Archive for the ‘evolution’ Category

Moving…

April 14, 2013

“The word emotion itself comes from the Latin exmovere, and means to move out, agitate, or excite. This is where our English word ‘motion’ comes from, and of course you can see the connection with the word ‘emotion’. When emotions get stirred up, they bring about movement or action.”

From Scott E. Spradlin, Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Your Life: How Dialectical Behavior Therapy Can Put You in Control (Oakland, CA: New Harbinger, 2003), 9.

The Jest of the Gods

March 31, 2013

“‘True,’ said Kull. ‘I remember the legends — Valka!’ He stopped short, staring, for suddenly, like the silent swinging wide of a mystic door, misty, unfathomed reaches opened in the recesses of his consciousness and for an instant he seemed to gaze back through the vastness that spanned life and life; seeing through the vague and ghostly fogs dim shapes reliving dead centuries — men in combat with hideous monsters, vanquishing a planet of frightful terrors. Against a grey, ever-shifting background moved strange nightmare forms, fantasies of lunacy and fear; and man, the jest of the gods, the blind, wisdomless striver from dust to dust, following the long bloody trail of his destiny, knowing not why, bestial, blundering, like a great murderous child, yet feeling somewhere a spark of divine fire…Kull drew a hand across his brow, shaken; these sudden glimpses into the abysses of memory always startled him.”

From Robert E. Howard, “The Shadow Kingdom,” in Heroes in the Wind: From Kull to Conan (London: Penguin, 2009), 28.

Reflection on Performing the Middle Pillar Ritual

January 31, 2013

So this is the thing. I’ve been reading about fringe, esoteric and occult traditions – from anthroposophy to Zoroastrianism – for twenty years. I’m also a professional historian of medicine and philosopher, versed in ideas like the anima, archaeus, pneuma, vital force, chi, prana, Od, orgone, etc, etc…But here’s the rub – I have no experience as a practicing healer or occultist.

The opportunity arose this week to finally change that fact and I took it. In truth, the opportunity was always there and I never seized it…

The Middle Pillar is a really basic magic ritual – it is derived from Qabalah with a western spin by way of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn; And particularly, more recently (since 1938), by way of Israel Regardie. It’s a simple process – a combination of breathing, visualization, and incantation (chanting). But it’s a process!

So much of occult ritual and ceremony has been written about and rendered into theory, but its practice is what is key. However much one tries to distinguish or unify these paths and their philosophies – they are all, by virtue of the universality of practice, one. Too much reading, intellectualizing, and thinking – these are, as in life, dangerous. They take away from the too often forgotten fact of life – that it is lived, experienced, inhabited.

All these occult traditions are, in a way, about presence and mindfulness. About being, moment to moment. The theory and contemplation are fine, but they can only really add details and depth to doing. True gnosis comes from habit, and even then it is a real effort to grow and find “enlightenment”. Time and energy are required.

The Middle Pillar reminded me of this – of the existential essence of the esoteric. I step onto a path armed with a deep body of knowledge – but in order to move forward, it may be as much a question of forgetting than of knowing.

As I suspected long ago when writing about vitalism and its history – all is breath. As we breathe, so do we live. And create…

This is, beyond all the complexities of history, terminology, and theory, all we need to know (nous).

Flight…

January 26, 2013

“Space flights are merely an escape, a fleeing away from oneself, because it is easier to go to Mars or to the moon than it is to penetrate one’s own being.”

Carl Jung

From Adelaide Bry and Marjorie Bair, Visualization: Directing the Movies of Your Mind (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), 18.

Reality Hacker

July 30, 2012

Are YOU a reality hacker??

Read this and find out!

The Patterson Film Reconsidered

July 25, 2012

The Patterson film, which was taken in the Northern California forest in 1967, remains the quintessential piece of indecisive evidence for the existence of the famed cryptid Bigfoot. I’m currently reviewing a book on the subject, and I’ll let the author’s words sketch out its significance:

“Patterson’s film has been studies by amateurs, evaluated by special effects experts, and looked at by scientists. It has been picked over, poked at, trumpeted as the most important piece of wildlife film ever taken, and laughed at as an obvious fake. The reason it resists scrutiny — and probably always will, regardless of whether it is genuine or fake — is the material fact that the film itself is of poor quality. Even with all the high tech gadgetry available to examine the film, the low resolution of the original grainy 16mm footage renders it practically impossible to analyze in great detail. We may never know whether Patterson meant it to be this way, or that it was just dumb luck of an individual unskilled and unsophisticated in the ways of filmmaking. In North America at least, it has become the toll booth all anomalous primate enthusiasts, academic or amateur, must pass to proceed. it lurks and skulks and peeps about just off to the side of every believer and skeptic, challenging, mocking, and encouraging. Regardless of who owns it, the Patterson film became a central component of Sasquatch studies. It allows for no middle ground. It is either real or fake, with no chance it is a misidentification of something else. Patty’s now legendary backward glance in frame 352 [Ed. Note: See image] teases and tests anyone who has ever seen it. It survives when all others associated with it have come and gone. It is not the only evidence, and it is not the only contentious evidence. Everything ever brought forward to support manlike monsters, mystery-apes, and anomalous primates has been controversial and will continue to be.”

From Brian Regal, Searching for Sasquatch: Crackpots, Eggheads and Cryptozoology (New York: Palgrave, 2011), 129-130.

Image found here.

Still seems tantalizingly elusive, this film — shaky, confused, out of context and scale. And yet somehow completely haunting.

So, what do YOU think??

Louvre

June 14, 2012

The sixth (+1 day) anniversary of my first post with this project. An image that captures what I hope to keep producing…Doorways to mysterious places…

The Utter Frustration of Contemporary Thought

February 25, 2012

As an academic, it is (nominally) my job to contribute to knowledge. I am to do this by publishing books and writing papers. These texts should reflect a certain amount of time and effort: in research, reflection and writing. Recently, I have been thinking about “what I want to write about” next. As someone whose “field” is the history and philosophy of science, my options are quite broad. And, this, unfortunately, is the problem. It’s this problem that has prompted me to forgo research (at least for a day) and write about my reflections on the utter frustration of contemporary thought.

What do I mean by this? A valid question, since contemporary thought is probably not something most people see as frustrating. To most, if they think about it at all, contemporary thought is inspiring. And indeed, on the surface, I suppose it is. New discoveries and new horizons are announced in the media every day. Science and technology appear to be expanding at a dizzying rate…

And, in a way, they are. The production of new knowledge – across all fields – is occurring at an astonishing rate. So quickly, in fact, that we essentially require the new information technology developed over the last 30 years to even keep track of it. Measured in raw terms (i.e. by counting numbers of abstract, papers published, books, etc.), the production of knowledge doubles every seven to ten years. This growth and its consequences was a subject of some interest among scholars in the recent past. There was even a field developed to understand and manage this knowledge production, particularly with respect to science, called scientometrics. This field was a response to Derek J. de Solla Price’s classic book, Science Since Babylon, wherein he explored the ramifications of this development and even speculated on the possible downside of the specialization required to manage and use all this information.

And there, of course, is the key word: specialization. A word we approach with all too much innocence given its tremendous importance in shaping and structuring our contemporary “techno-scientific” society.

The origin of specialization provides insight into the kind of social circumstances it reflects. Originally developed in medicine, specialization was a response to a few factors. Theoretically, it was fostered by a bias in medicine toward organic localism. As medicine grew in scale and sophistication, each part of the body (heart, lungs, eyes, skin, etc…) seemed to require a deeper expertise and attention. This was the essential power of modern medicine – its tendency towards reductionism and mechanism were, by and large, successful epistemological strategies.

There were also social factors. The growth of medicine as a whole demanded that some begin to specialize, but population growth and urbanization created the conditions that allowed specialists to draw on a sufficiently large pool of patients concentrated in a given area.

From its roots in medicine around the mid-nineteenth century, specialization spread to other realms. Sciences began to drastically increase in complexity, giving rise to new fields (and sub-fields). The only way to manage this increasing production of knowledge was through specialization.

Production generally also followed this path. Industrialization and the growth of the economy demanded (and created) appropriate social structures in response. This phenomenon was already clear to observers by the late nineteenth century. Inspired by Marx, the sociologist Durkheim spoke of the “division of labor” as social fact.

This trend, of the compartmentalization of tasks and knowledges, only spread in the twentieth century. Fordism. Taylorism and scientific management. And science, of course, followed along this path. Arguably, it led the march…

The management of aspects of warfare in the dark years of the early twentieth century spawned an even more profound commitment to specialization and the “massification” of the individual. When science and technology (increasingly fused into an amalgam we now call “technoscience”) joined the fray, the process accelerated even further. Even scientists themselves had only a foggy conception of what was coming about. Complexity, scale and specialization evolved together, sometimes in unanticipated ways. When the Manhattan Project began and J. Robert Oppenheimer took charge of the laboratory at Los Alamos, he expected to lead a group of perhaps thirty or forty scientists. Little did he know that in a few months he would direct the activities of a scientific community of about 4-5000 – essentially a small town.

Since the end of the war, this process has only developed further. Specialization, as mentioned, is perhaps that which characterizes contemporary society; and not just specialization, but subspecialization, and subsubspecialization. Science, technology and complexity have grown up together to a degree that a nineteenth century ophthalmologist could not have envisioned or even dreamed of, and their impact on labor and economics is, one can say without hyperbole, epiphenomenal.

I have said much here already about the structures of thought (or how thought, through knowledge, takes shape), but what about thought itself?

This, I believe, is where the utter frustration comes in. For what is one who wants to contribute new ideas faced with? A mountain (or rather, a range of mountains) of information piled so high and deep as to be, well, insurmountable. Any subject (or subset of a subject) has been written about ad infinitum and ad nauseum. The creative mind, seeking a new topic to work on and explore, and wanting to exercise due diligence by consulting sources already written, is faced with a Herculean task. More, even, as the hero’s trials seem simple in comparison.

And what of ideas and thought generally in a world that as of last fall had reached 7 billion souls? Extremes. Either a knowledge or thought is so exclusive as to only be accessible to a small group of experts and specialists with the capacity to use or understand it, or it’s so general and so broad as to have reached the level of complete banality. In this way cultural forms and political discourse are reduced to axioms so simplistic that they can scarcely be understood as culture or politics.

We are faced with increasing specialization and complexity every day. The curve is asymptotic. It’s only by virtue of modern technology and machines that it’s even manageable. In medicine, where the phenomenon first started, it has become necessary to use computers – expert systems – to assist in complex diagnostic analysis. So many tasks have reached a level of complexity that makes us dependent on machine assistance, how long will it be until thought too requires this aid? Has it already happened and we haven’t really noticed? Probably.

The sci-fi author Robert A. Heinlein quipped: “specialization is for insects”. Indeed, we have become a society so segmented into our particular fields, specializations and world-views that we are, essentially, as insects, inured to the larger picture. There was a time, once, when one could be a “Renaissance man” or polymath and have a panoramic vision; of the broad and holistic outlines of things, of the macrocosmic and microcosmic, and of its overall relationship to humanity (hence, humanism). That time has passed. And this, in short, is the central source of the utter frustration of contemporary thought.


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