Otherworld initiation: Aliens, daimons, and the rational ego


Recently I’ve been in contact with Patrick Harpur, author of, among other excellent books, Daimonic Reality: A Field Guide to the Otherworld (which long-time readers of The Teeming Brain, and also readers of my A Course in Daemonic Creativity, will recognize as a canonical title around here). For reasons that I’ll probably explain at some future point, I’m presently poring back over my extensively marked-up copy of this book in search of powerful passages that work well in stand-alone fashion. And a moment ago I accidentally constructed a kind of mental step-stone pathway through the text that consists of three separate passages, one from Chapter 7 (“Seeing Things”), another from the epilogue (“The Golden Chain”), and the final one from Chapter 20 (“Approaching the Otherworld”).

For me, these passages, presented below as three separate paragraphs connected by ellipses, present a complete and coherent message of profound power and importance. If you ponder them slowly, they may do the same for you.

Our trouble is that we have been brought up with a literal-minded worldview. We demand that objects have only a single identity or meaning. We are educated to see with the eye only, in single vision. When the preternatural breaks in upon us, transforming the profane into something sacred, amazing, we are unequipped for it. Instead of seizing on the vision, reflecting on it — writing poetry, if necessary — we react with fright and panic. Instead of countering like with like — that is, assimilating through imagination the complexity of the image presented to us — we feebly telephone scientists for reassurance. We are told we are only “seeing things” and so we miss the opportunity to grasp that different, daimonic order of reality which lies behind the merely literal.

. . . The tradition which forms the background to this book is hard to describe, because it has no name. We might tentatively call it, for convenience, the daimonic tradition.  Although it appears in many disciplines, such as theology, philosophy, psychology, aesthetic theory, and so on, it is not itself a discipline. It is not a body of knowledge or a system of thought. Rather it is a way of knowing and thinking, a way of seeing the world, which poets and visionaries have always possessed but which even they cannot stand outside of or formulate. Thus one cannot be taught the tradition, for example, as part of a university curriculum; one can only be initiated into it. Simply finding it out for oneself can be, like a quest, an act of self-initiation.

. . . Initiation can be thought of as a general term for any daimonic event which realigns our conscious viewpoint of the world, and introduces it to the Otherworld. If we identify ourselves with the rational ego, then the initiation will be — has to be — correspondingly fierce in order to introduce the whole notion of an otherworldly, daimonic reality. Alienated, we have to be — forcibly, if necessary, it seems — alienized. For, from the daimonic standpoint, we as rational egos are aliens while the aliens, the daimons, are part of ourselves. Alienizing means daimonizing: the rational ego is replaced by a daimonic ego which can slip into different shapes, different perspectives — all daimonic but all defining, and being defined by, soul in multifarious ways. Alienizing means being at ease with the aliens because one is an alien oneself.

For reflections on and specific illustrations of this theme in a variety of contexts, I recommend the following items by various Teeming Brain contributors, some of whom offer quite personal accounts of the type of thing Patrick writes about above:

About Matt Cardin


Posted on March 11, 2014, in Paranormal, Psychology & Consciousness and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. HazardJGibbons

    This (re)minds me of Mark Burgess’s lyrics for the Chameleon’s “Look Inwardly”:

    I’m wary of you
    But you’re oblivious to me
    I’m chained to your ego
    And there isn’t a key
    I play with emotions
    But never my own
    Don’t you recognize me
    Try looking inwardly

    • Excellent call. Those lyrics are deeply evocative, and also unsettling, I think (in a good way), especially in the context at hand.

      • Hazard J Gibbon

        Thanks, Mark Burgess and his boys never get enough props for their genius ( not that his solo efforts aren’t worth a deep listening ). The last verse in the song “Tears” ought to be played over and over in every hospital, school, and public place in the land.

  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KH6ZwnqZ7Wo . Humour . I think I understand what they are trying to say but aren’t sure .

  3. dunno if you’ve ever read this before I’m writing a paper for school on this author for Canadian writing class. He’s one of the greatest Victorian writers up there with James De Mille .

    Tantramar Revisited

    Summers and summers have come, and gone with the flight of the swallow;
    Sunshine and thunder have been, storm, and winter, and frost;
    Many and many a sorrow has all but died from remembrance,
    Many a dream of joy fall’n in the shadow of pain.
    Hands of chance and change have marred, or moulded, or broken,
    Busy with spirit or flesh, all I most have adored;
    Even the bosom of Earth is strewn with heavier shadows, —
    Only in these green hills, aslant to the sea, no change!
    Here where the road that has climbed from the inland valleys and woodlands,
    Dips from the hill-tops down, straight to the base of the hills, —
    Here, from my vantage-ground, I can see the scattering houses,
    Stained with time, set warm in orchards, meadows, and wheat,
    Dotting the broad bright slopes outspread to southward and eastward,
    Wind-swept all day long, blown by the south-east wind.

    Skirting the sunbright uplands stretches a riband of meadow,
    Shorn of the labouring grass, bulwarked well from the sea,
    Fenced on its seaward border with long clay dykes from the turbid
    Surge and flow of the tides vexing the Westmoreland shores.
    Yonder, toward the left, lie broad the Westmoreland marshes, —
    Miles on miles they extend, level, and grassy, and dim,
    Clear from the long red sweep of flats to the sky in the distance,
    Save for the outlying heights, green-rampired Cumberland Point;
    Miles on miles outrolled, and the river-channels divide them, —
    Miles on miles of green, barred by the hurtling gusts.

    Miles on miles beyond the tawny bay is Minudie.
    There are the low blue hills; villages gleam at their feet.
    Nearer a white sail shines across the water, and nearer
    Still are the slim, grey masts of fishing boats dry on the flats.
    Ah, how well I remember those wide red flats, above tide-mark
    Pale with scurf of the salt, seamed and baked in the sun!
    Well I remember the piles of blocks and ropes, and the net-reels
    Wound with the beaded nets, dripping and dark from the sea!
    Now at this season the nets are unwound; they hang from the rafters
    Over the fresh-stowed hay in upland barns, and the wind
    Blows all day through the chinks, with the streaks of sunlight, and sways them
    Softly at will; or they lie heaped in the gloom of a loft.

    Now at this season the reels are empty and idle; I see them
    Over the lines of the dykes, over the gossiping grass.
    Now at this season they swing in the long strong wind, thro’ the lonesome
    Golden afternoon, shunned by the foraging gulls.
    Near about sunset the crane will journey homeward above them;
    Round them, under the moon, all the calm night long,
    Winnowing soft grey wings of marsh-owls wander and wander,
    Now to the broad, lit marsh, now to the dusk of the dike.
    Soon, thro’ their dew-wet frames, in the live keen freshness of morning,
    Out of the teeth of the dawn blows back the awakening wind.
    Then, as the blue day mounts, and the low-shot shafts of the sunlight
    Glance from the tide to the shore, gossamers jewelled with dew
    Sparkle and wave, where late sea-spoiling fathoms of drift-net
    Myriad-meshed, uploomed sombrely over the land.

    Well I remember it all. The salt, raw scent of the margin;
    While, with men at the windlass, groaned each reel, and the net,
    Surging in ponderous lengths, uprose and coiled in its station;
    Then each man to his home, — well I remember it all!

    Yet, as I sit and watch, this present peace of the landscape, —
    Stranded boats, these reels empty and idle, the hush,
    One grey hawk slow-wheeling above yon cluster of haystacks, —
    More than the old-time stir this stillness welcomes me home.
    Ah, the old-time stir, how once it stung me with rapture, —
    Old-time sweetness, the winds freighted with honey and salt!
    Yet will I stay my steps and not go down to the marshland, —
    Muse and recall far off, rather remember than see, —
    Lest on too close sight I miss the darling illusion,
    Spy at their task even here the hands of chance and change.

    • a great quote by a Robert Alan Burns – “Indeed, the vision for which the artist-hero hungers may be fraught with considerable peril, as Actaeon discovers when he is devoured by his hounds for barely glimpsing the transcendent beauty of the same goddess. If to see is so perilous, it is small wonder that the narrator of Tantramar Revisited hangs back, refusing to confront the present reality… aware of the potential futility of attempting to extend the limits of perception, that the effort to “see” may not be worth the pain…”, from Wide Eyed In The Void: The Failure of Vision in the Poetry of [Sir] Charles G. D. Roberts , [Sir] Charles G. D. Roberts symposium.

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