Disloyal Mind

Sometimes
my mind is disloyal
to Guru and guide
—never to my God,
with whom I am
on friendly terms
since years back,
first on terms of
Hi how are you
and now on terms of
When will you be home for dinner
—because the moment
you put a human face on it
it’s all
Hey that guy’s teaching something else
Something comfortable and easy
But my teacher gave me something
and said
Dig into this,
Mess with it,
Make it work
and part of me is offended
by the Hey this ain’t
warm and cozy and fun
This shit is work
But my friend God
comes in late for dinner again
and says past a mouthful of fruit
He’s right, you know,
Just doing what I told him
And now you’ve got to
Do what he says
So I sigh
Because God gives pretty good advice.

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Bourgeois Yoga: To Become One with the Status Quo

“Goblins do less harm to us than generals;
Pixies plague us less than do the politicians;
Fairyland is much more happy than our society;
Musing can be more profitable than reading;
The oracle more truthful than the news media;
Nature has the facts, mankind the theories;
Nature keeps the world clean, and man pollutes.

~ “The Prophetikos” of Shri Gurudev Mahendranath

I have received some feedback from my article Radical Between Extremes, or Midnight Cemetery Puja which indicates that I was perhaps unclear as to my target. That is liable to happen when the twilight imagery of Yoga and Tantra become involved with a more concrete point of social concern. This miscommunication does at least give me the opportunity to make a certain criticism more barbed; though I wish it to be swallowed, I do not want it to go down so easily that we forget we had to swallow anything at all.

Since the 19th century in the West, magic and mysticism have at least popularly become the purview of what some schools of socio-politcal thought call the bourgeoisie. That is to say not only that it has become a thoroughly middle class phenomenon, but that—as with all things commodified for the entertainment of the middle class—it has become safe. In traditional cultures, the shaman and the sorcerer are not people that one approaches lightly, and even the shaman and sorcerer themselves do not approach their vocation the same way we might take a job working in Accounts Receivable. It is a true vocation, a calling, but it is just as appropriate to call it an evocation—a calling out of many social norms, of a central place within a protective community, of not just the expectations but also the protections of a regular member of society. The Yogi, the magician, the shaman, the witch, are weird and maybe a little crazy, certainly either intimidating or discomfiting. Even today, the Vodou houngan, mambo, and bokor or, in a less organized setting, the hoodoo root doctor are not people to be trifled with. A Vodoun may know a bokor pretty well, even be close friends, but when the bokor is acting in his office, he is in that way and for that time set apart somewhat so that he may do his job. And his job is a fearful one. Likewise the Yogi: though he  may not outwardly renounce society, he will at least force some space between himself and his community, making an inner renunciation which carries more weight anyway.

I hope I should not even have to make an especially direct remark about the phenomenon of the modern “yoga school” or “tantra workshop”, at this point, but if I need to be more clear: I have met precious few urban or suburban yogis, magicians, and shamans who had done more to earn the title than take a correspondence course, join an order, or engage in a class or workshop. Little to no personal sacrifice is made and, as a result, none of the feral nature of the witch or the acid of the Tantrika has awakened within them. Such a wild one is not therefore a thoroughgoing iconoclast, as if smashing imagery for its own sake were ever more than petulant, but is rather wise to the inner nature of the images.

I do not mean this as a discouragement, for as much as it may seem like an insult. It’s just that a disease cannot be treated until it has been diagnosed, and sometimes the diagnosis can feel as harsh as the symptoms themselves. It may seem unfair that many are called but few are chosen until you realize that the calling is not up to you, but being worthy of the choice is.

When I spoke in that last post about movements, parties, voting, and politics, my intended audience was—as usual, on this blog—practitioners or at least students of the esoteric. Join your movements and march, join your parties and vote, there’s no harm in it if your cause is just and your intentions compassionate. But I speak as a mystic and magician to mystics and magicians—as well as poets and artists who, God knows, do some of the same work we do in their own way—when I say that any such support must arise organically from the wilderness of your own soul and not exclusively from the runaway locomotive of cultural pressure. We cannot be socially or even psychically safe and expect to make real progress in the exploration of Pati, pasa, and pasu (the Divine, the world, and the self). The Tantrika throws in his lot with the ghouls and goblins who haunt the woods and cemeteries, the witch tosses hers in with the horned (and horny) spirits who ride the dark undercurrents of Nature, and the artist drops his in with the poor, the diseased, and the disenfranchised—in all cases with the things that go bump in the night, the bogeymen in the closets and monsters under the bed of the comfortable, the wealthy, the righteous, the secure. And this must go so far beyond voting, attending a workshop, or marching at a rally. If the artist does not continue to create, her mission is stalled for both herself and the world; if the mystic should cease to seek kaivalya and the magician halt in reflecting holy gnosis, regardless of the dangers and insecurities which this must breed, it may as well be that the Sun and Moon both fail to rise, for the sweet nectar of immortality comes only to those who will touch tongue to the bitter poison of Saturn’s kingdom.

Radical Between Extremes, or Midnight Cemetery Puja

There is much talk of “resistance” among those who think of themselves as revolutionaries. But what constitutes resistance?

It is a very easy thing to join a movement, especially an activist movement which gets the emotions thundering with a relentless stream of petitions, letter writing campaigns, op-eds, and magazines—punctuated, of course, by rallies, marches, and pickets. It is even easier to join a party, wherein the emotions are kept at a more or less steady ebb all year long by way of the press, only to be ramped to maximum intensity come election season; when all you have to do is vote, it is the easiest thing in the world. But no matter who you vote for, no matter which rallies you attend, and no matter which cause’s sign goes in your hand or in your yard, there is no radical resistance to be had this way. Time is not yours; you are of time. And, as with all of His children, Saturn will consume you when your sun has set.

None of this is to disparage political action, for it is more monstrous not to take a side than even to take the side of the unjust and inhumane. At least the tyrant may act from a genuine interest in what he thinks best for everyone, or the plutocrat may act from self-interest, both of which are superior to no interest at all. But as Charles Bukowski famously put it, “The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don’t have to waste your time voting.” If voting is the last opportunity you have for voicing opposition, then vote. But when you vote in opposition, you are doing one thing only: seeing to it that the Majority is meaningfully a Majority. As Ernst Jünger pointed out, the ruler needs to have a Majority but not an absolute one, for to have 100% of the vote makes the lack of real opposition too obvious. And so we have the so-called “third parties”. Yet the spirit of a “No” vote can be part of finding one’s footing in the forest.

Radical resistance is always spiritual—whether or not it is also bodily is situational. But spiritual resistance always carries an element of danger. Materialistic atheism is the death of resistance every bit as much as the domesticated mysticism of mainline Catholicism or the domestic Evangelical become little more than a “voice crying out in the shopping center”. The Utopianism of the New Age and the intellectual escapism of occultism are hardly any better. The occultist’s metaphysical speculation, however, can be the beginnings of a road to the realm beyond reason, the vitalistic world of the soul; the yearning for Utopia is at least yearning for better, in the bittersweet way of nostalgia for what never was; the structure of religion can build discipline and respect for those on the quest of liberation before us and what they have to teach, not to mention linking us into a potentially helpful egregore.

But, again, none of these things constitute resistance itself. True freedom comes not just of transcendence but of reflecting that transcendence, not of climbing the mountain but of building, maintaining, or renovating the road which will allow others to come up—and to go back down at will. Puja in a cemetery at night is worth more than a month of pujas in the shelter of your bedroom. Though crows and insects and shades of the dead and spirits of trees and shadows cast by no object may harass and harangue, the insistence of continuing what you came for will soon enough have them sitting down with you in the kingdom of Saturn. It is then that you step not out of but through time, not that time should vanish but that its true significance may be seen as the way Eternity dances.