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Teeming Links – April 12, 2019

We currently live in divided and divisive times. Lately (meaning for the past two and a half years), I’ve been reading deeply in the literature about leadership for the PhD that I’m now close to finishing. And I’m here to say that it seems to me the following words from Robert Greenleaf’s classic 1970s essay “The Servant as Leader,” which, along with a couple of subsequent essays by him on the same topic, basically founded the field of leadership theory now known as servant leadership, advance a message that’s critically relevant to where we presently stand:

Who is the enemy? Who is holding back more rapid movement to the better society that is reasonably possible with available resources? Who is responsible for the mediocre performance of so many of our institutions? Who is standing in the way of a larger consensus on the definition of the better society and the paths to reaching it?

Not evil people. Not stupid people. Not apathetic people. Not the “system.” Not the protesters, the disrupters, the revolutionaries, the reactionaries.

. . . . The better society will come, if it comes, with plenty of evil, stupid, apathetic people around and with an imperfect, ponderous, inertia-charged “system” as the vehicle for change. Liquidate the offending people, radically alter or destroy the system, and in less than a generation it will all be back. It is not in the nature of things that a society can be cleaned up once and for all according to an ideal plan. And even if it were, who would want to live in an aseptic world? Evil, apathy, the “system” are not the enemy even though society-building forces will be contending with them all the time.

. . . The real enemy is fuzzy thinking on the part of good, intelligent, vital people, and their failure to lead. Too many settle for being critics and experts. There is too much intellectual wheel spinning, too much retreat into “research,” too little preparation for and willingness to undertake the hard, and sometimes corrupting, tasks of building better institutions in an imperfect world, too little disposition to see “the problem’ as residing in here and not out there.

In short, the enemy if servants who have the potential to lead but do not lead.

On to the links…

The Matrix turns 20 this year. Our friend Greg at the ever-reliable Daily Grail recently and incisively underscored a salient antecedent by pointing out that, 22 years before the film made the phrase ‘glitch in the Matrix’ famous, Philip K. Dick was talking about déjà vu being evidence that ‘a variable is changed’ in ‘our computer-programmed reality.’” Click through the above link for a full, brief discussion, which includes this video showing PKD delivering his thoughts on the subject to a crowd in France in 1977.

Speaking of The Matrix and its vision of a dystopian future where the human race is conquered and exploited by the technology it created, have you ever wondered why things have gone so horribly and definitively wrong with Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and social media in general as they’ve become breeding grounds for extremism and propaganda? Don’t overcomplicate the issue: Big tech was designed to be toxic.

It has also built us a global digital iron cage.

And speaking of technology, a long, detailed, and impressive article in The Economist manages the impressive feat of discussing synthetic biology in a nuanced-to-positive light while still mentioning Frankenstein, Faust, Brave New World, and more: “The Engineering of Living Organisms Could Soon Start Changing Everything.”

Turning to politics and the media, here in the midst of our collective Mueller Mania, Matt Taibbi nails it: Russiagate is this generation’s WMD:

Nobody wants to hear this, but news that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is headed home without issuing new charges is a death-blow for the reputation of the American news media.

On the other end of the attitudinal spectrum, Jason Louv offers some RAW -inspired optimism in “Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger, and the Psychedelic Interstellar Future We Need, where he argues that some of Wilson’s and Leary’s SMI²LE vision of the future (Space Migration, Intelligence Increase, Life Extension) is actually starting to appear amidst the otherwise dark and grim environment of present cultural-global circumstances.

Here’s Steven Pressfield on the profound question of why we write (or otherwise create):

What force is propelling us? In the end, I can’t say why I write. I don’t know. I know if I don’t write it (or at least try to), I’m miserable. Who’s running the show here? Am I at the mercy of my daimon? Are you? Is that a bad thing or a good thing? I don’t know.

In Pressfield’s most recent book, The Artist’s Journey: The Wake of the Hero’s Journey and the Lifelong Pursuit of Meaning, he talks at considerable length about the daimon, the muse, the inspiring power that drives creative work, and he dwells on the fact of its seemingly autonomous and independent nature:

You are not your daimon, and your daimon is not you. You are the vessel for your daimon. You are the latest edition in a long line. You are the raw material with which the daimon works.

For more in this vein, you can read his book, which I highly recommend. Or you can read my A Course in Demonic Creativity.

Speaking of writing, occult-and-esoteric writer and editor extraordinaire Mitch Horowitz has helpfully explained how quitting writing made him a writer:

We’re often told that you should never give up on your dreams, and I agree with that — but at the same time your dreams must not be idle or fantastical, and they must employ powers that are within your reach. Resilience is an act.

When it comes specifically to philosophical writing, philosophy professor John Lysaker of Emory University counsels that philosophical writing should sound like a letter written to yourself.: “Dear you, here is where I stand, for the time being . . . Yours, me.”

Psychologist Stephen A. Diamond, author of Anger, Madness, and the Daimonic (whose ideas influenced aspects of my creativity book), offers a cinematic meditation on the elusive nature of reality in “Inception: Art, Dream, and Reality.”

In the fourth episode of his podcast Mutations, Jeremy D. Johnson interviews Dr. Becca Segall Tarnas on the fascinating topic of recovering the imaginal with J. R. R. Tolkien and C. G. Jung.

Canadian journalist and meditation teacher Matthew Gindin examines the possible kinship of Buddhism with Western philosophical pessimism in “Buddhism according to Pessimism,” with a specific focus on the interplay of Buddhism with the thought of Thomas Ligotti, Eugene Thacker, and David Benatar.

A recent article at the history site Vintage News examines the way Rod Serling’s World War II trauma informed The Twilight Zone.

Speaking of The Twilight Zone — which everybody is doing lately because of the launch of Jordan Peele’s new iteration of the series — Rod Serling daughter says he would be stunned that it remains so relevant:

“He dealt with human issues and themes that are still so prevalent today, like racism and mob mentality,” Serling continued. “We don’t seem to be able to move ahead and change.” Even the phrase — “feels like I’m living in the Twilight Zone” — is often used to describe how many feel about the current state of the world.

“I can tell you [my dad] would be absolutely apoplectic about what’s happening in the world today. And deeply saddened,” she said. “There are moments that I’m glad he’s not here to see.”

Also see this excellent and fascinating history of the iconic Twilight Zone theme music, which was not written by Bernard Herrmann (unless you’re talking about the original “lost” (but now found) music for the first season’s opening, whose narration I always liked best).

Organizational psychological Adam Grant recently made the utterly sensible recommendation, in a New York Times op-ed, that we should stop asking kids what they want to be when they grow up:

I’m all for encouraging youngsters to aim high and dream big. But take it from someone who studies work for a living: those aspirations should be bigger than work.

In their new anthology Ghost Stories: Classic Tales of Horror and Suspense, editors Leslie Klinger (creator of those wonderful deluxe annotated editions of Frankenstein, Dracula, the Sherlock Holmes stories, and Lovecraft’s stories) and Lisa Morton (the Bram Stoker Award-winning horror writer) bring together 18 stories by the likes of Poe, Hawthorne, Henry James, Edith Wharton, and Arthur Machen. They frame it all with an introduction that lays out the history of the form. Happily, you can read that introduction in its entirety online: “The Birth of the Modern Ghost Story: On Spiritualism, Seances, and the Evolution of Ghostly Literature.”

This Is Horror, Episode 193: Jon Padgett and Matt Cardin on “Vastarien” and More

In this just-published episode of the This Is Horror Podcast, Jon Padgett and I talk with hosts Michael David Wilson and Bob Pastorella about our new project Vastarien: A Literary Journal, along with other matters of interest. Click to listen or download.

Note that at the time of this writing, our Vastarien Kickstarter campaign, to fund the first year (three issues) of the journal, still has seven days left!

Here are some show notes:

About Vastarien

Vastarien is a source of critical study and creative response to the corpus of Thomas Ligotti as well as associated authors and ideas.

Support Vastarien on Kickstarter

Show notes

[03:30] Vastarien origin story
[08:40] Why Vastarien title
[20:20] Penguin edition Conspiracy Against The Human Race/Cadabra Records Ligotti’s The Bungalow House
[28:10] Jon Padgett’s final message (in this podcast not in life)
[31:10] What is the worst thing that has happened to you as a result of your own mind or imagination
[34:20] Physical and mental and other sensations during sleep paralysis
[45:45] The creative self and self
[51:40] Andrew M. Reichart, via Patreon,
[54:40] Scott Kemper, via Patreon, wants to know about other Ligotti-esque authors to become acquainted with
[57:40] Films and TV shows that may appeal to Ligotti fans
[01:10:00] Kendra Temples, via Patreon, asks anti-natalism and philosophical pessimism and impact
[01:18:00] How Gnosticism fits into the vision of Vastarien
[01:22:25] What should and shouldn’t people submit to Vastarien
[01:26:35] Final question to ponder

‘A Course in Demonic Creativity: A Writer’s Guide to the Inner Genius’ (Free ebook)

 

A-Course-in-Demonic-Creativity-cover-image

 (Click the cover or the linked title below to download the PDF)

 

Where does creativity come from? Why do ideas and inspiration feel as if they come from “outside,” from an external source that’s separate from us but able to whisper directly into the mind? Why have so many writers throughout history — and also composers, painters, philosophers, mystics, and scientists — spoken of being guided, accompanied, and even haunted by a force or presence that not only serves as the deep source of their creative work but that exerts a kind of profound and inexorable gravitational pull on the shape of their lives?

These are all questions addressed by A Course in Demonic Creativity: A Writer’s Guide to the Inner Genius. The book’s starting point is the proposition that we all possess a higher or deeper intelligence than the everyday mind, and that learning to live and work harmoniously and energetically with this intelligence is the irreducible core of a successful artistic life. We can call this inner force the unconscious mind or the silent partner. We can call it the id or the secret self. But muse, daimon, and genius are so much more effective at conveying its subversive and electrifying emotional charge, and also its experiential reality.

Your unconscious mind truly is your genius in the ancient sense of the word, the sense that was universal before it was fatefully altered several centuries ago by historical-cultural forces. Befriending it as such, and interacting with it as if it really is a separate, collaborating presence in your psyche, puts you in a position to receive its gifts, and it in the position to give them to you.

 

A brief note about the history of this book

In 2009 I founded the blog Demon Muse, devoted to the subject of inspired creativity. A Course in Demonic Creativity was developed from material that I published there from 2009 to 2011. I shut the site down permanently in 2013 after repeated hacks (in the form of bot attacks, I assume) had finally tried my patience and technical skills to their limit. But that left no home for this book, so I decided to make it available here at The Teeming Brain due to people’s continued interest in it.

When I closed Demon Muse, downloads of the book were nearing four thousand. It has gained several thousand more readers here at The Teeming Brain. Additionally, various people have taken advantage of the Creative Commons license under which I published it to make it available elsewhere. I’ve been gratified and humbled to read people’s praise for A Course in Demonic Creativity over the years, and to witness how it keeps finding its way to individuals who grasp, appreciate, and resonate with its viewpoint and message.