Thursday, March 15, 2018

Reverse Thinking

We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that our eyes once watered.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Tom Stoppard

My drama students and I are currently working on a play which is set inside a person's mind and the characters are the thoughts and thought structures of that person i.e. creativity, logic, addictions, instincts, realisations, questions, conscience, etc, etc.  The story involves the central character who is the persons' idea of herself (a nascent ego) exploring their mind, wrestling with the various other characters for the control of that mind until finally coming to terms with the idea that one thought must dominate - either her love for the idea of herself, or her love for another person.  The 7 part scenic structure is as follows:

  • Thoughtstream
  • Museum
  • The Abyss
  • Episodic Memory
  • Vision
  • Dreams
  • Cortex

We are working on the Episodic Memory scene where the protagonist (the idea of herself) is attempting to navigate their way through a memory while some characters point out the gaps and others are attempting to destroy it to free up space for marketing and advertising.  Towards the end of the scene a forgotten part of the memory (as a character) enters the scene and rewinds it back to the beginning and then plays it forward again so we can see what it is like when that missing piece has been restored.  Another character has sneakily inserted themselves into the memory so they can take the protagonist towards even higher realisations.  This is actually a very challenging scene as not only is it difficult to play something truly in reverse but the play is also creatively staged with in-the-round, reverse-round and traverse elements used in an immersive environment for the audience (so that they feel like they are her thoughts too).  Various characters have to be un-murdered or un-kissed, etc, and the students remark on how difficult and weird it is to block.  By the third rehearsal it started to look fluid and students were having their own set of realisations and enjoying the process immensely.

As readers of the Hermetic Lessons know I have been pursuing this reverse thinking for a few months now, trying to get myself (by running and returning) into a position where I can sustain de ja vu and these kinds of trans-temporal states of mind for a longer and longer duration with a view to psychically exploring a tempography.  For example I just visited the toilet and as I was returning to my studio about half way back I started picturing myself walking backwards to the toilet I had just left - trying to focus on both my forward motion and my anti-time clone's hypothetical reverse motion although I admit I stopped the experiment before reverse defecation. These aren't the first such thought experiments though, in fact decades ago I worked quite heavily upon one of Crowley's texts called Liber Thisarb.  Thisarb exhorts its readers to practice similar kinds of reverse thinking, even to try and read backwards but, and Crowley is pretty insistent on this as well, to not read esroh and think horse (which would be your brain cheekily escaping the confines of the trial) but to fully grok it as esroh.  With the proper application of reward and punishment it is entirely possible to begin to get results by ''the third rehearsal''.  While such thinking seems alien to begin with it rapidly becomes more fluid and natural.  In a previous post I talked about two different kind of people who remember - the ones who painfully try and extract memories, audibly groaning and agonising over the search and the other ones who just say ''it'll come to me'' and then it does, at some point.  What I am trying to say is that you only need to use will (and conditioning) to drive these experiments initially and then the mind will start performing those tasks itself and whole new vistas of reality will suddenly hove into view.

Consistency is all I ask.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Tom Stoppard

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Hermetic Lessons - Studying vs Smartphones

It was in early 2002 I found myself working in a champagne bar in Leicester; I'd open the bar in the late morning, complete the cleaning and maintenance and then have a lot of time on my hands as the bar was not busy until the evening.  During those hours I studied the Kabbalah alongside a number of different subjects including bio-psychology, endocrinology, philosophy, history and comparative esoteric sciences using actual physical books.  Not only was I intent on immersing myself in the world of the Sefer Yetzirah I was also intent on ''wiring'' my newly acquired knowledge into the Tree of Life (in my mind) with the general intention of improving my cognitive abilities, memory, speed of reference, psychic powers, etc.  I was aided in this respect because I had already sworn myself off fiction and had worked (through Raja Yoga) to develop the concentration and study skills necessary to just read textbooks.  In many ways I had been a very fortunate student (as I recalled a great deal of information from the memory palace of a former incarnation) but I wouldn't say I had ever been a good student up until this point. I had relied an awful lot on my silver tongue and good memory to blag my way through various situations but I realised that what lay ahead was a study bridge that no-one was going to cross for me.  I had to transform into the person that I needed to be and I had no teacher but myself.

Getting to the point of this post, I'll be honest there is no way I would have completed these essential studies or this transformation in the presence of a smartphone (I managed to avoid these devices until fairly recently, getting my first one in early 2017), optimistically it would have dented my productivity by at least 50%. I would have repeatedly dropped out of study mode to respond to people online or just browse the web.  Rather than reading the chapters of my set text I would have randomly wandered off at tangents or got into chats, etc.  Continuing this behaviour would have completely shattered my nascent willpower and reinforced appalling study habits. I avoided getting a smartphone because I could see around me the destructive effect it was having on people's minds (and personalities) and restricted myself to desktop internet. I struggle to mitigate the negative effects on my behaviour now I do have one.

When I have hit my students with the reality sandwich of actual reading and studying they are going to have to do in order to grasp the Qabalah and the Western Mystery Tradition at levels beyond beginner they nearly puke at the thought of it.  It is far easier for the student's ego to re-frame their esoteric identity as an open minded explorer of the occult whose sense of curiosity and wonder will open doors to insights at the ''right time'' (i.e. as a permanent beginner) as opposed to truly appreciating the academic grind that is necessary for advancement.  The vast majority of texts that you need to complete this study are available for free online so there is no way you can justify your lack of study by lack of books (as used to be possible) so the ego has to invent other ways*.  Obviously its not only reading that is important, finding the time and will for practical work is also seemingly beyond most students.  Most of this training also has to be done in private and that means detaching yourself from the grid.  There is no point meditating, attempting astral projection or completing ritual work with your smartphone on and your mind in ''smartphone mode'' - restless, attention seeking, anxious, etc.

Finally I want to say that the students' behaviour in class is impeccable - they are attentive, disciplined and ask great questions - it is the personal study that is shockingly lacking.  I asked them at the beginning of the lessons how much nagging they wanted about completing work and what the level of hostility should be - I think they were surprised by this question but I reminded them that it is impossible to move on in building the temple, so to speak, without adequate foundations.  This post is not a moan about the students themselves, although it could be seen as such, rather its an understanding of the new difficulties faced by students today and a reflection on what I can/must/should do as a teacher to help them.  As a director, I can't learn actors' lines for them and as a teacher I cannot complete my student's personal study.  I know that the challenges are fundamentally a lack of willpower (that everyone starts off with) compounded by a lack of willpower to develop the willpower you know you don't have, compounded by smartphones eroding any chance you ever had - so what to do?

- inspire/lead by example
- punish/reward for non-achievement/achievement
- teach studying/thinking (and espouse its virtues) alongside content
- be physically present during studying (incredibly difficult in reality, probably highly effective)
- isolation study retreats (along with the above)

I do do many of these things already and I should make sure I focus on them as much as I do on the content which of course I am highly passionate about.  As a teacher its easy to get lost in that content and forget its all meaningless unless it ends up stored in someone's brain in some kind of coherent way - because if it doesn't I am not really a teacher I am providing esoteric infotainment.  For various reasons the Baby Boomers have failed to pass on the tradition in a recognisable way and a lot of the Gen X practitioners/teachers are really into ''material'' (don't ask too many questions) sorcery (which is not all that intellectually challenging or demanding) and/or identity/psychological issues as opposed to what I would consider a more mystical/mathematical approach to magic.  As I transformed myself into a more effective student, I now have to transform myself into a more effective teacher and just like before no-one is going to do that for me.

*Although studying online means you are likely more exposed to the various distracting forces of the internet - the demons of chat messengers, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook groups, etc.  But it is ''free'' (or certainly cheaper) from a money point of view.  If libraries exist use them if you can.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Tempus Fugit? Homo Fuge!

Homo fuge! Whither should I fly?
If unto God, he'll throw me down to hell.

Dr Faustus, Christopher Marlowe

Some days drag, others speed by; the days are long, the years are short.  I experienced a bizarre memory glitch with my partner last night when we both swore that Trump had been inaugurated in January and had done all he had done in two short months.  We had to check that's how weirded out we were.  Before you think I am about to evoke the Mandela Effect this was clearly our memories making a mistake but the ultimate cause of that mistake is the way time speeds up, slows down and so on throughout the year.  We know that our personal moods are a factor, when things are exciting and we are busy time moves more rapidly and vice versa and these moods aggregate so that when the times are exciting and busy we as a society feel that things are moving more quickly or more slowly and this change in tempo can be disorientating - what year is this?  This is the subjective side of the experience of being ''in time''.

But if, as Raziel suggests, the future preexists and contains so-called robust branching moments that are like vortices and act as vertices between surviving realisable timelines then as we approach these vortices not only will we expect synchronicities to increase but also that time will speed up as we are dragged into the spiral.  Is the increasing frequency of synchronicity married to an acceleration of the perceived flow of time?  If so can we say there is a more objective component to the way seemingly time changes speed - a gradient or topology in the fourth dimension - not from mass alone but perhaps in our minds interaction with that mass?  Raziel has already indicated that matter is time and consciousness is anti-time. 

According to Raziel as we enter these branching moments we do have a decision to switch between timelines, a decision we do not have as we travel along a regular path where our momentary decisions aggregate to the same end.  Throughout these thought experiments on time travel we have explored a number of possible phenomena that we can use to both identify that we are approaching one of these moments and to determine the type of moment it is:

- the way synchronicities increase/decrease as you approach/leave a robust branching moment, so you can pay attention to this as one factor - this implies that the ''soul'' is most aligned with ''reality'' at the branching moment itself, a point of maximum synchronicity if you like, the eye of the storm might reveal a dead calm for that moment (?)

- the way time speeds up/slows down as we approach/recede a branching moment, is there then a ''stillness in time'' at the branching moment itself, the moment of maximum synchronicity?

- the ways we can characterise synchronicities through archetypal people and archetypal situations, in your life there are various significant people you will encounter that have a distinct look (physiognomy) to them and that you can encounter them again in similar looking people when similar branching moments occur, this leads to the idea that actually the similar looking different individuals you are encountering are in fact one ''entity'' in superposition throughout your timeline(s) and that their physiognomy indicates the type of branching moment that is being opened

Making observations like this leads to some kind of fourth dimensional awareness which is deeply tied to personal narrative and character but ultimately to an ability to navigate that time - crossing between the lines of the ''Fourteen Minotaurs'' or the ''Seven Kingships'' and transpositions of the Sefer Yetzirah, moving between health and sickness, wealth and poverty, etc.

If time flies, then we must earn our wings and learn to fly.

My senses are deceived, here is nothing writ:
Oh yes I see it plain, even here is writ
Homo, fuge!  Yet shall not Faustus fly.

Dr Faustus, Christopher Marlowe