Blame Gordon for this.
Actually, blame me for asking him, albeit belatedly in his AMA over at /r/occult. Because as usual, there’s a personal angle to this – for the past couple of years I’ve been having recurring issues with my right foot and wounds on it just not healing. This has, bluntly, fucked my life right over and left me housebound on multiple occasions, for durations of time leading into months.
(Yes. I am aware of the mythic resonances here. We’ll get to the Fisher King shit in a bit, I promise.)
As the man says: “We come to earth to learn things, not be taught things.”
Throughout my life, I’ve had to learn things. We all have, and what’s interesting to me is that most of my learning has been brought on by neccessity, which alters the old saw into something more akin to Necessity is the motherfucker of invention, rather than the more polite form.
And this is going to be an impolite piece. Because the universe frankly doesn’t give a fuck about politeness. Politeness is the series of patterns and social mores we adopt for the sake of social cohesion. By which I mean, it’s a series of psycho-social programs which have been developed by human cultures to avoid getting yourself killed, or worse. And it truly doesn’t matter whether the ones enforcing these mores are your peers or the Authorities, because it will still sting just the same.
In fact, politeness is a status quo weapon, a bulwark against the universe. Because it says ‘if you do this, then this will happen.’
And contrary to what we’ve been taught, that’s not how the universe works – not on a larger scale. Sure, on a small localised level it might work for ten thousand years or so, but close examination will reveal that effectiveness diminishes over time, precisely because the universe really really hates any sort of status quo.
This, incidentally, is why empires fall, and any form of orthodoxy will take a kicking. Repeatedly.And why some of the archons servants are into some really weird stuff. That bit’s another story – just look at the number of politicians, religious leaders and authority figures with unusual tastes that bring them down or are uncovered afterward.
And here’s the flipside of that: The Archons are, in my not so humble opinion – the Maintenance Men of Reality. Janitors and Jailers all rolled into one. For the most part, they’re really quite good at it, and by really quite good we’re talking about keeping a leaking boat afloat for what I’ll arbitrarily say is around ten thousand years.
So good in fact that you hardly notice them. You see them but you don’t recognise their implications.
When was the last time you looked at a cleaner as they wandered round your office with their cart, or paid attention to the guy doing cleanup on aisle 3? I mean really looked at them, and what they’re actually doing?
Your office is clean. Your supermarket is functional. That’s all you notice, or at best, you notice there was a mess, and now there isn’t. And so you forget, except to make a comment about it in a vague anecdote some months later. They keep things running.
Nice and Smooth. (<—See what I did there?)
They’re working behind the scenes. They’re the ones with the keys backstage, to the maintenance tunnels and areas that are offlimits to unauthorised personnel. Did you ever wonder how you get to be authorised, hmm?
But the boat is leaking. It always has been. It’s their job to keep us from seeing it. They’re the guys in suits, playing in the orchestra at just the right pitch so you don’t hear the metal groaning. They’re the anonymous Figures in Black Who Clean Up after extradimensional incursions. They hang out in the back of our brains and appear in our blind-spots. Choose whatever you like as a metaphor.
And we swallow cultural firmware from birth, we really do. Identity. Form. Shape. The illusion of consistency. It’s ridiculous to think we’re the same person at 25 that we were at 6. It really is. It’s ridiculous to believe that we’re not impacted and changed by every moment of every day, right on down to the genetic level.
Yet believe it we do. Ever wonder why we attach so much value to identity-signifiers? To gender expression, to skill and ability, race or creed? Ever wonder why YHVH came right out and said I am He Who Is Called I Am?
I don’t really get on with angels, apart from a vanishingly few exceptions, who know who they are. There’s an irony in this, as I’ve been running an RPG in the In Nomine setting pretty much every Tuesday night since 2006, with a party full of players playing angels. But I have a Christian family background, so I’m vaguely conversant with how it fits together in a real-world context as well.
Now, the story of why I and said entities don’t get on can be pried out of me for whisky. A lot of whisky. Single Malt only.
Certain entheogens however, on the rare (now) occasions I ingest them, occasionally mean that I may, hypothetically speaking, get a drive by visit from a certain fellow who, shall we say, works on the black-budget end of things. He’s quite famous really – he’s in the Book under Scary Motherfucker.
And he seems to delight in dispensing ‘wisdom’, in a kind of sort of Cigarette Smoking Man sort of way.
How is this relevant? Well, consider the parapolitical situation one might at one point have ascribed to certain secret societies. Consider also that like any body, they would not be the ones maintaining their shiny buildings and temples. Indeed the turnover might be quite high, relatively speaking. But who are going to be there for a good long while? Who’s going to have the keys?
Janitors. Maintenance Staff.
- custody (n.)
- mid-15c., from Latin custodia “guarding, watching, keeping,” from custos (genitive custodis) “guardian, keeper, protector,” from PIE *(s)keu- “to cover, conceal” (see hide (n.1)).
- janitor (n.)
- 1580s, “an usher in a school,” later “doorkeeper” (1620s), from Latin ianitor “doorkeeper, porter,” from ianua “door, entrance, gate,” from ianus “arched passageway, arcade” (see Janus) + agent suffix -tor. Meaning “caretaker of a building” first recorded 1708.
In the words of one of the apparently multiple paedophiles who I let into my childhood via the proxy of British TV in the 80’s and 90’s:
“Can you tell what it is yet?”
(I was part of the associated ‘club’ that was associated with this show. Got newsletters and everything. Yeah. Great huh?)
Keepers of the keys indeed. Except of course, official doorkeepers are only needed when the door is the only way in, not when the walls are full of cracks and holes anyway. Of course, they close up the gaps as soon as they notice them, often with extreme predjudice, but they’re playing catchup.
After all, Who Watches The Watchers?
But, after all, we often run cleanup ourselves, often without realising. The intrusions of the strange occur, and we deny them. Or perhaps more perfidiously, for wizards at least, we try to shoehorn the visits from the Neighbours into pre-existing paradigms. Which, quite frankly?
Is Fucking Stupid.
At best, the systems received from the Neighbours are interfaces and/or maps. And what do we know kids?
The map is not the territory.
What’s more, the thing about maps is that they are always created after the fact. These disruptions, these intrusions are Black Swans
And while we’re on Taleb, let’s consider the notion that certain investments, while they may produce steady returns, will eventually exhibit catastrophic crashes. In short, You Will Fail.
And funnily enough, do you know what they call a hedge against such things? A Holy Grail distribution.
Black Swans, hedges and Holy Grails. Oh my!
Because here’s where the Fisher King comes in. In grail mythology, this poor bugger takes a wound in in the thigh. Euphemistically, this could very probably be a wound in the genital area which impairs the king’s fertility and messes up the sacred bond of land and king – meaning that there’s been no hieros gamos to keep the bonds of sovereignty and fertility going. The land is consequently suffering, and the healing properties of the Grail aren’t working.
In some legends, it’s the Spear of Longinus that wounds the king – yes, that Spear which plays nicely with the fish-Christ mytheme too. In others, the grail itself isn’t the traditional cup, but is in fact a severed head. And there are myths with severed heads and cauldron-cups that resurrect the dead too, to say nothing of John the Baptist and the Mandaeans – the latter group having to flee Iraq in droves since the Iraq War.
And the wound won’t heal.
Now, notwithstanding that my own unhealed wound is truly in the foot, rather than my nethers, here is where we can really begin to circle in on this. The grail, in all its incarnations, is associated with healing and/or rebirth. In the Arthurian myth, it requires a youthful figure to find it. In the severed-head mythos, most of them speak prophetically.
What do these themes have in common? Look in the PGM and you’ll find a chunk of the rites require a young boy – to serve as vessel for the god or as oracle. Likewise, even Jesus had things to say about the positive mystical abilities of children, in three separate Gospels:
But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew
Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. – Luke & Mark.
And lest you think my poking into things Western Philosophical doesn’t apply, I shall just quote from Kingsley’s In The Dark Places of Wisdom:
As soon as she has welcomed him, down in the world of the dead, the first thing the goddess does is call Parmenides ‘young man’. That’s just one word in Greek: kouros. A kouros is a young man, a boy, a son or child.
Kouros is an ancient word, older even than the Greek language. Often it’s a title of honour, never an expression of contempt. When the great poets before Parmenides used the term it was always to communicate a sense of nobility. It was the kouros, more than anyone else, who was a hero.
In terms of physical age it could mean someone under thirty. But in practice the word had a far wider meaning. A kouros was the man of any age who still saw life as a challenge, who faced it with the whole of his vigour and passion, who hadn’t yet stood back to make way for his sons. The word indicated the quality of a man, not how old he was.
It was also closely connected with initiation. The kouros stands at the borderline between the world of the human and the world of the divine; has access to them both, is loved and recognized in both. It’s only as a kouros that the initiate can possibly succeed at the great ordeal of making a journey into the beyond—just as Parmenides does.
So what’s this obsession with young boys? Is it the paedophilia again? Or is it something else – some quality of youth which is preserved no matter the age? Some initiation that the Lady Underground of Parmeneides imparts?
Recall then, that we will fail. Recall that we’re talking about katabasis, descent into the underworld. Into the realms of the dead. The place where all our maps ultimately mean nothing.
Who’s the one who notices the Emperor has no clothes on? A child who simply doesn’t get why everyone is pretending the monarch’s new duds are the finest thing ever. A child who’s not been indoctrinated to ignore the disruption.
After all, how many times have we seen children point out the inherent ridiculousness of our existence with three simple letters?
And this is the wound that does not heal. Not without the youth and the grail. Not without the prophet inducted into the mysteries of death, who comes back with new words and ways, but who also understands that ultimately, the skull will reduce them to dust.
We are here on this earth to learn, not to be taught.
And that means seeing the world as it really is, and sod our pet theories. In my case, the very fact of my unhealed wound burns and bites and upends my life. It fucks me up with its inescapable nature, just as my disability holds me in place like old Titurel on his palanquin. Because there’s an undeniable reality to it – one that has me up against the wall and wishing that it isn’t so.
My wound is not teaching me. It does not speak, does not tell me how to see the world.
It simply is. An undeniable disruption that sometimes drives me deep into depression, but along with my disability, liberates me in frightening and exhilarating ways. That means I don’t get to use the stairs, that I often have to literally use the back ways – I could tell you horror stories of airports, let alone the tunnels under Brompton Hospital in London, or being caught up three flights of stairs during a fire and having about fifty doctors and nurses completely ignore me.
Does this make me better? No, but it does make me more likely to be confronted with the same passages as the maintrenance men and have to use the exploits that are there for only a moment.
So let me ask you, when did you last change an opinion, really and honestly? When was the last time you honestly and nakedly had no fucking clue what you were doing or what was going on? When was the last time you had something of high weirdness occur and you just let it be itself, and didn’t immediately start running to work out what it was or how it fit?
Because it seems to me that much of the world – occult and otherwise – is bloody desperate to make things fit together in order to salve the terror and pain and sheer raw what the-fuckery of life.
We want the grail without the wound. And even if we become aware of it, gods forbid we look at it and study it, this vertiginous hole in things, which we’ved tried to fill in with detritus of broken models that are half decayed and septic.
There’s a reason healers like Asklepios and his father Apollo were also bringers of death, and it wasn’t because they were bad at what they did. On the contrary, that what was made them the very best at it.
So you have a choice. You can ignore the maintenance men, and carry on. Or you can start paying attention, and face them and the messes head on without maps. It’ll probably hurt, and definitely kill you, but then again, so does everything.
Be seeing you.