On David Marshall's Integral Archipelago forum, a member there named Shashank recently posted a blog (and initiated a discussion) on the relationship between horror and fantasy literature and spirituality that I am quite enjoying.  I invite
you to read it, if you're interested.  Here, I wanted to open a related
discussion, based on some of my comments to Shashank, particularly if
any of you enjoy the horror or fantasy genres.  (I wish I had time to
compose something nice, but I don't, so here are a few jotted notes).



I no longer read fantasy or horror, but I used to read and write quite a lot of both, and I still enjoy an occasional horror or fantasy film.  In my conversation with Shashank, we were discussing the respective approaches of Clive Barker and H.P. Lovecraft.  I was noting that Barker tends to see "order" behind the terror and horror, and redemptive or transformative potential in the encounter with darkness and evil, whereas Lovecraft attempts to present a vision of reality as ultimately alien, containing dimensions which are wholly other -- realms and beings that are wholly unassimilable, human contact with which can only result in madness or destruction.  In other words, absolute limit conditions.

In my reading, Lovecraft's Otherness is an Otherness that must remain Other for the human center to hold, and for our higher ideals to flourish (though those who encounter it now come to see those ideals largely as flimsy defenses in the face of a vast, menacing, terrifyingly alien realm).  If I had to place Lovecraft along the values line, I'd say he was a Modernist -- writing for a genteel Modern audience, many of whom were likely in hard flight from "animal nature."  This is revealed, I think, in his preference for pre-human, visceral images to represent the Other: slime, gelatinous substances, crustacean or invertebrate anatomy, etc.

But while Lovecraft is primarily a modernist (as opposed to Barker's more postmodern approach, where otherness is a functional limit condition of particular stages of development or perspectival frames rather than a concretely identified, metaphysical "thing" or "realm"), I still find his work offers something interesting to consider, particularly in the context of Integral spirituality:  he presents a powerful challenge to complacency and a "comfortable" anthropocentric view of the universe, a view that honestly I sometimes feel marks much New Age and even Integral discourse and thought.  I don't think Lovecraft is an Integral thinker (as I said, I view him as essentially a Modernist, though some post-metaphysical materialist writers find kinship with him as well), but I think he makes a kind of move -- a firm presentation of That which intractably challenges and disturbs present boundaries and narratives -- that we could use more of in Integral circles, in my opinion.  With talk about "making sense of everything" in Integral marketing, and even in the popularized use of phrases like "swallowing the whole universe in one gulp" (assimilating it in its entirety to the "known"?), I feel there is a move towards what we might call the suburbanization (or urbanization) of the Kosmos.  No spooky corners left, no pesky unknowns, no threatening or destabilizing shadows.  (This is why King, Barker, Lovecraft, etc, are so powerful: they bring the 'unknown,' the terrifyingly alien and powerfully Other, back into our comfortable suburban back yards).

So, I guess what I'm groping toward is the question, What is an Integral nightmare?  What, in its appearance or irruption, would deeply disturb, even terrify, Integral consciousness?  What are the boundaries of our (often comfortable, suburban) narratives, and what has the potential to shred them?

I enjoy and appreciate this topic because I think wrestling with, encountering this sort of "dark" or Otherness, is both humbling and chastening (something Lovecraft cultivates through his shocking, chthonic vistas) and potentially transformative (a la Barker).  I am thinking here of several things: Rilke's terrible angels, which perhaps show up in modern popular form in something like Strieber's Communion series (where the Other is a vastly more evolved and powerful entity, an entity that has a disturbing, inscrutable agenda for us); and which showed up for me, in a wilderness visionary experience many years ago, as powerfully disturbing -- even terrifying -- entities who I associated with Krishnamurti and who put me through a mind-blowing (and humbling) ordeal.  And I think also of the "darker" aspects of Tibetan practice, which I explored when studying with Dzogchen teachers:  practicing ch'od, for instance, or purposefully going to graveyards or other frightening places in order to practice.  But even doing that, I also was aware of bumping up against worldview differences: not all of the images cultivated in traditional Tibetan practice were really terribly disturbing for me, and I recall wondering at the time what a modern equivalent could be -- how could the practices be made more challenging and relevant for our time?

What would scare the bejeesus out of the Integral community?  :-)

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Speaking of McLuhan and Cronenberg, I'd like to add Douglass Rushkoff's "Present Shock" to the mix and mention the Cronenberg movie "Cosmopolis" which I saw last night.

I would call it a post modern horror movie of chaos and complexity theory where as we witness one man's destruction in slow motion, we witness our own.  Rushkoff's latest book "Present Shock" explains a lot of the background to this movie.

What makes this movie truly frightening is that the events are not only possible, but have come to pass and will very likely do so again. And the dialogue is incredible!

The final scene of the movie leaves us with these haunting words ......

"I wanted you to save me.   I wanted you to save me."

Here's a review:  Cosmopolis: A radical indictment of Capitalism


kelamuni said:

Layman Pascal said:

McLuhan posits that horror is the appearance of the forms of a previous neuro-mediated age through the media of a subsequent age.

Cronenberg attended some of McLuhan's lectures at the University of Toronto,

Mark Fisher's book "Capitalist Realism" is bang on IMO. He confirms an intuition I've been feeling lately, that contemporary Capitalism increasingly presents itself as having no alternative, that it is getting more and more difficult to think outside its box,' that what the social democrats and democratic socialists have been going on about for years - about 'changing the system from within' - is, as a goal, becoming more and more remote.  In any case, such comments perhaps belong in one of theurg's threads...

Anyway, I was thinking about an idea I had after watching Blue Velvet (which I'm watching now) for the first time in '86: that it shared some principles with Cronenberg's Videodrome. Like Videodrome, Blue Velvet presents us with a version of the "observer participation" idea, that is, that the observer is not merely some passive 'witness,' but that s/he is actively involved in the act of observation itself -- not simply in the Heisenbergian sense that the observer changes what s/he observes, but also in the sense that s/he is also changed by what s/he is observing and by the act of observing itself. Jeffery starts out as a presumed passive witness, but quickly becomes enmeshed in what he is observing -- to the point that he begins to act like Frank, or at the very least, to the point that the beast within him is unleashed. (I like the roaring sounds.)

When I googled "Videodrome + observer participation," I ran across this short article on Cronenberg and Mcluhan by Mark Fisher. 

Matt Cardin, author of Dark Awakenings, is interviewed here.

I recently mentioned Sallis in another thread. In reading the first page of Sallis' work "Levinas and the elemental" I found this:

"In its return, nature will forsake its immediacy and familiarity. As it returns it will appear strange, as if belonging to a region distant from and alien to the human world. In a sense it will have cast off its disguise; it will no longer be the nature that is shaped and formed within the human world and in accord with the measures of that world but rather a nature capable, in its excess, of evoking feelings both of sublimity and of terror" (152).

Interesting. Thanks for the reference.

From Goethe's Faust:

Mephistopheles: Not glad do I reveal a loftier mystery-
Enthroned sublime in solitude are goddesses;
Around them is no place, a time still less;
To speak of them embarrasses.
They are the Mothers!
Faust [terrified]: The Mothers!
Mephistopheles: Do you fear?
Faust: The Mothers! Mothers! Strange the word I hear.
Mephistopheles: Strange it is. Goddesses, to men unknown,
Whom we are loath to name or own.
Deep must you dig to reach their dwelling ever;
You are to blame that now we need their favour.

Faust: Whither the way?
Mephistopheles: No way! To the Unexplorable,
Never to be explored; to the Unimplorable,
Never to be implored.

"I'm the Slime" with deference to Videodrome.


Mother, Mater, Meter = Cybele: "cavern," womb...matrix

"She [Hera] would have destroyed the son of Zeus [Dionysos]; but Hermes caught him up, and carried him to the wooded ridge where Kybele (Cybele) dwelt."  Dionysica 9.136 ff

"So Hermes passed over the mountain tract with quicker step than hers [Hera's], carrying the horned child folded in his arms, and gave it to Kybele (Cybele], nurse of lions, mother of Father Zeus.'' ibid.

"He put off the shape of Phanes and put on his own form again, Bakkhos (Bacchus), to grow a second time in the Meter's (Mother's) nurture." ibid.

"The goddess took care of him; and while he was yet a boy, she set him to drive a car drawn by ravening lions." ibid.

"When Bakkhos (Bacchus) saw the [wild] grapes, he thought of an oracle that prophetic Kybele had spoken of long ago. He dug into the rock, hollowed out a pit in the stone with the sharp prongs of his pick, smoothed the sides of the hole, and made a winepress [and made the first ever batch of wine]." Dyonisica 12.330 ff

"After the revels over his [Dionysos'] sweet fruit, Dionysos proudly entered the cave of Kybeleid (Cybeleid)..." Dionysica 12.394.13

There he was purified by Kybele and taught the mystic rites of initiation, after which he received from her his gear, and set out eagerly to Thrake [to instruct men in his orgiastic cult]. Pseudo-Appolosorus 3:33

In contrast to her public role as a protector of cities, Cybele was also the focus of a mystery cult --private rites with a chotonic aspect connected to a hero cult and exclusive to those who had undergone initiation, though it is unclear who Cybele's initiates were. Lynn Roller, In Search of God the Mother: The Cult of Anatolian Cybele

"In syncretic Hellenism Pan is cognate with Dionysos and Eros. In the retinue of Dionysos, or in depictions of wild landscapes, there appear not only Pan himself, but also little Pans, Paniskoi, who replace the satyrs. Pan is also a natural companion for Cybele, and there is evidence of their joint cults. In his earliest appearance in literature, Pindar's Pythian Ode iii. 78, Pan is associated with a mother goddess, perhaps Cybele and Pindar refers to virgins worshipping Cybele and Pan near the poet's house. Pan was not worshipped in temples or other built edifices, but in natural settings, usually caves or grottoes, the Cave of Pan." (Wiki paraphrase)

Pan is also the unseen presence that lies in wait and frightens travelers passing through lonely, remote and desolate places. Pan would crouch, concealed by brush, and rustle in the leaves as the traveler passed by. As the traveler’s apprehension increased, so would his pace until, his heart pounding, he was in full panic and running as if he was being chased by a wild animal - much to the amusement of Pan. And if he was disturbed in his secluded afternoon naps, Pan would shriek a cry that also inspired fear, terror, and panic.

In his work "Ephiliates" (published with James Hillman's essay, Pan and the Nightmare) Roscher identifies Ephiliates -- the leaper or 'he who jumps' -- as a form of Pan, the daimon of the nightmare, or technically what today we would call the "hag" experience or the presence that is felt during sleep paralysis...

Pan would boast that he had had congress with each and every one of the Maenads; to do so he replicated himself into thousands of little Pans.

Pan and the Paniskoi... Shub-Niggurath, 'the Black Goat with a Thousand Young'(?)

Lovecraft was influenced by Arthur Machen, as noted above, and Machen is perhaps best known for his classic tale of the encounter with the unknown, a medical experiment in which the subject undergoes an operation that grants a means of encountering "The Great God Pan":

...Suddenly as they watched they heard a long drawn out sigh, and suddenly did the color that had vanished return to her cheeks, and suddenly her eyes opened. Clarke quailed before them. They shown with an awful light, looking far away, and a great wonder fell upon her face, and her hands stretched put as to touch what was invisible; but in an instant the wonder faded, and gave place to the most awful terror. The muscles of her face were hideously convulsed, she shook from head to foot; the soul seemed shuddering and struggling within the house of flesh. It was a horrible sight, and Clarke rushed forward as she fell shrieking to the floor...

written as I listen to Zappa's Maybe You Should Live With Your Momma at 3:30 AM

I've shared this before, lyrics for a song I wrote called Goddess that was performed to open a ritual in the mystery cult to which I formerly belonged. There is a lot of tarot imagery involved, as was used for 'skrying in the spirit vision.'

Oh Goddess of the sea and land, open the door of dreams to me
Hourglass shifting grains of sand, the door without a key
Soundless boundless bitter sea, the moon of man's desire
The deep dark well of memory, it's you that we admire
To thee do we aspire…Goddess

Goddess it is you we call, with our song do we enthrall
Come speak to us in our sacred hall.

Dark one of the night of time, before the Gods were born
Priestess beyond the virgin veil, darkest hour before the morn.
From thy robe the sea sprang forth, the earth your cubic chair
Crown the moon upon your head, wrapped in mystery your hair
Jachin and Boaz in your lair…Goddess

Dark Goddess it is your we call, with our song do we enthrall
Come speak to us in our sacred hall.

Bright mother in the midst of day, the father in your womb
The dove descends into your heart, wheat springs from the tomb
With flowing stream you carve the stone, a crown of stars adorn
Generate the sacred image, matrix seed of form
And all creation born…Goddess

Bright Goddess it is you we call, with our song do we enthrall
Come speak to us in our sacred hall.

Alike in light and darkness too, we cannot see you clear
The scales of justice balance you, strength lets us draw near
Sandalphon raises up her wand, and parts the polar two
Unveil the star of innocence, let us gaze at you
The dancing world we view…Goddess

Twilight Goddess it is you we call, with our song do we enthrall
Come speak to us in our sacred hall.

Goddess it is you we call, with our song do we enthrall
Come speak to us in our sacred hall…Goddess

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What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

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