On the Music Box: Red Shift / ‘Ether’

Chuang Tzu and Hui Tzu were strolling along the dam of the Hao River when Chuang Tzu said, “See how the minnows come out and dart around where they please! That’s what fish really enjoy!”

Hui Tzu said, “You’re not a fish—how do you know what fish enjoy?”

Chuang Tzu said, “You’re not I, so how do you know I don’t know what fish enjoy?”

Hui Tzu said, “I’m not you, so I certainly don’t know what you know. On the other hand, you’re certainly not a fish—so that still proves you don’t know what fish enjoy!”

Chuang Tzu said, “Let’s go back to your original question, please. You asked me how I know what fish enjoy—so you already knew I knew when you asked the question. I know it by standing here beside the Hao.”

On the Run… will talk later. May I present:

The Tuesday Feast!

The Links

From The Chuang Tzu: In The World of Men On Long Distance Relationships

Mckenna: On UFOs and Science

Angels & Daimons

Chuang Tzu: Section Twenty-Two

Poetry: Chuang Tzu

Alien Dreamtime – Terence McKenna

From The Chuang Tzu:Discussion On Making All Things Equal

Art: William Blake

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The Links

From our friend Adele: Python Rites Expanded!

Solved at last: the burning mystery of Joan of Arc

Pot is called biggest cash crop

Reading Shakespeare has dramatic effect on human brain

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From The Chuang Tzu:

In The World of Men On Long Distance Relationships

I want to tell you something else I have learned. In all human relations, if the two parties are living close to each other, they may form a bond through personal trust. But they are far apart, they must use words to communicated the loyalty, and words must be transmitted by someone. To transmit words that are either pleasing to both parties or infuriating to both parties is one of the most difficult things in the world. Where both parties are pleased, there must be some exaggeration of the good points and where bother parties are angered, there must be some exaggeration of the bad points. Anything that smacks of exaggeration is irresponsible. Where there is irresponsibility, no one will trust what is said, and when that happens, the man who is transmitting the words will be in danger. Therefore the aphorism says, “Transmit the established facts; do not transmit words of exaggeration.” If you do that, you will probably come out all right.

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Mckenna: On UFOs and Science

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Angels & Daimons

Stories of guardian angels have enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, becoming a staple of fluffy New Age-ism and the subject of countless books. But, argues Patrick Harpur, these mediators between God and man have a long and fascinating history and might not be quite as cuddly as we’ve been led to believe.

Hope Macdonald describes, in When Angels Appear (1982), an incident in which a young mother sees that her three-year-old daughter, Lisa, has escaped from the garden and is sitting on the railway line beyond. At that moment, a train comes around the bend, its whistle blowing. “As she raced from the house screaming her daughter’s name, she suddenly saw a striking figure, clothed in pure white, lifting Lisa off the track with an arm around the child… When the mother reached the daughter’s side, Lisa was standing alone.”

Not many tales of guardian angels are as dramatic as this one, but a surprising number of people attest to some experience or other that they ascribe to the action of a guardian angel, whether it’s a single word of warning or, as is commonly reported, a simple touch on the shoulder or tug on the sleeve. According to a US poll in the 1990s, 69 per cent of Americans believe in angels; 46 per cent claim to have their own guardian angels and 32 per cent have felt an angelic presence. Nor does the pre-millennial craze for angels seem to have abated, if the number of Internet references to them is any indication.

While Lisa’s angel conforms to our expectations – a white, possibly winged, powerful and protective being – they are not always thus. A clergyman’s widow told her friend, folklorist Katharine Briggs, how she suffered from an injured foot and had been sitting one day on a seat in London’s Regent’s Park, wondering how on Earth she’d find the strength to limp home, when suddenly she saw a tiny man in green who looked at her very kindly and said: “Go home. We promise that your foot shan’t pain you tonight.” Then he disappeared. But the intense pain in her foot had gone. She walked home easily and slept painlessly all night.

Angelic Origins

The origin of angels is not easy to unravel. They do not feature greatly in the Old Testament but seem to have returned with the Jews from their Babylonian Captivity, where the angelology of Zoroastrian Persia was probably influential. Although the Zoroastrians had a well-developed doctrine of guardian angels, the angels who became dominant figures in the Jewish apocalyptic writings from the third century BC onwards were impersonal rather than personal. As Harold Bloom reminds us in Omens of Millennium (1996), far from being sweetness and light, angels were highly ambiguous, awesome, even terrifying, like the archangel Metatron. We might remember that when Muhammad the Prophet asked to look upon the angel Gabriel, who, as the agent of his revelation might well be called his guardian angel, he fainted dead away at the shock of seeing such a vast being, filling the horizon and stretching upwards out of view. In the Book of Enoch (Enoch was held by some to have been transformed into Metatron when “he walked with God, and was not, because God took him”) angels lust after Earth women, like the Nephilim of Genesis, who “mated with the daughters of men.” Thus did St Paul warn women “to have a veil on their heads, because of the angels” (Corinthians 11:10). In Colossians, he warns against worship of angels, implying that there’s no difference between angels and demons.

However, angels found their way into Western culture largely through Dionysius the Areopagite, who was originally believed to have been an Athenian disciple of St Paul, but is now reckoned to be a Syrian monk of the late fifth century. His book The Celestial Hierarchy is the most influential text in the history of angelology. It was he, for example, who decided that angels were pure spiritual beings, an idea taken up enthusiastically by St Thomas Aquinas, and hence by the Roman Catholic Church (although St Augustine was not so sure whether or not angels had material bodies). It was he who arranged the angels into their nine orders from Cherubim, Seraphim and Thrones, through Dominations, Virtues and Powers, down to Principalities, Archangels and Angels – each order a link in the Great Chain of Being which stretched from God down to mankind, the animals, plants and stones.

The idea that angels mediated between God and mankind was actually a much older one that the pseudo-Dionysius derived from the great Neoplatonists who flourished in the Hellenistic culture surrounding Alexandria in the first to fourth centuries AD. His whole system of theology in fact was cribbed wholesale from Plotinus, Iamblichus and Proclus and then Christianised. But in the original ‘theology’ the mediating beings were not called angels but daimones, daimons (or, after the Latin, if you prefer, dæmons). The idea of guardian angels comes from the Greek notion of the personal daimon.

The most famous personal daimon in antiquity belonged to Plato’s mentor, Socrates. According to Apuleius, in On the god of Socrates, the god was a daimon which mediated between God or the gods and Socrates. Daimons, claimed Apuleius, inhabit the air and have bodies of so transparent a kind that we can’t see them, only hear them. This was the case with Socrates, whose daimon was famous for simply saying “No” whenever he was about to encounter danger or do something displeasing to the gods. Nevertheless, the daimons are as much material as spiritual, despite what later Catholic apologists, such as Aquinas, might have us believe. To say they inhabit the air is a metaphor for the middle realm they inhabit between the material and spiritual realms – what the great scholar of Sufism, Henri Corbin, calls “the imaginal world” in which a different, daimonic reality prevails.

We all have a personal daimon, which the Romans translated as ‘genius’ – indeed, they sacrificed to their genius on their birthdays – but perhaps it is only in those with an exceptionally powerful summons from the daimon, a striking vocation, that daimons become unusually apparent. CG Jung, the great Swiss psychologist, for instance, dreamt of a winged being sailing across the sky. He saw that it was an old man with the horns of a bull. He held a bunch of four keys, one of which he clutched as if he were about to open a lock. The lock he was about to open, of course, was the locked unconscious psyche of Jung. This mysterious figure introduced himself as Philemon; and he visited Jung often after that, not only in dreams but while he was awake as well. “At times he seemed to me quite real,” wrote Jung in Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1961), “as if he were a living personality. I went walking up and down the garden with him, and to me he was what the Indians call a guru… Philemon brought home to me the crucial insight that there are things in the psyche which I do not produce, but which have their own life… I held conversations with him and he said things which I had not consciously thought… He said I treated thoughts as if I generate them myself but in his view thoughts were like animals in the forest, or people in a room… It was he who taught me psychic objectivity, the reality of the psyche.”

If this is an unconventional picture of a ‘guardian angel’, it is conservative compared to Napoleon’s ‘familiar spirit’ which, as described by Aniela Jaffé in Apparitions (1958), “protected him, which guided him, as a dæmon, and which at particular moments took on the shape of a shining sphere, which he called his star, or which visited him in the figure of a dwarf clothed in red that warned him”. On the other hand, it was not so eccentric when we consider that, according to the Neoplatonist Iamblichus, daimons favour luminous appearances or ‘phasmata’ second only to manifesting in personified form. The phasmata of daimons are “various and dreadful”. They appear “at different times… in a different form, and appear at one time great, but at another small, yet are still recognised to be the phasmata of dæmons”. Thus it’s not so surprising if a personal daimon shape-shifts, showing itself now as a Gabriel-sized angel, now as a red dwarf. And perhaps the little ‘aliens’ who appear to those who have shortly before seen an anomalous light in the sky, are not so much inhabitants of the UFO as an alternative manifestation of it.

Genius and genes

Another paradox in the nature of the personal daimon is that it can also be impersonal. Our clergyman’s widow encountered a being that was clearly and intimately connected with her – yet also almost part of the landscape, like a fairy. I suggest that, while the personal daimon is exactly that – personal – it is also always grounded in the impersonal and unknowable depths of the psyche. It is also, in other words, a manifestation of the Anima Mundi, or Soul of the World – as the case of Plotinus, the first and greatest of the Neoplatonic philosophers, makes clear.

While he was living in Rome, Plotinus was approached by an Egyptian priest who, wishing to show off his theurgical powers, asked if he might be allowed to invoke a visible manifestation of Plotinus’s daimon. The sage agreed. The rite took place in the Temple of Isis, the only pure place in Rome, according to the priest. But to everyone’s surprise, the daimon turned out to be a god. The priest was so shocked that the god disappeared before it could be questioned. Plotinus himself was eloquent on the subject of the personal daimon. He held that every human psyche is a spectrum of possible levels, on any one of which we may choose to live (each of us is an ‘intellectual cosmos’); whatever level one chooses, the next one above it serves as one’s daimon. If one lives well, one may live at a higher level in the next life, and then the level of one’s daimon will accordingly rise, until for the perfect sage the daimon is the One itself – the One being the transcendent source and goal of everything that is. In other words, the daimon was not, for Plotinus, an anthropomorphic being but an inner psychological principle, the spiritual level above that on which we conduct our lives. It is therefore both within us and, at the same time, transcendent; this suggests that it is simultaneously as personal as a ‘familiar’ and as impersonal as a god. Iamblichus went further, to assert that personal daimons are not fixed but can develop or perhaps unfold in relation to our own spiritual development, rather as Jung might say that, in the course of individuation, we move beyond the personal unconscious to the impersonal, collective unconscious, through the daimonic to the divine. We are assigned a daimon at birth, said Iamblichus, to govern and direct our lives; but our task is to obtain a god in its place.

This doctrine comes from a story or myth told by Plato in The Republic (X, 620e) concerning a man called Er, who had what we would now call a near-death experience. He brought back news not just of what happens after death, but what happens before birth. We choose the lives we are about to lead, he said, but we are allotted a daimon to act as guardian and to help us fulfil our choice. Then we pass under the throne of Necessity, the pattern of our lives having been fixed, to be born. Our daimons are the imaginative blueprints of our lives. They lay down the personal myth, as it were, which we are bound to enact in the course of our lives. They are the voice that calls us to our true purpose, our vocation. The reality of the personal daimon is affirmed by the fact that it is an idea that persists in the human mind, so that no matter how we may wish to grow out of belief in Plato’s old tale, it crops up in different guises again and again – as the Roman genius, for example, or the Arabic genie; as the shaman’s spirit helper or the Christian guardian angel.

Its latest, and debased, incarnation is in the Just So story of the ‘selfish gene’. In the early pages of his book of that name, Richard Dawkins finds it impossible to avoid talking about our ‘selfish genes’ as if they were personal daimons. They “create form”, he says, and “mould matter” and “choose”. They are “the immortals”. They “possess us” (my italics). We are merely “lumbering robots” whose genes “created us body and mind”. This anthropomorphic language is, I would suggest, hardly that of science, but let it pass. For Dawkins is doing what scientism often does: he is unconsciously literalising a myth. Traditionally, our bodies have been seen as the vehicles of our personal daimon, our soul or ‘higher self’. Now, by an amusing inversion, we are asked to believe that our most valuable attributes are simply pressed into the service of our genes. As Professor RC Lewontin sums up wryly in The Doctrine of DNA: Biology as Ideology (1993), “it is really our genes that are propagating themselves through us. We are only their instruments, their temporary vehicles…”

The ‘selfish gene’ is allotted to us by Chance and thereafter subjects us to its inexorable Necessity – the pattern we are forced by the genes to live out. Chance and Necessity: the twin goddesses of science who are supposed to rule our lives. But Plato’s daimon tells another tale, one which science has not so much replaced as inverted and made literal. The daimon is allotted to us in accordance with the life we have already chosen. We are not merely the random result of the chance meeting of our parents, for we have chosen them just as they have, willy-nilly, chosen each other. We really do come into the world ‘trailing clouds of glory’. Thereafter, we are subject, certainly, to Necessity; but it manifests as a fate or destiny we are also free to deny. Of course, that would not be advisable: to cut oneself off from one’s daimon is to lose its protection and guidance, to court accidents and to lose one’s way. Besides, to deny the daimon turns out to be only the illusion of freedom. Real freedom, it turns out, paradoxically, is freely to choose to subordinate our egotistical desires and wishes to the imperatives of the personal daimon, whose service is perfect freedom.

Creative Daimons

In The Soul’s Code (1996), James Hillman – the best of the post-Jungian analytical psychologists – develops a whole child psychology based on the idea of the personal daimon. He calls it the acorn theory, according to which “each life is formed by its unique image, an image that is the essence of that life and calls it to a destiny. As the force of fate, this image acts as a personal daimon, an accompanying guide who remembers your calling… The daimon motivates. It protects. It invents and persists with stubborn fidelity. It resists compromising reasonableness and often forces deviance and oddity upon its keeper and especially when it is neglected or opposed.”

Since it represents the fate of the individual – since our adult ‘oak’ life is latent in our acorn state – the personal daimon is prescient. It knows the future – not in detail, perhaps, because it can’t manipulate events, but the general pattern. It is that within us which is forever restless and unsatisfied, yearning and homesick, even when we are at home. (But we should note that it is not our conscience: the daimon is not a moralist, and so it is possible to ask our daimon to fulfil our own desires, even evil or selfish ones; we can appropriate the daimon’s power for our own egotistical ends.) In short, our behaviour is not just formed by the past, as psychology tends to suppose; it can be formed retroactively by the future, by the intuition of where our calling will take us, and what we are destined to become. Hillman cites the example of many famous people’s biographies where the child either knows what he might become – like Yehudi Menuhin insisting as a tiny child on having a violin, yet smashing the toy violin he was given: his daimon was already grown up and disdained to play a child’s toy – or fears to know what he must become – Manolete, bravest and best of bullfighters, clung to his mother’s apron strings as if he already knew the dangers he would have to encounter as an adult. Winston Churchill was a poor scholar, consigned to what we’d now call a remedial reading class, as if putting off the moment when he would have to labour for his Nobel Prize for Literature.

Thus, when we see bright children going off the rails, we should hesitate to blame their parents and their past. Their daimons are, after all, parentless and have plans for them other than the plans of parents or the conformist demands of school. (It’s notable that our passion for attributing aberrant behaviour in children to dodgy parenting is highly eccentric: in traditional societies, whatever’s wrong always comes from elsewhere, whether witchcraft, taboo-breaking, neglected rituals, contact with unfavourable places, a remote enemy, an angry god, a hungry ghost, an offended ancestor and so on – but never to what your mum and dad did to you, or didn’t do, years ago.)

Those exceptional souls who become aware of their daimon, as Jung did, have the satisfaction of fulfilling its purpose and hence of fulfilling their true selves. But this does not make them immune to suffering; for who knows what Badlands the daimon would have us cross before we reach the Isles of the Blessed? Who knows what wrestling, what injury, we are in for – like Jacob – at the hands of our angel? What our daimon teaches us, therefore, is not to always be seeking a cure for our suffering but rather to seek a supernatural use for it. “I have had much trouble in living with my ideas,” wrote Jung at the end of his long and fruitful life. “There was a daimon in me… It overpowered me, and if I was at times ruthless it was because I was in the grip of a daimon… A creative person has little power over his own life. He is not free. He is captive and driven by his daimon… The daimon of creativity has ruthlessly had its way with me.”

For the poet, the daimon is his or her Muse, who is at the very least a mixed blessing. Keats painted portraits of his Muse in Lamia and The Belle Dame sans Merci: white-skinned, cold, irresistibly alluring figures who seduce the poet, drain him like a vampire for their own purposes, and leave him “alone and palely loitering”. For, once she is awakened, the Muse will drive relentlessly to become the centre of the personality, casting aside whatever we think of as ourselves. The rewards in terms of achievement can be enormous, but they are also dangerous; and everyday life, with its little comforts and satisfactions, can be a casualty. As the late Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes, writes feelingly in Winter Pollen (1994), the Muse “from earliest times came to the poet as a god, took possession of him, delivered the poem, then left him.” It was axiomatic, he says, that she lived her own life separate from the poet’s everyday personality; that she was entirely outside his control; and that she was, above all, supernatural.

The last word on personal daimons goes to the great Irish poet, WB Yeats, who wrote in his book, Mythologies (1959): “I think it was Heraclitus who said: the Daimon is our destiny. When I think of life as a struggle with the Daimon who would ever set us to the hardest work among those not impossible, I understand why there is a deep enmity between a man and his destiny, and why a man loves nothing but his destiny… I am persuaded that the Daimon delivers and deceives us, and that he wove the netting from the stars and threw the net from his shoulder…” Here is a portrait of the personal daimon which is both daunting and beautiful and, like Jung’s, tinged with a poignant melancholy. For the daimon is our taskmaster, driving us to perform the most difficult work possible for us, no matter what the human cost. No wonder our feelings for it are as ambiguous as it shows itself to be. Anyone who invokes their guardian angel, therefore, should beware. It may not be as fluffy and cuddly as you’d have it. It will protect you, yes – but only the ‘you’ who serves its plan for your self. It will guide you, certainly – but who knows what sojourn in the wilderness this might entail? And, because the personal daimon is, finally, grounded in the impersonal Ground of Being itself, you will inevitably be led way, way out of your depth.

End

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Chuang Tzu: Section Twenty-Two

Master Tung-kuo asked Chuang Tzu, “This thing called the Way-where does it exist?”

Chuang Tzu said, “There’s no place it doesn’t exist.”

“Come,” said Master Tung-kuo, “you must be more specific!”

“It is in the ant.”

“As low a thing as that?”

“It is in the panic grass.”

“But that’s lower still!”

“It is in the tiles and shards.”

“How can it be so low?”

“It is in the piss and shit.”

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Poetry: Chuang Tzu

The Giant Peng Bird

In the Northern Sea there is a fish

Its name is Kun

The great size of Kun

We know not how many thousand leagues

Its name is Peng

The wingspan of Peng

We know not how many thousand leagues

It surges into flight.

Its wings are like the clouds that hang from the sky

This bird, when the ocean begins to heave

Will travel to the Southern Sea

The Southern Sea – the heavenly pond

trans. by Derek Lin

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Distinguishing Ego from Self

All that is limited by form, semblance, sound, color is called object.

Among them all, man alone is more than an object.

Though, like objects, he has form and semblance,

He is not limited to form.

He is more.

He can attain to formlessness.

When he is beyond form and semblance, beyond “this” and “that,”

where is the comparison with another object?

Where is the conflict?

What can stand in his way?

He will rest in his eternal place which is no-place.

He will be hidden in his own unfathomable secret.

His nature sinks to its root in the One.

His vitality, his power hide in secret Tao.

-trans. T.Merton

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Letting go of thoughts

The mind remains undetermined in the great Void.

Here the highest knowledge is unbounded.

That which gives things their thusness cannot be delimited by things.

So when we speak of ‘limits’, we remain confined to limited things.

The limit of the unlimited is called ‘fullness.’

The limitlessness of the limited is called ‘emptiness.’

Tao is the source of both.

But it is itself neither fullness nor emptiness.

-trans by T.Merton

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One Legged Man

Kung Wen Hsien saw Yo Shi and exclaimed:

“What kind of person is this?

How come only one foot?

Is this ordained by Heaven,

Or caused by Man?”

He then said to himself:

“It is Heaven, not Man.

Heaven’s destiny let him be crippled.

The image of Man is given by Heaven.

Therefore we know this is the work of Heaven, not Man.”

-The True Tao

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Alien Dreamtime – Terence McKenna SF Multimedia DMT Trip

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From The Chuang Tzu:

Discussion On Making All Things Equal

Now let me ask you some questions. If a man sleeps in a damp place, his back aches and he ends up half paralyzed, but is this true of a loach? If he lives in a tree, he is terrified and shakes with fright, but is this true of a monkey? Of these three creatures, then, which one knows the proper place to live? Men eat the flesh of grass-fed and grain-fed animals, deer eat grass, centipedes find snakes tasty, and hawks and falcons relish mice. Of these four, which knows how food ought to taste? Monkeys pair with monkeys, deer go out with deer, and fish play around with fish. Men claim that Mao-chi’iang and Lady Li were beautiful, but if fish saw them they would dive to the bottom of the stream, if birds saw them they would fly away, and if deer saw them they would break into a run. Of these four, which knows how to fix the standard of beauty for the world? The way I see it, the rules of benevolence and righteousness and the paths of right and wrong are all hopelessly snarled and jumbled. How could I know anything about such discriminations?”

The sage embraces things. Ordinary men discriminate among them and parade their discriminations before others. So I say, those who discriminate fail to see.

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