September 21st, 2016

A Facebook Facecrime and My New Book

facecrime
“Privacy is intimately tied to creative potential.” — David Chaum

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear.” — Henry David Thoreau

When an author approaches the end of writing a book it’s not unusual for the unconscious to rebel and throw up roadblocks on the path to completion. I assume this is true for any artist serious about his or her long-term project. A day of reckoning always looms.

These rogue psychic forces are related to the process that accompanies severance. To end the creative flow is to relinquish control.

Worse, there will follow the book’s actual existence, after the fact; a harsh distinction between the fantasy that accompanied imagining the project and its materialization.

As Jung’s right-hand agent, Marie-Louise Von Franz noted: “People sometimes resist becoming creative because one’s would be creativeness is always so much more impressive … than the little egg one lays in the end when birth takes place!”

And so, not surprisingly, as I’m starting to push my new book Astrology, Facebook and The Zombie Apocalypse into the final laps around the track, my nocturnal dreams — the great compensatory forces in life — have become more forceful and direct.

Some backstory:

Many years ago I took a job as a telephone psychic because I needed money. What started as a lark turned quickly into a kind of purgatory until I realized that I’d a rare opportunity to turn something grindingly tedious (and bizarre) into gold. I wrote and sold my book about my experiences to a mainstream publisher. And then later that same book became the fodder for an upcoming television series.

A success from one of the most peculiar moral problems I’d ever encountered in life; namely, speaking to people for four dollars a minute about their future when most of them had none. Meaning they were unemployed, in abusive relationships, dying of terminal diseases, or incarcerated — many in need of the fresh waters of psychological understanding — not New Age sewage.

And so I made a similar decision regarding my involvement with Facebook.

I would turn a dubious everyday experience (that had bloomed into a full-blown habit) into a creative project and at the same time gain immunity from the Facebook atmosphere by seeing my investment there as research. In other words another book.

It was probably two years ago that I knew something was wrong regarding the social network. And it wasn’t just related to Facebook’s privacy issues and personal data mining. It had more to do with one’s commodity of creative energy, the allotment each of us is given in life and how Facebook, given the opportunity, will usurp and capitalize on that reserve to its benefit.

I’ll say more about that:

A distance or disconnect from one’s creativite core generates — at the end of the day — anxiety. Monitoring Facebook through my waking hours meant a continual, sporadic snapping of the vector that kept me focused on my work, my task at hand. Over time I noticed that I’d become more devoted to distraction — which is another way of saying I was prolonging my “day of reckoning”  — than with the various creative projects I was involved with.

In addition to persistence and focus, to create — rather than just passively consume — one needs an open-ended relationship to the world, where her aperture is set to its widest circumference, to take everything in — all views, all sides, all polarities — rather than winnowing back down upon oneself and the comfort and safety that insularity sustains.

And this winnowing down, shrinking and shrink wrapping, is promoted by Facebook tirelessly. Consider the network through a literal lens: Everything in Facebook’s design and user interface is teeny tiny; as if to say: “Keep yourself small, contained, digestible and predictable — agreeable and upbeat.” Dissident voices are not encouraged, not welcomed within your feed, and Facebook’s algorithms guarantee the seamless shield of your bubble. To court disagreement would create ruptures: Defriendings! This sort of control does not foster emotional maturity. It’s akin to being trapped in a Hallmark greeting card shop with the woman that owns and promotes its wares non-stop.

So over the years, regardless the enjoyment I derived by trawling and posting on the network, I felt like a conflicted trapeze artist who was always on the verge of leaving the circus. And then finally, in my troubled dream last week, my trapeze tether actually snapped and I was down. Back on earth. And that, right there, was the essence of my dream’s narrative: I was in a circus, Mark Zuckerberg was the ringleader, I was performing high wire acts and my lifeline snapped.

My unconscious had created a decisive event, by demonstrating, through dream speak, the fallout of ignoring my ongoing mistrust of the Zuckerberg-ian presence that haunts the timelines of his gated network. A most peculiar and denuded presence, which makes it all the more disturbing and suspect to the paranoid part of my nature. The writer Zadie Smith once described Zuckerberg’s presence, in Generation Why?, this way, from her memories of him back in their college days:

“The real Zuckerberg is much more like his website, on each page of which, once upon a time (2004), he emblazoned the legend: A Mark Zuckerberg Production. Controlled but dull, bright and clean but uniformly plain, nonideological, affectless.”

An android thing, in other words.

Stranger still, within my dream, was the sense that, somehow, by opposing the endless stream of cheerful, informative or expertly fashioned declarations on the Facebook newsfeed, I’d committed a Facecrime. I “heard” the word bouncing around in my head’s echo chamber right before I’d woken up. Dream analysts claim that when the dream’s narrative fractures — by waking us up — we’ve hit the gold zone — the most critical part of the dream’s communication.

In the morning I rummaged through my library for a copy of George Orwell‘s 1984 — as the word facecrime seemed a perfect fit for his dystopian hellhole’s newspeak. And sure enough, there it was: Facecrime!

Here’s how Orwell describes Facecrime in his book:

“It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself — anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offense. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called.”

Here is Mark Zuckerberg’s statement (often referred to as the Zuckerberg Doctrine) from 2010 about privacy and identity as related to the new modern world, which is to say, for anyone from Silicon Valley, the all and everything of Web 2.0:

“You have one identity…The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly…Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

This is the philosophy of an android. A pancake-like concept of identity that could only be fostered by someone who is lodged (or lost) somewhere on the autism spectrum, where the mysterious Mercuriality of being a human being has been reduced to an algorithm blip that cross-references over to an IP number. Not surprisingly, Mark Zuckerberg’s natal horoscope shows a potent Mercury Pluto opposition. Mercury configurations such as this align with the chart’s owner making statements like this:

“What people want isn’t complete privacy. It isn’t that they want secrecy. It’s that they want control over what they share and what they don’t.”

zuckerberg_instagram

Which is a kookoo way for Zuckerberg to telegraph his intentions (and issues) about privacy and how he will or will not grant that to us on his network. It’s classic counter-transference gibberish. But important to pay attention to nonetheless.

Of course if you seek out private information about Zuckerberg on his Facebook page you will find none. In fact, he’s so phobic about his privacy he recently spent 30 million dollars to purchase every home in his neighborhood that was adjacent to his as he values control over any sort of social connection. A recent photo (above) that Zuckerberg posted online to celebrate his Instagram account unwittingly reveals that both the microphone and camera on his laptap are blacked out with tape.

Mercury Pluto oppositions often indicate a conflicted schism within the psyche, a kind of intellectual dyslexia. Humongous power urges struggle to find expression through the mind’s ability to set up systems and regulatory measures. Like the entirety of Hoover Dam powering a child’s transistor radio. Consider a quote from Zuckerberg’s New Yorker profile from some years back where he listed among his interests: Minimalism, revolutions, and “eliminating desire.” Commenting on this Zadie Smith wrote: “And of course if you’ve eliminated desire you’ve got nothing to hide, right?”

Writer Michael Zimmer says of this ‘control’ smokescreen:

The problem with Zuckerberg’s philosophy of privacy, of course, is that over Facebook’s 10-year history, users’ ability to control their information has largely decreased. Default settings lean toward making information public, and new advertising and third-party platforms are increasingly spreading users’ information beyond their direct control.

When that trapeze snapped in my Facebook circus dream, it was actually my years-long rationale that frayed; the lie that I would tell myself every time I logged into Facebook that, even though I was constantly thinking about deactivating the account (or deleting it entirely), it still was a benign pastime and part and parcel my life as someone who offered services to other individuals. And there’s some truth to this, as a good many of my new clients over the past five years have arrived via Facebook meetings.

More specifically Facebook Denial involved:

• Avoiding the fact that my personal data was being sleuthed and accrued and then put on the auction block for the highest data bidders to gain control over — to package, slice and dice as they deemed fit. After all, they purchased it and it was there’s to do with as they wished.

• Acknowledging that valuable chunks of time were being sucked down the Facebook rabbit hole. Moments become minutes become hours when tabulated at the end of the day. Time that might have been committed to creative work. Re-read that opening epigram from David Chaum, and think about it. “Privacy is intimately tied to creative potential.” Woe is me.

• Glossing over my longtime belief that social media requires the cultivation of artifice over actuality because as creatures with souls it’s unnatural to broadcast within a global network the very human conditions of ambiguity, ambivalence or anxiety. Disclosure of those conditions are for those closest to me; good friends, family, my therapist or spiritual teacher. But to approach any representation of those states, within the flickering flow of the Facebook newsfeed was a form of modern-day facecrime. Read more



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July 30th, 2016

Depression and the Solar Consciousness

munch_beach
“The cosmos is a vast configuration of words telling a coherent story (for those who understand), and hence it is a book. So also a human being is a book, but human beings, by and large, have forgotten the storyline.”
— William Chittick

 
We are each bookended between our star, the Sun and the planet Saturn. This defines our narrative.

Another way of putting this would be to say: All of us are stretched between a looping tether that links our father and our mother and weaves from this relationship our personal history, a history that defines and — ultimately — limits our life — traps us into the grid of quotidian reality.

How we experienced the relationship with both parents is indicated by the position of the Sun and Saturn in the natal chart. Not just as symbolic markers, but as actual components in a personal and spiritualized form of alchemy. Meaning real substance, essential elements of spirit are interwoven into an entity and identity that can then be considered a human being. A ‘you’. The solar essence is not simply a metaphorical notion. Nor is the Saturnine association with form and substance, it’s the actual skin and bones that encapsulate being a living creature.

If the Sun at your birth was in a fire sign and Saturn in a water sign then fire and water qualities — the spiritual and imaginal realm predominate your narrative. Your innate ability to inspire, enthuse and innovate is tethered to the imagination and how your imagination can create the best holding and support to sustain your aims.

Your first experience of the solar would be through your father’s fiery nature. The Saturnine would be from your maternal lineage. This is a simplified explanation, but it helps us to start to suss out how the underpinnings of the connection and expression of the solar (Sun) in the human (Saturn) is experienced.

The ongoing work of spiritual psychology (or self-actualization) involves freeing oneself from what psychology terms the paternal and maternal ‘introjects’. The introjected father and mother are a set of psychic structures (literal memories constellated into forms) that we each create as a way to eventually separate from our parents and live autonomous lives. As children, to begin to individuate, we create miniature images of each parent and carry those images around with us, internally, throughout our lives.

These images eventually develop into what Freud called the superego, a function in the psyche that perpetuates a continual conversation and relation to our parents, as we recall and ‘hear’ the parents’ proscriptions, rules, likes and dislikes and then, from that inner dialogue, live our life in a false state of autonomy (as the introjected parents have not been replaced by the true sources of essential qualities as typified by the Sun and Saturn).

The dissolving of the parental introjects is no easy task and requires ongoing inquiry, understanding, and revelation. But our first opening, our first movement towards freedom is afforded us by Saturn’s gifts of gravitas, resistance, and depression. When you think about it, depression always fuels inquiry of some kind.

Traditionally the Moon is associated with one’s mother, but this is a misinterpretation of the symbiotic phase of childhood when the mother and the child’s consciousness share an experience of dual unity, a condition where no differentiation exists between where the mother ends and the child begins.

So the Moon can be considered the earliest forerunner of the soul — a passive, impressionable membrane-like condition of consciousness by which we are able to register Presence, not only within our consensus experience of reality but also through experiences of reality that are considered supra-normal or metaphysical.

But my point here is that the Moon is best considered a marker of the tender, unformed consciousness of the infant and how the infant’s consciousness melds with the mother’s. The Moon does not symbolize the Mother as a separate entity. That is the function of Saturn — the form-making, demarcation-making force in life.

Regardless any of the Ptolemaic aspects that define the circuitry of energy within the birth chart (the conjunction, opposition, square and trine), the Sun and Saturn are in constant communion with one another, oscillating psychic force between them, in much the same way the heart — as an organ of both mechanics and as a mode of perception — animates our essential nature. And in response, Saturn provides the Sun with a container by which the solar consciousness — the “I Am” within each of us — is able to abide within physical presence.

Depression is a critical function of Saturn. We could say depression counter-balances the incessant solar radiation and propulsion of the heart. Without the mitigating function of Saturn, the solar principle could not be experienced as such. This is experienced in a literal way with the heart’s expansion and then contraction as it propels the circulatory system’s various functions.

In this sense, Saturn is associated with the illusion of Time that marks out and demarcates beats or ‘moments’ in life that allow us to also mark out, compare, contrast, and experience reality as a sort of linear flow. This illusion is, in many ways necessary for it allows for functioning within conventional life, but it is a limitation. Where the Sun imparts the experience as Time as a vertical phenomenon (the ever-present ‘now’), Saturn counters this with the horizontal, and between the two expressions, our lives are anchored.

You can feel and track this in your own life, as you track periods when clarity abounds and you are able to effortlessly generate attention to do what you need to do to accomplish your various aims or desires. This means solar consciousness is operating in an optimal way.

Should habits and repetitive mechanical behavior have the upper hand you’re operating in the realm of the Moon, where only what is familiar and comfortable is sought as solace. We all need periods like this where we tumble into the lunar realm if only to recharge, allowing our psyches a break from the incessant radiance of consciousness. This is why the lunar is associated with sleep, an activity we generally do during the night.

The bookends of the alchemical process are always the Sun and Saturn. The gold (divine) and the dross (physical). As we toggle between these two parts of our nature, all of the various experiences that comprise a human life are interwoven into the memory-making substance of our soul. The movement between expansion and contraction is a common theme for anyone doing spiritual work — an opening occurs, new insights arrive and awareness blooms — the solar consciousness is amplified. This is then countered by the contractive force of Saturn, which always checks and balances, usually through some form of depression. This is the rhythm of life.

To toil within the alchemical retort that is the astrological realm — as a student or practitioner — we are forced, just like the alchemists of old to separate out the creative from the static. Astrology is an art that involves a deft command of the cosmic logos: an active relationship with the Sun, Moon and planets — not just a theoretical manipulation of symbols and metaphors. The ‘art’ is to refine our understanding of the signs and planets to the point that an active relationship to the cosmos has been honed.

From this place, one develops a personal rapport with each angelic Being that is a star or planet. This is the true meaning of prophecy that is part and parcel the astrological lineage and logos. Not the prophecy of fortune- or future-telling, but the prophetic as the bringer of divine messages, divine intervention, divine communion. From these experiences the soul is transported into the timeless, the vertical realm of the solar — where all moments are this moment, and the notion of or concern for the future becomes a distraction.

 

Painting: Jaape on the Beach, Edvard Munch, 1891

 

 



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July 19th, 2016

Understanding How Astrology “Works”

Hedi_Xandt

This is a quote from the author Tom Cheetham, a scholarly expert when it comes to interpreting the works of Henry Corbin, the renowned philosopher and professor of Islamic Studies (1903-1978). Corbin was responsible for redirecting the study of Islamic philosophy, transforming erstwhile ideas about Islam into a rich panoply of poetry and esoteric vision.

Reading Cheetham (which is infinitely easier than reading Corbin) is an exercise in acquainting yourself with astrology’s deepest truths: The planets, the Sun and the Moon are living beings.

Cheetham writes:

“This limitless cosmos is full of Presences, full of Persons — full of angels.

We have to discard all our trivialized and anthropocentric conceptions of the nature of such beings. They are personified metaphysical presences, the movers of the worlds, and they provide the connection between ourselves and divinity.

There is no question of anthropomorphism. The personality of these beings is not derived from ours; ours is only a dim reflection of theirs.

The hermeneutic ability of the creative Imagination to transmute all things into symbols destroys the distinction between psychology and cosmology and unites them in a psycho-cosmology in which Creator and creature participate not as opposing terms with an unbridgeable gulf separating them, but as complementary poles of a divine drama.

‘The personal God [Corbin writes] is . . . encountered at the end of a Quest (as of that for the Holy Grail).’ The endpoint of this search is not an idol, not a thing at all, and therefore not an end but a beginning … the Emptiness, the Unknown, and the Unknowable into which one falls upward in an unending series of theophanies.”

Astrology is born of humankind’s relationship to nature, or put another way, astrology is an extension, within the human, of the angelic of which men and women have an opportunity to play an active role through conscious awareness of Being.

Conditions of Being or Presence are not difficult to grasp. Attention, an active force of awareness that we each possess, has the ability to guide and focus our inquiry through the relational qualities inherent in Presence.

Presence is described as such by Samer Akkach in the book Cosmology and Architecture in Premodern Islam:

“The notion of presence refers to the complex web of physical, mental, and spiritual relationships a being spawns by its very existence and the influences it exerts through this web of connectedness. A thing is perceived to have a presence insofar as it impacts other presences, influences their course of existence, and becomes part of their world. In other words, it is not the mere existence of the thing that matters but rather its level of impact and domain of influence. This is what makes it effectively present.”
 

For more inquiry on this thread see the following.

Opening sculpture: Hedi Xandt – Apollo Rey III (for Dries van Noten).

 
 

 



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July 01st, 2016

Starving for the the Space of the Imaginal

trash_riot

The three water signs of the zodiac are associated with the world of the imaginal and the imagination. In Plato’s dialogue Timaeus, he speaks of that out of which all things have generated: the nurse, the receptacle “that we may liken to a mother” or a womb “that partakes of the intelligible [but] is yet most incomprehensible.”

Austrian philosopher Ivan Illich comments: “In these delightful lines Plato still speaks of the image-pregnant stuff of the dreams and imagination … as one who still has the experience of in precategorical, “founded” space.” This describes quite well the nascent, creative realm of the three water signs.

This is a peculiar realm, this world that Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces access. The imaginal imparts to the water triad qualities like intuitive prescience, sometimes maddening irrationality (“I dunno, it just doesn’t feel right to me, I can’t explain why.”) Also visions and unfounded insights. All reinforced with the conviction that the imaginary realm is more substantial, more vital than pre-Cartesian quotidian reality.

But this isn’t a post about traditional associations with the water triad, I’m just teasing that element forward to get you thinking about your own relationship to imagination and that receptacle “that we may liken to a mother” or a womb “that partakes of the intelligible [but] is yet most incomprehensible.”

Primarily, I want to talk about the water realm because our distance from it explains much about our obsession with computers and screens and how screens act as mirrors. Through technology, we attempt to crawl our way back into an experience of inner space (think of this space as the place you occupied before your father’s sperm collided with your mother’s egg) and regain sustenance from the type of silence that is both inchoate and buzzing. The Voice of Silence.

I think this explains our culture’s preoccupation and sometimes addiction with screens. Screens that deliver images wholesale — without any investment on your part in their creation — which robs you of the mysterious middle ground you must pass through to create — to bring forth any sort of creation from the realm of the imaginal. Never any easy process to engage with.

As Tom Cheetham notes in his book on Henry Corbin‘s cosmology, The World Turned Inside Out, we are all starving for the imaginal and the realms of the Imagination.

When the Sufis talk about Imagination they are not referring to it as the fantastical or fanciful. Imagination, within their cosmology, is an actual mode of perception. This is an important distinction to grasp.

In our typical reductionist, mechanistic world we seem to think if we can just see enough images, gather enough access to experience the Imaginal whenever we want — at our beck and call via an Internet application or bit of software that generates virtual reality, we can experience the actual space that is part and parcel the arrival of the imaginary.

You need to read that paragraph above again, to make the right connection. That felt condition, that space from which the first intimations of concepts or images arise, is a condition vitally important to the well-being of the soul.

We require a sense of inner space, via our relationship to Presence, to enable the soul to breathe, to contact the imaginal realm, to see how the conceptual world we live in is simply a shell that overlays and protects a richer, larger experience of life. The dynamic realm that exists free of concepts and the conceptual

The concepts of time and space confine us. To maneuver about within the world we use time and space to demarcate and define. But in doing so we become so acclimated to this lens of viewing reality that we forget the timeless — the unbounded freedom that Presence imparts. The term Presence is used a lot in spiritual writing, losing much of its direct transmission through misinterpretation. Whereas Presence is easily identifiable. It’s a condition of being that requires no faith or belief in any particular dogma or doctrine. Keep it simple. Sense yourself as you are reading this sentence. And that awareness is Presence.

But we can not do this by just collecting and stuffing our minds with images, this is akin to partaking of a giant gourmet meal but without any engagement with the process of collecting the ingredients and the recipes and the cooking that brings the meal to our table. In other words, we can’t sense the freedom of the space that the pre-imaginal realm connotes by simply cramming ourselves with more and more images, concepts, sensations and information.

This starvation for the space that accompanies the imagination and the imaginal shows up in our drive towards the Future and towards the New World.

As Cheenahm explains, “…whether that is America, the Moon, or the virtual realities of the Internet. We can never after such a loss have enough space. In our drive to recover the spaces of the Imagination, we have taken refuge in the Image. Television, movies, video screens in every classroom, magazines, billboards — the world is full of Images, all coming from the Outside, according to someone else’s agenda. They are immeasurably powerful.

The Free Market has known that for a long time, but this is precisely the opposite of that Interiorization of the world that is the goal of gnosis. It is in fact, the latest, perhaps the last, step in the exteriorization and total objectification of the soul. We are driven by it by a kind of perverse necessity: the more we need space for the things of the soul, the more we seek images to fill the space that we no longer create for ourselves.

And yet fewer and fewer of us know the source of this panic or where to turn in response. And so we continue to search for new disciplines of the imagination and are caught by each in turn, disoriented and confused in a world that will not cohere.”

Opening collage by permission from Trash Riot.

 

 



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June 21st, 2016

Summer Break

astroinquiry_summer_break


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