Sunday, July 2, 2017

Notes to: The Love of Destiny

Material covered:

  • The Love of Destiny, by Dan McCoy
  • Introduction
  • I. Prologue
  • II. The Origins and Worldview of Monotheism
  • III. The Sacred and Profane
  • IV. Destiny
  • Glossary of Old Norse Words

  • "Our age clings so fervently to these dubious endeavors [science, modernism, postmodernism, 'purely utilitarian economics,' globalization] precisely because the nihilism and objectification manifested by them are, paradoxically, sacred to most of us."
  • "One cannot help but ask how much we have actually moved beyond it [monotheism] if we still insist on speaking of the sacred and the profane in monotheistic terms. Even if we no longer advocate the particulars of Moses, Paul, or Mohammed, their worldview is still the reference point by which we define our own, like rebellious teenagers whose identity circles around what they oppose. The task before us, then, is to craft worldviews and ways of life that are not monotheistic or dependent on monotheism, and which, instead, affirm the scandalous plurality of existence and its animating forces, as well as the perspectival and relational--rather than 'objective' or 'subjective' character of truths and values."
  • "The French theologian Alain de Benoist and others have rightly pointed out that these 'folkloric reconstructions' [i.e. modern paganism] can be little more than anachronistic if unaccompanied by a reconstruction of the worldview that constitutes the heart of polytheism."
  • "I say 'worldviews,' 'ways of life,' and 'alternatives' in the lural because there cannot, by definition, be only one answer to the problems we have inherited with monotheism. Such a response would be, in and of itself, monotheistic, just like the popular banter about how everything is 'subjective' rather than 'objective.' Rather, we need as many different polytheisms as there are people, peoples, communities, and landbases." 
  • Audre Lorde, Poetry is Not a Luxury: "Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought." 
  • "Rather than anglicize the names, I have left them in Old Norse in order to preserve more of their original, and to us strangely 'other,' charater, which forces the reader to approach these words and the figures and concepts they denote with fewer preconceptions."
  • "The reader will no doubt notice that I have refrained from citing sources. This is intentional. As Charles Olson said, 'Form is never more than an extension of content,' and a work that attempts to dismantle the objective-subjective dichotomy must, if it is to be effective, demonstrate a way of writing that blurs the line between 'objective' or scholarly writing and 'subjective' or creative writing. Citing sources seems uselessly petty in a work that is not primarily concerned with factual claims, but rather with mythic visions that contextualize any and all facts." 
  • "What I am presenting here, however, draws much more heavily from the oracular mode of writing exemplified by the great mythical poetry of the ancients, such as Homer or the Poetic Edda (or even the Bible or certain passages of Descartes, for that matter), works that were perceived to be 'self-evident' because they were sacred and divinely inspired." 
  • "As long as the devotees of Zeus or Artemis do not try to stamp out the worship of Aphrodite or Pan, nothing is amiss."
I. Prologue

  • "While the plot of our lives may be impossible to predict, the ending is as sure as it is calamitous: we, along with everyone we have ever known, will die and be eaten by other beings who are themselves, through no choice of their own, swimming in susceptibility to an infinity of great and small pains. When the story ends, it begins again and repeats itself throughout eternity. While even the most wretched of lives have their pleasures and perhaps even joys, the harrowing elements are at least as formidable as those pleasanter ones. What are we to do in the face of this injustice, this amorality, this blasphemous vulnerability that constitutes the basic precondition of life?" Well shit, I didn't know that I was reading Ligotti's Guide to Ragnarok. 
  • "For the past three thousand years, swaths of our species have answered this question by attempting to reconstitute, to reform, to 'save' the world according to a set of absolutist principles. These principles are ostensibly never derived from an ordinary perceptual engagement with the world of which we are a part, but rather from an 'otherworld' that is cleanly and coldly separate from our world. This is monotheism, the moralistic rejection of the world, as we experience it as entirely and hopelessly profane, bereft of any meaning of its own, in favor of this 'otherworld,' which is the sole abode of anything that can rightly be called 'sacred.'" 
  • "Where monotheism is a moral worldview, polytheism is a sacral one. The sacred is not remote from the world; it is the very essence of the world. All that is profane speaks to us of the sacred if we listen attentively enough, for the world we inhabit is the very flesh of spirit, its organic manifestation." 
  • "The polytheist does not wring his hands over the struggles and contradictions with which he is confronted, but confronts them in turn. Her overcoming of the world and being overcome by the world is the sacred's overcoming of itself." 
II. The Origins and Worldview of Monotheism

  • "Yahweh was a Supreme Being who was completely other than the world. He was omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent, and had created this world singlehandedly and from the outside. The world was an artifact that received none of Yahweh's essence, like a shoe made by a shoemaker." 
  • "Mortality was the inevitable consequence of this binary cosmology. The sacred was no longer within the world, but resided in another world and was even against the world from without. Actions were no longer to be evaluated based on desire and practicality, the honest and elegant standards of thrushes, wolves, and cedars. Instead they were to be evaluated based on how well or how badly they facilitated the reform of the world as dictated by the One God." 
  • "The subjugation of the more-than-human world, its being brought into conformity with the 'image' of Yahweh, was now the imperative of the righteous." 
  • "Each successive generation thought of their way of life as 'how our people live,' just as all other peoples had their own somewhat unique ways of life and all other species had theirs. For the first monotheists, however, 'civilization' was coterminous with nothing but the will of Yahweh and his earthly servants. It signified a radical break with the rest of the world, one of the means by which the human faithful impose Yahweh's commandments upon a recalcitrant universe." 
  • "If we are to believe the modern heirs of this vision [that the dominion of humanity must extend over the Earth, or some such], the face of God must look much like the New York City skyline." 
  • "Adultery, theft, murder, lying, blasphemy, the obtainment of 'knowledge of good and evil,' and, ironically, covetousness, were 'idolatry' - lacking a legitimately divine archetype - and therefore intolerable and deserving of nothing but to be stamped out at any cost." 
  • "The sacred is that which, by, definition, cannot be questioned, but rather overwhelms and fills with awe. To subject an idea or a tradition to a skeptical and purely mundane method of analysis is to drag it into the realm of the mundane and profane, to cast it as something plain, unexceptional, and uninspiring." 
  • "Visions of ultimately reality were a 'spark' implanted in the 'soul' by these greater forces, an instance of communion with the more-than-human world." 
  • "The polytheistic or Platonic conception of the mind might be imagined as a forest or a steppe, with an openness onto the reciprocity and flow of the universe no different from the openness of a more tangible land. Aristotle, however, effectively created the modern notion of the 'individual,' cut off from these channels of give-and-take, with his assertion that all thought occurs within the human mind alone." 
  • "A myth is a myth precisely because of its impenetrability by reason, and this aloofness from questioning is what marks the sacredness of a myth." 
  • "Science is a quintessentially monotheistic religion, one whose origin, as with the other varieties of monotheism we have considered, lies in a profound hatred and fear of the world in which we actually live, and a moralistic desire to 'save' the world and bring it into conformity with a hypothetical and more tolerable 'otherworld.'"
  • Dawkins: "Science boosts its claims to truth by its spectacular ability to make matter and energy jump through hoops on command, and to predict what will happen and when." 
III. The Sacred and Profane

  • From a polytheistic perspective, the visible world is not a negation of the invisible world of spirit, but its fulfillment. The words that William Blake chose to end The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 'Everything that lives is holy', apply to all that we perceive and experience, no matter how grand and luminous, no matter how vile and distressing." 
  • Tacitus: "Their holy places are the woods and graves, and they apply the names of gods to those hidden presences seen only by the eye of reverence." 
  • "Despite its origins in the Latin word mater, 'mother,' our modern word 'matter' has been invested with connotations of inertness, insensitivity, [and] barrenness. To call it 'dead' would be to impart to it too much life - it was never living in the first place. Against the Cartesian tendency, Meleau-Ponty described the visible world as flesh, within which all of us visible beings are intertwining sinews." What about 'unliving matter'? 
  • Ymir's tribe, the Jotnar or 'devourers,' are adept at shapeshifting, as are the gods and goddesses themselves." 
  • "The profane can be questioned, debated, proven, or disproven." 
  • "Knowledge of such tangible things as edible plants and economics is profane knowledge. The sacred, however, is sacred precisely because of its immunity to such demonstrations and proofs. Truths that belong to the realm of the sacred are myths, in the most exalted sense of the word. Myths are truths that are known a priori." 
  • "When a new myth is revealed to us, it arrives in a flash of ecstasy that overpowers us so completely that it would be all but unthinkable to question it." 
  • "Once a myth becomes lodged in our perception it cannot be removed except by another myth." 
  • "The very phrase a priori is our modern equivalent of in illo tempore, a phrase used by the famous scholar of religions Mircea Eliade to refer to the 'time before time' when the narrative myths of many polytheistic peoples from all over the earth are supposed to have taken place, such as the 'distant time' of the Koyukon or the 'dreamtime' of the Australian Aborigines. (This is in contrast to Judaism and Christianity, which mythologized history itself, much as does the modern notion of 'Progress.')"
  • "It cannot be emphasized enough that myths are not, however, 'subjective.' We do not arbitrarily choose them. They choose us, and it is from their having been disclosed to us, quite apart from our nitpicking reason, that they derive their sanctity. The whole of our perception points back to them, having proceeded outward from them in the first place." 
  • "Old Norse berserksgangr, which often involved shifting one's shape into that of a bear or a wolf."
  • "Odinn means 'Master of odr,' and Odroerir means 'Stirrer of odr.' Odinn's gift of his mead, then, was a gift of a corpuscle of his own essence, which intoxicated its recipient with some exceptional insight into the deepest levels of reality and thereby enabled him or her to become a master of the spiritual arts." 
  • "It [reason] has its place, yes, but its powers are really quite small when pitted against forces as formidable as divine intoxication." 
  • "When Descartes pronounced 'I think, therefore I am' to be a self-evident truth that could serve as the initial statement of a proof, he was in effect declaring, 'Here is my myth. It has been granted to me by my god, and its impulse is far mightier than my logic. Beyond this point I can question no further.' He then proceeded to construct an entire cosmology out of this and other such formative assumptions." 
  • "If there is one god and one standard of truth, and if that standard holds that 'A is B' is true, then 'A is not B' is naturally condemned to the outer darkness of objective falsehood. But if various gods inspire various myths, 'A is B' can be true according to certain myths, and 'A is not B' can be true according to others." John Keats called the ability to live in the midst of such competing ideas without attempting to reduce one to another 'Negative Capability,' and he saw this embrace of volatility as being an indispensable nutrient for creative achievement." 
  • "For a polytheist, the world is at the height of its singeing, tingling beauty and glory when it is also at the height of its volcanic dynamism. The polytheist sacralizes this polyvalence." 
  • "Truth is nestled inside this web of relationships, and as the web changes, so does truth. What is obviously true from one position in the web is just as obviously false from another, and there is nothing awry in this." 
  • "To perceive something is to already stand in relation to it, to be a participant in its life and it in one's own, even to have some modicum of agency in shaping its constitution. Truths, like rivers and crickets, are quintessentially worldly things that could not exist as themselves apart from those to whom they stand in relation." 
IV. Destiny

  • Regarding Yggdrasil: "Its regal heights were snow-capped." 
  • "The denizens of this murky pool [the Well of Urdr] were the three Nornir ('Cunning Women,' 'Witches,'), Urdr, Verdandi, and Skuld, 'vastly wise maidens' who set destiny on its course by carving runes into the trunk of the tree who holds all life in its sprawling arms and legs." 
  • "Germanic languages have only two tenses, the past and the present, and express something similar to futurity - which could more accurately be called 'necessity,' 'intention, or 'obligation' - through the use of modal verbs in the present tense ('I will go,' 'it shall be,' etc.). Necessity is not a true tense, but is rather an aspect or an outgrowth of the past and present tenses." 
  • "The water in the image is constantly in motion. It is taken up by the roots of the tree, nourishing it, sustaining it, and transforming it, and evaporates into the sky. There it freezes, and hail is sprinkled on the tree's branches, while water drips back as dew into the well, sustaining and altering the well in turn. The water cycle is the tangible disclosure of the cycle of time, which originates in the past, feeds the present and the necessary, and then, as the arc of the 'future' culminates by falling back to the past, changes the constitution of the past. The new past then proceeds upward into the new present, charged with new obligations." 
  • "These three terrifyingly powerful forces are the authors of the framework of destiny within which all of us whose homelands are found amongst the tree's branches and roots - men, women, gods, mountains, slugs - must, of necessity, live. The range of choices available to us, both in terms of actions and of thoughts is severely constrained by these three 'vastly wise maidens.' 'Free will' is a laughable idea in the face of their preeminence." 
  • "Destiny flows through us on its way into the present and back to the past, and we have the ability to harness and direct it along the way, like a bird riding the wind. We o not, however, get to choose which way the wind blows." 
  • "Our selfhood is our place in the flows and cycles of destiny. Just as many ecologists (who, like Darwin, are sometimes a refreshing counterweight to the dominant mythology of science) describe all life as being interconnected by a web, so destiny was often imagined as a web in the heathen Germanic religion." 
  • "Being, like knowledge, is inherently relational. We are ourselves and not anything else because we exist in relation to others in the past and the present, from our most distant ancestors to the most recent of acquaintances, in specific ways." 
  • "Merleau-Ponty went further and described perception as an 'intertwining' between perceiver and perceived wherein both have agency in shaping the other. The rabbit knows that her selfhood is edible because she is perceived as prey by the mountain lion; the lion, meanwhile, is reminded of his status as a predator when, even when he is satiated and exhausted, he sees the rabbits hiding or fleeing from him." 
  • "Our lives have meaning and purpose by virtue of their being swept up in this greater rhythm. It should go without saying that this is not, fundamentally, a purpose we choose, nor is it a purpose that will somehow ensure that 'everything will work out in the end' for our benefit." 
  • "We possess nothing as aloof and invulnerable as a 'soul.' We are weather patterns, flitting in and out of existence as blithely and with as little consequence as a cloud." 
  • "On either side of Ymir's abyss lay the last refuges of elemental ice and fire, the only remaining ruins of the cosmos." 
  • "One from their ranks, Loki, mated with the jotunn Angrboda ('She Who Bodes Anguish'), and from their union came three of the most dreadful monstrosities in the world: Hel ('Grave'), the death goddess; Jormungandr ('Great Beast of Sorcery'), the sea serpent who encircles the land; and Fenrir ('He Who Lives in the Fens'), a wolf stronger than any of the gods. Hel was tossed into the soil, and Jormungandr into the ocean."
  • "Tyr's hand was not all that he sacrificed, however; according to ancient northern European tradition, this blemish would have rendered him unfit to rule alongside Odinn, not to mention the dishonor of oath-breaking. The bound Fenrir was cast into a bog, far enough from Asgardr that the gods would not be troubled by the echoes of his incessant, enraged howling, and a sword was placed in his mouth to pacify his jaws. His drool became a foamy river, whose name, Van ('Expectation'), hinted that destiny had more in store for the wolf." 
  • "Loki had fled with a livid Thor in close pursuit. He manged to elude the thunder god long enough to hide in a river in the form of a salmon, but he was ultimately captured and taken to a cave. The gods brought his two songs to the cave, transformed one of them into a wolf, and had him murder his brother right there before Loki's eyes. With the entrails of his dead son, the gods bound Loki to a boulder and placed an enormous snake above his head to drip poison onto his face." 
  • "The last light the world ever saw was Surtr's fire. The black land sank back into the sea, whose waves closed over it and fell silent, and Ginnungagap prevailed once more." 
  • "The 'Twilight of the Gods' is manifested in every twilight, every autumn, every waning moon, every collapse of a civilization, every death, every wildfire, every mass extinction. Baldr reaches the height of his powers in every noon, summer, full moon, peak of a civilization, prime of life, and 'climax community.'"
  • "Even memory can only last so long. We in our superfulous historicity do not recur eternally. But the gods, the archetypal beings of whom we embody some small and incomplete part, and the cycle of their lives, are truly eternal, brimming with infinite significance, and worthy of nothing but unconditional - if sometimes necessarily painful and strained - affirmation: amor fati, the love of destiny. We do not have to search for meaning in life; just being alive is meaning enough in and of itself." 
Glossary of Old Norse Words

  • "Askr Yddrasils: The central pillar of the cosmos; the world-tree that grows out of Urdarbrunnr. All living beings dwell in its branches and roots. Its name is often given as 'Yggdrasil' or "Yggdrasill,' but Askr Yggdrasils is its full and more proper name." 
  • "Berserk means 'bear-shirt,' and is almost certainly a reference to shapeshifting into a bear, a common occurrence amongst those possessed by odr in the sagas." 
  • "On the eve of the Battle of Clontarf, the Norns (who are glossed as valkyries) are spied weaving the destiny of the battle and all who will partake of it. They use intestines for the thread, severed heads for the weights, and swords and arrows for beaters." 
  • Regarding jotuns: "Their distinguishing feature is their being forces of chaos, night, winter, cold and death, and also of the wilderness and primal wisdom. Their relationship with the two tribes of gods, the Aesir and the Vanir, is highly ambiguous. The 'Devourers' and the gods are often enemies, yet they often intermarry and have other sorts of friendly relations." 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Study Notes: August 6-27, 2016

What I've been watching and reading in this time: 
Other notes: 

Also check out: 
  • DoubleBlinded, "a new service for self-discovery and crowdsourced clinical trials." 
Homework for the future:
  • Read the posts linked to by "Responses to the Anti-Reactionary FAQ.". Eventually. 
  • Still on the to-do list: studying the Austrian School of Economics.
  • Also, don't forget to flesh this section out a bit more with goals in general, and maybe include a section on which of those goals were accomplished since the last update.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Study Notes: June 26-August 6, 2016

What I've been watching and reading in this time: 
Also check out: 
  • DoubleBlinded, "a new service for self-discovery and crowdsourced clinical trials." 
Homework for the future:
  • Read the posts linked to by "Responses to the Anti-Reactionary FAQ.". Eventually. 
  • Still on the to-do list: studying the Austrian School of Economics.
  • Also on the to-do list: All of those themes that I decide I want to play with, and cool bits that attract me, and things like that? Let's get systematic about that, put them into a single document (might be public, might not) and work with at least one of them every week. Systematic. Systematic. I do it best when I do it systematically. 
  • Also, don't forget to flesh this section out a bit more with goals in general, and maybe include a section on which of those goals were accomplished since the last update.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Study Notes: June 26-July 9, 2016

What I've been watching and reading in this time: 
Also check out: 
  • DoubleBlinded, "a new service for self-discovery and crowdsourced clinical trials." 
Homework for the future:
  • Read the posts linked to by "Responses to the Anti-Reactionary FAQ.". Eventually. 
  • Still on the to-do list: studying the Austrian School of Economics.
  • Also on the to-do list: All of those themes that I decide I want to play with, and cool bits that attract me, and things like that? Let's get systematic about that, put them into a single document (might be public, might not) and work with at least one of them every week. Systematic. Systematic. I do it best when I do it systematically. 
  • Also, don't forget to flesh this section out a bit more with goals in general, and maybe include a section on which of those goals were accomplished since the last update.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Study Notes: Feb 7-June 25, 2016

This is commentary. And this is really good. 

What I've been watching and reading in this time: 
Homework for the future:
  • Read the posts linked to by "Responses to the Anti-Reactionary FAQ.". Eventually. 
  • Still on the to-do list: studying the Austrian School of Economics.
  • Also on the to-do list: All of those themes that I decide I want to play with, and cool bits that attract me, and things like that? Let's get systematic about that, put them into a single document (might be public, might not) and work with at least one of them every week. Systematic. Systematic. I do it best when I do it systematically. 
  • Also, don't forget to flesh this section out a bit more with goals in general, and maybe include a section on which of those goals were accomplished since the last update.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Magazines for funeral directors, and related information

Notes on what is contained in some of the magazines published for funeral directors and/or funeral homes. And some other stuff related to the industry.

Other material covered:

American Funeral Director claims to be "the leading independent trade magazine for funeral directors and other funeral service professionals." It has been running for 134 years and is published monthly.

A one-year subscription is $59; a two-year subscription is $99. A classified ad costs $85 for the first 50 words, $0.85/word for every word over 50, and $50 to incorporate a photo or logo.

It features "content pertaining to cremation, preneed, funeral business topics, professional vehicles, computers/software, insurance, funeral service history, business tips/tools, and other content of specific interest to those working inside and allied to the profession."

The December issue 2015 has:
  • Funeral Director of the Year, recognizing "Gregory B. Levett Sr.... for his steadfast dedication to the profession and the families he serves." 
  • Year in Review: "No doubt about it, 2015 was a big news year for the death-care industry. Here is a snapshot of the stories that had funeral service talking." 
  • Make Your Funeral Home Feel Like Home
  • The retirement of Wilson H. Beebe Jr. as executive director of the New Jersey State Funeral Directors Association.
  • Book Review (book is of photographs of cemeteries)
  • The Plight of the Funeral Home Owner
  • Story of someone who wanted to be a funeral director as a child.
  • Raging Storm: "Funeral directors never know what to expect when responding to a removal call. Randy Garner shares one chilling experience." 
  • Industry Roundtable -- Preneed: "Preneed continues to be one of the most important issues for funeral service. Our experts weigh in on the state of preneed--past, present, and future." 
Every issue has: 
  • Association News
  • Calendar
  • Classifieds
  • Editor's Message
  • AFD Vault
  • Products
  • Ad Index
  • Supplier News
Mortuary Management is a "trade publication for funeral directors and others related to the funeral service industry, including manufacturers, suppliers and dealers of funeral merchandise and equipment, embalmers, cemeteries, and mortuary science students and colleges." It has been running since  1914. 

Subscriptions are $43 for one year, $68 for two years, and $93 for three years. 

The October 2015 issue has: 
  • Colleague Wisdom, apparently a regular feature. 
  • "Interesting cases and the twists and turns involved" in the career of Richard Callahan.
  • Nature's Elegant Dispersal Solution: An ash scattering method involving bees. 
  • Something on the railroad industry. 
  • CANA Shares latest Cremation Statistics
  • Story about the loss of a "very special black Lab, Shadow." 
  • A Product Your Families Need: Are You Offering It?: About "Heaven's Gain, a company specializing in burial products for pregnancy loss."
Issues cover: 
  • "Strategies and tactics to help you increase productivity and reduce overhead.
  • "The only news briefs section that contains actual news and not just press releases.
  • "Latest news on preneed insurance policies and trust accounts.
  • "Reliable legal advice to help reduce your firm's liability.
  • "Coverage of the ever-increasing state and federal government regulations.
  • "Techniques to effectively market your business.
  • "Computer use, technology and the booming Internet.
  • "Thought-provoking commentary on continuing education.
  • "Significant trends in cremation, low-cost funeral providers and retail casket sales."
Funeral Director Monthly is the "official journal of the National Association of Funeral Directors." It is an "A4-size, 80 page glossy magazine with a design that takes its reference from modern business publications, in the aim that Funeral Director Monthly would not look out of place on the shelves of WH Smith." It has been running since 1921 and claim to be the only funeral publication audited by the Audit Bureau of Circulation.  

A one-year subscription costs £60-130, depending on whether you're in the UK, the EU, or elsewhere.

Advertising on the cover costs £795 on the outside back cover, £825 on the inside front cover, and £725 on the inside back cover. Loose inserts cost £215 per thousand up to 10gms. An eighth page ad costs £122/138, a quarter page £205/230, a third page £275/315, a half page£315/375, a full page £490/625, and a double page spread £890/1,025. The first value is for monochrome and the second for full color. 

The November issue has: 
  • Mexico's Rave from the Grave - The growing global fascination with Dia De Los Muertos
  • NAFD to support Infant Cremation Review
  • Member's News
  • CEO Viewpoint
  • President's Perspective
  • "A major feature on the return of funeral costs and funeral poverty to the headlines... and how to prepare your funeral business for winter." 
  • "There are also a host of regular new features including essential business guidance, tailored to the needs of the funeral sector and updates on NAFD campaigning in all four UK parliaments and assemblies. Each issue also carries features on UK, European and International funeral issues and news from around the industry... [and] is also packed with information on the products and services available in an increasingly competitive marketplace, providing suppliers to the profession with the ideal platform to highlight innovations and reach key decision makers." 
Funeral Business Advisor is a "business solutions magazine that LOOKS LIKE a business magazine." Issues contain "12-15 editorials designed solely around this purpose, along with Funeral Home Success Stories, Industry News and Alerts, Vendor Products and Company Spotlights, Industry Related Books Reviews... and much, much more." [ellipsis original]

Subscription costs are unavailable. 

Advertising costs $12,990 on the front cover. $3,590 on the inside front cover, $4,090 on the outside back cover, and $3,490 on the inside front cover. A sixth page ad costs $790, a quarter page $1,190, a third page $1,390, a half page $1,890, a full page $2,690, and a two page spread $4,890." 

The September/October issue includes: 
  • Making the Grade: Five Quick Tips to Improve Public Perception
  • Updating Preneed Clients: An Opportunity Hiding in Your Filing Cabinet
  • Four Questions to Ask Your Trustee
  • Preplanning is for Pets Too!
  • 3 Essential Tasks of the New Year
  • Encouraging Community Awareness
  • Putting the Care into Aftercare
  • Growing the Goodness - Memorial Donations
  • Indicators of Overstaffing
Each issue also has a "Success Story" (Sep/Oct features the Pelham Funeral Home) and "Featured Reading." 

Funeraire Magazine is "for the funeral professionals (undertakers, funeral masons, etc.), territorial governments and various research environments (academic, scientific, sociological, medical, historical, etc.). Its editorial content addresses all the professional, legal, economic, social and cultural news... [and is] a true forum in the heart of business, across multiple sources and infomration exchanges." 

10 issues per year. A year-subscription appears to cost 80 euros. 

I'm having to get this translated from French, so I'm not going any further. But it has a mausoleum issue out right now, looks like. 

"How to Become a Morgue Attendant"
  • "Tasks performed by mortuary assistants include preparing the deceased for a funeral, moving the boy from the hospital to the funeral home, or preparing paperwork."
  • "Another name for mortuary assistant is mortuary technician." 
  • "Mortuary assistants work at funeral homes, crematoriums, city and county morgues, and hospital morgues under the direction of licensed funeral directors or pathologists." 
  • "Mortuary assistants should have at minimum a high school diploma or GED. However, employees require at least a two-year associates degree in Mortuary Science. If you plan to become a Funeral Director or Mortician, you will need a four-year degree in Mortuary Science." 
  • "Mortuary science degrees are not typically available through distance learning programs, but students can complete certification requirements in some states such as South Carolina through distance learning programs." 
  • "Mortuary assistants... may assist the pathologist during an autopsy, handing him instruments, preparing and sealing samples, and recording details. Mortuary assistants are usually the ones moving bodies from storage units to autopsy tables, and transferring bodies from the morgue to the funeral home. At funeral homes, mortuary assistants may perform light housekeeping duties as well as assist the funeral director during embalming and preparation of the body." 
  • "A typical day for a mortuary attendant may include the following tasks: 
    • "Housekeeping and cleaning duties
    • "Admitting and releasing cadavers to and from the morgue.
    • "Assisting the pathologist at an autopsy, including handling tools and specimens.
    • "Transferring bodies from hospital floors to the morgue.
    • "Transferring bodies from storage units to the autopsy table.
    • "Completing routine paperwork under the direction of the pathologist or mortician.
    • "Confirming details about the deceased, such as identity.
    • "Recording details about the deceased when the body is transferred out of the morgue to a funeral home."
  • "Mortuary employees are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week... You'll have a set schedule, plus 'on call' hours to come in for overtime when needed. You must be able to work evenings, nights, weekends and holidays, since many people prefer to inter the deceased within 24 to 72 hours of their passing." 
  • "Explore a part time job at a funeral home. Even if you're just answering the phones or doing the filing, you'll be in the job environment where you'll work eventually and can tell if you'd like it or not." 
  • "The job market is growing at about 11% per year for the mortuary industry, slightly faster than the overall job market. The average entry level salary is around $30,000 per year, with the average salary nationwide $30,000- - $50,000."
"I Can't Encourage You to Become a Mortician"
  • "Embalming is on its way out... Recent numbers from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics list embalming as one of the 15 disappearing middle class jobs. Our national cremation rate rises every day and shows no signs of stopping." 
  • "Here's the issue: embalming is what mortuary science schools teach. They have pretenses towards other subjects (we got about two hours over the course [of] two years on cremation) but really it's embalming. The first mortuary schools were founded by embalming chemical companies. The North American death industry has a whole system in place to support embalming. Except the public no longer wants the service."
  • "The embalming we've seen lately, like the guy who was hyper-preserved and buried in a glass case propped up on his Harley, has a sort of crumbling-of-the-Roman-Empire feel to it. The bizarre decadence that shows up historically at the end of eras or civilizations." 
  • However, "the market for 'alt death' hasn't caught up yet to the people who want to serve the market."
  • "Jerry Seinfeld was talking to Louis CK, about the people who ask him 'how do you make it in stand up comedy?' His answer: 'if you have to ask, you'll probably never make it.'"
  • "The people who will have careers are the people who will do whatever it takes: knocking on funeral home doors, apprenticing, figuring out how to innovate and learn and discover where the industry is going." 
  • "And if you have to do this, it's a calling, you can't not do this? Then welcome to death, we've been waiting for you." 
"Life in a Disaster Morgue"
  • DMORT means "Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team." 
  • "Senn, a veteran forensic DMORT odontologist, was to report to a temporary morgue was being set up in an empty brick warehouse in nearby St. Gabriel, a Louisiana town of 6,000, once home to a leper colony. There would be bodies to identify. Seen altered his plans, caught the next plane home back to San Antonio, cleared his teaching schedule, collected his DMORT grab-and-go bag containing enough gear, clothing, and personal items to last about two weeks, and was in Dallas on Sunday..." 
  • Section heading "Last Responders" is used. Right now, I'm thinking of people heading out to a disaster zone which turns out to be the result of something Horrible And Supernatural, like if an elder god had walked through the area. Looks like a storm-wrecked place, but there are things that don't fit the story, in the ruins.  
  • "The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) is credited with conceiving the concept of DMORT in the early 1980s. NFDA was concerned at the time about lack of standards handling the dead in mass casualty events. Protocols needed to be imposed on a process that had none... The NFDA subsequently purchased the components of the first portable morgue, called a Disaster Portable Morgue (DPMU)." 
  • "In 1998, a DMORT team specializing in bio-chemical fatalities was created in response to increasing concern for the release of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists." Now thinking that a bio-chemical team is sent in. They're very confused, since the story is that a natural disaster hit. Maybe it's also the story that some sort of lab was hit? Hm...
  • "A small group of DMORT members is now routinely deployed in advance of situations where mass fatalities might result from terror attack, such as presidential state-of-the-union addresses, papal visits, or Olympic Games." 
  • "Since their 1993 formation, DMORTs have responded to about twenty incidents, from cemetery floods and plane crashes to train derailments and terror attacks... DMORTs usually cover disaster incidents in their own area..." 
  • "During emergency response, DMORTs work under the direction of local authorities, providing technical assistance in recovering, identifying, and processing the dead. DMORTs are truly traveling morgues--composed of medical examiners, coroners, pathologists, forensic anthropologists, funeral directors, medical records technicians and transcribers, fingerprint specialists, forensic odontologists, dental assistants, X-ray technicians, mental health specialists, as well as computer professionals, administrative support staff, and security and[ ]investigative officers." 
  • "When teams are activated customary regional licensing issues are suspended and all professional licenses and certification are legally valid in all 50 states. Team members are compensated for duty time by the federal government as temporary federal employees... Like National Guard personnel, DMORT members are given job security." 
  • "DPMUs can be dispatched by rail, truck, or air. Each unit contains over 10,000 individual items, ranging from exam tables, forceps, scalpels, and hemostats to high tech digital X-ray devices and full body X-ray machines, as well as a complement of office computers, faxes, and forms--all accompanied by a team of experts called Red Shirts." 
  • David R. Seen: "All DMORT members are cross-trained to help quell the initial chaos when setting up and getting started." 
  • Brian Chrz: "We preferred teams of four so one person can take a break for an hour or two without interrupting the identification process." 
  • "Inside, morgue operations are controlled by a regimented protocol, capable of processing up to 140 bodies a day." 
  • "The remains, which have been stored in body bags in refrigerated trucks, are first cleaned and decontaminated with a chlorine solution, assigned a number, folder, and escort, before being moved to forensic stations. A forensic pathologist then examines, photographs, and X-rays the body at the first station. Fingerprints are taken when the condition of the body permits. When prints are not on file, FBI agents or local law enforcement may obtain latent prints from personal belongings in victims' homes... Pathologists also look for other potential identifiers like tattoos, scars, orthopedic devices, and surgical implants. Pacemakers and orthopedic devices are particularly useful; newer units have serial numbers that can be tracked through manufacturer's [punc. sic] records." 
  • "DMORT autopsies are different than routine forensic proceedings because the primary focus is not on determining cause of death but rather on finding positive identification." 
  • Dennis Dirkmaat: "This is more like a MASH unit--the remains come to your table and you have to be quick. In ten to fifteen minutes, you're moving the body on to the next station." 
  • "When adjustment becomes a little more difficult, every DMORT has mental health professionals available to deal with special problems that arise, and every team member has an exit interview with the mental health unit... Psychiatrists and psychologists are not only on duty at the site, they keep in regular contact with DMORT members for up to a year following an incident, looking for signs of unhealthy coping mechanisms." 
"Necrophilia & Misconduct"
  • "Necrophilia does not happen in the funeral industry, generally it is very, very rare. Incredibly rare to the point that nobody I talked with in the industry had encountered it or really heard of it." 
  • "People outside the funeral industry often ask me if I have ever heard of it or seen it, or how common it is. In their mind it might not be regular but it obviously happens."
  • "I remember back in the early 2000s a certain medical union in Sydney was in panic mode. They had found one of their members, a respected person in the field, had been a necrophiliac for years. So it does happen, of that there is no doubt. But it would be very rare, once in a decade if that." 
  • "Med students [however] are famous for miss handling [sic] of cadavers, it appears to be part of the rights [sic] of passage for some places. However again this would be very rare and uncommon. And I doubt the motive would be sexually based." 
  • "In the interview [The Unrepentant Necrophile] the necrophiliac says that it is common in the funeral industry, how it happens a lot but is not talked about. I have to completely disagree. The interview is sensationalised and appears inaccurate to the point where I start to think it is a hoax... [From the report] it all to me looks as though she is trying to, not justify, but make it appear more common. To make herself and her actions not part of a minority." 
  • "I am not saying misconduct does not happen with bodies, companies have been known to quite literally steal bodies from hospitals to get the funeral work. Other companies have had a flare of thefts from bodies... Other times individual employees have done bad things, like one person who use[d] to leave a mark on bodies he prepared." 
"The Unrepentant Necrophile"
  • Questions are in red. Responses are indented. 
  • "There seems to be a strong camaraderie between morticians. Almost like a secret society." 
    • "Very much so. Morticians are very tight with each other because most people won't have anything to do with them... A lot of people are under the misconception that morticians are very straight, very somber. If they ever went back into the prep room and heard all the jokes that are cracked it would blow that theory right out the window." 
  • "Necrophilia is more prevalent than most people imagine. Funeral homes just don't report it. There was one place that I broke into, and I know that they knew something was wrong. They actually caught me in the act and let me get away." 
  • Karen mentions the "American Association of Necrophilic Research and Enlightenment," which... doesn't appear to exist. There are only 1,750 results on Google. She doesn't seem to be incredibly credible here, although I think the more effective means of discounting the idea would be to somehow find statistics for the prevalence of necrophilia in general and then overlay that onto the number of morgue workers. Necrophilia will almost certainly be proportionately uncommon in that context, although, it should be remembered that the rate of child abusers in the Catholic clergy compared to the total number of Catholic clergy is also not as high as media reports might lead us to think.
    • This paper discusses the phenomenon and also suggests that necrophiles would be more prone to finding occupations conducive to their interests (53% of the individuals examined had "occupational access to corpses"). 
  • Southern Funeral Director Magazine has a 2016 Professional Car Issue with "specialty vehicle profiles." 
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for funeral service workers is $51,600 per year or $24.81 per hour. 
    • "The median annual wage for funeral service managers was $66,720 in May 2012. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,420, and the top 10 percent earned more than $140,740." 
    • "Employment growth reflects an increase in the number of expected deaths among the largest segment of the population, aging baby boomers." 
  • According to Job Monkey, the "technical and artistic" occupation of embalming will earn you an "average of $50,000 per year". "Embalmbers can plan on 40 hours a week, but often the hours are irregular." 
  • "Thanatourism" is apparently the practice of going around to cemeteries, at least according to one source. Googling it, however, I turned up "Dark tourism" (AKA black tourism, grief tourism), which "has been defined as tourism involving travel to places historically associated with death and tragedy" and, in the same article, "Thanatourism... refers more speiifcally to violent death... The main attraction to dark locations is their historical value rather than their associations with death and suffering." 
    • "His typology of death-related tourist sites consists of seven different types, ordered from light to dark: dark fun factories, dark exhibitions, dark dungeons, dark resting places, dark shrines, dark conflict sites and dark camps of genocide." 
    • "The same author hypothesized in 2012 that 'dark tourism could be a mechanism of resiliency helping society to recover after a disaster or catastrophe, a form of domesticating death in a secularized world.'"
    • Another site I found mentions it in connection to "sky burials in Tibet," giving the idea of people going from place to place to watch the disposal of the dead.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Notes to: "In the Dust of This Planet"

Material covered: In the Dust of This Planet, by Eugene Thacker

Preface: Clouds of Unknowing
  • Arthur Schopenhauer: "The life of every individual, viewed as a whole and in general, and when only its most significant features are emphasized, is really a tragedy; but gone through in detail it has the character of a comedy." 
  • "The world is increasingly unthinkable--a world of planetary disasters, emerging pandemics, tectonic shifts, strange weather, oil-drenched seascapes, and the furtive, always-looming threat of extinction. In spite of our daily concerns, wants, and desire, it is increasingly difficult to comprehend the world in which we live and of which we are a part. To confront this idea is to confront an absolute limit to our ability to adequately understand the world at all--an idea that has been a central motif of the horror genre for some time." 
  • "The horror of philosophy: the isolation of those moments in which philosophy reveals its own limitations and constraints, moments in which thinking enigmatically confronts the horizon of its own possibility--the thought of the unthinkable that philosophy cannot pronounce but via a non-philosophical language." 
  • "What an earlier era would have described through the language of darkness mysticism or negative theology, our contemporary era thinks of in terms of supernatural horror."
  • "Arguably, one of the greatest challenges that philosophy faces today lies in comprehending the world in which we live as both a human and a non-human world--and of comprehending this politically." 
  • "When the world as such cataclysmically manifests itself in the form of a disaster, how do we interpret or give meaning to the world?" 
  • "In classical Greece the interpretation is primarily mythological--Greek tragedy, for instance, not only deals with the questions of fate and destiny, but in so doing it also evokes a world at once familiar and unfamiliar, a world within our control or a world as a plaything of the gods." 
  • "Even though there is something out there that is not the world-for-us, and even though we can name it the world-in-itself, this latter constitutes a horizon for thought, always receding just beyond the bounds of intelligibility. Tragically ,we are most reminded of the world-in-itself when the world-in-itself is manifest in the form of natural disasters." 
  • "Using advanced predictive models, we have even imaged what would happen to the world if we as human beings were to become extinct." 
  • "To say that the world-without-us is antagonistic to the human is to attempt to put things in human terms, in the terms of the world-for-us." 
  • "We can even abbreviate these three concepts further: the world-for-us is simply the World, the world-in-itself is simply the Earth, and the world-without-us is simply the Planet." 
  • "Scientists estimate that approximate[ly] ninety percent of the cells in the human body belong to non-human organisms (bacteria, fungi, and a whole bestiary of other organisms). Why shouldn't this also be the case for human thought as well? In a sense, this book is an exploration of this idea--that thought is not human. In a sense, the world-without-us is not to be found in a 'great beyond' that is exterior to the World (the world-for-us) or the Earth (the world-in-itself); rather, it is in the very fissures, lapses, or lacunae in the World and the Earth." 
  • "Against these two common assumptions, I would propose that horror be understood not as dealing with human fear in a human world (the world-for-us), but that horror be understood as being about the limits of the human as it confronts a world that is not just a World, and not just the Earth, but also a Planet (the world-without-us). This also means that horror is not simply about the fear, but instead about the enigmatic thought of the unknown." 
  • "Horror is about the paradoxical thought of the unthinkable. In so far as it deals with this limit of thought, encapsulated in the phrase of the world-without-us, horror is 'philosophical.' But in so far as it evokes the world-without-us as a limit, it is a 'negative philosophy' (akin to negative theology, but in the absence of God). Briefly, the argument of this book is that 'horror' is a non-philosophical attempt to think about the world-without-us philosophically."
  • "Certainly a short story about an amorphous, quasi-sentient, mass of crude oil taking over the planet will not contain the type of logical rigor that one finds in the philosophy of Aristotle or Kant. But in a different way, what genre horror does do is it takes aim at the presuppositions of philosophical inquiry--that the world is always the world-for-us-- and makes of those blind spots its central concern, expressing them not in abstract concepts but in a whole bestiary of impossible life forms--mists, ooze, blobs, slime, clouds, and muck. Or, as Plato once put it, 'hair, mud, and dirt.'"
I. Three Quaestio on Demonology
  • "Originating in the medieval law schools, the quaestio or 'question' developed as a systematic way to compare canonical legal texts, as well as the commentaries attached to them. When discrepancies were found in the same law developed in a different region or at a different time, this became the occasion for an inquiry or 'questioning,' the goal of which would be to achieve some sort of synthesis or reconciliation."
  • "By the 12th century, philosophers and theologians incorporated the quaestio into their own teaching as a way of systematically exploring a topic--usually one associated with or deriving from theological matters. This, combined with the resurgence in the study of Aristotle's logical works, led to the kind of methodical, almost detective-like investigation of a concept that one finds in, for instance, the works of Thomas Aquinas."
  • "Borrowing from thinkers such as Aquinas, each quaestio utilizes the simple format of the statement of a theme, a discussion of the assumptions of that theme (articulus), and a discussion of counter-arguments (sed contra), before attempting to find some middle way or resolution (responsio)--which, needless to say, often ends up in irresolution and more questions. 
Quaestio I - On the Meaning of the Word "Black" in Black Metal

  • "Black metal is not just a music genre, but also a subculture and a way of thinking about demons and the demonic in a world of religious extremes. While black metal bands rarely put forth anything like a systematic philosophy of horror, the music, lyrics, and iconography of black metal are relevant for the ways in which they look back to earlier concepts of demons and the demonic--in all their ambiguity. In a way, there is no better starting point for the 'horror of philosophy' than black metal." 
  • "Certainly, discussions of music genres often revolve around what does or doesn't constitute the essence of that genre. When disagreements arise, a common solution is simply to divide the genre into subgenres. Metal is no exception to this pattern, and there are more and more metal subgenres every day." 
  • "For the moment, then, let us think about 'black' as meaning Satanic. What does this imply conceptually? For one, if we take the Medieval and early Renaissance notion of Satan as a starting point, the equation black = Satan is governed by a structure of opposition and inversion. Opposition defines the demonic as much as the divine; it is the 'War in Heaven' described so vividly in Revelations [sic], and dramatized in Milton's Paradise Lost." 
  • "In its oppositional mode, the equation black = Satanic means 'against God,' 'against the Sovereign,' or even 'against the divine.'"
  • "The image of Satanism takes on a different form by the 19th century, however. In a sense, one cannot really talk about Satanism before this time, at least not as an organized counter-religion complete with its own rituals, texts, and symbols. What we would call Satanism before this time was, legally speaking, defined b the Church as heresy, and heresy is a particular kind of threat--it is not the threat of not believing at all, but the threat of believing in the 'wrong' way." 
  • "If we take the 'black' in black metal to mean Satanic, then we see how this is emblematic of a conceptual structure of opposition (its Medieval, 'heretical' variant) and inversion (its 19th century, 'poetic' variant). In this association we also see a relation to the natural world and supernatural forces as the means through which opposition and inversion is effect. The 'black' in this case is almost like a technology, or a dark technics. Black magic in particular is predicated on the ability of the sorcerer to utilize dark forces against light, one set of beliefs against another." 
  • "There are many black metal bands that take a non-Christian framework as their foundation, referencing everything from Norse mythology to the mysteries of Egypt. We can take a different approach, then, and suggest another meaning to the word 'black' in black metal, and that is: Black = pagan. We will undo this yet again, but for the time being let us think about this in contrast to the black = Satanism meaning." 
  • "Whereas heresy was viewed by the Church primarily as an internal threat, with paganism one finds, in some cases, an entirely different framework--an external threat."
  • "Whereas in Satanism, one finds an attempt to instrumentalize dark forces against light, in paganism magic is technology and vice versa." 
  • "So far, we have two possible meanings that the word 'black' can have in black metal culture. These are black = Satanism and black = paganism. One has the structure of opposition and inversion, and [the] other the structure of exclusion and alterity. Both are united, however, in what amounts to a human-oriented relation to nature and natural forces--with Satanism we see a dark technics of dark vs light forces, and with paganism we see a dark magic of being-on-the-side of nature itself. Despite their differences, both meanings of the term 'black' point to one thing they have in common, and and that is an anthropocentric view towards the world. The world is either there for us to use as a tool, or it is there inside us as a force for our benefit." 
  • "The view of Cosmic Pessimism is a strange mysticism of the world-without-us, a hermeticism of the abyss, a noumenal occultism. It is the difficult thought of the world as absolutely unhuman and indifferent to the hopes, desires, and struggles of human individuals and groups." 
  • "Beyond these specters there is the impossible thought of extinction, with not even a single human being to think the absence of all human beings, with no thought to think the negation of all thought. Hence another possible meaning of the term 'black': Black = Cosmic. Or better, Black = Cosmic Pessimism." 
  • "While there may be some order to the self and the cosmos, to the microcosm and macrocosm, it is an order that is absolutely indifferent to our existence, and of which we can have only a negative awareness." 
  • "To find an equal to Schopenhauer, one would have to look not to philosophy but to writers of supernatural horror such as H. P. Lovecraft, whose stories evoke a sense of what he termed 'cosmic outsideness'..."
  • "In this sense, the most striking example of Cosmic Pessimism comes from outside of the metal genre altogether. It is by the Japanese multi-instrumentalist, poet, and mystic Keiji Haino. Haino's album So, Black is Myself employs a subtractive minimalism that is beyond that of Sunn O))) or dark ambient artists such as Lustmord. Haino's approach is eclectic, borrowing techniques from everything from Noh theater to Troubadour singing. Clocking in at just under 70 minutes, So, Black is Myself uses only a tone generator and voice... So, Black is Myself also manages to by mystical at the same time that the individual performer is dissolved into a meshwork of tones--voice, space, and instrument variously existing in consonance and dissonance with each other." 
Quaestio II - On Whether There are Demons, and How to Know Them

  • "Even within the culture industry, there is the subgenre of Satanic cinema--from 'documentaries' such as Haxan, to Hollywood films like The Exorcist, to recent indie films like House of the Devil. In films like these, the elaborate scenes of exorcisms and possession serve to remind us that what we today classify as mental illness was, for an earlier era, a manifestation of the demonic." 
  • "In short, the figure of the demon, though it may not be accepted literally today, can be understood in an anthropomorphic framework, as a metaphor for the nature of the human, and the relation of human to human (even when this relation is couched in terms of the boundary between human and non-human)." 
  • "We might even attempt a further permutation, in which the demon is neither purely theological nor psychological, but sociological. Here the political aspects of the demon, as the stand-in for a threatening Other, come to the fore. The demon becomes a name, a placeholder, a designation that signifies at once that which is outside and, because of this, that which is a threat." 
  • "Elaine Pagels's widely-read The Origin of Satan makes the clearest point: the demon is inseparable from a process of demonization, and this process is as much political as it is religious. Whether, as in Pagels's study, the demonic refers to pagans (the threat from outside), or to non-Christian Jews (the boundary between outside and inside), or, finally, to acts of heresy within Christianity (the threat from inside), all follow this motif of naming an Other." 
  • "Let us return to the traditional, Christian-theological premise of the demon--demons are, generally speaking, both malevolent and malefic. They are understood as supernatural beings that intend to do evil to humanity, and do so through supernatural means. Whether they are rendered as monstrous, chimerical creatures, or as invisible and immaterial dark forces, the demon often inhabits the edges of the human understanding of the world. This twofold characteristic--an antagonism towards the human, and some form of supernatural mediation--are a key part of the theological concept of the demon." 
  • "In this parable the demons manifest themselves in three ways, each an example of the limits of the human to comprehend the non-human. First, within the possessed man are a multitude of demons. Demonic possession itself transgresses the normal relationship between the One and the Many (one person = one body). It is also an affront to and parody of the Trinity, in which a single One is incarnated in Three. God as Creator creates many creatures. As creatures they are linked to God through the act of creation. Yet, as creatures they are also separated from God in their being mortal and rooted in the changes associated with temporarily. The multitude of demons in the parable above occupy the individual human creature--that highest of creatures--and turn him into a mere animal-like thing." The Trinity thing is anachronistic. 
  • "The threat posed by the demons is not simply a topological one having to do with the proper relation between the One and the Many, and neither is it to do with the proper relation between Creator and creature. There is another element here, which is the way in which the demonic also challenges divine sovereignty. The demonic challenges the divine in its refusal to be organized at all. We do not know how many demons there are, nor even if it is more than one voice that speaks 'Legion.' We only know that it is more than one, and that it may be something other than 'Many,' the latter term still denoting a potentially countable entity. The demons are, in a sense, more than Many, but never One." 
  • "The exorcism scene from the Gospels portrays a demon that is unmediated and yet only embodied--the demons called 'Legion' are never present in themselves, but only via some form of earthly embodiment (the old man, the herd of pigs, the wind, the sea). In a sense, they are strangle pantheistic, announcing themselves only indirectly. Hence their embodiment is also a disembodiment, in the sense that they are wandering spirits--their movement happens more by demonic contagion than by divine inspiration." 
  • "At its limit is the idea of the absolutely 'dark' demon--the demon that remains absolutely unknowawable to use [sic] as human beings, but which remains seems to act upon us, perhaps through a malevolence we can only call 'bad luck' or 'misfortune.'"
  • "This leaves one avenue open, which is the perspective of the non-human itself. As thinking, embodied beings unable to fully detach ourselves from the subject-object relations that constitute us, this is undoubtedly a paradoxical move. In fact, it is doomed from the start. Nevertheless it deserves to be stated, even if beyond it there can only be silence." 
  • "They in themselves were never present, never a discrete thing that one could point to--the demons named 'Legion' were really, in themselves, 'nothing.'"
  • "If the anthropological demon (the human relating to itself)  functioned via metaphor, and if the mythological demon (the human relating to the non-human) functioned via allegory, then perhaps there is a third demon, which is more ontological, or really 'meontological' (having to do with non-being rather than being). As the 6th century mystic Dionysius the Areopagite notes, commenting on the paradoxical existence of demons, 'evil is not a being; for if it were, it would not be totally evil...evil has no place among being. [ellipsis original]"
  • "The demon is, then, a way of talking about the perspective of the non-human, with all the contradictions this implies. For the meontological demon, affirmation is negation, and thinking about its being is the same as thinking about its non-being." 
  • "However, there is not simply one type of demon in the Inferno; indeed, the central drama of the Inferno is not good vs. evil, but in the tensions within the Inferno itself." 
  • "We soon learn that this tempestuous scene is not the backdrop for some new genre of demons, but that the wind, the rain, and the storm itself is the demon. This 'black wind' (aura nera) is at once invisible and yet dramatically manifest, coursing through the swarming bodies of the damned." Demons are activity? 
  • "In this scene there is neither a fixed and majestic counter-sovereign, nor a roving gang of Faustian demons. There is only the strange, immanent, and fully distributed 'life-force' of this black wind. The spirits of the Lustful in this circle dissolve into the elemental swarming of the storm and the wind." 
  • "Arguably this last scene puts forth the most difficult view of the demon--not a transcendent, governing cause, and not an emanating, radiating flow--but a concept of the demonic that is fully immanent, and yet never fully present. This kind of demon is at once pure force and flow, but, not being a discrete thing in itself, it is also pure nothingness." 
  • "The motif of possession in the Inferno demonstrates this: demonic possession is not just the possession of living beings, but includes the possession of the non-living as well. Demons possess not only humans and animals, but also the very landscape, the very terrain of the underworld. Demonic possession in the Inferno is not just teratological, but also geological and even climatological." 
Quaestio III - On Demonology, and Whether it is a Respectable Field of Study

    • "One role medicine played was in the cultivation of a general miasmatic or contagion-theory of demonic possession. In this pre-modern understanding of contagion, the demon is conceptualized in much the same way we saw earlier--as a paradoxical manifestation that is, in itself, 'nothing' or non-being." 
    • "At the first level there is psycho-physiological possession, in which the demonic spirit invades and affects the body itself (with symptoms ranging from temporary disability and incapacitation, to impotence, infertility, and eroto-mania, to epilepsy, narcolepsy, and melancholia). At a second level there are cases of epidemiological possession, which affects the relation between body and environment (plague, leprosy, mass hysteria, even mob behavior). Finally, after a third level one finds a more abstract, climatological possession, in which demons possess not only the living but the non-living, not only the animate but the inanimate (unnatural or anomalous changes in weather, affected livestock or crops, sudden famine or flood)." 
    • "The role of medicine here was less to develop knowledge about demonic possession, and more to arbitrate--within the juridicial context of the trial--the boundary between the natural and supernatural. Interestingly, it is this role that would be reinforced by later writers more skeptical of the witch-hunts and the mass paranoia they produced. Note, however, that a natural explanation of a phenomennon such as necromancy or possession in no way rules out the presence of the supernatural--in many instances it simply serves as yet another route towards the inevitable sentence."
    • While Weyer did admit the real existence of witches, witchcraft, and demons, he also allowed for cases in which individuals were helplessly deluded by demons (thinking that their hallucinations were real), as well as cases of simple trickery. As Weyer ominously notes, real demons do not need us to carry out their acts of ill will--in fact, it is the height of vanity to suppose that we as human beings are in any way necessary for them." 
    • "It also contains one of the early legal definitions of a witch, as one whom 'knowing God's law, tries to bring about some act through an agreement with the Devil."
    • "Much of the confusion of the early demonology treatises centers on how to verify the existence of a demon, when, by definition, they are rarely self-evident to the human observer." 
    • "To the culture of the early Renaissance, the demon presents a limit to the empiricism of the unknown, something that can only be verified through contradictions--an absent manifestation, an unnatural creature, a demonic malady." 
    • "The narrative technique of the journey--so common in the history of world literature--is a key feature of Dante's Commedia, as Dante the pilgrim journeys from the dark circles of Hell, through the conical spiral of Purgatory, to the celestial geometries of Paradise, along the way undergoing various trials of his own." 
    • "Here we find the structure of agonism, with the demonic ensnared in an eternal struggle or conflict. Then there is the motif of the pact, the black bargain with a demon that at once liberates and imprisons the human character that signs their name in blood."
    • "Wheatley's 'black' novels are particularly noteworthy, for the protagonist De Richleau often uses both ancient and modern-scientific knowledge in his battle against demons and dark forces, continuing the 'occult detective' genre inaugurated by authors such as Sheridan Le Fanu." 
    • "Science fiction works such as Fritz Leiber's Gather, Darkness! and James Blish's Faust Aleph-Null, written in the shadow of world war and mass extinction, suggest an ominous affinity between technology and the supernatural."
    • "Blish's novel suggests that with weapons of mass destruction, a renewed Faustian pact has been made, with quantum physics as a form of necromancy." 
    • "If demonology is to be thought of in a philosophical register, then it would have to function as a kind of philosoheme that brings together a cluster of ideas that have, for some time, served as problematic areas for philosophy itself: negation, nothingness, and the non-human."
    • "What would such an approach to demonology look like? To begin with, demonology would have to be distinguished from anthropology, in which the demon is simply a stand-in for the human and ruminations on the nature of evil in human beings. Demonology would also have to be distinguished from pure metaphysics, in which the demon functions as a stand-in for the pair being/non-being. Denying the anthropological view means considering the world as not simply the world-for-us or the world-in-itself, but as the world-without-us. Likewise denying the view of metaphysics means considering the unreliability of the principle of sufficient reason for thinking about the world (not sufficient reason but a strange, uncanny, insufficiency of reason). A philosophical demonology would therefore have to be 'against' the human being--both the 'human' part as well as the 'being' part. Perhaps we can come up with a new term for this way of thinking--demontology. If anthropology is predicted on a division between the personal and impersonal ('man' and cosmos), then a demontology collapses them into paradoxical pairings (impersonal affects, cosmic suffering)."
    •  "For Schopenhauer, the nihil privativum is the world as it appears to us, the world-for-us, the world as 'Representation' (Vorstellung), while the nihil negativum is the world-in-itself or the world as 'Will'--or better, the world-in-itself as it is manifest to us in its inaccessibility, in its enigmatic, 'occult qualities.'"
    • "In a sense, the nihil negativum is not just about the limits of language to adequately describe experience; it is about the horizon of thought as it confronts the unthought, the horizon of the human as it struggles to comprehend the unhuman. Yet, as Schopenhauer notes, 'such a state cannot really be called knowledge, since it no longer has the form of subject and object; moreover, it is accessible only to one's own experience that cannot be further communicated.'"
    • "Demontology of the type we've been discussing would have to distinguish itself from the moral, judicial, and cosmic framework of Christian demonology (moral law, temptation, transgression, sin, punishment, salvation, etc.). And here demontology comes up against one of the greatest challenges for thought today, and it is, in many ways, a Nietzschean one--how does one rethink the world as unthinkable?--that is, in the absence of the human-centric point of view, and without an over-reliance on the metaphysics of being?" 
    • "Should one then create a lineage, citing predecessors of this type of Cosmic Pessimism? But here an interminable game of inclusion and exclusion begins. Should one include classical philosophers, such as Heraclitus? Should one include works in the tradition of 'darkness mysticism' or negative theology? And then what of the great works of spiritual and philosophical crisis, from Kierkegaard to Emil Cioran and Simone Weil? We've already mentioned Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, but then are we obliged to also consider their 20th century inheritors, such as Bataille, Klossowski, or Shestov?" 
    • "Would there not be a basic problem in positing or hoping for the existence of a field dedicated to negation and nothingness?"
    II. Six Lectio on Occult Philosophy
    • "The phrase 'occult philosophy' is often used by scholars to describe an intellectual movement prevalent during the Renaissance, which combined elements of of Christian theology with a range of non-Christian traditions, from ancient Egyptian theories of magic to Renaissance astronomy and alchemy. In its own way, occult philosophy's mashing of diverse intellectual traditions questions the hegemony of any one particular tradition (most notably, orthodox Christianity as ensconced within a whole host of legal documents defining the parameters of heresy)." 
    • "In her book The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age, Yates argues that what has come to be called occult philosophy is really an amalgam of diverse intellectual traditions, traditions that have, historically speaking, been at odds with each other." 
    • Yates: "It is the Ficinian magic which Agrippa teaches in his first book, though he teaches it in a much bolder way. Ficino was nervous of the magic; he was anxious to keep his magic 'natural,' concerned only with elemental substances in their relations to the stars and avoiding the 'star demons,' the spirits connected with the stars. It was really not possible to teach astral magic whilst avoiding the star demons, as Agrippa saw and boldly accepted the challenge." Definitely some ideas there for a magic system. 
    • "An itinerant scholar, Agrippa traveled extensively through Europe, coming into contact with intellectuals participating in the religious reform and scientific humanism movements of the time (some modern historians even suggest that Agrippa's travels point to an unknown secret society of which he was a member)."
    • "In Agrippa's philosophy, the nature of reality is divided into three worlds--the elemental world, the celestial world, and the intellectual world." 
    • "By 'elemental' Agrippa means the natural world, comprising as it does the spectrum of animate and inanimate entities, organic and inorganic in nature, as well as the primary elements as inherited from classical thought (water, air, fire, and earth). Beyond the elemental or natural world is what Agrippa calls the 'celestial,' by which he means the sky, the stars, the firmament, and the planetary cosmos. [...] Finally, beyond the celestial is the 'intellectual' world, and here Agrippa displays again the influence of Neoplatonism, referring ot the supernatural world of intermediary beings (angels and demons) as well as the First Cause, the Neoplatonic 'One,' or God. [,..] This last world is intellectual in the sense that it contains, in Platonic fashion, the abstract, purely formal essence of all things in the celestial and elemental worlds." A magician who could reach this realm could possibly edit the world, but doing so could have disastrous consequences. Also, what if The One is closer to Azathoth than anything which Plato would have recognized? 
    • "The basic philosophical commitment of Agrippa's Occult Philosophy is that there is a basic distinction between the world as it appears to us, and the 'hidden' or occulted qualities of the world which, though they are not appearent, are all the more important and essential in gaining a deeper knowledge of the three worlds (elemental, celestial, intellectual)." There are non-human beings and forces about in the world, but first one must recognize them solely by behavioral cues. Then comes (perhaps) mystical sensation, and then one is able to perceive them, but this perception is not objective: it is closer to how one perceives the Party Leader of PKD's Faith of Our Fathers, who is seen variously as the Clanker, the Climbing Tube, or the Gulper (among other things) depending on who is doing the seeing. How one perceives them is a mixture of cultural influence and personal history. Also consider demons as described above. To some extent a being may actually be influenced by the perceiver, such that a given bane may be effective in the hands of one but not of another. 
    • "The strange effects of certain herbs or minerals, anomalies in the sky or the stars, the practice of necromancy or geomancy, even the existence of magic itself--all these are evidence of aspects of the world that refuse to reveal themselves, that remain hidden or occulted. As Agrippa notes, 'they are called occult qualities, because their causes lie hid, and man's intellect cannot in any way reach, and find them out.' His examples vary widely, from the mundane example of how digestion occurs, to the rather fantastical example of how creatures such as satyrs may exist." 
    • "This idea--of the occulted world which both makes its presence known and yet in so doing reveals to us the unknown--this idea is the dark underside of occult philosophy and its humanist claims. Against the humanist world-for-us, a human-centric world made in our image, there is this notion of the world as occulted, not in a relative but in an absolute sense." 
    • "This second notion of the occult--not that which we as human being[s] hide or reveal, but that which is already hidden in the world--this we can refer to simply as the occulted world, or better, the hiddenness of the world."
    • "What is revealed is the 'hiddenness' of the world, in itself (and not, I stress, the world-in-itself). This hiddenness is also, in a way, hideous. The hidden world, which reveals nothing other than its hiddenness, is a blank, anonymous world that is indifferent to human knowledge, much less to our all-too-human wants and desires. Hence the hiddenness of the world, in its anonymity and indifference, is a world for which the idea of a theistic providence or the scientific principle of sufficient reason, are both utterly insufficient." 
    • "Whereas in traditional occult philosophy, the world is hidden in order that it is revealed (and revealed as the world-for-us), in occult philosophy today the world simply reveals its hiddenness for us."
    • "For Agrippa it is not only possible for humanity to gain knowledge of the world, but it is also possible for humanity to, by virtue of occult practices, obtain a higher 'union' with the 'Maker of all things.' Today, in an era almost schizophrenically poised between religious fanaticisms and a mania for scientific hegemony, all that remains is the hiddenness of the world, its impersonal 'resistance' to the human tout court." 
    • "In Medieval philosophy and theology, a lectio (literally, a 'reading') is a meditation on a particular text that can serve as a jumping-off point for further ideas." 
    • "Here the motif of the magic circle serves as a boundary between the natural and supernatural, and the possible mediations between them that are made possibly by the circle itself. Hence the magic circle is not only a boundary, but also a passage, a gateway, a portal. In these cases the hidden world reveals itself at the same time that it recedes into darkness and obscurity (hence the tragic tone of many of these stories)." 
    Lectio I. Marlowe's The Tragedy of Doctor Faustus ~ Goethe's Faust I
    • In his study of the cultural anthropology of play, Johan Huizinga notes how play involves a number of ritualized practices, in which play is at once separated from the everyday world and yet mirrors it and comments upon it. The games we play, whether as children or as adults, at once reaffirm hegemonic social structures while also revealing to us the rules of play. Whether they are games of chance or games of strategy, play achieves this ambivalence through a spatial and symbolic motif that Huizinga calls 'the magic circle.'"
    • Huizinga: "Just as there is no formal difference between play and ritual, so the 'consecrated spot' cannot be formally distinguished from the play-ground."
    • "All incarnations of the magic circle 'are temporary worlds within the ordinary world, dedicated to the performance of an act apart.'"
    • "In 16th century Germany, several books recounting the life of Faust were in circulation. These 'Faustbooks,' as they are known, detail the basic elements of the story: Faust's challenge to faith, his pact with a demon, and his eventual downfall and damnation. One Faustbook tells how Faust, after dismissing the miracles performed by Christ, began to demonstrate his ability to perform miracles just as easily. When confronted by the Church, Faust rebukes, noting that 'I have gone further than you think and have pledged myself to the devil with my own blood, to be his in eternity. How, then, can I return? Or how could I be helped?'"
    • "Marlowe's Faustus is not simply a black magiican out to sate his every desire, and neither is he an official doctor ensconced within the halls of legitimate Church institutions such as the university. Rather, in his use of the magic circle, he is someone who does not or cannot see the distinction between the natural and supernatural, the cosmic forces of Orion and the Antarctic and the spiritual forces of angels and demons." 
    • "The magic circle as that which paradoxically reveals the hiddenness of the world-in-itself." 
    Lectio II. Wheatley's The Devil Rides Out ~ Blish's Black Easter, or Faust Aleph-Null
    • "Published in 1934, Dennis Wheatley's sensationalist novel The Devil Rides Out contains what is perhaps the most detailed and elaborate magic circle scenes in the horror genre." 
    • "Richleau explains the rules of the game and what is at stake: 'What may happen I have no idea...I cannot tell you what form his attack is likely to take..He may send the most terrible powers against us, but there is one thing above all others that I want you to remember. As long as we stay inside this pentacle we shall be safe, but if any of us sets one foot outside it we risk eternal damnation.' What does happen happens in phases. The first phase appears not to be supernatural at all, and involves psychological or affective disturbances (one of the characters, Richard, grows impatient when nothing happens and is about to exit the circle to go to bed). A second phase involves anomalies of the room itself (unnatural play of light and cast shadows, violent winds in the room that come from nowhere). These merely pave the way for a third phase of strange 'ab-human' creatures (a viscous dark shadow cumulating on the ceiling, then 'a dim phosphorescent blob...shimmering and spreading into a great hummock...It had no eyes or face but from it there radiated a terrible malefic intelligence.'). The climactic moment comes when, all else failing, an angel of death in the form of a shadowy black stallion comes to claim their lives." The dark powers will resist their summoning as much as possible.
    • "At each stage of the attack Richleau and his friends are tested. Up until this point in the novel we have no real, direct evidence of the supernatural. [...] Here, the magic circle draw, the rules of the game established, and the play begun--here, the supernatural is able to manifest itself." And through the magic circle, figuratively, it manifests in the rest of the novel? Or maybe it only manifests in magic circles, perhaps in a number of forms of magic circle...
    • "The magic circle is both what allows the 'hiddenness' of the world to reveal itself, as well as that which protects the human subject from the rational unacceptability of this hidden, world-in-itself." 
    • "Here magic is not completely divorced from something called science, but neither is it simply equivalent to it. In these instances magic--and in particular black magic--is deemed an illegitimate form of knowledge primarily because it stands opposed to both the orthodox religious worldview (the world as divine creation) and the then-burgeoning scientific worldview (the world as knowable in itself through reason and experimentat). The knowledge gained by black magic is neither the knowledge of the world as given to us by the divine Logos, nor is it the knowledge produced by the machinations of human reason." 
    • "What happens when one takes occult knowledge not just as a philosophical problem, but as a resource to be harnessed and transformed into a tool?" 
    • "What Richeleau never talks about is the practical paradox of instrumentalizing the hidden world--that is, of taking that which by definition we as human beings cannot comprehend, and transforming it into a tool...or a weapon. This is the theme of James Blish's novel Black Easter, which originally contained the subtitle Faust Aleph-Null." 
    • "The climax of Black Easter is the actual evocation scene, depicted as something between Faust's conjuration and an experiment in particle physics." 
    • "The cataclysm concludes with the arrival of Baphomet, who speaks, with great dramatic flair, as the voice of the cataclysm itself: 'WE WILL DO WITHOUT THE ANTICHRIST. HE WAS NEVER NECESSARY. MEN HAVE ALWAYS LED THEMSELVES UNTO ME.'"
    • "But Black Easter is not a work of fantasy; arguably it isn't even a work of speculative fiction. The allegorical reading gives way, at a certain point, to a reading of the novel that is metaphysical. Taking the novel in this way does not mean, however, that one has to accept or reject the real existence of magic. The metaphysics of the novel lies in its evocation of the world and its hiddenness, especially when the hidden world is cataclysmically revealed through weapons that make it nearly impossible to distinguish [between] a human-made war, a naturally occurring disaster, and a religious apocalypse." 
    Lectio III. Hodgson's Carnacki the Ghost-Finder ~ "The Borderlands" (Outer Limits)
    • "In these stories the magic circle maintains a basic function, which is to govern the boundary between the natural and the supernatural, be it in terms of acting as a protective barrier, or in terms of evoking the supernatural from the safety inside the circle. We can now take another step, which is to consider instances in which the anomalies that occur are not inside or outside the magic circle, but are anomalies of the magic circle itself. This need not mean that the magic circle has malfunctions, or has been improperly drawn. In some cases it may mean that the magic circle - as the boundary and mediation of the hidden world - itself reveals some new property or propensity." 
    • "Some of these tools are simple and low-tech, such as candle wax to seal windows and doors (thereby indicating if an entry was made during the night). 
    • "In Hodgson's Carnacki stories, the Electric Pentacle is a hybrid of magic and science that, in stories like 'The Hog' serves to invert the traditional uses of the magic circle. Instead of providing protection and serving as a barrier between the natural and supernatural, the Electric Pentacle actually focuses and intensifies the passages between them, whereby the 'hidden world' reveals itself as a sort of extra-dimensional monstrosity."
    • "If the lab is the circle, then the lab experiment is the magical ritual." 
    Lectio IV. Lovecraft's "From Beyond" ~ Ito's Uzumaki
    • "The supernatural begins to bleed into the natural. The magic circle, whose function was to govern the boundary between them, begins to spiral out of control, as the human subjects 'in' the magic circle struggle to control and comprehend that which lies outside of it (and thus outside the scope of human knowledge).
    • "The final stage of this fuzziness is when the magic circle itself starts to behave anomalously, as we've seen in the occult detective subgenre. In some cases, the circle inverts its traditional function and amplifies the blurriness of the supernatural and the natural." 
    • "Instead of serving as a gateway or portal to other dimensions - a function still very much within the traditional magic circle - Lovecraft's characters construct a magic circle whose function is the dissolving of the boundary between the natural and supernatural, the four-dimensional and the other-dimensional, the world revealed and the world as hidden." 
    • "In Lovecraft's story, what results is a 'subtractive' magic circle, which by its very receding into the background, bizarrely flattens all dimensions into one." 
    • "In Lovecraft's inimitable prose, italics always indicate an epiphany of cosmic horror." 
    • "The story closes as with many a Lovecraft story, with ambigious newspaper reports of unsolved mysteries." 
    • "Lovecraft discards the architectonics of the magic circle, but keeps the metaphysics. The device serves as nothing more than a nodal point from which the characters are able to 'see' the extra-dimensional reality and the weird creatures that swim about them every day." 
    • "Rather than assuminig the division between the natural and supernatural, and then utilizing the magic circle to manage or govern the boundary between them, in 'From Beyond' the magic circle is used to reveal the already-existing non-separation between natural and supernatural, the 'here and now' and the 'beyond.'
    • "This third transformation - in which the magic circle as such is diffused into the world[...]"
    • "Thus what begins as a psychological and subjective obsession quickly turns into an objective manifestation in the world." 
    • "Uzumaki adds yet another dimension to the magic circle motif we've been tracing. The spiral is, in one sense, an abstract, geometrical shape. It has no actual existence in the world, except as a manifestation in the form of a spiral (a snail's shell, a slice of fish cake). This paradoxical state means that the spiral is never manifest except as a spiral 'in' some thing, in the world." 
    • "On the one hand, the spiral has no existence except as manifestation - and it is this contagious, pervasive manifestation that the characters describe as unnatural or strange. On the other hand, throughout the Uzumaki series, the spiral is more than just a pattern in nature - it is also equivalent to the idea of the spiral itself." 
    • "In the examples of Lovecraft's 'From Beyond' and Ito's Uzumaki we see that the traditional magic circle is no longer needed in order to think about the hidden world. This is because, as the stories imply, we are already bathed in the invisible viscous hiddenness of the world. In a kind of perversion of Kantian philosophy, Lovecraft and Ito suggest that the world-in-itself is only 'hidden to the extent that our phenomenal experience of the world is determinatively a human one." 
    • "To achieve the essence of real externality, whether of time or space or dimension, one must forget that such things as organic life, good and evil, love and hate, and all such local attributes of a negligible and temporary race called mankind have any existence at all." 
    • "Any magic without a circle is also a magic without human agents to cause, control, or utilie magic." 
    • "The magic site is, simply, the place where the hiddenness of the world presents itself in its paradoxical way (revealing itself as hidden). In some cases magic sites are like magic circles, constructed by human beings for specific purposes. [...] More often that not, however, the magic site spontaneously happens without any human intervention. The magic site need not be on sacred ground, and it need not have any special buildings or temples constructed for it." 
    • "Whereas the magic circle involves an active human governance of the boundary between the apparent world and the hidden world, the magic site is its dark inverse: the anonymous, unhuman intrustion of the hidden world into the apparent world, the enigmatic manifesting of the world-without-us into the world-for-us, the intrustion of the Planet into the World. If the magic circle is the human looking out and confrotning the unhuman, anonymous, hidden world, then the magic site is that hidden world looking back at us. It is not surprising, then, that whereas the magic circle evokes vaguely anthropoid creatures (demons, ghosts, the dead), the magic site creeps forth with entities that are neither animate nor inanimate, neither organic nor inorganic, neither material nor ideal."
    • "The magic site manifests the hidden world revealed in two forms: as mists and as ooze. Mists evoke many things - drizzling rain, a dense fog, or surreal clouds in the overcast sky. Natural formations like clouds or rain are, certainly, entities inscribed within the scientific study of atmospheric conditions. [...] The ethereal nature of mist means that while they may appear solid and to have distinct physical forms, they are also immaterial, and can readily become formless." 
    • "Again, the term 'ooze' evokes more that which oozes than a discrete, static thing. What oozes can be slime, mud, oil, or pus. Ooze can ooze on the body, in the ground, in the sea or [in] space. Slime, for instance, can be understood in a scientific scene (for instance in plant microbiology or prokaryotic biology), but slime is also something between a liquid and a solid. Ooze may also be metamorphic and shape-shifting, as with the organisms classed as myxomycota, which, during their life cycle, may alternately behave like plants, fungi, or amoeboid organisms. 
    Lectio V. Shiel's The Purple Cloud ~ Hoyle's The Black Cloud ~ Ballard's The Wind from Nowhere
    • "Hailed by the likes of Lovecraft as a masterpiece of weird fiction, The Purple Cloud is a surreal and sometimes wandering narrative about a mysterious purple gas that emerges from the North Pole and spreads over the entire planet, killing every living being in its path - except for one person, whose recently-discovered journal of the aftermath of the purple cloud constitutes the novel itself." 
    Lectio VI. Caltiki the Immortal Monster ~ X: The Unknown ~ Leiber's "Black Gondolier"
    • "Ooze seems to always attach itself to monsters, dripping off their tendrils and making them all the more abject and repulsive. Ooze is also an indicator of the threateningly near presence of the monster; it is the footprint or tentacle-print of the monstrous creature. More interesting, however, are those horror stories in which ooze in and of itself is the monster." 
    • "At some point in the film's action, these allegorical readings recede into the background, and what comes to the fore is the strange, faceless, formlessness of the ooze itself. It seems to have no motive, no vendetta, no program of action, other than simply that of 'being ooze.'" 
    • "Daloway, it seems, began to develop a bizarre and unnatural fascination with oil - not just as a natural resource, and not just as something of geopolitical value, but with oil in itself as an ancient and enigmatic manifestation of the hidden world. Over time Daloway's conversations with the narrator begin to take on the form of mystical visions. Oil, he notes, constitutes 'that black and nefarious essence of all life that had ever been...a great deep-digged black graveyard of the ultimate eldritch past with blackest ghosts." 
    • "In 'Black Gondolier' oil is described as an animate, creeping ooze that already is on the surface, and that immanently courses through all the channels of modern industrial civilization, from the central pipelines feeding the major cities to the individual homes and cars that populate those cities. At one point in the story, the narrator attempts to put Daloway's crackpottheories into coherent form: 'Daloway's theory, based on his wide readings in the world history, geology, and the occult, was that crude oil - petroleum - was more than figuratively the life-blood of industry and the modern world and modern lightening-war [sic?], that it truly had a dim life and will of its own, an inorganic consciousness or sub-consciousness, that we were all its puppets or creatures, and that its chemical mind had guided and even enforced the development of modern technological civilization.' 'In brief,' the narrator notes, 'Daloway's theory was that man hadn't discovered oil, but that oil had found man.'"
    • "If the supernatural in a conventional sense is no longer possible, what remains after the 'death of God' is an occulted, hidden world." 
    III. Nine Disputatio on the Horror of Theology

    • [xxx]

    "The Subharmonic Murmur of Black Tentacular Voids"
    • "What follows takes place by way of a poetic text and an accompanying commentary. The poetic text is an anonymously authored poem that has been circulating on blogs, forums, and even in a number of scholarly journals. Because the poem was originally circulated in fragments, its total length is not known, and its rather baroque title - 'The Subharmonic Murmur of Black Tentacular Voids' - appears nowhere in the body of the poem itself." Bullshit.
    • "In the commentary John notes the apparent paradox here: 'Why, if it is a divine light... does one call it a dark night?' That is, how is it that the union with the divine, the pinnacle of mystical experience, one that is traditionally described in terms of beatific light, how can this experience here be described in terms of its opposites - darkness, stillness, and negation? In response John provides two definitions of darkness: 'First, because of the height of divine wisdom, which exceeds the capacity of the soul. Second, because of the soul's baseness and impurity; and on this account the wisdom is painful, afflictive, and also dark for the soul.'"
    • "'Divine darkness' is dark because it exceeds our human capacity to adequately render it intelligible. The divine is dark because we have no concept of it." 
    • "The 'spiritual darkness' also appears to be a privation, but more in terms of what John elsewhere calls 'spiritual gluttony' (e.g. wanting to be the best or most extreme mystic for selfish ends; focusing on the destination and not on the journey)." 
    • "The term Ungrund is difficult to translate, as it may, depending on context, mean a lack of ground as itself a ground, or a superior or superlative ground. For the sake of simplicity let us translate Ungrund as 'unground,' keeping in mind the plurality of meanings it may have. What does it mean to say, as Bohme did, that God is the Ungrund?"
    • "Here God is Abyss not because the divine passes beyond the human world of morality and metaphysics, but because the divine subtracts itself, in an act of self-negation, from its very intelligibility as such. [...] This leaves Bohme with a basic theological problem, which is how to explain the creation of the world, nature, and life if the divine is indeed to be negatively thought of as the unground or Abyss. There is, to behing with, the metaphysical problem of how something can be created from nothing. Then there is the theological problem of how plurality, the diversity of the world, can come from an indivisible unity. But beyond these problems, there is another, more important one, which is that if the divine is indeed the unground, and if the unground is neutral, anonymous, and indifferent, then this clearly implies a notion of the divine as equally neutral, anonymous, and indifferent with respect to us as human beings and the human world that we inhabit. The divine as Ungrund implies not only negation or a Divine Abyss, but the divine as indifferent to the human." 
    • "In an enigmatic text entitled 'The Congested Planet,' published in 1958, Georges Bataille attempts something unheard of in mystical traditions: to conceive of a non-human mysticism that would also refuse all forms of anthropomorphic personification." Is there such a thing as non-anthropomorphic personification? 
    • "To what degree is the planet indifferent to us as human beings, and to what degree are we indifferent to the planet itself?" 
    • "We can also think of mysticism as actually enabled by an overly optimistic, 'gee-whiz' scientific instrumentality, in which the Earth is the divinely-sanctioned domain of the human, even and especially in the eleventh hour of climate change." 
    • "Whether it is of the political left or right, whether it is the affectivist-hippie mysticism or the eschatology-of-oil type of mysticism, in both cases mysticism is ostensibly a human-centric and human-oriented experience. Mysticism in these cases is always a union 'for us' as human beings." 
    • "In the West, the intermittent flowering of mysticism is often explained in terms of a historical context against which mysticism operates." 
    • "At the core of their writings is the problem of human suffering in the world - indeed, the extent to which suffering is the very relation between self and world." 
    • "Given this, it is no surprise to see many mystics positing some type of effacement or union of self and world as the resolution to the problem of suffering. In effectively bypassing the self-world division one also bypasses all of the corporeal, spiritual, and existential suffering that is part and parcel of that division. This then places one - to the extent there is a 'one' any longer - in a position to experience a further effacement or union, that between the earthly and the divine, between the natural and the supernatural. This is the benchmark of nearly every text in the speculative mysticism tradition." 
    • "For some, the union is described using the motif of light, a motif that has a long tradition that extends back to the mystical texts of the Church Fathers, and ultimately to Neoplatonic sources (e.g. the divine topologies of light and radiation in Plotinus). This 'light mysticism' is also an affirmative mysticism; it asserts a positive communion with God, and it dictates the correct steps on the ladder of this ascent." What about a cultural lens in which things were often interpreted through, say, fire/water, than through light/darkness?
    • "If the divine - and here let us say 'divine' rather than 'God' to emphasize the anti-anthropomorphic tendency - is not simply a super-human but in some radical way beyond the human (or even, against the human), then it follows that any human of the divine can only be a horizon for thought. For other mystical thinkers, the very inconceivability of this union with the divine meant that any possible knowledge of it, and any possible description of it, could only take place by a negative means (e.g. the divine is not-X or not-Y, X and Y denoting earthly, human-centric attributes. Hence the preferred motif is not light - be it the radiation of divine Intelligences or beatific light - but instead that of darkness and night." 
    • "Those in this tradition often utilize several modes of discourse to talk about the divine: that of negative theology, in which one makes use of language, logic, and philosophical argumentation to demonstrate the aporetic unknowability of the divine, and that of darkness mysticism, in which poetry and allegory are used to suggest the ways in which the divine remains forever beyond the pale of human thought and comprehension." 
    • "Even at the apotheosis of divine communion, darkness mysticism retains the language of shadows and nothingness, as if the positive union with the divine is of less importance than the realization of the absolute limits of the human. Darkness mysticism is 'mystical' not because it says yes to the therapeutic, anthropocentric embrace of God, but because it says no to the recuperative habits of human beings to always see the world as a world-for-us." 
    • Henry Annesley, Dark Geomancy: "Unless the history of the mystics can touch and light up some part of this normal experience, take its place in the general history of the non-human, contribute something towards our understanding of non-human nature and destiny, its interest for us can never be more than remote, academic, and unreal." 
    • "Here we can, perhaps, see the darkness mysticism tradition in a new light, which is that of our current geopolitical imaginary of climates, tectonic plates, tropical storms, and the viscous geological sedimentation of oil fields and primordial life. In a contemporary context, oen in which we are constantly reminded of the planetary (and cosmic) frailty of human beings, and reminded in ways that appear to be utterly indifferent to the 'history of humanity'--floods, earthquakes, wildfires, hurricanes, water shortages, extreme temperatures, and the like--in such a context, perhaps something called mysticism has an unexpected meaning. Rudolph Otto suggests this in his examination of the ambivalent 'horror of the divine' in religious and mystical experience. Such experiences, i nwhich the human confronts, in a paradoxical state, the absolutely unhuman, can only be thought negatively. In the West, Otto argues, there have been two major modes in which this negative thought has been expressed: silence and darkness. To these Otto adds a third, which he finds dominant in Eastern vriants of mystical experience, which he terms 'emptiness and empty distances,' or the void."
    • "Our response [to nothingness and nihilism], argues Nishitani, should not be to rediscover some new ground for giving meaning to the world, be it in religious or scientific terms, and neither should we be satisfied to wallow in despair at this loss of meaning, this 'abyss of nihility.' Instead, we should delve deeper into this abyss, this nothingness, which may hold within a way out of the dead end of nihilism. For Nishitani, then, the only way beyond nihilism is through nihilism. And here Nishitani borrows from the Buddhist concept of sunyata, conventionally translated as 'nothingness' or 'emptiness.' In contrast to the relative nothingness of modern nihilism, which is privative, and predicated on the absence of being (that is, an ontology), Nishitani proposes an absolute nothingness, which is purely negative and predicated on a paradoxical foundation of non-being (that is, a meontology)."
    • In Nishitani's interpretation of absolute nothingness (sunyata), that through which everything exists and subsists is not itself an existent, nor is it an existent foundation for all existents--it is nothingnes, emptiness. From this follows an equally strange and enigmatic iden/tity of all that does exist: 'everyone and everything is nameless, unnameable, and unknowable...And this cosmic nihility is the very same nihility that distances us from one another.' For Nishitani, it is from this commonality--of nothing and nothingness--that one passes from relative to absolute nothingness: 'In contrast to the field of nihility on which the desolate and bottomless abyss distances even the most intimate of persons or things from one another, on the field of emptiness that absolute breach points directly to a most intimate encounter with everything that exists." 
    • "There is no being-on-the-side-of the world, much less nature or the weather. If anything, the apparent prevalence of natural disasters and global pandemics indicates that we are not on the side of the world, but that the world is against us. But even this is too anthropocentric a view, as if the world harbored some misanthropic vendetta against humanity. It would be more accurate--and more horrific, in a sense--to say that the world is indifferent to us as human beings." 
    • "If mysticism historically speaking aims for a total union of the division between self and world, then mysticism today would have to devolve upon the radical disjunction and indifference of self and wold." 
    • "If historical mysticism is, in the last instance, theological, then mysticism today, a mysticism of the unhuman, would have to be, in the last instance, climatologicail. It is a kind of mysticism that can only be expressed in the dust of this planet." 
    • "In the early story 'Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family,' Lovecraft expresses the same sentiment as follows: 'Life is a hideous thing, and from the background behind what we know of it peer daemoniacal hints of truth which make it sometimes a thousandfold more hideous." 
    • "Upon seeing the bestial figure of Satan, Dante notes 'I did not die - I was not living either!' (Inferno, Canto XXXIV 25)."
    • "Jacques Derrida has noted the way in which the political concept of the enemy has, in a post-9/11 era, centered around autoimmune metaphors, in which the threat comes from within."