Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Transition States in Non-Humans: What Happens when Man initiates the Gods?

Transition States in Non-Humans: What Happens when Man initiates the Gods?

We already know that transition states lead to re-presentation of the initiate. What isn’t as readily discussed is the effect ritual has on the deity. After all, ritual is an interaction. In the past, the deity has enjoyed a central place in this interaction. As Bastaire & Bastaire have remarked, non-humans had a central place in theology, in spirituality, in rituals, and of course in art which they have almost totally lost.[1] Nowadays, a crisis of representation has nearly left the deity completely out of the ritual equation. Uncertainty about adequate means to interact with these non-humans has led many religious systems to forget their presence entirely. The ritual may be performed without god even in mind. When the process becomes mindless, re-presentation doesn’t occur and the ritual fails.
Moreover, ritual interactions are the most successful when both the ritual specialist and the non-human connect personally. I don’t mean pure anthropomorphism although the deity may take on human or animal qualia. I refer to a metaphysics of presence that functions as an ontological foundation. This gift of presence is consciousness. And it is this presence, this re-presentation that forms part of the paradigms that make up social reality.  Until now, we have viewed the present crisis of representation as one distinctive, alternate swing of the pendulum between periods in which paradigms, or totalizing theories, are relatively secure, and periods in which paradigms lose their legitimacy and authority-when theoretical concerns shift to problems of interpretation of the details of a reality that eludes the ability of dominant paradigms to describe it, let alone explain it.[2]
            We have conjured a reality where non-humans exist but lack any ontological ethos. We are quick to assert that god exists but ascribe no autonomous status to the concept. Our interactions with non-humans are without any interaction at all. Yet it is us that provide meaning to the deity. We imbue it with qualities and characteristics and even a personality. We give it presence and in so doing, renew its importance in reality. The same concept is used by quantum physicists to describe the position and momentum of particles in the universe. These postulated entities are defined and given meaning through the techniques used to measure them. Like deities, they wait on us to give them an ontological situation.
And we have many ideas as to what makes up the qualities of our deities. Some cultures say that god resides in caves, others in forests; for many, god is in the sky while others suggest underground. And still others would persuade us that god is a form of consciousness while their counterparts argue for an entity outside of the human universe. The prevailing thought is that either god is out there or in-here. We call this relationship transcendence and immanence.
Transcendence refers to our deities as being outside of human influence. God then, is beyond anything that is other than god. This form of thought is indicative of monotheistic religions. However, polytheistic and ‘nature-religions’ also experience moments of grace or enlightenment characteristic of transcendence. A transcendence deity is beyond thought, ‘above’ physical things and apart from the world we live in. In the Kantian sense, transcendent means beyond all the forms and categories of experience and knowledge: space and time, as well as quantity (unity, plurality, or universality), quality (reality, negation, or limitation), relation (substantiality, causality, or reciprocity), or modality (possibility, actuality, or necessity). All these things are the preconditions or presuppositions of human experience and thought. Hence to imagine creation (causality) and creator (first cause) of the universe is only to project the categories of human experience and reason beyond their field.[3]
On the other hand, Immanence refers to the divinity being near or within. In eastern orthodoxy, it is hypostases or energies of god. Immanence finds god in this life and in the world around us. According to Joseph Campbell, the immanence of god is in the faces, personalities, loves, and lives all around us, in our friends, or enemies, and ourselves.[4]Furthermore, immanence takes place in the mind and is entirely subjective. Perhaps the best way to understand the immanence of god is in its experiential qualities. When we experience the divine or what if feels like to be the deity.
            One is also reminded of the subject object relationship in philosophy. The subjective immanence seems to sit in stark contrast to the transcendent object until we realize that a unitive experiential understanding of the divine dissolves any distinction between immanence and transcendence. Spetnak remarks that what is emerging now is the nondualistic understanding of immanent and transcendent long seen as opposites in western cultural history, transcendence is coming to be understood as “beyond” but not “above” the material plane we can see in everyday life. Our minds will never be able to map the endless networks of what I call “relational reality”, so spirituality that seeks to commune with either immanence or transcendence now sees that they are no apart. This realization is not new to eastern philosophy or indigenous cultures, of course; we were simply late coming to it in the modern west because of our dualistic and mechanistic worldview.[5] Understanding god as both immanent and transcendent was also proposed by Plotinus when he asserted that “we should not speak of seeing, but instead of seen and seer, speak boldly of a simple unity for in this seeing we neither distinguish nor are their two”.[6] And also by Flemish alchemist Theobald de Highelande when he says that “this science transmits its work by mixing the false with the true and the true with the false, sometimes very briefly, at other times in a most prolix manner, without order and quite often in the reverse order; and it endeavors to transmit the work obscurely, and to hide it as much as possible”. [7] We understand then that the deity and what it feels like to be the deity are one in the same. Just as the object and subject, seer and seen, even god and man enjoy a unitive relationship, we can expect that a rite of passage would effect the deity equally as much as the neophyte.
It’s hard for many to accept this basic occult principle. The tendency is to see god outside of ourselves or as something greater than us. We grant him extraordinary powers and omniscience. We are taught that man is flawed or wicked and must be separated from god. At least for now. And this separation is the definition of hell. Our dualistic frame of mind places us, by default, in an experience of eternal punishment by refusing to acknowledge the one-ness or at-one-ment of god and man.
This wasn’t always the case. Scotus Erigena discussed divine ignorance in the 1800s when he stated that there is yet another kind of ignorance of god, inasmuch as he may be said not to know what things he foreknows and predestines until they have appeared experientially in the course of created events. [8] Just as the initiate must undergo experientially the rite of passage that confers a new state of consciousness, so too the deity must wait until events play out in order to know what the ritual accomplished. Erigena goes on to say that there is another kind of divine ignorance, in that god may be said to be ignorant of things not yet made manifest in their effects through experience of their action and operation; of which, nevertheless, he holds the invisible courses in himself, by himself created, and to himself known.[9] Just as man has nascent potentialities that must be unlocked via ritual, so too the deity is ignorant of things not yet made manifest. A rite of passage must unveil or bring to light aspects of himself.
Furthermore, sometimes the rite of passage involves man awakening nascent potentialities in the deity. Carl Jung one stated that, “For the alchemist the one primarily in need of redemption is not man, but the deity who is lost and sleeping in matter only as a secondary consideration does he hope that some benefit may accrue to himself from the transformed substance as the panacea, the medicina catholica, just as it may to the imperfect bodies, the base or “sick” metals, etc… His attention is not directed to his own salvation through god’s grace, but to the liberation of god from the darkness of matter”. [10]
Here man acts as initiator to the deity. Object and subject although unitive are also autonomous entities that reveal parts of the whole to the other. It is a paradox. Object- subject immanence-transcendence, man-god are both unitive and separate. They are mutually exclusive yet inseparable.
            This classic example of religious of religious paradox is best seen in the idea of light in darkness and darkness in light. When consciousness becomes unitive or objectless, we are left with a consciousness not of anything. It is a pure or “cosmic-consciousness”. There is nothing empirical in this state of mind. Unitive consciousness is both something and nothing. Sometimes it is described as there and not-there. Merleau-Ponty has remarked that this state of being is experienced not from the depths of nothingness but from the midst of itself.[11]
Religions have many names and describe “cosmic-consciousness” in a myriad of ways. Christians identify it with god. The bible calls it a “desert” or “wilderness”. Dionysius the Areopagite stated that god is “the dazzling obscurity which outshines all brilliance with the intensity of its darkness”. Buddhism also recognized this paradox by labeling it the void. The Tibetan Book of the Dead speaks of “the clear light of the void.”  It is the darkness of god. It is called darkness because all physical distinctions disappear. It is the same as the Indian Brahman and identical to the Atman. Object-subject distinctions simply dissolve. Therefore, we can’t say that there is a light in the darkness because there would then be no paradox. The light is the darkness and the darkness is the light.
Philosophers have also identified with unitive experience brought about by a metaphysics of presence. Schopenhaur called it the ‘Will’. He stated that,

“Up to now, the concept Will has been subsumed under the concept force; but I am using it just the opposite way, and mean that every force in nature is to be understood as a function of Will. For at the back of the concept force there is finally our visual knowledge of the objective world, i.e. of some phenomenon, something seen. It is from this that the concept of force derives…whereas the concept Will, on the contrary, is the one, among all possible concepts, that does not derive from the observation of phenomenon, not from mere visual knowledge, but comes from inside, emerges from the immediate consciousness of each of us: not as a form, not even in terms of the subject-object relationship, but as that which he himself is; for here the knower and the known are the same.[12]

The Will then, is without empirical content. It is pure “cosmic” unitive experience. This is not a new or radical concept. It is simply experiential. Our metaphysics of presence is one in which personhood is granted to the deity. In other words, there is not one deity in the mind and one in the physical world. As Neils Bohr once remarked in terms of the Quantum, “Theorizing should be an embodied practice, rather than a spectator sport of matching linguistic representations to preexisting things”. [13] When we unite object-subject, we unite matter and meaning and man and deity.

That’s not to say that the deity is solely a part of man. Again, they are mutually exclusive yet inseparable. When we experience the deity, we experience a corporeal or bodily component to experience. At the same time, the object(body) gives us access to subjective or numinous experience. And in this state, we cannot articulate the experience because we are embodied by the deity. You could say we are possessed. Mystics are used to this idea. As Stace remarks, “the mystic, of course, expresses thoughts about his experience after the experience is over, and he remembers it when he is back again in his sensory-intellectual consciousness. But there are no thoughts in the experience itself”.[14]Philsopher Merleau-Ponty also states that “He who sees cannot possess the visible unless he is possessed by it, unless he is of it”.[15] Those who possess the numinous cannot see it because they are, at that second, part of it. They are experiencing the unitive.
This is exactly what is occurring as man and deity undergo the rite of passage. But there is once crucial difference. Whereas man embodies the unitive and experiences subjectively what it feels like to be the deity, the deity itself is re-embodied. While man is transcendent and immanent undergoing a change of consciousness, the corresponding deity is also unitive yet because of their inherent divinity being renewed through the ritual. Anthropologist Arnold Van Gennep identified three stages to the rite of passage. First, the initiate is separated from his or her group. This separation is also one in which they abandon their previous social niche and head into the unknown. This unknown is a state of liminality. Here the initiate is betwixt and between or without any social status at all. It is during rites of liminality that the initiations actually occur. The rite then culminates with the neophyte being reintegrated into society. They return a new person with a new social role and identity.

The deity also experiences a rite of passage as the initiate undergoes a change of consciousness. During the ROP, the deity is sent into a liminal state and is also betwixt and between. However, this liminality is unitive or at-one-ment. The deity cannot transcend or enlighten because they are already transcended; they are already enlightened. There is nothing for the deity to become for the deity has already become. The ROP is a renewal of the numinous. In it, the deity is ‘made anew’ or ‘re-embodied.
Furthermore, a deity is both a determinate and self-determining. As well as being able to decide their own course of action or fate, the deity is also a fixed or distinct symbol. For example, the goddess Demeter is a mother to Persephone, daughter of Cronos & Rhea, and part of the triple goddess manifestation. She is spatially identified with Greece and the Telesterion; she is temporally identified with the Thesmophoria and the festival of Chthonia. But Demeter is also a mystery. She is the goddess of the harvest and responsible for the frigid winter months. When she is renewed or re-embodied through a rite of passage, the harvest is also renewed. Her determinate qualities are inherent and a part of her, and they too become re-embodied through the ritual. In this way, man’s transformation that occurs as part of the ROP also acts as a renewing agent for the harvest and agriculture. Moreover, as his state of consciousness changes, man renews not only the transcendent qualities of the goddess but his own immanent determinate symbols.

Discussing non-human characteristics has many more implications than just anthropomorphism. As Latour has remarked, “Non-humans have not been emerging for aeons just to serve as so many props to show the mastery, intelligence, and design capacities of humans or their divine creations. They have their own intelligence, their own cunning, their own design, and plenty of transcendence to go on, that is, to reproduce”.[16]Although many nonhumans do have human-like qualities or tendencies, they are autonomous entities that have their own trajectory and hold their own agency. Attributing only anthropomorphism to deity production is like trying to play a three-note guitar chord with only two strings. Although there is a familiarity with the sound, something is missing. This something in terms of nonhumans is evolutionary and experiential. It’s essential to understand how our deities can be changed when we interact with them.

[1] Bastaire & Bastaire 2004
[2] George E. Marcus and Michael M.J. Fischer, ed. Anthropology as Cultural Critique: An Experimental Moment In The Humans Sciences. 2nd edition. University of Chicago Press. 1999. Chicago.
[3] Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God: Creative Mythology. Penguin Arcana. 1968. New York.
[4] Ibid pp 578
[5] Spretnak 2011
[6] Plotinus reference
[7] Theobalde de Highelande reference
[8] Scotus Erigena 1838. 594c.
[9] Ibid 596c.
[10] Carl Jung, Psychology and Alchemy. Trans. by R.F.C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX, vol. 12. Pantheon Books. New York, 1968.
[11] Merleau-Ponty 1968. pp 113
[12] Schopenhaur, Die welt als Wille und Vorstellung, II 21; Samtliche Werke, Vol. 2 pp 152-153
[13] K. Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham, NC. Duke University Press. 2007.
[14] Walter T. Stace, “Subjectivity, Objectivity and the Self”, Religion For A New Generation 2nd edition. Ed. Jacob Needleman, A.K. Bierman, and James A. Gould. Macmillan Publishing Co. New York. 1977.
[15] Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible. A. Lingin Trans. Evanston. Northwestern University Press. Pp134. 1968.
[16] Bruno Latour, “Will Nonhumans be saved? An Argument in Ecotheology.”  Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. (N.S.) 15. pp 459-475. 2009. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

‘Classified Information’- Networks & Hierarchical Systems of the Occult

I've never been one to mix words. It’s a cold soul full of self-deprecation and rot that will say things others want to hear just to avoid conflict. Sure, you might have a life of tranquility and peace but in the end you’ll be a broken old miser with a heart of hate. You’ll be a wound. The same goes with governance. Being at the top of the pyramid just isn't what it used to be. Sixty seven years ago a jangly old dope fiend found himself under the headlamp of one of those filthy saucers and whisked away like a leper or convict. And it was just five months previous that one of those silvery shiny disks dropped to earth like a fiery space-rock vomiting tiny spacemen all over the New Mexico desert.

They said that 1947 would be the year we immanentize the eschaton. They said all power would be given to the people and a perfect utopic society would bloom into being. Instead, we got irradiated by an unholy leviathan in the Pacific. A monster so vile so incredibly inhuman and evil that it could end the world as we know it. And to think that it could have gone differently.

There was so much promise coming into the 20th century. When the little beast Aleister Crowley received his transmission from Aiwass in 1904, things were looking up for occultists. We had momentum on our side. We were tearing through the cosmos in a scarlet red chariot called BABALON ripping through portals and shredding the old paradigm with ‘Do What Thou Wilt’ etched into the bow of our stallion. It was powerful and frightening.

These were fast times. Back when a magical operation could produce an ill-tempered bastard of a demon. Something so inherently foul that it would crouch darkly in the corner of a room and lay in wait for the poor dumb sucker who wasn't prepared. These creatures aren't made to stay long in our reality. They have rotten dispositions and whether it’s the altitude or temperature, no good can come from an ‘extended’ visit. Most come from the Semitic peoples of Assyria, Ysra-el, Babylon- places where Jinn run freely along rubble-strewn streets and can be seen in between tracer fire. I once watched a YouTube video of a demon caught on camera in Aleppo. Amidst mortar shelling and bomb sirens, this entity could be seen walking past an old busted-out window and disappearing. A sniper on the footage saw it too. Nothing needed to be said. It was supposed to be here. When gods go to war, they’re fueled by the people.

It just isn't how it used to be. Oh sure, we can invoke in this day and age and maybe it’s just the idea of having a room full of OTO heavy-hitters lustfully performing ancient rituals while kicking in some new ones just for good measure. But the Occult of the early 20th century was an exciting time. Anything could take form at any moment. And maybe it was the otherworldly madness of the rituals or the macabre spectacle of going out and being treated like Satan in public. But the birthing of the Aeon that Crowley and his flock worked so hard to create was aborted by none other than they themselves. No one knows quite why yet but the period of renewal that should have accompanied a change in social and spiritual governance was botched so expertly as to appear the work of some strange cosmic archon or dunce criminal.

Systems of governance make up a large part of our social structure and it’s really no surprise. There has to be some way in which populations interconnect and relate to one another. Coinciding with social complexity, different forms of organization earmark the many interactions people have both on the micro (local) and macro (global) levels. The two predominant methods of governance are hierarchical and network. A hierarchic model is ecclesiastic. It is a fixed system structured in a top-down format. Communities are divided into classes, orders, families and so on. Stemming from the Greek ‘Rule of a High Priest’, all the values and categories are arranged in an order that emphasizes ‘higher’, ‘lower’, ‘same as’ in terms of importance or authority.

On the other hand, a network is a system of interdisciplinary scholarly collaboration that views knowledge as largely cumulative. The process emerges from a bottom-up format and individuals function as autonomous nodes, negotiating their own relationships, forging ties, coalescing into clusters. Each node is equal and self-directed.[1] Usually, hierarchical and networked systems coexist. There is often some formal organizational structure plus a network of personal colleagues or confidantes that have no representation in the hierarchy.
Anyway, the differences between hierarchical and networks is clear. Linnaeus’s ‘Systema Natura’ classified living things into classes, orders, families and so on. Based on earlier folk taxonomy, this system hierarchically classified organisms so as to make them easily identifiable. In contrast, George- Louis Leclera, Comte de Buffon’s ‘Histoire Naturelle’ included other characteristics in addition to anatomy to classify entities. He considered schemes that would take into account an animal’s physiology, ecology, functional anatomy, behavior, and geography.[2] Buffon considered the entity’s entire network when approaching classification. In addition, he held that entities were constantly changing and could devolve under adverse conditions. The Comte de Buffon was a natural networking occultist. His approach in the natural sciences isn't unlike the idea that deities and demons also evolve or devolve in certain circumstances.

Although hierarchy seems like a static and effective system for occultists, there is an inherent problem that keeps organizations stagnate and dismays potential members from even joining. In the Masonic or pseudo-Masonic structure of nearly all magical orders, we have a hierarchy that elevates those at the top to guru status while those at the bottom are left with virtually no voice at all. It’s not Freemasonry’s fault. They took their cues from even earlier orders such as the Knights Templar. And it was a working system for a while. But the problem is that culture evolved to match its technological and especially communicative advances whereas magical orders kept the fixed Masonic structure that it has practiced for hundreds of years. Nowadays, it is difficult or even impossible to transmit information on the local problems and potential solutions to central decision makers; and if transmission could somehow be improved, the accumulated local knowledge could never be effectively utilized at the center.[3] It is virtually impossible for Minerva level neophytes to reach top-level members of initiatory orders. And that is the irony of the situation. The world is smaller now than it ever has been. Methods of communication such as email, Facebook, and text messages have made the world more interconnected than it ever has been. Yet the orthodox hierarchy of magical orders has remained a dogmatic aspect of occultism stubbornly resistant to change.

The occult hierarchy tries to assert that there is no ‘problem’. They assert that the local micro-level acts as a network while the hierarchical centralized macro-level stays in the background. But the micro-level is exactly as abstract as the so-called ‘macro’ one from which they came and they now want to leave again for what holds the situation together. And so on infinitum.[4] The fact of the matter is that both the local and macro levels of occult hierarchy have become obsolete. And its most egregious oversight is in omitting the non-human actors, that are, in many ways, the focal point of their operations. Entities hold ‘degree centrality’ when performing an operation because it is they who are contacted during an interaction. If the hierarchy were to be set up truthfully, non-human entities would be the top tier of the system. Moreover, leaders like Frater Sabazius or Hyperion or Alden Jones act as surrogate proxies to beings given form and attributes through interactions with other entities. In the transformations or translations that occur when identifying what provided an entity’s consciousness, subjective experience, and actions, we let loose a network of corresponding assemblages.

This is the failure of Crowleyanity in modern occultism. In their stubborn attempt to break away from the orthodoxy of mainstream religious and Masonic systems, they set up a hierarchy that mirrors its sins almost identically. They have deliberately and blindly denied non-human entities in the system. In so doing, they have undone the creating and empathy they achieved during the ontological process. By negating the very entities with which they seem to communicate, their hierarchy is made null and void. It’s not entirely Crowley’s fault but his claim to be the harbinger of a new Aeon was immediately suspect when he utilized a pseudo-Masonic hierarchical system. A new Aeon implies a new paradigm. A system so innovative, so utterly alien to what came before that it changed the game completely. What Crowley ‘received’ was a compelling method and theory made corrupt by a socio-political structure really no different from the infrastructures of the past.
So where do we go from here? What weird course and trajectory gives credence to the past while charting a path that breaks new ground and takes us to undiscovered places. Perhaps a way to coexist is via peer to peer goal-oriented network. Following the ‘Histoire Naturelle’, considering all aspects of an ‘interaction network’ or magical operation will shape a dynamic set of translations and transformations between occultists and their non-human counterparts. Consistent with a perpectivistic philosophy (McGuire 2004), network theory provides a complementary approach that attempts to make parsimonious predictions that generalize across settings, disciplines, and levels of analysis whenever possible.[5]

I’m not suggesting that magical orders need no leadership. Nor am I implying that administrative duties should be left to some boozed-up malcontent. It wouldn't be a bad gig. Somebody has to organize functions and get-togethers or what are we even doing? I’m simply saying that there is no need to advance through any sort of degree system. Nor should there be a Grand Master and Lesser Master and Treasurer etc within the inner workings of the magical order. People frequently ask me whether this lack of structure is just a call to anarchy. They howl that it’s the order that keeps things tidy and if we can get some tax-exempt status or pilfer something from the Federales, well that’s good too. After all, just ask L. Ron-somebody has to get rich from this deal.

No, I’m just throwing it out there. How about we dump this hierarchical lunacy and focus our efforts on a system that encourages true correspondences. By knowing the perspective of an entity along with its relation to the initiate, other entities, the operation, witnesses to the rite, the liturgy, the temple architecture, and interested third parties, we are given the information needed to achieve the ultimate goal of interaction. This goal-directed network will be brought about by a peer to peer organization. Exactly like Wikipedia or the Torrent network that drove record company executives insane, the network would facilitate a system where occultists interact to form an efficient distribution of information. Peer to peer organization will lay waste to the step-ladder approach of hierarchical structure. No longer will there be a steady climb of Minerva to Adeptus minor to Adeptus Major etc culminating in a 33rd degree Ipsissimus secret chief grand poobah pontiff and king of the Jews level of coronation. Instead, there will be a sharing network of peers all acting as circulating references in an organelle of knowledge. Now the mysteries will lay in the movements and interactions between networks. As Latour remarked, “This empty space ‘in-between’ networks, those terra incognita are the most exciting aspects of Actor Network Theory because they show the extent of our ignorance and the immense reserve that is open for change.  

[1] Alex Wright. GLUT: Mastering Information Through The Ages. Joseph Henry Press. Washington DC. 2007. pp.7
[2] Buffon’s ‘American Degeneracy’. Philadelphia, PA; Academy of Natural Sciences-;-
[3] Ed. Fritz Scharpf. Games in Hierarchy and Networks: Analytical and Empirical Approaches to the Study of Governance Institutions. Campus Verlag Westview Press. Boulder, CO. 1993. pp. 135
[4] Bruno Latour. ‘On Recalling ANT’. In Actor Network Theory and after. John Law and John Haggard. Blackwell Publishing. Oxford. 1999. pp. 17
[5] James D. Westaby. Dynamic Network Theory: How Social Networks Influence Goal Pursuit. American Psychological Association. Washington DC. 2012. pp. 7

Friday, July 18, 2014

Potentialities and the Occult

Potentialities and the Occult

“What is potential can both be and not be, for the same is potential both to be and not to be.” –Aristotle-1050 b10 ‘Metaphysics’ Book Theta

            The liminal manifests itself in a myriad of ways. As a transitionary state of Being, it lends itself to the bizarre and macabre. The liminal is an intermediary between what was and what will be. This lends itself perfectly to occult work because, as every practitioner knows, what is ‘becoming’ is more important that what once was and what currently ‘is’. This being said, the concept isn’t exactly new. For example, the stoics also identified an intermediary step between thought and being. They called this state the ‘lekton’ or ‘expressible’. This was a state that was incorporeal or without presence. Lacking ontological form, the state also referred to language itself. The lekton was the event or expressible capacity in-between thought and being. It was liminal. This is exactly the same as the liminal state in an occult rite of passage. In evoking the particular state, the occultist literally communicates the ‘expressible’.
            But there must be a method that transmits the expressible from the occult practitioner. Curiously, the method takes the form of ritual checks and balances. As Benjamin remarked, “Origin, although an entirely historical category, has, nevertheless, nothing to do with genesis. The term origin is not intended to describe the process by which the existent came into being, but rather to describe that which emerges from the process of becoming and disappearance”. [1] In other words, the ritual or ‘interaction’ between the existent and the practitioner is more important that the description of the event. This is because of the ritual checks and balances that forms a permanent empathetic bond between evoker and evokee. Benjamin went so far as to suggest that part of the creator dies in the ritual process. He states that, “The origin of the great work has often been considered through the image of birth. This is a dialectical image; it embraces the process from two sides. The first has to do with creative conception and concerns the feminine element in genius. The feminine is exhausted in creation. It gives life to the work and then dies away. What dies in the master along-side the achieved creation is the part of him in which the creation was conceived…In its achievement, creation gives birth anew to the creator”. [2] Although a part of the magician is lost to the entity summoned, in turn the entity gives something back to the evoker. This something is a gift. In its presence, the magician is re-embodied or renewed by the supernatural exchange.
            Ritual checks and balances is also implied in Aristotle’s ‘ethos anthropoi daimon’. The usual translation of this phrase is “for man, character is the demon.” But ethos originally referred to what is proper in the sense of “dwelling place, habit”. Daimon also meant etymologically “to divide, lacerate”. So daimon was he who lacerates or divides. However, we shouldn’t consider this a negative connotation of the word daimon because only in ‘what divides’ can the daimon also be what destines or threads a fate. The word daiomai first means to “divide” then to “assign” which has the same semantic development as the root “demos”-which meant “division of territory”, and “assigned part”. So ethos anthropoi daimon translates into ethos, the dwelling in the ‘self’ that is what is most proper for him, is what lacerates and divides, and assigns and destines. In other words, for man to be himself, he must necessarily divide himself.[3]
This is reminiscent of the renewal Benjamin discussed but more accurately relates to Cabalistic thought. Gershom Scholem has discussed prophesy as it was described by Jewish mystics in the 13th century. In his ‘On The Mystical Shape Of The Godhead’, he writes that in a Cabalistic anthology called the Shushan Sodoth, prophesy appears as one’s own doppelganger: “The complete secret of prophesy consists in the fact that the prophet suddenly sees the form of his self standing before him, and he forgets his own self and ignores it…and that form speaks with him and tells him the future. [4] As it is necessary for the prophet to “divide” in order to “assign fate”, the occultist must also separate from himself to exact a successful ritualistic interaction. Also, many occult traditions embrace the idea of the double as part of their teachings. For example, the idea of qliphoth “shells of the sephiroth” is common to many students of the occult. Acting as reversals or inversions of the Judaic ‘Tree of Life’, these dark embodiments are akin to the folklore of a doppelganger.
Philosophically, the double also plays the role of non-being. It is the difference between actuality and potentiality or what ‘is’ and ‘what could be’. As Agamben has remarked, “what is essential is that potentiality is not simply non-Being, simple privation, but rather the existence of non-Being, the presence of an absence; this is what well call “faculty” or “power”. [5] The point being potentiality has an ontological status. It is something.  This faculty that is spoken of is ability. For example, a ritual specialist has the ability or potentiality to perform ritual. But he also has the ability to not-ritualize-or not pass into actuality. It is these changes from potentiality to actuality that embody ontological trajectories of the supernatural. Aristotle also discussed potentiality and actuality. In fact, he asserted that their ontological changes are a harmonizing part of nature. He states that “actuality (energeia) is light and potentiality is darkness (skotos), what is sometimes dark and sometimes light is ‘one in nature’.[6] Even in realms of the supernatural, what is and what could be are integral aspects of status. Moreover, describing these statuses in terms of light and dark is also something very reminiscent of descriptions of those in a liminal state. Victor Turner says that “in many societies the liminal initiands are often considered to be dark, invisible, like the sun or moon in eclipse or the moon between phases, at the “dark of the moon”.[7] As we’ve been discussing then, those in a liminal state are traversing what ‘is’ and what ‘could be’. Their existence explores areas of potentiality and actuality. This is also why the liminal is so conducive to studies of the paranormal and occult. Birthing entities is ritualistic settings goes hand in hand with comparing those in a liminal state to ghosts and gods. These supernatural personages are only critically understood by exploring their ontological changes as they interact or ritualize with mankind.

[1] Walter Benjamin. Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. 1 Pt. 1 pp226
[2] Walter Benjamin. Gesammelte Schriften. Vol. 4 Pt 1 pp438 ed. Rolf Tiedemann & Hermann Schweppenhausser. Frankfort am Maini Suhrkamp 1974-89.
[3] See Giorgio Agamben’s ‘Potentialities’ for a more detailed account of Aristotle’s ‘ethos anthropoi daimon’.
[4] Shushan Sodoth-quoted in Scholem. Pp. 253.
[5] Giorgio Agamben. Potentialities. Stanford University Press. 1999. Pp. 179.
[6] Aristotle. Physics. 418b-419e I
[7] Victor Turner. From Ritual to Theatre. PAJ Publications. New York. 1992.