A note to self

 

A journal entry, 17 August 2016 e.v.

You make mistakes. And from the mistakes, you learn to make things better.

In fact, the only real mistakes are trivial. Everything is part of the puzzle of Becoming.

The past defines you, but it is needless to let it drain your energy. You can let it go. Guilt and regret will not make you better. Think of this day and the possibilities in it, think of tomorrow and the next week. Think of the coming month, and think of the years and decades you may still have ahead. What am I doing today so that it 1) fulfills the potential already here and now, and 2) echoes far into the yet-to-be?

It’s not that you should do more, but that you should weed out the unnecessary and harmful. “Do nothing as much as you can.”

The Work is hard so that you could learn.

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Notes on the Heart, pt. 2

 

In one’s current state of Work one experiences the Need to Work in some direction. The reason for that Need and direction can be experienced more or less rationally, but the deepest reason for it often stays in Rûna, in the realm of Mystery. Only later when some realizations of one’s Work become crystallized one finds more deeply why one was Working in that direction. The impulse that keep Initiation going forward comes from the Darkness of one’s Being, from ab, one’s Heart. It is suprarational (and “religious” or “spiritual”) in its nature. Once the Need of that impulse is taken under Work one then directs oneself towards it rationally and with magic. In the process also more unconscious layers of one’s mind get involved in it and eventually there may come crystallizations that involve different levels of one’s Being. Then one Knows more deeply what it was that was calling one in the Darkness. At that point the Heart is, of course, already some steps “ahead”, calling deeper into the Darkness of one’s Being.

– Tapio Kotkavuori. Aletheia vol. 1, p. 107.

Notes on the Heart

 

The human experience of the heart as a life supporting organ which marks the boundary between life and death has given the heart a special status as the center for power and emotion, through which humans have defined the communicative relationship between the self and the outside world. The special meaning that the heart has can especially seen in sacrificial rituals.

Asko Vilkuna discusses the ‘sacred meat’ of the Saami and the Ob Ugrian Khanty and Mansi, which stands for the bear heart. The heart was regarded as containing the ‘soul’ and power of the bear, which then hunters were able to insert into themselves. (…) To eat the heart and the liver of the killed enemy – cooked or raw – has been an ancient method for gaining power for both the body of the person who eats the meat and his community.

Thus, the idea of a burning heart (and a worshipped heart) did not arise within the Western philosophy of love; humans have burned or fried hearts in very concrete ways and marked them off as sacred, as markers of transformation, through the act of ritual eating. It is the later ideological currents that have given a more sublime meaning to the idea of the sanctity of the heart. Instead of concrete behaviour, humans have now chosen to define their relation to the burning heart on the level of an image.

– Veikko Anttonen. The concept of ‘pyhä’ (sacred) in pre-Christian Finnish religion. In: Northern religions and shamanism, 1992, p. 33.

A remark on Sekhem

 

See how few are the things which a person must gain control of in order to live a peaceful and godlike existence, for the gods will ask nothing more from the person who does so.

– Marcus Aurelius. Meditations, 2.5

Three Principles of Making Sushi, or Mastery and the Heart

A Dissonant Resonance Compass is the title to a curious little figure in the second public book by Tapio Kotkavuori. It’s a scruffy drawing and the idea is not expanded much further in the accompanying text, and yet there’s something quite deep in this rather simple concept pertaining to the Left Hand Path.

One could define the LHP as putting first the aim of resonance with your Being, and therefore opting for possible dissonance with the rest of the world. Here, the Being refers to (the experience of) the more stable and coherent parts of the self; and the self should be understood as virtually everything that can be attributed to the individual (whether she wants or not). The latter term adheres to ‘identity’ and ‘identification’, both by the subject and the onlookers, while the former is the real manifestation of the individual Black Flame.

Of the extremes of resonance and dissonance, only resonance is truly important for the LHP. A wilfully dissonant stance may be a worthwhile tool at times, but more often it simply is the natural outcome of the Work that is needed to be done in order to tune the self to the inner resonance. This puts the priorities right: for striving to be dissident is to seek to oppose something defined from without, instead of looking within to find an individual if not outright isolate meaning to one’s Work.

One key to understanding resonance is the idea of rhythm. The Setian context for this was also provided by Tapio Kotkavuori through his Work in the Heart Element. The ebb and the flow of the pulse of the Heart puts Initiation onto cyclic, or periodic tracks – Remanifest being one of the greater Workings of this nature.

The pulse consists of the Beat and the Pause. During the Beat, the possibility to a sacred experience opens to the Initiate, and Work may Become real. The Pause echoes the Beat, giving the background time for transmission and reception. It is the spread of the pulse and the silence of the deeper potential arising for the next Beat.

This is the basic setting for the internal cycles. Since the Heart is an utterly holistic concept – as in being the central organ that communicates the Needs on all levels of the self – these cycles take all kinds of forms from the tangibly mundane to the most abstract and ethereal.

The external cycles work in much the same way. But again, our power over the external cycles is very limited. The world will make a sucker out of everyone, eventually. To stress therefore is nonproductive, and the Stoic stance preferable. The only real matter to be heeded is this: one’s Work in the objective universe, ie. the strength of the magical link, is measured in terms of seizing the most opportune chances to transmit or mix the internal rhythm among the network of the external rhythms. However, it is more important to simply act on the internal need rather than to desperately try to time it on the external. Do the Work and take what comes.

The internal cycles, too, are chaotic, but the more strongly one is aligned with the Being, as in resonance, the more one actually benefits from those oncoming cycles. Make no mistake: the cycles are and will be oncoming no matter what. They will beat upon you whether you wanted that or not. The question is, how are you going to deal with it; and this is one of the keys to understanding the LHP on a deeper level. Where lies your devotion?

The Initiate makes the cycles work for the Rhythm of Becoming: the stronger the Resonance, the more one gets out of the ride. In that potentia lies the real, tangible Pulse of the Heart and the dynamic Source-Aim of our Work.

For the Initiate, the tangibility of such cycles comes in the form of refining the Work of the Adept. This can be summarized by the three principles of the renowned sushi chef Jiro Ono:

  1. Fall in love with your work.
  2. Do not complain about your work.
  3. Seek to constantly improve your technique in work.

The first principle implies the imperative to fall in love with Work as a key to Xeper, as opposed to external stratification which anyway is fleeting and illusory. Such rewards do serve certain purpose and are important for the balance in the long run, but ultimately they do not serve your Aim.

The above may be a source of strong dissonance; hence the second principle. The path of the Adept is the path of a Hero Becoming God. On that road, obstacles are building material, anguish reveals you a great deal of your inner workings, and the defeats are moments for Remembering your Aim (Aletheia).

Any attempt towards perfect contentment is eventually thwarted by the necessity of Runa. We do not know and cannot know what is ahead. That leaves us uncertainty and fear: but these are only emotional indicators that you are going into the unknown. One does not become a Hero if the path is easy.

As for the third principle, there is a highly relevant passage in Hagakure:

A certain swordsman in his declining years said the following: In one’s life, there are levels in the pursuit of study. In the lowest level, a person studies but nothing comes of it, and he feels that both he and others are unskillful. At this point he is worthless. In the middle level he is still useless but is aware of his own insufficiencies and can also see the insufficiencies of others. In a higher level he has pride concerning his own ability, rejoices in praise from others, and laments the lack of ability in his fellows. This man has worth. In the highest level a man has the look of knowing nothing.

These are the levels in general. But there is one transcending level, and this is the most excellent of all. This person is aware of the endlessness of entering deeply into a certain Way and never thinks of himself as having finished. He truly knows his own insufficiencies and never in his whole life thinks that he has succeeded. He has no thoughts of pride but with self-abasement knows the Way to the end. It is said that Master Yagyu once remarked, ‘I do not know the way to defeat others, but the way to defeat myself.’

Throughout your life advance daily, becoming more skillful than yesterday, more skillful than today. This is never-ending.

A category-theoretical remark on Xeper and Remanifest

 

A general category of Being, particular categories of Becoming: this is a suggested philosophical guide for sorting the two original kinds of toposes and what they have become. The unity and cohesiveness of Being provides the basis for Becoming, and the historicity and controlled variability of Becoming produces new Being from old.

– F. William Lawvere: Some thoughts on the future of category theory. In: Category Theory. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 1991.

Notes on Aim, pt. 2

One of the more personally puzzling themes I’ve found while studying the Fourth Way approach to Initiation is the contrast between being and doing. Many practitioners of the Fourth Way speak of the paramount importance of “being in the eternal moment of now” (paraphrasing). At a glance, the striving to self-remembrance seems very passive. It is as if the state of incompleteness most of us are in would inevitably render all actions futile – that if we try to engage the world around us, we are too prone to lose the precious sense of Being. Only the very advanced individual would be able to blend these two.

Is there a way out of this? Perhaps. Harken Robert Fripp, the mastermind behind King Crimson:

Do nothing as much as you can.

The third primary principle of King Crimson

It is crucial to note that it is not just “do nothing”, but “as much as you can”. Those things that speak of deep needs, of the Aim, those that are coming from the Heart cannot and should not be dropped. They are absolutely necessary.

The issue is that we rarely engage with only those things, or are even able to see them as priorities. We get lost in doing this and that, fueling the sense of activity and productivity without sight of the necessary. Among the lesser(?) consequences are health issues, stress and anxiety, and a sense of meaningless drifting through motions.

Striving to hear the Aim is akin to tuning a weak antenna while on the move. You catch glimpses of the signal proper, but much is lost in the noise and interference. Attempts to connect to the signal may make the reception even worse if you are not paying enough attention. The awareness of the signal in itself requires careful maintenance, and the focus on what is actually happening has to be regained regularly. It is here that the silent moments of striving to be simply present have their worth. It is also here that the active work in the world has its proper place.

The nature of the Aim is dynamic. One can have a deep sense of it by simply being present, but this is not enough. The growth of the individual Being is tightly linked to the growth and transformation of the Aim itself. Such growth requires action – Doing to balance the Being. Proper understanding can only come from first-hand experiences rooted in the real. This synthesis of Being and Doing is one of the primary functions of the Heart.

Perception and sight

 

Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things.

– Miyamoto Musashi

Notes on Aim

 

To have a constant and unflagging instinctive need for self-perfection in the sense of being.

– The second Being-Obligolnian striving, Chapter 27 in Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson

In the defibrillation of the Nine Theses on the Path of the Heart, I have made claims about the central importance of Aim. But what exactly is Aim?

The above quote from the Gurdjieff classic is at the core of this question. Each of us has needs dictated to us by our bodies, needs that have to be answered if we desire to stay alive and in good health. The functionality of this meat-and-bone machine is vital in the very sense of the word. Its needs are also instinctive, though on a different level from what the Beelzebub’s Tales imply.

Besides the needs of the body, there are needs coming from the social matrix and our preconditioned thought/emotion -centers. What makes these similar to the needs of the body is that they, too, are mechanical in their nature. They relate to things that happen to us, things over which we have little real understanding, let alone control.

But beyond these mechanical needs, there are needs that have a different nature altogether. I would call them the needs of the Being. This means that at the very core of the experience of “who and what I am”, there is something that pulls us to directions that we truly feel most in resonance with. Sometimes this sensation is very confusing and even terrifying. It can be at odds with what you think you ought to be doing in your life, and almost certainly at odds with what others expect you to be doing. But once acted upon, you will find your life gaining new meaning.

Most people seem to experience this at least to some extent, but very few are actually able to cultivate a proper understanding of what these needs are, let alone begin to shape their lives according to them. The last lot are those who can be called Initiates.

What they follow is their Aim. The English language fails us here, for unlike something like the aim in the archery, one cannot have a clear vision of what it exactly is one is Aiming at. This is why the Beelzebub’s Tales refers to an “instinctive need”. It is a sensation present as much in the body as in the mind, a gut-feeling rather than a clear and precise thought.

Besides providing a sense of this need, the Aim ties also to the process by which the need reshapes itself as the Being unfolds and takes shape in the Initiate. The Aim itself transforms: it is in a dynamic relationship to the Work that brings it to life. The more one understands of her Aim, the further the boundaries of the Aim are actually pushed. In this the Aim manifests the Aeonic Word of Runa1.

Sensitivity to one’s Aim is the key to fulfilling and long-lasting refinement of the Being, or as it goes in the terminology of the Temple of Set, to the process of Xeper and Remanifest.

[1] See Runarmal I by Stephen Flowers.

Ed Witten on Consciousness

I think consciousness will be a mystery. I tend to think that the workings of the conscious brain will be elucidated to a large extent. Biologists and perhaps physicists will understand much better how the brain works. But why something that we call consciousness goes with those workings, I think will remain mysterious. I have a much easier time imagining how we could understand the Big Bang, even though we cannot do it now, than I can imagine understanding consciousness.

Understanding the functioning of the brain is a very exciting problem in which probably there will be a lot of progress in the next few decades. That’s not out of reach. But I think there’s probably a level of mystery that’ll remain about why the brain is functioning as we can see, why it creates consciousness or whatever you want to call it. How it functions in the way a conscious being functions will become clearer. But what it is we are experiencing when we are experiencing consciousness, I see as remaining a mystery.

Edward Witten