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Ominous - Nicholas Roerich, 1901

Ominous – Nicholas Roerich, 1901

I think prophecy is an important part of writing, at least as important as technique or form. I think there are magical processes going on in writing. Like this raven thing. I’d been writing using the raven myth, and when I went up to Sitka in Alaska, the ravens disappeared. It was very unusual. Then the day before I left they all returned and flew around the totems. It was a strange experience.

Ishmael Reed, in an interview with Jon Ewing for The Daily Californian, 1977
(from Shrovetide in Old New Orleans, 1978)

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Kneeling breast feeding mother - Paula Modersohn-Becker, date unknown

Kneeling breast feeding mother – Paula Modersohn-Becker, date unknown

When the breast withers away to a vanishing point, other oral and maternal values are also drying up and atrophying; when the breast spouts forth again, these values are also returning.

By no accident, the most admired poem among American intellectuals in the 1920s was T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land; although actually dealing with his adopted country, England, his symbols spoke very eloquently to American sensibilities also. The withdrawal of the breast is suggested in Eliot’s images of wandering in the desert, of thirst, of the failed crops in the land rules by an impotent king, of sterility in general. The most famous of Eliot’s images– e.g., “lilacs out of dead land,” “The Hanged Man,” “the Unreal City,” “the corpse you planted last year in your garden,” “rock and no water and the sandy road”– all revolve around the theme of life struggling to survive without nourishment. The final section, in the mountains (breast symbols, according to Freud), brings the promise of rain and renewal. If all poets seek to summon the mother goddess in her guise as Muse, Eliot in a very real sense is calling for her to appear as wet nurse.

Robert Anton Wilson, Ishtar Rising

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Snakes - M.C. Escher, 1969

Snakes – M.C. Escher, 1969

…consider a final parable, which comes from Aleister Crowley’s Magick in Theory and Practice and is said by him to contain the whole secret of practical occultism:

Two passengers are sharing a railway carriage. One notices that the other has a box with holes in it, of the sort used to transport animals, and asks what animal his companion is carrying. “A mongoose,” says the other. The first passenger naturally asks why this eccentric chap want[s] to transport a mongoose around England.

“It’s because of my brother,” says the second man. “You see, he drinks perhaps more than is good for him, and sometimes he sees snakes. The mongoose is [to] kill the snakes.”

“But those are bleeding imaginary snakes,” says the first man.

“That’s as may be,” says the other placidly. “But this is an imaginary mongoose.”

Robert Anton Wilson, Ishtar Rising

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Fake Picasso?

Fake Picasso?

An art dealer once went to Picasso and said, “I have a bunch of ‘Picasso’ canvasses that I was thinking of buying. Would you look them over and tell me which are real and which are forgeries?” Picasso obligingly began sorting the paintings into two piles. Then, as the Great Man added one particular picture to the fake pile, the dealer cried, “Wait a minute, Pablo. That’s no forgery. I was visiting the weekend you painted it.” Picasso replied imperturbably, “No matter. I can fake a Picasso as well as any thief in Europe.”

Robert Anton Wilson, Ishtar Rising

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Oh, future! - Nicholas Roerich, 1933

Oh, future! – Nicholas Roerich, 1933

This book has a lot to say about Ancient Greek perspectives and their meaning but there is one perspective it misses. That is their view of time. They saw the future as something that came upon them from behind their backs with the past receding away before their eyes.

When you think about it, that’s a more accurate metaphor than our present one. Who really can face the future? All you can do is project from the past, even when the past shows that such projections are often wrong. And who really can forget the past? What else is there to know?

Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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gumption

I like the word “gumption” because it’s so homely and so forlorn and so out of style it looks as if it needs a friend and isn’t likely to reject anyone who comes along. It’s an old Scottish word, once used a lot by pioneers, but which, like “kin,” seems to have all but dropped out of use. I like it also because it describes exactly what happens to someone who connects with Quality. He gets filled with gumption.

The Greeks called it enthousiasmos, the root of “enthusiasm,” which means literally “filled with theos,” or God, or Quality. See how that fits?

A person filled with gumption doesn’t sit around dissipating and stewing about things. He’s at the front of the train of his own awareness, watching to see what’s up the track and meeting it when it comes. That’s gumption…

…The gumption-filling process occurs when one is quiet long enough to see and hear and feel the real universe, not just one’s own stale opinions about it. But it’s nothing exotic. That’s why I like the word.

Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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Sketch for "Truth Rescued by Time, Witnessed by History" - Francisco Goya, 1797 - 1800

Sketch for “Truth Rescued by Time, Witnessed by History” – Francisco Goya, 1797 – 1800

…Einstein had said, “Evolution has shown that at any given moment out of all conceivable constructions a single one has always proved itself absolutely superior to the rest,” and let it go at that. But to Phaedrus that was an incredibly weak answer. The phrase “at any given moment” really shook him. Did Einstein really mean to state that truth was a function of time? To state that would annihilate the most basic presumption of all science!

But there it was, the whole history of science, a clear story of continuously new and changing explanations of old facts. The time spans of permanence seemed completely random, he could see no order in them. Some scientific truths seemed to last for centuries, others for less than a year. Scientific truth was not dogma, good for eternity, but a temporal quantitative entity that could be studied like anything else.

Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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