Thursday, August 27, 2015

How to Succeed in an English/Literature Class

This notion that the verbal text is constituted by concealment as much as revelation, that the concealment is itself a revelation and vice versa, brings Nietzsche and Freud together. Freud suggests further that where the subject is not in control of the text, where the text looks supersmooth or superclumsy, is where the reader should fix his gaze, so that he does not merely read but deciphers the text, and sees its play within the open textuality of thought, language, and so forth within which it has only a provisionally closed outline. He catches this notion thus: “There is often a passage in even the most thoroughly interpreted dream which has to be left obscure. . . . At that point there is a tangle of dream-thoughts which cannot be unravelled and which moreover adds nothing to our knowledge of the content of the dream.” Derrida’s “advance” on Freud here can be formulated thus: this tangle cannot be unravelled in terms of, and adds nothing to the contents of the dream-text within the limits set up by itself. If, however, we have nothing vested in the putative identity of the text or dream, that passage is where we can provisionally locate the text’s moment of transgressing the laws it apparently sets up for itself, and thus unravel—deconstruct—the very text. This illuminates the lines in Freud that follow the passage above: “This is the dream’s navel, the spot where it reaches down into the unknown. The dream-thoughts . . . cannot . . . have any definite endings: they are bound to branch out in every direction into the intricate network of our world of thought.”
– Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Translator’s Preface,” Of Grammatology by Jacques Derrida
Nothing to do with the broader philosophical implications or with Derrida's thought, neither of which interest me all that much, but just a handy method for producing a reading of damn near any text you come across in an English or Literature setting at university. Find the navel, and you've got your paper. It's pathetically mechanical, really.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

School commitments

Just a note to say I may not be able to pick up and return to things I've started to explore on here, particularly when they require a lot of preparation and research. I've entered university again, and it's making some demands on my time. I think it's worthwhile still to put down a kind of placeholder for things to be thought. Then when I have time again, I can return to the work.

The other thing I should note is that school requires me to be on a laptop for much of the day, and computer screens often give me a headache. So that's limiting my writing on the blog.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A for Eigentlichkeit

One of these days, gotta hit on the ocular metaphor and epistemology
I have no interest in equating artistic authenticity, in the sense of verified authorship, with Eigentlichkeit, a different concept altogether.  

I can't say I have an interest in authenticity in the philosophical sense. There has been some rehabilitation of Division II of Being and Time after being neglected a bit by those who came up under the Dreyfus interpretation of Division I. It's a problematic concept for me, though, and has lent itself to the kind of idle talk attacked in SZ. One of these days, if I can muster enough will to read Adorno again, I ought to give Jargon of Authenticity a good read.

So why the title? I thought it'd be funny.

Instead, I want to elaborate a little (in a very loosely organized way) on the other theme I found in F for Fake, and in so doing I'm not looking to offer anything particularly original, but just to make it a little more explicit.

Welles does a lot to point attention to editing in the film, to break down the passive acceptance of representation in cinematic storytelling. Part of this serves to develop the theme of authenticity, but it also points out how a work of art relies on all the ways it departs from being a good picture to be a work of art. Phenomenologists like to point out that what is closest to us is hardest to see, often using the metaphor of a pair of eyeglasses. We always already live in a familiar, intelligible world, and that immersion makes it difficult to examine just what we're always already immersed in.

As I said in the podcast, drawing on the two essays I cite in this post, (especially representational) art both shows up as something in our everyday intelligibility, while drawing attention to the ways it escapes that intelligibility. A representational painting isn't just a picture of something, it's also pigment and brush strokes and canvas. You could say that when we go to view a painting, we aren't only looking for an accurate representation. To anticipate a counterexample: even in the case of a photorealist or hyperrealist painting, the degree of accuracy itself becomes uncanny. That quality of earth (to use Heidegger's term) is just as present, as (to name just two reasons) we're drawn to reflect on the technique involved and thereby again the materials used.

Even in an actual photograph, it's the drawing of focus that shows up the tension between the familiar, the intelligible, and the unfamiliar and uncanny. Part of this comes down to the technique employed by the artist involved in photographing e.g. an ordinary gas station, something which in our everyday comportment we wouldn't give much thought to. We can be given to wonder at the gas station. We can start to see how our everyday intelligibility is founded in something that escapes that intelligibility.

Running out of time, unfortunately, so I'll have to start wrapping this up. In the future I'd like to get into some more ideas, not directly germane to F for Fake, but following on from the above. So I'll offer a sketch of what I may discuss in the future.

A question, I suppose, is doesn't the tension or strife in an artwork connect to something in the nature of a representation of any kind? A representation has its content (it's a picture of a cat on the mat), but the picture isn't its content, and the truth of that content is something that lies outside of the representation. You have to go and check if the cat is on the mat. To borrow a bit from early Wittgenstein, that it isn't the state of affairs it depicts is an important part of what makes it a representation.

So where do representations, pictures whose content has a truth-correspondence, depart from the artwork? I think it is in the nature of representation, as the concept exists in our current context, to smooth over (repress, suppress) that which escapes us, that which isn't exhausted by representation. I'd like to connect that to how we are now given to representations, calculative thinking, etc. and where Heidegger on these subjects seems to have some kinship with Debord's notion of our mediation by images, probably by touching on The Age of the World Picture and What Calls for Thinking?, just to start.

I can't promise consistency between Heidegger and Debord on these thingsthey're coming out of vastly different philosophical and political backgrounds. But I do think they're both hitting on something essential to our times.

And to be honest, putting a former Nazi into dialogue with a libertarian Marxist amuses the hell out of me. I am a perverse thinker. I promised you unhinged ruminations!

At some point I'll also need to get into how my account of what Heidegger says about art is incomplete, and defend (against Dreyfus, though I love his work) how the van Gogh example isn't a bad one, despite how it doesn't accomplish all the things a Greek temple might.

Finally, I have to admit that the way I've phrased some things might lend itself to bad interpretations of these concepts. In my defense, I'm trying to get across these philosophical notions to people who probably aren't terribly familiar with them.

Monday, August 17, 2015

For James: Art

Just some references for a conversation we had on F for Fake.
In poetry, as in all the arts, both the constructive and communicative aspects are tremendously raised in power, but they do not differ in kind from ordinary speech. Only the aesthetician who brings to the arts considerations from elsewhere in philosophy, from ontology or epistemology, can postulate a different realm of being with its own kind of communication in poetry. Hector with his wife and child, Piccarda’s speech to Dante, the ghost of Hamlet’s father, these are all, however exalted, in the same world as “Please pass the butter.” Furthermore, medieval and “vulgar” aesthetics are perfectly right when they speak, as Plato and Aristotle did, of the Art of Cooking, or the Art of the Saddler. The only difference in the Fine Arts is that they are finer — and they communicate more, and more importantly. Albi Cathedral is the sum total of the work of its bricklayers as well as of the plans of its architects. As construction, the difference is simply one of degree. There is no sure point at which you can say, “Beyond is Fine Art.” Instead in the constructive activities of men you have a continuum, growing in refinement, intensity, scope, depth, and splendor. Here Thomas Aquinas and his modern followers are right. 
Furthermore, certain works of art in recent years have taught us that you can apprehend even the simplest speech or simplest plastic arrangement, or, to take somebody like Webern, even a fugue on two notes, with the intensity of an artistic experience if you want to compel yourself to do it. Yoga and other mystical gymnastics involving the faculties of attention have always done this. You all know the modern photographs of hop-scotch squares on sidewalks, torn signboards, broken windows, piles of lumber, and similar things. What the photographer is doing is focusing attention on something that was not actually structured in the first place. It is the attention which creates the structure. You can train yourself to see the clouds of Tiepolo, the mists and mountains of Sesshu, in any water-stained ceiling. 
Gertrude Stein did this with words. You say poetry is different, disinterested and structured. It is not the same kind of thing as “Please pass the butter,” which is a simple imperative. But Gertrude Stein showed, among other things, that if you focus your attention on “Please pass the butter,” and put it through enough permutations and combinations, it begins to take on a kind of glow, the splendor of what is called an “aesthetic object,” and passes over into abstract, architectonic poetry. This is a trick of the manipulation of attention. Pages and pages of Gertrude Stein are put together out of the most trivial speech, broken up and used “architecturally” to the point that ordinary meaning disappears, not from the sentences, but from the very words themselves, and a new, rather low-grade but also rather uncanny kind of meaning emerges.
– Kenneth Rexroth, Unacknowledged Legislators and Art pour Art
And I've uploaded a good introductory piece on Heidegger's The Origin of the Work of Art.

The whole of Rexroth's essay is well worth reading. It's one of my favorite essays.

If that piece on Heidegger strikes you, I'd recommend tracking down the original essay. It's been printed in several books—the best value for someone new to his work would probably be the Basic Writings collection.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Michael Ripper: Suspicious Innkeeper


Naturally, no one is willing to go out after dark, though no one will explain exactly why. And they’re not willing to give her a room at the inn, which is often the case with these grumpy locals, though I can’t for the life of me figure out why. The landlord yells at you not to go out after dark and then, a breath later, yells at you to get out because he’ll not rent a room to the likes of ye! What does he get by not renting out the room? I mean, they’re often shown later regretting their decision and going, “Well, what would you have had me do?” How about give her a room and then see her off in the morning with a smile? 
Marianne eventually finds a sour old woman named Baroness Meinster who is willing to give Marianne a place to stay for the evening. Now all of a sudden the landlord has all sorts of rooms for rent and pleads with Marianne not to go. What’s with these guys? If you went and ordered a pint of ale from them, they’d yell, “We’ve no ale for the likes of you!” as they were serving you up a pint of ale. Every one of them is loopy as an outhouse bat.
– Keith Allison, Teleport City review of Brides of Dracula
It's funny that this passage comes in a review where Ripper doesn't play the suspicious barkeep, but it's a perfect description of his role in so many of those Hammer films.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Dossier Found in Saragossa

Paul Masson will sell no wine before its time
Apologies for the forced title, but I wanted to hit on something I see in Mr. Arkadin, a touch of the gothic, particularly in the scenes set in Spain early in the film.

(I don't think a deeper connection is there to be drawn between Mr. Arkadin and The Manuscript Found in Saragossa. The latter, incidentally, is one of my favorite gothic novels, written by Jan Potocki, who reputedly committed suicide by silver bullet because he thought he was a werewolf.)

But what appeals to me in those scenes is the setting of what Rexroth called Black Spain. The penitentes wearing capirotes, the Goya masquerade, the castle, and Arkadin himself all lend gloomy gothic mystery to the film. Of course, Franco's Catholic despotism weighs like a medieval nightmare on 1950s Spain, and that's where Arkadin situates himself.

Arkadin is something of a gothic villain, a vampire in his castle. In the traditional account, the vampire returns to feed on its family and friends, and Arkadin, now a successful capitalist, murders everyone from his criminal past, something foreshadowed in his dream of the graveyard where tombstones mark the end of friendships. He even has a network of spies in place of Dracula's network of gypsies.

It's common to read Mr. Arkadin in terms of capitalism. It's a reading that occurred immediately to me and became firmer as the film went on. But I haven't found anything on Arkadin as a vampire, though it was something I saw upon his entrance in the masquerade. Maybe it just brought to mind Hammer's Kiss of the Vampire, which has a masquerade too. Arkadin claims not to know his age, making him as ageless as any undead bloodsucker, although we learn that this amnesia is part of a pattern of deception, of effacing one's past.

There is a pivot point here between the two readings. I watched the film (in the comprehensive edit) for the first time last night, and it was only this morning as I was writing this that I remembered something Jack Graham introduced me to, Franco Moretti's reading of Dracula as monopoly capital. I'm not sure I have the energy to get terribly in depth here, but I want to get these ideas down while the memory is fresh. I'll be appearing on an upcoming Pex Lives Orson Welles retrospective, so perhaps I can elaborate in more detail there. Moving on.

Arkadin is a kind of underworld Charles Foster Kane, and the journalist conceit of Citizen Kane is present too: Van Stratten travels and interviews people about Arkadin's past, although Van Stratten only poses as a journalist, in line with the pattern of deception in the film.

That deception, that effacement of the past, is found everywhere in the film, and not just in Arkadin himself. Van Stratten resembles an early Arkadin and tries to set himself on the same path. He's a man of many deceptions who erases his past, down to denying his father's surname, just as Arkadin has assumed a false name. Their origins must be obscured. A successful criminal is no longer a criminal.
Arkadin: Criminals aren't ever very amusing.
Nagel: It's because they're failures. Those who make real money aren't counted as criminals. This is a class distinction, not an ethical problem.
Capital must deny its origins in criminal expropriation. It effaces its history, its brutal primitive accumulation, and sells a lie, a false representation. It does this not just to workers, but even to the inheritors of its privilege, like Raina. Van Stratten unearths the repressed criminal history of vampire capital. But he doesn't really drive a stake in its heart, does he? He doesn't destroy it. It just passes on to Raina, and he's deprived of participating in it. He always aspired to capital.

Upon the revelation of Arkadin's past, what do we have? The empty plane. We see capital's self-representation as it really is, hollow, but somehow capital remains in motion, though we're given a moment of hope here as the plane eventually sputters out and crashes. A moment of hope that doesn't amount to much, for what do we get during the credits?

Bats.
One of these days I gotta write about class struggle in Scars of Dracula

Friday, August 14, 2015

Why I don't follow through on a reading

It's probably because I refuse to be held responsible for the oscillations of my lunacy. Better to muddy the waters with multivalent readings than pursue a thesis.

In an academic context, I would stick with a reading, produce arguments, generate counterarguments, address those, and neatly conclude. But here, I can let that go, and enjoy the freedom of the form.

I could make a manifesto from this flaw.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Eternal Return of the Repressed

Is this about the illegitimate offspring of the 1969 American Tour?
"Nobody ever leaves the circle. Not until the day of release."

I hope I can assume anybody looking at this blog has seen Children of the Stones. If not, as always, go watch it and come back.

I first came across it in connection with folk horror, and it does have a lot of the vibe of folk horror. But this is folk horror with a science fiction (maybe even a little cosmic) twist, and driven by a Nietzschean theme: eternal recurrence.

If you've watched it and don't have a clue what happened, there's always the Wikipedia page for a decent summary. I wouldn't feel too bad about being confused—for a kid's show, it can be pretty baffling. I got it down pretty well my first go-through, but I also wasn't dividing my attention between multiple screens the way most people would these days.

(Some of the creepiest music of any 70s TV by the way—I think it may have even inspired Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age, which is a great record for any horror aficionado.)

I was happy to see Phil Sandifer covered it. He touches on the major points. What interests me here about the show is the eternal recurrence theme. If you haven't heard of the eternal return of the same:
The greatest burden.—What would happen if one day or night a demon were to steal upon you in your loneliest loneliness and say to you, “You will have to live this life—as you are living it now and have lived it in the past—once again and countless times more; and there will be nothing new to it, but every pain and every pleasure, every thought and sigh, and everything unutterably petty or grand in your life will have to come back to you, all in the same sequence and order. . . The eternal hourglass of existence turning over and over—and you with it, speck of dust!”. . . If that thought ever came to prevail in you, it would transform you, such as you are, and perhaps it would mangle you.
(as quoted in Vol. II of Heidegger's Nietzsche)
The unconditioned and infinitely reiterated circulation of all things.
Of course, Milbury's burden is not quite Nietzsche's—these events don't happen in exactly the same way every time. There's a tension between the linear time outside of Milbury and the cyclical time within it that produces variations in the recurrence. You could see it along the lines of an ascending spiral, almost repeating but never in precisely the same place, or you could see it as a kind of deformed circle, like Matthew's damaged bicycle wheel.

Still, it's close enough in concept to evoke either the same horror of inevitability or love of necessity that we find in the original. That's the two-sided quality to the eternal return—if you have that kind of Nietzschean resoluteness, then you have amor fati, the love of fate, where you see beauty in the necessity of things and appropriate the eternal recurrence, make it your own and will it to be ever so. As Heidegger puts it in What Is Called Thinking?, "The will is delivered from revulsion when it wills the constant recurrence of the same." If you don't, if you are uncomfortable with your life as it is, then you're condemned to repetition. If true, the same will recur regardless, but in amor fati, you appropriate the return, while those who are out of love with fate would perceive the return as a monstrous burden.

Children of the Stones plays with that dichotomy, but viewed from the perspective of the burdened. After all, our protagonists are horrified by the cycle, but the native villagers who have come to accept the return are the Happy Day People. I'm tempted to say brainless Happy Ones, but they're depicted as having exceptional intelligence. I suppose the idea is instead that they've been deprived of their will by Hendrick's brainwashing.

Yet there's a reading against the grain to be made here. Each villager is brainwashed by being exposed to the light from the supernova, the ultimate cause of the cycle. Is Hendrick really controlling them or just exposing them to the knowledge of the light? Maybe knowing is transformative. Just living in Milbury before being exposed to the light has some startling effects on outsiders—Matthew's psychometry is enhanced, and a farmer's son turns into a regular Alfred Tarski. Why couldn't the change in attitude be attributed to the light itself and not Hendrick's manipulation of it? Light is the most common metaphor for gnosis, so we could read it as a gnostic experience, i.e. that Hendrick is merely bringing them into knowledge.
Khabs am Pekht!
Konx om Pax!
Light in Extension!
(from the Neophyte Ritual of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn)
Margaret says after exposure that she feels "light, powerful, whole." Maybe it is a Happy Day after all.

Heidegger says Nietzsche's eternal recurrence springs from the "most stringent confrontation with Platonic-Christian modes of thought," where the Platonic means that "whatever is measures itself on what ought to be," and the Christian that all things were created by God, and so beings are creatures.
Both doctrines assume preeminence, each considered alone and both taken together in their various mixtures, because two thousand years' worth of tradition have made them habitual for our ways of representing things. Such habituation remains definitive even when we are far from thinking about Plato's original philosophy, and also when the Christian faith has expired. . .
(from Vol. II of Heidegger's Nietzsche)
The Christian faith has expired in Milbury—the church is deconsecrated, and the notions that go along with it are challenged by the eternal return, which is itself the result of a pagan, pre-Christian (pre-Platonic for that matter) past.

Science is pressed into the service of Hendrick's druidry, which is the sort of conscious thread running forward from this past. I'm not sure quite how to unpack the role of science in Children of the Stones. It's something that sets it apart from most of what people call "folk horror." Adam's science is used to stop and restart the cycle. Adam also comes to accept some peculiar New Age notions over the course of the story—he accepts Matthew's psychometry, and eventually the ley lines. Hendrick seems to have achieved a better fusion of science and (for lack of a better word) magic. He's something of a psychogeographer as well, even designing his special chamber to exploit the properties of the stone circle.

Milbury's peculiar psychogeography comes both from its own native stones and from the transformative stellar light. Does Milbury gather the fourfold—earth, sky, divinities, and mortals? It's out of balance. There is no mortality in Milbury. The gathering happens only with the simple oneness of the fourfold, and that has shattered in Milbury, so the gathering is deferred. But much of Hendrick's goals (in his speech to Margaret and Sandra in the chamber) echo the ideal of gathering the fourfold. Perhaps Adam and Matthew are there to repress (once again!) the pagan society. After all, they don't halt the cycle so much as restart it, which keeps the gathering deferred. One could make the case that Adam and Matthew are custodians of the cycle, not its enemies.

Who is trying to break out of the circle? Hendrick, by bringing forth the light from the past. The Brakes are there to circumscribe the light (it was between a car pun or a circle pun). If Hendrick brings forth the light to all, that would be disaster. Gnosis is for the few and secret.

And of course Hendrick is called a magus. The holy word of the magus above the abyss, as it crosses the abyss, sounds like the vilest blasphemy to those who hear it.

I said earlier that time outside of Milbury was linear, but I'm not sure it's as cut and dry as all that. Adam and Matthew come from outside of Milbury, but they're clearly playing out the roles of the two strangers in the initial event that kicked off the cycle as depicted in the painting. So what drives two outsiders to participate in each reiteration of the cycle? Furthermore, Hendrick is Litton is the druid, but both Hendrick and Litton are arrivals from outside Milbury.

Maybe the supposedly linear time of the outside is just cyclical time on a larger scale, somehow compelled to kick into the smaller cycle of Milbury in order to keep it going again, a contribution that seems to be what contains the Milbury cycle and prevents it from breaking into the larger cycle (or is it linear time?) outside.

It seems that the day of release is forever deferred because the Milbury cycle will always draw in the two people needed to close the cycle and start it again. It will always be postponed and the cycle will continue to repeat in Milbury, never really threatening the outside.

It's funny how the snake is associated with the Sanctuary and escape from the cycle, given how easily the snake lends itself to representing the circle (as in the ouroboros) or any deviation from a straight line as it coils and slithers. Perhaps the snake is a clue that there is no escape, and that time outside the stone circle isn't as linear as it may seem.

I've sketched several contradictory readings of this work, so I'll leave it here and maybe return to it later.

"Nobody ever leaves the circle. Not until the day of release."

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Ideas for future posts

Footnotes to Plato my ass.
Hello all,

So I've started a number of posts and just left them in draft form for the minute. I'm toying with continuing my rash and utterly inappropriate Heideggerian reading of A Field in England, a post about why I'm so sympathetic to the pagans in the Wicker Man, and something about Nietzsche and Children of the Stones.

Any requests from my practically nonexistent readership?


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Building, Dwelling, Tripping

Heavy Metal(lurgy)
I thought I'd post a few thoughts on Ben Wheatley's film A Field in England. If you haven't seen it, you'll want to do that before reading.

I can't give this any kind of reasonable structure. It's a ramble. I find if I try to compose this as an essay, I remain with a blank page. So here goes.

Before leaving the field, Whitehead literally assumes the mantle of O'Neill—an outward sign of inward transformation. After the ordeal of his degradation and derangement at the hands of O'Neill, and his mushroom trip, he becomes a master, even saying as much.

Though Whitehead breaks his oath (under coercion by O'Neill), his attainment transcends that of O'Neill because it still comes as the culmination of the Great Work. O'Neill forsook prayer and devotion, traditionally the inner work of alchemy, in reaction to a world turned upside down, and its pockets with it.

If I can map this onto Crowley's A∴A∴ structure, O'Neill achieved Adeptus Exemptus and turned away to become a Brother of the Left Hand Path. Whitehead's mushroom trip, the solve, reaches the coagula stage when the split-screen fuses back into one (with a sickening, very biological sound) and leaves him higher up the Tree of Life, having successfully crossed the Abyss. O'Neill, despite his seeming power, never managed to recombine the dissolved components of his inner matter as he eschewed the inner work. All that remains for him is death. He is toppled and effaced.

Upon his attainment, there's no sense that Whitehead is returning to his apprenticeship under his master—he's taking the manuscripts and mushrooms and striking out with his companions into the real world outside the hedge and mushroom circle, back into the battlefields of the English Civil War.

But what the hell does any of that have to do with the English Civil War?

I'm going to look at this from a Heideggerian angle while borrowing some terminology from Albert Borgmann as well. At this point, rather than spend time explicating those ideas, I'll direct the reader to this piece by Hubert Dreyfus and Charles Spinosa, which is a good introduction though not without its problems.

O'Neill rejects the focal practices that Whitehead still embraces, the prayer and devotion of inner alchemy, and rejects too the premodern master-apprentice model in favor of command-labor. I don't want to overreach and say O'Neill stands for capital as I'm not sure they've really reached that point (or that I can really produce a decent Marxian reading!) but it's clear that he sees those around him, and the world in general, in terms of resource (Bestand, or standing-reserve), which is an important part of modernity as Heidegger sees it. Incidentally, Heidegger's word for this quality of modernity, Gestell (usually translated enframing), even has a slight hauntological aspect—it's another word for skeleton, and hell, the only treasure they find in the pit is a skull.

The focal practices of traditional alchemy are forced to the margins by O'Neill—Whitehead's natural gift is stripped of its archaic religious trappings and literally harnessed to serve O'Neill in his acquisition of the treasure, a treasure that presumably (I believe there are some lines in the film about what he wants to do outside the field, but I can't recall them) just sits in the Great Chain of In-Order-To. Whitehead is a human resource for tapping another resource that'll doubtlessly lead to some other damn resource, all endlessly interchangeable and replaceable.

I'll admit I haven't thought through this angle enough to produce a fully coherent reading, but I wanted to outline a few things and maybe return to it later. There's something here of a retrieval of the premodern, of marginal practices, as a form of resistance to modernity. In this period, of course, those practices weren't nearly as marginal.

A bit from an interview with Wheatley that I wanted to highlight:
"Magic became science, effectively," he says [...] "The Puritans were trying to iron paganism and magic out of Catholicism. Splitting up and melding ideas. There are two really important periods in British history where we actually made a difference to the world – the civil war and the industrial revolution – and I think at that moment in England, anything could have happened. Everyone was starving, and they were basically killing God, because they were killing the king, God's representative; they were writing their own rules. As O'Neil[l...] says, 'This country's at the edge of something, it could become anything.' That's what got us excited about the period. It's a time when people were thinking hard and radically."
I hadn't read this before I started thinking about solve et coagula and focal/marginal practices and how they relate to the film, but I'm happy to see that "[s]plitting up and melding ideas" is mentioned by Wheatley. The survival of paganism into modernity is a central theme in folk horror, and what is paganism but a marginalized focal practice? The Wicker Man is famous for making its pagans seem sympathetic and reasonable for all their marginal, premodern practices.

There's something else here too, to the way mushrooms are used differently by O'Neill and Whitehead. For O'Neill, mushrooms are there to sedate labor into acquiescence. For Whitehead, mushrooms awaken. It's unclear whether O'Neill ever uses mushrooms himself. I think there's a case to be made that he hasn't, or at least not in sufficient quantities, given how Whitehead responds to them. My own reading is that the mushrooms are the treasure in the field, and O'Neill is oblivious to that potential awakening.

I'm leaving the ramble here, and I'll pick it up later. I'm just glad I managed to write something on this damn blog. Feel free to comment.

P. S. I ought to make something of the mushroom brew and how spagyrics in plant alchemy are the foundation for higher forms of alchemy such as mineral or animal.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

If you think the blog's title is bad,

I have other choices for you: Imitation Ab-Crab, Phusis from the Deep, Enemy-in-the-World, the Sontaran Existentiell, Rootless Logopolitans, the Strife of Earthshock and World, A Magus on Your Loo in Tooting Bec (just search the link for Tooting Bec—it's pretty amusing), Lamp of Invisible Ghost Light.

Pretty wretched stuff overall. I just went with one that was easy to remember.