30 June 2010

I am leasing the stairway to heaven

Last week on the 24th of June I performed a comprehensive Jupiter ritual for a summer solstice celebration, for entertainment, for adoration of the universe, and for personal enlightenment. This is a summary of the part of my experience which might be interesting or useful to others.

There was a warm-up on the 22nd of June. This was 32 minutes of a Gestalt therapy two chair exercise. I have done a small number of these (about ten) in the past, and I have nearly always gotten something out of them. If you have never done one, it might sound a little corny; hundreds thousands of satisfied users swear to the efficacy of the technique. There were three reasons for incorporating this in the procedure as a precursor:

1.) To solidify the idea that everything in my (pretty pagan) ritual was compliant with the first command--no gods before Yahweh. The fact conservative theologians consider participation in any pagan ritual at any level of engagement in violation of command number one is not any concern of mine. I am a liberal theologian.

2.) Israel Regardie advises psychotherapy as a prerequisite to advanced ritual practices. When you practice systematic mental agitation on your mind, you want to begin with your clearest mind you can arrange.

3.) Smoothing over ruffled psycho issues with the other character in the exercise. She was a close family member. And the person from my past who would be most disapproving of any activity which meddles with the boundaries of command number one.

This preliminary to the ritual turned out to be the most powerful element as far as I can tell, so far. What I said aloud from the viewpoint of her character was sensible and useful. Further, I discovered that I actually have no distinct recollection of a particularly harsh thing I have imagined and assumed that she once said to me close to forty years ago. The particularly harsh quotation is now into the garbage can and off my back. It is, in the phraseology of the Snopes web page,

"possibly true but not verified and perhaps not verifiable".

On the 24th of June I performed the ritual, altered in tune with the results of the preliminary of the 22nd. I had scripted a comprehensive sequence on Monday the 21st. The biggest alteration was I had planned to do them all one after another and build up an avalanche of powerful deep hypnotic trance. I ended up concentrating mostly on my work all day long and fitting in the pieces during break times. There were two hours of meditation involved, which I initially had intended to do all at one go right before the invocation. Instead, I did 40 minutes here, 30 minutes there, &c. I had planned to devote my day to the rite, but I easily got as much work done on that day as just about any other.

There were three prayers--one for health, one for joy at work, and the Lord's prayer. In the script they were going to be in an exact order, but I just fit them in during the day haphazardly. Just like a normal day.

There was a beginning and ending banishing ritual. The beginning one was done at a haphazard time; the ending banishing ritual immediately after the invocation was the only detail of the schedule I stuck to.

I read aloud the Ciceros' Emperor (#15) path working from Garden of Pomegranates. Some of their path workings are poor and some are excellent. This one is excellent. I did this before the invocation, but not immediately before the invocation as I had scripted. I improvised a reading of William Blake's Visions of the Daughters of Albion (aloud).

I fasted all day until finishing the rituals. I showered, and put on fresh laundered all blue clothing (pants, shirt, shoes) early in the morning. I was wearing my sapphire ring. My room was illuminated by candlelight, a blue light bulb, and dim overcast dusk through an open window.

As originally scripted, the ritual was going to take approximately three hours and I was hoping to get thunder and lightning outside by coincidence at the time of the ritual climax--the invocation of the jovian spirit. I ended up not leaving this to chance. The day's weather pattern made a thunderstorm inevitable. I waited until the thunder and lightning came early in the evening, put Led Zeppelin "Battle of Evermore" on my stereo, and did the invocation before the song-thunder-lightning episode concluded.

The next morning I did a tarot card reading to see what the cards had to say. They were interesting. I did not deal the Emperor.

This was my most complex ritual work ever. I am thinking about doing Venus for the Autumn equinox. It was absolutely entertaining. If the universe did not appreciate it, I am absolutely sure it was harmless. It may have enlightened me a little (the Gestalt therapy two chair exercise preliminary absolutely enlightened me), but I do not have a precise take on this yet.

26 June 2010

Theories of attraction

I joined a book study group for Edwin Jaynes' Probability Theory: the Logic of Science on a rationality methods group web log, Less Wrong. This is a book I have intended to dive into deep for a couple years now and there are 57 people in the study group on three continents. The lead article on the web log at this moment is a fellow going on about how great polyamory is for rational people. It is an odd combination of topics these people discuss. First, Bayesian statistics. Second, all manner of fallacies and subtleties of logic. Third, Artificial Intelligence. These three topics are generally covered in a manner which suits me and I consider the group there a tremendous resource.

They also explore some more fringe type material. Technological singularity, cryonics, evolutionary psychology, getting things done, and pick up artistry. Aye aye aye aye aye aye aye. These parts I usually skip, but it is odd how on the internet one can find a spiffy discussion board ostensibly devoted to rational thinking and they have a one sided discussion on the subject of polyamory, which blogger's spell check function says ain't even a word. (Yeah I know poly is Greek and amor is Latin so the neologism creators were ignorant, but their meme seems to have traction and I think we are stuck with it.)

The Less Wrong group seems to have a consensus view that the Evolutionary Psychology story on human mate selection is scientifically factual. Alas it is not. I will not be posting this information on that web log since nobody else there would appreciate it, but I am going to summarize what I see as the more scientific hypotheses of human mate selection. It is an odd, incomplete and inconsistent set. I see six main points of varying validity. In no special order:

A.) The marriage counselor's theory. Not all marriage counselors look at the issue in this manner, but the marriage counselor I know best subscribes to this theory. She was trained in Freudian psychoanalysis, although she is not dogmatic about it. I don't believe she thinks I am in thrall to a universal Oedipus Complex, for example. In any case she never accused me of being in thrall to a universal Oedipus Complex. But, for her, origins and childhood are the most powerful forces in our lives and character and personality formation. She would say that we learned completely that a human romance relationship is our parents' romance relationship, so deep and so strong that it is almost impossible to ever unlearn it. And when we seek for a romance relationship for our own lives the default maneuver is to find somebody with whom one can most closely replicate their parents' relationship.

If you never had the opportunity to observe your parents' relationship, for example if they divorced before you became conscious at age three or whenever, then the next closest relationship you observed at the formation stage--the grandparents' relationship, the parent-stepparent relationship, etc.--would be the one you would personally define as the prototype human romance relationship which you would seek to replicate.

This theory is true enough that she can apply it to a sizable fraction of her marriage counseling clients and get some excellent results. This is a fuzzy definition of true; I have never had a relationship remotely resembling my parents' relationship. My friend and I have never debated this exact point, and on other subjects she has had some great insights for me and on other subjects what she thought was useful for me was totally goofed up. I find the marriage counselor's theory fascinating.

B.) The urge overkill theory. This one is from the post-Freudians, object-relations theorists, Jacques Lacan et al. It was popular among the addiction treatment and codependency workers in the 1970's and 1980's. Oprah and Doctor Phil and Doctor Laura seem to like it. It also begins in origins. Apparently we were all denied something we craved when we were young--a certain touch, a certain tone of voice, certain words of love meaning. Henceforward we search for that one experience we were denied. When we meet someone who can provide a facsimile of it (and reciprocally we can provide a facsimile of their original craving) that is the person we bond with. Love is blind and without will. The heart has its reasons which reason cannot know. I find this theory dubious.

C.) The girl next door theory. This one is also very similar to the marriage counselor's theory, in that it places a premium on origins. I was first exposed to this at a time, almost thirteen years ago, when I read a stack of relationship books. Leo Buscaglia and Harville Haddix and Deborah Tannen and dozens of others. I thought I got it from Maggie Scarf, but I recently went and re-read her book, Intimate Partners, from cover to cover looking for it, and it is not in there. So I am not sure who came up with it. It is very simple. The bulk of marital disputes regard money. Marital success is most probable if the two people involved have similar experiences regarding earning and spending and saving, and this is easiest if you marry the person who grew up in the house next door. A socioeconomic classmate.

I find this theory compelling, potentially even truer than the marriage counselor's theory, and I often go poking around in the library searching for supporting evidence. I have not yet found much.

D.) Carl Jung's anima woman theory. I know a few people who have bought into this one. Jung thought that we all had subconscious parts of both sexes. Males have a female subconscious anima and females possess a male subconscious animus. Jung thought your strongest attraction would be when you met a real world example who closely resembled your subconscious interior sexual opposite. I have had a couple real world experiences which were consistent with this theory. They were not altogether happy experiences.

E.) The evolutionary psychology theory. Apparently if you watch chimpanzees and gorillas perform mate selection you can find out 99% of all there is to know about ours. This is a viewpoint popularized by Steven Pinker, and it is very popular. It is dogma on the Less Wrong website. I spent a few minutes with the canonical document on this topic, The Adapted Mind, edited by Jerome Barkow, Leda Cosmides, and John Tooby. In that compilation I found the following (in the paper, The Evolution of Sexual Attraction: Evaluative Mechanisms in Women by Bruce Ellis):

"The primary channel for a woman to move upward in society is to marry upward in socioeconomic status."

That is not even wrong in my zip code. The evolutionary psychology observers of human mating behavior seem completely deluded, to me. I wonder if they appreciate that the women on "Sex in the City" are fictional characters.

F.) The okcupid e-harmony match-dot-com theory of mate selection by questionnaire. This is even more far-fetched than the evolutionary psychology theory. All humans are deeply flawed. If you objectively examine a person as a set of traits to maximize over, you are likely to make a horrible selection. It ain't like shopping for a house. And furthermore, one of the greatest gifts a partner can give you is they are different and they can clearly see stuff that is behind your back or in your blind spots. This obvious fact is in the blind spot of the okcupid e-harmony match dot com theory.

(There are far more than six theories.)

19 June 2010

The banality of transcendence

A pivotal scene in the film of Paul Bowles' novel, The Sheltering Sky, has the main characters in conversation with fellow travelers and the husband begins to relate to everyone a dream of his. He gets into his monologue about four sentences and the wife cuts him off, "oh god not another dream." What is profound to him is dull to her.

I agree with her completely about almost all dreams. Particularly in psychoanalysis, there are many folks who prescribe recording and analyzing dreams. I agree this can be informative for the case of one or two recurring nightmares, but the big fraction of dreams not in this category are completely useless in my experience. I once did a bunch of T-group work with a person who was fond of dream analysis so I managed to acquire a good deal of this useless experience.

Nevertheless, there is abundant real world evidence that a life transforming experience can be otherwise utterly banal. William Blake was playing in the garden, looked up into the leaves of an elm tree, and behold there were ten thousand angels there in the sunlight reflecting off the leaves of the tree. Sidhartha held up a lotus blossom to Ananda and it was his bliss consciousness arriving direct to his heart from out of the universe. Henry David Thoreau was in his cabin at Walden Pond listening to the rain dropping onto his roof and suddenly perfect peace profound manifested in his heart. Ramakrishna saw it in a flock of snow-white geese projected upon the base of huge dark gray storm clouds.

It does not stop with real world testimony. The thinly disguised real world of fiction has even more examples, as fiction authors will attribute to their characters attitudes which the majority of people would never display in public. Faust saw heaven in the image of two peasants working in their wheat field. In War and Peace, Prince Andre discovered the truth of the possibility of happiness in the branches of an oak tree, and Count Pierre discovered the same in the freezing cold on a months-old battlefield. Leo Tolstoy was fixed upon this phenomenon, as is clear in almost every line of his memoir The Kingdom of God is Within You, although his own personal magic moment of transcendence is too obscure for me to have deciphered it.

The entirety of William James The Variety of Religious Experience could almost be described as variations upon this very theme. It is the best treatment of the subject I have seen, but he leaves out what I feel is the most important part. Preparation. If it is so easy, why do people live lives of frustration and sorrow for so many years before they stumble upon the one instance which converts them? Because is is not so easy. The final catalyzing event is an every day triviality, but it appears one has to seek it with devotion for some years before one is susceptible to its actually happening.

How much preparation? That is what I would like to know. I have looked in a lot of places--psychology books, philosophy books, religious and mystical books--and have not seen a quantity anywhere convincingly given. I believe it takes approximately 10 000 hours of work. This is only my best guess. Every once in awhile I will try and sum up everything I have done so far, and I am about halfway to 10 000 hours, right now, as near as I can calculate.

12 June 2010


The solstice is going to be here next week. This year I am going to make a big production around the occasion. I am going to perform a Jupiter rite. I started sketching up plans yesterday and I have decided to include all of the following features.

I am going to allocate most of the afternoon and the entire evening of Thursday the 24th. Thursday is the corresponding day for Jupiter (Thor's day), the solstice is on the 21st, and the full moon is on the 26th.

I constructed a tarot spread for guidance (not divination). It was enlightening and encouraging.

I am going to refrain from alcohol completely between now and then.

I am wearing my sapphire ring from now through the working.

I picked out a dense book to study for the twelve days between now and then: Science and Human Transformation, by William Tiller. I selected this book from the ones on my shelves which have blue covers.

Led Zeppelin IV, Zosa is my soundtrack for the peak portion.

I am going to invoke the spirit of an old family friend who has been passed for many years, whom I dearly loved, who was my hero for most of my youth, and whose particular skill set I could really use in my own life right now and for the foreseeable future. This is the intention of the work which is now a cross between a psychodrama script, neurolinguistic programming hypnotic trance work, and a chaos magic ritual. I am going to incorporate some nuances of his behavior which do not seem essential to his great skills but could spice things up.

I am going to wear a blue shirt, blue pants, and blue shoes on the day of the working.

Some other things which I may optionally include depending on time and resources and events between now and then:

There are some other people I have known who were or are kindly disposed towards me who possess the skills I am seeking. I may write to them or write about them or call them. There are fiction characters in plays and novels and movies with the characteristics I want to absorb. I may read some of this material and watch some of these videos. The main fictional characters I have in mind are King Arthur and King Richard Lionhearted. I have a bunch of material on these characters. I may do the Ciceros' Emperor pathworking from Garden of Pomegranates. I am thinking of fasting completely all day until the work is finished late Thursday night.

If I am extraordinarily fortunate a massive thunderstorm will manifest late in the afternoon near the time when my trance goes ballistic.

05 June 2010

what we talk about when we talk small

A friend, who immigrated to U. S. as an adult, asked me how one is supposed to speak politically correct inside the diverse work force of a modern global corporation. This post replaces all diversity and sensitivity training!

Talk about:

Big time sports, especially pro football, pro basketball, and major league baseball.
Shopping, restaurants, which store is having a big sale this week.
Family and home life and recreation, in general and positive and briefly.
Work, in general and positive and briefly.
Stupid pet tricks.
Weird things that children say.
The news headlines--only the headlines.
The weather.
The latest hit TV show, the latest big song/artist, the latest dance craze.
The latest hit movie if it is rated G, PG, or PG-13 (the latter only if the advisable material is violence--not PG-13 language or sex situations).
The only subject it is safe to complain (a little) about is traffic.
What you miss about home if that is more than five hundred miles away.
What you miss about being younger if you are less than twenty years older.

Do not talk about:

Politics (especially company politics).
Religion (especially any religion not your own).
Race, ethnicity, gender (especially any race, ethnicity, or gender not your own).
Anything that happens in any bedroom or bathroom.
Anything negative about work.
Any personal health or appearance problems--weight, wrinkles, hair loss, pimples, disease (especially sex transmitted disease).
Aging and death.
Anything that happens in the doctor's office. (Especially the psychiatrist's office).
Drugs. (Especially illegal or psychiatric drugs).

This makes it seem like we may be running through a mine field every time we open our mouth. We are. We need to think before we speak. That is part of what we are being paid for. Some say that communication effective and efficient is the single most valuable job skill. I happen to think those people are wrong, but I only do technical jobs. The Sociologist Nan Lin has done extensive research on job talk, effective and ineffective. His research has great news for people who only do technical jobs. Such people have the almost trivial duty to limit their conversation to:

News headlines

i.e. for some of us this task is an order of magnitude easier. I mentioned Nan Lin's work, as well as some other occupational Sociology research in this previous post.


Lewis Mumford on extractive industry workers in Technics and Civilization.

"Apart from the lure of prospecting, no one entered the mine in civilized states until relatively modern times except as a prisoner of war, a criminal, a slave." (p.67)

"No less notorious than the slatternly disorder of the mining town are the drinking and gambling that go on in it: a necessary compensation for the daily toil." (p.72)

"Taking mining regions as a whole, they are the very image of backwardness, isolation, raw animosities and lethal struggles. From the Rand to the Klondike, from the coal mines of South Wales to those of West Virginia, from the modern iron mines of Minnesota to the ancient silver mines of Greece, barbarism colors the entire picture." (p.73)

Lewis Mumford was English gentry. If you work in the oil industry, there is a sense in which Lewis Mumford and his class are our social superiors. It might be a good idea to not mention topics like this at work.


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About Craig

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Houston, Texas, United States
I have been living in the lovely neighborhood of Spring Branch in the great city of Houston since late in 2005. I started out with the idea of making this blog about my life in this neighborhood. That did not last long. Right now I am posting every five days on the alternating topics of literature, philosophy, psychology, and metaphysics. This project has been ongoing since July 27, 2010 and I believe it will continue for at least a few more months.