There’s something you don’t want me to know about you. Why, there’s something you’re ashamed of. Or is it something you can’t afford for me to know?
How much of this do you want to know. Do you want to be fixed so that you can walk off into the sunshine, or do you want to know it all so that you can take an active part in your own path and learn to be of service?
Josephine McCarthy, The Last Scabbard
The reason should transcend every interest of the body and its desires; it should seek to know the universe through contemplation and abstraction, as it is to the mind, not just as man might perceive it through the senses alone.
Ralph M Lewis, The Conscious Interlude
The first step to winning a zero-sum game is to know it’s coming.
John Braddock, A Spy’s Guide to Thinking
Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Lectures on the Will to Know (Lectures at the College De France 1970-1971 and Oedipal Knowledge) by Michel Foucault, edited by Arnold I I Davison, translated by Graham Burchell.
The lectures in this volume represent a pivotal moment in the career of French sage Michel Foucault, which he characterized as a turn from “archaeology” to “genealogy”: i.e. from projects inspired by structuralism to ones inspired by Nietzschean ideas. This 1970-1971 set were his first lecture series after achieving his chair at the College de France, and they manifest a change in direction from the work he had previously undertaken in order to establish his intellectual authority, to that to which he would henceforth apply it.
The texts are direct edits and translations from Foucault’s own lecture notes. While later Foucault lectures can be (and have been) reconstructed with the benefit of audio recordings, these early ones survive only in written form. Foucault’s own notes have been supplemented in places with notes taken by attendees. Still, the aide memoire character of the documents makes them sometimes hard to follow, and leaves many ambiguities. One lecture (on Nietzsche) has gone missing, although a another lecture on the same topic delivered in Canada in 1971 is appended to supply the lack. Further ingredients include Foucault’s retrospective “Course Summary” (which can be read profitably as a preliminary overview), the 1972 lecture “Oedipal Knowledge” which extends some of the final considerations of the series, and editor Defert’s helpful contextualization of the lecture series.
The meat of these lectures is a discussion of the development of concepts of truth and justice in ancient Greek culture, in which Foucault elaborates and supports Nietzschean intuitions with the benefit of more recent efforts in positive history. In the process, Foucault rescues Nietzsche from Heidegger, and Oedipus from Freud. Defert’s “Course Context” also supplies information on the relationship of these lectures to the work of Deleuze at the time. Foucault’s reflections on money as a simulacrum (in lecture 9) pre-date and may have influenced Baudrillard’s extensive development of the same notion.
The editorial apparatus is considerable, and the endnotes for each lecture give ample source information, and check Foucault’s references and allusions. I was a little frustrated with the translated quotes from Nietzsche, given to supplement (Burchell’s translations of) Foucault’s own translations and glosses of the same texts; it would have been more useful to have the German in the endnotes. Translator Burchell’s observations on the use of Greek characters and transliteration in scholarship (xv) were interesting to me.
This book demonstrates that the publication of Foucault’s work is reaching an impressive stage of completeness. It joins eight other volumes of his lectures, alongside his monographs and essays, with another four lectures volumes projected. Without having read any of the other books of lectures, I still suspect this must be one of the most significant, if not the easiest of intellectual access. [via]
The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.
Make Magic of Your Life: Passion, Purpose, and the Power of Desire by Hermetic Library anthology artist T Thorn Coyle [also], from Weiser Books, is available now.
“Do you have the sense that you were born to do something more with your life but you don’t know what that is? Do you long to step into your power and live a life of passion? Do you wish to be of greater service? Are you willing to follow your soul’s desire?
Activate the magical formula known the Four Powers of the Sphinx. These four powers — To Know, To Will, To Dare, and To Keep Silence — help bring about a profound shift in how we view and move through the world. They point us toward our highest purpose and show us what to do, both practically and spiritually, once we’ve found it. They will lead us to a life of magic.
Find your soul’s work. Follow desire. Live a life that matters.” [via]
“For pagans or anyone with magickal leanings everywhere, internationally known pagan and mystic T. Thorn Coyle offers a unique path to make everything in one’s life alive with magic in Make Magic of Your Life.
Coyle shows how to achieve harmony and balance, and find your true purpose by activating the magical Qabalistic formula known as The Four Powers of the Sphinx: to know, to will, to dare, and to keep silent.
Coyle shows readers how to draw on the four powers of the sphinx to discover their “soul’s possibility,” their life’s work, that which they most long to do.
In Make Magic of Your Life, Coyle explains how our deepest failings are often the very things that fuel our life’s work, keep us human and whole, and even make us act as though — like Prometheus — we can steal fire from the Gods.
From the introduction:
“Working magic means showing up with your demons and your divinity, your sorrow and your joy. Alchemy only happens when we are willing to go through the processes of gathering together, refining, pouring, and solidifying. In the end, we have something fine to hold.” [via]
Keep silent but dare to will and to know,
For only by this will you learn how to go!
The Sphinx lays the groundwork that you build upon,
I raise up the cup and adore Babalon!
— In Nomine Babalon: 156 Adorations to the Scarlet Goddess
The Hermetic Library arts and letters pool is a project to publish poetry, prose and art that is inspired by or manifests the Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to submit your work for consideration as part of the Arts and Letters pool, contact the librarian.
“The function of these esoteric, or psycho-spiritual, exercises is to make us aware of a broader sense of what we are, and what we may become if we so desire it. They are to assist us in fulfilling the Greek adage, ‘Know Thyself in order to know the universe and the gods!'” [via]