Epicureanism asks us to temper our insatiable desires for more power, wealth and possessions. But it also releases us from superstition and challenges us to know the world through science; to look deeply into the secrets of nature. To investigate.
Mind and Nature is Bateson’s last book, although two followed it posthumously, and in the colloquy with his daughter that closes Mind and Nature he discusses his ambition to write a volume called Where Angels Fear to Tread that would more directly treat concerns about consciousness, aesthetics, and the sacred. Mind and Nature is preliminary to that latter book (which became Angels Fear), laying out the epistemology and notions of organization and change that would underlie it.
This book treats the features that human thought (i.e. perception, ideation, logic, and explanation) has in common with biological change in individuals and populations (adaptation and evolution). Bateson characterizes these two fields (the “mind” and “nature” of the title) as the “Great Stochastic Processes.” Beginning with an emphasis on “the pattern that connects,” he introduces a kit of ideas with putatively universal application in what he calls — taking a cue from Jung’s usage in Septem Sermones ad Mortuos — the Creatura. He uses contemporary biology for his understanding of nature, but he uses philosophical materials and cybernetic theories in preference to the products of academic psychology.
I found this book a fast read, but it is not for the intellectually lazy. Although there is a glossary of particular words Bateson felt his readers might find alien, his general lexicon pulls no punches. He makes great hay out of Russell’s theory of logical types, metaphorically expanding its application to the whole panoply of hierarchical phenomena and systems. Most of the text is organized into long chapters containing sets of numbered theses, each treated in a few pages of discussion and example.
In some respects, the part of the book that most excited me on this re-read was the appendix “Time Is Out of Joint,” a memorandum circulated to the University of California Regents (of whom Bateson was one). In less than seven pages, Bateson sums up his most important arguments from Mind and Nature and applies them to the difficulties of governing an educational institution. The result is startlingly similar in content, if not in form, to Aleister Crowley’s early essay “Thien Tao: Or, the Synagogue of Satan.” Bateson and Crowley alike try to communicate the need for human striving to comprehend complementary poles, in order to progress by dialectical transcendence. It is a matter of enantiodromia, rather than compromise: not to say, “Light — Darkness — I am the Reconciler between them” like the officers of a Golden Dawn Equinox ceremony, but rather to say, “I am Light, and I am Darkness, and I am that which is beyond them” like the Crowned and Conquering Child in the utmost aire of LIL.
“But it must be understood from the outset that we are not concerned to vindicate any one set of philosophers at the expense of any other, but simply to settle certain questions which have played a part in the history of philosophy out of all proportion to their difficulty or their importance.” (134)
Language, Truth and Logic is a brief and charmingly audacious effort to retire metaphysics and its related issues. Ayer is a mid-20th-century exponent of the Anglo-American analytical tradition in philosophy (including the work of Bertrand Russell and others) which seeks to reduce the discipline to applications of logic. His arguments are sympathetic to the earlier empiricists and positivists, but show more sophistication in pointing out and sometimes surmounting their shortfalls. I am most in accord with his “emotive theory of values” as a method of dispensing with the philosophical concern over ethics.
Ayers’ professed opposition to “schools” in philosophical discourse reminds me of the ultra-Protestant Plymouth Brethren “coming out of sect” in 19th-century England: they paradoxically insist on a narrowing of their field while claiming to transcend distinctions within it.
The 1946 introduction to the second edition consists of Ayers reconsidering and fine-tuning many of the details in the body of the text. Accordingly, I saved it to read until finishing the original eight chapters. In retrospect, however, because of the intricacies of the arguments, a reader would be better advised to read the 1946 remarks in sequence after each individual chapter.
Although mystics (and magicians, to a lesser degree) are unlikely to find this book easy or pleasant, it would be an invaluable supplement to their intellectual diets. After passing through this crucible, they might proceed to the more congenial offerings of a thinker like Gregory Bateson.
An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for July 30th, 2014
“Afterlife With Archie” Issue 6 is a comic every Lovecraft fan will enjoy — Mike Davis, Lovecraft eZine
Here are some top gatherum posts from the BBS this week:
- The Baphomet Sculpture Hidden in Brooklyn — Jena Cumbo, Village Voice
“Lucien Greaves (a.k.a. Doug Mesner), one of the people who commissioned the sculpture, that now sits in a warehouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn, asked the sculptor — we’ll call him “Jack” — to forgo the breasts. This Baphomet is smooth-chested and muscular, with thin, shapely lips and rectangular pupils. The sculptor based his physique on a blend of Michelangelo’s David and Iggy Pop.”
- ‘Join us in our ritual,’ beckons Cthulhu-based cryptocurrency — Adrianne Jeffries, The Verge
“Written in the voodoo cultspeak of futurist horror writer H.P. Lovecraft’s short story, ‘The Call of Cthulhu,’ the creepy Cthulhu Offerings may be the most confusing digital currency yet.
‘The time draws near, the return of The Great Old One is upon us,’ writes the developer. ‘Join us in our ritual.'”
- 70,000 Year-Old African Settlement Unearthed — Past Horizons
“During ongoing excavations in northern Sudan, Polish archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology in Poznań, have discovered the remains of a settlement estimated to 70,000 years old. This find, according to the researchers, seems to contradict the previously held belief that the construction of permanent structures was associated with the so-called Great Exodus from Africa and occupation of the colder regions of Europe and Asia.”
- The Occult Knowledge – Strategies of Epistemology in La Société Voudon Gnostique — Maria Liberg, a Bachelor thesis in Religious Studies at University of Gothenburg, supervised by Henrik Bogdan
“The academic research on Western esotericism in general and contemporary occultism in particular has been largely neglected in earlier scholarship and has only recently gained serious academic attention. This thesis examines how the contemporary occult group, La Société Voudon Gnostique, headed by David Beth and an organization under the general current Voudon Gnosis, legitimate their claims to knowledge, mainly through three discursive strategies of epistemology offered by Olav Hammer, namely: the appeal to (1) tradition; (2) scientism as a language of faith; and narratives of (3) experience. Since Hammer argues that these strategies can be found in esoteric currents in general, but only examines theosophy, anthroposophy and New Age as well as only examining “esoteric spokespersons” this thesis aims at examine them in relation to contemporary occultism as well as in relation to both the spokesperson and to “ordinary adherents”. In order do this, La Société Voudon Gnostique works as a case study in qualification of being a contemporary occult group that has gained no academic attention before.
The conclusions of this thesis are that the strategies are all prevalent, to a more or less extent, in La Société Voudon Gnostique and they are also used by the adherents. Besides the strategies proposed by Hammer, this thesis argues that the secrecy and elitist approach, which can be found in the texts, also can be seen as a discursive strategy of epistemology.”
- Christian Persecution: The Movie! — Scott Stenwick, Augoeides; about the forthcoming movie Persecuted
“Persecuted, is based on a laughably impossible premise that the audience is supposed to find threatening. In this case, it’s the government attempting to legislate religion, something Poor Oppressed Christians are totally for until they realize that religious freedom also applies to non-Christians. Then they go off the rails about how wrong and unfair it is that they aren’t treated as special and given more privileges than everyone else.”
- The True History of Libertarianism in America: A Phony Ideology to Promote a Corporate Agenda — Mark Ames, NSFWCORP at Alternet
“Pull up libertarianism’s floorboards, look beneath the surface into the big business PR campaign’s early years, and there you’ll start to get a sense of its purpose, its funders, and the PR hucksters who brought the peculiar political strain of American libertarianism into being — beginning with the libertarian movement’s founding father, Milton Friedman.”
“That is how libertarianism in America started: As an arm of big business lobbying.”
- Aldous Huxley quoted at Reversed Alchemy — Michael Gilleland, Laudator Temporis Acti
“Certain authors possess the secret of a kind of reversed alchemy; they know how to turn the richest gold into lead. The most interesting subjects become in their hands so tedious that we can hardly bear to read about them.”
- Ian Clark quoted at The Limits of “Unlimited” — Barbara Fister, Inside Higher Ed
“By speaking up, we are not only defending public libraries but the entire notion of public services. Silence is not how we defend ourselves against an ideological battle, it is how we surrender.”
- More Songs for the Witch Woman — John Coulthart, feuilleton
“It’s been a great pleasure in recent years seeing the welling of interest in Cameron’s work. In 2001 when I was compiling notes for an abandoned study of occult cinema, Cameron as artist, witch or mere human being was a shadowy presence about whom nothing substantial seemed to have been written; her art was impossible to see anywhere, all one had were fleeting references in books”
- Love Spells — Sarah Anne Lawless
“Love spells are black magic. Love spells to manipulate the body, heart, and soul. Love spells to dominate, to bind, to cause destruction and madness and pain.
Love spells are not about love, they are about the lustful eye and the selfish heart. Be honest with yourself about it and then move on to the work at hand.”
- Bible Stories for Newly Formed and Young Corporations — Tom the Dancing Bug, Boing Boing
- Stick-Gods — Inonibird
“‘Stick-Gods’ is the culmination of over a dozen years of fascination with Ancient Egypt—particularly, its mythology and deities. Whether you’re studying Egyptology, a practicing Kemetic or just a fan of myths, there should be something in there for you! I’m doing my best to balance informed content with a fair bit of silliness. …And puns. Lots of puns.”
- William Blake’s Sexual Path to Spiritual Vision, by Marsha Keith Schuchard — Gesigewigu’s, Spiral Nature; a review of William Blake’s Sexual Path to Spiritual Vision from Inner Traditions
“Reading William Blake one cannot help but realize this is a man who is both religious and spiritually active, especially his poems known as the prophecies. The question is what was the nature of his spiritual life? What inspired Blake to create works that are both heavily Christian and at the same time antagonistic to many Christian ideals? The surprising answer is laid out as Schuchard leads us back into the complex religious web of mystical Christianity of the 17th and 18th century.”
- A Victim of Drunken Channeling — Scott Stenwick, Augoeides
“Aleister Crowley criticized spiritism as ‘a sort of indiscriminate necromancy’ because of a complete lack of formal magical procedures and protections, in which many mediums simply opened themselves up to whatever spiritual force happened to be present. Modern channelers such as Knight still employ essentially the same methods that Crowley was talking about. As such, there’s a real possibility that any channeling attempt could reach just about any spirit, like some sort of metaphysical Chatroulette.”
- Mary Magdalene and the Gospel according to Mary — Kate Cooper; an edited excerpt from Band of Angels: The Forgotten World of Early Christian Women from Overlook Press
“The argument between the four disciples seems to be our anonymous writer’s way of exploring the different positions being taken by the men and women of his own day on the question of an alternative tradition being handed down by women. But he is also expressing his concern that the Church is changing, and not for the better. In his eyes, Peter seems to represent the voice of a faction in the community which wants to ‘make rules or lay down laws other than the Saviour gave’ – in other words, a group that wants to develop an institutional structure to replace the more fluid and informal movement of the early decades. This was clearly a topical warning after the death of the disciples who had known Jesus. Levi thinks that the new rules are a way of drawing the community away from fulfilling its task of preaching the gospel. The anonymous writer seems to be using Levi to suggest that too much emphasis on authority from the ‘Peter faction’ is stifling the Church.”
- “Afterlife With Archie” Issue 6 is a comic every Lovecraft fan will enjoy — Mike Davis, Lovecraft eZine
“As the story begins, our heroine Sabrina Spellman is relating one of her eldritch dreams to her psychiatrist, Dr. Lovecraft. Sabrina has apparently been committed to an institution because after her aunts died in a house fire, she had a breakdown and couldn’t deal with the reality of their death.
But is that really what happened?”
If you’d like to participate in the Omnium Gatherum, head on over to the Gatherum discussions at the Hrmtc Underground BBS. You can check out all the other gatherum posts, like posts you enjoy, and even add your own posts with links to other things of interest, related to the subject matter of the library, from elsewhere around the Internet.
Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Euclid in the Rainforest: Discovering Universal Truth in Logic and Math by Joseph Mazur:
This book is ideal for a smart, but mathematically-untrained adult who wants orientation to some interesting and useful mathematical concepts, as well as a portal to mathematical epistemology. A little high school algebra and geometry, even if it’s fairly dusty, is plenty of background to appreciate the explanations here. Author Mazur builds his discussions of deduction, induction, probability, and plausibility into a series of autobiographical and historical anecdotes, within sections titled “Logic,” “Infinity,” and “Reality.” I really appreciated his explanation of transfinite numbers, a modern math concept that has always eluded me. The book has an apparatus with useful directions for further reading.
Some of the little stories in the book were ones I found difficult to credit, but perhaps that was a savvy way of giving the reader a motive to further ponder the notion of plausibility! [via]
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