Tag Archives: spirit

Mind and Nature

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity [Amazon, Publisher, Local Library] by Gregory Bateson, forewords by Sergio Manghi and Alfonso Montuori.

Bateson Mind and Nature

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.

“Astral” Beings may thus be defined in the same way as “material objects”; they are the Unknown Causes of various observed effects. They may be of any order of existence. We give a physical form and name to a bell but not to its tone, though in each case we know nothing but our own impressions. But we record musical sounds by a special convention. We may therefore call a certain set of qualities “Ratziel”, or describe an impression as “Saturnian” without pretending to know what anything is in itself. All we need is to know how to cast a bell that will please our ears, or how to evoke a “spirit” that will tell us things that are hidden from our intellectual faculties.

Aleister Crowley, Book 4, Notes for an Astral Atlas

Hermetic quote Crowley Book 4 Notes for an Astral Atlas astral beings material objects unknown causes observed effects

We affirm on our altars our faith in ourself and our wills, our love of all aspects of the Absolute All.

And we make the Spirit shin combine with the Flesh teth in a single letter, whose value is 31 even as those of LA the Naught, and AL the All, to complete their Not-Being and Being with its Becoming, to mediate between identical extremes as their mean—the secret that sunders and seals them.

It declares that all somethings are equally shadows of Nothing, and justifies Nothing in its futile folly of pretending that something is stable, by making us aware of a method of Magick through the practice of which we may partake in the pleasure of the process.

Aleister Crowley, Liber V vel Reguli

Hermetic quote Crowley Liber V vel Reguli affirm altars faith ourself wills love absolute all not-being being becoming equally shadow  nothing futile folly pleasure process

Evil, and mischief, and misery, and confusion, and vanity, and vexation of spirit, and death, and disease, and assassination, and war, and poverty, and pestilence, and famine, and avarice, and selfishness, and rancour, and jealousy, and spleen, and malevolence, and the disappointments of philanthropy, and the faithlessness of friendship, and the crosses of love—all prove the accuracy of your views, and the truth of your system; and it is not impossible that the infernal interruption of this fall downstairs may throw a colour of evil on the whole of my future existence.

Thomas Love Peacock, Nightmare Abbey [Amazon, Bookshop, Local Library, Internet Archive]

Hermetic quote Peacock evil mischief death disease war all prove accuracy views truth system future existence

But an emptiness filled my spirit, not forceful enough to be labeled depression. “Malaise” fit the bill nicely. When night settled in, I felt grateful. Sometimes sleep is the best way to surf time.

Rajnar Vajra, Her Scales Shine Like Music

Hermetic Quote Vajra Her Scales Shine Like Music malaise

The sad—the chilling conviction therefore, went to the old man’s heart, that the only being left to solace him on earth, had deserted him; and his spirit was bowed down in despair.

George W M Reynolds, Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf

Hermetic quote Reynolds Wagner despair

The young men of France are studying alchemy, hoping to learn the secret of the transmutation of gold. If you will study your own spirit and its limitless powers, you will gain a greater secret than any alchemist ever held; a secret which shall give you whatever you desire.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox, The Heart of the New Thought