature and the modern world. The series began in 1983 with the publication of The Ruin of Kasch, which creates a timewarp between an archaic African folktale and the French Revolution. Subsequent volumes examine everything from the Vedas and Greek Mythology to Baudelaire and Kafka; and Calasso now turns his attention upon the Hebrew Bible.
If you take the time to read the volumes of Calasso’s gigantic magnum opus [and no, they don’t need to be read in order -jump in where your interest lies!], you will discover certain important and recurring themes, actually obsessions, to which Calasso always returns. These include: that which is left unsaid/unwritten, erotic potency and intimate intensity, hidden connections and esoteric logics, echoes of mythic events which recur in world history, and most importantly, the central role of sacrifice. Such as when Yahweh came down after the flood to the roasting smell of Noah’s burnt offering, the first holocaust. The text centers around who offers what when, and how those offerings are received.
“The firstborn are the first fruits, the surplus of life, the most precious part, which must be offered to the divine, because one cannot approach the divine with empty hands.” (183)
“To belong to Yahweh meant to disappear from the world, as happened when a body was completely burned up.” (125)
Readers familiar with Calasso’s oeuvre are probably as excited as I am to read this master applying his eye, pen and laughter to a text as layered and significant as the Hebrew Bible, and – true to form – he slices, dices, magnifies and problematizes the text. He begins by telling the transition from the system of judges to the lineage of kings in Samuel’s sudden anointment of Saul, proceeds through David and Solomon, and then works from Abraham to Moses and from the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel to the foretold Messiah. Throughout, Calasso listens to the Hebrew Bible for resonances, repetitions, discrepancies and divergences both internally and externally, with other contemporaneous mythic and epic canons.
Perhaps the most important emphasis Calasso brings is on the differing relationships Yahweh establishes with different human beings throughout the narratives included in the Hebrew Bible. He pays attention to what specific observances and offerings are required of different individuals and stages of society, and what the apparent contradictions between these rule lists and acts of favoritism imply about the deity who has altered world history more substantially than any other. Who promises what, and what do they receive in return? To whom does Yahweh bring forgiveness, and to whom wrath? For example, Calasso examines why Yahweh may have tolerated King Solomon’s open and official pursuit of polytheism – including goddess worship – despite the face that in almost all other cases, even tolerance of polytheism – let alone actively participating in and encouraging polytheistic worship – was treated as unforgivable and tantamount to anathema.
This wrestling with the biblical document is of tremendous importance because it does not submit to later Christian or Jewish dogmatizing of the texts – the emergent orthodoxies labored for hundreds of years to create readings of these texts that explain or erase the inherent and fundamental difficulties, violence and trouble we find there. Calasso’s commentary references the New Testament either to show how radical Jesus and his disciples were in their interpretations, or to cite them among other talmudic and midrashic sources in the layers of interpretation.
“God of the invisible, averse to every image of the invisible, Yahweh spoke to Moses only of what happened on earth, in people’s lives, before their deaths. Death was the ultimate barrier, beyond which nothing certain was told.” (206)
“Divine justice can only be an exchange of surpluses, from the invisible toward the invisible.” (135)
Calasso, always given to diversions, digressions and otherwise spellbinding yarns, includes a large excursus on Sigmund Freud’s Moses and Monotheism which is both a critique of Freud’s argument that Moses “invented” the monotheism of Yahweh, while also generously ceding to Freud the stance of modern prophet – with Freud, the ethically Jewish professed atheist, wielding that same unique insider-outsider stance that the prophets of the tradition of Elijah and Ezekiel wielded in the era of Kings. And though Calasso’s treatment of Freud is intriguing, I would suggest that The Book of All Books is closer to the vein of Carl Jung’s Answer to Job, a text which boldly, bravely and heretically treats of the psychological development of a god – Calasso here treats the actions of that god within the context of his relationships with his chosen people and his holy book.
The hardback edition by FSG is nice, although mass produced, and hence affordable. The paper has a linen quality. Calasso’s convention is that citations are not in footnotes or endnotes, but instead placed in a supplemental appendix at the back of the volume, with references paginated by line of text. This may take some getting used to for readers new to his work, but this convention serves Calasso’s digressions and semi-aphoristic writing style quite well.
Roberto Calasso is not exactly a philosopher, not a theologian or mythographer; he is something both much more and much less: a truly profound writer, an interlocutor worth walking with for many miles and many lifetimes.
The eleventh (and final) entry in Calasso’s series is a treatment of the Enuma Elish entitled The Tablet of Destinies and is due in English translation through FSG in July 2022.
Calasso’s untitled magnum opus/series I. The Ruin of Kasch (1983) II. The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony (1988) III. Ka (1996) IV. K. (2002) V. Tiepolo Pink (2006) VI. La Folie Baudelaire (2008) VII. Ardor (2010) VIII. The Celestial Hunter (2016) IX. The Unnameable Present (2017) X. The Book of All Books (Eng. trans. 2021) XI. The Tablet of Destinies (Eng. trans. 2022)
4 week course on riding with the basic breathing patterns Spring 2021, begins Monday 5/17
Refresh your relationship to that most vital and constant rhythm in our lives, respiration itself. This month-long course is ideal for interested beginners and intermediate practitioners alike, no previous experience is necessary. In this course we will stay faithful to the basics of breathwork, including:
meeting ourselves in sacred space and holding our personal power
learning how to be comfortable and supported – we will practice lying down and sitting comfortably, no experience with yoga poses is required
clear instructions for step by step development of inhalation and exhalation
how to use breathing as the foundation for a daily meditation or devotional practice – whether you are just starting or already have an approach that you use
feeling breath energy and sensing its flow in the body
working with emotions through spontaneous breath and regulated breath
applying the benefits to daily life and lifestyle, including how to practice when life gets heavy or confusing
4 weeks of classes includes:
Live virtual class on Mondays from 11am-12pm EST
Dates: 5/17, 5/24, 5/31, 6/7
One guided audio recording practice aid per week
Class recordings available immediately after, so feel free to join this course asynchronously.
Correspondence with the instructor throughout the course about how practice is developing, including working with questions and obstacles
*If you or your family have served time in prison, this course is free for you. Anyone interested in sliding-scale pricing is invited to message me as well.
This course counts as a pre-requisite for the intermediate breathwork class.
about the instructor:
Adam Wetterhan is a dedicated practitioner-scholar of yoga-asana, breathwork-pranayama, and meditation in the Indo-Tibetan practice lineages passed on to him by his teachers, as well as working within the Western Esoteric and philosophical tradition. As a E-500 RYT registered yoga instructor, Adam teaches public classes in movement and meditation weekly as well as training teachers inside and outside of prison. Adam is committed to the joyful union of study and practice as well as to social justice and the power of wisdom teachings to help us overcome the system of mass incarceration in the United States.
Seated in silent meditation, the birdsong can either be the hell of distraction or the flow of medicine itself
“Well, that’s just your opinion.”
There was a brief surge of philosophical praxis known as perspectivism, which seems to exist in pieces throughout the Western philosophical tradition, but which found itself crystallized in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Unfortunately, perspectivism has been haunted by the Cartesian divide, such that if one basically holds “everything is just views” as a view, then there is either nihilism or weak relativism, which is held in a reactionary way against the teachings about objective truth or reality.
“Well, that’s just your interpretation.”
By contrast, the word darshan which comes to us from Sanskrit, often translated into European languages as philosophy, literally means view and shares the same root as dristi or gaze. In orthodox Indian philosophy, no less than 6 darhshans or views are held as true simultaneously both in a cultural sense and in the mind of one who knows. The range of views is extended or changed by other lineages and styles of practice.
Before we speak about this and other forms of view-holding in Indo-Tibetan philosophy (forthcoming in part two), let us consider what this view-holding means. What if we transposed this way of seeing into the history of ideas in modern philosophy? We are engaging in this exercise not in order to assess the validity or truth of a view, but instead to see how holding the view acts upon us.
For example, if one were to choose a few key positions in modern philosophy and summarize them in a very rough way. Consider the following four arbitrarily chosen view-summaries:
John Locke and the tabula rasa
“The mind is essentially a blank slate at birth and is conditioned only by sense-experience in the world. [By extension: only that which is known by the senses can be real].”
Immanuel Kant and the a priori structure of consciousness
“Regardless of sense experience there are innate structures to consciousness itself that always-already shape how we perceive the world.”
Kierkegaard’s intense subjectivity
“It is only the inner life which matters: the life of the mind and the soul must be valued above all else, the inner connection to God transcends all other obligations or entanglements”
Hegel’s vast world historical perspective
“Absolute Spirit is manifesting itself in the twists and turns of history. As such, every act is a necessary derivative of a cosmic interplay of forces which is arcing toward a perfectly realized state of consciousness in matter. People and events are small occurrences in this giant world-historical drama which has been playing out from the beginning of time and is moving towards a definite end.”
Hold these views, not concurrently in the sense of “knowing what they mean” or indexing them in memory, but hold these views consecutively in orientation to concrete lived experience. For example, if I look at a conflict in my life, work or culture, let me first look at it from the perspective of Tabula Rasa – not in a circumspect of casual way, but to really consider the problem by inhabiting this single VIEW: how then would you act and interact with the problem? Then proceed to the next on the list.
Do not engage this practice as if you are searching for “the truth” or “my truth”, just practice from each view, one at a time.
What with the prevalence of trendy new age breathing techniques, why not dive directly into practices that are attested to by centuries-old manuals and even older lineages of practice? We will cover both active practices that change the breath pattern [pranayama] as well as forms of natural breath awareness [apana-prana-smrti].
Pranayamas covered: internal and external breath retention, deepening and lengthening by breathing with sounds internal locks, alternate nostril breathing with and without retentions, bellows breath, sun and moon piercing, and a few others
Apana-prana-smrti methods: earth breathing, lower belly breathing, central channel breathing.
We will discuss the role of mantra and visualization as well. Not every practice is for every person at all times, but the realm of breathwork offers many promising techniques for daily practice. It is my opinion that pranayama can be used to open the door of meditation, and to enhance other meditative practices.
6 week series, Thursdays from 5:30-6:30pm EST
begins Thursday February 18th
1 hour live weekly virtual session with practice and discussion.
Recordings available after each session.
Cost: $150 – flexible pricing applies for extenuating circumstances.
Email me: adamwetterhan @ gmail for more details!
Serious applicants only: must be willing to complete a 45 minute sitting practice at least 4x a week for duration of the course while maintaining a practice journal.
Every year I post a year end “stack” of whatever I read in the preceding twelve calendar months. What with the pandemic, stay-at-home, working and teaching from home, the list has expanded massively this year compared to previous years.
I’d also invite you to follow me on goodreads, where I’ve been much more active on lately. For this year’s reading, I need to thank my wife and my friends for recommendations and conversations. I’d also like to thank Phil and JF over at the Weird Studies podcast, who have very much influenced this reading list. The list is in no particular order. I’ve included some mini reviews and links below.
Daniel Ingram – Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha
Ingram presents the insight stages and the concentration states in clear language with a lot of personal experience from practice and teaching. It offers relatively straightforward ways of assessing one’s progress on the path.
Roberto Calasso – The Celestial Hunter
One of my favorite writers of all time (Thanks Dave Nichols for introducing me!) I just started this so no thoughts yet other than YAY new material. Everybody who hasn’t should go read Ka or The Marriage of Cadmus & Harmony.
Jean Gebser – The Ever-Present Origin
The first time in a few years that I’ve been captivated by a “big tome” of Western philosophy. Gebser’s argument that the history of consciousness moves and spirals through mutations – linearly presented as archaic, magical, mythical, mental and integral – and that individual perspective, having emerged out of consciousness, is now transforming into an “aperspectival” view…. Very compelling arguments drawing on the history of science, mythology and art, pointing to an “integral” future that I find way more compelling than say, the arguments of Ken Wilber.
William Irwin Thompson – the Time Falling Bodies Take To Light: Mythology, Sexuality and the Origins of Culture
What was society before patriarchy? What happened in the translation from matriarchy? How much was lost? Is there any way to spiritually connect to matrilineal practice?
William Irwin Thompson – Imaginary Landscape: Making Worlds of Myth And Science
Fairy tales and myths contain coded evolutionary knowledge. In the first essay, Thompson details how the original version of the Rapunzel tale can be shown to house insights from modern biology, despite coming from a tradition hundreds of years older than those scientific insights.
William Irwin Thompson – Coming into Being: Artifacts and Texts in the Evolution of Consciousness
Thompson’s Gebser-inspired compilation of essays.
Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche – Moonbeams of Mahamudra: The Classic Meditation Manual
Very technical, but the definitive manual for Mahamudra meditation.
Byung Chul Han – The Burnout Society
Read and discussed this with Alice Chi and Kevin Vanscoder. I was fortunate enough to discuss the text in a podcast episode with my wife.
Letters from the Yoga Masters
Thanks for the gift Nancy!
Joshua Ramey – The Hermetic Deleuze: Philosophy and Spiritual Ordeal
Deleuze has been an author I’ve been intimidated by since college. Ramey’s argument that there are precursors to Deleuze’s rhizomatic thought in Pico della Mirandola and Giordano Bruno was too tempting to pass up. The notion that philosophy itself is an ecstatic practice of generating new concepts and destabilizing old ones is intriguing, as are the surprisingly occult origins of many of Deleuze’s ideas.
J.R.R. Tolkien – The Silmarillion, illustrated by Ted Nasmith
This is better than the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. Yes, I’m ready to fight on it. The worlding that Tolkein achieved in fully envisioning an immersive cosmos of his own reaches depths here that the more story-like novels only hint toward.
J.R.R. Tolkien – Unfinished Tales of Numenor & Middle-Earth, illustrated
This new illustrated edition is fantastic.
David Tibet – The Moon at Your Door compilation
Great compilation of weird, gnostic/gothic fiction. Dreams, vampires, spirits, misperceptions…
Eugene Thacker – In The Dust of This Planet (Horror of Philosophy Vol. 1)
What does Dante have to do with black metal? Can you read Immanuel Kant like you read Lovecraft?
Eugene Thacker – Starry Speculative Corpse (Horror of Philosophy Vol. 2)
Similar to above, not as good, unless you love Schopenhauer, in which case you’ll probably like this even more.
Brian Evenson – Song for the Unraveling of the Word
As devastating as it sounds – cosmic horror. Not for the faint of heart. After Ligotti and Barron, I wasn’t sure who to turn to next for metaphysical dread. “Smear” still keeps me up at night, and not because of the violence.
What if your dreams re-organized reality such that sometimes when you wake up, reality is not recognizable from yesterday but does resemble your dreams? What if your therapist decided to imprint his will on your subconscious dreaming self?
Ted Chiang – Exhalation: Stories
A modern sci-fi/magickal realist short story compilation that brought tears to my eyes multiple times. Scary, funny, and horrifying too. Chiang is an American writer whose family is from Taiwan.
Philip K Dick – 4 Novels of the 1960s
The Main in the High Castle, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep?, Ubik.
Lionel Snell / Ramsey Dukes – SSOTBME: An Essay on Magic
Interesting philosophical essays over and against the curse “May everything be exactly as it seems” uttered in Clive Barker’s Imajica, almost an antidote to it actually. Stylistically I imagine this is what would’ve happened if Ludwig Wittgenstein had gone further down the linguistic rabbit hole into Borgesian and Crowleyan realms.
Aleister Crowley – Book 4
It’s a classic, and includes some fascinating insights on yoga, pranayama and meditation.
Alan Chapman – Advanced Magick for Beginners
Chaotic neutral text is about as effective as its cover image. Random experiments in developing magickal consciousness, uprooted from any sense of tradition and crammed into a little book with potency on every page. Best to try these in the context of a tradition, with a container of some sort.
Frater Acher – Holy Daimon
The idea of each person having a guardian angel has matriculated down into pop culture and esotericism, but the origins of the idea vastly predate monotheistic religion. Acher lays out the history of the idea of a personal daimon based on Ancient Greek, Egyptian and Persian thought and lays out some practices for getting in touch with that higher self or protective spirit.
Patrick Harpur – Daimonic Reality: A Field Guide to the Otherworld
Are aliens actually fairies? Stay tuned. I haven’t made it very far yet in this one…
Gary Lachman – Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump
Critique of Trumpism based on an analysis of the cult of positive thinking, the origins of QAnon and parallels with chaos magick and Russian propaganda. Highly recommend.
Gary Lachman – Secret Teachers of the Western World
Broad strokes overview of the history of Western esotericism from early Greek philosophy to Blavatsky, Crowley, Gurdjeff and William James.
A. N. Whitehead – Adventures of Ideas
Lives up to its name. This is my first time reading Alfred North Whitehead, and I can see what all the fuss is about.
Guy Armstrong – Emptiness: A Practical Guide for Meditators
The concept of sunyata, or emptiness, in Mahayana Buddhism is frequently misunderstood – particularly it is often equated with existential angst thanks to the emptiness discussed in Jean Paul Sartre, for example. Armstrong gives 3 sections on emptiness of perception, emptiness of self and emptiness of world consisting of practical philosophy related to every day life, and actual exercises leading to the experience of the various forms of emptiness. Very approachable.
M.C. Richards – Centering: in Pottery, Poetry, and the Person
This text has been a constant inspiration for the classes in yoga, breathing and meditation I teach. The idea of centering as an eccentric, dynamic activity rather than an act of grounding or stilling has been very effective in my life and practice.
Paul Eduardo Muller-Ortega – The Triadic Heart of Shiva: Kaula Tantricism of Abhinavagupta in the Non-Dual Shaivism of Kashmir
Scholarly exposition of the philosophical and mystical writings of Abhinavagupta. Inspired after Marcia Miller guided me to take a class by Daniel Odier on Kashmir Shaivism. I’m now on a quest to a0 understand the philosophical underpinnings of that tradition and b) compare them to the Tibetan Mahamudra lineages I’ve been practicing in for the last 5 years or so, see below.
Herbert Guenther – Ecstatic Spontaneity: Saraha’s Three Cycles of Doha
Guenther interprets the origin of the Tibetan Mahamudra lineage, the Indian mahasiddha known as Saraha and his awakening songs from the early Tantric period.
Mary Hunter Austin – the Land of Little Rain
Thanks for the gift Kevin!
Spanda Karika: The Divine Creative Pulsation, translated Jaideva Singh
One of a few key texts from the Kashmir Shaivite tradition.
Joan Stambaugh – Impermanence is Buddha Nature: Dogen’s Understanding of Temporality
She translated Heidegger’s Being & Time, Schelling essay and other major works into English. More importantly, she was an original American philosopher in her own right – and very interested in the intersection between German philosophy and Japanese Zen. This text is a blast to read, joining Heidegger and Dogen in a dialogue.
Erik Davis – TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information
Been on my radar due to the Weird Studies podcast. Davis recently wrote HIGH WEIRDNESS, which is about Phillip K Dick, Terrence McKenna and Robert Anton Wilson. This text is about how various spiritual idioms and ideologies have grown up around our use of tech, from telegrams and electric grids all the way up to social media, from technopagan rituals to Bible-thumping televangelism, from dungeon chatrooms to university portals – Davis tracks the bizarre history of information technology and speculates about its future. He points out for example that many early technologists were into seances and that new technologies often spook people, an interesting way to inhabit the space of wondering where tech is taking us. Written in 1998 but updated somewhat a few years ago, it doesn’t really feel dated, but where it does I am down for the 90s throwbacks.
“At the heart of information theory, then, is probability, which is the measure of the likelihood of one specific result out of an open ended field of possible messages. Probability plays a powerful role in the predictions that scientists are wont to make about the world, but even as a no-nonsense statistical science, it is something of a trickster. Probability slips between objectivity and subjectivity, randomness and order, the mind’s knowledge and the hidden patterns of the world – a conceptually hairy zone that the mathematician James R Newman called ‘a nest of subtleties and traps.’ The sharp diagrams of information theory are etched on shiftier sands than at first appear. “
Robert Anton Wilson – Prometheus Rising
Student of Aleister Crowley named Israel Regardie wrote the preface and I agree with his take – — this book synthesizes a lot of 1960s and 70s countercultural theory and praxis with older systems or magick and yoga. Regardie says his only disagreement with Wilson is on his techno-positivism, several places in the book (written in the early 80s) he theorizes that drugs and technology will make dying irrelevant for most people by the early 2000s. of course, he himself passed in 2007, some of his last public words are that dying “seems absurd”
What he does here though, is utilize Timothy Leary’s doctrine – first I’ve heard of it – of 8 Neuro-Biological circuits to show how humans get stuck at various developmental phases, and to guess at what purpose/dimensions drug experiences and mystical experiences seem to link on to. The book is very funny – dude was not only friends with Leary and William Burroughs, but I think he also knew Phillip K Dick — and the best part is about how people get stuck in the lower developmental circuits – which sync up with Freud’s anal and genital stages, for example, as well as some of Jung’s archetypes. Particularly it is notable for the very 70s idea of the brain as a computer – and looking at your instincts, imprints, conditioning and learning as software programs. Much of the book is about identifying how the circuits you are stuck in keep you running the same programs over and over and not realizing, something he calls a “reality tunnel”. He suggests that entire political systems and cultures are self-replicating reality tunnels. Each chapter ends with exercises for breaking out of a reality tunnel relative to the circuit he is discussing – not quite as new age as it sounds, more philosophical in nature. Such as: “7. Spend all day Sunday looking at animal shows on TV (getting stoned on weed if that is permissible to you”, then go into the office the next day and observe the primate pack hierarchy carefully,like a scientist.
Alain Danielou – While the Gods Play: Shaiva Oracles and Predictions on the Cycles of History and the Destiny of Mankind
Interpretation of the Siva Sutras, another key Kashmir Shaivite text.
Jeremy D. Johnson: Seeing through the World: Jean Gebser and Integral Consciousness
Fantastic small book about a large book. Jeremy Johnson writes a conceive and useful introduction to thought of Jean Gebser, who’s Ever-Present Origin I listed above.
Jean Gebser moves me in a way that no other figures from the “Integral Scene” ever have. His ability to think and be with the particulars, and to de-hierarchize his understanding of mutating structures of consciousness is an extremely helpful tool for integrating time.
Jeremy Johnson introduces the major themes and concepts of Ever Present Origin. I would have liked even more concretion and less hinting-at the integral structure with inspiring turns of phrase. Maybe that’s still to come. Will prepare you to read Gebser and will inspire you to spiral off in related directions.
Mark Fisher – Capitalist Realism: Is there No Alternative?
Mark Fisher is a great writer. Here he considers why we have such a hard time overcoming Capitalism as an aesthetic and epistemological project — capitalism is so threatening to our ability to imagine a different future because it reinscribes (literally, sells) our visions back to us or to other people.
Timothy Morton – Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World
Read and discussed on Resonant Zones episode 1 with Kevin Vanscoder.
Rashad Shabazz – Spatializing Blackness: Architectures of Confinement and Black Masculinity in Chicago
Thinking about the origins of militarized police and mass incarceration? This book provides a powerful frame by looking at the evolution of policing in Chicago and the beginnings of mass incarceration there.
Eric Voegelin – Science, Politics & Gnosticism
The essence of what I’m picking up is that any political ideology or plan that is not Christian and “practical” (ie, accepts large swaths of the status quo) is “gnostic”, presumably because it does not embrace the world “as is” & seeks to reform it in a way that is guided by an invisible (not-yet-present) order. In reading this, I think it made me proud to be a gnostic! The deepest irony is that Voegelin ignores the close ties between Christianity and gnodticism, and hisnbemoaining that positivists, communists etc overturn the transcendent order is -absolutely- a gnostic ontological basis for a transcendent metaphysics. So lol Voegelin, nice try, not compelling at all. I do dig the coining of the term “immantenize the eschaton”, which I interpret to mean what happens when political movements literalize their metaphysical ideals, or more specifically their apocalyptic fantasies.
Angela Davis – Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine and the Foundations of a Movement
With everyone throwing the word “ally” around all year, Davis’ commitment to aligning parallel international causes shows what an ally really means: fighting the fight at home while supporting others in their local struggles, collaborating and edifying each other as much as possible.
Timothy Snyder – On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
Nice antidote for Trumpism.
Nick Land – Fanged Noumena
Nick Land is a very weird thinker. He started in an anonymous early-internet-age collective called the CCRU, associated with a lot of hypermodern marxists and critics (including Mark Fisher, above) playing with a lot of cybergoth and early accelerationist language. Over the years, he has migrated to a weird alt-right stance on accelerating capitalism. This book, featuring scathing and interesting articles on Marx, Kant, Heidegger, and Lovecraft mostly heaps on the Matrix-like aesthetics while hypothesizing about a non-human world consciousness emerging from the internet, which is rad. I don’t see any signs of the odd conservative political flip here but I’l keep looking.
Gilles Deleuze, et al. – COLLAPSE: Philosophical Research & Development
Some of Deleuze’s earliest writings paired with various other related scholarship.
S. Alexander Reed – ASSIMILATE: A critical history of industrial music
The discovery and making of industrial music is one of the formative events of my teenage years, and this text helped me relive that process, learn more about the politics and the sounds, and also discover some artists and bands I had glossed over before. I also got to spend some of the summer blasting noisy drum machine hits and synth stabs on my headphones while running around the dungeons of DOOM, which was a perfect 2020 coping mechanism if I’m honest.
I write this in the midst of a widespread consensus of which I am anecdotally and personally aware. Everywhere I turn, in different political quadrants and places, I hear the refrain “Time is speeding up.” Opining about busy lifestyles and our lack of time is now a tired cliche. Time Management: a buzzword invoking “micro-habits”, to-do list apps and GPS re-routing around traffic congestion burning fossil fuels; more adequately Time Management is a codeword for capitulating to the late capitalist mode of re-rendering human life as mechanized expediency. On Demand: the immediacy of PrimeNow lambasted by Ronny Chieng. Screen Time: the boogeyman of behavioral psychologists, parents, and the sleep-deprived. “Just not enough hours in the day”: the magical utterance banishing all of the chores left undone, thoughts left unthought, places unwent, friends unseen. Nightmares of lateness, latency, running out of time, time on the run. Time well spent: duration monetized. All of this despite the fact that some scientists now contend time is objectively slowing down.
This is a project about types of time. Here I collect and compare different concepts and experiences of time in order to induce in the reader a direct access to what the philosopher Jean Gebser calls “time-freedom”, the achronon.
What is gained from such an inquiry? An enrichment of words, paths, and signs regarding other zones and channels, alternative ways of experiencing time. Modes of being and becoming in differing time-climates: an ecosystem of types of time. Timelines, coincidences, timespirals, instants, percolations and synchronicities, infinitudes and magnitudes, the time of apps and tech, spiritual time and story time, time as light and weight, time as horror and awe, planetary time, lost time, time as root and branch, time as tissue, organ, health and virus, the times of objects and the times of people, the time of gods. What is liberation from time?
An early mentor of mine, the late Tom Christenson, a man made of stories, once spun the tale of a child dismantling a grandfather clock after being told “Clocks measure time!” Removing piece after piece, becoming increasingly disturbed, asking adults within earshot “but where does time enter the clock?” while searching for a scale, or a tube of some mercury, or an entry and exit point for the flow of time through the measuring device. The conceit that the clock measures time lies open and evident – the clock does not measure, it “tells”, but really: it cuts, it rings, it alarms, it wakens. Clock-time divides the day, the week, the year, the life, the story.
There is no doubt that our average experience of time is primarily linear, and can be contained in images such as the timeline (left=past, right=future, or more recently, top=newest bottom=least new), the calendar, schedule and watch. Questions of time are invariably bound up with issues of free will, destiny and fate, or in the everyday sense questions of choosing, planning, prioritizing. We “face” the right – the future is before us, the past spread behind us. Our modes of thinking and feeling often distance the future and the past from the present, or obsessively lean in one direction or the other.
Physicists, in positing the fourth dimension as “time”, seem to conceptualize the 4th as a kind of timeline, for example a human life in this dimension is a line of events from birth to death. Perhaps consult this relatively easy to understand video introducing dimensions, or consider the image of time from Donny Darko (2001):
The concept of time-freedom, and the impetus for this inquiry, came to me through the work of philosopher and poet Jean Gebser and his gigantic visionary work, The Ever-Present Origin. Gebser helps us see, imagine, and think this origin of consciousness by leading us through the art and philosophy of previous mutations of consciousness: the experience of time from Stone Ages to the present day is one subject of his giant tome. Geber’s theory is that consciousness as we know it today exists as one in a series of mutations which have occurred throughout history. Gebser thinks the mutation of consciousness through 5 main structures: the archaic, the magical, the mythical, the mental, and eventually the integral. Every human person and society today is composed of varying ratios of influence from all five, even though the integral mutation of consciousness is yet-to-come, futural, or just now arriving. Today we live in what Gebser calls the deficient form of the mental mutation, a hyper rational mode in which Galileo’s command reigns supreme “Measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not so.“ According to Gebser, in our current hyper-rational mode “we have space but no time; time has us because we are not yet aware of it’s entire reality.” [my italics].
Rich in space, but poor in time. We are rich in space through the moon adventure of Apollo 11, through the anatomist’s knowledge of the body’s inner space, through the Netflix streaming documentaries of drone footage and the cartographic horizon of Google Earth, through the yogas of “holding space” and meditating on the akasha.
Gebser thinks mutation from an unperspectival world submerged in nature to a world obsessed with perspective (such as a world where every person is always running out of time while holding a looking glass and a camera), to a future aperspectival integral world beyond the vanishing point of the individual. Gebser suggests that the thrust of this mutating consciousness will take us beyond linear time, and into a world with a multiplicity of time structures. This is a thought that is very challenging to think. My essays in this collection are an attempt to think this thought, the thought of a polytheism of time.
In this attempt to think through types of time, I am oriented by Martin Heidegger, who in the tumult of the late 1930s in Germany abandoned completion of his massive project Being and Time and turned attention to thinking the unfolding of philosophy, culture and technology from the “first beginning” with the early elemental Greek philosophers, such as Heraclitus and Anaximander, to the totalitarian states and technological hegemony of our present day. Heidegger posits that no alternative future is possible for humans if we cannot think through the beginning or origin of today’s world: we always turn to beginnings (both ancient and potential) out of a sense of plight, that there is something to be lost or gained.
We can only attain an “other beginning” by bringing to awareness the origin of today’s elements of experience, including how we arrived at clock-time and timelines. Our ways of being-in-the-world are determined by concepts which have lasted centuries and millennia. Heidegger insists that we listen very closely to ancient thoughts before attempting to say anything new, or even moreso that it is only possible to originate a new beginning within view of the old.
Jeremy Johnson, in his Seeing Through the World: Jean Gebser and Integral Consciousness(2019) concisely restates the plight of time: “Having fully mastered the dimension of space within themselves, time itself became the next venture for human consciousness. … Time, in the late perspectival age, the age of the mental-rational structure of consciousness, manifests as guilt. We are forever out of time, and time itself becomes vacuous, devoid of any inherent quality, and needing to be filled by our activities,” (Johnson 35). Check out Jeremy guesting on the Weird Studies podcast for an entry-point into Gebser.
And Gebser again, on our modern perspective toward time:
As we approach the decline of the perspectival age, it is our anxiety about time that stands out as the dominant characteristic alongside our ever more absurd obsession with space. It manifests itself in various ways, such as in our addiction to time. Everyone is out to “gain time,” although the time gained is usually the wrong kind: time has transformed into a visible multiplication of spatially fragmented “activity” or time that one has “to kill.” Our time anxiety shows up in our haptification of time, already heralded by Pope Sabinus’ hourly bell-ringing and is expressed in our attempt to arrest time and hold onto it through its materialization. Many are convinced that “time is money,” although again this is almost invariably falsified time, a time that can be turned into money, but not time valid in its own right. A further expression of man’s current helplessness in the face of time is his compulsion to “fill” time, he regards it as something empty and spatial like a bucket or container, devoid of any qualitative character. But time is in itself fulfilled and not something that has to be “filled up” or “filled out.” – The Ever-Present Origin, 1949. Translated by Noel Barstad and Algis Mickunas. Ohio University Press 1985.
Gebser points to time-freedom as one aspect of the next major mutation of consciousness: “… if he realizes that ‘time’ denotes and includes all previous time forms, he is free.” It is my suggestion that time-freedom has been experienced in varying degrees by humans in a plurality of social, religious and historical situations throughout world history, and to chronicle here their terminology and phenomena in order that time-as-such can be dislodged from the seemingly inescapable procession of the past into the future. By listening to Heidegger and Gebser, I attune my ears to the first beginnings of our modern world. When I listen to the Greeks, they point to Egypt as the even further arche and origin of their own beginning. So it is from the other side of the Mediterranean that I will take my departure into exploring types of time.
Future chapters may include, according to my own whim and not necessarily in any order:
Ancient Egypt: the First Time and the circuit of the gods
Ancient Greece: Chronos, Aion and Kairos
Apocalypse and Millennium: Christians and Gnostics on the End of Time
Pulses, Circulationss, Textures: on the Body’s Time
Is Time in Your Brain?
Doing Time: justice & time held in the prison
Measurable Duration: Modern and postmodern typologies of time
Thoughts collected having just crossed the required teaching hours threshold for E-500RYT, the highest designation of teaching experience and education currently recognized for individual teachers through Yoga Alliance. While I feel that this recognition fits the sheer amount of dedicated hours of practice, personal study, formal education, and of commitment to engagement and praxis in classrooms both “out here” and “in prison”, I also wish to register some concerns about the way we currently designate levels of teaching experience in this field.
I’m also left thinking that if where I am is the pinnacle of a national/international standard for yoga instructors, the designations gauging teacher dedication are woefully inadequate. I’ve been practicing for 12 years and teaching formally for nearly 5 – various forms of yoga practice fit into my life mission, dharma, philosophy and politics, but all the same I have so much yet to learn and so many stones unturned. Of course wisdom and sustained application become institutionally undefinable eventually, but how will I be recognized for all the learning and teaching I anticipate to do in 5 or 10 more years? How must some of my teachers feel, some of whom hold the same designation as me but have been teaching and practicing and studying far longer than I have?
I appreciate the work Yoga Alliance has done, especially recently, to not only provide standards to this bursting and diverse.community of yoga teachers, but also to update and introduce more rigorous standards in response to issues in the field – including lack of experience, people claiming to be something they are not. And the many forms of corruption and abuse of power in the scene at large. Setting designations to recognize a certain standard does not to me smack of spiritual materialism and commodification, even though the general way yoga is taught does bear the mark of capitalism and the spiritual industrial complex. (This is the issue of a future post). What I love about the studio where I teach, Yoga on High in Columbus OH, is that the standards that have been set from the beginning exceed Yoga Alliance requirements. The wisdom of our owners and founders in setting a higher standard continues to bring out the best in me.
In the spirit of lifelong learning, continued wonderment and curiosity, I am setting down here some intentions for the next 5 years of teaching, a near-range curricula and point of accountability for future maturation
Listen more to my students, peers, teachers, signs, symbols, intuitions
Less rigid with my expectations – allow practices their own mutations without controlling the result. Welcome the unexpected.
Continue believing that enlightenment is a diaphanous phenomenon of our present world, rather than something to be attained out-there above and beyond this world
Teach movement more from the perspective of connective tissue and integrated systems rather than linear muscle-and-bone machinations
Train in person as often as reasonably possible with key teachers from diverse perspectives
Continue to integrate lessons from other movement systems into yoga asana tradition – qigong, ideokinesis, somatic/embodied psychology, other Western movement arts like Rolf, Feldenkrais, etc. Let asana traditions be what they are but continue to stand outside of dogma – apply healthy skepticism.
Teach my experience and understanding of the subtle body without rigidifying or categorizing experiences of the nonmeasurable potential of the human body
Stay up on current philosophy, anatomy, neurobiology, etc., and explore these topics in the classroom thematically
Finally engage with Kashmir Shaivism in a real way. Continue current philosophical inquiries
Spend more time making these practices communicable to more people. Allow myself to be outside of the established lanes for this kind of work.
Counter escapism. See the oneness of the ethical, the political, the theological, and the spiritual.
Write more shit down and share it. Be less of a perfectionist. Write a damn book or two.
written in 2013 or sometime before, as a handout for the Intro to Comparative World Philosophy taught at Marion Correctional Institution inside the prison community center operated by Healing Broken Circles in Marion, OH between 2012 and 2016. Document updated and revised 2019.
“What Dante had written on the gate of the inferno, ‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here’, is also inscribed on the gate to philosophy” – Schelling
We can say that a beginning in philosophy is always a beginning again. Philosophical questioning is already a basic mental disposition; Aristotle declares that philosophy begins in wonder, and indeed what disposition is more basic for us than wonder? Moments of wonder and awe leave us with the jaw slack and our tongue devoid of speech. In this silence of mind and body, we open towards experience. Sometimes this openness is definitive, we are stunned by something taking the form of a statement or declaration, often we find that moments of stunned and bare attention also leave us with a residue, a remainder of questioning. Wonder is the opening of philosophy – historically for humans as well as for us personally. Wonder carries each of us to philosophy in the same way as it has historically for all of humanity.
When we begin our comparative historical approach to philosophy we begin with the thoughts of the so-called Pre-Socratic philosophers of Greece, with the Upanishads of India, with the Tao te Ching of China. We must understand that these traditional source-texts are also beginnings-again, embedded in cultural contexts and lineages of questioning: by naming these disparate works as beginnings we are not saying that they are “firsts”, nevertheless they have become for us historical foundations or roots of beginning-again. And these beginnings-again are awakened in us as further beginnings on each returning reading. Attention to the nature of these beginnings brings us to the preconditions of the beginning’s beginning. In order that anything get under way there must be some-where to begin, a place for growth and unfolding to occur: fertile soil to receive seeds, water and sunlight. We are this potential ground, our senses are the soil. Our capacity to host and grow a garden of thoughts begins with the capacity to listen, whether to the person across from us in a room, to ancient texts, to our own thoughts, or to nature. We prepare this fertile soil with the three essential moods of philosophy.
1 – The joy of questioning
2 – The honor of being questioned
3 – The humility of the second ignorance [aporia]
We open philosophy through the joy of questioning. Philosophy begins with the return of a closed matter or a deferred question to active questioning and investigation: the moment when what seemed fixed flows back into questioning. We do not open this questioning as a chore or an empty ritual, but engage questioning joyfully – especially when what is being opened for questioning is inconvenient for us, when we feel we have something to gain from a particular question remaining closed. To be joyful at the opening of questioning is the essence of philosophy as the loving pursuit of wisdom. Joyful questioning is not an irresponsible or cavalier lightheartedness. Joyful questioning brings a sober assessment of the plight of the question: we are brought into the question’s magnitude and resonance, invited to remain in the questioning. We find ourselves situated within the question. We are not asking about something abstract at-arms-length in a casual manner: we are asking about that which is now an issue for us.
When a question becomes an issue for us, we are standing within the question. Standing within the question, we bring the question to ourselves as a question. We must be prepared to receive questioning as an honor. Philosophy is quickly closed by defensive and evasive tactics; we are tempted to manipulate the outcomes of questioning for personal gain. Instead we must be honored by being brought to questioning. How much more could have been accomplished by Socrates and Euthyphro if Euthyphro had remained honored by the questioning which was brought to him! When we are brought to a question we are involved in the weight of the issue at hand: for someone or some issue to bring us into questioning is the highest honor: we receive questioning in gratitude.
When we are involved with the questioning as an issue for us, we risk our pride and the constructions of our identity. The desire to be right eclipses the desire to question when we do not demand of ourselves the primacy of the question over our own stake and position in the question. If we succumb to this weakness masking itself as strength we will fail in the crucial moment of questioning. We will fall out of the question and into our old habitual patterns of numb nonresponse. In the course of questioning, we will be frequently shown to have missed the essence of the question – we will find that our own thinking has not approximated the entirety of the question, we will find that we have answered too hastily in our impatience, we will find that we have solidified artificially that which is flowing in the questioning. In moments such as these it is all too easy to retreat into dogmatic defensiveness in an attempt to shelter ourselves. In this sheltering we shrink back from an occasion to grow into the question. By relinquishing the perspectives we use to reconstruct our identities we allow ourselves to be changed by the questioning. Openness for challenge and change is what establishes us as worthy of the question; openness is what makes the question a question as such rather than a charade or mime of thinking.
It is only after we have established these three moods that we can begin to truly work with philosophical questions. A deficiency in these resolutions will prevent us from being consistent in our questioning: we will be thrown again and again from the raft and philosophical dialogue will stop in its tracks.
The accumulation of these three essential moods brings us into the essential disposition of philosophical patience. Patience prepares the time for philosophizing; without patience there is no time for philosophy. To remain in a question, to wait for the resonance and residue of thoughts and actions, to follow many divergent paths through the same question, to map narratives and perspectives on to the questioning: these are tasks which require a depth and expanse of time. In our current times everyone has “run out of time”, we have distracted ourselves into endless business. Thankfully, our subjective experience of time is itself elastic – moments pass as quickly during a favorite activity as they pass slowly when we are forced against our will to sit and wait. A special kind of quiet patience is a direct means to control the flow of time.
Philosophy re-collects our focus, gathering us back into thinking. Philosophy does not relinquish itself to the rampant desire for instant gratification, nor does it open a way for the mind that jumps this way and that, finding connections between points it has not yet inhabited. Philosophy begins as a dialogue between ourselves and the question, between ourselves and those who have questioned before.
Can it be said of beginnings that they belong to what they generate? Yes. Can it be said of beginnings that they are totally included in what they generate? No, not entirely. A beginning triggers an event, contains in itself the seed of the event’s temporal unfolding, but is not merely a temporal section of the event (as in “beginning, middle, end”). Instead the beginning stands as always-before, laying beneath thinking but remaining before it. Embracing these three essential moods, sitting within the arrival of patience, we do not know what will come. In the beginning of this kind of questioning, we relinquish control, the future remains unknown. Philosophy asks about and remains near these beginnings: “what is the beginning of virtue?” “what is the beginning of justice?” “what is the beginning of selfhood?” “what is the beginning of being?” and perhaps more importantly, “what is my beginning? where did the themes of my life begin?” To ask of a beginning is not just to ask of origin and foundation, it is to actually begin.