The Monstrous and Inform
I awoke this morning from a strange dream. The dream has struck the note and chord that is to be the mood of my day. And to confess it, almost every post on The Chrysalis first takes shape in dream and during sleep.
In the dream — a confusing inchoate, random, and swirling chaos of shards of images, a disorderly vortex of fragments of phenomena. They seem to be seeking something? Slowly, the chaotic vortex of swirling shards and fragments begins to coalesce and congeal into a structure or form — not a visible form or perceptible structure, but in the shape of a name. It tries to pronounce its name to me, not in words so much as a telepathic thought-form, and my mind is struggling to discern the name-form it wants to declare itself as, for its Name is its Form, and not merely a name for a form. Haken?… Hagen?… No. Krogen?…. No that’s not it. Then the name becomes clear — “Kraken”.
At that moment, my cat pounces on me. She wants to be fed and let outside. With my mind diverted by the cat’s demands, the dream retreats into that “limbo” that dreams frequently disappear into upon awakening despite my efforts to hold it in conscious focus. I make my coffee, and settle down to scan the morning’s news headlines.
Oddly enough, one of the first articles I see is a review of the new movie “Pacific Rim” and a brief history of monsters and the monstrous in media and imagination. I’m interested in that. As I read the article, something about it seems familiar, and it’s then that I recollect the dream. That feeling of the “uncanny” returns, but it’s always the more expressive German word that first comes to my mind when I experience the uncanny — unheimlich.
I now recognise the feeling that attends the scene from the dream of the swirling chaos of fragments and dis-jointed images. It is the same feeling I get when I scan the day’s headlines on Google News, or on any news site on the Web. And the power that wanted to speak its name, Kraken, as the monstrous and colossal force from the deeps, I recognise it too, now. It is what Seth has been calling, in the quotation we’ve been studying, “the ancient force”.
When, at this point now, of mankind’s development, his emerging unconscious knowledge is denied by his institutions, then it will rise up despite those institutions, and annihilate them. Cult after cult will emerge, each unrestrained by the use of reason, because reason will have denied the existence of rampant unconscious knowledge, disorganized and feeling only its own ancient force.
Its Logos is the Name. Only when I learned the name did the “rampant” chaotic vortex of fragments of images subside and gradually assume form — “Kraken”. Its Name is its Logos. And its Logos is its dharma.
I can’t think of any other way of saying it. But I was astonished. It wanted me to know its true Name! Its Name is its Logos and its Logos is its dharma. How else can I express this? Its Form is its Name, and its Name is its teaching.
The Kraken is often depicted as a giant squid or octopus. But that is only its symbolisation. Efforts to identify it with an historical, biological creature experienced by ancient mariners are completely delusional and misguided. Its true status and reality is this: that the Kraken belongs to the same psychic reality as the World Tree. The chaotic swirl of shards of images and fragments of phenomena are its thrashing tentacles. If one sees only the thrashing tentacles, one perceives only chaos, the incoherent, the disintegrate, the wild disunity of things. To learn its name, though, is to see the thrashing tentacles of existence as leading back to a centre, and as part of a greater whole to which the seemingly random and chaotic belongs. For that reason, the thrashing chaos of images slowly subsided and ceased as its Name became clearer, for its Name is its orgranising centre and its identity.
As I reflected on this, it struck me that the Kraken is a morph of the World Tree. Its tentacles are the branches of the World Tree, Yggdrasil. They are both Names or symbols for the same “ancient force” in its two aspects, as disorganised and organised energy, or chaos and cosmos respectively. But they both have the same root. If Athena is the goddess of reason, her “alter ego” or morph is the Gorgon. Athena and the Gorgon are comparable, in their polarity and image, to World Tree and Kraken respectively. For the Gorgon’s head as a tangle of snakes is the chaos of unreason as much as the Kraken’s thrashing tentacles.
They are, in other words, a statement about the proper relationship of the ego consciousness to its “roots”, and the consequences of the loss of such connection or relationship. The World Tree then appears as the Kraken, and the head of Athena as the Gorgon. Yet, they are the same energy, the energy Seth calls “the ancient force” in organised (cosmic) or disorganised (chaotic) manifestation, therefore as wonder or terror, and therefore as “good” or “evil”. Kraken and World Tree share the same identity, are the same psychic energy.
Consider these images,
(The ship in the illustration, being attacked by the Kraken, or “ancient force,” is the ego consciousness feeling itself besieged and overwhelmed by the ancient force or the energies of the “unconscious”, Nietzsche’s “Dionysian” power)
To perceive in what way the Kraken and the Gorgon are the same ancient or chthonic force, and yet are only metamorphs or transforms of World Tree and Athena respectively (just as Dionysus is a metamorph or transform of Hades) requires that one engage the intuitive or “imaginative” faculty (in Blake’s meaning). They are the same power perceived in two different aspects or polarities, threatening or benevolent, in terror or in wonder, and therefore as paradoxical.
For another example of this, please read William Blake’s “Memorable Fancy” from his Marriage of Heaven and Hell. To comprehend Blake’s meaning here, you will have to suspend discursive logic and enter into that “imaginative” or intuitive mode of thinking sometimes called “symbolic thinking”, which is the mythic mode of aperception. (And also take note, too, of how the “Angel” engages in what we call today “perception management”, which Blake sees through as the Angel’s false “metaphysics”.)
A Memorable Fancy.
An Angel came to me and said: ‘O pitiable foolish young man! O horrible! O dreadful state! consider the hot burning dungeon thou art preparing for thyself to all eternity, to which thou art going in such career.’
I said: ‘perhaps you will be willing to shew me my eternal lot & we will contemplate together upon it and see whether your lot or mine is most desirable.’
So he took me thro’ a stable & thro’ a church & down into the church vault at the end of which was a mill: thro’ the mill we went, and came to a cave: down the winding cavern we groped our tedious way till a void boundless as a nether sky appear’d beneath us & we held by the roots of trees and hung over this immensity; but I said, ‘if you please we will commit ourselves to this void, and see whether providence is here also, if you will not, I will?’ but he answer’d: ‘do not presume, O young-man, but as we here remain, behold thy lot which will soon appear when the darkness passes away.’
So I remain’d with him, sitting in the twisted root of an oak; he was suspended in a fungus, which hung with the head downward into the deep.
By degrees we beheld the infinite Abyss, fiery as the smoke of a burning city; beneath us at an immense distance, was the sun, black but shining; round it were fiery tracks on which revolv’d vast spiders, crawling after their prey; which flew, or rather swum, in the infinite deep, in the most terrific shapes of animals sprung from corruption; & the air was full of them, & seem’d composed of them: these are Devils, and are called Powers of the air. I now asked my companion which was my eternal lot? he said, ‘between the black & white spiders.’
But now, from between the black & white spiders, a cloud and fire burst and rolled thro’ the deep black’ning all beneath, so that the nether deep grew black as a sea, & rolled with a terrible noise; beneath us was nothing now to be seen but a black tempest, till looking east between the clouds & the waves, we saw a cataract of blood mixed with fire, and not many stones’ throw from us appear’d and sunk again the scaly fold of a monstrous serpent; at last, to the east, distant about three degrees appear’d a fiery crest above the waves; slowly it reared like a ridge of golden rocks, till we discover’d two globes of crimson fire, from which the sea fled away in clouds of smoke; and now we saw, it was the head of Leviathan; his forehead was divided into streaks of green & purple like those on a tyger’s forehead: soon we saw his mouth & red gills hang just above the raging foam tinging the black deep with beams of blood, advancing toward us with all the fury of a spiritual existence.
My friend the Angel climb’d up from his station into the mill; I remain’d alone, & then this appearance was no more, but I found myself sitting on a pleasant bank beside a river by moonlight, hearing a harper who sung to the harp; & his theme was: ‘The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, & breeds reptiles of the mind.’
But I arose, and sought for the mill, & there I found my Angel, who surprised, asked me how I escaped?
I answer’d: ‘ All that we saw was owing to your metaphysics; for when you ran away, I found myself on a bank by moonlight hearing a harper, But now we have seen my eternal lot, shall I shew you yours?’ he laugh’d at my proposal; but I by force suddenly caught him in my arms, & flew westerly thro’ the night, till we were elevated above the earth’s shadow; then I flung myself with him directly into the body of the sun; here I clothed myself in white, & taking in my hand Swedenborg’s, volumes sunk from the glorious clime, and passed all the planets till we came to saturn: here I staid to rest & then leap’d into the void, between saturn & the fixed stars.
‘Here,’ said I, ‘is your lot, in this space, if space it may be call’d.’ Soon we saw the stable and the church, & I took him to the altar and open’d the Bible, and lo! it was a deep pit, into which I descended driving the Angel before me, soon we saw seven houses of brick; one we enter’d; in it were a number of monkeys, baboons, & all of that species, chain’d by the middle, grinning and snatching at one another, but witheld by the shortness of their chains: however, I saw that they sometimes grew numerous, and then the weak were caught by the strong, and with a grinning aspect, first coupled with, & then devour’d, by plucking off first one limb and then another till the body was left a helpless trunk; this after grinning & kissing it with seeming fondness they devour’d too; and here & there I saw one savourily picking the flesh off of his own tail; as the stench terribly annoy’d us both, we went into the mill, & I in my hand brought the skeleton of a body, which in the mill was Aristotle’s Analytics.
So the Angel said: ‘thy phantasy has imposed upon me, & thou oughtest to be ashamed.’
I answer’d: ‘we impose on one another, & it is but lost time to converse with you whose works are only Analytics.’
The paradoxical manifestation of the ancient force or energies, which is so dependent on the nature of human perception, is contained in the Latin word “inform”, and it is extremely relevant for our current situation in “the Information Society”. “Inform” means both monstrous, misshapen, formless, disorganised, chaotic, and yet, also, formal, structured, organised, proportionate.
This paradox, ambiguity or equivocal character of “inform” is at the heart of today’s “Information Society”, which appears both highly organised and yet highly disorganised, chaotic, and overwhelming at the same time. Yet, regardless, it is a question of the psycho-dynamics of what we call “information”, for information (like matter) is also a form of energy, and energy can be organised or disorganised in its expression, therefore as both generative and nihilistic.
More on that later.