The democracy of e-books

Here is the link to a blog post by Quentin S. Crisp:

The business of books

The following are my responses. I want to be clear about one thing, though. These are my responses to my perception of Crisp’s presented view in this particular blog. My specific perceptions here, of course, may not be entirely accurate and most likely involves various biases and projections.

To speak of Crisp more generally, I like him and agree with him more than not. In this particular case, however, I found myself having a bewildered response in trying to understand why Crisp’s ‘loathing’ was so strong, especially as his loathing seemed directed at a group of people of which I am a member, i.e., Kindle owners. 

My first response:

I’m of the type who thinks change just happens and there ain’t nothin’ can be done about it. After civilization began, it was all downhill from there. I’m fatalistic about progress. I embrace it until civilization collapses. I’m curious where it will lead before then.

I bought a Kindle for various reasons, but my original reason was that I wanted something to replace my electronic dictionary. I still buy some physical books, not as much as I used to though. It’s a good thing because I was running out of room in my apartment.

By the way, why does “just sayin'” irritate you so much? I would assume it originates from American English. I’ve used the phrase “just sayin'” on occasion. I just find it amusing to say. It’s silly and stupid.

As I read your blog post, I must admit I felt some gut response to defend the world wide web. It’s ‘democracy’ in all of its beauty and ugliness. As Freck said in A Scanner Darkly, “Well, I like it.”

In early America, the government gave subsidies to presses so that it would be cheaper to publish newspapers and books. This would also meant more opportunities for writers. Of course, not everyone had a newspaper column like people now have blogs. But I’m sure the average published writing back then wasn’t all that well-edited. I was wondering about this. It would be an interesting analysis to look at first editions of books across the centuries to find out when writing was the most well-edited according to the standard grammar of the time period.

Having more writers does create more chaos. Even so, I’d point out that (since you were blogging about VALIS) I’m with PKD in having faith in chaos and the good it can safeguard. The corollary to chaos is innovation. Every age of innovation began with the crumbling of the previous age. We can’t know if it will lead to progress or destruction, but either way it can’t be avoided.

My second response:

On the whole I’m more sympathetic to chaos than order, as anyone who’s visited my flat can probably testify, but I think I’m most sympathetic of all to benign chaos – that is, self-regulating chaos of the idyllic kind which seems to be championed in the Dao De Jing, etc.

I’m also a man of much personal chaos. But there is a difference between one’s own chaos and someone else’s. And, as you say, there is a difference between benign chaos (benign to me, at least) and other varieties of chaos. I don’t know how benign PKD saw chaos, but he didn’t see chaos as an automatic enemy. He saw the divine as that which can’t be controlled, that which in fact will seek to avoid control. The divine sought hiding in the chaos so as to not to be found by the demiurgic forces that seek to control the world for their own purposes.

The argument that is always raised with any new technology, when anyone objects, is basically that “it’s all good” or “you can’t stop change”. But the same argument is never used in the case of politics. In politics, the points themselves are generally argued, and people, however stupid their decisions may be as related to the points, hardly ever just revert to “all change is good and/or inevitable.” So why do this with technology, which is, after all, as much of human manufacture as politics?

That may be true for some or even for most, but it ain’t true for me. I see two warring tendencies in society’s progress. There are those who see all progress as good and those see all progress as bad. An interesting middle position is that of Jeremy Rifkin in his book The Empathic Civilization. In Rifkin’s analysis, the progress of civilization is both destructive and creative. On the creative end, new technology (for traveling and communication) increases collective empathy. But it does so at a very high cost. Will our empathy for other people and other life increase quickly enough that we will find solutions to the destruction we’ve caused?

I don’t know. I just thought such a way of thinking might be applicable to this issue as well. Modern society changes ever more quickly which means much of the past gets lost. With the introduction of Western culture (including the Western invention of the book), many indigenous cultures are destroyed and lost forever. Likewise, with the introduction of new technologies, the traditions of the West can also become endangered. However, there is also a counter trend. For example, the digitization of books has saved many books from the dustbin of history. Some of these books only had one physical copy left remaining in the world, but now anyone anywhere can read them.

I think people have been hypnotised into thinking technology is inevitable and has a kind of universal objectivity to it, in other words, that it doesn’t have cultural implications or cultural bias. But all technologies have cultural implications and biases. Someone has made a decision somewhere to switch tracks to this or that thing.

Yeah, that is true. Even a simple technology like books hypnotize us into a certain way of looking at and being in the world. The printing press probably was the first to create or at least widely promulgate this perception of inevitability and universal objectivity. The vision of inevitable progress goes at least back to the Age of Enlightenment. More broadly, of societies around the world, a collective decision over generations was made to switch from oral to written, from stone and clay to scrolls and then to books and now to e-books. No single person or even group of people is making this decision, but this isn’t to say that individual choices don’t have influence. It’s just that individuals are increasingly choosing e-books. Still, you are free to think people like me are wrong or stupid for choosing e-books.

My third response:

I think that PKD must have been at least ambivalent towards chaos. In Valis, he identifies ananke, or ‘blind chance’ (also translated as ‘necessity’, or could that be ‘you can’t stop change’?), as a symptom of evil in the universe, and generally seems to equate rationality and order with good.
Oh yeah. I’m sure PKD was ambivalent about lots of things. I should’ve clarified my thoughts. I was partly referencing PKD’s view of what he called “God in the gutter” or “God in the garbage”. PKD was fascinated with chaos, not that he idealized it.

People accept free will in politics and other areas of life, so why not in technology?

I have no clear opinion about freewill. Part of me is attracted to the view of philosophical pessimism. I don’t think individuals are all that free. We act according to our natures and our natures were formed (with genetics and early life experience) long before we had any opportunity to aspire to become self-willed agents. And, on the larger scale of society, I suspect we have even less willed influence.

As I see it, freewill is a very modern concept, if anything created by and magnified by technology. Books are just one of the early technologies that have formed the modern sense of self. the book format was first used by the early Christians and it was that era when individualism was beginning to become what we know of it. With modern technology, people have an even stronger sense of self and of a self-willed relation to the world.

The problem you seem to be perceiving is that as the masses gain more freedom then more specific groups lose their monopoly on specific areas. When everyone can be a writer, everyone can influence the culture of writing, not just ‘professional’ published authors. Writing is no longer an elite profession. The internet and other new technologies have democratized writing and empowered the average person. For example, I’m just a parking ramp cashier and yet I’m talking to you, a published author. Online, I am equal to you and we’re both equal to everyone else. Power and authority have little meaning online, unless you’re one of the people who owns a major internet company like Google.

You have a sense, as an author, of losing power even as many people around the world are gaining power through more opportunities of reading and writing. But that isn’t how I see it. A small press author like you gets more readers from more countries for the very reason of newer technology. A century ago, you might never have been published at all or have remained almost entirely unknown. There are trade-offs. You gain more ability to reach more people but so does everyone else. Also, you have been self-publishing recently. Yes, you are more careful in editing, but because of limits of funds many small press publishers (whether self-published or not) often have issues with quality editing as it is very time consuming. I know Mike has bought expensive small press books with many editing problems. So why blame the average person for such issues? Why should anyone get to decide who can publish or not? Who would be on this publishing board of literary oligarchs?

I know you aren’t actually promoting oligarchy or anything. But how do you think the average person would be persuaded to your position? Considering the increase of writers among average people, you’d probably have a hard time even convincing writers of your position. This, however, doesn’t mean your position is wrong. Many of my own positions seem in the minority which doesn’t cause me to stop holding those positions. However, on this issue and as an American, I do have a healthy skepticism of any elite who wishes to tell the masses what they should do. Maybe if I were a part of the elite of professional published writers my views would be different… or maybe not. Matt Cardin bought a Kindle before I did. Mike is a collector of rare books and a lover of a fine book. He also has been considering buying an e-reader so as to not to have to read the expensive copies of books he owns.

There are a couple of factors I see.

First, there is an increase of freewill rather than a decrease. It’s just that there is greater equality of freewill (more opportunities to influence, more choices available) than ever before in all of the history of civilization. However, this creates other problems. As the ability to publish writing spreads to the lower classes, the upper classes lose control of defining correct and acceptable grammar. As the English language spreads to diverse cultures, British English becomes less dominant in defining correct and acceptable English grammar. For example, the more informal American English has become more popular because of American media.

Second, there is the development of large corporations. It’s ultimately not the average person defining writing and publishing. Large corporations (like Amazon and book publishing companies) aren’t democracies. This is probably where your insight fits in. These big businesses often promote a false sense of freedom and opportunity. What we’re experiencing is a shift of who is the elite controlling society. In the US, the founders were mostly an intellectual elite and small business owners who were actually fighting against a transnational corporation (British East India Company). But now such transnational corporations have taken over every major country and economy and taken over society in general. It’s the corporate elite, instead of the traditional intellectual elite, who now mostly control the publishing of books. It’s also large corporations who own most of the media companies (newspapers, tv, movies, internet, etc). It’s these companies who have the greatest power to influence language and there main motivation is profit, not maintaining the proud tradition of literature.

Eugenics was ‘progress’ and a new idea once. Should we have accepted it merely on those terms?

There is always the question of defining ‘progress’. I would, of course, agree that not all ‘progress’ is good.

However, I would point out that eugenics as a basic idea isn’t new. Spartans supposedly threw deformed babies off of a cliff. Male cats when they become the new alpha male will often kill the kittens of the former alpha male. The only modern part is that eugenics was able to be done on a larger scale and done with more precision. I would say that eugenics isn’t progress itself, although it can be used in the service of certain visions of progress.

I think everything I’ve said still stands. If there were concomitant spritual or social progress, technological progress would be simply useful, possibly irrelevant, probably harmless. But I don’t think that genetic modification, for instance, will represent true progress, because it will be an amplification of the steering will of a number of individuals in order to wipe from existence the possibility of certain other steering wills.

I also think everything I’ve said still stands. 😉

Actually, I don’t know to what degree we disagree. Like you, I’m not blindly for progress. Mabye less like you, I’m not against progress either. Like most issues, I’m agnostic about progress. It brings out my fatalist side. I can read someone like Derrick Jensen and find myself strongly persuaded. All of civilization (books and e-readers alike) is built on and maintained through massive dysfunction, oppression and violence. On the other hand, nothing has yet stopped the march of civilization’s progress, despite millennia of doomsayers.

I honestly don’t think it matters whether I like e-readers or not. I loathe lots of things and yet those things continue to exist. I loathe war and yet my tax money funds wars where worse things than Kindles happen.

I own a Kindle not because I have a strong opinion in support of e-readers but because I have a strong opinion about reading. I like to read and love books, in any and all formats. An e-book if it’s public domain is free and if not it’s still usually way cheaper than a physical book. As a relatively poor person, I can get more reading material for my money with e-books. As a person living in a relatively small apartment, I can from a practical perspective own more e-books than I could physical books. Even my public library already allows the public to ‘check out’ e-books. I personally like having my opportunities and choices increased. If that happens through e-readers, it is good by me. Or, if it happens by some other format, it is also good by me.

Similarly, I don’t see Kindle as a form of real progress, since what it does is allow people who don’t care about books and literature to call the shots.

Yes, I understand you feel strongly about this. But why does any individual get to decide which people are perceived to care? I suspect many of these people do care and some to a great degree. Like many normal people, I care. Don’t I matter? Defining who cares is like defining what is or isn’t literature, what is or isn’t art. In some ways, you might be right. Literature as we know it may be in the process of being destroyed. This is just like how Socrates was right that the oral tradition as he knew it was being destroyed by written texts. The ironic part is that Socrates supposed words are now recorded in text. It’s also ironic that your views here are recorded on a blog.

We don’t really know what will happen, and I hope the outcome ends up being more positive than negative, but I honestly don’t see much that’s positive coming out of it at the moment.

Yep. I don’t entirely lack hope, but in the long run I think it’s all doomed. We’re all just going along for the ride. Sometimes the ride is fun, often not.

Reading is already one of the most egalitarian of cultural media. It is an open university.

It’s true that it is to an extent an open university, but not equally so. Poor people in wealthy countries have a lot less access to this “open university”. And people in poor countries have had little access to it at all until very recently. The internet and e-books have opened up this “open university” to the entire world.

Now, however, Amazon have got the thin end of their wedge into reading, and I’m rather afraid (this seems to be the direction), that before long, Amazon (with Kindle) will be saying, “All those who want to come to reading, must do so by me, and my technology. All those who want to come to writing, must do so by me, and my technology. Keep up. Plug in. Buy the next model.”

The issue of transnational corporations taking over the world isn’t the same as the issue of e-readers, although like everything in life there is overlap. Right now, there are numerous devices (computers, tablets, pads, e-readers, smart phones, etc) that anyone can use to read almost any book (or at least any book that has been digitized) and such devices are becoming cheaper and more widely available. Right now, even poor people can access some kind of device that allows them to access the entire world’s library of public domain literature. I see that as a good thing.

Yes, many plutocrats would like to use the power and wealth of corporations to take over the world. They might be successful, but don’t blame the average person who simply wants more freedom and opportunity to cheaply and easily access reading material. In time, the natural trend of things should lead to open source e-readers being developed just as there are open-source computers and browsers.

The difference between us, in this matter, seems to be where we direct our loathing the most. The main problem I see is a plutocratic elite rather than the democratic masses. Democracy can be messy and ugly, but I think it’s better than the alternative. You seem to be equating the plutocratic elite with the democracy-seeking masses because the former is always trying to manipulate the latter. Even if the latter is being manipulated, why blame them instead of those who manipulate? Why not try to end their being manipulated rather than trying to end their having influence?

I realize that you have an old fashioned respect for the intellectual elite. I do too in many ways. I think the demise of the intellectual elite has had major problems. Maybe there will always be an elite. If so, I’d choose an intellectual elite over a plutocratic elite. In case you’re interested, Chris Hedges writes about the loss of power and influence among the intellectual elite in his book Death of the Liberal Class.

I would emphasize that this issue is part of a larger set of issues. Reading, writing and publishing are being democratized just as knowledge and education is being democratized. The first public library was only in recent centuries. For most of the history of ‘Great Literature’, most people had little or no access to any book besides the Bible and often not even that. Public education is likewise very new. I think it was Jefferson who helped create the first publicly funded university. Now, starting in the mid 20th century, almost anyone in the West can go to college if they really want to and if they have basic intelligence.

There is another tidbit of history related to American and British history. Thomas Paine was a working class craftsman. His father, a Quaker, taught him a love of learning and made sure he received a basic education. But lack of money and social position disallowed Paine to follow a scholarly profession. Fortunately, he went to London where he discovered many self-educated people. The lower classes weren’t allowed into the universities and so these people paid people to give them lectures. It was the rise of democracy that first took form through knowledge and education. From the perspective of the elite, this led to what was seen as chaos challenging tradition, the masses challenging authority. It probably didn’t look like democracy as we know it. During this era, there was much rioting and violence. An old order was collapsing.

The democratization of knowledge and education has led to problems in some ways. It created a literate middle class who mostly read crappy pulp fiction, but it also created a massive publishing industry that made books available to average people. It’s this pulp fiction industry that allowed someone like PKD to make a living at writing, despite the literary elite at the time thinking his writing was worthless.

I’m far from being an optimist, but apparently I’m the one defending optimism. I suppose I’m just playing Devil’s Advocate. Maybe it’s easy for me to be an optimist as I don’t have skin in the game in the same way you do. Your livelihood is dependent on book publishing. Nonetheless, I would point that, from a practical perspective, if you want to continue to make a living as an author, you should embrace e-readers. However, if principle is more important than profit, you are free to fight the Goliath to your dying breath. I wouldn’t hold that against you. We all have to pick our fights.

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Religious Scholars and Horror Writers

Religious Scholars and Horror Writers

Posted on Dec 23rd, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
This relates to the connection between Gnosticism and the Gothic.  Many Horror writers study religion and spirituality.  Some even practice it or are members of churches.  Some horror writers go so far as giving up their horror for religion… such as Anne Rice’s conversion.  Most Christian horror writers find a middle-ground because Christian theology gives plenty of space for the horrific… especially Catholicism.

A Biblical scholar I enjoy is Robert M. Price.  He is very well respected as a Biblical scholar, but he is also an expert on Lovecraft and writes horror himself.  Not surprisingly, he is very knowledgeable about Gnosticism.

Some other examples I’ve heard of:  Russell Kirk wrote ghost stories, but he was more famous for his influential political theories.  Charles Williams is best known for his horror novels (or supernatural thrillers as  T.S. Eliot described them), but he also wrote widely on many nonfiction subjects.

Thomas Ligotti and Quentin S. Crisp have both been highly influenced by religion and spirituality.  They’ve both studied diverse topics, but I do know that they were highly attracted to Buddhism.   As far as I understand, both had done spiritual practices such as meditation and so their interests aren’t merely in the abstract.

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Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 1 hour later

Marmalade said

Thinking about it, Catholocism and Buddhism are good religions for horror writers. Catholocism obsesses about original sin, evil, and demons. Buddhism has strong tendencies towards world-denial in their idealization of non-being and I’ve heard that they traditionallyhave rituals for funerals but not for weddings.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 9 hours later

Marmalade said

There is another connection between the Horror genre and the traditional world religions. Both are a bit wary of sexuality and often don’t portray it in the most positive light. I won’t generalize too much about horror and sexuality, but I will say that it seems common for people (especially sexually attractive girls)to bekilled in horror movies after making out. And then there are dark writers such as Kafka where sexuality is almost entirely absent.

I don’t feel up to speculating why this connection exists. I do know that Crisp and Ligotti have spoken disparaging about sex (and procreation)on more than one occasion. In fact, Ligotti has written a lengthy treatise that revolves around this and relatedsubjects. Ligotti is more articulate in his philosophizing, butone of the more amusing quotes about sex is from Crisp (in an interview with Martin Roberts):

“…I am interested in the erotic potential of sexual unfulfillment.”

I enjoy Crisp’s self-deprecating humor. If you can’t laugh at yourself, then who can you laugh at.

Quentin S. Crisp: Fiction Writer and Blogger

Quentin S. Crisp: Fiction Writer and Blogger

Posted on Dec 23rd, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade
A favorite writer of mine is Quentin S. Crisp.  He is a fiction writer, but I admit I haven’t read much of his fiction.  He is moreso a favorite writer of my friend.  I primarily know him through his blog writings and I will say he is my favorite blogger.  He shares many of my interests and views.  I think he was raised by a psychotherapist or something.  Maybe that is the reason that, despite his occasional cynicism, he has a very accepting and easygoing attitude about life.  He is often designated as a horror writer, but does’t like that designation.  He is more just a weird write with dark streak.

I like how he is usually very reserved and humble about his opinions.  He has written that he doesn’t take his opinions as ultimate truths but simply what makes sense to him in the given moment.  I like what he says here(this is from the comments section of one of his blogs):

Actually, I feel like adding that, although I used the word ‘pessimistic’ at one point, I don’t really think of myself as pessimistic. I know some people do, because they’ve told me. But for me to call myself that would suggest I had some preformed pessimistic bent to which I wished to shape any conclusion. I don’t. I actually have a sense of enormous potential within existence, which seems, rather tiresomely, to be thwarted again and again by human stupidity, my own included. Some people have tried to find the way out of this trap but it tends to turn to the way back in, because as soon as they call themselves ‘right’ and start preaching about it, it all goes wrong. I suppose that’s why I prefer to be wrong from the start, to be a ‘lost cause’ and to write fiction rather than philosophy.

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Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

37 minutes later

Marmalade said

Its funny how similar he is to me. He admires Ligotti and Burroughs, two very dark and cynical writers. But he also reads writers like Tolle.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 2 hours later

Marmalade said

Its true, though, that I’m much less reluctant to philosophize than he is. I don’t find that I ve to assume I’m entirely right before stating my opinions. Even so, I get what he means about the difference between fiction as compared to philosophy, but some writers even let their ideology rule their fiction.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

3 days later

Marmalade said

I have a comment that I’ll put here because it more or less relates. Crisp and Ligotti are of that common variety of great varieties that are mostly unknown. I’m not surewhat that says about ourculture, but it doesn’t seem to be uncommon for great artists to die poor.

Fortunately, Philip K. Dick escaped this fate near the end of his life. Crisp and Ligotti may yet escape this fate also. They’ve both been stuck in the small press world where actually some of the best writers get published and where many writers get their start.

Anyways, I mentioned Ligotti because he is another horror (or weird to be more exact) writer. Crisp admires Ligotti as many writers do. And if any dark weirdwriter could make it out of small press horror and getsomewhere near the mainstream (even if only the genre mainstream),I’d be willing to bet onLigotti.

It seems he may be have gotten a toe in. I was at the bookstore and noticed an anthology which was I believe titled The New Weird edited by Vandermeer. Vandermeer is a major force in the cross-genre field sometimes called Slipstream amongst other things. It makes sense that Ligotti is included. Horror writers have too long been stuck in their very small genre, and too many writers get labelled as horror never to escape. Crisp and Ligotti write stories that go beyond traditional horror even if horror might describe the general mood of many of their stories.

I likea lotof the writers that get into these new anthologies. I prefer stories that don’t easily fit into genre conventions which simply means that the authors are attempting to push the limits of imagination. I’ll have to blog about this later on.

Fiction and Non-fiction, Gnosticism and the Gothic

Fiction and Non-fiction, Gnosticism and the Gothic

Posted on Dec 23rd, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
I have an equal interest in fiction and nonfiction.  They often feel in confict and they can have very different effect on me.  I tend to obsess on one or the other.  In recent years, I’ve been more focused on nonfiction, but I’m slowly switching back into a mood for fiction.

I don’t see them as fundamentally in conflict.  My favorite writers are those that combine fiction and nonfiction.  This is my interest in William S. Burroughs and Philip K. Dick, but its also the reason for my more recent interest in “horror” writers such as Thomas Ligotti and Quentin S. Crisp.

There are various aspects in common.  As I said, they all combined fiction and nonfiction, but they also wrote them separately.  Besides all of this, the most obvious similaity is the Gothic.  The Gothic definitely applies to the horror writers, but the Gothic isn’t limited to the horror genre.  The other connection is Gnosticism.  PKD helped to popularize Gnosticism only to maybe a slightly lesser degree than Jung had.  Gnostic themes and references are found throughout the works of WSB, TL and QSP.

What has brought all of this together in my mind are several nonfiction books that have been occupying my mind particularly past year or so.  One book is The Secret Lives of Puppets by Victoria Nelson, and two books by Eric G. Wilson (The Melancholy Android, and Secret Cinema).  Wilson was influenced by Nelson and I always think of these authors together.  Both of these authors write about PKD, and Nelson mentions WSB a couple of times.  Both focus on the the fantastical and horrific in fiction.  Both write about Gnosticism and Wilson goes into great detail about the connection between Gnosticism, the Gothic and the genres.

I won’t go in more detail right now.  I just wanted to set down where my thoughts are at the moment.  This is a very personal nexus of my understanding of life.  Thinking about these authors is my way of contempating my place amidst a world of tremendous suffering.  I plan on blogging more about this soon as I clarify my ideas.

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Quentin S. Crisp’s Metta and the Lord’s Prayer

Here is my response to Quentin S. Crisp’s post Metta:

I’ve read about Buddhism and I’ve practiced various forms of meditation, but for whatever reason that line of spirituality never fully engaged me.  However, Eastern ideas have heavily informed my worldview.

I was raised in extremely liberal Christianity and so I have no distasteful memories of my Christian upbringing.  I’ve never denied Christianity, but I can’t say that I exactly identify as Christian.  I am, however, culturally Christian.  I’ve studied Christianity to a great degree and it fascinates me on many levels.  On a spiritual level, I am drawn too much within Christianity.

It’s hard for me to identify with modern mainstream Christianity as I was raised in counterculture Christianity and so I have an affinity to the early Christians kicked out of mainstream Christianity by the heresiologists.  There is an element within Gnosticism that was picked up by the alchemists and the kabbalists which saw spirituality as being a part of this world. 

My own understandings of this are filtered through the scholarship of many authors, but specifically Carl Jung and Philip K. Dick have influenced me the most.  Those two weren’t Christians in the normal sense as their sense of Christianity was influenced by Eastern thought.  Those two also had a very psychological view of religion.

That mixing of Gnosticism, Eastern thought, and psychology captures my own sensibility… and somewhat resembles the Christianity I was raised in.  I understand the impulse towards the other-worldly, but it isn’t in me to think in those terms.  If there are spiritual truths, then they must be relevantly real to me in this time and place.

I don’t worry about being saved or trying to control my ultimate fate.  I just want to understand, to glimpse the world for what it is.  I don’t think there is any final truth, but there are many truths all around us and within us.  I mistrust anyone who believes they have it figured out.

This leads me on to a few things. Well, at least a couple of things. The first of these is that, even after my rejection of Buddhism, I have found myself again recently struggling with what might be described as variant forms of Buddhism that stress something like the indifference of the cosmos to humankind, the worthlessness of humankind, and so on. It seems that there are some who claim the only significant change is a kind of catastrophic enlightenment, which effectively seems to place you outside the rest of the human race in some way. Well, to this I say balls. I assert that even a small change is worth making and that even a small difference is still a difference. Yes, even a difference within the much-derided human identity rather than one that obliterates it.

I’m a bit split here.  I have had spiritual experiences that blew away any normal sense of self.  It at times did feel like a void that potentially could’ve swallowed me, but I survived to tell the tale.  It wasn’t a bad experience though.  It did feel like I was touching upon some profound truth.  The reason why I feel split is because the experience itself (or rather my reaction to it) made me feel split.  I felt simultaneously intimately close to the world (including everyone in it) and infinitely alone (as in singular or somehow without clear distinction).  But it certainly wasn’t inhuman per se.  If anything, it was more than human.  The cosmos can’t be indifferent to mankind if there is no real separation between the two.  Some might want to make this into a vision of light and love, but it wasn’t that either.  It was just a sense of seeing/feeling clearly… both the good and the bad, the joy and the suffering.

Catastrophic enlightenment has always intrigued me.  It’s a tempting idea.  The experience I had was fairly catastrophic, but there is no way I could claim any enlightenment from such catastrophe.  My experience wasn’t, however, so catastrophic as to permanently obliterate my sense of individuality or my sense of the individuality of others.  It actually gave me a deeper appreciation of the interiority of this thing we call humanity.  I think Jung and PKD also sensed something similar (PKD especially was obsessed with the human and inhuman).  The element of relationship was very important in both of their writings, and I think relationship (whether of human ‘love’ or contemplating a rock) when experienced deeply does point to something beyond (the betwixt and between of the Trickster’s territory).

I don’t know if small changes matter in any grand way, but it is true that a small difference is still a difference.  The world consists of nothing other than the small, so small in fact that we don’t even notice it.  Whatever such change may or may not mean, I tend to take a more Daoist approach.  Change is change is change.  I’m waiting for neither apocalypse on earth nor salvation in heaven.  I do sense something in the promise that early Christians/Gnostics spoke of, but I just sense that promise as being an eternally present potential (new eyes to see, new ears to hear).

Actually, I’ve always liked the Lord’s Prayer, but then I have the benefit of not having been brought up within any denomination, and therefore do not see the words as doctrinal:

Forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us

Isn’t this just a way – a simple and profound way – of saying, “We’re all imperfect, so let’s call it quits and move on”?

Yeah, I’d probably interpret it that way as well because I grew up with a non-traditional translation from the Aramaic (btw here is an interesting direct translation from the Aramaic).  I also don’t see much of Christianity in doctrinal terms because I’ve researched how much of it originated in pagan philosophy and religion.

The Wikipedia article on the Lord’s Prayer is nice, but the interesting stuff is often in the discussion section:

Parallels in the Lord’s Prayer can be found in Spell 125 of the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

This subject has been covered in quite a few texts – please look at what I wish to put forth as an edit and comment on what else it needs.

There are similarities between the Lord’s Prayer and The Judgement of the Dead (Ch.125) in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Similarities in the full text are highlighted and phrases are repeated. The full text is available from here

Janzen, W. “Old Testament Ethics” 1994 Westminster/John Knox Press

Address to the gods of the underworld
Hail, gods, who dwell in the house of the Two Truths.
I know you and I know your names.
Let me not fall under your slaughter-knives,
And do not bring my wickedness to Osiris, the god you serve.
Let no evil come to me from you.
Declare me right and true in the presence of Osiris,
Because I have done what is right and true in Egypt.
I have not cursed a god.
I have not suffered evil through the king who ruled my day.
Hail , gods who dwell in the Hall of the Two Truths,
Who have no evil in your bodies, who live upon maat ,
Who feed upon maat in the presence of Horus
Who lives within his divine disk. 14
Deliver me from the god Baba,
Who lives on the entrails of the mighty ones on the day of the great judgement.
Grant that I may come to you,
For I have committed no faults,
I have not sinned,
I have not done evil,
I have not lied,
Therefore let nothing evil happen to me.
I live on maat , and I feed on maat,
I have performed the commandments of me and the things pleasing to the gods,
I have made the god to be at peace with me,
I have acted according to his will.
I have given bread to the hungry man, and water to the thirsty man,
And clothes to the naked man, and a boat to the boatless.
I have made holy offerings to the gods,
and meals for the dead.
Deliver me, protect me, accuse me not in the presence of Osiris.
I am pure of mouth and pure of hands,
Therefore, let all who see me welcome me,
For I have heard the mighty word which the spiritual bodies spoke to the Cat,
In the House of Hapt-Re, the Open-Mouthed;
I gave testimony before the god Hra-f-ha-f, the Backwards-Face,
I have the branching out of the ished-tree in Re-stau. 15
I have offered prayers to the gods and I know their persons.
I have come and I have advanced to declare maat,
And to set the balance upon what supports it in the Underworld.
Hail, you who are exalted upon your standard, Lord of the Atefu crown,
Who name is “God of Breath”, deliver me from your divine messengers,
Who cause fearful deeds, and calamities,
Who are without coverings for their faces,
For I have done maat for the Lord of maat.
I have purified myself and my breast, my lower parts, with the things which make clean.
My inner parts have been in the Pool of maat.
I have been purified in the Pool of the south,
And I have rested in the northern city which is in the Field of the Grasshoppers,
Where the sacred sailors of Ra bathe at the second hour of the night and third hour of the day.
And the hearts of the gods are pleased after they have passed through it,
Whether by day or by night.

Comparison between the Lord’s Prayer and the Maxims of Ani

The god of this Earth is the ruler of the horizon.
The god is for making great his name. Devote yourself to the adoration of his name.
Give your god existence.
He will do your business.
His likenesses are upon the Earth.
(God) is given incense and food offerings daily.
The god will judge the true and honest.
Guard against the things that god abominates.
Preserve me from decay.
(God) is the king of the horizon.
He magnifies whoever magnifies him.
Let tomorrow be as today.

Acharya S – The Origins Of Christianity And The Quest For The Historical Jesus Christ

(41)
Walker says, “Of all savior-gods worshipped at the beginning of the Christian era, Osiris may have contributed more details to the evolving Christ figure than any other. Already very old in Egypt, Osiris was identified with nearly every other Egyptian god and was on the way to absorbing them all. He had well over 200 divine names. He was called the Lord of Lords, King of Kings, God of Gods. He was the Resurrection and the Life, the Good Shepherd, Eternity and Everlastingness, the god who ‘made men and women to be born again.’ Budge says, ‘From first to last, Osiris was to the Egyptians the god-man who suffered, and died, and rose again, and reigned eternally in heaven. They believed that they would inherit eternal life, just as he had done. . . . Osiris’s coming was announced by Three Wise Men: the three stars Mintaka, Anilam, and Alnitak in the belt of Orion, which point directly to Osiris’s star in the east, Sirius (Sothis), significator of his birth. . . . Certainly Osiris was a prototypical Messiah, as well as a devoured Host. His flesh was eaten in the form of communion cakes of wheat, the ‘plant of Truth.’ . . . The cult of Osiris contributed a number of ideas and phrases to the Bible. The 23rd Psalm copied an Egyptian text appealing to Osiris the Good Shepherd to lead the deceased to the ‘green pastures’ and ‘still waters’ of the nefer-nefer land, to restore the soul to the body, and to give protection in the valley of the shadow of death (the Tuat). The Lord’s Prayer was prefigured by an Egyptian hymn to Osiris-Amen beginning. ‘O Amen, O Amen, who are in heaven.’ Amen was also invoked at the end of every prayer.

See also:

The Christ Conspiracy by Acharya S

Christ in Egypt by Acharya S, D.M. Murdock

Ancient Egypt, the light of the world by Gerald Massey

Comparisons of Shakespeare and Lovecraft

Quentin S. Crisp about Literary Britain:

And as to Shakespeare, I remain unconvinced. He still seems to me like a bloke who could write some good one-liners, but I’ve never found the stories at all engaging. What did he actually convey, apart from the fact that he was the Bard, and therefore pretty damned clever? People (and critics) will sometimes give someone like H.P. Lovecraft as an example of a bad writer, because of certain things that, stylistically, you are apparently not supposed to do, and because he didn’t flatter society with amusing comedies of manners, but at least Lovecraft conveys something in particular, whereas, to me, Shakespeare conveys nothing at all. And Shakespeare is the jewel in the passage to India of English literature, apparently. No wonder all the rest of it is so crap.

Matt Cardin’s Interview with Thomas Ligotti:

MC: For well over a year now you’ve been laboring on your nonfiction philosophical magnum opus, The Conspiracy against the Human Race. I recall that when some of your ideas from that one made their way into the excellent interview that Neddal Ayad conducted with you for Fantastic Metropolis last year, you were criticized by a couple of people at online venues for what they took to be your overinflation of your personal opinions into blanket judgments of value. Specifically, I remember somebody taking you to task for comparing Lovecraft to Shakespeare and evidently judging Lovecraft the greater of the two when you said that “for Lovecraft, unlike Shakespeare, the revelation of life as an idiot’s tale is the alpha and omega of his work. He doesn’t just pay passing lip service to what is the most profound and obvious fact of life—he makes it the core of his work.” You have also told me that at least one acquaintance of yours who read an early draft of The Conspiracy against the Human Race simply couldn’t get a handle on the fact that in its dark and despairing diagnosis of life, you’re talking about the way the world seems, and has to seem, to you as a specific individual, as opposed to advancing its outlook as objective truth. Would you care to say anything about all this, maybe to try and set the record straight?

TL: Well, I never said that Lovecraft was better writer than “honey-tongued Shakespeare,” as one contemporary described him. But Shakespeare was a playwright. Today he would be the kind of novelist whose work I’ve described in response to an earlier question. His characters say things that appeal to me, and they say it well, but that’s not Shakespeare talking. Hamlet’s gloomy ramblings were cribbed by Magpie of Avon from Girolamo Cardano’s De Consolatione, which has since come to be known as “Hamlet’s Book.” So I don’t know who Shakespeare was, and I can’t tell from his works. One can form a good idea of who Lovecraft was from his fiction alone, and I definitely feel closer to him than to Shakespeare. This is something that doesn’t matter to most readers, who just want to escape to someplace outside their world and yet at the same time want that other world to be in a significant way like their own, that is, where things happen that they can understand. Shakespeare didn’t write anything that even the dullest imagination can’t understand. It’s all soap operas and romantic comedies, just the kind of thing that people enjoy today. Lovecraft doesn’t write for the same audience. He wrote for the sensitive few rather than the happy many.