Tyrell: She’s beginning to suspect, I think.
Deckard: Suspect? How can it not know what it is?
Tyrell: Commerce, is our goal here at Tyrell. More human than human is our motto. Rachael is an experiment, nothing more. We began to recognize in them strange obsession. After all they are emotionally inexperienced with only a few years in which to store up the experiences which you and I take for granted. If we gift them the past we create a cushion or pillow for their emotions and consequently we can control them better.
Deckard: Memories. You’re talking about memories.
– (Bladerunner 1982) emphasis mine
It’s been a strange festive period, in some senses. Wonderfully normal, and yet suffused with a sense of anticipation, as if somewhere a bowstring has been drawn back and an arrow let fly. Heading round to friends for feasting and good company yesterday, I once again fell in love with this chilly damp Northern town which I’ve made my home. The air was quite ordinary, and while other places in the UK were getting a belated White Christmas, we had some rain and a slight drop in temperature.
(The chill against your skin as you move, stirring the blood-flow, steaming of the breath. The way laughter and companionship can salve a more than a few aches and pains.)
And, then, the quiet of meditation in the dark; the ebb and flow of the Soul as thought skips and dances along the tips of the waves. The glimmer of the sea-foam, the shining spume from which Aphrodite emerges, to beckon with wild intent, all tangled hair and salt-kissed skin. Ten thousand glamours appear before you, a plethora of image and sensation, enticing you to dance like a stone across the surface of the waves.
The thing with Aphrodite. you see, is that she resolved her-very-ownself from the severed member of old Ouranos, according to Myth. That foaming semen which splashed down after Kronos took a sickle to his father because he was crushing the Earth, his mother. That star-fire boiling upon the waters, transmuting itself into luminous and terrible beauty as it has congress with the Vasty Deep. There is, as always, a secret here, in Myth.
For they call the Morning Star Venus, and also the Evening Star too. Because a planet simply means “heavenly body” doesn’t it? And if there’s anyone in Greek Myth with a heavenly body, it is Aphrodite-Who-The-Romans-Called-Venus, right? Mistress of desire, she’ll tug on your heart strings and drive you mad with the sight of her. Falling for a goddess is the very definition of obsession for us mortals, isn’t it?
So, we’ll come back to that, because we must. Because she draws us back there even against our will.
Of course, equating the planets and the gods is a grand tradition, isn’t it? It’s such a shame that it’s plain wrong, for Venus-as-the-Planet is not Venus-the-Goddess-is-not-Aphrodite.
And yet, there’s enough there to be going on with, because even the most wrong of suppositions was once made for a reason. That reason, that purpose, is what we must zero in on – and once we do, things become interesting. Every mistake seemed correct until proved otherwise, didn’t it?
Now, think of this, dear readers: Think of how the bowstring trembles and strains before release, or if you prefer, the teetering on the precipice just before orgasm. Imagine the onrush which has built, the way skin flushes and breath quickens, sinew and tendon stirring themselves to strain with anticipation.
Now, remain there, friends, in that in-between state as we continue, for it is important – oh, so vitally important. The memory of that dynamic tension lies encoded in a million years of animal vitality. The heat within, the fercious vitality which would propel you, even for a moment, into a state of vital clarity. It is the inner heat which we must bear down on, the biochemical pyre which drives us to stand outside ourselves, to slip the bonds of our conditioning by once more infusing ourselves with the Primordial.
This vitalism, this raw path to Being-ness is unacceptable, in that it cannot be given. It lies within us, inherent and silent, immeasurable and vast until conditions permit a palatable arousal. Whether that be within sexual intercourse or the daimonic creative urge, it lies quiescent until stirred. Or so we have been tricked into believing.
Listen now, to the beating of your heart; listen even, and especially if, you cannot hear it with your ears!
For the heart is the path, just as the blood is the lamp that lights the way.
Myth tells us of the might of Eros Protogonos, this kosmic apparition who emerges in Primordial times. Rather than being some distant unworldly figure, it is this Eros which forms a kosmokrator, a Lord of the Kosmos – that is to say, less a distant ruler, and instead a Presence which engages and suffuses all phenomena. As Heraclitus would say:
There is a harmony in the bending back (παλίντροπος palintropos) as in the case of the bow and the lyre. This is also the same philosopher who is famous for saying Dike eris – or Strife is Justice.
Without that tension, the universe as we know it would not exist. This is the mystery of the need-fire, the friction which births the weltfeuer, the vast and glorious and terrible conflagration in which we all participate. The ferocity of it is unparalleled; the combustion and digestion, the coming-together and breaking-apart is revealed as unstoppable artefact of an ephemeral, quixotic phenomenal existence.
This is terrifying and monstrous to contemplate, and yet, in this we turn to Nietzsche:
“All great things must first wear terrifying and monstrous masks in order to inscribe themselves on the hearts of humanity.”
Above, we see Mahakala and, do you know, that Maha-prefix? It means, amongst other things ‘great’ in Sanskrit. And, in case you missed the last post, it has cognates with might. The monstrous mask of the figure dancing amidst the flame, the Being meditating in the charnel-ground, these are unacceptable. But what do we mean by unacceptable?
- accept (v.)
- late 14c., “to take what is offered,” from Old French accepter (14c.) or directly from Latin acceptare “take or receive willingly,” frequentative of accipere “receive,” from ad- “to” (see ad-) + capere “to take” (see capable). Related: Accepted; accepting.
- capable (adj.)
- 1560s, from Middle French capable or directly from Late Latin capabilis “receptive; able to grasp or hold,” used by theologians, from Latin capax “able to hold much, broad, wide, roomy;” also “receptive, fit for;” adjectival form of capere “to grasp, lay hold, take, catch; undertake; take in, hold; be large enough for; comprehend,” from PIE *kap- “to grasp” (cognates: Sanskrit kapati “two handfuls;” Greek kaptein “to swallow, gulp down;” Lettish kampiu “seize;” Old Irish cacht “servant-girl,” literally “captive;” Welsh caeth “captive, slave;” Gothic haban “have, hold;” Old English hæft “handle,” habban “to have, hold,” Modern English have). Related: Capably
Here, we can see that the deep themes are of grasping, seizure and holding. That which is held is that which can be surrounded; bounded and enchompassed, reduced to a representation or schema. Force may be applied to render the object of the grasping static. The bondage of perception is one which we have laid upon us from the beginning of our lives – that which appears and then vanishes, be they apparitions or so called ‘transitory’ states are judged as traitorous and unreliable. That which is capable of changing shape and form, is regarded as untrustworthy and sometimes (often?) as outright evil.
That which threatens stability of perception is, ironically, perceived as simultaneously power-less and power-ful; hierarchical modes of perception struggle to classify the unclassifiable.
So, to argue that the world is ephemeral, while simultaneously denying the existence of a stable realm by which we may make comparison, is perhaps the ultimate heresy. To suggest that the realm of the phenomenal is identical to the noumenal is to tear down the curtain that has been erected to cover the ‘ugly ecstasy’ of existence. To suggest that the Otherworld is right here, right now, is to pit onself against dominant modes of perception – to admit to the strange obsession spoken of by Tyrell in the initial film quote.
Commerce, says Tyrell, is the goal. But even the most commodified entities are quite capable of slipping the grasp of those who would treat them as interchangable. It’s for this reason that, in the film, the Replicants are searching for ways extend their lives beyond the requisite four year spans, having thrown off the artificial memories which have been implanted. Yet, in the end, it is in death and the embrace thereof, which confirms the essential core Beingness of Roy Batty in his famous soliloquy:
“I have… seen things you people wouldn’t believe… Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those… moments… will be lost in time, like [small cough] tears… in… rain. Time… to die…”
I’ve already written about how the division between Up There and Down Here is pretty much foolish, that we are in fact Da(i)emonic. As ever though, it bears repeating in myriad different ways, and this is key. Because, dear reader, the ephemeral is precisely the door to Being. Mortality is the path to immortality, and the mythic repeats itself for all eternity. This is difficult to articulate, save to borrow from so-called ‘shamanic’ (itself a dubious term) cultures, wherein the living spirits are, in fact responsible for all phenomena. That’s to say, only by acknowledging our own existence as daimonic beings, as wights, can we even approach conceiving of our position in the kosmos-as-Daimonic-All-That-Is.
To do this, we must challenge perceptions of what it means to be human. We must meditate on Eros, not solely as a so-called ‘traditional’ sexual force, but instead as the core method of apprehending the universe. The word apprehend is used quite precisely here, for its connotations both in terms of fear and arrest; seizing with our senses and hearts upon the kosmos, all the while knowing that its infinate variety will outpace us; that the flaming gorgonic dread which comes upon us when we engage with our own Primordial Nature shall render us ungraspable, unknowable by conventional methods of description. We must disrupt the merry-go-round for a split second, enough to ride it in a different way
Desire itself is the engine, but not in the striving for satisfaction.
And here, we return to Aprodite and Venus, for it is those mistresses of desire who can teach us. As Tannhäuser paid court to Venus inside her mountain, this warrior learnt the revellery of these Chthonic spirits but fled. Just as Peer Gynt was drawn into the Hall of the Mountain King by his pursuit of the Green Lady, but lacked the courage to embrace the doubled perception which would have given him the wisdom to take his place amidst the spirits.
Both these fine gentlemen left these courts, appalled at the necessity of seemingly breaking taboo. Yet, when considered from a magical persective, these prohibitions exist precisely because they must – they are the shapes which, being-as-weird-as-all-hell, scream out the undeniable existence of the ungraspable. One moment, they’ll lie placid as anything, and the next they’ll tear your bloody face off. Or as Gordon puts it: Tapu has its own teeth.
Bluntly, this is why I personally reckon you’re better off being taught by someone who knows what they’re doing. Magic is a minefield, but some people have maps which minimise the chances of stuff blowing you up. The best folks to learn from however, are capable of drawing you your own personal map because they’ve learnt how to spot the signs of mines in the first place. And if they’re really good and not on some weird authoritarian kick, they’ll teach you how to spot them on your own, because, y’know, they like you.
Because, let face it, even if you’ve forgotten, let me remind you that the door to existence has a big comedy sign which says in flashing lights ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Which brings us back to the folks who went Under th’Hill, or Into the Mound. They tell you not to eat the food or drink the wine, don’t they? They tell you all the folks in bright garments are fairies and dead people and Kings and Queens of Hell. And, d’you know something?
They’re completely bloody right.
Because, honest to every god that ever was?
You will become one of Them. You know, Them. Those People. And when times get tough, you’ll have a bunch of people show up with pitchforks. This is a promise.
Which brings us to Tannhäuser again. He legs it back to the Pope and begs forgiveness from the Pope, and the Pope, well, he’s pretty much said Not a chance Old Son. You’ve got as much chance as my staff has of blooming into flowers.
So Tannhäuser goes back to the Lady and her revels, all unaware of the fact that, a couple of days later? Flowers all over the Pope’s rod. Hurr Hurr.
Consider that for a second: God’s vice-regent on earth says; Nah, you’re fucked mate. This is the fellow who has claim to supposed apostolic succession, handed down from Peter. He should know what he’s talking about, yes? It’s pretty much the closest you’re going to get to a direct Word of God in mediaeval times, at least as far as the story’s original audience would have been concerned. Short of the Heavens opening, or a bona-fide Saint showing up, the Pope’s Word is Law.
And then – Roses.
Symbolically associated with both Love and the Five Wounds of Christ, this is less a church understanding, and more a Gnostic one – which is to say, it played on the intuitive heart-knowledge of the audience. This is a miracle – evidence of the undeniable movement of divinity in a world where such things were not supposed to happen. Evidence of Grace, that God had and was taken a hand in the mortal world.
And the thing with miracles is that it takes a lot of work for the Church to declare them such. Because honestly? They’re High Weird.
Which can make them problematic if they are unparseable through an acceptable framework.
But the High Weird, the Daimonic? It literally gives no shits about whether you accept it or not.
This is where then, we brush up against the notion of kings sleeping under mountains. This is where we consider that Arthur ultimately derives his authority from a sword given to him, in the words of Monty Python, by some watery bint. This is where the enchantress traps the wizard in a tree, and where the wounded king is shepherded away to an island and watched over by queens.
This is when we begin to consider the notion of counterfeit memories, of pasts that have been given to us; histories handed down unquestioned, definitions parroted over generations. This is why Roy Batty’s memories will be lost, like tears in the rain, as he dies with a nail through his hand after saving someone else from death.
This is where cold water sluices away thirst, banishing memories and immersing us in Memory. This is the poet, the musician, the magician, who meets something daemonic and comes out changed. This is the Sovereign who derives their authority from the Land, the visceral Beingness of embodied existence and knowledge of their locale. This is the old heart-knowledge of holy wells and genus loci – the sibyls and prophetesses drawing up the ghosts and gods for kings; this is bearded frothing madmen walking corpse paths and offering themselves, body and blood to all comers that dwell in graveyards.
This is where the myth of a crucified rabbi obsessed by his ancestral deity unleashes Gnosis like a stream, despite two thousand years of trying to tie the bastard down to a given shape and form.
Because myth is Weird. It is Daemonic. It is what nourishes us and whispers in our blood, unbinding us in time and setting us to stalk the earth, so that waters spring up where we tread. It’s where the Lady in the Mountain teaches us erotic technologies which violate traditional notions of sex, turns us into poets and troubadors, where the Loathly Lady is-also-the Beauty and death itself brings us to life.
Because the waters of Memory never stay dammed up, and when we recall them as our own, well, we’re more human than human. Ungraspable anarchs, lone sovereigns living in splendid community with a cornucopia of fellows in myriad shapes and forms.
And maybe someday, we’ll bump into some poor blind bastard at the crossroads, groping towards selfhood; maybe we’ll give them a wink and a tip of the proverbial hat, a word and a smile that stirs their soul, before taking our leave making our way onward through the Primal Night.
So it goes.
Be seeing you