Uncertainty has come to play a huge role in my life as of late. The whole process entered my awareness during the Plutonica book-club reading of Quantum Psychology. Together we explored many of the exercises that Robert Anton Wilson collected to help us think, “Maybe…” My meditations and personal work have revolved around the issue of uncertainty, as well as our personal and collective strategies for dealing with it, ever since.
Honestly, I feel uncertain whether I can communicate any of this effectively. The territory began with magic and t’ai chi, leading into my mystical practice. I came to consider the bridge between individual and history, the symbiotic relationship of humanity and the institutions we have created to mediate uncertainty, as a fundamental issue to address for my own growth. Each encounter seems less discrete the closer I listen, yet the overall theme appears in the negative space between them. Continue reading
I’ve been reading Nietzsche’s The Genealogy of Morals, and a passage in the third essay, “What is the meaning of aesthetic ideals?” intrigued me:
…[I]t is certainly best to separate an artist from his work so completely that he cannot be taken as seriously as his work. He is after all merely the presupposition of his work, the womb, the soil, in certain cases the dung and manure, on which and out of which it grows – and consequently, in most cases, something that must be forgotten if the work is to be enjoyed.
Nietzsche is writing specifically about Wagner here, but the sentiment can be positioned to apply to any artist one finds objectionable whose work one might appreciate were their “character” not at odds with an expected ideal. It strikes me that this approach is often taken in regards to Crowley’s works in particular, especially for those who might otherwise be reluctant to dare engaging in the material. Continue reading
Over at Rune Soup Gordon introduced a book game with the following guidelines:
How would you introduce someone to magic using only books? He or she has a month in a lake house and will read whatever you tell them in the exact order that you tell them to. Not even any peeking at other books on the list.
It’s a good game, for the full list of rules and to participate, click here. You can see Gordon’s picks here. I offered my response in the comments section, but I thought I’d share it here too, with a little more about why I chose these books in particular.
My aim was a little different than Gordon’s, I took the game as a chance to create a new magickian from a complete skeptic, not to create a mini-Psyche – that would have been a different list altogether. Perhaps a project for another day.
Without further ado, here’s my list:
1. Twenty Prose Poems, by Charles Baudelaire
This edition contains both the original French and the English translation side by each, providing the reader the opportunity to engage the poems in both language. A great exercise in outside thinking for those not accustomed to reading this way.
The differences found in the language and images evoked between the original and the translation are delightful, even to someone with only a modest appreciation for French (such as myself).
Baudelaire’s an extraordinary poet, and provides a view of the world not normally viewed outside one’s own head. Continue reading
Datura, edited by Ruby Sara
Scarlet Imprint, 9780956720368, 2011
To be honest, I’ve dodged a serious bullet with Datura. When its editor, Ruby Sara, put out a call for submissions on Scarlet Imprint last year, I almost submitted a handful of poems for inclusion. The thought of an anthology of occult-themed poetic work and essays on the mystical aspects of the creative process struck quite a nerve with me, and I was eager to contribute. Luckily a combination of a busy life at the time and a creative dry spell prevented me from sending Sara anything by the deadline, and after reading through Datura, I’m deeply thankful that the few pieces I was able to conjure up never got sent her way. For even if they were accepted and published in the pages of Datura, the quality of the content is so high my work would have looked like utter shit next to everything else between its covers.
Datura contains the work of 26 poets, that work being a mix of 6 essays and 47 poems. When I picked up Datura, I was really eager to read the essays. Scarlet Imprint has published three other anthologies in the past – Howlings, Devoted, and Diabolical - and their occult essays were absolutely stellar. While I do love poetry, and have a deep fondness for the Pagan and fortean realms, I’ve read enough awful odes to Odin and tree-spirits (and composed quite a few myself, to be fair) that the thought of a book devoted to such poetry might be a risky gamble. I figured that six good essays could make up for some lousy astral-poetics. Thankfully while the essay-work is every bit as good as I hoped it would be, the poetry in Datura manages to keep its nimble-feet from stepping into the bear-trap of twee Pagan clichés. Continue reading
The Weiser Field Guide to Witches, by Judika Illes
Weiser Books, 9781578634798, 272 pp., 2010
When a field guide is well done, it gives the reader the means to distinguish between species and can be an incredible aid to study, classification, and practical knowledge. When a field guide is not so well done, it can very quickly become a mess.
I really wanted to like The Weiser Field Guide to Witches. For one thing, I like and admire Judika Illes, whose Element Encyclopedias I consider useful as well as beautiful, well-researched, and wonderfully organized. I was prepared to thoroughly enjoy spending more time with her blend of wit and erudition. The subtitle, “From Hexes to Hermione Granger, from Salem to the Land of Oz”, is marvellously enticing, as well as the idea given in the back cover copy that the field guide could help you, the reader, discern if you are a witch. Continue reading