Friday, March 24, 2017

Make Way For The Bad Guy: a meditation on the meaning of Henry Miller (part 1)



'What you lookin' at? You all a bunch of fuckin' assholes. You know why? You don't have the guts to be what you wanna be? You need people like me. You need people like me so you can point your fuckin' fingers and say, "That's the bad guy." So... what that make you? Good? You're not good. You just know how to hide, how to lie. Me, I don't have that problem. Me, I always tell the truth. Even when I lie. So say good night to the bad guy! Come on. The last time you gonna see a bad guy like this again, let me tell you. Come on. Make way for the bad guy. There's a bad guy comin' through! Better get outta his way!'

Tony Montana (Al Pacino) in 'Scarface'.



The immune response is a psychic mechanism as well as a physiological one. When I first encountered Miller, I felt an instant antipathy, an aversion to his writing, an immediate dislike of the man. This was also what I had expected to find. I had nurtured a seemingly irrational prejudice against Henry before even reading him.

There is of course good reason for the immune response. This is obvious in terms of the workings of the body, but perhaps less so sociologically speaking. Just as a bacterium presents a potentially lethal problem for the infected organism, so too Miller poses a serious threat to that superorganism which supervenes upon the individual psyche – society. This is why his work was banned for so long in America and many other countries. Miller is a foreign body in the social organism – 'a traitor to the human race', as he describes himself. He is 'dazzled by the glorious collapse of the world', but not out of any malice or death-wish, quite the opposite. Miller affirms the necessary decay and death of Western civilisation, seeing that this too is part of life, and life is enough.

So my own initial disinclination was not that strange after all. Although in our heart of hearts - which is to say our most lucid minds - we all know that the present state of affairs is corrupt, ugly, murderous and beyond redemption, it is still an order, it still serves that indispensable function of organising the mass of humanity into some sort of unified action and common belief. That this action is nearly completely destructive and this belief is reduced to the belief in money and work is almost beside the point. Stability is key, and stability is something upon which we all depend.

But there is also the need for change, and this need is becoming irresistible. The world Miller was born into was already obviously sick and has now become terminal. The danger now is business-as-usual: the
status quo has been set for self-destruct.

Evolution is a dance between stasis and change. Too much stasis = stagnation and death; too much change = chaos and madness and then death. Between these two poles lies the path of life. We are suspended between two fires: the fire of the Sun and the fire at the heart of the Earth; the fire of the spirit and the fire of the flesh (is love not a baptism of fire? is our blood not molten iron?) Of the same atemporal source, these two fires counterpose and limit each other in the field of time. In other words we need to honour
both these forces that contend in us in order to do ourselves justice.

Jung called these forces 'God' and 'Sexuality' but we can replace the term 'Sexuality' with 'the Devil' and not do any real damage to the formulation. Sympathy for the Devil? Yes, and more, for the Devil is our natural selves, the spirit of the flesh itself, the holiness of the body. A 2000 year old smear campaign is ending: make way for the bad guy!


Oscar Wilde said that disobedience is man's original virtue, but it was woman not man that stood her ground. It was Eve that exercised her own free-will in contravention of commandment and in so doing she gave birth to the age that saw its culmination in Jesus Christ. The redemption of Eve is inseparable from the redemption of the Devil, who of course
persuaded her in the first place. There needs be a new heaven for there to be a new earth, and its Genesis will be The Return to the Garden. The key to the gates of the new Eden: the rebirth of the Goddess from the sorrow and anger of Eve.

By failing to
stand by his woman Adam commits the first betrayal - the one to which all others refer and are reflections of. The history of the West is one long story of the feminine betrayed. Feminism brought this to light and stoked the fires of rebellion for a while but somehow the feminine remains as denigrated as ever. Do we value sensitivity, or do we pathologise it? Do we protect and enrich the living earth, or do we rape it? Do we even know what we are saying when we talk of feminism anymore? It is not about equal rights anymore - that has long been achieved. It is something more than this, something deeper.

Women have gained equal rights, but has anything really changed? Feminism worked in that it has achieved social equality, but why then is feminism still an issue? What other concessions can be made? There are none, and yet the resentment lingers. A masculine word view cannot be made more feminine by women adopting it, this just exacerbates the problem – the dissonance between what one is and what one pretends to be intensifies. Can you think of a female leader that exhibits predominantly feminine qualities? Thatcher – zero; Merkel - A little perhaps; Aung San Suu Kyi - definitely – which is why she was regarded as
an enemy of the state.

The best selling book, excepting the Bible, in the Scandinavian countries is 'Men Who Hate Women' by the late Stieg Larsson. We know the book in English as 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' and this name change speaks volumes by itself.

These
'women hating men'....from whence do they come?...and why do we see them so often in positions of power. Authority over, domination...these are extreme examples of the masculine - pathological examples. In a world untempered by the feminine, bereft of any 'council of grandmothers', the masculine becomes monstrous.

The masculine should protect and activate, not dominate. It protects when it recognises and cedes to the feminine, for without the feminine it is nothing, for there would be nothing to protect. It acti
vates the feminine when it recognises its role as protector, and so the feminine guides the male in turn. We are lacking guidance, that much is obvious. And we are lacking guidance because the feminine has still not been recognised and activated. And so we protect property, but not the land.
Lets face it feminism, as commonly understood, concerns itself primarily with equality – with equal access to society for females. When feminism oversteps this mark and starts to question the nature of society itself – well this sort of feminism is seen as....extreme. But extreme feminism is the only sort that matters. In a pathologically masculine world any real feminism will seem extreme. Men need feminism, real feminism, just as much as women do. It is not a question of gender anymore, it is a question of balance, the sacred balance upon which life depends.

The tarot is a very
old artefact, centuries old, and yet in the major arcana we see an equal number of male and female figures. There is the pope, and the popesse; the emperor and the empress. Every position of authority in the tarot is twinned – has a male and female representative. In indigenous societies we find something similar – there is men's business and women's business. Two sources of authority which temper and complement each other.This is all analogous to saying that we need a church and a state in order to maintain balance, or we need a monarchy, which is the fusion of the two. When we no longer have a living religion we are left with a state whose authority becomes total. It seems monarchy is no longer an option so where can we turn? Must we turn away from the state as we have turned away from the church?

As you would expect, Tolkien believed in an absolute monarchy, a fusion of church and state, of heaven and earth in the person of the (returned) king. But perhaps sensing that this was no longer
politically possible, Tolkien also expressed his belief in the principles of Anarchism. Though this may seem a strange almost contradictory political position to hold, Anarchism could also be seen as a democracy of absolute monarchs in that an anarchist society is one in which every one is sovereign. This may help explain why the many anarchist revolutions and revolts of the last 200 years have not managed to last... to put roots down. From the commune to Spain to Paris 68 we see abortion after glorious abortion. These grand sacrificial experiments bear testimony to some longing in the Western soul, some ineradicable dream which seems to hover just out of reach. What is it that prevents us, en masse, from waking up 'from the nightmare of history'? Miller would say that it is the very idea of 'en masse' that is the stumbling block.

Miller had no interest in going to
Spain to fight for the Anarchists, although many celebrated authors did. He saw the exercise as futile, a dead end. Instead Miller counterposes the idea of a personal liberation which is always available. Rather than fight for freedom, one surrenders to it. This freedom is the acceptance-of-the-world-as-it-is.

T
he world has not to be put in order: the world is order incarnate. it is for us to put ourselves n unison with this order, to know what is the world order in contradistinction to the wishful-thinking orders which we seek to impose on one another....

One has to establish the difference of his own peculiar being and in doing so establish his kinship with the whole of humanity, even the very lowest. Acceptance is the key word, but acceptance is precisely the great stumbling block. It has to be total acceptance not conformity.'

The political spectacle is only that – a spectacle. Freedom can't be granted from above; it can only be realised from within. One can only begin to understand from the perspective of myth, and the point of myth is that it refers everything back to to the living individual - to their life and the conflicts therein. Myth shows how the conflicts without
mirror those within,and makes possible that reversal of perspective upon which the recognition of our power depends. I am powerless in the outer world, but I am sovereign in my inner world. The only thing stopping me here is...myself.

We do not create myths so much as mythologise; myths, like religions, grow organically over long periods of time. There are originators, real historical figures, but they play second to the myth and its meaning. It doesn't matter that there is conjecture over the historical Jesus, for instance, because it is the myth that counts, not historical accuracy. The Jesus we know is half real, half created; he is a man
and he is a god, and it was St Paul and the Evangelists that made him into a god. In other words Jesus is as much a character of fiction as a historical fact: he is both, and this is why he is still a living symbol.

Now we are approaching the core of things, for just as Jesus is half historical fact and half fictional creation, so too was Henry. Only Henry is both the historical fact and the fictional creation
and the creator - a trinity unto himself.

To use
one's own self as the raw material from which to fashion the legend in which, as Unamnuo says (and Miller quotes at the beginning of 'Capricorn') 'one buries themselves'...this is what Miller achieved. Others had gone down this road before, no one more so than Whitman (eg 'Song of Myself')...Whitman indeed is a sort of model for Miller, and avowedly so. But, as has been said before, Whitman is a sort of announcement of the 'whole man' whom he sees in the promise and beauty of those around him, as well as in himself, whereas Miller seems like the fulfillment of this promise. But this may be always the case – a sort of John the Baptist and Jesus relationship, or more simply the fact that those that come after can stand on their predecessors shoulders. Perhaps it is simply the nature of myth - as with Job prefiguring the need for a new sort of God in the person of Jesus. Every story that endures completes another of similar quality, and starts another story to be finished in turn. Perhaps the simplest difference is that Whitman was a poet and Miller a novelist. A poet can't help speak for all – he is the distiller of truth, the 'unacknowledged legislator of the world', but Miller wasn't interested in this role – 'if I am against the state of the world it is not because I am a moralist it is only because I want to laugh more'. Miller is apolitical, almost solipsistic in his sense of his own uniqueness and his exultation in it; but it is as if this extreme, like all others, yields its opposite by some immutable psychic law. Miller's selfishness is taken to such a degree that it becomes all-encompassing. Miller is never explicitly sympathetic...his kindness, he explains, is just due to his nature. In truth no one else's troubles really bother him. But isn't this just the unalloyed truth? Miller's short story 'Max and White Phagocytes' is a great example of this paradox. Miller evokes more sympathy, more empathy for Max and the plight of all the Maxes, Jewish or not, without ever feeling sorry for him. Indeed it is the very lack of this 'pity' that matters here. This sort of pity only ever confirms the impotence of the victim. Miller doesn't pity, he is kind, he is generous, but he refuses to pity, for this is the excuse the victim unconsciously dsires – the excuse for being a victim, for never having to change...

Miller found out, through his own experience, that whilst fate is in the 'lap of the gods', destiny is in man's hands, entirely. In other words you might say we are who we think we are, or who we believe ourselves to be. It could also be said that we are what we dream ourselves to be. Society and all its trappings can be seen as a projection of the collective
unconscious. Kyohei Sakaguchi calls it the 'anonymous social layer'....if we live always in this layer we become automatons, and we become sick to the soul. In Japan the children that spend years in their bedrooms – Hikikomori - are refusing this, preferring to remain in a cave of their own imagination. But it is the homeless in Japan and elsewhere that are the frontline – the pioneers of 'layer creation'. In the midst of enormous metropolises these fringe dwellers survive and thrive by altering their perspective. A house is unnecessary – a bedroom suffices; the whole city is their personal backyard. They exist in parallel with the anonymous social layer, hidden in plain sight - just like Wombles.

The homeless are the new explorers; they are those who, after the whole globe has been charted, have arrived where they began and seen it for the first time. This new world, which they already inhabit, is a palimpsest: a cleaned slate. This new world... what is it but
the land.

We are all homeless, but as with everything else its a matter of being
conscious of this. It is those who we call 'homeless' that have realised that we are never going to have a home whilst our 'homes' exist primarily as a legal fiction. There has to something more, and this something more is a relationship, a relationship between the land and the individual.

We have lost our awareness of
provision, of how the earth provides for us and all life. This is why Bill Mollison said that people who were growing their own food were the most revolutionary force on the planet. To engage with the creative mystery of the soil is to reconnect with the land and literally put roots down. We eat to survive like all animals and yet most of us take little or no responsibility for this provision. Only infants are allowed this luxury in the rest of the animal world.

We have forgotten that all the genius of humanity - the inexhaustible inventiveness - is prefigured, perfectly, in nature. Technology is only ever a falling short, a homage. We can never match the efficiencies in nature:
a plane will never be able to fly like a bird; no photovoltaic cell will ever match the genius of the leaf; no pharmaceuticals can compare with the healing efficacy of food grown and prepared with love.

Why reinvent the wheel, when you can hop aboard the gravy train?
Learning to recognise and utilise that which grows and lives around us is the first principle of any useful idea of education. How many weeds can you identify? How many trees? How many birds?And of those you know by name how many do you know by heart? By which I mean – how many of these do you have a relationship with? How many of these beings do you actually value?

This is reality – the reality of
Banksy's 'elephant-in-the-room'. Irrepressible life surrounds us and saturates us. 'We' are an ecology of billions of micro-organisms that live within and on us. Our unitary identity breaks down into the reality of the hive both inwardly and outwardly. In between biology and society is where 'we', as individuals, exist: both and neither, the bridge between the two. And yet we sanitise ourselves and our environment....the ecology of microflora upon which our physical constitution is based is compromised in the name of a ruthless and suicidal hygiene.

And, outwardly, that communality upon which an authentic individuality depends, this communality is sacrificed in the name of neo-liberalism, which is really neo-darwinism. There is no such thing as society, as
Margaret Thatcher famously said, only (competing) individuals. Another form of ruthless hygiene is practised, this time psychically: we eradicate the 'other' from our consideration because 'nice guys finish last'. This sort of hygiene is a spiritual suicide. But it is the last that shall be first. It is the destiny of the leper to become the hero (See Thomas Covenant piece for details)....to be continued.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

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

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 effectively – which 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 dieu – the '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 mysterium – a 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.