Monday, October 31, 2011

My Ultimate Halloween Movie

The lights are finally back on at Secret Sun Central after the recent Nor'Easter.

I've seen some wild storms in my day, but nothing that left the trail of destruction this storm did. It was a quite a crash course in the absolute helplessness of the human animal in the face of Nature's wrath, as trees and branches exploded at such a rate that it sounded like a fireworks display. It could have been- and almost was- much, much worse, since my backyard is all woods. But the hearty oaks withstood the onslaught, bless them.

Can't imagine there'll be much trick-or-treating tomorrow since it's bitterly cold out there, but tradition is tradition. And tradition dictates that the movie I most associate with Halloween gets an airing on The Secret Sun. So for longtime readers, here's an encore performance. For those of you who've never seen Quatermass and the Pit, you're in for quite a treat.

Here's a link for other Quatermass-themed posts on The Secret Sun, which might come in handy if this film gets under your skin, too. And everyone can take time to reflect on the precarious nature of human existence, and ponder the utter improbability of animals that do what we do and hold Nature at bay to the extent that we can. Be sure to take a few moments to appreciate the people in your life.

The first time I remember seeing this subversive blast of 200-proof AstroGnosticism was on Halloween, so the connection between the two has been scorched into my consciousness forever. More:
Before Chariots of the Gods, before The 12th Planet, before Gods of Eden, before The X-Files, before Stargate, before Battlestar Galactica, before Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, before Transformers 2 there was Quatermass and the Pit.

Although popularized in the US with the Hammer version (see video above, retitled Five Million Years to Earth), Quatermass originally aired on the BBC in the late 50s as a serial. Though the Hammer version is certainly worthy, the BBC version (which can be seen in its entirety here) is nothing short of a sci-fi revelation. Brilliantly written and produced, the series would become a monster smash in the UK and a profound influence on a generation of sci-fi fans and writers. From the Independent:
Kneale's greatest achievement as a melder of science fiction and horror was undoubtedly Quatermass and the Pit, which kept people out of the pubs while it was running. He cheerfully threw aliens from Mars, pagan rituals, the "Horned God" and race memory into the mix and scored a huge popular success.
If you looking for evidence of culture's reverse-evolution with the rise of television, Quatermass is your motherlode. Kneale's script puts nearly everything on TV today to shame. In 1958, mind you, he was warning of the militarization of space, racial tensions, government cover-ups of alien contact and pseudo-skeptical denialism.

And if you're a regular reader of this blog, the fourth episode of BBC series especially will send chills down your spine. In excruciating detail, Kneale paints a scenario where aliens from a dying planet (Mars, in this case) come to earth and manipulate the genetic structure of proto-hominids in order to act as receptacles for alien consciousness.

Kneale's attention to detail is impeccable- the aliens keep themselves isolated in a sealed compartment on their ship to avoid contamination from Earth microbes. Their primary concern is the expansion of the proto-human neural capacity, as they were attempting to download their own consciousness into these new hybrid creatures.

Did I mention this was written in 1958?

As in The X-Files, communion with the residual alien consciousness manifests itself in psychic phenomena- telepathy and telekinesis, to be exact. Kneale also presents a scenario in which the racial memory of these beings and our ancestral contact with them is encoded in our DNA. Ghosts, demons and the occult are all the byproducts of periodic subconscious eruptions, particularly when humans are exposed to the radiation from the buried spacecraft in Hobb's Lane, Knightsbridge.

Then there's this episode of The Outer Limits called 'Double Helix'.' I'll let this one speak for itself, but I will mention that it stars a very young Ryan Reynolds. In one of those synchronicities that suggest you pay close attention, his father's name in this episode is Martin Nodell, which is also the name of the original creator of the Green Lantern.

Bonus factoid: Nodell also co-created the Pillsbury Doughboy.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Exegesis: The Path of Tension

A new member at the Secret Sun FB group recently asked what all of the excitement was about. He scanned the page but couldn't get a lock on it. I told him the following:
The Secret Sun is kind of like the Internet Island of Misfit Toys. It's for all the people who can't pretend they haven't peeked under the reality curtain once or twice. It's for people who don't fit into all of the thought-replacement modalities out there.
Indeed, a lot of people on the group have said they felt like they didn't fit in anywhere until they read this blog or joined the group. I have a feeling there are a lot of people lurking out there who feel the way I and the others do, but who stay in the shadows. Maybe there are a lot of people in other circles or other groups who feel out of place there. People who are part of the "Excluded Middle," the free thinkers who don't subscribe to the false dichotomies prescribed by lazy editors and television producers.

When I was a kid the hippie subculture had created an interesting space for people who loved sci-fi and comics but were also interested in extreme possibilities and the frontiers of consciousness. Mainstream fandom tends to a sour, skeptical pose these days, which is mostly a reaction to the religious reich's poisoning of American society over the past 30 years. Rebuilding that space is very much a top priority for me with The Secret Sun.

The best and most resonant sci-fi is also the most mystical-- and that includes Star Trek, Roddenberry's insincere protestations aside. As we've seen nearly all of the top sci-fi franchises are up to their Spock-ears in ancient astronaut theory, entheogenology and other, similar thought crimes. None of this has anything to do with religion as the term is understood, since it functions to displace religion and replace it with something more intimate and subversive. More useful, as well.

The other issue I want to address is how our stories are going to evolve away from an increasingly limiting and compromised mass media, and move towards targeted media. The economics of movie-making are leaving less and less room for stories that challenge the audience or question the assumptions of mainstream society.

What that will do by necessity is move away from the hyper-literalism and computer graphics and move towards modes in which the audience needs to do more of the work: books, comics, maybe even radio theater. I see this as a major net positive (and already we're seeing a major backlash against 3D filmmaking). There's no reason to believe that VR would be any different, even if the amount of labor involved in true virtual reality was remotely cost-effective.

Right now people are very much "in the world" as it were, as the economical struggles are taking up a lot of attention. That's not a bad thing. But these kind of struggles have always necessitated a fictional response, and that's something that is still to come. I hope people will realize the power of imaginative fiction to writ these issues large and help to better define them. What we're seeing now may well signal a shift in consciousness, another event that also tends to inspire great speculative fiction.

As it did with Philip K. Dick, who was very much tapped into the counterculture of the 60s and much more so the 70s. Dick's work speaks to the grim, defeated mindset of the post-Aquarian malaise, and offered new worlds for the counterculture to explore. Read this...

There is SF because the human brain craves sensory and intellectual stimulation before anything else, and the eccentric view provides unlimited stimulation, the eccentric view and the invented world. It is written because the human mind naturally creates, and in creating the world of an SF story the ultimate in human imagination is brought into use; thus SF is an ultimate product of and for the human mind. The function of SF psychologically is to cut the reader loose from the actual world that he inhabits; it deconstructs time, space, reality.
Those who read it probably have difficulty adjusting to their world, for whatever reason; they may be ahead of it in terms of their perceptions and concepts or they may simply be neurotic, or they may have an abundance of imagination. Basically, they enjoy abstract thought. Also, they have a sense of the magic of science: science viewed not as utilitarian but as explorative. -- Philip K. Dick
Walter Russell Mead has also thrown down the gauntlet and challenged sci-fi writers to plug into what is going on in the world in their storytelling. Great sci-fi isn't only about identity politics or tribalist fantasies.

"Taken as a whole, the field of science fiction today is where most of the most interesting thought about human society can be found. At a time when many academics have become almost willfully obscure, political science is increasingly dominated by arcane and uninspiring theories and in which a fog of political correctness makes some forms of (badly needed) debate and exploration off limits, science fiction has stepped forward to fill the gap.
The biggest single task facing the United States today is the unleashing of our social imagination. We are locked into twentieth century institutions and twentieth century habits of mind. -- Walter Russell Mead
A lot of what I've done on this blog is show how when these kinds of stories are informed by a worldview that transcends reductionist materialism, they tend to bleed outside of the fantasy realm and plug into the world in remarkable ways, most often through the mechanics of Synchronicity. Here is a potent example that some of you might have read about:
Saul-Paul Sirag, Vice-President of Jack Sarfatti's Physics/Consciousness Research Group, has his own weird tales to tell. Once, while involved in the Uri Geller investigation, Sirag took LSD to see if in that altered consciousness he could perceive the alleged extraterrestrial behind Geller. What Sirag saw was the head of a hawk, which astonished him, since Geller had never described the entity as a hawk.
Six months later, this image appeared on the January 1974 cover of Sirag's favorite sci-fi magazine, Analog, illustrating a story called "The Horus Errand" (Synchronicity #1). A year later, Dr. Andrija Puharich, not knowing of Sirag's experience, claimed that Geller's extraterrestrial ally had often appeared to him as a hawk, which he nicknamed "Horus" (Synchronicity #2).
Later, Sirag discovered that the face on the Analog cover was that of Ray Stanford, a Texas psychic, who also claimed mysterious experiences with Geller and a hawk (Synchronicity #3). Oddest of all, Kelly Freas, the artist who had drawn the cover, had never met Stanford and was not using his face consciously.-- Excerpted from Tekgnostics, original story recounted in Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger
Finally, here's the Master Mage himself explaining the true power of work that plugs into the deep streams of consciousness and becomes its own kind of magic:
"I feel that artists and writers have allowed themselves to be sold down the river. They have accepted the prevailing belief that art & writing are merely forms of entertainment...they're not seen as transformative forces that can change a human being, that can change a society.
They are seen as simple 'entertainment', things with which we can fill 20 minutes, half an hour, while we are waiting to die. It is NOT the job of the artist to give the audience what the audience want; if the audience knew what they needed, they wouldn't be the audience, they would be artists. It is the job of the artists to give the audience what they need." -- ALAN MOORE
All of this is not just for the benefit of aspiring creators out there. It's also for the readers, for the audience. An informed and engaged audience is every bit as important as the artist is. This is a two-way street, and the goal is to raise our own consciousness and then work to do so with others.

It's not as easy as those who subscribe to the various theistic and atheistic religious modalities. It's a middle path- a path of tension, a path of negotiation. It's not for the weak of heart or the weak of soul. But it's a vital part of a truly evolved culture and has been lost. We fail to regain it at our own peril.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

AstroGnostic: On the Earth, Not of this Earth

"In the world, not of it" is a sturdy Christian mantra that seems to have been derived from Paul's letter to the Roman Church but is in fact a very Gnostic idea. Believing that the world was a counterfeit creation built to enslave the souls of living beings in base matter, the Gnostics were known to go to extreme lengths to separate themselves from it.

Literal alienation has been explored in-depth on this blog, specifically in regards to how it manifests itself in science fiction (which in its purest form is a inherently Gnostic art form). The idea of a race of literal aliens who are "asleep"-- which is to say unaware of their true nature-- and have fallen into a lower world (usually ours) may not be one of the most dominant tropes out there but variations on it have informed popcult hits such as Heroes and The Matrix (as well as Jack Kirby's Silver Star and Neil Gaiman's take on Kirby's Eternals).

Whatever the literal truth may be, the idea of alienation remains powerful exactly because the world is so alienating to those of a sensitive or insightful nature.

Anti-intellectualism-- and its enabler, pseudo-intellectualism-- have been dominant in culture and politics for most of my life, and has been reliably used time and again to bully and silence people. And reductionism-- which boils down to the hyperaggressive drive to deny and denigrate the deeper experiences of sensitives and those who are able to make connections that many left-brained types are totally incapable of-- has been the concurrent response of the "left" to the anti-intellectual religious reductionism of the "right."

You see this all of the type with the so-called skeptics-- if they don't understand something- or most commonly, if their programming prevents them from even perceiving something-- they have to smash it. Exactly because it poses such a mortal threat to their extremely fragile sense of self, which is determined by their institutional programming.

Which makes it all the more ironic-- and telling-- that the same people who march under the Amazing Randi's banner-- a moldy, maggot-eaten banner that will soon be in ruins along with the Foundation that bears his name-- gravitate towards these kinds of stories, all of which trace their roots to mystical traditions.

But the fact of the matter is that that movement is as emotion-based and reactionary as the Fundamentalist movement it so desperately depends on to define itself against. People like Randi have made themselves rich by painting their opponents as grown-up versions of the bullies that tormented their followers in school.

When you scrape away all of the rhetoric, that's what it all boils down to.

It's the same in other political movements across the board. They all go for the emotional jugular for their own power's sake. Fundamentalism and its endless offshoots (many of which are more potent than the waning movement from which it sprang) go straight for the emotions- fear and resentment, most of all.

Is it any wonder why so many people feel alienated, seeing how sick, corrupt and exploitative all of these movements are?

I can't help but wonder. In the riotously controversial book by Philip Corso called The Day After Roswell, the argument was made that recovered technology from "flying saucer" crashes revolutionized our level of technology, essentially creating all of the digital wonders we take for granted today (which we touched on here). Of course, the power structure has used this technology for nefarious reasons ever since, but at the same time other people are empowering themselves with it.

Some of those people are the ones who don't seem to fit into any of the cubbyholes that have been built for us. Some of those have used the technology to find others like them. I can't help but wonder if Corso's arguments are true-- and mind you, that's the mother of all if's-- that maybe these crashes weren't crashes at all.

Maybe they were staged to kickstart humanity's stagnant communications technology in order to wake up some of those sleeping Neo's out there and get them ready for some pivotal event in our near future.

In that light, here's a story written by the late, great Archie Goodwin, who definitely sprang from the old school ethos of sci-fi and genre fiction. This all feels like a lost Twilight Zone episode in the best way. It also reminds me of the great Outer Limits AstroGnostic narrative "The Children of Spider County," which we looked at earlier in the year.

Click images to enlarge.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Year of Thinking Magically: Learning How to Be Alone

This is a great analysis of Hollywood's
creative bankruptcy- go read it after you read this

It's been a difficult year for me in many regards but at the same time a very magical one. I'm beginning to think that's the way it works. The horoscope said something about Saturn in one house and Jupiter in another (or something), which I think roughly describes the way things are going.

A couple weeks back I was trying to decide which direction I wanted to focus my energies, since I had a wish list of interesting possibilities that had been brewing in my head. While I was mulling it all over, Miguel Conner contacted me and asked me to do an interview on Our Gods Wear Spandex and soon after I was invited up into NYC to film an interview for an upcoming documentary on superheroes.

Then another interesting sequence of events. I went to my doctor on Friday but he was called out on an emergency. I made an appointment for the next day at his other office. On Saturday I sent Mrs. Wibble to pick some things up at the art store while I saw the doc, but his office was a madhouse. The harried receptionist flashed her pretty eyes at me with immense relief when I offered to see him on Monday.

So I walked over to the art store rather than having the missus pick me up at the doc's (it was a glorious northern NJ October morning) and discovered an extremely useful book on digital illustration that directly answered a lot of problems I was stressing over that week (and a book I probably would never have heard of otherwise). To sweeten the deal I also got the X-Files/30 Days of Night graphic novel I'd been trying to find just a couple days before for 60% off the cover price (the store is in the process of liquidating its book stock). And now I'm no longer wondering where I need to apply my energies in the coming days. VoilĂ  - Magic.

Again, when I talk about magic I'm not talking about stage magic, nor am I talking about sorcery. I feel I need to repeat myself on this count since it's all too easy to be misinterpreted these days. I guess what I mean is an mode of thinking in which you figure out the rhythms and cycles of life and then tune yourself into them and let the magic happen and hopefully steer you through. It's when the unexpected becomes your navigator.

I know I keep harping on all of this lately, but it's not as if the cable talk shows are filled with pundits arguing about synchronicity or the use of divining the symbols that seem drawn to you. And to be fair I did call 2011 "The Year of Thinking Magically" in the first place, so it's not as if I'm dropping all of this on you out of nowhere.

It's all fine and good for chemists and statisticians to not think magically. I certainly wouldn't expect surgeons or air traffic controllers to start thinking about how to tune themselves into the collective unconscious. But those people don't read The Secret Sun, I suspect. You do, you probably want to have some positive impact on the rest of the world while you're here. If so, start working some magic and figure out how to spread it around.

Because if we don't start bringing some magic back into the world soon, we're all screwed. I can't say it enough.

When I was a teenager --like, literally soon after I turned 13-- I decided I was going to stop reading comics. That was kid stuff. I was more interested in rock 'n' roll and girls and getting high and putting some meat on my bony frame. I did that for a couple years or so and then dived back into comics with a passion that paled even my grade school days. I didn't realize it at the time but I needed that magic back in my life.

Mind you, that was a pretty damn magical time for rock 'n' roll, but at the same time a lot of the bands I liked were very political and arty, at least in their interviews. Mental masturbation in the form of pseudo-intellectualism was big back then and it depressed me. And though we idealize the whole punk and post-punk era today, there was a stultifying degree of pretension for pretension's sake.

Rock history tends to overlook how many of those great bands sold out to the mainstream or crawled so far up their asses with the crucial art poses (Gang of Four managed to do both) that they ended up being not much different than the prog bands they originally set out to replace. I spent a lot of time waiting for the next shoe to fall- which band that rocked hard in 1979 would go soft rock in 1982 or 1983?

Comics were a corrective in that they were deliberately lowbrow-- even the arty ones reveled in primitivism-- and id-driven. It was all will-to-power fantasy and there was a healthy dose of vestigial hippie magick around. There were no rules and nothing to lose anyway, which is always the best recipe for a creative explosion.

In the same way that we're living off all of that technology that hit the market in the days after the Roswell crash (surely a coincidence) or the stuff that was developed at Xerox PARC we're still living off that burst of magic and mutation that hit the comic racks in the early 80s. All of the big superhero blockbusters owe as much to the 80s explosion as to any other era. And that bled into the culture at large through video games and TV shows and all of the rest of it.

The guys who made all of that magic were all loner types who spent probably too much time peering into their heads and pulling out whatever popped up. Today we only hear about loner types when they kill someone.

But the magical traditions-- as well as the mystical ones-- all prescribe a lot of alone time. If you want to make magic, setting some time aside every day in which you enter your own cocoon is a good place to start. I spent a lot-- and I mean a lot-- of time alone when I was a kid and I still do today. I feel as if I encountered powerful yet invisible currents at certain moments in my younger days. I remember one particular long walk down the train tracks that ran through the salt marshes to my girlfriend's house that seemed particularly potent, though I'll never be able to say why.

So when Hollywood worries about why fewer and fewer people want to bankrupt themselves watching their crappy, thoughtless rubbish, they might want to instead create a nice Esalen-type retreat to send their writers and producers to where they can tune out all of the noise and learn how to write. I realize it's going to be some time before most of them start making magic again but you have to start somewhere.

And as heretical as it is to say this, people are going to have to recapture the attention spans that Twitter and the iPhone took away from them. Art is only as good as its audience and I think the audience gets the art it deserves. Nothing worthwhile can be written in 140 characters or less. Nothing worth reading can fit on an 2" by 3" screen. Experiencing any worthwhile art should be downright Tantric-- delayed gratification can be the best kind there is if done properly.

As much as we hear the transformative effects of mobile phones and social media, there's still a lot of time being wasted using technology as an amusements and it's disempowering us. It's ravaging our attention spans and our ability to process complexity. I'm no Luddite, but the sooner we get past the novelties of these shiny but ultimately useless toys the better off we'll all be. Not to mention our poor thumbs.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Back in the 90s the big story in Fundamentalist circles were the
Left Behind books, written by the arch-Dominionist Tim LaHaye and some other guy who actually wrote them. They were big sellers and a couple quickie movies were made, the DVDs of which always seem to turn up in dollar stores and clearance bins.

Since Christian Fundamentalism as we know it today was in fact created by the Unocal oil monopoly* in order to battle unionism and other social trends that irritated the plutocracy (it later did the same in Afghanistan) it's no surprise that the movement is nothing but a political insurgency in religious garb. You can test this by striking up a conversation with any Fundamentalist-- soon you'll end up discussing politics and politics only.

Why would a man of the cloth worry about temporal politics?
Money, power and social control is all they care about.
Dominionists have fallen for ALL of Satan's temptations from Luke 4: 1-13

The Left Behind books were filled with cheap shots against LaHaye's countless enemies and pimped the ridiculous "one world new age religion" claptrap dreamed up by Texe Marrs and Pat Robertson (speaking of one world religions, the two largest publishers of Bibles in the world are Rupert Murdoch and Communist China). The antichrist was some snooty furiner type with a fancy-pants name, and there was some blindingly-obvious Hillary Clinton analog in there somewhere. Bla bla bla, give them your money and hate already.

Anyhow, all of the Left Behind-mania inspired this story, which I drew a million years ago for a mini-comic. I wince at the art today, which is probably a good thing. But I threw a bit of color on the pages to hide the drawing mistakes. But I shouldn't badmouth it too much, since that minicomic got me the X-Presidents gig, since I was going through this big Silver Age obsession at the time.

Click images to enlarge.

* Read more on Unocal's corporate practices here.

UPDATE: Derek and Sharon discuss the oil politics of the Dominionist powerbrokers known as The Family on PID Radio. Click here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Re-Enchantment Dialogues, Part 3: The Migratory Essence

I apologize for not posting the past few days. One of my cats- Ootschka aka Orange Cat- is terminally ill and it's been very stressful and upsetting for me, as are the usual freelancer tax-time follies. Ootschka was a real trouper for a while and her illness allowed us some very deep bonding experience. But now she's suddenly stopped eating, and seems to be looking all of the time at something the rest of us cannot see.

I've been through this a lot-- Mrs. Wibble and I have always had lots of animals (we had 8 cats and 4 dogs at one point). But this seems to be particularly hard. It may be because Ootschka has bonded to me so strongly-- last week she slept with her arms wrapped around my hand like a kitten-- but also because I've been exploring the deeper realms of my unconscious through visualization and meditation (as well as beginning some creative projects which we can discuss later), which has tied into our discussions recently.

So I've been wide open in a way.

But the injustice of it all is painful as well. She's only nine years old-- the Wibbley One and I gave each other Ootsch and Tricky for our 15th wedding anniversary -- and she's always been the sweetest thing you can imagine, unlike our other cats who can be real brats sometimes. Our vet-- who's also our friend and neighbor-- fell in love with the Ootsch and told us it's always the sweet ones who get it the worst.

Ootschka in her kittenhood.

Doesn't that just figure? It's as if this fallen world-- and its blind, insane, idiotic demiurge-- delights in torturing the most innocent. A while back I wrote of how my world was shattered when one of the boys in my extended family of theater brats died a violent and unexplained death three days after Christmas. Nothing was ever the same again for our little tribe.

It was then that a long-held suspicion that there was something fundamentally wrong with this world became a certainty.
I was eight years old.

The day before 9/11 my best friend called to tell me that his cancer has returned after the doctors had told him it was in remission. In the chaotic autumn of 2001 I watched him suffer and wither away in agony; a big, strapping, whipsmart and cocksure 32 year-old, and I saw that same look. The look of someone who sees something the rest of us hope we won't be seeing anytime soon. He died at the beginning of 2002, a year that would end with Joe Strummer dying. Just before Christmas.

All of this would be too much to bear if I didn't know-- and I mean know-- that these physical bodies of ours are merely vessels for energies that are eternal and immutable. I don't mean 'ghosts'-- I don't think that these energies define themselves as "Chris Knowles" or "Ootschka" after the physical body breaks down. A lot of who we think we are is a construct of genetics and environment and really has no bearing on this essence.

OK, so maybe we haven't figured out this soul thing yet- how long did people theorize about the atom before it was discovered? Forever, maybe? And we still haven't figured out what consciousness is either. Maybe this migratory essential energy I'm talking is the source of consciousness, and genetics and the rest of it is just frosting. Think about it.

Read it.

I can't recall exactly how now but I remember having all of this basically wrapped up when I was in my early 20s. I read an Alan Watts book (called appropriately enough The Book) and basically settled a lot of questions that vex other people. Then it became a question of which part will I play in the great drama.

This might be why my attempt to return to the Church wasn't successful. I wasn't interested in being Chris Knowles after I died, sitting around and telling Jesus how awesome he is for the rest of Eternity.

Of course, those of us who have had experience with certain entheogenic compounds also have seen Eternity-- or at least some glimpse thereof-- and aren't so troubled by it. Getting over that existential fear was the basic purpose behind the Mystery cults. Hopefully, we can get back to where we were before the drug warriors and-- let's be blunt here-- Timothy Leary mucked everything up.

There are certainly plenty of other things to be troubled by, but worrying about what will become of this energy-- which I believe is essentially migratory-- when Ootschka or you or I shuffle off the old mortal coil is not one of them.

I realize this is an extremely incorrect belief since we're supposed to have left all that behind along with truly fine art, meaningful philosophy, and teenagers that can construct a complete sentence, but tough shit. If any of this causes skeptics and atheists to think they're above me, below me.

One other powerful lesson I've gotten is perhaps a kind of refresher course in the power of compassion, which means shared suffering. When we care for those who are suffering it not only helps ease their pain it also lifts up something deep inside us.

Our mechanized health care system has lost sight of this, as med schools pump out doctors with the bedside manner of plumbers. The next great wave in health care science will be the rediscovery of compassion, whether the skepdicks and the so-called "quackbusters" like it or not.

Now if you all will excuse me, I need to go spend some time with Ootschka.

NOTE: I'll tell you what- since I've already been crossed off Richard Dawkins' Darwinmas card list, I'll do you one further. I wrote about this here a few years ago, but I'm beginning to suspect that animals at least definitely reincarnate. We lost Mister Bones- the big old Bostie up top there- a few days before Christmas (of course) in 2004 and we were devastated.

And then a couple years ago my son was driving home with his girlfriend and felt as if he were being summoned to the same store where got the Bones. They went in and left withthis little maniac of Bostie- a girl-- who couldn't have been less like the Bones at first blush. But since then she's become his spiritual doppleganger and has the same attachment to me that I suppose her previous incarnation had.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Talkin' Heroes and Horus on Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio

It's been a while since I talked Spandex, but Miguel Conner invited me onto Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio for a talk on superheroes and the esoteric realms. This one's a stormer and I think you'll enjoy it even if you're not a comic or superhero fan. Here's the pitch:
Comic books have fascinated and inspired people of all ages for generations. Yet few know that, like Pulp Fiction, its heroes and themes were heavily influenced by the Occult revival of the 19th century; and that its esoteric undertones continue to this day, especially with the runic touch of such openly magician-artists as Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Jack Kirby, Neil Gaiman and many more.

To wit, instead of looking at the past to old gods, mythological heroes, and arcane saviors, comic books secretly bring these luminaries and place them in modern times to deal with modern problems. And often timeless problems. We take a journey from the genesis of comic books, its evolution and that of its mystic protagonists, to our age where their heretical message is more influential than ever because of movies and video games.

Could the solution to so many of our spiritual and material problems be right in front of us, dressed in spandex? And we inspect for Gnostic themes in comic books.
Astral Guest-- Chris Knowles, author of Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes and The Secret History of Rock 'n' Roll.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Re-Enchantment Dialogues, Part 2: Suggestion Box

Here's the first installment of this series
Please be sure to read the comments as well.

The thing about Re-Enchantment is that no one can tell you exactly how you should go about it. It's up to you. What's powerful and meaningful to you might be flat soda to someone else and vice versa. I realize that might be a bit of a disappointment to some, but I see it as self-regulating. This is all part of what Jung called the individuation process.

To that end I have a few suggestions for very practical ways to begin this process or if you feel you're at a bit of an impasse, to jumpstart it. These are all simple but very powerful tools to change the direction of your life experience. A lot of this might be self-evident to some of you, so feel free to share your results with us...

We all have a catalog of moments in our life in which we experienced magic, so a good place to begin to reconnect with enchantment is to write them all down. I think you'll find that many more will bubble up as you go poking around for them.

Some not-so-magical moments might come back up as well. That's OK, though- they're doing so because they are wounds that need to be healed. Work on those do and get someone to help if you can't do it yourself.

In recording these moments it's important to be thorough as possible in exploring what made them magic. Try to recapture that feeling as best you can. Remember that these moments might not necessarily be unalloyed moments of bliss, they might be more complex than that.

Either way, work them out: the when, the where, the how, what color the sky was, how the air smelled, and so on. Sketch things out, even if it's just stick-figure type of stuff. Anything you can do to summon the magic, do.

Then write down your favorite- and not-so-favorite dreams. Again, work very hard to pull all of this out of your head. Keep a dream journal if you're in that headspace, but concentrate on recording dreams from your past.

As with the memories, those muscles will grow stronger from use. You'll not only find yourself remembering dreams you had, you'll remember remembering them as well, which is equally important.

Dreams are very powerful tools for changing your focus. Seeing the world through the prism of dream is the place you want to get to. If you've had moments in which dream reality encroached on temporal reality, write that down too. Paying attention to the lighting is important, especially what the sky might have looked like. A lot of you might be doing lucid dream work too, but let's save that for later.

Synchronicity is going to be one of the jewels in the crown of your re-enchantment, so start writing your syncs down. I generally get annoyed when simple coincidence is mistaken for synchronicity, but in this case don't worry about the distinction. Pretend everything is a dispatch from Olympus.

As time goes on you'll develop a very keen sense of discernment and you'll be able to separate the signal from the noise. And then you'll get to the point where Synchronicity starts playing fetch with you and that's always a pretty startling experience.

Now, here's the thing about all of this; you have to really do it. You have to dig in and put your nose to the grindstone. You have to write all this stuff down. No one can do it for you. I think most of you out there will enjoy it, but it's still a lot of work. It might be discouraging at first, but you have to get through that.

OK, there's my first round of suggestions (I have more to come) and I'm sure a lot of you out there have your own methods. Share them with us. My only request is that you keep it simple and direct and accessible.

Monday, October 03, 2011

The Re-Enchantment Dialogues, Part One

Images from Promethea by Alan Moore and JH Williams.

For most of 2011, I've used The Secret Sun as a venue for in-depth essays and historical treatises. I've been sweating blood on these pieces, either struggling to form inchoate theories into readable pieces or wading through reams of data trying to connect the dots on topics that have been well covered in several other places, but not in the context that I tackled them here. Basically what I've been doing for the past year here is journalism, though not quite as technically rigorous as I'd have done for print (footnotes, references, indices, etc).

At the same time I've had all kinds of thoughts flying through my head, obviously influenced by what is happening out there in the real world but also in my interior life as well. And what I see out there is a crisis of courage, of vision and of possibility.

I started off this year exploring the frontiers of magical thinking-- not the kind of thinking that replaces rigor and sweat, but the kind that augments it. Which means that elusive x-factor that kicks in once you've dotted all the i's and crossed all of the t's.

This kind of magical thinking-- the more common definition of magical thinking is just plain old craziness in my view-- is needed now more than ever. I think what is happening to the economy and the culture has to do with a collapse of confidence, brought on by all kinds of bad habits that I still don't really understand the genesis of, never mind the appeal.

My most recent post dealt with William Gibson and his Cyberpunk novels, the so-called 'Sprawl' and 'Bridge' trilogies. The latter seems to have predicted the world as it is in 2011, though a lot of people saw these books as unduly pessimistic when they were released back in the go-go Nineties.

Kevin Kelly and the rest of the Silicon Valley hope merchants predicted the good times were a permanent entitlement, but it was all so much software salesmanship. Not even-- more like upgrade salesmanship, and I'm sure most of you out there realize how pointless most upgrades ultimately are.

I'm concerned with software as well, but software in question is the shareware that came in a bundle along with our birthday suits. I think if we step back and look at the topics we discuss here-- synchronicity, symbolism, the various mytharcs of life, parapolitics and the paranormal-- as code, we'll be able to begin then to reprogram our own OS using that code as part of an ongoing, open-source OS reprogramming project.

Meaning that if we choose to, we can incorporate all of this memetic code the way it was intended to be used back when the first brick was baked in Sumer-- as the means to inspire ourselves and those around us and make our world a better place to live.

As tortured as this metaphor is, it's also useful in that it allows to step back for a moment and look at how the code works and what are its results. Since all of this is ultimately ephemeral and subjective, the only criteria we have available to us are the results.

Having traveled around the Sun forty-five times now I feel as if I have a reasonable degree of experience observing how different philosophic operating systems work by having seen their results.

I've seen how a lot of OS's are like meth-- they feel great the first few times you try them but eventually you end up grinding your teeth into stumps and picking your scabs until they end up drying into disfiguring scars.

And memetic crystal meth is awful popular these days, thanks to an endless media stream that rewards sensationalism and spoiled brat behavior. I can't help but notice how bitter and angry so many of our skeptic friends are, and how all that rage addiction ends up carving ruts into their faces. Since I'm such a fan of myth-building I couldn't help but notice how often that walrus-looking chap on MythBusters looks like he's about to stroke-out from stoking his raging rage-on.

I also can't help but notice how the virtual armor so many people wear online seems to be oxidizing into a virtual iron maiden, with all of the "EPIC FAIL" snotiness and the post-irony we see.

I also can't help but notice how all of this reduction-worship is playing havoc on geek culture, which is stuck in an endless rut of remakes, revamps and reboots. A lot of this is down to the elephantitis (or Elephantiasis for the smarty pants set) plaguing the media monopolies, but a lot of is simply down to the atrophying of the mental muscles that enable the suspension of disbelief.

The dream industry is suffering from a supply- and a demand-side crisis-- the need to feed the media monopoly beast has alienated so many of us from the concept of entertainment itself, and the current generation of fandom have been criminally incompetent custodians of our pop culture legacy. "Hot young novelist" seems to be an anachronism these days, along with "original screenplay" and "revolutionary new musical genre."

Now, everyone will tell me about the economy and the wars and so on and so forth, but the Great Depression of the 30s was a veritable hothouse of creativity and innovation, and the bloody High Renaissance compared with today.

No, there's a much deeper disease at work. It has to do the fact that nihilism and narcissism have been the new national pastimes. The mass production economy and the mass media have been radically distorting influences and the rise of Fundamentalist religion has led to polarization of the body politic.

That's self-evident to most of you out but the point is that fixing this mess and beginning the re-enchantment process all starts with dialogue. It all starts with someone saying, "hey, we need to make magic happen again because this effing world is intolerable without it," and hopefully that thought will eventually go viral.

So when the spirit moves me I'll be dropping random thoughts and half-formed concepts on you out there in the hopes that at some point one of them will stick.
Please feel free to drop in whatever is on your mind in the comments section, whether it's Aristotelian-grade or otherwise. I'm sure I'll be posting on other topics as well but I'm opening the floor for whatever is on my mind or yours.

Sometimes you have to just throw whatever you got at the wall and see what sticks. Hopefully that will lead us back to enchantment. Why? Because no sane person really wants to live scientifically, they simply did magic wrong and became disenchanted with it. But saying you believe in "science" and "reason" is like saying you believe in tape measures and staple guns. Those things are just tools. Transcendence is the only thing worth pursuing in this life.

In the end it's like this- I know where we are and I know where I'd like to be- I just don't quite know how to get there. And I'd like as many people to make the trip with me. So if you have something you think might help, lay it on us. And stay tuned for more rambling and fumbling in the dark, random thoughts and impulses posted at ungodly hours with no discernible rhyme or reason than the tireless pursuit of magical possibility.