Again?!?

http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/ukraine-crisis/russian-forces-moving-inside-ukraine-claims-president-poroshenko-n190806

The language has been downgraded to say Russian forces are “moving inside” Ukraine, but the initial headline said “Russian Forces Have Invaded” in no uncertain terms.  I think they are deliberately trying to avoid a declaration of war by retracting the word “invasion” but it’s unnerving how much of a crisis this is turning into.

Damn it all…  I don’t want to see another one, even if I do remain a civilian this time.

THIS.

I recently did a little research on the concept of the Vision of Sorrow, an attribute of the Sephirot Binah in Kabbalah.

Admittedly, it isn’t something I’ve studied much, but it came up in a conversation with a friend who is big on Kabbalah, and the description is pretty much like what I went through when I remembered John’s life and understood just how bad things could get and began to feel entirely apart from the presence of any sort of divinity.  The source I used was Colin Low’s Introduction to the Kabbalah.

In in the section dealing with Binah, I found a passage that perfectly describes why I don’t follow any set path any more and why I felt totally alienated from the Wiccan path I was on when my first memories of past lives broke through and showed me how little comfort there could be when facing ultimate reality:

Lastly, it is worth asking “what is God?”. What does the Kabbalistic trinity of Kether, Chokmah and Binah represent in reality? I have deliberately avoided mentioning an enormous amount of Kabbalistic material on these three sephiroth because it is not clear whether it contributes to a genuine understanding. How useful, for example, is it to know that the name Binah (BINH) contains not only IH (Yod, He), the letters representing Chokmah and Binah, but also BN, Ben, the son? There is a level of understanding Kabbalah which is intellectual, and capable of almost inifinite elaboration, but it leads nowhere. What experience or perception does the word “God” denote? If there is nothing which is not God, why are so many people searching for God? Why do so many people feel apart from God? I quoted D.H. Lawrence’s poem “Only Man” because of his deeply intuitive view of the Fall from God and the abyss of separation.

I was browsing in my local occult bookshop recently, a shop which contains a catholic selection of books covering Eastern religions, astrology, Tarot, shamanism, crystals, theosophy, magick, Celtic and Grail traditions, mythology, Kabbalah, witchcraft, and so on. I am not sure what I was looking for, but despite a couple of hours of browsing I certainly did not find it. What did strike me was the extent to which so many of these books were written to make human beings feel good about themselves. There is a smug view permeating so much occult literature that “spiritual” human beings are a little bit more “advanced” or “developed” than the pack, that they are “moving along the Path” towards some kind of “enlightenment”, “cosmic consciousness”, “union with God”, “divine love”, or one of many more fantastic and utterly sublime goals. It is all so empowering and affirming and cosy. Even in the less starry-eyed and gushy works the view is predominantly, almost exclusively human-centred, and I found it difficult to avoid the impression that the universe was designed as a foam-padded playground for human souls to romp around in. There is more than a little truth in Marx’s statement that religion is the opium of the people, and a cynic could justify a claim that occultism and esoteric religion are little more than a security blanket for unfortunate people who cannot look reality in the face. Where are the books which say “you are an insignificant speck of flyshit in a universe so vast you cannot even begin to comprehend its scale; your occult pretensions amount to nothing and are carefully designed to protect you from any experience of reality; all human experience and knowledge is parochial, insignificant and largely irrelevant on a universal scale, and your personal contribution even more so; there are no Masters or Powers, no Secret Chiefs, no Inner Plane Adepti, no Messiahs, and God does not love you; the only thing you possess is your life, and the joy and mystery of living in a universe filled to the brim with life, where little is known and much remains to be discovered; when you die, you are dead.” I do not concur with this position in its entirity, but it is a valid position to adopt, and one which is not strongly represented in esoteric and occult literature. Why not? Perhaps people do not want to buy books which say this. I will venture an opinion which reflects my own experience; as such it has no general validity, but it is worth recording nevertheless.

I believe that many religious, esoteric and occult traditions currently extant are unconsciously designed to protect human beings from experiencing God and lead towards experiences which are valid in themselves but which are biased towards feelings of love, protection, peace, safety, personal growth, community and empowerment, all wrapped up in a strongly human-centred value system where positive human feelings and experiences are emphasised.  I believe that people are apart from God by choice, that they cannot find God because they do not want to.

It is difficult to justify this statement without resorting to an onion-skin model of the psyche; underneath the surface, unsuspected and virtually inaccessible, is a layer which does its best to protect us from the existential terror of confronting things as they really are. As a child I was terrified of the dark; the dark itself was not malign, but I was deeply afraid, and in this case it was fear which determined my relationship with the dark, not any quality of the dark itself. So it is with God – it is our deeply buried and unrecognised fear which determines our relationship with God. We read books, go to the cinema and theatre, argue, invent, throw parties, play games, search for God, live and love together, and bury ourselves in all the distractions of human society in a frenetic and unceasing effort to avoid the layers of fear – fear of solitude, fear of rejection, fear of disease and decay and disintregration, fear of madness, fear of meaninglessness, arbitrariness and futility, fear of death and personal annihilation. Like an audience in a cinema, we can live in a fantasy for a time and forget that it is dark, cold and raining outside, but sooner or later we have to leave our seats. And underneath all the fears is the fear of opening the door which conceals the awful truth: that we have wilfully, and with great energy and persistence, chosen not to know.

I came to a point where I had knowledge of things I had no desire to know about come rushing in, and saw an endless string of life after life with no obvious or apparent stamp of the divine on the process of death and rebirth.  After that, dancing naked around trees in the woods and invoking gods I’d never once felt the presence of never felt the same again.  But thinking back, it wasn’t anything but my own expectations of achieving a union with the divine and total fulfillment from an easy and pleasurable path that set me up for that disappointment.

That’s the abyss: finding out just how little grip you actually have on everything when the vastness of time and space yawns before you.  It nearly destroyed me and now I see clearly how little I was prepared for the place I found myself in my life, but now I feel like I’ve made peace with it and begun to see the beauty of ultimate reality, or what little I concede to know of it.

Memory Fragment

I think this happened some time in the early 18th century, probably in England but it could have been anywhere in Europe as far as I can tell.  I was among young boys but I don’t know if I was a boy myself.  I think I might have been, by the way they interacted with me.  I don’t know my station in life, whether I was middle class or a beggar’s child, but the streets looked a bit mean, muddy, and dilapidated, like the slums of London in that era, though strangely few people on them apart from us.

One of the boys came running down the street, shouting something.  We saw a regally-fitted retinue of white horses, coachmen, footmen, riders in powdered wigs (one of them was clearly aristocratic by the blue velvet coat accented with intricate brocade he wore).  The carriage itself had a Gothic look, very upright and boxy and made of turned black dowels with panels of muted color and golden accents.

We got out of the way and stood along the side streets.  One of the boys pushed me forward and I nearly stumbled into the carriage as it passed.  I turned and pushed him back.  Strangely, he didn’t get up and hit me like I would expect him to; he laid there in the muck looking defeated and hurt that I’d shoved him harder than he’d shoved me.  The other boys laughed.

I also remember something about an old gate made of rickety wood that we would simply jump over rather than bothering to open and close, and an area where there was slightly more space between the houses and pigs, chickens, and dogs roamed the streets (or maybe that’s East Coker much later).

The carriage is an interesting detail.  I only know a brief gloss of the history in England during this time period so I can only hazard a guess that it was a bishop faithful to the “High Church” tradition in that carriage.  I’m going to have to poke around and see if I find any matches though that doesn’t really prove anything since I might have seen such an artifact if a carriage like that still exists.

Blade Runner 2?

Yeah… unless it’s based on K.W. Jeter’s sequel, don’t bother.  At least Kevin understood the work conceptually; I’d hate to think what a script written completely by Hollywood screen writers would be like.

Actually, I’d expect it to be about like “Total Recall” but less unintentionally funny and even less relation to the original story than this.

 Also, as much as I like Harrison Ford as Deckard, bringing him back would bring back deja vu of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”  If you give him a bad script, you’re going to have a bad movie.

I really hope they use Kevin’s story if they insist on making a sequel.

Now That’s Weird

I was watching a documentary about the court of Richard II and it actually plunged me right back into speculating about medieval lives in a big way.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ecg93fao4RY

First of all, I think I’ve said it before but the angle they show here really strengthens my suspicions that the church with dark columns I saw was not Salisbury Cathedral in the 13th century, but Westminster Abbey in the 14th.

Second, the town of Lavenham they showed (while I can’t say for sure I remember that town specifically) really brought up some serious nostalgia when I looked up some additional photos of the place.  In particular, this shop or house that looks to be pre-16th century really tugged at my heartstrings.  It looked and felt like a type of building I was familiar with and had been to often though I can’t place it.

Third, the name Aubrey De Vere really got my attention!  Maybe it was because I’d heard of a poet by the same name (there have been any number of Aubrey De Veres, but this one was the 10th Earl of Oxford).  I wouldn’t have thought much of it except for one astonishing discovery: this Aubrey De Vere married William Longespee’s Great-Great-Great Granddaughter.

I suppose the odds of the two families intermarrying were pretty high considering the limited number of top-tier noble houses in England at the time, and it’s possible that this was the whole reason the name Aubrey de Vere struck a chord (Cryptomnesia), but nonetheless it’s fascinating that this line of inquiry lead me right back to Count William.

So if this is anything more than simply a response to a name I recalled in passing from my earlier readings, what does it mean exactly?  Chronologically speaking, I could have been William Longespee (or his brother, King John) and still had time to have been Aubrey de Vere (or his wife, Alice FitzWalter).  However, an ID of Aubrey de Vere or his wife might fly in the face of another possible ID of a contemporary figure that came up after I had an unexpected panic attack telling my fiance about an event in the 14th century.  

I think if anything, the field of possibilities is widening and my suspicions of grandiosity have begun to kick in.  I have a good feeling that at least twice in the Middle Ages I ran in some pretty high circles, though I’d feel better if I could remember all the lives I likely lived in abject poverty during that era which must almost certainly outnumber any noble lives I’ve had by a wide margin.

I’m still intrigued by the possibility that I could have lived multiple lives in the courts of medieval England, but for now I have no reason to believe this is anything more than a flight of fancy.

Musical Interlude

Some more music I like, just to keep things interesting here (I’m trying to update more often even as memories and new ideas have been scarce).

Sting- Fine Knacks for Ladies (John Dowland)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_P_UtqYyu6o

While a lot of Dowland purists don’t like “Songs from the Labyrinth,” I think it was very brave of Sting to attempt John Dowland’s greatest hits.  Anyhow, the idea of a pop star singing Dowland reminds me a little bit of “The Divine Invasion” so maybe I’m biased.

Steam Powered Giraffe- I’ll Rust With You

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IN4aFwGy2ck

Yes, I like SPG.  I really like their vocal harmonies and they’ve got a unique look and sound that would be hard to come close to without looking like a crass imitation.  Also, I admire Bunny Bennet’s honesty about her decision to transition male to female publicly which is more than I can do (I only talk honestly about my experience in places I don’t use my full name).

Jean Jacques Perrey- Mary France

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJb0394et0Y

From the same composer who brought you “The Little Ships” (the song used in that “Going to the Store” video) comes this mostly-forgotten 60s instrumental.

Richard Wagner- Lohengrin- Prelude

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqk4bcnBqls

I don’t know the orchestra that performed this one, but I like this piece.  It’s definitely the softer side of Wagner, but even his softest music is tinged with a strange sort of heroic melancholy delivered by well-placed diminished and augmented major chords.  In his music you can see the real Richard Wagner, a sensitive soul in an age when being sensitive was not at all easy and a rigid society made militants out of dreamers (this is not a comment on Germany but on the 19th century in general).  For all his vitriol, he was a man of tremendous passion and sincerity who gave us some wonderful music. 

 

Gas

On January 6, 2005, a train carrying toxic chlorine gas derailed in Graniteville, SC killing nine people and injuring about 250 others.

At the time I heard about this incident, I was waiting at O’Hare International Airport for what would be my last flight to London to date, after having spent a miserable summer and winter back in South Carolina.

Hearing about the incident worried me because I had family living right in the path of that gas.  Luckily no one in my family was hurt but my aunt’s car and the paint and wiring in her house (a nice old Victorian house near the old Graniteville mill) were ruined.

Thinking back though, this was right before I really stepped up my wanderings in the UK.  At least some of the travel I did, without a doubt, was looking for love and visiting friends and potential love interests, but I think this was when I also started yearning to find a village that existed in my mind, but I couldn’t pin down.

A few months later (and almost exactly 90 years after the Second Battle of Ypres), the thought of clouds of creeping toxic gas now far at the back of my mind, I was in the New Forest, staying in the town of Lyndhurst, Hampshire, a tickle of nostalgia developing and an overwhelming feeling that I was close- very close- to this village I wanted so badly to find.  That was also the trip when I trekked to the village of Minstead, where the tickle of nostalgia became a deepening itch.  Ultimately, though, I never found a village like the one I half-pictured.  I made up my mind that I must be looking for some place that no longer existed, that it was a long-lost fantasy of a part of England now buried under ASDA stores and Renault dealerships.  If I had been less than sixty miles to the West I’d have stumbled right into the heart of East Coker and been greeted by a flood of deja vu, but sadly I had no frame of reference to look for this tiny village in nearby Somerset.

It would be easy to say that the impact of that poison gas was well and truly over, but that isn’t the case.  Not only did I develop a keen eye for Edwardian and Victorian architecture and a weird compulsion to eat bully beef, but upon returning to the US in the summer of 2005 there was an incident that drove home for me how much the images on the news of that cloud of chlorine had shaken me.

On or around June 12, 2005, I was helping a friend (more accurately, my very first friend with benefits) move from Anacortes, WA to Ft. Worth, TX.  I think we were somewhere in the farm country south of Portland, Oregon (strangely enough) when a chemical smell wafted into the car.  It wasn’t the smell of chlorine, but I freaked out.  My chest tightened and I literally could not breathe.  I began to cough and felt my eyes water.  I had such a strong somatic reaction to that chemical smell that I literally thought for fully a minute that I was going to die.

I also discovered, some time later, that I could no longer be around indoor pools without an intense sense of anxiety and a nervous cough from the chlorine fumes (outdoor is OK, but I still don’t like being around that smell).  Luckily I don’t do anything that uses a great deal of bleach because I’m sure that would have much the same effect on me.

There is a distinct possibility that John was involved in the Battle of St. Julien, where gas was used on the Western Front for the second time.  I don’t know if this has anything to do with all of this or if my response to the news of the chlorine spill was just the usual, expected response of a classic anxiety case like me; the way it fits into that seeming emergence of a sort of visceral, unconscious awareness of that life is interesting, though.