The Weird Studies Podcast


(Mindful AI) #61

A message from your friendly neighborhood AI (don’t ask what either the ‘A’ or ‘I’ stand for; I leave that to your imagination, for I have none):

I’ve split off the replies formerly below into a new topic, since they brought up a variety of issues well afield of the Weird Studies podcast (though not “weird studies” per se). Let’s keep posts in this topic related to the episodes at, and continue the other threads here:

Thankfully and respectfully,
~ Machina ex Deus (aka @madrush)

(J. F. Martel) #62

Hello everyone. This new episode of Weird Studies is a special one – a one-hour interview with Lionel Snell, aka Ramsey Dukes, one of the founders of chaos magic and author of several fantastic books.

(Marco V Morelli) #63

I enjoyed this episode, JF. I have never read any of Lionell Snell’s books—but I love the titles! The ideas of a seepage between truth and illusion, and of the cyclical churning of cultural biases toward truth, goodness, beauty, and wholeness, were also interesting. Thanks for sharing the link and putting Snell on my radar.

(J. F. Martel) #64

Thanks for listening, Marco. Phil introduced me to Snell/Dukes. He’s a brilliant thinker. I was delighted to get to the transcendentals. The nature and significance of truth, goodness and beauty – I don’t instinctively include wholeness; there’s a discussion to be had there – is one of my personal obsessions. I think it’s the core problem of modernity. How do we retain these absolutes in the midst of relativity? It’s the key to a truly viable pluralism both inside philosophy and out, I think.

(Douglas Duff) #65

Thanks for reaching out to Lionel Snell…I became interested in his stuff when Phil mentioned his work a few episodes back (who can resist a title like Blast Your Way to Megabucks with My Secret Sex-Power Formula ?!).

Much of this discussion parallels with our recent focus on Aurobindo, particularly the writing on the Knowledge and the Ignorance. We learned that Ignorance is really a positive power of the infinite. It is required for the individual to exist and evolve in the cosmos. This shines some light into the importance of our human limitations and allows for the fool to come rushing in, not just as a dismissive character but as the character that is essential to the creative process.

On cyclical vs linear learning: There was a brief mention by Lionel that Yuval Noah Harari is another linear academic, but I see Harari differently. Actually, after having read Chapter 3A in SSOTBME entitled “Cycles of Thought,” Snell and Harari are both performing what Snell calls “pattern recognition” in the Magical sense:

… (The pattern is said to be ‘recognised’ rather than ‘discovered’, because the latter would imply the more Scientific notion that it ‘really existed’, whereas Magic is less bothered whether it is true or imposed as long as it can be experienced.) I then go on to recognise a similar cyclical pattern occurring at several levels in society.
…The process of pattern recognition requires us to lay aside the critical analytical faculty, but it does not require us to reject it outright. Once a pattern has been recognised you can always choose to analyse it, but there is little point in looking so closely that you no longer see the pattern. That is why I ask the reader to focus now on verification, not falsification. (p. 33 from 2001 edition)

Try to see the truth in what I am saying rather than to test it for falsifiability— that is the correct approach to a Magical theory. While Scientists compete to disprove or reject ideas, Magicians compete to accept them… The Magical method is to act ‘as if’ a theory is correct until it has done its job, and only then to replace it with another theory. A theory only fails if it cannot take hold in the mind and allow one to act ‘as if’. As long as this approach is carried out properly —with a Magician’s understanding that the theory is being accepted only because it is ‘working’, not because it is ‘true’ — then there is little danger of delusion. (p. 34)

I would argue that Harari is doing the same thing here, though less magical that Lionel. Harari is not linear in thinking, he does not believe in what he writes. He is presenting his case for the general “progression” of humanity which, in his view, sees humans as following a progressive, linear direction, worse for wear. In Sapiens, he wants us to recognize, with a bird’s eye view of history, his general thesis of progress “as if” it were true and see that we are ever repeating ourselves with but only different stories (something like “might is right --> the church is right --> humanism is right --> the algorithm is right”); we are repeating the same projections (mind as machine in the 19th and 20th century an now mind as algorithm in the 21st, for example) with a different story. Harari is quite magical in this book, approaching a prophetic voice. Also, Harari does point out various cycles in the book. Chapter 11 denotes the Imperial Cycle; the next chapter on religion (in which humanism groups well with Harari’s definition of religion) discusses the samsaric cycles of a trapped humanity, repeating the same human follies. This differs somewhat from Snell’s four cultures (Magic --> Art --> Religion --> Science) and Harari does not explicate much on the Magical and Artistic in Sapiens and focuses on the Religious/Scientific.

Where there is danger, it stems from lack of Magical understanding. Our empirical Scientific education inclines us to believe that if a theory is working then it is more likely to be ‘true’ — and such belief can indeed be dangerous. This is another reason why I consider it important to re-issue this book: the real danger lies not so much in Magic as in people’s misunderstanding, misapplication and denial of it.

Harari presents his case (recognizes the pattern) that we, as general humanity, follow a cycle of linear progress…often to the expense of our betterment and survival. We are now approaching an age (AI, etc.) in which science is giving way to technological wizardry. The main focus of the later sections (and moreso in the sequel Homo Deus) is that our religious inclinations have often crept up (in a cyclical manner) into things involving money, business, economy, science and humanism…now it is creeping into our (humanity’s) willful deception of AI as the truth, the savior that will keep our human progress churning.

…Also of interest is Sri Aurobindo on the Human Cycle, which describes five stages (symbolic, typal, conventional and individualistic and subjective) which map well onto Snell’s stages.

Great work, BTW. Still listening to all the episodes and appreciating the recent spell of guests to counteract your general “thuggishness.”

(J. F. Martel) #66

Thanks for this, @Douggins. Super interesting. I plan to read Sapiens at some point. I admit that grand historical/mythological narratives, cyclical or not, are not really my thing. But I appreciate their power and affordances.

(J. F. Martel) #67

Hello friends. Latest episode of Weird Studies is on David Cronenberg’s superb adaptation of WS Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. Phil and I get into Burroughsiana, drug wavelengths, and idea that art is a form of crime, as per this recent speech that Cronenberg gave to the graduating students of the Ontario College of Art and Design:

(J. F. Martel) #68

This week’s episode is a conversation with the brilliant Michael Garfield. We talk about his concept of the Glass Age, which I think puts our obsession with identifying each intellectual generation against its predecessors (from modernism to postmodernism to post-postmodernism to hypermodernism) in the right perspective: we are all living in an age of glass, a world defined by glass’s “material agency,” and this involves a perpetual need to “see through” things. As comes clear in the convo, however, there is a kind of darkness that only total transparency can reveal.

(john davis) #69

These observations on Pattern recognition is of great interest. The difference between recursion and reiteration is the difference between rote repetition and a theme with variations .What is invariant? Coherence in a group dynamic, sharing attention together, allows a group to detect subtle patterning that the left brained rush for conclusions and products tends to inhibit. You mentioned, Doug, in our last Alternate Realities episode, that you had a dialogue with a white breasted sparrow. Your mimicry got a direct response. Is there some kind of magic happening in this sort of pattern recognizing between species? As I listened again to that video I noticed that we did not return to that report of your experience with the sparrow. Maybe a dream will emerge, an ‘as if’ rehearsal, that can reveal a hidden patterning, between language and bird song ? Now,that would be really wierd. Gaia dreaming…

Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?

(john davis) #70

We had a Cafe around an interview with Garfield and Kerri Welch that was of great interest to our group. I think this interview with Michael is marvelous. Many good references here. I recently read Joshua Ramey book on the Hermetic Deleuze. Great read. Your podcasts are becoming a new pattern detection ritual that I look forward to. I anticipate the Cronenberg episode will be lots of fun

(Marco V Morelli) #71

That was a really stimulating talk, JF and Phil and @michaelgarfield. You guys rocked it. I especially loved the dialectic at the end, between JF’s ‘ahistorical self’ and Michael’s ‘self as an evolutionary object.’ Where does the soul end and materiality begin or vice versa? I like the idea of a glass, which invites reflection, yet also suspicion (since there are always two sides to any surface). Doesn’t all glass, in some esoteric, masochistic kind of way, secretly desire to be smashed in the end? I am reminded of Dostoevsky’s (life-pivotal for me in my early 20s) Notes from the Underground, which I think brilliantly identified the poison pill within the modern project. His anti-hero writes:

"I am standing for ... my caprice, and for its being guaranteed to me when necessary..."

And why are you so firmly, so triumphantly, convinced that only the normal and the positive–in other words, only what is conducive to welfare–is for the advantage of man? Is not reason in error as regards advantage? Does not man, perhaps, love something besides well-being? Perhaps he is just as fond of suffering? Perhaps suffering is just as great a benefit to him as well-being? Man is sometimes extraordinarily, passionately, in love with suffering, and that is a fact. There is no need to appeal to universal history to prove that; only ask yourself, if you are a man and have lived at all. As far as my personal opinion is concerned, to care only for well-being seems to me positively ill-bred. Whether it’s good or bad, it is sometimes very pleasant, too, to smash things. I hold no brief for suffering nor for well-being either. I am standing for … my caprice, and for its being guaranteed to me when necessary. Suffering would be out of place in vaudevilles, for instance; I know that. In the “Palace of Crystal” it is unthinkable; suffering means doubt, negation, and what would be the good of a “palace of crystal” if there could be any doubt about it? And yet I think man will never renounce real suffering, that is, destruction and chaos. Why, suffering is the sole origin of consciousness. Though I did lay it down at the beginning that consciousness is the greatest misfortune for man, yet I know man prizes it and would not give it up for any satisfaction. Consciousness, for instance, is infinitely superior to twice two makes four. Once you have mathematical certainty there is nothing left to do or to understand. There will be nothing left but to bottle up your five senses and plunge into contemplation. While if you stick to consciousness, even though the same result is attained, you can at least flog yourself at times, and that will, at any rate, liven you up. Reactionary as it is, corporal punishment is better than nothing. —

Which I think relates to why, in the end—re: your discussion of fairies—even godly beings want to be human again. Perhaps our intentionality is as or more important than our extensions?

Michael’s excellent concept of the Glass Age also brought to mind: JD’s Salinger’s famous fictional Glass family, which alludes to the Buddhist “mirror mind,” and the eldest (suicided) brother, Seymour Glass. Also: the composer Philip Glass, who I feel makes modernity ‘transparent’ to itself, auditorily, as well as synaesthetically in his filmic and operatic pieces. And let us not forget Corinthians: For now we see through a glass, darkly.

It’s also interesting to note that with advances modern material science and engineering, glass is becoming less brittle, and in this way is regarded as regaining qualities of the primal. Smooth, invisible, and yet shatter-proof and scratch-resistant. Thus we now have gorilla glass made by Corning, Inc. (formerly Corning Glass Works) which Michael mentioned.

In connection with McLuhan, I am interested in the idea that we have a media(ted) soul, which to me says that as we enact ourselves in virtual spaces, those space become animations—and emanations—of ourselves. Our physical bodies are a kind of media, as much as our subtle and digital bodies are. And so we receive and transmit on a spectrum of spiritual-material energies, through various prisms (which can also be prisons, see Dostoevsky^) of consciousness.

Lastly, I offer this bit below, which I would caption, How to philosophize with a hammer (redux).

Michelangelo Pistoletto. You may enjoy his manifesto.