Friday, 6 December 2019

“Why are you giving away your mystical adventure and sci-fi ebooks?”

I started writing way back, long before terms like “self publishing” and “indie authors” were coined; a time when people still turned up their noses at what they perceived to be “vanity publishing”. Along came the e-book and the Amazon Kindle, and I decided to make the most of this opportunity, and take charge of the publishing and marketing process, using the newly-emergent social media of Facebook, Twitter, blogging platforms, and – to a lesser extent – Google+.

This worked fine for some time, but as more and more joined the indie gravy train; as indie became more and more mainstream; and as marketing gradually became a matter of who could shout the loudest in this new, hustling, bustling marketplace, I became more and more disenchanted with the direction that things were heading, at least for me.

I've always shied away from competition, in favour of healthy cooperation, and much prefer the road less travelled, or dancing to the beat of a different drum, to mainstream activity, fashion and craze. In one of the books, a wise, old character advises: “The mind observes and cogitates, the heart engages, and I would encourage you to engage with the process,” and I've tried to take her sage advice. When your heart is engaged in something fun and hopefully worthwhile, there is no distinction between work and play, and I'd very much like to keep it that way.

Friday, 15 November 2019

Re-enchantment in a Material World

O stars,
isn’t it from you that the lover’s desire for the face
of his beloved arises? Doesn’t his secret insight
into her pure features come from the pure constellations?

~ Rainer Maria Rilke, “The Third Duino Elegy”.

From The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke,
(transl. Stephen Mitchell).

Boiling frogs

It’s said in fable that if you take a frog and plunge it into boiling water, it will experience shock and immediately jump out. But if you place a frog in tepid water and slowly heat it, the frog will not sense the change, will not see the danger, and will be slowly and inexorably boiled to death. More than a fable, this is a metaphor for where we are right now, as individuals, as group members, as a culture, and as a planetary collective – some materialists, illusionists and sceptics might say a slime mould on Earth’s surface, a cancerous growth, or a plague. The mystic and philosopher Gurdjieff would say that we are asleep; his student P. D. Ouspensky, that we are automatons.

Secret world: A hidden waterfall.

Squadron of Simpletons

As psychologist Robert Ornstein pointed out, we are not one single, unified “I” but are largely governed by a “squadron of simpletons” or idiots, between which we frequently shape-shift, each running his or her own sub-program, with an outlook that is often myopic and blinkered, and with little effective central command or coordination. Many of these psychic simpletons were acquired in more primitive times when we were daily faced with dangers that demanded a swift reaction – “fight, flight or freeze” – and which are simply not geared-up to noticing or thoughtfully responding to the sort of slow-moving creep of trends such as nuclear proliferation; global warming – which has at long last been recognized by some as a climate crisis, though of course disparaged by denialists, contrarians and conspiracy theorists who dub themselves “climate realists” – biodiversity loss; and sham-materialism – Shammat, which is documented in Doris Lessing’s Canopus in Argos series of sci-fi novels.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Gary Lachman on Jean Gebser's evolving structures of consciousness

“The central argument of [philosopher, linguist and poet, Jean Gebser's] The Ever-Present Origin is that human consciousness is not static. Throughout its history, it has gone through several changes—what Gebser calls “mutations”—before arriving at our own form of consciousness. These mutations transform consciousness from one “structure” to another.”

Sunday, 28 July 2019

The ishraqi institute Facebook group

The ishrāqī institute is an independent, multicultural and multidisciplinary, virtual, non-profit think-do-and-be tank. Administered, supported and contributed to by unpaid volunteers, its central aim is one of benign human service. You can find the ishrāqī institute at Facebook.

The ishraqui institute.

According to Steingass’s dictionary, in Persian ishrāq means “Rising (of the sun); sun-rise, morning; splendour, lustre, and beauty” and ishrāqī means “Of or pertaining to sun-rise; eastern, oriental; having the splendour of the East.” It also has links to the philosopher Suhrawardī, who founded the Persian school of Illuminationism which is a school of philosophy (and way of being) that flowered in Islam and draws upon Zoroastrian and Platonic ideas. Here, “Oriental” refers not to the geographical East but (according to Henry Corbin), to the mystical, Celestial Orient, the heavenly Pole.

It is our task to explore the many difficulties and crises that we face as individuals and as members of society and the human race; to suggest or offer coping mechanisms and solutions to these issues; to educate the wider public; to help or signpost people to groups, organizations, education and training that will help better prepare them for the changes and difficulties that we are experiencing; and to help, in our own, little way, to usher in a bright new dawn.

As Ursula K. LeGuin wrote in The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction: “Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape? ... If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”

By multidisciplinary, we include not only the obvious arts and sciences, but a wide range of orientations, vocations and callings, including (but not limited to): mythology; creativity; art and poetry; crafts; alternative and appropriate technology and environmentalism; education; traditional and modern psychology and sociology; minority interests and the “off-beat”; cross-cultural study and traditional wisdom; equality and humanitarianism; spirituality and non-dogmatic religion; philosophy; cultural creatives; polymathy; altruism and love; and not least humour – because you never know where a conversation may lead, nor where, from what direction, or from whom, a particular insight or solution may arise.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

The Secret Teachers of the Western World: “The Master and His Emissary” Meets the Esoteric

The Secret Teachers of the Western World.
For those of you who have read Iain McGilchrist's epic, The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, you'll know that it is “a fascinating exploration of the differences between the brain's right and left hemispheres and their effects on society, history and culture”; that “the left hemisphere is detail-oriented, prefers mechanisms to living things, and is inclined to self-interest, where the right hemisphere has greater breadth, flexibility and generosity”, and that “despite its inferior grasp of reality, the left hemisphere is increasingly taking precedence in the modern world, with potentially disastrous consequences” (though there have been periods when the pendulm has swung back and the right hemisphere or an integration of the two modes of being have briefly flowered, such as the Renaissance, the Romantic, and the 1960s). In view of the many crises we are currently facing, however – even what has been called the ongoing Sixth Extinction – I think we can safely scrub out the qualifying word “potentially” here.

And for those of you who don't know about Iain McGilchrist's work, you can get an entertaining, informative and thoroughly worthwhile taster by watching the short RSA Animate video entitled “The Divided Brain”.

Gary Lachman's own work, The Secret Teachers of the Western World might, then, be described as “The Master and His Emissary” – and our evolution through Jean Gebser's structures of consciousness – meet the esoteric. Though we might quibble over details, The Secret Teachers of the Western World wonderfully complements McGilchrist's work, and puts an additional useful slant on our sadly-forgotten or rejected knowledge. The loss of this knowledge (not least the faculty of real imagination) has brought us to the sheer horror that we currently face, from the individual and group, the cultural and societal, and now the global. Climate emergency, biodiversity loss, and the rise of fundamentalism, populism and fakery – huge issues that these undoubtedly are – are really just the symptoms of a more deeply-rooted disease – what Gebser dubbed the (late-stage) deficient mode of the mental-rational structure of consciousness that we are now experiencing, which is now breaking down and has brought us to the brink of an existential crisis.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Henry Corbin, philosopher and Ishrâqi mystic

According to Wikipedia, Henry Corbin (14 April 1903 – 7 October 1978) was a philosopher, theologian, Iranologist and professor of Islamic Studies at the École pratique des hautes études in Paris, France.

According to his widow, Stella Corbin, as reported by Peter Kingsley in his book Catafalque: Carl Jung and the End of Humanity (p364), however, Henry Corbin's “real identity and purpose” was “not as a scholar with some minor mystical leanings but as a mystic, inwardly directed to play the role of academic.” She described to Kingsley how in Iran, “the great spiritual teachers or sheikhs often offered to initiate him as a Sufi on condition that he converted to Islam; and how he always politely refused. ‘Thank you for your invitation but there is no need, because I already have my own inner sheikh inside me.’”(pp364–365)

Corbin (who knew and understood Jung and his work so well) spoke of an “inner church”, echoing Jung fifty years previously when Jung explained how “if we belong to the secret church, then we belong, and we need not worry about it, but can go our own way. If we do not belong, no amount of teaching or organization can bring us there.” (p366).

Catafalque; Die Before You Die: In Search of a Middle Path

One thing that Peter Kingsley brings up several times in Reality and in Catafalque: Carl Jung and the End of Humanity is the need to "die before you die", for the ego to die before one's physical death, whether in the context of Jung's individuation or the path of traditional Sufism. In the case of individuation, it means descending into the underworld, being torn to shreds, being born again into a greater but notably impersonal reality, and undergoing horrendous conscious suffering; and the seven valleys that we pass through in the Sufi, Attar's The Conference of the Birds doesn't exactly turn out to be a jolly weekend ramble and picnic in the park (though in the case of both, there is a call or move to stillness, serenity and peace).

Kingsley leaves few stones unturned in his quest, from mistaken beliefs and tragically-lost knowledge, right down to the crucial original constellation of meanings of individual words. But in both the study of, and practice in, the Sufi Way, and also in Kingsley's explanations of individuation, one topic that is taken for granted and seldom examined is the central need to "die before you die" (and the need to avoid dangers such as self-inflation).

In his book, Islamic Sufism, the Sirdar Ikbal Ali-Shah writes that unlike other Sufis the Shattariyya (from shattar, meaning lightning-quick, rapidness; etc) do not subscribe to the concept of fana (annihilation of the ego).[1][2] He quotes Khaja Khan's work, Studies in Tasawwuf,[3] saying: "With the sect of Shattaris, the Salik (seeker, aspirant) descends, of himself, in his own knowledge - there is no annihilation of self with them." (p95) In that book, however, Khan is not recommending this course of action, seeing it as a "thorny path" (p15) and commenting that "Imagination and judgment are upset, and a man is liable to become an Egotist (Self expressionist). This path is therefore abjured." (pp15–16).