WTF and Other Stars

“Every man and every woman is a star.” ~ Aleister Crowley

In this famous statement from The Book of the Law, Crowley meant that every individual is the centre of the universe to themselves; their own God and an equal element of the cosmos. In the commentary, he went on to describe how an atom of carbon may pass through myriad phases ‘appearing as chalk, chloroform, sugar, sap, brain and blood, not recognizable as “itself” the black amorphous solid, but recoverable as such, unchanged by its adventures.” The implication, I think, is that this is also what happens to consciousness.

In Mapmakers, the fifth story of Mind in the Gap, Maisie borrows from Crowley by saying that “every man and woman has their own orbit and their own constellation of meaningful events.” In Winter Triangle, the people of Origin take this idea more literally, naming their people of underground significance after the most prominent stars in particular asterisms. Then the stars surface again in The Fold when Georgie says ‘My mother always told me people are like stars. They have a light inside, and you can tell if something’s amiss by the way they shine.’

In the course of researching for the book, I learned some fascinating things about particular stars, which I applied in metaphor for the way my characters were acting. I thought I’d share some of them with you. Continue reading “WTF and Other Stars”

The Soldier, the Hunchback, and the Master of Meditation

!?

In his humorous essay Liber CLVIII, Aleister Crowley refers to the exclamation point and the question mark as the Soldier and the Hunchback due to their shapes. The question mark is symbolic of doubt and enquiry; the exclamation point of startling revelation. As we progress along our chosen path of thinking and learning, we continuously meet doubts followed by revelations that in turn lead us to new doubts. What is this? A-ha! But then, what is this? It is the rhythm of science and the curious mind.

It is also the spirit of my stories: both Fragments of Perception and Mind in the Gap are streams of questions and revelations. Often everything is called into question for the character as the walls of their assumptions come tumbling down, but it is rare that I would leave them without an ‘a-ha’ moment, a revelation, or a point at which they begin to understand the world again in a new pattern. It is also rare for me to leave it without a further question or doubt for the reader… Continue reading “The Soldier, the Hunchback, and the Master of Meditation”

Noumenautics – Peter Sjöstedt-H

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‘One might say that the noumenaut is a philosophical psychonaut – one who navigates through both the human harbour of ideas and out through to the inhuman ocean that is psychedelic consciousness.’

When I saw the subject matter of this collection of essays, I couldn’t wait to read it: so I was thrilled to be sent a free copy in exchange for an honest review. Although it took me a while to read, this was only due to the fact I kept stopping to make notes and contemplate, so it’s safe to say I was not disappointed.

Like most books with a philosophical bent, there is a lot packed into Noumenautics’ 136 pages. It starts out with a discussion on psychedelic phenomena: what the experience of using psychedelics does to our sense of reality and physics, and how we can apply the knowledge gained from it in rational, philosophical thought. It is an area that is surprisingly omitted from most popular notions of philosophy – which may have more to do with our prescribed morality (a topic also covered in the book) than a lack of validity – so I found it fascinating. I am a fan of Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception, and this reads well as a scrutinising companion.

‘To deny philosophers of mind psychedelic substances is tantamount to denying instruments to musicians.’

Continue reading “Noumenautics – Peter Sjöstedt-H”

5 Non-fiction Books that Shaped Me

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I’ve always loved reading non-fiction as much as fiction, and have a particular attraction to all things philosophy and psychology. I always manage to take something away from every book I read and feed it into my worldview, so I thought it would be an interesting exercise to write a little bit about the ones that have had the biggest impact on me over the years. I’ve chosen my top 5, listed in the order I read them.

 

1. Friedrich Nietzsche – Thus Spoke Zarathustra

When I was 15, I wrote an essay on my typewriter called ‘The Personal God’. It wasn’t for school, and it wasn’t really planned out; it just sort of wrote itself. In it, I set out my reasons for believing that God was created subjectively in the minds of men, and that the concept of a mythical overlord was becoming less relevant as we developed as a species. It wasn’t great: I was 15. But it meant that when I saw a documentary about Nietzsche on TV a few months later – the first time I’d ever heard of him – I was immediately drawn to his ideas. I got a copy of Thus Spoke Zarathustra as soon as I could, devoured it, and covered it in pencil notes.

Apart from the opinions on women he expresses in the book, which frankly seem primitive compared to his other musings, there are many themes that made a big impression on me. The will to power, the bowels of existence; herd morality. His succinct descriptions of the suffering that is so very human and rooted in the self. The idea that the only meaning we can create in this absurdity we call life is that which we make for ourselves. His existentialism set my mindset up nicely to understand the ideas of Thelema a couple of years later, and I have continued to return to this book and his others many times. I think there is an appropriate Nietzsche quote for every situation in life.

 

2. C.G. Jung – The Essential

Jung’s psychology has had a profound impact on the way I see the world. Generally, a major criticism of his work is that he was swayed too readily by mystical fancies, yet the very fact he was not afraid to face the metaphysical and the unknown is one of the reasons he appeals to me so much. His thought attempts to bridge the gap between science and religion, the rational and the irrational, and had he been around to see modern developments in neuroscience I think he’d have had a lot more to give.

Science or pseudoscience, Jung’s model of the psyche works very well for me. I use it to analyse my mental states, my dreams, my path to individuation (which is remarkably similar to both alchemy and, at times, taoism), and the way I interact with others. His thoughts on the collective unconscious and personal myth constantly feed into my creative work.

I chose this book as the one that shaped me simply because it is the first one of his I read. I borrowed it from my local library when I was about 16 or 17, and was hooked on Jung’s style straight away. Since then I have been working my way through all of his books, including the stunning Red Book, the full folio version of which sits pride of place on my bookshelf.

Continue reading “5 Non-fiction Books that Shaped Me”

Phantom Pain

“Here we go, is this it? Are we starting? Are you sure, because it doesn’t feel like my spine is straight. And my shoulder itches. And I need to swallow. Is swallowing allowed or does that count as moving the body?”

“…”

“My eyes are closed, but they don’t seem closed closed. I mean, I can see my eyelids I think. Is that ok? How do you close your eyes when they’re already closed?”

“…”

“Oh damn, I forgot to check the volume of the alarm. I could just go and do it now? It’ll undo all the good work if it startles me too much.”

“…”

“OK, point taken. Dum dum de dum dum de dum de dum de dum. Hey, what’s that song that goes ‘sometimes I feel like despair is my only friend…’? You know the one. It’s by The Mission, I think. Let’s go and look it up. It’ll take, like, two seconds and then I’ll be satisfied and you can have your peace, OK?”

“…”

Continue reading “Phantom Pain”

Animus

An obscure little prose You have to build your difference, they say. 
You are divided for love. 
But I don’t know who you are. 
Do you know who I am? 
I can feel your fingers reaching out to me, 
so close to having material form it hurts 
like an unstruck sound in my heart.

You are surely a reflection, 
but when I look for you in the mirror 
the only me there is I. 
I project the idea onto all of my lovers,
trying to understand the shape of you, 
then when they are gone, I retract you
back into the darkness of shadow.

I saw you in the theatre last night. 
Three stages, three shows, three facets of you. 
I danced with each in my dreams.
You had raw, bleeding knees from the crawl;
an attempt to save yourself from fiction, no doubt.
But one tug on my necklace, one cry from within
and I knew the fall was real. 

Still Life

Before I found my will I was always sleepy and covered in dust. It made me sneeze and i couldn’t see where I was going. Instead I just saw piles and piles of where I had been. 

There are millions of others, just the same. Unchanging, unmoving, still people. Gathering layers of waste fibres and allowing something else to live through them. But they are still people.