on authorship

“Although I am going to talk about what I have written, my books and papers and so on, unfortunately I forget what I have written practically as soon as it is finished. There is probably going to be some trouble about that. But nevertheless I think there is also something significant about it, in that I don’ t have the feeling I have written my books. I have the feeling that my books get written through me and that once they have got across me I feel empty and nothing is left.” – Claude Levi-Strauss, from the introduction to Myth and Meaning.

It is nice to see someone else say this. It is something I have experienced with my books – a peculiar sense of not having written them, despite obviously having done so. More puzzling, too, as writing is such an intimate and all-consuming act, for such a lengthy period. But afterwards… it is done, the past.

(Though I would add a caveat to his sense of “nothing is left”. Writing is, in part, an act of purgation, paradoxically through gluttinous immersion; so when the book is done, the self is purged of whatever it was. If the process has been completed successfully, nothing is left of whatever it was, and the author is free to move on to other things.)

Writing is a wee bit mysterious, really.

Review: Star Maker

The moose finished reading Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon the other day. Published in 1937, it remains utterly unique. Called science fiction for lack of any other label, for there is no other which belongs to its class, it is rightly adjudged extraordinary.

Stapledon lectured in philosophy and psychology, and was particularly influenced by Whitehead. Star Maker is not a novel in the conventional sense. Perhaps it is best considered as a conscious attempt at creating a myth we can live with – though admittedly a challenging myth, given humanity’s own irrelevance in it (Humanity eventually dies out on Neptune, after almost coming close to achieving something interesting. This is an aside in the novel; barely a footnote.), and the particular vision of the creator we close with.

Star Maker begins on a hilltop, where an Englishman goes to look at the stars after a disagreement with his partner. Soon he is a disembodied consciousness exploring the stars. He finds other worlds, other intelligences, and learns of them by merging with their consciousness. He teaches his alien host the means of disembodied travel, and they head off further.

The story follows the path of this disembodied consciousness, as it adds to its numbers, and its understanding of the universe expands. It travels through space and time. The great theme is the expansion of consciousness – the creation of collective telepathic minds at each successive level – species, planetary, multi-planetary, cosmic, uniting with the stars, galactic, then multi-galactic – at each stage against the background of conflict and the struggle to overcome illusions and realise the fundamental unity of being. At which point, with the cosmos being as united a consciousness as it gets, it gets a glimpse of its creator, the Star Maker. And then… well, the final chapter is pretty special.

To say the least, the sheer range of imagination is remarkable. Utterly stupendously epic in scope, incorporating, as it does, the entire history and future of the universe, and taking the form of a philosophical-mythical expression of the search for meaning, in a peculiar scientific-mystical form. If it alone survived with the Bible, Buddhist scriptures, etc, it would have a pretty good case for being the revelation which people followed.

A fascinating, challenging read. It is probably impossible not to be affected by it; if nothing else, to be humbled by the scale of things.


on alcohol

You know, there are times when I wonder if maybe we would be better off entirely without alcohol.

On Love

To love is to will the self-fulfilment of the beloved, and to find, in the very activity of loving, an incidental but vitalizing increase of oneself.

– Olaf Stapledon, Star Maker

yet moore on magic

AM: No. No, I draw a sharp distinction between magic and religion. I see them almost as the spiritual parallels of say, fascism and anarchy in the political arena. To me, politics does not divide into right-wing and left-wing, in that capitalism and communism are both just two different ways of ordering industrial societies, which have not been around for a vast amount of time and probably won’t be around for a lot longer. To me, the two poles of politics are fascism, which… from the original Roman concept, the symbol for it was a bundle of bound twigs. The idea being, “In unity there is strength.” Religion is almost the political equivalent of that. I mean, religion, strictly speaking, doesn’t even have to be about anything spiritual. The Conservative Party is a religion in that they are bound together by belief. Almost any organization has its religious aspects. With magic, I worship a second-century Roman snake god who, on the best evidence that I can dredge up from that period, was some kind of elaborate glove-puppet that was being controlled by a second-century snake-oil salesman, basically a complete fraud, huckster, and showman. I don’t want anybody else to start worshipping this god. I find something a bit unnatural in the idea of being bound together in spiritual ideas with people. I’m sure that, in our natural state, we all believe something entirely different. I don’t necessarily want anybody to believe the same things I believe, which is one of the reasons why I’ve adopted such a patently mad sort of deity. The idea of the deity is all I’m interested in, so that’s fine for my purposes. It would be a bit creepy if everybody else suddenly started worshipping this second-century glove-puppet. Magic to me is more like anarchy. The roots of the word anarchy are an archos, no leaders, which is not really about the kind of chaos that most people imagine when the word anarchy is mentioned. I think that anarchy is, to the contrary, about taking personal responsibility for yourself. I believe that fascism is about abandoning your personal responsibility to the group or to society. You say, “In unity there is strength,” which inevitably will become, “In uniformity there is strength.” It’s better if all those sticks are the same size and length, because then they’ll make a tidier bundle, which consequently leads to the kind of fascism that we saw in the ’30s and ’40s. I mean, anarchy is about taking complete responsibility for yourself. And I would extend that into the spiritual area, with the differences between religion and magic. All I would be urging people to do in Promethea is to explore, in their own way, by whatever means they personally feel comfortable with, using whatever system they happen to feel comfortable with, whether that be Christianity, or paganism, or Hinduism, or anything else, to explore the kind of rich world that I think all of us have inside us. I just want to tell them that that world is there, that there are a variety of ways of exploring it. It doesn’t really matter which way you use, or which system you adopt. It’s a territory I find very rewarding, very fulfilling, very human. To point out that territory to other people is something I feel happy about doing. To erect a huge church there and officiate over rituals, is not.


pirate bay found guilty

Hmm. Piratebay founders have been found guilty of copyright infringement despite not actually hosting any copyrighted material.

They will of course appeal. But still. This is the landmark torrenting case. If you likes your peer to peer downloading, this matters.

More on money as illusion, and its effects

Went along to see Thomas Greco speak last night.

His schtick is similar to the Money Masters type view of the economy – the systemic flaws are to do with the nature of the money system, with money being an illusion with no basis untethered to things that actually exist, but having power to create real effects; and heavily critical of the role of central banks – but without the conspiracy angle, so more mainstream palatable, if the crowd was anything to go by.

A couple of his definitions interested me, or made things clearer; namely, inflation as the improper issuance of money into the economy – any issuance that expands money without expanding goods and services (Money creation via interest is one example of this.) And that inflation, under a central bank system, will lead either to rising prices or recession. Something has to give.

Unfortunately I had to leave before he really got going on alternative currencies and how they work, which is his specialty area, but he is well worth checking out if you want to more about this stuff: http://www.reinventingmoney.com/.

Years ago, when I first started reading about economics, I realised that if most people understood how the economy worked, it would stop working the next day. That has become more specific over time. Now I think people fundamentally do not understand the money system, what money is, or how it works. In particular, the credit which funds the banks is our collective credit, but we can only access it through banks at great cost, and this is kind of … stupid.

We can echo again Henry Ford:

It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.

Alternatives exist. (For example, Solari circles.) But I would like to know more. So this is a place holder for me to remind me. Because economic democracy is vital to political democracy, and rebuilding the economy is vital to building our future.

the death of print news media

Interesting article about the death of print news media in the internet age:
To Newspaper Moguls: You Blew It

and a special hello to US Military readers

Back when we were blogging a lot of political/underground/fringe stuff, we had a pretty regular hit-count from the US Military. It ran at a stable level across the months, like we were being monitored, rather than they were tracking individual items. The attention seemed to drop away a little once the shift in content was more established; or maybe they got lost in the spam, and the spam killing measures that quartered traffic a month or so back has revealed them again.

This is last month’s site traffic by origin.

site usage march 2009

Fully 1% of all site traffic was “US Military”. How bizarre.

(I guess maybe they noticed the thing about the organics last month.)

Just while we are on the US Military, check this out: the testimony of Spc Brandon Neely, a straight up country boy from the USA who enlisted in the army, graduated in 2001, and ended up at Guantanomo Bay as an MP. His testimony is in response to being generally horrified by what was going on, and is fascinating, if brutal, reading.

some random Leary quotes

Psychedelic Salon have uploaded a bunch more Leary podcasts since I last checked in. Here are some of the quotes that leapt out while skimming the site.

“I have one cause, and that’s the goal of the performing philosopher, is to encourage you, and inspire you, and empower you, to the extent I can, to Think for Yourself and Question Authority.”

“When I say think for yourself, I don’t mean think selfishly for yourself. I mean think independently.”

“If you’re going to think for yourself, you gotta learn to think clearly.”

“The person who thinks for herself or himself has to have a sense of humility, and of modesty, and of relativity because you have to realize that I’m thinking for myself, but hopefully you are too, and you’re bound to come out with something a little different from me. So there has to be an ability to listen, compassion, plus the modesty. No matter how smart we are there’s a lot we aren’t going to be able to figure out tonight.”

“The problem with drugs is that stupid people use drugs stupidly.”

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