Headwinds

Jean Gebser wrote, in his Ever-Present Origin, about a “menacing correlation” of trends that threaten global havoc — a convergence of currents, trends, forces that, as in nature, results in some very violent, choppy and turbulent waters — a “maelstrom” is what he called it. The meme being used today to reference Gebser’s “maelstrom” is “the perfect storm” — something climactic; something apocalyptic; Peter Pogany’s “havoc“.

But then, no Great Journey — no Great Quest — is ever complete without one: Parsifal, Ulysses, Frodo Baggins and the Fellowship of the Ring, the “Dark Night of the Soul” of John of the Cross, Alice in Wonderland or Dorothy through Oz. There would be no story at all if nothing happened — no great obstacles or dangers encountered, no great challenges met and overcome, no Klingsor or Circe or Saruman or Oz or Wicked Witch of the North to best and outwit. The challenges, the hardships, the headwinds, the turbulence, the powers of darkness and chaos — these are all necessary archetypal elements of the Great Journey. Without them, the heroes cannot grow, mature or fulfill their destiny. The Great Journey is all about transformational change. All such Great Journeys and Quests are but variations on the same archetypal theme of the Prodigal Son.

I was reminded, today, of Gebser’s “menacing correlation” by Mr. Trump’s latest executive orders pertaining to the “menace” of crime and the need for “safety” and such things pertaining to “security”. Nothing ever being as it seems in the “New Normal” — for we are in this stage of the hero’s or heroine’s journey where the confrontation with the dark wizard occurs (or what Algis Mikunas calls “technocratic shamanism”) — Mr. Trump’s concerns with “law & order” and security are likewise not what they seem. In Mr. Trump’s world, and the world of his minions, courtiers, and supporters, the greater “menace” is the “threat” of transformational change — the metamorphosis or “mutation”  — and distracting everyone from the necessity of it.

(One of the great contemporary stories of the Great Quest is, of course, Carlos Castaneda’s journey from bumbling sorcerer’s apprentice to “man of knowledge”. It follows so closely the archetypal mythic journeys that many people cannot believe it was anything but fiction, or that Castaneda hoaxed the whole thing).

The role and challenge of the dark wizard or witch (who is the Trickster archetype) in all the Great Journey tales is the attempt to forestall the hero’s or heroine’s quest and journey towards metamorphosis and awakening — (such as the demon Mara with the Buddha). But it is in the very struggle — of Parsifal with Klingsor and Kundry, or Dorothy with Oz, or Ulysses with Circe (who reappears as her namesake queen in The Game of Thrones), or Castaneda with the bruja“La Catalina”, or Tolkein’s “fellowship of the ring” with Saron and Saruman, Neo with Mr. Smith or the Architect in The Matrix, or eventually Faust with Mephistopheles, Jesus with Satan, and the Buddha with Mara — that the metamorphosis transpires as a necessary stage in spiritual maturation and metamorphosis.

Some people have questioned whether Trump’s (or those akin to Trump) hyperbolic threat inflation and obsession with “safety” and “law & order” doesn’t mask a more sinister agenda and objective– the criminalisation of those pursuing the path of transformative change, which is classical “Trickster” behaviour in the attempt to throw up obstacles, hindrances, and headwinds in the way of those on their Quest — pursuing the “Holy Grail” or spiritual awakening. (That’s the meaning of the word “dia-bolic” — “to throw in the way”). I think they are correct. There is, in that, a disguised attempt to forestall, pre-empt, and rollback the dynamics of transformational change.

I can’t look at Trump without seeing the echo of Klingsor, (or, for that matter, Kellyanne Conway with her “alternative facts” as somewhat the contemporary avatar of the witch Kundry). Such archetypal figures also play their role, even if they are oblivious to it. It’s one reason why Goethe has his Mephistopheles lament that he is “part of that power that would ever evil do, but always does the good”. To suffer ironic reversal (or “blowback”, “perverse outcome”, “unintended consequence”, etc) — to be eventually frustrated in his intentions — seems always to be Trickster’s fate.

It was that which eventually persuaded the Greeks that there was a power beyond Zeus, and beyond the gods, that ultimately ruled the fates of gods and men, or overruled their will. For Heraclitus, that was the Logos, or very likely what Rumi referred to as “the evolutionary intelligence” — and very likely the same was called by Jill Bolte-Taylor “the life-force power of the universe”.

There is always great risk in confronting the Trickster — or what don Juan called “the petty tyrant” (as raised in the last post on Trump and the Lord of Misrule). That confrontation can be deadly, or the hero or heroine can succumb and be co-opted and compromised by the petty tyrant or the wizard or the “technocratic shaman”, which puts an end to their quest just as effectively. But it is in knowing and recognising the risk, and rising to the challenge of that risk, that the hero or heroine discovers the resources within themselves (which we call “genius”) to respond, prevail, and overcome the challenge. That is what Nietzsche meant in saying “what does not kill me makes me stronger”.  That could serve just as well as the entire theme and motto of Castaneda’s own Great Journey.

 

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22 responses to “Headwinds”

  1. abdulmonem says :

    We all live under the influences of names and concepts, some pick us and some we pick and some time both are working in the activities field of the humans. Some forces of these concepts and names are negative and some are positive and the humans are the battleground of these antagonistic forces, When the doors of the higher self are closed to ward its divine origin, automatically the forces of the lower self go into function. This is the story of humanity and their journeys from the side of the lower self to the higher self. What is the journey of the prodigal son or daughter or Catenada or Gebser or Rumi or Ibn Arabi or or but the journey from lower self to the higher one from lower consciousness to higher integral consciousness. In all cases it is a personal journey that needs to be traveled by the human himself seeing in the successes of others as a beckon of encouragement to assure him of his capability to do the same. It is a personal journey with the intention to make it collective and all the different religions are speaking about how the personal journey becomes collective. The purpose of all journeys is to uncover the truth, the negative forces are always trying to cover and sink. It is also the story of our time as well described in the post.. .

  2. Scott Preston says :

    History according to Steve Bannon — apparently Jeffrey Lebowski, “the Dude”, is responsible for the 2008 market meltdown and fraud. At least, that’s how Thomas Frank interprets Bannon’s own history of it.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/10/steve-bannon-spirit-revolt-democrats-gave-up

    Never saw Bannon’s “documentary” that Frank is referring to, or whether Bannon really believes that himself or just thinks it makes good propaganda. Has anybody seen Bannon’s film?

    • Steve Lavendusky says :

      From Blossoms Related Poem Content Details
      BY LI-YOUNG LEE

      From blossoms comes
      this brown paper bag of peaches
      we bought from the boy
      at the bend in the road where we turned toward
      signs painted Peaches.

      From laden boughs, from hands,
      from sweet fellowship in the bins,
      comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
      peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
      comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

      O, to take what we love inside,
      to carry within us an orchard, to eat
      not only the skin, but the shade,
      not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
      the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
      the round jubilance of peach.

      There are days we live
      as if death were nowhere
      in the background; from joy
      to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
      from blossom to blossom to
      impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I’ld say, given what I’ve read about Bannon’s views — his identification with Lenin (if not also “Darth Vader”), his rebranding the media as the “opposition party”, his “Generation Zero” documentary as analysed by Thomas Frank, and his desire to bring down the whole system — I’ld say that Bannon’s real objective is to instigate, and try to bring off, a kind of “Cultural Revolution”, US-style.

      If such a Maoist-type “cultural revolution” is Bannon’s aim and objective, it’s probably going to look a good deal like Smolin’s “Inverted Totalitarianism”.

  3. mikemackd says :

    We are the Pilgrims, master; we shall go
    Always a little further: it may be
    Beyond the last blue mountain barred with snow,
    Across that angry or that glimmering sea,
    White on a throne or guarded in a cave
    There lives a prophet who can understand
    Why men were born: but surely we are brave,
    Who make the Golden Journey to Samarkand.

    James Elroy Flecker.

  4. Scott Preston says :

    Interesting article by Austin Sarat in today’s Guardian, although I think it only highlights what most of us already know or sense (and it is also true of more places than just America today, as we see)

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/11/americans-arent-attached-democracy-rule-law

    I can well understand how kids that grow up within the terms of “the end of history” and the hegemony of neo-liberal orthodoxy (and in “the new normal”) could find “democracy” distasteful, since they only know it in those constrained and restrictive terms.

    Neo-liberalism has been demoralising and dispiriting. It shows in the pattern of these results, which pretty much map the Zeitgeist, I think. The younger generation, especially, is looking for new inspiration, a new story, and its being fed stones for bread.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      But in what framework did neoliberalism, neoconservatism and, now, neoreactionism (NRx) arise? The “rule of law.”

      Perhaps there’s something yet more fundamental to consider than Democracy and the “rule of law.”

      Social issues are the most obviously contentious in human affairs for whatever reason, but social change is quite a different animal than social law and this is a distinction the “rule of law” rarely takes into account.

      By way of illustration (though existant controversiality and emotionality no doubt will obscure the point), let’s go back for a moment to what is one of the most controversial and emotionally-fraught examples in American history: desegregation. Fantastic idea! No? Different cultures learn about and understand each other best by interacting, intermingling and interbeing on a daily basis just as different people do. In the case of desegregation, to make that happen on a grander scale than one-on-one and community-to-community, a fine-minded group of people came together to pass a law decreeing that public schools be integrated. Blatant racism aside, here is where things got sticky: implementation. How do we
      Americans integrate our public schools? Answer: busing.

      It turns out the “rule of law” is one thing in philosophy/ideology and quite another in practice, when it finally affects the lives and well-being of real people in the real world. It further turns out that no one, regardless ethnicity or supposed political affiliation, can object to busing without being dismissed from the public dialogue as anti-desegregation and racist. To make this “busing” problem go away, the most extreme examples of racism in America have been and are consistently used to shut down any and all dialogue about busing by painting everyone opposed to it with the same broad and misguided “anti-desegregation and racist” brush. The issues raised by the practice of busing, therefore, have been effectively swept under the rug and left to simmer there, breeding all manner of mischief.

      No matter how we look at it, the vast majority of social change is forced, enforced and reinforced under the “rule of law” on modern, “aggregate” terms, whereas it occurs quite spontaneously and of its own accord otherwise. (This is why I view people or “the public” as being way ahead of our institutions when it comes to social transformation.)

      The question we’re not asking is whether both ancient and modern “rule of law” is, whether by its very nature and/or whether it simply, gradually and eventually becomes, demoralizing and dispiriting. In contemporary societies, it is after all based on the predominant worldview into which all of us were born, not just young people.

      The younger generation, especially, is looking for new inspiration, a new story.

      I don’t get the impression that it’s the younger generation, especially. A great many among the older generation, as among the young, are not only looking for it, but actively generating it in various forms.

      One of the most frustrating notions in circulation among those who have been “political activists” all their lives is that the apolitical are inherently anti-politcal (as Monbiot subconsciously implied recently). Or even worse: self-absorbed, indifferent, incompassionate and uncaring.

      Notice the parallels between the pre-sumption of the apolitical being inherently anti-political and those opposed to busing pre-sumed to be racist and anti-desegregation. It would seem our imaginations can get the better of us at times just as surely as our imaginations can make our dreams realities.

      It’s not my experience that the apolitical are inherently anti-political. I often see that the apolitical are simply aware just how calcified, dysfunctional and immovable the system is (whether they are aware of the reasons for it or not) and have chosen to find ways around it; invest their energies in what they can affect, rather than what they can’t; and pursue dreams born of inspiration on their own terms.

      I believe it was davidm (forgive me, if wrong) who shared a video of interviews with permaculturists who “advocated” — in their own lives as opposed to anyone else’s — just getting on with it; leaving the climate change debate to the debaters; leaving the laws to the lawyers; leaving the “social wars” to the “social warriors;” and simply following their own hearts wherever they may lead in order to realize in the world whatever dreams their hearts have suggested to them. Is that “anti-political?” Moreover, are these people utterly ineffective if they have no desire to be involved in the predetermined and prevailing “fight.”

      As you’ve noted in the past, many of the views once considered fringe — ranging from a common understanding of the origins of the prevailing worldview to what transformation must(?) or might entail — are more and more often coming in contact with the “mainstream.” One of Eisenstein’s latest is a recounting of his appearance on a PBS television show and his fifteen minute speech at a gathering of ‘Occupy the Inauguration’ protestors.

      I talked with Tavis about war thinking as applied to various aspects of modern life from incarceration to agriculture, and about the dehumanization that is at the foundation of both war and racism. I said that the militant strategy of dehumanizing and demonizing the opponent is rife on both sides of the political system, and that it diverts attention away from the real problems, which are systemic and cannot be blamed on one or another enemy of the day. I think I also observed, “What kind of looking-glass world have we entered, where the liberal sites are scolding people for not trusting the same ‘intelligence community’ they decried for the Iraq weapons-of-mass-destruction hoax and where the conservative sites are cheering Julian Assange, whose extra-judicial murder they were calling for a few years ago?” Normal is falling apart….

      Notice the military metaphors that infuse political conversation. A march. A campaign. A struggle, a fight, a battle. This habit comes in part from the dehumanization of those who are different in thought, word, action, appearance, or culture from ourselves….

      Anything readily identifiable as “political” is to a certain degree playing by an old rulebook, an old categorizing template of human activity….

      I am concerned for my country…when I see opposing groups of people, each imagining themselves to be the champions of virtue, swollen with self-righteousness, marching off to do battle with the enemy. Yes, I am horrified by racism, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, and the rest of the ugly sentiments that have erupted in the USA in the last year. But if we really want to change these things…then we have to address the ground from which they spring. – The Challenge of Communicating Beyond the Boundaries of Consensus Reality

      I’d say, “to an overwhelming degree.”

      The sentiments expressed by Eisenstein are no different to the recollections expressed by Thich Nhat Hanh in the documentary, Peace Is Every Step, regarding his first trip to America during the Vietnam War. What greeted his eyes and ears (ntm, his “third eye” and “third ear”) was a spectacle he described thusly: “the pro-war people and the anti-war people, they were having a war.”

      And so it always goes. Is it any wonder that so many of us are apolitical? And what if we are? We’re scolded and condemned for being so, all the while admonished to become political activists; to participate in the egregiously flawed process of electing re-presentatives who supposedly re-present “our” views and who supposedly even have the authority to speak for us.

      During the elections, I expressed the hope that “all the personalities and pundits telling us our votes are our voices are doing so fully aware that they aren’t. Otherwise, they may be in for some really nasty surprises.” (The slogan in question is, “Make your voice heard and vote!”)

      Due to the fact that highly populated (or over-populated, depending one’s view), complex societies historically have been and are, whether or not by necessity, “governed” by bodies-become-institutions-become-corporations of re-presentatives, we (i.e. humans) appear to have become unable to imagine any other form of governance than “rule of law” — the very same “rule of law” that results time and again in someone having to remind us every few hundred or thousand years (when not every moment) of a distinction between the “spirit of the law” and the “letter of the law.”

      • Scott Preston says :

        …distinction between the "spirit of the law" and the "letter of the law.

        Well… exactly. Didn’t you just answer your own initial question about the rule of law with that last statement? The “spirit of the law” doesn’t in any way call into question the rule of the law, or what we call “due process”, but it does call into question the corpus of the law — the code itself. There is a distinction between “due process” and the actual code of the law, after all.

        The same goes for politics. Blake saw politics as the “chief science” for a reason, because it was inescapable. Politics is not everything, but nonetheless it is involved and implicated in every thing we write or say, or even don’t say. There’s no way to be “apolitical” without becoming a Robinson Crusoe on some deserted island (and even then, his relationship with “his man Friday” was political). As I noted in the past, real politics is about how different people learn to live together harmoniously despite their differences and variety. It is a decadent politics that considers politics “war by other means”. So, to be apolitical or anti-political is, first, not possible, and second, not a very worthwhile response to politics as “war by other means”.

        Respect for rule of law is not to be confused with respect for the law itself. Jesus demonstated that when he told his disciples to respect those who occupied the seat of Moses but in no wise to respect their laws, and demonstrated that further by blessing the man he found in violation of the law working on the Sabbath “if you know what you do” because, as he put it, “the law is made for man and not man for the law”.

        So, respect for the rule of law is not to be confused with the body of the law — the code itself, which almost always serves to sustain and elite in power. (the old joke about the Golden Rule being “those who have the gold make the rules”).

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          There’s no way to be “apolitical” without becoming a Robinson Crusoe on some deserted island

          Who says? Blake? Merton? Those permaculturists afore-mentioned might (or might not) beg to differ. They’re hardly “isolated” in their views, dreams and desires, much less “islands” unto themselves.

          • Scott Preston says :

            I’m not talking about survivalists, who are real Robinson Crusoe types and can be as apolitical as they wish. As Rosenstock put it, to survive individually is one thing, to survive together is another, and that “survive together” draws us into the realm of the political — the polis, the civis.

            What’s Rosenstock’s definition of a citizen? Someone who can found a new city. How is that not political?

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              I’m not talking about survivalists

              After all these years, I know what you’re talking about. But I’ve never encountered anyone so quick to shut down possibilities as you. (As much as I love ya.)

              It’s not possible to be apolitical? Seriously? I would agree that it’s not possible to be asocial, but I will never agree that it’s not possible to be apolitical.

              All things (and persons) exist in possibility.

            • Scott Preston says :

              I think you might be mistaking “political” for “ideological”.

              If so, what I just posted might clear things up a bit.

              Politics always has been, and ever will be, the quest for the Good Society. The problem is not that. The problem lies in the fact that no one can agree on the “good”.

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              I think you might be mistaking “political” for “ideological”.

              Wrong. I’ve made a distinction between political and social. We just don’t have any words for what lies between them.

              That is, no doubt, why we have the arts — music, dance, etc. — everything that cannot be expressed in mere words.

            • Scott Preston says :

              “Social” doesn’t describe much. It doesn’t describe the particular MODE of association — whether the social is vertical or horizontal, hierarchical or egalitarian, loose or tight, and so on. The mode of association is precisely the political.

              Polloi, polis, politikos and all the other words associated with the mode of association — police, policy, polite, poll. “socius” is just the Latin term for Greek “polis”.

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              Would you like to try another term aside from “particular?” 😉

              That reminds me…what is the title of the etymology dictionary to which you refer? Is it available anywhere?

  5. Dwig says :

    Scott, IW, I like the concepts you’re dialoguing about. I’d suggest that one important consideration is whether the political or social system serves the people or vice versa. Another is the distinction between the formal representation of the system and the lived experience of it.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      I think that’s what Scott was getting at with making a distinction between rule of law and code of law. Rule of law (due process) might serve the people were it infused with the spirit of the law (the reason “law”supposedly exists at all), which it isn’t except in those exceptionally rare circumstances wherein “due process” actually takes it into account.

      He an I disagree on the notion that “politics is not everything, but nonetheless it is involved and implicated in every thing we write or say, or even don’t say.” Well, that would make every social interaction political, wouldn’t it?

      This is why I leave the social to the socialists. My realm on earth is Nature.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      I might add (though I don’t find the words at hand to do so), that in saying “social change occurs quite naturally and of its own accord otherwise,” what I mean is that it is a pleasant and welcome experience when not “forced” upon us by “rule of law.” Not sure if that will make any sense to anyone, but — at this point — I don’t really care.

      • Scott Preston says :

        You might want to watch Adam Curtis’s “Hypernormalisation” documentary before you conclude something about the desirability of a post-modern “world without politics”.

        The Chrysalis (or TDAB) has never been apolitical or anti-political. It’s been about revisioning politics in a more eco-dynamic and enlightened manner. I know of none — not Aurobindo, not Steiner, not Thompson, not Gebser, certainly not Rosenstock-Huessy, and certainly not Blake — who were apolitical or who dodged the political question and issue.

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          Who said one word about the “desirability of a post-modern “world without politics.” No one.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      God. For an edit button. “That would make everything political,” is what I intended to write, but have to second-guess everything I say these days.

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