Faint gibbering heard from somewhere near the restricted stacks
Tag Archives: nature
The essence of a Man and Woman—each being a Star or sovereign God poised in Space by its own act—is clothed in thoughts and deeds as is its Nature, hidden by them. This essence is all-worthy; adore it, and the light of all that may be shall be shed upon you.
In being given the formal symbolic secrets the Candidate should reflect that he is receiving a first lesson in a long course of instruction of a private and occult nature; i.e., one not taught outside the Lodge, but hidden from public knowledge and intended to help him upon the path of his personal inner life. For having but just entered upon that path, it is proper that he should now be instructed how to tread it.
W L Wilmshurst, The Ceremony of Initiation, Part II
“To be human is to confuse a satisfying story with a meaningful one, and to mistake life for something huge with two legs.” (383)
The profuse blurbs in my copy of this Pulitzer-winning novel include one from Nathaniel Rich at The Atlantic, highlighting author Richard Powers’ anomalous work in a field where “literary convention favors novelists who write narrowly about personal experience,” and Powers himself has been quoted as complaining that “Literary fiction has largely become co-opted by that belief that meaning is an entirely personal thing.” None of which is to say that this book lacks vividly-realized characters with complex interiority. But it may perhaps account for why the comparanda that occurred to me when reading it were more science-fictional than “literary.”
Certainly the “cli-fi” element will put many readers in mind of the work of Kim Stanley Robinson, who has treated this large theme in many capable novels. I also observed a kinship to Ian McDonald’s River of Gods, where the forest in Powers’ book takes on the organizing and animating function of the river in McDonald’s. Both of these novels have a regard for artificial intelligence that de-centers it from the human perspective. Yet another book brought to mind is The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, a work of science fiction published as literary fiction. Mitchell’s “atemporals” have some of their role taken up by the trees in The Overstory, but more importantly his social and philosophical concerns and the way he illustrated them through personal situations seemed quite similar to what I found in this book.
In addition to beautiful prose and profound reflection, there’s a considerable amount of failure and death–both arboreal and human–in this novel. It is a sweeping tragedy that brought me to tears a few times. The final summation was a bit less intellectually honest than what I took away from Scranton’s Learning to Die in the Anthropocene, but I guess I would still call The Overstory good medicine for those willing to take it.
“And what do all good stories do? … They kill you a little. They turn you into something you weren’t.” (412)
A thing is not esoteric because it is secret or kept hidden. It is esoteric because its existence is in some sense unmanifest, private, and by its very nature not available for examination from the outside: it is only available to participation, not, ultimately, merely to examination. In other words, the realm of the esoteric is, before anything else, the realm of consciousness, of experience.
Kamchatka belongs to “Mother Russia” – a punning affirmation of its “Yin” nature. As well it is a place very little touched by human beings, in which drastic changes of ecology and terrain occur on a regular basis. It contains many unique plant and animal species, thus representing the way in which Binah is unrestrained by the “status quo” of the lower spheres.
Even though tourists appear to be physically present in Nature or Culture, in effect one might call them ghosts haunting ruins, lacking all bodily presence. They’re not really there, but rather move through a mind-scape, an abstraction («Nature», «Culture»), collecting images rather than experience. All too frequently their vacations are taken in the midst of other peoples’ misery and even add to that misery.
3. The pain-bearing obstructions are — ignorance, egoism, attachment, aversion and clinging to life.
These are the five pains, the fivefold tie that binds us down, of which ignorance is the cause and the other four its effects. It is the only cause of all our misery. What else can make us miserable? The nature of the Soul is eternal bliss. What can make it sorrowful except ignorance, hallucination, delusion? All pain of the Soul is simply delusion.
In our school we are instructed by Divine wisdom, the heavenly bride, whose will is free, and who comes to him whom she selects. The mysteries which we know embrace everything that can possibly be known in regard to God, Nature, and Man. Every sage that has ever existed has graduated in our school, in which he could have learned true wisdom.