The insistence on “Law” in The Kybalion, the book’s privileging of “Ego” and “Mastery,” its claim that “Chance is but a name for Law not recognized” (171): all of this suggests that the book is both more and less than it seems. The Three Initiates dedicated the book to Hermes Trismegistus, after all; and Hermes, of course, was known to be something of a trickster. I appreciate the book’s evocation of an ancient, secret doctrine. I’m willing to entertain the possibility that the answers I seek lie hidden from plain sight, awaiting my readiness to receive them. But most of what the book offers — from its defense of “the strong” to its claims regarding the origins of its teachings — seems flawed and suspect: expressions of the prejudices of the man thought to be its author, a Chicago-based occultist from the turn of the last century named William Walker Atkinson. Yet this is precisely how the Hermes archetype tends to operate, using thievery and deception to transmit messages between worlds.
I share my couch with my friend’s dog, a cute half-lamb, half-poodle puffball named Stevie. Out in the yard across the street fly a pair of bluejays. Perhaps I should listen again to the birds. Everything else just looks like hype seeking freedom to spend. I wonder which version of London will appear in my coming journey. Will it be one I’ve read about, one I remember? Or will it be a visionary London, an occult London? Will the corporate pentagon of power sour the hour, or will we ascend, rise up, learn about heikhalot literature and Merkabah? For now, let’s assume the “latter” is above our pay grade and seek a third option. As Teilhard de Chardin reminds us, “The outcome of the world, the gates of the future, the entry into the super-human — these are not thrown open to a few of the privileged nor to one chosen people to the exclusion of all others. They will open only to an advance of all together, in a direction in which all together can join and find completion in a spiritual regeneration of the earth” (The Phenomenology of Man, p. 244). Soon I’m coasting along, Erik Davis serving again as guide, recounting for me the account of Indra’s Net from the Flower Garland Sutra — a “cognitive map” if ever there was one! Reading it makes me think for a moment of the here and now, the ground of Being. We are all sustaining and defining one another — so we might as well get good at it. Sunlight, birdsong, subreddits full of horse girls and rats that wash themselves with soap — find room for it, get it in there. Everything in a blog post. Everything on a sheet of paper. Evoke the world as a bird that flies over and tweets. Followed by another, followed by another. Davis explains it well. “Indra’s net is an image of totality,” he writes, “but unlike Teilhard’s vision of the Omega point [the moment when matter evolves into convergence with mind], this holism does not depend upon some apocalyptic moment of future synthesis. In the Hua-yen view, reality is already a totally interdependent matrix, and this unity does not and cannot cancel out difference, the blooming multiplicities that compose each individual event” (TechGnosis, p. 339). With this image of totality set as our map, we become more mindful of our angelic companions. “Buzz, buzz” go the bumblebees. “Buzz, buzz” go birds, cars, pedestrians as we attend to our craft: Self as it attempts to voice, sound, and sense the multitude.
My eyes pass along the spines of mountainous rows of books. A small portion of my home library. Because of its size, much of the collection will go unread. Each book represents a kind of journey out of body. Yet I often prefer to remain in my body, walking through my neighborhood soaking in and re-transmitting positive vibes. It is here on the streets, or sitting at tables in parks, out and about, where I practice my “secret philosophy,” with its hints and codes. In the mutability of the day-to-day I find revealed to me a unity. Grand syntheses of ideas, even amid birdsong and crying children.
Revive the phenomenological category of the “lifeworld.” Review its history and weave it into the act of sitting, being-with-nature, the appearance of a pair of cardinals, lovers chirping, flitting from branch to branch amid a grove of trees. How can we best experience the sense of life as it unfolds into consciousness? Sarah steps around the corner, visits me to talk about pens beside a burst of pink flowers. Think of this, and of the cardinals, too, as signs of grace — sunlight through trees, enlightening signals of love and goodwill. The goal, as always, is to formulate a vision of wellbeing more compelling than the neoliberal “eudaimonic” subject. Perhaps I should read the work of Mexican philosopher Jorge Portilla, one of the so-called hiperiones, a group that also included Emilio Uranga. Time to school myself in Latin American philosophy, so as to better understand the interventions of El grupo Hiperión. With the arrival into the lifeworld of the Other (an arrival that has always-already occurred except in myth), the lifeworld divides into “homeworld” and “alienworld.” And this process of division continues indefinitely, with the proliferation of the Other into multiple Others leading to the reconstitution of the arrivant’s lifeworld into an interface with an ever-changing multiverse. Countless leaves, branches, insects, birds — being transforming day by day. The past, persisting for potential reactivation by consciousness, allows the latter to travel among worlds, entering and exiting identities as in a dream.
These trance-scripts haven’t spoken adequately yet about the most common altered state of consciousness, the one to which our society remains addicted: namely, fear. There is an element of anarchy in the ontology of the cosmos. This is its beauty. We each have to find our own truths, our own interpretations, the meanings that suit our being. Before meaning’s arrival, though, before its revelation (when all is said and done), there is the maze, the labyrinth, the dungeon — the as-yet-unexamined. Fear emerges when we project into the labyrinth a Minotaur, a spirit of malevolence, an enemy Other. If we concentrate on breathing and re-center in our bodies, fear dissipates. Sunlight catches on windblown leaves, goldens a wall of stained pine.
The World-Self, vacillating between corollary states of waking and dreaming, and the Mimoid God, the “imperfect god” of Solaris: both are explicable as the equivalents of small children, improvising existence, psychically divided due to faulty memory, each being seeing itself as “either/or,” one or the other of two opposing forces, rather than “both/and”: the text and its author. Observers might say upon study of this World-Self that it is not yet ready to put away childish things — or not yet convinced change is possible. Out of it grow hardline anthropocentric types, men who plant flags, their selfish encroachments and annexations acts of profound cosmic indifference, a violence that radiates outward irrespective of other species.
My teachings, I decide, draw heavily on Freud, though mainly by way of the Freudo-Marxists and their rebellious late-60s successors, combined with touches of Psychedelic Utopianism and Jungian Gnosticism. Worlds are always readied for one by presumptuous church fathers. For fear of some savagery, they say — just as local ecosystems have been modified, subdivided into units of practico-inert matter, a socially-constructed objectivity, leaving one little space by which to live. By which I mean something like “self-actualize,” so long as that also entails recognition of a coherent narrative or at least arrival into a meditative garden, a temple of sound, in companionship with others. Whereas everywhere under capitalism, the land unadorned awaits the fall. Neither happy nor splendid. At which point His Master’s Voice (by which I mean the Stanislaw Lem novel) begins to speak to me. “What can be done,” asks the novel’s narrator, “when an important fact is lost in a flood of impostors, and the voice of truth becomes drowned out in an ungodly din? When that voice, though freely resounding, cannot be heard, because the technologies of information have led to a situation in which one can receive best the message of him who shouts the loudest, even when mostly false?” (22). This is our predicament in that moment in the history of capitalism known as the era of Trump, is it not?