Seymour Chwast shows no small ambition in attempting a “graphic novel” adaptation of Dante’s Commedia, but unfortunately, the results are not that impressive. The poetic elements of Dante’s work are almost entirely obliterated, as the language is reduced to narrative prose, simplified dialogue, and an assortment of fragmentary captions and labels. Chwast uses aggressively anachronistic visual designs, making Dante a tall fellow in a trenchcoat and sunglasses, while Virgil wears a bow tie and a bowler.
The pace is quite fast, with approximately one page devoted to each of the hundred cantos of the Commedia, and many of the pages having only a single panel of illustration. There is a lot of creative and effective variety in the hand-lettering of the text, although a few grammatical and spelling errors (e.g. “Cerberus … allows we poets to enter the circle” on p. 21) take a little of the joy out of that too.
Some of the most effective panels are the ones that are schematic–although when it comes to the maps of the three realms, Chawast’s deliberately simplified style cannot hold a candle to the intricate triptych by Paul Laffoley. And this sort of competition is one of the reasons that this book faces an uphill battle among readers. Given that the story is unchanged from, and the words less engaging than, its original; it becomes Chwast’s task to captivate us with image and visual design. And he is hardly the first to undertake this very specific task. Gustave Dore’s engravings illustrating the Commedia are one longstanding and well-known example of an accomplished execution of the graphic form for this work. An even better (though unfinished) version was produced by one who could be considered a principal creator of the “graphic novel” in Western culture: William Blake.
In the end, Chwast’s adptation seems deficient in the sort of grandeur and gravity readers want (and for many centuries, have gotten) from Dante’s work. It strikes me like nothing so much as a brilliant student’s notebook, drawn while hearing the poet recite his age-defining vision.
Greater Feast of Dante Alighieri, died September 13/14, 1321 at Ravenna, Papal States
Greater Feast of Dante Alighieri, died September 13/14, 1321 at Ravenna, Papal States
“After putting myself in too many people’s shoes, and seeing the world through everyone else’s eyes for too long, I start to become a warped and weary alien to myself. I no longer recognize my own face and I need to recharge. This is when I head to my studio to sit.”
“I have to confess that what I’ve found mindblowing about exploring the Occult is that the church has slandered it as being daemon worship, and because of that, a group of gothed out weirdoes have decided that they love the idea worshipping Satan. Even though the Occult doesn’t actually involve that (it’s about mastering your daemons and making contact with your Holy Guardian Angel), they’re just going to make it about that anyway because they’re just…so…hard.”
“One of the signs which has become a trademark of being in a dream is the inability to read the written word or at other times to decipher numbers on a clock face or elsewhere. Such figures most often appear to blur before the eyes. There are times when the oneiric traveller is blest with clarity of vision wherein the characters in the given instance are crystal clear, but such instances are typically rare. It is significant that there is a crossover between the experience of legible and illegible scripts in both the waking and dream worlds.”
“With the use of oneiric praxis, sigils of the wake world can be brought to the dreamscape, as well as drawing the dream texts upon the waking consciousness. No doubt the viewing of sigillic devices could produce the atmosphere of the dream in the waking consciousness of one unaccustomed to seeing such scripts.”
“Good news for fans of anthropodermic bibliopegy, bibliomaniacs and cannibals alike: tests have revealed that Houghton Library’s copy of Arsène Houssaye’s Des destinées de l’ame [The destiny of the soul] (FC8.H8177.879dc) is without a doubt bound in human skin.”
“The first artefacts to shoot for the moon could be three religious and philosophical texts. The Torah on the Moon project, based in Tel Aviv, Israel, has been courting private firms to deliver a handwritten Jewish scroll, the Sefer Torah, to the lunar surface. If they succeed, later flights will carry Hindu scriptures called the Vedas and the ancient Chinese philosophical work, the I-Ching.
Each document will be housed in a space-ready capsule designed to protect it from harsh radiation and temperature changes on the moon for at least 10,000 years.”
“These educational tools help users to evaluate the copyright status of a work created in the United States between January 1, 1923 and December 31, 1977—those works that were created before today’s 1976 Copyright Act. Many important works—from archival materials to family photos and movies—were created during this time, and it can be difficult to tell whether they are still under copyright.”
“This is probably the most esoteric question that normal people from all walks of life have to answer routinely; the Samuelson Clinic has really done an important public service here.”
Book of Soyga or Aldaraia sive Soyga vocor [PDF], edited and translated by Jane Kupin, Twilit Grotto [HT Joseph H Peterson]
“Here begins the book Aldaraia in accordance with that which our authorities proclaimed to us; they were from God and from the celestial parts and it was revealed to them in the desert about celestial matters.”
“The Neoplatonic writings of the 6th century writer known as pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite have influenced, and continue to influence, Christian theologians and esotericists, amongst others, to this day. Typically, a handful of Dionysius’ topics are discussed: his angelology, his sacramental theology, and his treatment of the divine names are on the top of the list. This paper treats one of these subjects, Dionysian sacraments”
“The evidence of Joseph Smith’s close connection to occultism and Freemasonry, and how this influenced the origin and development of the LDS Church is not well known outside of scholarly circles. This article summarizes the evidence for Joseph’s personal involvement in both Freemasonry and occultism, and their influence on the Mormon religion.”
“Thelema rejects all these notions that enslave humanity to a deity that would demand certain beliefs and actions and punish those who disobey. Satan represents the rejection of this belief system and the exultation of the individual. Is Satan central to Thelema? No. Is Satan mentioned in Thelema? Yes, frequently.”
“I believe Traditional Witchcraft is a poetic reality humming the nocturnal mysteries of Night. I believe the Witch is concerned with Solace and comfort, the same solace we find resting in the Night. I believe the Witch is a creature tied to the land whose heart is a crossroad where the fire of Need gushes forth from the fountain of the soul like a veiled spring of fiery droplets of gold and silver.”
“The word ‘Rosicrucian’ is one that most readers will have heard many times. Yet if I were to ask for a definition of the word I would probably be given a wide variety of different answers. I might be told that it was something to do with esoteric Christianity, with alchemy, or with Cabala. All of these things are part of the answer, but not the whole answer.
So what is Rosicrucianism? For the time being let us call it a current of thought and ideas which has been flowing through history for at least three and a half centuries and probably quite a bit longer, sometimes underground, sometimes coming to the surface, but always pushing human beings towards certain goals. I say that we can trace the current back three and a half centuries because that was when it first came to the surface. So let us go back to that moment in history.”
“Alchemy may be described, in the words of Baudelaire, as a process of ‘distilling the eternal from the transient’. As the art of transmutation par excellence, the classical applications of alchemy have always been twofold: chrysopoeia and apotheosis (gold-making and god-making)—the perfection of metals and mortals. In seeking to turn ‘poison into wine’, alchemy, like tantra, engages material existence—often at its most dissolute or corruptible—in order to transform it into a vehicle of liberation. Like theurgy, it seeks not only personal liberation—the redemption of the soul from the cycles of generation and corruption—but also the liberation (or perfection) of nature herself through participation in the cosmic demiurgy. In its highest sense, therefore, alchemy conforms to what Lurianic kabbalists would call tikkun, the restoration of the world.”
“A main thesis of this paper is that one of the ways for Rudolf Steiner research to become more scientiﬁc is to proceed in accordance with a genuine historical and critical methodology. It attempts to show that even though some of Steiner’s chief critics support this method in theory, they often fall short of a historical-critical approach in practice. Using the example of the unresolved problem of whether Steiner could be a character in his own Mysteriendramen, the author provides a number of methodological, historical and biographical indications for approaching this problem. He tries to demonstrate the fruitfulness of this method by addressing the question of Steiner as a drama character from the new perspective of literary pseudonyms. In conclusion, he maintains that a scholarly historical-critical approach to spiritual science was advocated by Steiner himself.”
“Since everyday and spiritual concerns are variations of the same thinking processes, [Andrew] Newberg thinks it’s essential to examine how people experience spirituality in order to fully understand how their brains work. Looking at the bigger questions has already provided practical applications for improving mental and physical health.”
“Men find it very hard to apply a little criticism to the sources of their beliefs and the origin of their faith. It is just as well; if we looked too close into first principles, we should never believe at all.”
“Gauguin’s art depicts Tahitians as they are sleeping, worshipping, and engaging in other quotidian activities. But whereas Cheever, Chekhov, Roth, John Updike, and other literary artists used their keen perceptive abilities in the pursuit of sober realism, Gauguin put his artistry to the purpose of imaginative proto-surrealism.
Gauguin, who rejected European cultural and religious constraints, thought of himself as a savage in the eyes of the civilized world. Oviri (1894, his personal favorite amongst all his sculptures) and many of his other works were regarded as radical for a variety of reasons, not least because they subverted traditional, conventional ideas of feminine beauty.”
“It is however, the first time that a group of these primates develops some technical concepts as elaborate as these on their own. A few individual apes seem to have originally developed a rudimentary technique of rather poor efficiency, but the group gradually improved it through experimentation and observation over the last few months. They are now able to create and maintain a fire, which they have been using mostly to scare off predators and cook some of their food.”
“Taking a weekly Tech Sabbath allows us to step off this wheel of endless sameness. It’s a ritual that pushes us out of the norm, to pursue different activities, and use different parts of our brains. In so doing, it refreshes and rejuvenates our minds and spirit. It provides the motivation to unhook our wired craniums from the matrix of cyberspace and explore the pleasures of the real world.”
“Here is a piece of music, which was composed with a sort of 17th century computer called the Organum Mathematicum, devised by Athanasius Kircher and fully described by his pupil and assistant Gaspar Schott”
“Mihai Mihu completed a series of creations depicting the 9 circles of Hell. While staying true to the theme of poetic justice served to the sinners, Mihai portrays the punishments through his own interpretations. The recurring architectural elements and portrayal of the sinners tie the scenes together in a way that’s easy for the viewer to transition through. In this short interview, the builder talks about his project and the individual circles of Hell.”
“If we really think that whatever kind of mind we generate from these efforts is going to be anything like us, then we’re probably in for a big surprise. We have to be prepared for—as opposed to scared about—the possibility that any machine intelligence will have vastly different concerns from us. “Occult Wisdom” means knowledge hidden from those who don’t know how to look for it and, without an understanding of how these new minds will experience our world, humanity will never know everything we might.
As I’ve explored these ideas, over the years, I’ve found that the most valuable approaches have often come from the intersections that others might overlook. The intersection that’s been most useful to me is at the center of weird science, philosophy, religious studies, pop-culture, and magic. I’ve written articles, taught classes, and organized conferences arguing that “The Magical” is one of the most useful-but-underused tools we have for rethinking and understanding these ideas.”
“If a deep neural network is biologically inspired we can ask the question, does the same result apply to biological networks? Put more bluntly, ‘Does the human brain have similar built-in errors?’ If it doesn’t, how is it so different from the neural networks that are trying to mimic it?”
“The potential implications of the unexpected results were quickly apparent to Henrich. He knew that a vast amount of scholarly literature in the social sciences—particularly in economics and psychology—relied on the ultimatum game and similar experiments. At the heart of most of that research was the implicit assumption that the results revealed evolved psychological traits common to all humans, never mind that the test subjects were nearly always from the industrialized West. Henrich realized that if the Machiguenga results stood up, and if similar differences could be measured across other populations, this assumption of universality would have to be challenged.
Henrich had thought he would be adding a small branch to an established tree of knowledge. It turned out he was sawing at the very trunk. He began to wonder: What other certainties about “human nature” in social science research would need to be reconsidered when tested across diverse populations?”
If you’d like to participate in the next Omnium Gatherum, head on over to the Gatherum discussions at the Hrmtc Underground BBS.
“This unique book is about freeing psychology’s poetic imagination from the dead weight of unconscious assumptions about the soul. Whether we think of the soul scientifically or medically, behaviorally or in terms of inner development, all of us are used to thinking of it in an individual context, as something personal. In this book, however, we are asked to consider psychology from a truly transpersonal perspective as a cultural, universal-human phenomenon.
Reading these essays we are taught to look at the world as the record of the soul’s struggles to awaken, as the soul’s poetry. From this point of view, the true basis of the mind is poetic. Beauty, love, and creativity are as much instincts of the soul as sexuality or hunger. Thus these essays praise the value and nobility of the imagination, and instead of the usual masters of psychology the exemplars here are the artists and mystics of the Western tradition, Dante, Rumi, Rilke, Munch, Lorca, Schumann, Tarkovsky.” — back cover
“Although the troubadours flourished at the height of the Middle Ages in southern France, their songs of romantic love, with pleasing melodies and intricate stanzaic patterns, have inspired poets and song writers ever since, from Dante to Chaucer, from Renaissance sonneteers to the Romantics, and from Verlaine and Rimbaud to modern rock lyricists. Yet despite the incontrovertible influence of the troubadours on the development of both poetry and music in the West, there existed no comprehensive anthology of troubadour lyrics that respected the verse form of the originals until now.
Lark in the Morning honors the meter, word play, punning, and sound effects in the troubadours’ works while celebrating the often playful, bawdy, and biting nature of the material. Here, Robert Kehew augments his own verse translations with those of two seminal twentieth-century poets—Ezra Pound and W. D. Snodgrass—to provide a collection that captures both the poetic pyrotechnics of the original verse and the astonishing variety of troubadour voices.” — back cover
“Now when I see the skylark lift
His wings for joy in dawn’s first ray
Then let himself, oblivious, drift
For all his heart is glad and gay,
Ay! such great envies seize my thought
To see the rapture others find,
I marvel that desire does not
Consume away this heart of mine.”
—from “The Skylark” by Bernart de Ventadorn, trans. W D Snodgrass
“St. Denis would still have been standard Thomist theology for Dante and therefore the a priori schema of divine order. Dante’s understanding also indicates the brightest literary fluorescence of the Italian Renaissance and the growing influence of the rediscovery of the Greek philosophers, setting the stage for the radical influence that the discovery of the Corpus Hermetica would exert.” [via]
“Thus for these three movements there are three movers. Moreover, the whole of this heaven moves and revolves with the epicycle from east to west once every day. Whether this movement derives from some intellect or from the pull of the Primum Mobile, only God knows, for it seems to me presumptuous to reach a conclusion on this point.” [via]
“According to the best demonstration of the astrologers as we find it summarized in the book of the Constellations of the Stars, these movements are three: one according to which the star moves along its epicycle; a second according to which the epicycle moves together with the whole heaven in concert with that of the Sun; a third according to which that whole heaven moves, following the movement of the starry sphere, from west to east, one degree every one hundred years.” [via]
“These Thrones, who are assigned to govern this heaven, are not great in number, though the philosophers and the astrologers have estimated it diversely according to how diversely they have estimated its rotations, although all are agreed on this point: that there are as many of them as there are movements made by the heaven.” [via]