Friday, July 6, 2012

All Syncs Not Created Equal

Basic Principles Established in Jung's Theory of Synchronicity

To understand what is meant by synchronicity we can turn to the origin of the word  with its intended meaning, emerging prominently in the work of C.G. Jung. His model of sync was set up as follows:

1. An internal psychic state coincides with the immediate observation of an external objective event without any conceivable evidence of a causal connection between the inner state and the outer event.  

2. An internal psychic state coincides with an external objective event at a distance, with close temporal (time) proximity. 

3. An internal psychic event coincides with a corresponding, not yet existing future that is spatially and temporally separate but synchronized in its content. 

From these three ground rules we derive the basic premise of synchronicity. Moments of this sort are not bound by time or space, but rather, by the psychic contents of the internal state and external events. Nevertheless, events may be synchronized spatially and temporally in such a way that the outer experience is a direct and instantaneous mirror of the internal state.

The next distinction Jung makes in his definition of Synchronicity requires a basic understanding of Archetypes and the principles of compensation. In simple terms, archetypes are the imaginal templates from which outer-objective reality emerges. For example, the archetype of the Hero emerges in countless outward expressions, yet we can always recognize the hero-template in the actions of these individuals' actions. 

Jung describes Archetypal Compensation as the way archetypes express themselves dramatically in order to bring equilibrium to an imbalanced psyche. For example, if one has been particularly limp and immobile, they may dream of a heroic figure, encounter one in their outer world, or step into the role themselves in order to correct the imbalance.

Psychic events relate to synchronicity in the following way:

1. The compensatory activity of the archetype is experienced both inwardly and outwardly, creating a psychological shift for the individual that moves toward a resolution of the psychic dissonance.

2. The compensatory activity of the archetype is experienced outwardly alone, so that the individual may or may not witness the event or attribute any meaning to it, and is not sufficiently affected by the event to resolve the dissonance.

This grants us insight into the way synchronicity operates at the personal level. We are asked to believe that these psychic coincidences are not bound to time or space, though they are not antagonistic to these boundaries either. In whatever capacity we experience synchronicity, it is always to establish a balance in the individual's psyche.

Next, we are told that these events may take a variety of forms depending on a few factors:

1. There is unconscious content (repressed and/or unknown) that is presently moving towards consciousness.  The objective event acts as a compensatory equivalent to that unconscious content, highlighting something intimately related to what we must become conscious of.

2. There is something already dominant in consciousness. The objective event occurs solely to compensate for the conscious contents of the ego. 

With simple language, we are either unaware of something and are meant to become aware of it through the synchronous event, or we are so aware of this psychic state already that it manifests externally as a synchronous event. 

In the case that these external compensatory events are not bound to the immediate boundaries of space or time, people begin describing them with concepts like clairvoyance, telepathy, prophecy, and so forth. 

Synchronous events are acausal and indeterminate, which means that they cannot be traced back to a first cause. Jung fleshes this out on page 12 of his book Synchronicity, where he criticizes Schopenhauer's imposition of a transcendental Will as the first cause of all synchronicity. In its place, Jung inserts the quantum theory of multiplicity and indeterminacy, inviting us to view synchronicity as a dance of Life rather than the plotted scheme of some singular divine entity.

However, the chaotic dance of synchronicity and absence of a singular transcendental will does not negate meaningfulness. Jung explains that this dance is coordinated to compensate for any imbalance in our personal (or in some cases, collective) psychology. Therefore, synchronicities are defined as meaningful coincidence, presumably in contrast to the relatively meaningless coincidence of statistical chance. 

Inner psychic states and objective events that sync up are considered meaningful parallels. Rather than defining 'meaningful' in measured terms, Jung refers to the subject's felt experience of the synchronicity as the ultimate marker of its significance. If it doesn't feel special, it probably isn't. True synchronicities carry a numinous, spiritual charge. 

When the content of the sync reflects backward upon the individual and acts as a doorway into the archetypal level of meaning, then the individual becomes directly conscious of what Jung calls the Collective Unconscious. These are the shared archetypes of the local community and at an even more central strata, the whole human family.

Synchronicity: Solipsistic Indulgence or Useful Function of Human Awareness? 

If it's not already obvious enough, synchronicity deals with events that are simultaneously subjective and objective. The materialist-reductionist dismisses synchronicity as perceptual bias and superstition. The religiously inclined might experience synchronicities as miracles and messages from God. Jung described synchronicity in psychological terms. Robert Anton Wilson, Playboy champion of agnostic relativism, reminded us that the map is not the territory, so that the language we used to describe synchronicity/miracles/perception-bias can never fully encapsulate the actual thing itself. 

We can know more about the actual thing by studying every conceivable perspective and integrating them as operational worldviews. Is synchronicity really just a meaningless coincidence charged with the libidinal energy of infantile fantasy? Perhaps, yes. That does occasionally seem to be the case.

On the other hand, might there be an intelligent organizing force that understands the symbols of our human mind and coordinates external events in such a way that they could impress a powerful message upon the observer? This too seems to be the case at times. 

The latter worldview encourages further inquiry, stimulating a personal quest to observe these 'messages from the creator' and integrate them as powerful life lessons, while the former denigrates the subjective experience in favor of the physical-material observations of external events. 

While scientific objectivism has played a tremendous role in the creation of technology, it has simultaneously cut us off from the magic of the internal journey.  The emphasis on outward action imposes itself at the expense of inner exploration.  

Ceremonial Magic as a Semi-Causal Factor in Synchronicity

If the awareness of synchronicity functions as the equilibrating factor of human psychology, it does so on its own and without the need for human intervention. Nevertheless, it has been made clear in the written work of many occult documents that Magic is the art of causing change in the environment through the imposition of the personal will. Should an individual encounter the methods of self-modification and its subsequent effects on the environment, they would be in a privileged position to dispense healing and harmfulness intentionally. 

Here be dragons... The subtle effects of magic on internal and external planes has been studied and practiced for countless generations. Many techniques have been proposed in the literature, in both light and dark spectrums of magical intention. Claims have been made of 'actual' astral entities who dwell in the collective human sphere and will appear to do the magician's bidding if summoned and addressed with the proper commands. Be they angels, demons, or abstract geometric principles, the principles is always the same: Synchronicity can be evoked through an appeal to invisible forces.

In 21st century magical thought, particularly in the Chaos Magick literature of AO Spare, Phil Hine, Peter Carroll, et all, we witness a movement away from the contrived entity-spiritualism of earlier centuries in favor of technical magical practice itself. 

To understand the ways in which altered states of consciousness can evoke synchronistic external events charged with numinous significance, it is my intention to explore the different flavors of synchronicity that I have personally encountered. Having created a few basic categories of Synchronicity, it will be easier to file magical experiments into their various types.  

This research moves towards a scientific study of miracles in human perception. It does not seek to define 'the invisible cause', which history has shown to be a futile exercise in metaphysics, but rather, I aim to study synchronicity itself as a science of acausal events. It is my opinion that a deeper understanding of synchronicity will lead to a deeper understanding of magic and the harmony of inner and outer life, both personally and as a collective.

Critique of a Media-Saturated Synchromysticism

I recently enjoyed a conversation with Alan Green on the radio show 42 Minutes. The centerpiece of our conversation was the problem of media saturation in the synchromystic community and its depersonalizing effect on individual consciousness. 

Through a study of popular memes, synchromystic occulture attempts to draw parallels between two large categories: On the one hand, we encounter an endless stream of references to multimedia and historical events, while on the other, an equally constant barrage of references to the esoteric magical arts. 

The synchromystic game of 'media reflects occult philosophy' stimulates the mind like a piece of candy, and for the newbie initiate, provides some training wheels toward the awareness of the much more fulfilling experience of personal synchronicity. Remember that Jung emphasized the importance of objective content reflecting back upon the issues of the individual. 

However, so long as the synchromystic game remains fixed upon outward works of media and philosophy alone, it fails to bring equilibrium to the psyche of the individual. The observed synchronicity will be playing out at the level of the human collective, while the  individual remains more or less unaffected.

This becomes problematic when a group of 'synchromystics' do not integrate their personal lives into the discussion at hand. Akin to talking about politics or football, the superficial dialogue around interconnected symbols ciphens magical energy from that synchronicity into the communication field, not acknowledging the deeper layer of personal significance that the collective symbolic synchronicities are pointing at. 

There could be a subtle, dehumanizing influence at play when a community lacks the intimacy to connect outer events to personal, individual life events. 

Contact with the magical energy of synchromysticism can provide a rush. The individual may then use this energetic rush to boost their egoic self-image, like a hero who has discovered a treasure, and so they continue on for a period of time accumulating these symbols of synchronicity at the level of human collective, in a vain attempt to bolster a sense of self importance. 

Scientific Inquiry into the Nature of Synchronicity: The Bridge Between Collective Meme Syncs and Personal Miracles

One of the reasons for this schism between highly personal experiences of synchronicity and its polar opposite, the superficiality of connect-the-dots popmedia occultism, may lie in the lack of clear purpose in the community's study. Why are we pointing all of these syncs out to one another, if not to accumulate a wealth of indicators toward an apparently real phenomenon at play in the human psyche? 

If we are already convinced by the reality of synchronicity, why do continue to draw these connections for one another? What is the purpose of the synchromystic community? 

I would like to propose a unified effort toward the elevation of human consciousness through the combined efforts and analysis of the collected body of accumulated work. Synchromysticism has not yet risen to the status of science, there is still a lot of noise in the field and we have not established any clear guidelines around what constitutes a powerful sync and what does not. Perhaps this lends towards greater inclusivity and freedom, but it also denies the real strata that exists between the run-of-the-mill coincidence and the fullblown visionary mindfuck coincidences. 

Establishing some theoretical guidelines around the purpose of synchromysticism and its various levels of significance may help to bridge the language barrier between personal miracles and collective synchronicities in pop culture. The devotional work of creating a unified theory around this research will render individual and collective syncs more similar, and therefore interchangeable in the context of group discussions. 

Granted, many of us are studying and discussing the interpenetration of personal and collective synchronicity already. In doing so, we have found no real need to create additional categories and theoretical rules, which may limit and exclude in its definitions in as much as it includes and unifies the schism between personal/collective syncs. 

The purpose of studying sync and creating a group language for it would not be to reduce it to known parts, but rather, to create permeable boundaries by which to arrange these events. It would require that multiple participants reflect upon all that they have observed about the nature of Synchronicity itself, abstracted from the individual examples as cited constantly on the various blogs and videos which currently define the community. 

Out of this collective effort of self-reflection and experiential dissection, we might discover an emergent group of agreements. We surely would discover disagreements as well, which were not previously apparent. However, despite our similarities and differences, we would at least begin to arrive at a collective agreement upon perspectives and definitions of synchronicity, a field of inquiry which is sorely lacking in the academic communities and which may benefit the fields of psychology as well as magick and spellcraft. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Hermes and the Tortoise

Alchemical philosophy deals with the art of transmutation by a series of stages. Whereas orthodox religious thought emphasized the repression of darkness and the worship of light exclusively, the hermetic approach embraced darkness with the belief that it was a necessary material in the evolutionary process. This is famously described in alchemical literature as the magical act of turning lead into gold.

Transformation of the elements could not be achieved without the philosopher’s stone. Jung writes in his groundbreaking book Psychology and Alchemy that this stone was known to alchemists as the great lapis lazuli, ruled by the power of the Greek god Hermes, corresponding to the planetary body that we call Mercury. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate the ways in which this alchemical concept was carefully encoded into the framework of western music theory, in such a way that, over hundreds of years, even as countless genres have emerged and fallen away, the philosophical principle of the harmony of the spheres would remain in tact. 

Hermes appears to us a hermaphroditic god, containing both masculine and feminine aspects. The portrayal of androgynous consciousness as the ultimate transmutative medium suggests a nondual perspective of reality.

The seven classical planets were paired together in such a way that Mercury was the odd one out. Consider the orbital patterns of Mars and Venus, each positioned on the opposite side of Earth, yet not revolving around our planet. As heliocentric bodies, Mars and venus signify those masculine and feminine qualities of inner experience that revolve around the true source of consciousness, in contrast to the geocentric polarity of the Sun and Moon, whose existence are more apparent to the layman and were therefore considered closer to the cycles of mundane, human existence.
Due in part to the patriarchal bias of classical Western thought, we find that Jupiter and Saturn both traditionally correspond to male gods in the greek and European alchemical texts, signifying positive and negative aspects of the Father archetype respectively. These attributions are not absolute, as we find in the kabbalistic tree of life, where Saturn is placed with Binah, the ultimate archetypal feminine sphere.
However, these disagreements in gender-symbolism are due partly to the different cultures to which they belong. In both instances, Saturn signifies something dark in contrast to the light of Jupiter. 
These three planetary pairs exclude mercury, which appears at first glance to be without a partner. Like the opposable thumb, a lonely yet indispensable organ of individuation, Mercury was revered by alchemists as the ultimate signifier of intelligence and communication.
Alchemical emblems depict Hermes-mercury time and again with his magical weapon, the caduceus. Here we find a pair of serpents coiling upward along the axis of an upright staff, approaching what in many cases appears to be a winged, solar disc. The resolution of feminine serpent energy and the masculine rod reiterates the principle of nonduality, which in this case was the means by which hermes healed the sick and aided in the transmutation of lead into gold. It is interesting to note that a quiet parallel was often drawn between Christ and Hermes-Mercury as saviors of mankind.

Hermetic principles have informed the secret philosophies of many elite Greek, Islamic, and Christian societies through the ages. We find in Platonic texts the idea of a harmony of the spheres, dealing on the surface with ratios of spatial distance between planetary bodies, while signifying a deeper cosmological unity which to the archaic man could be understood only in terms of an architect or intelligent creative principle. 
The laws governing this harmony of the spheres were presented as a musical analogy. In fact, Plato often spoke of the music of the spheres interchangeably, though nothing existed at the time that resembled music as we know it today. He seemed to believe that each planetary cycle produced its own musical tone, like a finger circulating the rim of a glass of water, and that the consonance of our planetary system resembled a symphony of balanced sounds.
Alhough the greek concepts of astrological harmony were subordinated by the monotheistic doctrine of European church dogma, it seems that the fascination of these ideas never died. In fact, as the monophonic chants of medieval music developed during the 6th – 15th century into a secular form, known to musicologists as the common practice period, the astrological philosophy returned, hidden in plain sight.
To what degree the language and ideation of western classical music notation was intentionally astrological, it’s hard to say. There is almost no literature whatsoever on this topic, with the exception of some excellent texts published in the past decade by author Joscelyn Godwin. For this reason, the contents of this video are the result of reasonable speculation. We invite further commentary and insights into this question from all who wish to participate.
Because we make a study of western music, it follows that a look at the piano and its method of musical notation will be a reasonable starting point. We will explore first the impact of our trickster god Hermes-Mercury and the philosopher’s stone. 

The stone, as stated earlier, was compared to lapis lazuli, and was often referred to as the “water stone of the wise”. The attribution of liquid water to a solid stone presents an immediate paradox, one which could be elaborated through the anagram of the word Stone into the words Tones and Notes. In fact, the basic premise of the piano was that musical tones, a term signifying the aural acoustic phenomenon of sound vibration, could be turned to stone, into something quantifiable, that would then be called notes.
Anagrams are a frequent device in alchemical texts, perhaps because they encourage the consideration of multiple simultaneous perspectives on the same contents. Jewish and Greek mysticism encouraged a similar process through the art of gematria, the application of numbers to letters. The student was made to understand that the order of letters may generate new words, but they always added up to the same number. This may provide a hint to the logic that would inform 15th century alchemical musical philosophy.
Again, the fixed letters of the word stone were rendered mutable by means of the anagram method, invoking the power of mercury to create two new words, Tones and Notes, whose new meanings corresponded to a polarity. We are reminded of  the rod of Hermes’ caduceus and with the two serpents coiling around it.
Next, we consider the layout of a piano because of its importance as the master instrument for baroque music composition, and also because of its connection to the Hermetic principle. A standard grand piano consists of 88 keys. Our planet mercury requires 88 days to complete its orbital path around the sun. What is the likelihood that this number would be a coincidence? 
Furthermore, the piano is divided into sets of white and black keys. These sets follow a twelve-note pattern, consisting of seven whites and five blacks, and interesting asymmetry that resonates with both the Christian preference for light over darkness, along with the attribution of seven planetary bodies to the heavenly sphere and five elements to the earthly sphere. When seven and five come together, we arrive at the number twelve, the classical signifier of the Sun.

There are twelve months in a solar year, in contrast to the thirteen moons of a lunar year. Likewise, we discover twelve houses in the solar zodiac, twelve apostles around the solar Christ figure, twelve tribes of the solar monotheistic Israel, and so forth. The division of octaves into the number twelve is not entirely arbitrary, and can be traced to the Pythagorean tetractys, which later informed the platonic theory of the harmony of the spheres.

The tones produced by the piano are notated on staff paper, classically arranged into upper and lower parts called the treble and bass clefs. The very word staff invokes the image of the caduceus, the hermetic magical weapon of transformation. Ascending and descending melodies resemble the curving body of the serpents, and the two clefs are separated by an invisible yet functional middle ledger-line called middle-c. This note finds its orientation at the center of the piano.

Plenty of significance could be projected into the existence of this middle c. It resonates with the idea of a central pillar, of course. As the third letter of the alphabet, the letter C signifies the center between two pre-existing polarities, the letters a and b. In latin, the word cor implies the sun, as well as the core or center of system. Like Christ Consciousness, the middle C note orients the rest of the grand staff by means of a fixed position on the piano.
It may also be worth noting that the latin word for the staff was pentagramma, translating roughly to English as “five-lettered”. For most viewers, it will go without saying that pentagrams have a deeply magical signficance, and furthermore, that since the use of the staff includes not only the five lines of the musical staff, but also the spaces in between them, the explanation of “five-lettered” is not entirely accurate. There seems to be an almost overt occult implication in the creation of this musical staff.

One of the ancient masterpieces of Greek literature, the Homeric epics, depicts an encounter between Hermes and Apollo. The latter was the son of Zeus, a god of light, who also was a god who specialized in music. In the story, Hermes discovers a mountain tortoise which he proceeds to break apart, scooping away the inner body so that only the half-shell remains. Drawing the intestinal organs from a sacred cow, hermes fashions a set of strings and attached them to the turtle shell, creating a new instrument called the lyre.
This word, spelled l-y-r-e ironically acts as homophone for the word liar, a fitting joke played by the trickster god of the greek pantheon. Apollo is at first disgusted by Hermes’ offering, but upon hearing the instrument, he becomes spellbound and forgives Hermes’ sins.
At this point we make an acausal leap of association to the Chinese creation myth, which posits that a major portion of the asian race of humans emerged originally from a sacred mountain region called Changbai. The attribution of this ancestral cradle to a mountain informs the creation myth of their most influential philosophical mode, the I Ching. It is said that the I ching was discovered by Emperor fu-xi as he contemplated the shell of a tortoise.
Turtle shells literally resonate, so it is no surprise that musical resonance and philosophical psychic resonance have both been attributed to this slow and noble creature.
The I Ching consists of sixty-four hexagrams, the product of eight times eight trigrams. Here again we locate a variation on the Hermes-Mercury 88 theme. Each trigram is composed of three lines, resonating with the pentagramma musical staff mentioned previously. However, let’s not conflate resonance with equivalence. The structures are not identical. 

A trigram is composed of three lines, either broken or unbroken. Broken lines signify a feminine quality and unbroken lines a masculine quality. There are eight possible combinations of this binary-triplet system. The total possible combination of trigrams is represented as eight times eight, totaling sixty-four hexagrams. We will of course recognize the word hexagram as another magical word, be it the solomonic star of david hexagram or the unicursal hexagram of crowley’s occult herecies.
Something interesting happens when we consider these broken and unbroken lines as intervals rather than objects. In western music, the definition of a chords is simply the presence of three or more notes played simultaneously. These notes must be different from one another, otherwise they would be the same note. Therefore, it would be correct to say that the most simple chord consists of three notes which in relating to each other would be described as two intervals.

There are two fundamental chord types in western music. They are called major and minor chords. The major chord is typically associated with joy and the minor chord with sorrow. In alchemical terms, the major chord corresponds to the solar-masculine and the minor chord to the lunar-feminine. These chords are triadic, which is to say that they consist of three notes.
These three notes, as we just explained, relate to one another as intervals. In this way, the relationship between the lowest and the middle note exist as an interval, while the middle and upper note also exist as an interval. These intervals are classified with the same names given to the chords: major and minor.
However, the intervals are referred to with respect to their scale degree. This will be explained in a moment, but for now, understand that these intervals are called major and minor thirds. A major chord is composed of a major third under a minor third, whereas a minor chord is composed of a minor third under a major third. Does that sound like a bunch of technical jibberish to you? Let’s take a closer look.
Recall the seven white piano keys and how the eighth key is identical to the first, but at a higher octave. This seven note pattern is called a diatonic scale. These scales are numbered from beginning to end, so that the first note of the scale is called the first scale degree, the second note is called the second scale degree, and so on. There are seven scale degrees in a diatonic scale. Let’s not digress into the Masonic significance of the concept of ascension by degrees.
So when we talk about musical intervals of a third, we are referring to the spatial relationship between the first and third scale degree. If, on the other hand, we describe the interval of a fifth, we would be referring to the interval between the first scale degree and the fifth scale degree. This is easy enough to understand.
Returning to the creation of musical triad chords, the major third and minor third intervals are similar in that they both describe intervals of a third. They both consist of an interval between the first and third scale degree. However, they differ in the type of scale which is being played. A major third is derived from a major scale, whereas a minor third is derived from a minor scale.
What then, you may ask, is the difference between a major and a minor scale? Very simply, they both consist of seven scale degrees, but the intervals between each scale degree is different. A major third interval has a distance of five notes including the first and last scale degree. The minor third interval has a distance of only four notes. If this is all a bit confusing, understand simply that major and minor thirds exist as fixed measurements of musical intervals.
We’ve almost made it through this technical bit, so try to stay with it. What we’re pointing at here is that a major chord is composed of one major third and one minor third. The top note of the major third becomes the root of a second third, which is a minor third. Therefore the chord is considered to be balanced, containing one major and one minor third. In contrast, the minor chord consists of a minor third on the bottom, whose top note again becomes the bottom note of a major third.

In both cases, with major and minor chords, we find a combination of one major and one minor third. The difference is simply the order of position. There are two additional chord types, called augmented and diminished chords, which consist of either two major chords or two minor chords. Therefore, there are four possible combinations of triads. 
As you can see, the interval relations of the musical chord system deals with polarities of major and minor, a direct correlation to the interval system of the I ching, which deals with broken and unbroken lines. The trigrams of the I Ching can be said to correspond to the eight chords that would result from all possible combinations of triple-interval chords. 
If we were adventurous, we could also explore the rhythmic division of the whole note into eighth notes. The 64 hexagrams correspond to the 64 spaces on a chess board, which consists of black and white squares, corresponding to the strong and weak rhythmic beats of an eighth-note pulse.
However, by now we have enough understanding of the technical aspects of the correlation between music and the I ching, so that we can return to the mythic thread. Our Hermes-Mercury mountain tortoise, a creature of the water whose shell resembles a stone, upon which we discover the code to both I-Ching and musical grammar, is the ultimate resonant chamber, so potent that even Apollo could not resist its charm. 
Yet if we are honest, we know that mercury is a liar, the proverbial trickster, taking us through the underworld journey of the mental labyrinth of endless polarities, only to exhaust us into submission. We come out the other side understanding nonduality intuitively. Duality is revealed to be a highly mechanistic tendency of the mind, extinguishing the inspiration of our heart. Yet in the same breath, upon integrating an understanding of these polarity systems, we are given the opportunity to return to them and assert the pulse of our heart through creative artistic expression.
Our mind and heart are non-dual and must coexist within the unity of our body, which itself is an instrument of the cosmos. Thus the composer unites the mental understanding of music theory with the inspiration of her heart, drawing the music from the heavens down through the creative instrument of the body, into the instrument, captured on pentagrammic staff paper, sealing the water in the stone.