Tag Archives: personal practice

Technology Shabbat

Technology Shabbat” is a video by Tiffany Shlain [HT Reality Sandwich].

“Tiffany Shlain, award-winning filmmaker, speaker, and founder of The Webby Awards, shares how living in today’s over-connected world has led her family to unplug for one full day every week. They call them their ‘Technology Shabbats,’ they’ve done it every week for over three years, and it’s completely changed their lives.”

Personally, I’ve advocated for what I’ve called “power down days” where one avoids as much technology and electronics as possible, not just or primarily focused on the idea of going offline, from one sunrise to at least the next sunrise, including becoming more in tune with natural light ameliorated only by candles if necessary. Unfortunately, I tend to most fully implement this on occasions when the power actually goes out during storms than regularly, but every time I realize again how useful and wonderful it would be as a consistent personal practice or as a regular magical retirement and retreat.

This practice would, of course, entitle you to add at least “Dr+” to your Magic Code.

A few preliminary prepared remarks for those early in their study of Esotericism

Occasionally, I am contacted by people who are interested in the Western Esoteric Tradition, but are overwhelmed by the daunting amount of information available. They’ve found the Hermetic Library because they’re looking for information, but sometimes it can be really difficult to know where to start.

Well, honestly, I always hesitate to suggest directions and such for anyone, let alone someone I’ve never met. However, I have over the last few years managed to put together some general ideas in response to these questions when they come my way. Here’s an example of a few remarks I currently have prepared, that I thought I’d share here now.

 

First, I point out that I have no idea what path someone else is on, what ‘current’ or tradition they work in. There are so many, and it seems to me that anything specific about one person’s practice is not necessarily useful or suited for another’s, even if under a ‘tradition’, a general label, for which I might share a similar understanding. With that said, I suggest people consider thinking about work developing two things: theory and practice.

For theory, of course, I encourage people to read through and engage the materials at the Hermetic Library site. (If one is interested in Thelema, a good place to start is by checking out Thelema for example.) There’s a lot there, to be sure. However, there’s plenty that is not there. One technique that I’ve suggested to people is to head to a good esoteric bookshop. I don’t recommend the big chains or the fluffy new age kind of shop, but there should be, somewhere local if not nearby, a shop with a serious selection. (If there isn’t one of those latter kinds of shops, then one can made do with one of the former.) Go into that shop and start checking out books. Flip through materials until something really grabs the attention, and that one feels an enthusiastic reaction about. Now, I want to be clear: I am not saying that the material creates warm and fuzzy feelings, though it might be. I suggest taking note of anything that gets one’s attention even if, perhaps specifically because, that is something that seems transgressive and edgy. For this purpose look for things about which there are energetic reactions of any kind. Once something like that has been found, read it. Repeat that process: follow enthusiasm!

For practice, consider starting a daily practice that includes both ritual and journaling. Don’t think of the specifics of daily practice as a life-long commitment. Think of daily practice as general container for a varied series of specific experiments about which to record results in a journal. Pick a specific practice and make a commitment to do that for a month. See what happens. Record the experience, the ongoing results. Then, pick something else to do for some period of time. And remember that for experiments it’s actually the failures from which one can learn the most interesting things, so don’t self-flagellate about the particular experience and results. Just do the experiments, and if they fail half way through so be it, record that a journal as something to learn from. Experiment, experiment, experiment.

Also, for practice, consider checking the local area for groups that are actively doing public ritual of some kind, and attend those events. At that previous good esoteric book shop, look for their newsletter, bulletin board or website for notices and a calendar of events. Get to know people doing these activities and talk to them. See if they are people that seem both interesting and grounded or not. Attend a variety of events in the local area and see what they are about, and how you feel during and after the ritual they celebrate; compare them and see what seems to be the best personal fit. Then, when there is some group doing active ritual that seems compelling, start to participate.

 

So I suggest that people follow enthusiasm and experiment, experiment, experiment. Do a personal daily practice and participate in the community. I personally think doing some combination which works toward all those things will help people find their people and more fully follow their path, and perhaps more importantly have a strong relationship with themselves and a strong personal practice either way, from which to take next steps.

 

I hope these remarks offer some help, even if only a little bit. Of course, each individual’s milage may vary, and so on. If you have comments or suggestions about these remarks, do consider contacting me. If you take the advice offered, consider letting me know how it goes, if you like!

 

In conclusion, I find these Cole Porter lyrics to be so completely spot on that I cannot but recommend them to everyone when I get a chance: “Experiment” by Cole Porter

Before you leave these portals
To meet less fortunate mortals
There’s just one final message
I would give to you

You all have learned reliance
On the sacred teachings of science
So I hope, through life, you never will decline
In spite of Philistine defiance
To do what all good scientists do

Experiment, make it your motto day and night
Experiment and it will lead you to the light
The apple on the top of the tree is never too high to achieve
So take an example from Eve

Experiment, be curious
Though interfering friends may frown
Get furious
At each attempt to hold you down

If this advice you always employ
The future can offer you infinite joy
And merriment, experiment and you’ll see

De Profundis

Quite a while ago actually, I wandered into a local game shop and happened to start looking through the small press roleplaying games. There were several that struck me as interesting, but one in particular not only struck me but has stuck in my mind. Thinking over the last month or more about ALA’s National Gaming Day, which was today, I found myself thinking about this game once again.

De Profundis is a game created by a Polish designer Michał Oracz, and has been translated to English in two editions. The first edition was from Hogshead Publishing, and is still available through Chaosium. The second edition is available directly from Cubicle 7, as a PDF and print bundle, or many other outlets, such as in a downloadable PDF via DriveThruRPG.

 

What struck me at first about this game is that it outlines a way to play through correspondence, whether that’s physical snail mail, through email or maybe even in an online forum; and that play progresses not through rolling dice and consulting tables, but rather through the players telling the story of their characters as part of a collective narrative.

“Sometimes when I’m working on the game I enter a strange state of consciousness, as if someone were whispering things in my ear. Have you heard of ‘automatic writing’? You must have. Well, it’s like that. Or almost, because I still need to use my brain. In the next letters, ‘ll describe the game. I wonder what you’ll think. I have this eerie impression that if only I had the right key, and unlocked the right door in my brain, the whole game would just fall out, complete, finished, as though it were already there somewhere, and I just had to peep through the keyhole to see it. I can feel it’s close, but I can’t reach it; I just grab at bits of it and piece them together like parts of a torn photograph. Not everything fits yet, but I know they’re parts of a coherent whole.” — De Profundis

So, the participants in this build a emergent narrative by weaving together their separate personal narratives. The letters develop a story that has a life of its own. And, not only that, but that story then becomes part of the life of the participants.

“So, imagine a tree with many branches, walking on three legs. That’s what De Profundis is like: like a symbol for the three-legged form of Nyarlathotep. It has three parts, rests on three pillars: part one is Letters from the Abyss, part two is Phantasmagoria, and part three is Hermitage. They’re all inextricably interconnected, together forming a whole game.” — De Profundis

These three parts, “Letters from the Abyss”, “Phantasmagoria” and “Hermitage”, are three kinds of psychodrama which are acted out via correspondence, in the field and solo, by the player alone. So, the whole is characterized as different modes of psychodrama. It was when I read the description of the nature of pure psychodrama that this game became stuck in my mind, and if you’ve participated in any group trance work, you’ll recognize this immediately.

“Psychodrama is close to a role-playing game, but without a game master. The players create everything themselves, from their characters to events in the game world. Every participant is a player and a game master at the same time. You don’t need anything to play a psychodrama session: a description of the world, character sheets, rules, a scenario. The players – gathered in a darkened room – simply close their eyes, and one of them describes a place. They all go there in their imagination.” — De Profundis

The primary mode of play is the first, “Letters from the Abyss”, and it is formed by the interwoven letters of those participating. If you aren’t sure what that looks like, just remind yourself by taking a look at the text of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and some of the complete works of Lovecraft.

The other two modes are both more personal and more real than the first, each a kind of escalation of the magical, archetypal and narrative practice, where the game develops a kind of feedback loop into the reality of the participants, and the whole emerges greater than the sum of its parts or the individual participants.

This kind of diceless and personal narrative driven roleplaying reminds me of of many things, but in particular of both Amber and Toon. In Amber, the system developed to roleplay in Roger Zelazney’s stories, dice are not used but rather there is a reliance on narrative. Also, I remember reading the instruction in Toon, a roleplaying game about being cartoon characters, that if a player could explain some way that to do what they want to accomplish, and the more bizarre and convoluted the description, they should be allowed to do so, no matter what the rules might otherwise say.

The creative and narrative nature of this game also suggests to me some of the same foundation as can be found in HipBone Games’ Glass Bead Game which I posted about earlier this week.

A collection of the letters and journals from a complete session might look very much like the text of Dracula or a fully formed Lovecraft tale, but is moreover a kind of magical journal for not just a personal practice but a record of a group trance.

 

I’ve been exploring a bit of the influence of esoterica on fiction, and visa versa, over at the Cadaver Synod: Esoteric Fiction and Fictional Esoterica. What if, instead of setting the game within the Lovecraftian tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, a bunch of people interested in the Western Esoteric Tradition, including gamers, writers, readers, magicians, Jungians, and who ever else might be both creative and crazy enough to want to join, were to tell each other a strange emerging tale, a shared narrative, using this method, using shared, sequential narratives and perhaps, for recording field and solo modes, personal journal entries. Now that would be interesting!

All that would be needed is a venue, such as a dedicated website or a blog, where correspondence and journals could be posted, a framework for the setting of the story, and a bunch of crazy kids interested in forming a secret psychodrama cult club … you know, maybe not something to start up smack in the middle of NaNoWriMo, but what about starting that up in the coming New Year?

Sacred Spaces at Occupy Oakland

You may be interested in checking out Photo Essay: Sacred Spaces at Occupy Oakland which shows some engagement in the real world between the Occupy movement and personal practice.

“Buddhist monks in orange robes chant in one corner of the Occupy Oakland encampment. Across the plaza, a reverend in a rainbow stole reads Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Six Principles of Nonviolence’ at an interfaith events tent, and a rabbi gives a Jewish blessing. A block away, candles burn on an unorthodox altar to the death of capitalism, and passers-by leave flowers and notes on the concrete bench that has become a vigil area for activist Scott Olsen, whose skull was fractured by a tear gas canister on Oct. 25. Nearby, a woman wearing a hijab talks about how a tentful of anarchists kindly lent her their rug when it came time for her to pray. There is a striking cheek-by-jowl feel to the interfaith interactions here — a spontaneity and intimacy so different from the stiff pageantry that can sometimes accompany carefully orchestrated interfaith events.”

HipBone Games’ Glass Bead Game

I want to introduce you to a website, a game designer and a very interesting and peculiar game. Moreover, I then want to invite you to play this game with your friends and then send me the record of your most interesting games to publish on the Hermetic Library blog.



The American Library Association’s National Gaming Day is Nov 12th, so I’ve been finding myself thinking a lot about games in general and specifically games that I play which resonate with my personal practice, or, you know, might be considered to actually be part of my personal practice. A number of years ago, I was looking for interesting game dynamics, such as those found in Andy Looney’s Fluxx (which can be found in any good game shop and also via Amazon at Fluxx 4.0) and Peter Suber’s Nomic (which appears in both an appendix to Peter Suber’s own out-of-print The Paradox of Self-Amendment and Douglas Hofstadter’s Metamagical Themas: Questing For The Essence Of Mind And Pattern), and I ran into the website for HipBone Games. HipBone Games is the site of a game designer named Charles Cameron and is the home to an interesting “family of meditative and educational games in the genre of Herman Hesse’s ‘Glass Bead Game’“.

You may want to explore the entire HipBone Games site, but especially check out “Here’s your invitation to play the HipBone Games” and “HipBone: dreams and other reasons you might want to play …

Here’s a description of how to play a HipBone Game competitively:

“Two players play a game by each naming an idea in turn to one of the ten positions on the board. Ideas can be placed in any unoccupied position on the board.

Ideas can take the form of text, sound, or image: a quote, an equation, a musical theme, a video clip, or a photo or graphic are all acceptable. Essentially, a move can be made out of anything in the three worlds… so long as it can be named.

Players score by claiming links between the idea in their own move and the ideas already in play in those positions on the board connected to it by the lines of the board in question. A link can be any form of association – similarity, opposition, cause-and-effect, metaphor. Fanciful links may be made and enjoyed — or hotly contested.

The idea placed in the first move cannot score, since there is no other idea on the board for it to link with. The idea placed in the second move cannot score either, to keep the playing field even. Thus each player gets to make five moves on a ten position board, of which only four are scoring moves.”

And, a description how to play HipBone Games collaboratively:

“Collaborative games are usually played with either aesthetic or meditative intent. A score can still be kept, but it is far from necessary — the purpose of the game being to come up with the most interesting, curious, eccentric, far fetched, elaborate, imaginative, beautiful, or insightful and profound links. The HipBone games can also be played solo, again usually with aesthetic or meditative intent.”

 

To get an idea of what this game can be like, check out “Yeats and Jung” an example game between LeGrand Cinq-Mars and Charles Cameron being played on the TenStone board, which is a stylized Tree of Life. You may recognize the name LeGrand Cinq-Mars since he’s the author of a review article and a couple of other book reviews that appear in the archives of Caduceus.

“LeGrand and myself chose to explore together two of the great figures of this century, Yeats and Jung, in our Game. We decided to play the TenStones board, since it is based on the Sephirotic Tree of Cabala — which Yeats was familiar with as a member of the Golden Dawn, and which Jung mentions in a fascinating passage in Mysterium Coniunctionis, and presumably discussed with his friend, Gershon Scholem.”

 

There are a number of other example records of gameplay on the site, but including “The Play’s the Thing: an essay on game design — played on Psyche’s Board”, a curiously meta example of gameplay:

“This game shows how the moves in a game can ‘build’ on one another until an almost three-dimensional structure of ideas appears. This is a fairly scholarly game composed of ten quotes about time, written to explore the various ways we can think about time and their impact on narrative structure in the arts, and gameplay in computer games…

Let me emphasize here that the specific content of each move is the indented quote: in other words, it’s the quotes that are being played off one another, and that constitute the game. The surrounding text provides both setting and commentary — and hopefully allows the piece as a whole to be read “straight through” as an essay…”

 

Check out this curious and interesting HipBone game, and if you’re inspired to play a game around themes of interest to esotericists consider sending a record of your session to me so I can share it here on this blog to help the Hermetic Library celebrate National Gaming Day in a unique and fun way.