This is a longer re-vision of an earlier text on the inner power of will and the discipline of willpower. The dream chronicled in the original post was actually a vision I had in a meditation (or more like a shamanic journey), which re-occurred a second time with some changes that allowed me to see further connections. This re-vision clarifies a few ideas that remained vague in the original post and also adds some new elements that deepen the reflection by linking it to the concept of the will in the hermetic tradition of magic that I wrote about in my most recent post, “The lost art of transmutation.” During a presentation in Berlin that was based on the transmutation text, I showed a well-known clip from The Empire Strikes Back – Luke Skywalker, when confronted with an extremely difficult challenge, mutters under his breath “Ok, I’ll give it a try,” and zen master Yoda replies “No! Try not. Do. Or do not! There is no try.” Yoda is speaking about the will from a magical perspective, which he links to the fact that we are “luminous beings” who can harness “the force.” But, on the contrary, I would say that in the ordinary perception that makes up the consensus trance we habitually call reality, there is a lot of “try” – trying is, in fact, what most people do best (and sometimes they manage to succeed, in short bursts, to push themselves into fulfilling their attempts). But there is very little doing of the kind Yoda means, of setting an intention and then having the action – even an action of seemingly impossible proportions, like lifting a spaceship out of a swamp – flow smoothly and effortlessly, from an inner power, without resistance … (more…)
“We all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out.” – Robert McCammon
I remember when I was six years old and I saw my first magic film. It was a cinematic adaptation of a Russian fairy tale about Ruslan and Ludmila. I was absorbed by the screen and transported into an enchanted forest inhabited by tree sprites, fire spirits, mermaids with painted skin and green hair, talking birds and dancing bears. I was there alongside the princess Ludmila, when she was abducted by a sorcerer-dwarf with an enormous white beard, when she fought off his army of elvish-blue guards with silk pillows, and when she escaped into a forest of white reef corals, and made her way across a bridge of floating ice. I didn’t understand much about epic battles between good and evil, but I knew that I didn’t like the sorcerer-dwarf and that I felt immediately drawn to the wise, old magician who lived in the forest and could communicate with the animals and resurrect the fallen hero with the elixir of life. (more…)
Since Profane Light has turned out to be a library of longer, polished texts rather than the informal cafe I first imagined, I started a companion to this blog as a “lighter version” with frequent short bursts, fragments and scattered reflections. You can follow the lighter version on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/annanimm.at.profanelight). For a taste, below is a recent post (future posts will not be updated here):
Osho writes: “The basic fallacy that you are carrying within you is that love is always for somebody, it is addressed – and the moment you address your love, you destroy it. Love should be like breathing. It should be just a quality in you – wherever you are, with whomsoever you are, or even if you are alone, love goes on overflowing from you. It is not a question of being in love with someone – it is a question of being love. Love is not dependent on the object, but is a radiation of your subjectivity – a radiation of your soul.” When reading this, I had an uncanny feeling that part of me agrees, and something else in me recoils and just doesn’t get it… (more…)
I dreamt I met my 6 year old self. I was in an old Victorian house, in a large foyer with a marble floor that resembled an enormous chessboard and a grand circular staircase on the left. To the right was a small, wooden, run-down door. I entered it and went down the stairs to the cellar. At the bottom was an oval door, which I first thought was a mirror because it was made of glass, but as I came closer I saw that it was opaque and cloudy, and gave back no reflection. I knocked on the door and waited. She extended a hand through the liquid glass and pulled me into her world.
We went into a dark forest and sat down near a weeping willow tree, with branches hanging like curtains over a small pond with bright orange fish. She turned to me with melancholy eyes and said, stop pushing. And then I transformed into a grandmother, not my own grandmother, who I barely remember, but an archetypal white-haired, old woman who touched the child’s face softly and spoke to her with gentle words. I cannot remember what the I-who-was-not-I said. (more…)
This is the first half of the preface to Alchemy of Revolution, a hybrid that mixes the genres of memoir and philosophical treatise. What emerges between memories spanning from the Carnival against Capitalism in 1999 to the Occupy movements in 2011-2012 is a story of revolution that begins from a transformation of the self and leads outward to a re-definition of community. The primary inspiration for the book is Raoul Vaneigem’s Revolution of Everyday Life, which is re-read and re-assembled through a prism of the heretics of philosophy (Spinoza, Nietzsche and Deleuze), antipsychiatry (Jung, Reich, R.D. Laing), and different esoteric traditions.
During all the years we were together and apart, separated by distance or circumstance, thinking of you always evoked in me the singular memory of the day we met. Perhaps because it was a memory that wasn’t just a memory. Whenever I recalled its details I didn’t feel transported into an actual day that belonged to the past but into the feeling of the encounter, which has remained with me as an enduring presence beyond the flow of space and time. (more…)
Last year, while taking a break from working on a philosophical book about activism, sovereignty, love and the gift economy (Alchemy of Revolution), I spontaneously decided to start writing a fictional memoir (Journeys Between). It’s in the form of a diary-like travel monologue that is both about literal trips and about a metaphorical journey from depression to becoming awakened – though for reasons that become clear as the narrative develops, either of those terms are accurate or fortunate. It begins with a trip to Romania, where childhood traumas emerge through flashbacks, and moves to Morocco, Russia, India and California, where my encounters with Sufism, shamanism, theosophy and yogic philosophy are dramatized as meetings with persons, rather than being described conceptually. I’ve been hesitant to share it because it seems too autobiographical, despite the fictional conventions, and too dark – especially the first two journeys, which are based on my journals from 2011-2012. After abandoning it for 6 months, I woke up with a strong desire to start working on it again, and decided to begin by reworking and posting the fragments I like the most. This is the third entry from the journey to Romania. On one level, it’s about a trip to an actual place (an underground salt mine in Slanic Prahova); on another, the entire first journey is an allegory of a descent to the underworld, which is a common theme in different mythologies. (more…)
“Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.” – Rumi
Dust rises up from my tires in the rear-view mirror. Ahead, a hazy mirage unfolds, the air heavy with distilled time, which shifts the desert landscape like ripples. Horizontal emptiness, sand and shrubbery stretch out as far as the eye can see. Not a road sign anywhere. I know I’m on route 1258 and that it’s supposed to connect to 655, but an eternity has passed without any intersection. I stop and put the car in park so I can look at my map. The letters and numbers have shrunk, becoming too small for me to read. I bring the map closer to my face to examine it. And then I hear his voice, saying, give me the map. Suddenly he’s in the passenger seat next to me. I hand him the map, timidly, and he rolls down the window and flings it out. I want to protest but all that comes out is a half-audible whimper, I’m lost. He says, lost is just an interpretation. Let your eyes and ears flow into the vastness of the desert, marvel at the trees with the green, pointed spikes that look like they fell down from the moon. Enjoy the intimacy of a moment that will never come again. You’ll get to your destination, eventually. Maybe even sooner than you think. (more…)