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The Zeitgeist and the Shadow

Zeitgeist is a German term that translates as “spirit of the times” or the common mood or mental attitude, corresponding to what distinguishes historical epochs and eras from one another. The Zeitgeist is the milieu in which we live, move, and have our being, and which conditions our mental environment, outlook, and attitudes. Some define Zeitgeist as a civilisation’s or era’s “ruling idea” or ruling mood, or perhaps its ruling archetype.

For example, William Blake’s mad god or Zoa named “Urizen” is the Zeitgeist of the Newtonian-Cartesian worldview, or what we altogether call “modern mind” or “mental-rational consciousness” or “perspectival consciousness”. “Urizenic Man” is that mode of consciousness aligned or in communion with Urizen as Zeitgeist. But Urizen has a double aspect, too — a lucid aspect, but also a dark and deranged aspect– corresponding to what Carl Jung calls “the Shadow” — just as the Greek goddess Athena has her lucid aspect, and her deranged and shadow aspect, the Gorgon. These correspond to the life-pole and death-pole of psychic energy (or what Freud referred to as “eros” and “thanatos” instincts).

So, today I’m going to try to walk you through the present Zeitgeist, which some identify as “post-modern”, but which for others of a Jungian bent is now “the Shadow” (eg, Carolyn Baker’s Dark Gold: The Human Shadow and the Global Crisis, among others).

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The Dark Arts

Power remains strong when it remains in the dark; exposed to the sunlight it begins to evaporate.Samuel Huntington.

Yesterday, I concluded my reading of Gary Lachman’s Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump, which I highly recommend. Lachman explores the “hidden dimension”, as it were — the occult or dark side — in current events, events which on the surface appear “surreal”, “bizarre”, “absurd” and so on (because they are).

Lachman’s thesis about the implicit “chaos magick” in the practice of power relations today is very revealing of the undercurrents that bring together concerns like Adam Curtis’s “Hypernormalisation” BBC documentary with Neal Gabler’s Life The Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality, Kurt Anderson’s recently published Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire, and to the more aberrant expressions of “magick” I explored in earlier posts in The Chrysalis, such as Rolf Jensen’s The Dream Society: How the Coming Shift From Information to Imagination Will Transform Your Business, or “marketing 3.0″ (or “spiritual branding”), or the exploitation of Carl Jung’s archetypal psychology for marketing and propaganda. What we often call “perception management” (or what Algis Mikunas calls “technocratic shamanism”) has this same root in Lachman’s “chaos magick” or what we shall call “the dark arts” altogether.

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The Function of “the Petty Tyrant”

One of the most interesting matters brought up in Castaneda’s writings is the role of “the petty tyrant”. Surviving Trump and Trumpism — or authoritarian populism and the politics of the hoarde more generally — may well be a matter of learning to see and use Trump as this same petty tyrant in one’s practice of self-overcoming. I can almost believe that Trump, among others today, was indeed fated to serve as this same “petty tyrant” for our metamorphosis. It’s a suspicion that has been lurking around the edges of my mind for a while.

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Jean Gebser on “The Demonic”

It has been an intense last couple of days for me — strange coincidences and synchronicities that I am still in the process of digesting, and which I may get around to posting about at a later date.

Today, though, I wanted to follow up on yesterday’s remarks on Michiko Kakutani’s article on “truth decay” (which has stirred up Twitter it seems) with some remarks on Jean Gebser’s notions of “the demonic” and demonic forces, or what we might also refer to as Mephistophelian forces. And while it’s not very fashionable in a more or less rationalistic culture to speak of “the demonic”, the term is quite appropriate when properly understood.

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The Assemblage Point

This morning I want to make a bit of a digression from the theme of the last couple of postings and speak to a rather strange and arcane subject — that of the “assemblage point”. “The assemblage point” comes from Carlos Castaneda’s writings, which are about his apprenticeship to the Yaqui Indian brujo (sorcerer and teacher) he calls “don Juan Matus”.

It is a very intriguing and quite plausible idea, which I will try to describe here. I’ve not come across a description of anything like it in other “esoteric” accounts except possibly in one other place — William Blake — and a possible elliptical reference to it in Jill Bolte-Taylor’s “stroke of insight” TED talk.

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Our Mental Meltdown: Mind in Dissolution

Regular Guardian columnist Kenan Malik published a short piece today about the deep connections between Europe and Islam as revealed in Renaissance art. It is necessarily short because the invention of perspectivism in the Renaissance marked a parting of the ways, since perspective in art — and photographic effect — was rejected by Islamic authorities at the time as “competing with God” (ie “magic” or sorcery). Ironically, though, it was Islamic scholars — men like Averroes (ibn Rushd), Avicenna, among others – who helped prepare the way for the European Renaissance, including Islamic works on optics that were used by Europe’s “first scientist”, the monk Roger Bacon (also called Doctor Mirabilis). That work on optics laid the important foundations for the invention of perspective art in the Renaissance, beginning largely with the pioneering works of Giotto.

If you have been with The Chrysalis for any length of time — or have read cultural philosopher Jean Gebser’s account of the ascendance of the mental-rational or perspective consciousness — you will perhaps appreciate how the invention of perspective is foundational to what we call “modern mind” or “modern self”, presently in the throes of dissolution, confusion and chaos. Malik’s short article has reminded me to revisit those earlier postings and the dissolution and incoherence of perspective consciousness now manifesting in today’s social and individual phenomena of chaotic emotion and cognitive dissonance.

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Chaotic Emotion and Cognitive Dissonance

“Cognitive dissonance” is a useful term to describe our present “chaotic transition”, even though it has been known in the past and described in different ways. Cognitive dissonance is a reflection of what Jean Gebser referred to also as our current rampage of “chaotic emotion”. Jesus used the metaphor of “whited sepulchres”, sparkling clean on the outside (self-righteous), but full of decay, corruption, and dead-men’s bones on the inside. “The truth is not in you” he declared to those who were certain they were the custodians of truth. But when his disciples asked how they were to know the truth-speakers from whited sepulchres (or false prophets) he could only respond “by their fruits you will know them”, which “fruits” can only be understood in relation to his other maxim: “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”.

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