Monday, August 7, 2017

Genesis



'The beginning is nigh', said the wild-eyed man. He looked like he had sprouted up from the ground and he smelt of the earth.

'Don't you mean the end is nigh?' I replied, causing him to fix his stare upon me. His eyes were brilliant blue, his expression inscrutable.

'No', he said. 'The end is coming to an end'.

His feet were bare and his hair was matted, his clothes were faded and frayed. His body was lean and tanned and on a string around his neck he wore a strange looking stone – orange and black.

'So....what's beginning then?' I inquired.

'I don't know - it hasn't begun yet'.

The old man seemed to lose interest, his eyes focussed somewhere behind me. I was just about to say cheerio when he spoke again: 'You are not here yet.'

'Mmm...okay', I replied. 'Any idea when I'll be here?'

'That is not for me to say', he mused. 'Perhaps soon; perhaps never.'

I took my leave of the old geezer (though what age he was i could not really say) and bade him farewell. I was nearly out of earshot when I heard him say: 'Remember'.

For the rest of the day my thoughts were constantly interrupted. I would try and concentrate on work only to suddenly realise that I was replaying my encounter with the crazy man. His appearance, his manner, his smell, his absurd declarations...I couldn't get him out of my mind. Realising it was hopeless I decided to go for a walk to clear my head.

Without meaning to I found myself back where I had met him. He wasn't there anymore but a few feet away a dead bird lay on the grassy verge, a Magpie. It's lifelessness somehow surprised me. I noticed the ants absorbed in their frantic dissections and found the whole tableau fascinating. I imagined the bird's skeleton picked completely clean.

I wondered where the old man was now. When I looked up he was walking towards me.

'The beginning is nigh', he said as our eyes met.

'I know - you told me this morning', I replied smiling.

'What do you want?' he said curtly, catching me off guard.

'I....I don't....what do you mean?'

'What....do...you....want?' he repeated, all the time boring into me with his brilliant eyes. I couldn't think; his gaze was paralysing.

'I don't know', I eventually replied, and I really didn't. Not only did I not know what I wanted of the old geezer (if anything), I realised that I didn't know what I wanted, period. I had no goals, ambitions, desires, other than those directly concerned with satisfying my bodily needs. My job was boring but solid; I lived in two bedroom flat that I could afford; I spent my evenings watching telly and on the Internet, and on the weekends I got drunk with friends and very occasionally got laid. My life had been like this for years, ever since I finished school. Now for the first time my life seemed to me like a resignation, like I had given up before I had begun. It seemed that my entire life had been laid out by someone else.

If I hadn't decided on this life, then who did? The absurdity was patent but I still couldn't shake the feeling that someone or something else had decided my life for me. It was as if I was just along for the ride and no one had ever asked me what I really wanted. It just happened this way and pretty soon I would be dead and that would be it.....so meaningless. I felt shitty.

The crazy hobo remained quiet as my totally lacklustre existence dawned on me and then my thoughts did a 180. I wasn't unhappy! What was going on here? I was lucky to have somewhere to live, money, a decent job. I had an old friend, Gav, who was homeless and borderline crazy - now that was fucked up! No, my life was bloody good by any sane standards. I decided to quiz the hobo myself: 'So what do you want then?'

He looked at me with those eyes, was silent for a while and then said, 'What I have'.

For some reason this riled me, I mean he obviously didn't have anything this bum, so I started to get going:

'So you are happy with nothing then? Nice to be so unencumbered is it? Must be great to be so free hey? Well you know that might work for you big guy, but I like a roof over my head and warm food and a shower and I like paying my way you know – pulling my weight. I mean my job may not save lives or anything but it needs to be done...and....well...'

My vehemence departed as swiftly as it came; what was left was a soft ambivalence. One moment I was sure this guy was pulling some moral high ground trip, the next I found myself up there alone....

All the while the old man just stood there, impassive. His gentle energy seemed to help me as if by contagion. The tension flowed out of me with my breath.

'Sorry 'bout that', I exhaled. 'I don't really know what's going on, I feel a little strange and...confused...and I am never usually so emotional. I think I thought you were judging me or something.'

Feeling that I still hadn't quite atoned for my outburst I mustered up my best bonhomie and continued, proffering a hand: 'By the way, I'm Adam'.

The old boy gently gripped my hand with his own (I noticed his clean fingernails) and said, 'Gavin'.

A frisson. He certainly wasn't my old mate Gav and yet I felt there was a connection somehow....as if he had read my mind or something.

'So...Gavin, again, please forgive my rudeness, I honestly don't know what came over me. Can I buy you a coffee or something? Do you need any money?'

'A coffee would be nice', said the old man.

'Okay', I smiled.

When we got to the Green Bean – my favourite cafe – I was already counting the minutes. I had to get back to work soon, but I reasoned a quick coffee would be just the thing to get me going and, after all, I could always work late to catch up. We sat in my favourite corner looking out onto the street and soon one of the staff came over to take our order.

'Can I get you gentlemen something?' said the girl. I had noticed her before of course, although I didn't know her name. I knew that she had a small Chinese ideogram on the back of her neck that showed when she wore her hair up. Her dark brown hair was down today though, past her shoulders, flowing in waves, shimmering with vitality, as if it were somehow microscopically in motion, Jesus! how had I not noticed how beautiful this girl was before?

'Hmmm, soy latte thanks', I semi-garbled, still wondering at why I was so taken with her hair today - I never usually paid much attention to her. Gavin looked up into the girl's eyes and smiled and said, 'Cappuccino thanks Dawn'.

Dawn! - that was her name, I remembered. But how did he know? I couldn't picture him being a regular patron here, or anywhere. I mean he looked like Crocodile Dundee crossed with the Lorax or something. I think I would have noticed him around before, and I came here all the time.

'Do you know her?' I inquired.

'No.'

'Then how did you know her name?'

'Sometimes I just know'

'Sometimes?'

'Yes. It depends on the person.'

'Did you know my name?'

'No. I told you. You aren't here yet'

'What the hell does that mean?!' I yelled, exasperated and immediately embarrassed. 'Look...that just doesn't make any sense to me', I said in quiet frustration.

Gavin looked away for a couple of seconds and then said:

'You get born of the mother into this world. Some people also give birth to themselves. This second birth is what I am talking about.'

I was still quite flummoxed but gathered that he was probably on some sorta Christian 'born again' trip. 'Is this a Christian thing', I asked.

'Well, yes....very much', he said, stroking his white beard. 'I hadn't thought of it that way before.'

I was confused again but gave up trying to work it all out. I sat quietly, not thinking, looking out at the people in the street. Before long Dawn came over with our coffees. I noticed that she had a way of walking that was unlike anyone else's: she sauntered, with an undulating rhythm, almost as if she were underwater. It was the most elegant walk I had ever seen.

'Your coffees gentlemen', she smiled. 'Anything else I can do for you?'

Gavin shot me a conspiratorial glance, looked back at Dawn and said, 'yes, I wonder, could you tell me what you want Dawn?'

'Excuse me?' she replied, a little puzzled.

'What do you want – out of life?'

Dawn regained her composure quickly, 'well....I want what everyone wants I guess – to be happy.'

'And you are happy?'

'Yes, mostly. I still get upset of course - the news, rude people....you know. But I like my job - I get to meet lots of people and make them good coffee, and I...', Dawn stopped, suddenly shy.

'Please go on my dear Dawn?' Gavin appealed with such a benevolent sincerity that I could see Dawn respond, bodily it seemed, as if she was now sure of something and could relax.

'Well....I like to write....it makes me feel connected to something else you know, but it only happens when I am feeling something,,,,and of course music...I couldn't survive without music, dancing....'

Gavin was smiling as he gave Dawn free reign, she occasionally glancing at him to be reminded of that something which he had given her, and she also glancing at me, politely and ever so quizzically perhaps, at least I imagined it so.

'...also I am going to Spain later this year,,,I have nearly saved enough....I feel drawn there you know....I want to walk the Camino de Santiago....''

'Dawn paused, waiting for Gavin's reply, which came after a few moments...

'Spain is remarkable dear Dawn, and the Camino is truly magical....may I suggest the Primitivo? It is the oldest route, the original, and it winds through beautiful mountains and valleys...everyone does the French way, which is also beautiful, but crowded,,,besides the Primitivo is the wildest, one can walk all day without seeing another person sometimes.'
'You've walked the Camino?' Helena chirped, excited like a little girl. I was conscious of staring at her quite hopelessly.

'Yes more than once my dear....its the biggest pub crawl I ever did!' And with that he leant back and gave a hearty a laugh. Me?- I was enjoying his tale also, so much that I couldn't help picturing myself walking this Camino thing with Dawn by my side (reprehensible sentimentality!)....'Stop that you big wuss!', I thought to myself, and concentrated once more on what Gavin was saying.

'.... I have been around for many years my dear, and I have seen many places and many wonders. This world, you know, is full of marvels.' The old man paused briefly, shot me a smiling glance and continued, smiling broadly, revealing his white, even teeth. 'You know, people will always surprise you if you give them the chance.' And with this he lent back and laughed a deep resonant laugh as I had never heard. It was as if the very earth itself were laughing.

The charm of the old man was palpable I had to admit. It was hard to believe that this was the same person I had met this morning. It made me think about prejudice, and about that nebulous entity that seemed to have decided my life on my behalf - they seemed related somehow. I got no further with my ruminations however because my new pal Gavin was asking me a question:

'So you see how the girl was alive, did you see?' he said, pointing with his eyes at Dawn as she walked back to the counter.

'Well I think I know what you mean', I replied tentatively. 'I noticed her walk was beautiful and like nothing I'd seen before.'

'Yes! When one is alive they become unique, for life expresses uniquely always. When one is not yet fully alive, well they look and behave like everyone else.'

'A bit like fashion and style', I said, feeling more confident.

'Yes. That is a good analogy. Style is unique to the individual; fashion is adopted. Well Adam, I must say you are surprising me.'

And I was surprising myself. Not only did I feel some sort of thrill in this strange dialectical journey I was having with a weird geezer I didn't know from Adam (ahem), I was also feeling a definite affection for him, and for Dawn. It was like I was seeing things for the first time. Even the objects in the cafe seemed brighter and sharper. It was like everything were suddenly more real.

I finished my coffee and offered the old man twenty dollars which he politely refused. Instead he reached into his pocket and brought out a stone, just like the one he wore round his neck. He thrust it into my palm.

'Hold on to it', he said. 'It will help'.

'Help with what?' I asked.

'With what you want', he said.

I couldn't help myself: 'How does it help? - I mean how can a stone help me with what I want?''

'These stones came to Earth a long time ago', he began. 'When things that are not of the Earth reach Earth they are given power - the Earth gives them power. These stones are different to anything on the Earth, and therefore they have different properties to anything that is from the Earth. These stones amplify the effects of the creative unconscious Adam. That force within you which brings forth, which gives birth.'

Perhaps because the day had been so weird already this new information didn't seem all that far-fetched. Indeed I actually felt like I was finally beginning to get my head around all this stuff. I was about to say something when the old boy spoke up again:

'Well that's what the guy in the crystal shop said to me anyway. Me? - I like the colours, just like Brisbane Roar!' With this he bellowed laughter again like some feral Falstaff, necked what remained of his coffee and departed. He was gone before I could think to ask him if I could see him again. Instead I got up and sat where he had been sitting (for a better view) and ordered another coffee from Dawn, noticing for the first time the delicate silver identity bracelet that adorned her slender wrist. While I waited I tossed the stone he gave me from hand to hand, thinking about what he had said,,,I momentarily considered asking Dawn to a Roar game but it seemed like a long shot (pardon the pun) and a bit sudden to say the least. Time enough for all that I thought.....

That night I did a bit of detective work and tracked down my old friend Gav. He was in a homeless shelter in Melbourne. I suggested he come live with me as I had a spare room. He liked the idea too.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

excerpts from henry miller's 'colossus of maroussi' (1941)




'It is the morning of the first day of the great peace, the peace of the heart, which comes with surrender. I never knew the meaning of peace until I arrived at Epidaurus. Like everybody I had used the word all my life without once realising I was using a counterfeit. Peace is not the opposite of war anymore than death is the opposite of life....I am talking of course of the peace which passeth all understanding. There is no other kind. The peace which most of us know is merely a cessation of hostilities, a truce, an interregnum, a lull, a respite, which is negative. The peace of the heart is positive and invincible, demanding no conditions, requiring no protection. It just is. If it is a victory it is a curious one because it is based entirely on surrender, a voluntary surrender to be sure. There is no mystery in my mind as to the nature of the cures which were wrought at this great therapeutic centre of the ancient world. Here the healer himself was healed, first and most important step in the development of the art, which is not medical but religious. Second, the patient was healed before he ever received the cure. The great physicians have always spoken of Nature as being the great healer. That is only partially true. Nature alone can do nothing, Nature can cure only when man recognises his place in the world, which is not in Nature, as with the animal, but in the human kingdom, the link between the natural and the divine.....

The joy of life comes through peace, which is not static but dynamic. No man can really say that he knows what joy is until he has experienced peace...There are people who want to fight to bring about peace - the most deluded souls of all. There will be no peace until murder is eliminated from the heart and mind. Murder is the apex of the broad pyramid whose base is the self. That which stands will have to fall. Everything which man has fought for will have to be relinquished before he can live as a man. Up till now he has been a sick beast and even is divinity stinks. He is master of many worlds and in his own he is a slave. What rules the world is the heart, not the brain, in every realm our conquests bring only death. We have turned our back on the one realm wherein freedom lies. At Epidaurus, in the stillness, in the great peace that came over me, I heard the heart of the world beat. I know what the cure is: it is to give up, to relinquish, to surrender, so that our little hearts may beat in unison with the great heart of the world....

The fight is not against disease: disease is a by-product. The enemy of man is not germs, but man himself, his pride, his prejudice, his stupidity, his arrogance. No class is immune, no system holds a panacea. Each one individually must revolt against a way of life which is not his own. The revolt, to be effective, must be continuous and relentless. It is not enough to overthrow governments, masters, tyrants: one must overthrow his own preconceived idea of right and wrong, good and bad, just and unjust....A billion men seeking peace cannot be enslaved. We have enslaved ourselves, by our own petty, circumscribed view of life. It is glorious to offer one's life for a cause, but dead men accomplish nothing. Life demands that we offer something more - spirit, soul, intelligence, good will.'


*** 


'I have not yet crossed the threshold. I am outside, between the Cyclopean blocks which flank the entrance to the shaft. I am still the man I might have become, assuming every benefit of civilisation to be showered upon me with regal indulgence. I am gathering all of this potential civilised muck into a hard, tiny knot of understanding. I am blown to the maximum, like a great bowl of molten glass hanging from the stem of a glass-blower. Make me into any fantastic shape, use all your art, exhaust your lung power - till I shall only be a thing fabricated, at the best a beautiful cultured soul. I know this. I despise it. I stand outside full-blown, the most beautiful, the most cultured, the most marvelously fabricated soul on earth. I am going to put my foot over the threshold - now. I do so. I hear nothing. I am not even there to hear myself shattering into a billion splintered smithereens. Only Agamemnon is there. The body fell apart when they lifted the mask from his face. But he is there, he fills the still beehive: he spills out into the open, floods the fields, lifts the sky a little higher. The shepherd walks and talks with him by day and by night. Shepherds are crazy folk. So am I. I am done with civilization and its spawn of cultured souls. I gave myself up when I entered the tomb. from now on I am a nomad, a spiritual nobody. Take your fabricated world and put it away in the museums, I don't want it, can't use it. I don't believe any civilised being knows, or ever did know, what took place in this sacred precinct. A civilized man can't possibly know or understand - he is on the other side of the slope whose summit was scaled long before he or his progenitors came into being. They call it Agamemnon's tomb. Well, possibly someone called Agamemnon was here laid to rest. What of it? Am I to stop there, gaping like an idiot? I do not. I refuse to rest on that too-too-solid fact. I take flight here, not as a poet, not as a recreator, fabulist, mythologist, but as pure spirit. I say the whole world, fanning out in every direction from this spot, was once alive in a way that no man has ever dreamed of. I say there were gods who roamed everywhere, men like us in form and substance, but free, electrically free. When they departed this earth they took with them the one secret which we shall never wrest from them until we too have made ourselves free again. We are to know what it is to have life eternal - when we have ceased to murder. Here at this spot, now dedicated to the memory of Agamemnon, some foul and hidden crime blasted the hopes of man. Two worlds lie juxtaposed, the one before, the one after the crime. The crime contains the riddle, as deep as salvation itself....

It scarcely seems credible to me now that what I relate now was the enchanted work of a brief morning. By noon we were already winding down the road to the little inn. On our way we came across the guardian who, though he had arrived too late, insisted on filling me with facts and dates which were utterly without sense. He spoke first in Greek and then, when he discovered that I was an American, in English. When he had finished his learned recital he began talking about Coney island. He had been a molasses thrower on the boardwalk. He might have well said he had been a wasp glued to the ceiling of an abandoned ch√Ęteau for all the interest I showed. Why had he come back? The truth is he hadn't come back. Nobody comes back who has made the transatlantic voyage westward. He is still throwing molasses on the boardwalk. He came back to incarnate as a parrot, to talk this senseless parrot-language to other parrots who pay to listen. This is the language in which it is said that the early greeks believed in gods, the word god no longer having any meaning but used just the same, thrown out like counterfeit money. Men who believe in nothing write learned tomes about gods who never existed. This is part of the cultural rigmarole. If you are very proficient at it you finally get a seat in the academy where you slowly degenerate into a fully-fledged chimpanzee.'

***


'In the museum I cam again upon the colossal Theban statues which have never ceased to haunt me and finally we stood before the mazing statue of Antinous, last of the gods. I could not help but contrast in my mind this most wonderful idealisation of the eternal duality of man, so bold and simple, so thoroughly greek in the best sense, with that literary creation of Balzac's, Seraphita, which is altogether vague and mysterious and, humanly speaking, altogether unconvincing. Nothing could better convey the transition from light to darkness, from the pagan to the Christian conception of life, other than this enigmatic figure of the last god on earth who flung himself into the Nile. By emphasisng the soulful qualities of man Christianity succeeded in disembodying man; as angel the sexes fuse into the sublime spiritual being which man essentially is. The Greeks, on the other hand, gave body to everything, thereby incarnating spirit and eternalising it. In Greece one is ever filled with the sense of eternality which is expressed in the here and now; the moment one returns to the Western world, whether in Europe or America, this feeling of body, of eternality, of incarnated spirit is shattered. We move in clock time amidst the debris of vanished worlds, inventing the instruments of our own destruction, oblivious of fate or destiny, knowing never a moment of peace, possessing not an ounce of faith, a prey to the blackest superstitions, functioning neither in the body or the spirit, active not as individuals but as microbes in the organism of the diseased.'


 
***

It was the soothsayer's wife that opened the for us. She had a serene, dignified countenance which  at once impressed me favourably. She pointed to the next room where her husband sat at a table in his shirtsleeves, his head supported by his elbows. he was apparently engaged in reading a huge, Biblical book. As we entered the room he rose and shook hands cordially. There was nothing theatrical or ostentatious about him; indeed he had more the air of a carpenter pursuing his rabbinical studies than any appearance of being a medium. he hastened to explain that he ws not possessed of any special powers, that he had simply been a student of Kabbala for many years and that he had been instructed in the art of Arabian astrology...the only information he demanded was the date, hour and place of my birth, my first name and my mother's and father's firts names. I should say that before he had put these questions to me he remarked to Katsimbalis [the Colossus] that I was decidedly a Capricorn of the Jupiterian type [which Miller is]...

He began by telling me that I was approaching a new and most important phase of my life, that up to the present I had been wandering in circles, that I had created many enemies (by what I had written) and caused much harm and suffering to others. He said that I not only lived a dual life (I believe he used the word schizophrenic) but a multiple life and that nobody really understood me, not even my closest friends. But soon, he said, all that was to cease. At a certain date, which he gave me, I would find a clear, open path ahead of me; before dying I would bring great joy to the world, to everybody in the world, he emphasised, and my greatest enemy would bow down before me and beg my forgiveness. he said that I would enjoy before my death the greatest honours, the greatest rewards which man can bestow upin man. I would make three trips to the Orient where, among other things, I would meet a man who would understand me as no one had and that this meeting was absolutely indispensable for the both of us. That on my last visit to the orient I would never return, neither would I die, but vanish in the light. I interrupted him here to ask if he meant  by that that I would be immortal, through my works or my deeds, and he answered solemnly and most significantly that he did not, that he meant simply and literally that I would never die. At this I confess I felt startled and I glanced at Katsimbalis, without saying a word, to make sure that I had head correctly.

He went on to tell me that there were signs and indications which he himself could not understand but which he would relate to me exactly as they were given. Not at all surprised by this I begged him to do so, adding that I would understand quite well myself. he was particularly impressed, it seemed, by the fact thta I had all the signs of divinity and at the same time my feet were chained to the earth....Turning to me again he made it clear, both by his speech and by his words, that he considered it a rare privilege to be in the presence of such a one as myself. He confessed that he had never seen indications for such a splendid career as now lay before me. he asked me pertinently if I had not escaped death several times. "In fact," he added, hardly waiting for confirmation, " you have always escaped whenever a situation becomes desperate or unbearable. You always will. You lead a charmed life. I want you to remember my words, when danger confronts you again - however perilous the situation you must never give up, you will be saved. You are like a ship with two rudders: when one gives out the other will function. In addition you are equipped with wings: you can take flight when those about you must perish. You are protected. You have had only one enemy - yourself." And with this he rose, came round to me and seizing my hand raised it to his lips.

...Everything he told me about the past was startingly accurate and for the most part were about things which no one in Greece, not even [Laurence] Durrell or Katsimbalis, could possibly have had any knowledge about....There was one touch, incidentally, which I forgot and which is worth relating, because it struck me as so Armenian. In telling me of the fame and glory, the honours and rewards I would receive, he remarked in a puzzled way - " But I see no money!" At this I laughed outright. Money has been the one thing I have never had, and yet I have led a rich life and in the main a happy one. Why should I need money now - or later? When I have been desperately in need I have always found a friend. I go on the assumption that I have friends everywhere. I shall have more and more as time goes on. If I were to have money I become careless and negligent, believing in a security which doe snot exist, stressing those values which are illusory and empty. I have no misgivings about the future. In the dark days to come money will be less than ever a protection against evil and suffering.


'....I had left Paris before the war knowing that my life there had come to an end. The decision to take a vacation for one year, to abstain from writing during that time, the very choice of Greece which, as i see it now, was the only country which could have satisfied my inner needs, all this was significant. In the last year or two in Paris I had been hinting to my friends that I would one day give up writing altogether, give it up voluntarily - at the moment I felt myself in possession of the greatest power and mastery....a thought had begun to crystallise in me, namely that the life of the artist, his devotion to art, is the highest and last phase in the egotism in man. ...I feel under no compulsion to any particular thing. I feel, on the contrary, a growing liberation, supplemented more and more by a desire to serve the world in the highest possible way. What that way is I have not yet determined, but it seems clear to me that I shall pass from art to life, to exemplify whatever i have mastered through art by my living. I said I felt chastened. It is true that I also felt exalted. But above all I felt a sense of responsibility such as i have never known before. A sense of responsibility towards myself, let me hasten to add....During all the years that I have been writing I have steeled myself to the idea that I would not really be accepted, at least to my own countrymen, until after my death....A good part of my life has, in a way, been lived in the future.With regard to all that vitally concerns me I am really a dead man, only only to the very few who, like myself, could not wait for the world to catch up with them. I do not say that out of pride or vanity, but with humility not untouched with sadness. Sadness is perhaps hardly the right word either, since I neither regret the course I have followed nor desire things to be any different than they are. I know now what the world is like and knowing it I accept it, both the good and the evil. To live creatively, I have discovered, is to live more and more unselfishly, to live more and more into the world, identifying oneself with it and thus influencing it at the core, so to speak. Art, like religion, it now seems to me, is only a preparation, an initiation into the way of life. The goal is liberation, freedom, which means assuming greater responsibility. To continue writing beyond the point of self-realisation seems futile and arresting....It was my belief before meeting the Aremenian [soothsayer], and it still is, that when the honours and rewards are conferred upon me, I shall not be present to receive them, that I shall be living alone and unknown in some remote part of the world carrying on the adventure which began with the effort to realise myself in words. I know that the greatest dangers lie ahead; the real voyage has only begun. As I write these lines it is almost a year since that moment in Athens which I have just described. May I add that since coming to America everything that has happened to me, one fulfillment, one realization after another, has occurred with an almost clock like precision. Indeed I am almost terrified for now, contrary to my life in the past, I have but to desire a thing and my wishes are gratified. I am in the delicate position of one who has to be careful not to wish for something he really does not desire. The effect, I must say, has been to make me desire less and less. The one desire that grows more and more is to give. The very real sense of power and wealth which this entails is also somewhat frightening - because the logic of it seems too utterly simple. It is not until I look about me and realize that the vast majority of my fellow men are desperately trying to hold on to what they possess or to increase their possessions that I begin to understand that the wisdom of giving is not so simple as it seems. Giving and receiving are at bottom one thing, dependent upon whether one lives open or closed. Living openly one becomes a medium, a transmitter; living thus, as a river, one experiences life to the full, flows again with the current of life, and dies in order to live gain as an ocean.'



***



'...To those who think Greece today is of no importance let me say that no greater error could be committed. To-day, as of old Greece is of utmost importance to every man who is seeking to find himself. My experience is not unique. And perhaps I should add that no people in the world are as much in need of what Greece has to offer as the American people. Greece is not merely the antithesis of America, but more, the solution to the ills which plague us. Economically it may seem unimportant, but spiritually Greece is still the mother of nations, the fountainhead of wisdom and inspiration.

...The greatest single impression which Greece made upn me is that it is a man-sized world. Now it is true that France also conveys this impression, and yet there is a difference, a difference which is profound. Greece is the home of the gods; they may have died but their presence still makes itself felt. The gods were of human proportions: they were created out of the human spirit. In France, as elsewhere in the Western world, this link between the human and the divine is broken. The scepticism and paralysis produced by this schism in the very nature of man provides the clue to the inevitable destruction of our present civilisation. If men cease to believe that they will one day become gods then they surely will become worms. Much has been said about a new order of life destined to arise on this American continent. It should be borne in mind, however, that not even a beginning has been envisioned for at least a thousand years to come.The present way of life, which is America's, is doomed as surely as that of Europe. No nation on earth can possibly give birth to a new order of life until a worldview is established. We have learned through bitter mistakes that all the peoples of the world are vitally connected, but we have not made use of that knowledge in an intelligent way. We have seen two world wars and we shall undoubtedly see a third and a fourth, possibly more. There will be no hope of peace until the old order is shattered. The world must become small again, as the old Greek world was - small enough to include everybody. Until the very last man is included there will be no real human society. My intelligence tells me that such a condition of life will be a long time in coming, but my intelligence also tells me that nothing short of that will ever satisfy man. Until he has become fully human, until he learns to conduct himself as a member of the earth, he will continue to create gods who destroy him. The tragedy of Greece lies not in the destruction of a great culture but in the abortion of a great vision. We sat erroneously that the Greeks humanised the gods. It is just the contrary. The gods humanised the Greeks.....They made mythology of a reality which was too great for their human comprehension. We forget, in our enchantment with the myth, that it is born of reality and is fundamentally no different from any other form of creation, except that it has to do with the very quick of life. We too are creating myths, though we are perhaps not aware of it. But in our myths there is no place for the gods. We are building an abstract, dehumanised world out of the ashes of an illusory materialism. We are proving to ourselves that the universe is empty, a task which is justified by our own empty logic. We are determined to conquer and conquer we shall, but the conquest is death.

....The light of Greece opened my eyes, penetrated my pores, expanded my whole being. I came home to the world, having found the true centre and the real meaning of revolution. No warring conflicts between the nations of the earth can disturb this equilibrium. Greece herself may become embroiled, but I refuse categorically to become anything less than the citizen of the world which I silently declared myself to be when I stood in Agamemnon's tomb. From that day forth my life was dedicated to the recovery of the divinity of man. Peace to all men, I say, and life more abundant!'






Thursday, June 8, 2017

excerpt from richard jefferies 'story of my heart' (1883)


'....I fully recognise the practical difficulty arising from the
ingrained, hereditary, and unconscious selfishness which began
before history, and has been crossed and cultivated for twelve
thousand years since. This renders me less sanguine of united
effort through geological time ahead, unless some idea can be
formed to give a stronger impulse even than selfishness, or
unless the selfishness can be utilised. The complacency with
which the mass of people go about their daily task, absolutely
indifferent to all other considerations, is appalling in its
concentrated stolidity. They do not intend wrong, they intend
rightly: in truth, they work against the entire human race. So
wedded and so confirmed is the world in its narrow groove of
self, so stolid and so complacent under the immense weight of
misery, so callous to its own possibilities, and so grown to its
chains, that I almost despair to see it awakened. Cemeteries are
often placed on hillsides, and the white stones are visible far
off. If the whole of the dead in a hillside cemetery were called
up alive from their tombs, and walked forth down into the
valley, it would not rouse the mass of people from the dense
pyramid of stolidity which presses on them.


There would be gaping and marvelling and rushing about, and
what then? In a week or two the ploughman would settle down
to his plough, the carpenter to his bench, the smith to his anvil,
the merchant to his money, and the dead come to life would be
utterly forgotten. No matter in what manner the possibilities of
human life are put before the world, the crowd continues as
stolid as before. Therefore nothing hitherto done, or suggested,
or thought of, is of much avail; but this fact in no degree stays
me from the search. On the contrary, the less there has been
accomplished the more anxious I am; the truth it teaches is that
the mind must be lifted out of its old grooves before anything
will be certainly begun. Erase the past from the mind, stand
face to face with the real now, and work out all anew. Call the
soul to our assistance; the soul tells me that outside all the ideas
that have yet occurred there are others, whole circles of others....

The most extraordinary spectacle, as it seems to me, is the vast
expenditure of labour and time wasted in obtaining mere
subsistence. As a man, in his lifetime, works hard and saves
money, that his children may be free from the cares of penury
and may at least have sufficient to eat, drink, clothe, and roof
them, so the generations that preceded us might, had they so
chosen, have provided for our subsistence. The labour and time
of ten generations, properly directed, would sustain a hundred
generations succeeding to them, and that, too, with so little self-
denial on the part of the providers as to be scarcely felt. So men
now, in this generation, ought clearly to be laying up a store, or,
what is still more powerful, arranging and organising that the
generations which follow may enjoy comparative freedom from
useless labour. Instead of which, with transcendent improvidence, the world works only for to-day, as the world
worked twelve thousand years ago, and our children's children
will still have to toil and slave for the bare necessities of life.
This is, indeed an extraordinary spectacle.

That twelve thousand written years should have elapsed, and
the human race, able to reason and to think, and easily capable
of combination in immense armies for its own destruction,
should still live from hand to mouth, like cattle and sheep, like
the animals of the field and the birds of the woods; that there
should not even be roofs to cover the children born, unless
those children labour and expend their time to pay for them;
that there should not be clothes, unless, again, time and labour
are expended to procure them; that there should not be even
food for the children of the human race, except they labour as
their fathers did twelve thousand years ago; that even water
should scarce be accessible to them, unless paid for by labour!

In twelve thousand written years the world has not yet built
itself a House, nor filled a Granary, nor organised itself for its
own comfort. It is so marvellous I cannot express the wonder
with which it fills me. And more wonderful still, if that could
be, there are people so infatuated, or, rather, so limited of view,
that they glory in this state of things, declaring that work is the
main object of man's existence, work for subsistence, and
glorying in their wasted time. To argue with such is impossible;
to leave them is the only resource.

This our earth this day produces sufficient for our existence.
This our earth produces not only a sufficiency, but a
superabundance, and pours a cornucopia of good things down
upon us. Further, it produces sufficient for stores and granaries
to be filled to the rooftree for years ahead. I verily believe that
the earth in one year produces enough food to last for thirty.
Why, then, have we not enough? Why do people die of
starvation, or lead a miserable existence on the verge of it? Why
have millions upon millions to toil from morning to evening
just to gain a mere crust of bread? Because of the absolute lack
of Organisation by which such labour should produce its effect,
the absolute lack of distribution,the absolute lack even of the
very idea that such things are possible. Nay, even to mention
such things, to say that they are possible, is criminal with many.
Madness could hardly go farther.

That selfishness has all to do with it I entirely deny. The human
race for ages upon ages has been enslaved by ignorance and by
interested persons whose object it has been to confine the
minds of men, thereby doing more injury than if with infected
hands they purposely imposed disease on the heads of the
people. Almost worse than these, and at the present day as
injurious, are those persons incessantly declaring, teaching, and
impressing upon all that to work is man's highest condition.
This falsehood is the interested superstition of an age infatuated
with money, which having accumulated it cannot even expend
it in pageantry. It is a falsehood propagated for the doubtful
benefit of two or three out of ten thousand, It is the lie of a-
morality founded on money only, and utterly outside and
having no association whatever with the human being in itself.
Many superstitions have been got rid of in these days; time it is
that this, the last and worst, were eradicated.

At this hour, out of thirty-four millions who inhabit this
country, two-thirds, say twenty-twomillions, live within thirty
years of that abominable institution the poorhouse. That any
human being should dare to apply to another the epithet
"pauper" is, to me, the greatest, the vilest, the most
unpardonable crime that could be committed. Each human
being, by mere birth, has a birthright in this earth and all its
productions; and if they do not receive it, then it is they who
are injured, and it is not the "pauper", oh, inexpressibly wicked
word!, it is the well-to-do, who are the criminal classes. It
matters not in the least if the poor be improvident, or drunken,
or evil in any way. Food and drink, roof and clothes, are the
inalienable right of every child born into the light. If the world
does not provide it freely, not as a grudging gift but as a right,
as a son of the house sits down to breakfast, then is the world
mad. But the world is not mad, only in ignorance, an interested
ignorance, kept up by strenuous exertions, from which infernal
darkness it will, in course of time, emerge, marvelling at the pastas a man wonders at and glories in the light who has escaped from blindness.'

Thursday, November 10, 2016

the second gate of tarot: the logos as word and flesh (with preface: the mirror of heaven)


Before we continue, permit me another aside, if only for my own benefit. The cards of heaven, the top most row indicate an aspect of the heavenly realm, and the cards below in the bottom row, the earthly realm, indicate earthly aspects, which are the mirror of the heaven cards above.

Each gate is the confrontation of a spiritual archetype with its material alter ego. The principle is thus: each material or earthly archetype originates from a spiritual source, from the spiritual archetype directly above...a psychic energy which is then incarnated. This incarnation reflects its spiritual origins but expresses them in a new idiom – that of the soil and flesh, wholly corporeal, sensuous, sensual. The original spiritual archetypes, indicating conscious agency, are counterposed with the unconscious agency implicit in life itself. The circuit is double: the spiritual archetype seeks to seed itself in the generative matrix of the earth; the forms of life produced by this matrix together constitute a perpetual striving towards the spiritual dimension from whence they came. In other words the same principle but two different directions. Thus the central row acts as mediator, allowing both directions to be expressed simultaneously.

For instance the magician represents the will of the spirit; the devil is the will of the flesh. The two principles are of the same type and therefore it is right that the scales of justice are the mediating symbol. What will be weighed (compared) must be like to itself. And what is weighed are these contending wills, wills that are weighed against each other in the interests of balance. The central card mediates here by saying the justice of the universe inheres in a balance between the desire of the spirit to invade the world and the desire of the flesh to storm heaven.

On the one hand god wishes to become man, on the other we have man wanting to become god, christ and faust, the mirror images of one another, one abrogates power entirely, one embraces it utterly. Both are pure will. This is as it were the conflict, the initial tension which propels us forward to some sort of hoped for resolution...'alas two souls contend in my breast',,,and even jesus when asked to cast out satan, replied with 'how can satan cast out satan?'

Justice does not condemn one desire over another but rather is the vehicle through which each desire limits the other in the interests of balance. the magician seeks to realise his talent as something concrete in the world, the devil wishes to return to the heavens via the agency of man. The mind and feelings seek to realise themselves in form, the body and its appetites seek sublimation, to transcend form, to induce ecstasy.

Conflict is at the heart of everything, as Hercalitus told us. Mutual abrasiveness is advantageous. We grow and exceed ourselves through conflict. It is this tension which is the motor of evolution. Strife is the father of all things. Jung reminds us that the soul has two poles: god and sexuality. We can substitute the magician for god and the devil for sexuality and in so doing justice becomes that function of the psyche and the cosmos which maintains an abrasive harmony between the two. It is this tension that provides stability for further growth and evolution, just as opposing forces produce a stable platform for further construction. This constructive tension is called tensegrity, which is a portmanteau of 'tension' and 'integrity'.

The desire of the flesh to storm heaven is to say man's Promethean ambition. We seek power but abrogate responsibility. Contrarily, the desire of the spirit to invade the world is to take too much responsibility on oneself, denying the rights of others to choose for themselves - an act of spiritual arrogance. Rather than 'invade' spirit should saturate; rather than storming heaven, flesh should vibrate ever higher. There is a humility that is central to the human, the contrary being that hubris which invites nemesis.

Today the world of the spirit weighs but little in comparison to the world of matter, thus the imbalance must be corrected, for Justice is perfect (8). But justice can only be effected through the individual, never en masse. And the process through which justice is effected through the individual is the process of the remaining six gates. The first gate is activated through recognition of injustice in a visceral sense (this is why justice has a rope around her neck). This activates the conscience – the evaluative complement the the intellect, which now enables the intellect to work effectivelywhich is when the mind (sword) is directed (points) to heaven, to things of the spirit. The ugly truth is seen clearly and the perfect justice which is implicit in having a sense of injustice, in having a conscience, this perfect justice has impelled the individual towards his goal, which is his soul, and in so doing balance is restored.
Likewise in the next tryptcyh we have la papesse and its mirror, the tower or house of god. The idea or logos is the theme here - the creative word. The papesse is the contemplation of this idea; the tower is the destruction of imprisoning concepts....for the idea is a numinous thing, a total thing that is a feeling and an intimation as much as something explicable; to 'explain away' is to render language hollow, insubstantial. The creative force of the word is slowly drained of meaning, of life; dry analytics replace a poetic heightening...numbness. And from this the need to break the shell, the reified concepts that have parasitised the body and body politic...these are exploded and reality intrudes, violently.

So we have the creative word, the logos, seeking to express itself ever more fully in the world, and in the world we have the tendency to reify the logos into immutable fact, which is to say we make of the living word something dead. We imprison the truth – which is our living selves – within a tower of abstractions. Cut off from the living world and one another we lose touch with reality, until the lightning bolt shatters our illusions, bringing us back to life. We are reborn. If the papesse is the book of life, the tower is just life, hence the foetus in the lightning bolt, the suggestion of ejaculation, the shower of coloured balls and walking on hands...it is a celebration, an overflowing of life and the meaning this holds is the logos made flesh. If the papesse is the book of god, the tower is his house – your body. This is the name: la maison dieuthe 'god house'. And this is why it is flesh coloured. The crown – the intellect – is knocked off its perch by the sheer realness, the intensity of lived experience, which is living knowledge of the logos.
The logos experienced either as
numen or as intensity, and the more numinous the experience, the more it approaches palpability, an actual physical registering; and the more intense the experience (eg the psychedelic), the more it carries with it an implicit knowledge of the logos as divine order. The spirit already has something of the flesh to it, hence it descends, like water. Likewise the experience of the divine logos as sheer intensity carries with it a mysteriuma knowledge revealed through the irruption of the logos-as-flesh...an intimation of its origins, an experience, direct and unmediated, of the divine order, experienced as the overwhelming if ineffable truth of ecstasy.Which brings us to the hermit, our mediator and guide on the journey to the soul. He holds high his lantern, red with the blood of christ, and it is this light by which he sees, and by which he measures,,,hence his solitary nature. If his lantern corresponds to la papesse, it is his vital red walking stick that corresponds the the tower. Lantern and stick, both red, both energies of the same type – the creative logos – one expressing as the light of the spirit, the other as the current of life itself, and its quickening. The hermit illumines his past (he is looking to his left) with the light of the spirit – the logos, and he registers with his stick, the humours of the earth. The stick, made of wood, is a conductor of telluric forces, the hermit is earthed we might say. His spiritual insight is in touch always with the earth and the flesh, which are his touchstone.
We have come though the first gate and have found ourselves alone. The hermit is that guide within who is the messenger of the spirit – Hermes. This is why he is 'l'hermite' and not the grammatically
correct 'l'ermite'. The hermit is the teacher of hermetic truths – which are the arcana (secrets) themselves. He teaches in a dual fashion – firstly through an absorption in and understanding of the logos-as-creative-word, represented by la papesse. Secondly because he is forever in touch with the living world itself, through his sinuous stick (unworked, natural). Anchored in reality, he is aware of the living world as the living word. And it is this living word which corroborates and demonstrates the logos as creative word. They are two sides of the same coin, and both must be apprehended to experience truth. The word without the knowledge within is empty; the intensity of life experience if undigested leads to confusion and chaos. The hermit is the bridge between the two. He enables us to see our past in a new light, freeing us from its repeating patterns; and he connects us with the groundtruth of reality, such that the world of words and concepts does not supplant the truth of immediate experience; we know the truth now through its corresponding echo in the living earth and our very flesh.

Perhaps we could say that sometimes we require the light of the spirit; sometimes we require a whack on the head with a stick. The hermit is a holy man outside of any church, like the ascetic monks who lived in caves, born of the Christian tradition, but one that is slightly different from that which we are familiar – the Greek Orthodox. In this tradition an emphasis on direct experience of the
numen - identification with the spirit; and also the theokratosthe god-bearer, the feminine principle, which is revered as that which births spirit into matter, it is she which is the black soil which gives rise to all life, including god.The hermit is he who knows and he who shows – but only in secret (his cloak hides his light). These things are not for all, only for those who are ready – only for those who have passed through the first gate. He is a sage, a guru, a seer, a recluse, a magician. As an aspect of the psyche he is always available, if we are ready to hear; and as a reflection in the outer world we encounter him in many timeless characters, from Merlin to Gandalf. He looks to his left, upon Justice. In the first gate we experienced Justice viscerally, as a lack or transgression, which compelled us to 'go our own way', now the hermit illumines this inscrutable figure as the ordering principle of the universe.If Justice is the awakening of conscience, the hermit is the awakening of the inner guide, the teacher within. In the Red Book Jung he relates how for him this figure was someone called Philemon, and how he was able to converse with him and question him; Philemon is an example of the hermit archetype, and Jung's experience with this archetype indicates the manner in which these archetypes work. Philemon is an aspect of Jung's own unconscious which is exteriorised. There is then an ongoing, episodic relationship between Jung and Philemon, until that point where Jung has no further need of him.When we have become our own teacher, our own guide, we have moved beyond the authority of the state and the church, which makes of us, in the eyes of society, an outlaw. This is the dangerous position of the Hermit, and again we see why solitude is key. The hermit does not broadcast his self-authority – to do so would be the end of him (as it was for Jesus). The hermit is self-sufficient, and he shares the secret of this sufficiency with those who truly seek it.The Hermit is the pivot point of the seven gates. In Justice we look outwards upon the world, and see it is a conflict between contending wills; the Hermit marks the point of turning inward which marks the beginning of the 'construction of the soul' for which the tarot is a manual. Jung once said, 'he who looks outside dreams; he who looks inside wakes'; the hermit is our guide on this journey of awakening from the nightmare of modern existence. We need only look to the zombie and robot motifs prevalent in popular mythology to see that humanity is in danger of becoming an unthinking homogeneous mass. The living individual has been reduced to the logic of the machine – cause and effect. This is the methodology of PR and advertising (which is now indistinguishable from party politics): circumvent the conscious mind and programme direct via the unconscious. This is magic in action, black magic, but magic nonetheless. For those that doubt the reality of magic, Madison Avenue should dispel that notion (a notion that is also black magic).

Black magic can only be countered by white magic, which is to say
conscious magic. The difference between white and black magic? - white magic augments the source. And what is the source? The source is that reservoir of spiritual energy which informs the material universe. On earth as it is in heaven. Heaven is not separate to the human condition, it is one half of it; the other half being the spontaneous activity of the living earth. Heaven pertains to the intellect and feelings; earth to the embodied senses, including intuition.

The source, therefore, is none other than justice herself (who being '8' signifies the perfection of the infinite), as the implicit morality and organising principle of the universe. White magic is that which balances the scales of justice; black magic adds to the imbalance. The hermit instructs us in the ways of magic, which is the science and art of
hidden correspondences. Another analogy is that of the 'hacker'. The hacker is able to understand and utilise a hidden language – code – and in doing so gains power to alter reality. He can use his skills for personal gain (black magic) or to further justice (white magic). The difficulty lies in predicting the effects of our actions. As the television series 'mr robot' illustrates very well, the best of intentions can yield unforeseen harm. And vice versa. Here we have the relativising principle that underlies the human condition: who can say what is good and bad after all, when bad things yield good, and good things yield bad? The key is that all conflicts are reconcilable within the individual. What is good is white magic is what augments the source is that which is the cosmic balance symbolised by justice, is that which is present within as that very balance in microcosm. In other words: White magic is healing to the individual who practises it.
Another connexion with magic here is the lantern of the hermit – the magic lantern. The idea of the magic lantern is that which
projects images, moving images, indistinguishable from reality. When the tarot was conceived centuries ago there were no moving images; no cameras of any sort in fact. But we need only visit Plato's cave to see the allusion was always there, the idea that what we take reality is actually a shadow play on a cave wall. The source of the light that we have our backs to is causative but we are engrossed in the effect: the play of shadows upon the wall. This is why politics and science have no real effect – they deal with the outer, the shadow play, and ignore the source of projection: the individual. In Plato's cave we must approach reality through the dialectical operations of intellect; we leave the shadow play to contemplate that which gives rise to the shadows in the first place; likewise the hermit signals us to cease looking to the outer world and to look within, for this is the source, not the world. Our innermost self is that which connects us with the totality. For the infinite extends in both directions, but is always one.Saul Williams, the musical artist and actor, uses the analogy of a digging a well. If we dig a well in our backyard, the deeper we dig the greater the number of other 'backyard' wells we will encounter, and if we reach the centre of the earth we will be in contact with everyone's well (should everyone dig that far!). The deeper we delve into our own unique selves the more we approach the that which is universal... and from here we can establish those principles upon which a just world, a sustainable world, can be based.

The tarot departs from Plato in its conception of dialectic. For Plato dialectic is the sole, and very dry, means of apprehending the immutable truths of the world of forms; in the tarot dialectic is the means by which we differentiate and exteriorise various archetypes in order to interrogate them. These archetypes are autonomous, capricious, contradictory. This is no dispassionate meditation, quite the opposite, in tarot the process is
charged with affectivity. In the Tarot what works is true, or as Jung might say, what acts is actual. The tarot operates through a resonance between the outer (the cards), and the inner state of being of the querent (the psyche). When performing a reading for someone there is an unmistakeable feeling when you 'get it right'; the penny drops so to speak and there is a feeling of rightness, and it is a feeling. The interpretation must be reasonable but we can come up with many reasonable interpretations for the same set of cards....it is the evaluative function (cups in tarot) that tells us whether we have hit the mark, or not.
The hermit shows that
what we take for objective phenomena in the world are actually projected from within ourselves, and not only this.... but that we also are projected from this same centre! In as much as we take ourselves as having an objective existence we too are chimeras. The magic theatre of Hesses's Steppenwolf comes to mind, and yes the caveat inscribed above the doorway too: for madmen only. For this is another aspect of the hermit – he is often seen as someone mad, even if that madness be admitted as something divinely inspired. Diogenes comes to mind here, and his wine barrel home, his retinue of dogs and of course his lantern, with which he seeks honest men during daylight. Madness here is the cure for a pathological reason. A reason divorced from reality. the tower is destroyed from a rising fire within (in the earliest versions of the tarot), which is to say the tower (the prison of reified reason) is broken apart by the intensity of feeling...leading to the 'madness' we see in the card: the two figures walking on their hands, as if they were ridiculing 'normal' or reasonable behaviour....all exuberance is a sort of madness, an intoxication....an overflowing....

Foucault's seminal work – madness and civilisation (histoire de la folie) – posits that madness
as pathology is contemporary with the beginning of modern civilisation - industry, science, education, private property. We see here the defence mechanism of the tower: to prevent its own destruction it labels those full of life as sick. And today this is something we are all familiar with. From ADHD to the autism spectrum to schizophrenia to god knows what else...mental 'illness' is becoming an epidemic, but what is really going on is something very different.

'
Things are bad because sick conscience now has a vital interest in not getting over its sickness. So a sick society invented psychiatry to defend itself against the investigations of certain visionaries whose faculties of divination disturbed it.'

This quote is from actor and writer Antonin Artaud and his book on Van Gogh. He himself spent seven years in an asylum, a period he describes as being necessary to preserve a certain honour. Rather than adapt to a sick society it is better (more honourable) to go 'mad'. The trick is to go mad without ending up in an asylum!

There are techniques and substances we can use to 'break the wall', from meditation to mushrooms. The psychedelic experience is especially effective in that it immediatley reveals reality as being something more fluid, beautiful, mysterious and comfortable than one hitherto knew. A revelatory experience, a '
relaxatory' experience. A return home. Once we knock the crown off the tower we let in the light once more and we remember: 'Ah this is it! This is what I was looking for,,,and it was always there, I just didn't see it!'

We have come through the first gate via justice, she who maintains balance (libra) between the free will of the magician and the demands of the appetites, symbolised by the devil. We have recognised the pitfall of repression (denial of the appetites); and we have recognised the trap of addiction/possession (denial of free will). We have recognised that free will is the precondition of conscious life and we have recognised our bodily self as being the ancient and mysterious carrier of the spontaneous intelligence of life itself; and we have activated that dimension of knowledge that we will call conscience, which supervenes upon the two. It is this dimension of knowledge, implicitly moral, which leads us closer to our goal whilst simultaneously distancing us from the comfortable passivity of the collective life. For conscience demands that we act according to it, irrespective of what society may say, and this elevation of the individual above society (the elevation of the individual's moral code above that of society) seems immoral to society, a diminution of its authority at best, a transgression of 'the law' at worst. This is why the central figure of the second gate is the hermit – we have cut ourselves off from the readymade truths that hitherto made sense of things for us, and we are alone now: we must find our own truth now, that which is unique to ourselves whilst at the same time being resonant with that core of truth in all others. Only by doing this will we overcome this psychic separation, this social alienation....which is the defining charcateristic of late industrial civilisation.
The high priestess complements the juggler (le bateleur) in that she represents the idea or 'word' which together with Will forms the basis of the world (eg Schopenhauer's 'World as Will and Idea'). The book she holds open on her lap is flesh coloured (the living word or 'book of life') and she is not reading it but offering it in the direction of the magician; and what she is offering is nothing less than herself. The high priestess represents the divine idea or logos which is apprehensible to the higher faculties (reason and feeling).

In the beginning was the word....and the word was god.

Where the St James' bible uses 'word', the earlier reek bible from which it is a translation uses logos. Logos here refers to the manifesting spirit, the holy spirit; it is the realm of ideation or, in Plato's parlance, the world of forms. In orthodox christianity logos is equated with the goddess Sophia – the object of adoration of those who would properly call themselves philosophers.

Great is truth, and mighty above all things....and this truth is a woman,
a goddess no less. The high priestess is completely covered – her modesty is total. Her secrets are not be to taken by force, only through reading her (living) book can we gain knowledge of that realm which (in)forms the earth.

The will is direction and choice; it is pure intentionality. The idea (or word or form or logos...)
is pure contemplation.

The high priestess represents the creative power of the word, of language; she represents learning, receptivity, the purity of the quest for knowledge for its own sake...she is the virgin mary, the immaculate conception, for what conception is immaculate save that that occurs in the realm of ideation?


There is no suggestion of action in this card save the act of offering. The high priestess indicates a state of repose, of meditation. She is that space of silent receptivity which precedes all creation.

The high priestess suggests study and devotion; the one must accompany the other. It is no good to study unless one is devoted to their studies, unless there is a resonance in the innermost self. Likewise what is devotion without a means to increase itself? Devotion also includes the idea of its enlargement through practice, study, learning.


Where the high priestess is all quiet and stillness, the tower is all action and drama. The tower itself is flesh coloured, like the high priestess's book – the tower is a living human entity, equally the body (the 'godhouse') and the dynamic organism of language itself (the tower of babel).

The tower has been struck by a strange lightning bolt, emanating from the upper right of the card (the domain of swords – intellect); and this bolt has knocked the crown off the tower, 'blowing the mind' if you will. In this sense the card represents the power of the mind to destroy that which is no longer true or useful....that which has become an imprisoning force.

If the high priestess represents plato's forms, then the tower represents the world of appearances. Would we agree with plato that the world of forms is more real than the world of appearances? In one sense the word is the beginning of course, but it is only through the world of the senses that this world can exist at all. The world of forms needs the world of appearances, just as the world of appearances needs the world of forms. The world of forms may produce the world of appearances but it is the continual re-creation of the world of appearances that reveals the existence of the world of forms – we intuit the world of forms through and only through the play of appearances. Time, as they say, is the moving image of eternity.

Where the papesse is virginal, the tower is phallic; if we see the papesse as the purity of spirit, emblematic of god, then we can see the tower as that chthonic force that mirrors and ostensibly opposes it – the penis enthroned (and crowned) – the libido. Or, to quote Jung, the psyche has two poles – God and Sexuality. Continuing with this line of thought we can see the 'eruption' of the tower – the displaced crown and the shower of coloured balls – as being an ejaculation. To the sobriety of the high priestess we have, counterposed, the explosive release of orgasm.

Orgasm and contemplation: the one a sudden, annihilating experience of a transcendent dimension, the other a profound and revelatory quietude. Two different ecstasies; two different ways of transcending the separate self. One through the mind, one through the body.

It seems (to me at any rate)
that the tower is a psychedelic archetype. The coloured balls remind one of Heraclitus' famous phrase – 'the aeon is a child at play with coloured balls'...a phenomenon that can be experienced through the use of psychedelic compounds like DMT (dimethyl tryptamine). And the very relativisation of language itself, implied through the connexion with the tower of Babel,,,is this not at the core of the psychedelic experience? The sheer insufficiency of language, its inadequacy to the task of translating the numinous into words. Is this not also the raison d'etre of poetry and mythology? – to render this truth in words, or get as close to it as possible...an impossible goal but one that runs asymptotic to the ideal such that the inevitable distance becomes small enough to 'jump',,,,such that language has the power to propel one beyond language.....In any case, the tower shows us clearly the release of what has been imprisoned...imprisoned by words, imprisoned by morals, imprisoned by fear....imprisoned by the mind. The two humans in the card are most noticeably interested in the ground, such that one even walks on his hands....the rarified air of thought (which gave rise to the tower), now is no longer the concern,,,like St anthony in Flaubert's 'temptation', these twins seem to have found that god is matter,,,that he is not to be found in dialectics and reason,,but in the fact, the living fact of the earth....nature is the living symbol of spirit.

Their walking on hands suggests further a sort of refusal of the 'head-first' approach of reason and logic....it is rather through an exuberance, an intensity of lived experience, that one makes contact with that dimension we might call divine...the cup overflows and true communion results...
The hermit is the central card and key to the second gate.....he is alone, that is the first thing we can say of him and perhaps the most important.
Perhaps he is a misanthrope, perhaps a holyman...we cannot know for sure. His mien does not suggest hostility however, quite the contrary....and what is he doing? He is furrowing the ground with his staff (is he a gardener?), and he is looking towards his left, towards justice perhaps, or perhaps his own past....his lantern is held aloft....and what does he see? What is he looking for? Perhaps he, like Diogenes, spends his days looking for an honest man by lantern light.