I am beginning to look at Ash Fork as a gallery. At first I thought of it as my working on a story in drafts. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it dissolves into logical inconsistency so that the Deus ex Machina is never out of work. The enjoyable thing about imagination is that it isn't trapped in time, as it has no location and thus only an abstract existence.

The cultural view is always from inside the collective, from where the culture itself is invisible in the same way that water is invisible to fish. From that view, the purpose of psychology was my happiness, which was identical with being loved and admired. In other words, I didn't yet understand the meaning of not storing my treasures on earth. I didn't fully appreciate the metaphor, of not making spirit solid.

From the cultural view it appears to be an admonition to not worry so much about money because you'll go to heaven if you do what the shift boss says. If you get out of line they bring in a revivalist, first, and if that doesn't work, they'll bring in the goon show. It's a powerful incentive to get saved.

When I read Burroughs there was one passage (page 165, The Western Lands) that I found haunting. When a passage has that quality to it, I seem to absorb it and begin to work it into a mosaic with related passages from varied sources.

It is preceded by a discussion of "...their western lands ... What do they look like? The houses and gardens of a rich man." He writes that it's time for new gods who don't offer paltry bribes. "We can make our own Western Lands," he writes, but how will we make them solid?

"We don't. That is precisely the error of the mummies. They made spirit solid. When you do this, it ceases to be spirit. We will make ourselves less solid

"Well, that's what art is all about, isn't it? All creative thought, actually. A bid for immortality. So long as sloppy, stupid, so-called democracies live, the ghosts of various boring people who escape my mind still stalk about in the mess they have made." (The part that arrested my attention follows):

"We poets and writers are tidier, fade out in firefly evenings, a Prom and a distant train whistle, we live in a maid opening a boiled egg for a long ago convalescent, we live in the snow on Michael's grave falling softly like the descent of their last end on all the living and the dead, we live in the green light at the end of Daisy's dock, in the last and greatest of human dreams .."

In it you can see the ideas for which Ash Fork is a laboratory.

I once assumed that leaving the physical realm and traveling about in the land of the spirits was a kind of disorder characterized by a refusal to grow up and behave the way I was supposed to behave. Then I began to understand what Joseph Campbell said, (and I paraphrase unless I remember it accurately):

Psychology attempts to adapt one to the misconceptions of the community, while real religion attempts to rid one of misconceptions.

Storing up treasure on earth began to look different to me.

What separates spirit from matter is that spirit is in the abstract, or non solid, realm, and can only be approached through metaphor. So enjoying the rewards of being inside the cultural consciousness is just fine during its time. But if you get too attached to it, then you forget that it's just the launching pad, not the spaceship.

Ashley Montagu described the recognition that cultural consciousness is arbitrary, as, "seeing the unconsciousness in consciousness." When you travel in the world and see that what is chosen in one culture for the light, is in darkness in another, you begin to see that cultural consciousness is arbitrary. It isn't real consciousness at all. He said one becomes educated only when one overcomes the first education. In other words, the first education is into a particular collective group. The second education is individual consciousness.

Being unable to move outside the cultural consciousness limits one to producing what James Joyce described as "pornography." That is, one moves in the direction of the character who represents what the culture prizes, and away from the character who holds the shadow, or rejected, energies. This can be clearly seen in any romance novel. They don't pretend to be anything more than cultural adaptation.

Campbell has a set of tapes about Joyce, called, "The Wings of Art," which describe this idea more completely. He discusses the difference between art and pornography, and never is pornography defined in terms of explicit sexuality. It is always in terms of that which engages the reader's preference for the cultural hero, and repulsion by the culturally rejected character. Art, according to Joyce, creates a moment of aesthetic arrest, in which everything is revealed as a unified field.

The artist knows that he, or she, can only look at the culture from the outside. From the inside one can only see the outsiders, or subcultural elements. Just yesterday I was watching CNBC and there was a man complaining that Dumbledore's outing by J.K. Rowlings was part of a conspiracy against society to make it seem okay to be gay.

An artist could never see like that, mostly because it isn't seeing at all. It is imagining that everybody has to fit into the most narrowed cultural stereotype, which is suspiciously like identifying with an archetype. This is always a mistake, because no matter how powerful the archetype may be, it's still a one trick pony. The masculine archetype, for example, is entirely void of feminine qualities, and vice versa. The identification with either creates an ego inflation followed by deflation. As unremarkable as the hobbit might seem, he is the ring bearer.

An artist has to at least try to be objective.

Today I was listening to PBS and there was an interview with a man who has written a book about vampires. He was mentioning the public fascination with Count Dracula as a character who gives a rat's ass what other people think of him and does what he pleases. Dracula is Christianity's rejected material, a split off shadow of a complete psyche, like Mr. Hyde split away from Dr. Jekyll.

The evil which is denied takes on a separate existence, and it isn't pretty. It is driven back by the cross, buried in imported Romanian earth, and yet it always reforms itself into a new evil.

"Crackula! He feasts on whores and disappears in a puff of smoke! Buy a whole seat if you want but you'll only use the edge."

Once I got it through my head that I can't see the society from the inside, and and was confined to pornography if I viewed things from there, I got the meaning of not laying up treasure on earth. At least I got what it means to me, and that's as good as it gets. I have nothing against pornography so long as it's explicitly sexual, and not vulgarity parading as something else.

I'm exploring the idea (which Burroughs suggests) that the production of art is a bid for immortality. I don't think of it as needing suspension of my critical faculties, though. I can make a logical model of how it works, which is that the archetype is not destroyed when what has been surrounding it is destroyed. An archetype is not reducible. Stories which are built around an archetypal base can, in theory anyway, be reconstituted from the core.

The concept of the personal identity surviving death was a feature of Dante's Inferno, and signaled a new stage of development in the concept itself. Before that, and in many traditions now, the idea of surviving death was a surrender to emptiness. In Dante the differentiated personalities are found in the timeless place.

The foundation of the new sorcerers, as Don Juan put it, are the abstract core stories. He said, "A sorcerer is an empty man except for a collection of stories which have a universal application." That's another way of saying that he, or she, has moved the identity itself into a series of archetypal containers, for storage.

Is this true or is it delusional?

I don't know. At least it has a consistent internal logic. It requires moving the allegiance to the abstract, but then, where else is there to go, when all is said and done?

Posted: Wed - October 24, 2007 at 05:24 PM