The Symbol of Symbolism: Unravelling the form and nature of the underlying Energy
Introduction: Entering the Serpent
Sometimes it’s good just to look at Blake’s images, and let them approach you, without any verbal text, theory, or explanation. An encounter with their other-ness. Over the next few weeks this site will be posting a number of articles exploring the meaning and importance of the symbol of the serpent in Blake’s work, which weaves throughout his vision, and twists and turns throughout his images.
Against Attachment: The anti-body, anti-sex, anti-feminine nature of Buddhist ‘Enlightenment’
Introduction: The Wheel of Birth/Death
|On ignorance depends karma;
On karma depends consciousness;
On consciousness depend name and form;
On name and form depend the six organs of sense;
On the six organs of sense depends contact;
On contact depends sensation;
On sensation depends desire;
On desire depends attachment;
On attachment depends existence;
On existence depends birth;
On birth depend old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief, and despair.- The Buddha’s twelvefold concatenation of cause and effect
“The Jains were an ascetic sect that advocated the denial of all bodily wants as the highest form of spirituality.” They cover their mouths in order not to inadvertently swallow and kill any small insects and thereby perpetuate their place on this karmic wheel of suffering bodily life.
The sixth century BC saw the rise of rational philosophers, who used withering arguments to discredit Vedic rites and beliefs. Paralleling the surge in logic was the appearance of super-rigorous practices whose aim was to help the individual achieve union with the god-head by bypassing the priesthood. The Jains were an ascetic sect that advocated the denial of all bodily wants as the highest form of spirituality. The more extreme adherents believed it was a triumph to die of starvation.
Despite its austere creed, Jainism gained many followers. Counterbalancing the ascetics was the increasingly popular Bhakti cult, which proclaimed that a communion with the divine could be only achieved through the senses. Worshippers chose a god or goddess upon whom to project their feelings, then used right-brained experiential pathways to achieve a state of ecstasy. Dance, chanting, shouting, and unbridled sexuality accompanied Bhakti rituals.
The Bhakti cult, on the other hemisphere, proclaimed that a communion with the divine could be only achieved through the senses.
The hypertrophy of reason that results from the introduction of alphabet literacy inevitably galvanises a countermovement that seeks to exalt the wisdom of the senses. I would suggest that alphabet literacy was the impetus behind Rationalism, Jainism, and Bhakti in India. It also prepared the ground for a new religion – Buddhism.
Rod Tweedy explores the pathology of contemporary Disney
Frozen is now the second highest-grossing animated film of all time, and one of the highest-grossing films in any medium ($1.3 billion in worldwide box office sales). 676 million youngsters have viewed and sung along to the YouTube clip of it’s hit song Let It Go, and as Dorian Lynskey notes, “it’s shaped the imagination of a generation”. Beyond the sparkle and CGI patina something about the movie clearly resonates powerfully with children and young people, and I think it’s secret – and what lies at the heart of its appeal – is its potent exploration of themes of childhood anger, ‘ice-olation’, inner devitalisation and self-absorption, which the film both addresses and amplifies.
Commemorating the 30th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre
My song to mark the massacre that happened in Tiananmen Square on 4th June 1989.
On June 4 1989 the Chinese government sent tanks and troops to open fire on thousands of students who were occupying Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Hundreds, maybe thousands were killed or injured. We do not know, because the government has never released the figures. We do know it responded to the student demand for greater democracy with tanks and live bullets.
The occupation of Tiananmen Square was the culmination of a democracy movement which had been gathering pace in China throughout the 1980s and which came to ahead in the spring of 1989.
In the 30 years since, the government of the People’s Republic of China has sought to erase this event from their history. Across the world efforts are made to ensure it does not succeed.
Becoming a Star: Philosophy, star-worship and the death of the Body
Shamanism and Ancient Egypt
In considering the relationships between Plato, shamanism and ancient Egypt, I am going to be questioning some deep-seated assumptions held both within Egyptology and in the history of ideas, which also extend to our current understanding of the western esoteric tradition. I believe these assumptions need to be questioned because the relationships of Plato, shamanism and ancient Egypt to each other are far more intimate and profound than one might at first suppose. By understanding the nature of these relationships, it may become possible to gain further insight not only into Platonism but also into that deep current of thought and spiritual practice known as the Hermetic tradition.
First of all, let me say that by ‘shamanism’ I mean a form of mysticism and mystical experience, typical of archaic spirituality. While of course shamanism may be approached as a sociological phenomenon of tribal societies, its specifically religious dimension is what concerns me here. Understood in this religious sense, not only is there a great deal in common between shamanism and ancient Egyptian religion, but a shamanic element could be said to be absolutely intrinsic to Egyptian religion.
Can the Theories of McGilchrist and Žižek Help in Understanding and Responding to Ideological Influences on the Delivery of Psycho-Social Care?
Introduction: McGilchrist, Zizek and Healthcare
This article developed from my work as a psychotherapist and manager within the National Health Service (NHS) from 2008 to 2017. It is a response to the ideologies influencing those areas of health policy which are related to emotional wellbeing through the United Kingdom’s statutory health services.
My work has been based on the theory put forward by McGilchrist in The Master and His Emissary (2009) that traits associated with the natural functioning of the human brain’s left hemisphere, which have evolved to enable us to analyse and manipulate the world around us, also have a propensity to distort the ways in which people mutually interact with their cultures over time. McGilchrist’s book covers two main themes: the neurology of the brain hemispheres and the cultural influence that arises from this interaction. He proposes that when they are unchecked by the moderating effect of the right hemisphere, the left hemisphere traits have an undue influence which is reflected in deleterious effects upon people and their culture.
McGilchrist explores many cultural aspects but he does not include an overall sociological viewpoint from which to study the wider societal impact of his theory, and it is here that I turn to the work of Žižek, who writes extensively about ideology as well as many of the problems confronting societies today, such as subjectivity, capitalism, human migration and social exclusion.
What’s Missing?: What Michael Jackson, Wade Robson, and James Safechuck reveal about Childhood, Sexuality, and the Entertainment Industry
Introduction: Leaving Neverland
‘Never Leaving Neverland’ might’ve been a better title for this recent high-profile HBO documentary, given its relentless focus on the Neverland ranch as the sole cause of Wade Robson and James Safechuck’s later mental health difficulties.
Michael Jackson and Wade Robson
The exhaustive 4-hour documentary explores allegations made by Robson and Safechuck that they were sexually abused as children by the singer Michael Jackson. Robson and Safechuck are clearly articulate and thoughtful people, which lends their allegations initial credibility and persuasiveness.
But the documentary is equally striking for its one-sidedness, as many commentators (from Rolling Stone to Entertainment Weekly) note. “They have provided no independent evidence and absolutely no proof in support of their accusations. The two accusers testified under oath that these events never occurred.” It’s certainly striking that in 2009 Wade wrote that Jackson was ”one of the main reasons I believe in the pure goodness of human kind”, given what he now claims. His earlier court statements absolutely denying any sexual wrong-doing on the part of Jackson are as convincing as his later statements that Jackson was, in fact, a serial paedophile.
Vala’s Reich: The Idealisation of Nature and the Denigration of Humanity
It may come as a surprise to learn that the history of ecological politics has not always been inherently and necessarily progressive and benign. In fact, ecological ideas have a history of being distorted and placed in the service of highly regressive ends — even of fascism itself. As this article shows, important tendencies in German “ecologism,” which has long roots in nineteenth-century nature mysticism, fed into the rise of Nazism in the twentieth century.
During the Third Reich, Nazi “ecologists” even made organic farming, vegetarianism, nature worship, and related themes into key elements not only in their ideology but in their governmental policies. Moreover, Nazi “ecological” ideology was used to justify the destruction of European Jewry. Yet some of the themes that Nazi ideologists articulated bear an uncomfortably close resemblance to themes familiar to ecologically concerned people today.
Recognising ourselves in Nature
Vogel’s work is one of the best accounts, and critical interrogations, of the concept of ‘Nature’ ever written. Its thoughtful and careful analysis of this complex and ambiguous concept makes you realise how crude and incoherent many of our contemporary discussions of Nature are. This is really environmental and philosophical thinking on a new level of precision and engagement, and is equally important for its revelatory implications for our understanding of ‘natural science’ both as a practice and an epistemological attitude towards the world, showing how what we call science is less an unproblematic description of an objective world and more a social product or construction shaped by ideology and concealed assumptions about the status of the ‘observer’. Indeed, he suggests that one of the points or byproducts of the concept of ‘Nature’ is precisely to naturalise these ideological and socially informed ways of thinking and relating to the world.
How Late Capitalism Writes Itself Into Nature
‘David’, an ageing patriarch whose time at the top is nearly over and who is clearly anxious about challenges from his younger rivals and concerned with his legacy, narrates this compelling programme about ‘David’, an ageing patriarch whose time at the top is nearly over and who is clearly anxious about challenges from his younger rivals and concerned with his legacy.
The BBC’s new block-buster, Dynasties, can perhaps best be seen as an impressive and timely reflection of the unconscious concerns and obsessions of late capitalism – as Marx presciently observed, ‘The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas’ (e.g. ideas of power, dominance, hierarchy, survival as telos, become ‘naturalised’), and nowhere is this unconscious dynamic seen more clearly than in the dominant ideas of environmentalism.