Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cliff's on It!

I still don't have a good handle on who in the hell he is or what he's up to... I first met him somewhere in the Mandelbrot Set, to whose endless vectors he gave his own quirk and twist back in those shimmering days of Fractint...

think of Cliff Pickover as a collector of weird information designed to blow your mind, or at least nudge its jelly-gray shores a bit... he's got this web site, you've probably heard of it, but GO THERE... (I'm a connoisseur of esoterica, OK? one of the true dandies... and if weird is wine, then RealityCarnival is France, baby.)

Cliff might be the world's greatest evangelist for panentheism: the Universe is God's evolutionary Self-revealing, and our attempts to know it are part of Her own Mind... hence the repeating patterns, the spirals, the self-similarity, the branches... Her reflections... but what I like about Cliff is that, where I would get all mystical and mushy about this stuff, he's just like "Here's a scientific study. Here's a data set. Here's an artist doing something wack. Here's a map."

... until the combined weight, the connected dots, the colliding and parallel curves-- all coalesce into... into...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

New Angel Books

By T. Thorn Coyle: Kissing the Limitless (and whatta perfect title...)

This looks as good as Jason Augustus Newcomb's 21st-Century Mage, though with a different constituency in mind. Coyle is doing something totally logical yet, in today's niche-marketed counterculture, deliciously heretical: bridging the Ginungagap between the flame-warrin' boys' club of Thelema and the tree-huggin' herbal tea klatsch of witchcraft. Put down the books, boys! Get your heads out of your astrological charts, girls! And that's just the beginning: this is a spiritual book for everyone, and Coyle presents myriad methods to see, hear, smell, touch, taste God everywhere.

The Holy Guardian Angel, since Its wings span the universe, is kind of hard to write about, but in my skim-through of the book Coyle seems unfailingly elegant and, in keeping with her subject, draws from a dizzyingly diverse range of sources, including but ranging very far from the usual esoteric suspects. To read this book is to be brush'd by angels' wings: you will lift your senses from what waste-land might sprawl before you and glimpse a verdant, laughing oasis of possibility, one you slowly realize is everywhere, always.

Purports to gather stories from all over the (mostly anglophone) world of mysterious and unexpected encounters with guiding entities (not all the respondents call them "angels"). Are these stories real? On the one hand, several of them have given me those very strong, all-over chill bumps that accompany the lovely helplessness of being seriously spooked. Like dreams, angel encounters have their own kind of logic (see Harpur's Daimonic Reality for much more on this). On the other hand, many of the stories feel so familiar in a narrative sense (I suspect some urban legends have found a home between these pages)-- but they also hum with that off-kilter, intimate yet searing vibe that often seems to sizzle the praeterhuman phone lines.

Maybe angels have adopted a 12-step approach of late, or maybe we seraphic groupies are all plugged into the same frequency of the collective unconscious, or maybe there really is a bicameral mind or ... something... but a lot of these angels sound a lot like my Angel. Unlike the drill-sergeant angels of old, these angels are engaging their earthly charges in Socratic dialogues and then sending them to figure things out for themselves; they're telling them to search out their True Wills, all the while communicating in a mostly prosaic yet totally compelling vernacular; and they're leaving scant trace of their visit save (sometimes) a single physical object or an incontrovertible, undeniable change in physical space--just enough, it seems, to keep you wondering, keep you chasing your Divinity.

As William James pointed out, it's not all that remarkable for people to hear inner voices or to see visions; the human nervous system lends itself to such phenomena. What we must take notice of, James said, is when a person's entire life and personality become permanently altered by such visions or voices. At that point we have to admit that, in spite of the constant caviling of positivist ween-dogs, something real happened. Part of what happened certainly was neurological (since part of everything is), but since many visionaries are masters of observing, creating, maintaining, and altering their own neurology, it won't do to suggest that they've all been suckered by a particularly vivid bout of hypnagogia... apophenia... hangover... what have you.

By Lorna Byrne: Angels In My Hair

I haven't thoroughly perused this book; I've read excerpts and read a couple of interviews with Ms. Byrne, who says she's seen and spoken with angels her whole life. Even British journalists find her charming, disarming, and energizing--you will note that Ms. Byrne is not a bottle of gin, so there's something. Byrne's angels are more down-to-earth, so to speak, than Aiwass or Gabriel; they might not dictate new scriptures to you but will tell you that you need to "live each moment of [y]our life to the full" or that you don't need to live an "extraordinary" life to have found your "life purpose." All of which, you are thinking, is utterly banal, and that's fine, as long as you grant also that truer words were never spoken. Just because we're tired of hearing something, or someone we don't like says it, doesn't mean it's wrong (q.v. most of what your parents ever said to you).

"The angels make me laugh and smile a lot," Byrne writes. As bringers of God's light and power, I would imagine that they do: different people are going to handle 100,000 volts of shakti differently, with some laughing and some crying, some shivering in ecstasy and others speaking in tongues or singing epic songs. Angels don't necessarily fly you up to heaven, but they do try to turn your eyes to the heaven around you, exhorting you to "bud forth and flourish with virtue" in the ground where you're planted, in the here and now.