A Pedagogical Stunt

January 30th, 2008

A diagram by Joseph Campbell appearing in The Power of Myth, which I have redrawn.

pedagogical stunt

“A pedagogical stunt. Plato has said somewhere that the soul is a circle. I took this idea to suggest on the blackboard the whole sphere of the psyche. Then I drew a horizontal line across the circle to represent the line of separation of the conscious and the unconscious. The dot in the center of the circle, below the horizontal line, represents the center from which all our energy comes… Above the horizontal line is the ego, which I represented as a square: that aspect of our consciousness that we identify as our center. But, you see, it’s very much off center. We think that this is what’s running the show, but it isn’t” (p142).

Campbell on the Hero’s Deed

January 29th, 2008

Three illustrations from Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth.

“There’s a very interesting statement about the origin of the Grail. One early writer says that the Grail was brought from heaven by the neutral angels. You see, during the war in heaven between God and Satan, between good and evil, some angelic hosts sided with Satan and some with God. The Grail was brought down through the middle by the neutral angels. It represents that spiritual path that is between pairs of opposites, between fear and desire, between good and evil” (p195-6).

angels carrying grail

Angels carrying grail, The Playfair Book of Hours, fifteenth century (p196).

Another [source for the Holy Grail] “is that there is a cauldron of plenty in the mansion of the god of the sea, down in the depths of the unconscious. It is out of the depths of the unconscious that the energies of life come to us. This cauldron is the inexhaustible source, the center, the bubbling spring from which all life proceeds… [It is] not only the unconscious but also the vale of the world. Things are coming to life around you all the time. There is a life pouring into the world, and it pours from an inexhaustible source” (p217).

Jonah and the whale

Jonah the whale.

“When life comes into being, it is neither afraid nor desiring, it is just becoming. Then it gets into being, and it begins to be afraid and desiring. When you can get rid of fear and desire and just get back to where you’re becoming, you’ve hit the spot” (p218).

“The Grail becomes symbolic of an authentic life that is lived in terms of its own volition, in terms of its own impulse system, that carries itself between the pairs of opposites of good and evil, light and dark” (p197).

theft of fire

The fire-theft. Valeriano, Hieroglyphica, 1586 (p128).

“Many visionaries and even leaders and heroes [are] close to the edge of neuroticism… They’ve moved out of the society that would have protected them, and into the dark forest, into the world of fire, of original experience. Original experience has not been interpreted for you, and so you’ve got to work out your life for yourself. Either you can take it or you can’t. You don’t have to go far off the interpreted path to find yourself in very difficult situations. The courage to face the trials and to bring a whole new body of possibilities into the field of interpreted experiences for other people to experience — that is the hero’s deed” (p41).

Szukalski on Thinking

January 20th, 2008

A drawing by Szukalski (see previous post), reproduced in his Inner Portraits.

The Ancestral Helmet

The Ancestral Helmet, 1940.

“Just another careful ‘silly notion’ that gave me an excuse to do my best. Get in the habit to work with utmost concentration and you will be THE BEST. We scream piercingly when born, yet may become dumb mutes from never making an effort to COMMUNICATE. It is the effort that gives us the vertical posture and creative thinking. Crawl on your knees in an effort to walk your own paths and you will become a thinking person who will be able to bring original values, never perceived before, for within each one of us there is a separate universe of yet uncreated Gifts.

“Those who are well educated may well be mere apes that have learned the ways of Humans, but who cannot think; misled simpletons bedressed with other birds’ features. To think is to be ORIGINAL. Those who follow their own council, lead themselves upward, for their thinking is bewinged” (p28).

A Geometric Gesture

January 15th, 2008

Three illustrations from Andre Vandenbroeck’s Philosophical Geometry.

Philosophical Geometry contrasts with axiomatic geometry: the latter “discipline is founded on a group of propositions considered self-evident or necessary, from which a chain of further propositions can be deduced” (p3), whereas Philosophical Geometry is a “property of mind in general and not a specialty of the analytic mind… For example, in ‘Meno’, Plato shows geometry as a birthright of mind in general: Meno’s slave, unhampered by his lack of background, comprehends a geometric necessity with which Socrates confronts him” (p4).

Philosophical Geometry consists of theoria and practica. “Theoria is the adequate expression of geometric experience. As such, it is dependent upon the perception of the geometer; it is a subjectPractica is a necessary structure of two-dimensional events and is independent of the geometer’s perception. It is the object of the discipline… The aim of Philosophical Geometry is the individual elaboration of theoria… Theoria depends upon practica through the perception of the geometer, and it is due to the variance in perception that differences in practica occur” (p12).

Therefore, geometry is the product of geometric gesture.

“On a homogeneous two-dimensional field best termed a plane, the stylus is posited in a gesture of inscription. The contact of stylus with plane breaks the homogeneity of the undifferentiated surface into a heterogeneity of the point of contact and the remainder of the plane… Whatever the final complexity of inscription, the [practica] must pass through this initial stage: the contact of stylus with plane” (p17).


Practica can progress beyond the point only by motion of the stylus. Motion of the stylus produces an inscription best termed a line” (p17-8).


“To qualify the line as a two-dimensional element is a contradiction in terms. A line cannot be a surface. And yet, contrary to the point, it cannot be considered an ideal indivisible marking. Although, as line, it cannot be a surface, it clings to the plane by a dimension of length and thus forces upon contemplation a second dimension of width which is the thickness of the inscripting stylus” (p18).

“To examine the line, motion of stylus has to be arrested… If the motion of stylus is not arrested, a continuous line results. This uniform, indefinitely prolonged motion of stylus finds its perfect representation only in the circle” (p18-9).


Gandee’s Hexes

January 7th, 2008

Five hexes (of the Pow-wow variety) drawn by Lee R. Gandee in his 1971 autobiography, Strange Experience.

“All of the Hex signs included in this book… are personal. Again I must emphasize that Hex is a creative art. A Hex needs not copy slavishly the work of any other Hex. He draws ideas from it, and makes it his own by selection of motifs…” (p315).

The Rain that Refreshes the Soul

“The Rain that Refreshes the Soul: A symbol referring to spiritual water, the field to be watered as the human soul, and to the rainbow of promise. A sign asking for inspiration, insight, and creativity” (p187).

The Sign of Creation, Manifestation, and Materialization

“The Sign of Creation, Manifestation, and Materialization: An affirmation of the Hex rule ‘As above, so below’, and of man’s power to create through mental and spiritual action. The flanking symbols are Earth-Star signs, calling for all the good things of earth and earthly joys” (p115).

“A Hex knows a thought to be a thing — a form with an electronic force field, so when he arranges his motifs what he is really doing is sending out into the universe a telepathic blueprint image of what he wishes materialized. Nature is so constituted that the image tends to be materialized and sent back. To be a witch, one must be able to send sustained images far enough out to attract enough energy to effect the materialization…” (p316).

The Double Creator’s Star

“The Double Creator’s Star: A diagram of the internal lines of force which hold matter in form. It is a sign seeking permanent enjoyment of abundance” (p151).

“All my experience suggests that ‘magic’ power is derived from the action of the mind at a subconscious level. A symbol is more potent than a naturalistic representation simply because a realistic drawing is interpreted mainly at the conscious level… In solitude and secrecy, the mind thinks in symbols” (p312-3).

The Sign of the Horns

“The Sign of the Horns: Protection against the ‘Evil Eye’ and Black Magic. Looking here, the evil eye stares into the eye of God, and the devil is balked in all directions by the ‘horns’ of the Earth Star” (p236).

“To fake magic and secure magical results is a profoundly instructive experience” (p336).


“A Petschaft or Wunder-Sigel Design. For curing sickness or stimulating sexual activity” (p101).

“For a thousand years, the ritual answer to that question [‘can you cure me?’] has been, ‘I will try’. A ‘user’ should never promise a cure; he may find himself unable to concentrate sufficiently. He may become involved emotionally — even find himself questioning whether the individual deserves help. Fatigue, distraction — and emotional, psychic, and physical factors often too obscure to recognize — may intervene. If the cure does come from God, it comes only through the agency of the human mind, and man does not know his mind well enough to make guarantees. If one can avoid emotion, hold off the temptation to judge the individual, and concentrate fully on the pow-wow, usually one succeeds if he has any power at all” (p130).