Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Forgetting Human, pt 2 (guest post by Robin Artisson)

Forgetting Human:
A Treatise on Finding the Soul, the Witch-Flight,
And the Language of the Spirit-World

Copyright © 2011 By Robin Artisson

I. Non-Euclidean Introduction
II: Forgetting Human: The Wind of the Soul and the Loss of Ancestral Wisdom
III: The Amnesia Ploy and the Game of Power
IV: The Spirit-Language and the Sorcery of Sense
V: Well of Bone and Pool of Blood: The Real Treasure of the Ancestors

This work is kindly dedicated to Laurelei and Glaux,
To anyone who’s ever dreamed of flying,
And to David Abram, in gratitude.

* * *

Part II.
Forgetting Human: The Wind of the Soul and the Loss of Ancestral Wisdom
-A Great Sorcerer Known to Me
-Tearing Apart the False Gods
-The Deathless Wind
-The Deadly Change
-The High Priests of Hallucinations
-Home Again Where We Always Were

A Great Sorcerer Known to Me

Let me start this next part by telling you about my greatest human teacher. His name is David Abram, and let me start by saying that if you've not read his books and if you happen to have twenty extra dollars at this moment, stop reading, go to, and order his two books. The first is called "The Spell of the Sensuous", and the second is called "Becoming Animal: An Earthy Cosmology." Mr. Abram doesn't know me; he didn't put me up to this to market his books. I've only learned from him by reading his words.

But his words have done more for me in 18 years to awaken the sorcerous power in me and in this world around me, than any other written words. Without his books, I really, really feel like I would be not as deeply involved in sorcerous mysteries as I am now- and trust me, I'm arse deep. I'm deep in something so amazing, no words can ever encapsulate it- but it was Mr. Abram, along with a few select others, who put the seeds in my mind that bloomed into a forest of mystery and wonder.

Abram's books are about so many important things to us, I can't even begin to do it justice; but needless to say, if you are a lover of the modern revival of Pagan religion or mysticism, or of sorcery, you will discover from his books why we live in a world where the old tales of Gods, of Faeries, of Elves and Trolls, of Heroes and Monsters, seem so absent of meaning, and why this world seems so empty of anything but human intelligences (if I can call them that) and some animals wandering here and there.

More importantly, Abram, a real sorcerer himself, can plant the seeds of real magic in you that may tear your soul out of your body and cast you into the cauldron of initiation- a cauldron that looks, outwardly, a lot like the stand of trees behind your home, or at the local park, and a lot like the river near you, or that river in your dreams.

I say, with no reservations whatsoever, that Abram's two books are the most powerful grimoires of Art that I have ever had the Fateful privilege of reading and learning from. So please, take my advice, and let these books enter you, at the soonest possible date.

Following the guiding thoughts of Abram, I will begin by talking briefly about why we can't find our souls, and why most of us live without them every day. If you want sorcery, the power to talk to entities that other people can't see, the power to know the Truth about people and places and to drive away illnesses and wicked other-than-human powers, and speak to the wind itself, you need your soul. Many talk about "working tools"- even me in the past; but the real, most fundamental tool is not a blade or a cup, not a book nor a candle, but a soul.

Tearing Apart the False Gods

A lot of people tell me that they have gained a lot of insight from previous books that I've written. I talk about soul in those books, in many ways. But I wish- like all writers- that I could go back and change a lot of what I said in my books. I have evolved in my understanding and practice since those books were written. A lot of what is in them is still just as true as rain or sunset, but a few things, to me, are clumsily worded or too over-complicated. And that reflects my insight and skill all those years ago. You are a work in progress, just like I am. What I'm going to talk about briefly here (and what people like Abram greatly can expand upon for you) is some of the stuff I wish I had said before.

Let me now proceed to tear apart so many things that so many people believe today, and which they allow to inform their deepest thinking. Souls are real, and we all "have" one, or should I say, we can all experience something that I am calling "soul"- we can leave flimsy social constructs like "ownership" or "possession" out of this. And we humans aren't alone in this soul experience; animals, plants, rocks, winds, storms, rivers- they experience something I am calling "soul", too. And they each do it just as intelligently and consciously as humans sometimes can.

And this "soul" I'm talking about is not an "immaterial" thing; it is not invisible, transcendent, "above the world", non-material, beyond conception, none of that crap. Because that kind of thinking really is crap; or, to use the term I've become fond of, that kind of thinking is a hallucination. It is a very old hallucination that has been with humans for a very long time. And we lean so much on it- every Christian or Muslim you may know who believes that the body is “poor fleshy” material that dies, but the soul is an eternal, timeless, immaterial "thing" that somehow drifts on to a heaven or a reality "apart" from the natural world of stones and rivers and fires, is hallucinating.

These people- our idealists, our “transcendental” thinkers- are living a life of abstractions and ideas in their heads. They are not using or experiencing the soul, nor are they tapping into immediate reality, the true and real world of soul and experience. They are drifting through this world without really experiencing it fundamentally and fully. They are living in a delusion, a hazy hallucination. They always have been, for thousands of years.

The isolation and separation they feel from this beautiful and powerful natural world, full of spirits and Gods and souls, and their impoverished, maniac desire for a "transcendent" God, who is far above all these "mortal" things, is the result of a hallucination- ironically, these desires and hallucinations are the true "false gods" that people waste their lives devoting themselves to.

Not one of us is going to die and suddenly "rise above" the material world, or the senses, nor will any of us plunge into "eternal" torment. The sensual world, what you are experiencing this very moment, though possibly dimly, is what is real, what was always real, and the only thing that will ever be real. And "your" soul is part of it; it was always part of it, and will always be part of it.

The Deathless Wind

Your soul isn't immaterial; it is actually a wind, a breath, an airy-seeming process of power. It infused you from the time of your development in the bloody cavern of the sacred womb; it surged into you through the open communion of your new mouth when you took your first breath (though it was there before, too) and it will gently or harshly slip from you when the time has come to die, to return to the world that it was drawn from in the first place.

As I have said before, and will die saying- you didn't come "into" this world from somewhere else; you are something that came from within the depths of this world, and when you die, you don't leave this world- you go back into this world in a new way.

You aren't going to be whisked away to a heaven high above the clouds, though the aerial, breath-like soul may in fact fly the winds of the sky in freedom when you die- just as it does now, and can do now with your full consciousness, if you are cunning. Your soul is a traveler, like the winds. It isn't still, quiet, and passive. And here is something else you need to know: the world itself has a breath, a soul. And your soul came into you from it, and goes back into it, all the time, in life and in death. Every time you breathe in, the world enters you, as breath. And when you breathe out, you pay the toll back.

Your process of respiration is a living, sorcerous connection between you and not just the sky, winds, and storms, but the breath in the ants or owls or cats that might be in your back yard, along with every animal everywhere in the world. And spirits unseen? Yes, your breath and they are moving in the same massive medium of world-wind- you are connected to them, whether you see it or feel it or not. Your soul and your breath, which are very, very similar, are already flowing in and out of every other thing that exists.

The ancient languages tell us all we need to know- the Greek word for soul was "psyche", which means (you guessed it) "breath". It is related to the word "psychein", which means "to breathe" or "to blow". Even among the ancient Hebrews, the word for soul or spirit was "ruach"- which means breath. It was the breath that their God "breathed" into Adam and Eve to make them conscious, living humans. Even one Latin word for soul- "anima"- which is where we get the words "animal", "animation", and "animism", comes from the Greek root "anemos", meaning "wind". In ancient India, the term for soul, "atman" (which is related to our word "atmosphere") means "breath". The Latin word for "spirit"- spiritus- means "breath".

So how in the hell did we get from a worldwide and ancient understanding of the soul as something that was an extreme, tangible part of this world, into an understanding of the "soul" as something transcendent, not part of the world, immaterial, or just "mind"? Today, when we say "psyche", we think "mind"- and psychology, the science or study of the mind, is well known. But the term "psychology" literally means "science or study of the soul", if you go back to the origins of the words.

Good luck finding many psychologists who think of themselves as soul-scientists! Most of them are materialists who think that the mind has nothing to do with an old, superstitious term like "soul". They don't think that the mind is a "wind" or a breath or a tangible entity; to most, mind is believed to be an invisible epiphenomenon of the brain, which vanishes forever at death- coming from nothing, and going to nothing (as if such a thing could ever be possible). It is true, as true as the roaring of the ocean: when you forget the air, when you forget the soul, you forget the human, the very thing that endows us with what we fondly call "our humanity".

The Deadly Change

Why are we so ignorant of the wind and soul? How did the most obvious thing get lost? How was such a tangible and ancient connection washed away? Abram's explanation, which is incontrovertible, is that written language screwed us all out of the magic that was our birthright- and which still may be again.

Written language? What? The very thing I'm using now? Yes. And I tried to warn you about it earlier, and I can repeat that warning now. Why should written language- specifically phonetic language- be such an issue? Start to understand this by recalling that the first human cultures, including those of our own Ancestors, were oral cultures, not alphabetic or written-word cultures. They passed their lore and wisdom and culture down through the generations via repeated stories, sacred stories, all memorized and preserved. They lived, as Abrams puts it, in a “storied world”, a world that was rendered understandable by stories and words that referred to the things and entities of this world and human experience- but the introduction of writing created a new possibility, a radical new possibility, of a new sort of perception.

Our Ancestors lived in the mind of the senses, which is another way of saying they lived in their souls. They were each fully a part of this sensory world, and fully utilized those senses we all have, but so few of us really use anymore. The sensual absorption with places, smells, feelings, emotions, tastes- all these things the Ancestors experienced with nothing between them and the experience- were real portals of communion with real powers that are tangible- and still with us.

The senses are not "flawed, limited" things as we have been taught to see them by Platonists, and later by Christians who doubt and look down on the body and sensuality- the senses are, in fact, sorcerous powers that connect us to this world, to one another, and to spirits, and to everything. Used properly, the senses are the gateway to every sorcerous capacity you could dream of, or which legends have been told about. And the senses don’t just vanish with death; they deepen, in much the same way they don’t vanish when the body is in deep sleep, but exist on in shadowy or strange dream states.

When a traditional storyteller told his people a story, he said where it happened- and those people knew the place. They had been there, lived there, smelled there, seen there, tasted and touched there. They knew about the animals in his story, the people in his story. Storytelling magic is always local, at least in the old days. Even Homer told of places and people and things that his listeners understood perfectly well- they knew what the salty wind of the Aegean Sea felt like; they all knew what the funeral pyres told of in the Trojan War looked like. There were no "placeless" stories, no purely abstract stories in the ancient bard’s repertoire. We have plenty of those now, though!

The stories of the ancients, told in ancient times, always came to you from the senses of another, from a living body, mind, and voice, and through your senses, directly to the soul. The words of the story are given life from what? Breath.  And breath and sound and wind was the transmission-medium that brought it to you. The stories of a people actually evolve over time- as a people change, grow wiser, more wary, bolder, or change where they live on the land. Stories had souls- were soul, were power.

But what do written words do? Sit on paper, and never change. The voiceless story of paper speaks in what appears to be a timeless way from the paper. The ideas you get from the story on paper don't come to you on the wind of soul; they appear, abstractly, in your mind from the invisible speaker who may have written it. That speaker never changes; he always says the same thing. And this creates something that never existed before: an alphabetic, abstract mind or alphabetic intellect.

With the ancient Hebrews, their decision to begin using written, phonetic language caused a disastrous change- the words on paper, in "sacred books", became the new source of Ancestral wisdom, not the Land. Not the living powers of animals and winds and hills and rivers, but a book- and to go to anything but the book was to engage in "idolatry." People didn’t go to the oak tree to listen to its voice; but they read about oak trees and think about them in their heads. They began to read about how nature was just a crust created by some greater, more unknowable and transcendent being, and how nature was just here for man.

Christianity and Judaism and Islam are based on the written word. Their religions spread alongside "literacy", just as monks in Medieval Europe were the only literate persons in most areas, for a long time. People must accept the new technology of the written word, and all the abstractions in the mind it makes possible, before they can accept these religions.  They are literally the "People of the Book"- just as they call themselves.

And where they go, and convert, and teach, the Land itself appears to fall silent, and the wind becomes just empty air, no longer a medium of ghosts and spirits; the Land becomes barren and cut off from people who once went to it for all power and wisdom. This is very much why our Heathen Ancestors believed that the land-spirits, the land-wights, fled from Christian churches and the presence of Christianity.

The Heathens were the people of the land- precisely the meaning of the word “heathen”- and they were overrun by the people of the book.  The people of the book, no longer having access to the mind and soul that can directly experience Gods, spirits, and Ancestral powers, just scoff at the empty-seeming world that they are trapped into seeing, and state, with haughty assurance, that the “heathens” were delusional to believe in so many Gods, or to pray to their Ancestors.

Pagans had the written word before Christians or Muslims had it. And in some places, it had started to destroy even their connection with the fundamental and organic truths of life. So long as a language uses letters or symbols that refer to real things in this world, all is safe- ideographic or pictographic writing is safe (like modern Chinese, or ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs!) because the word for "blue" in languages like that is almost always a depiction of something in the real world that is itself blue. But phonetic writing is different- only letters, which have no reference to things in the real world, and only exist as ideas.

English is a great example of a phonetic alphabet- so, go find me an "A" out there in nature! Or an "L"! "A" is only an idea that links to a sound in your memory and a shape, and if you get enough of these sounds together, they sound like whole words. But neither the letters nor the words "exist" outside our minds, or in some written form.

To have such a technology around- and the ancient Greeks, after a point, got it, as did the ancient Hebrews- is an interruption of millennia of Ancestral oral culture, and it disrupts more than you can imagine, by making a dangerous new sort of "mind" possible. I'm not suggesting that written language is itself evil; but what can come of it, of its strange mind-sorcery- can do evil things. We never used it carefully; we were unwise, and it stole our souls, as many magical technologies can if those who wield them are not careful.

The High Priests of Hallucinations

And now you have just a taste of what "really happened"- how the soul, the psyche, went from being a wind, to an abstraction of mind, a concept. Now you have a taste of how and why the "mind of the senses" got covered up by a new kind of mind- the "mind of concepts". You know now why people began to imagine that they were "more" than this body, which they felt abstracted from, more than this "world" which they felt "apart from"- written words, a powerful and magical technology with many dangers, made this possible.

Truly, for us Westerners, the original death-blow wasn’t struck until Socrates and Plato made it possible. Using the new mind made possible through the new technology of the written word, Socrates began a deadly new way of thinking and seeing. He wasn't content, when he asked someone to describe what "virtue" was, or "bravery" was, to hear them give a real-world example of those things- which is what his audiences all tried to do. He demanded that they tell him what VIRTUE was or what BRAVERY was- he demanded that they rise above the tangible, lived examples of those things and tell him what they "purely" were. All of the examples given of bravery, he reasoned, were not bravery, but isolated manifestations of something that must unify and transcend them all.

I hope you can see how deadly and disastrously unwise this is- Socrates, like the later Plato, was convinced that "true knowledge" was not of experiences in this world, but of abstractions; "true knowledge" was about the "pure" ideal of “virtue” that existed out there, on some transcendent plane, and only manifested itself in this world as examples of virtuous behavior.

To be brave in war was an example (they said) of the ideal of true "bravery", the pure concept of immortal "bravery" which existed in some other world, and only "appeared" here in a temporary, unsatisfying way, anytime someone was brave. "Genuine knowledge", they said, was about "eternal" things, not temporal things. The "soul"- which he and Plato carefully stole from this world and lifted into a hallucinatory "transcendent" world- was likewise taught to be an "eternal form" beyond the poverty of lived experience, far beyond the land, the rivers, the sky, the crackling fire in the hearth.

All of this, which sadly is the basis of Western philosophy since their time, and the very thing that gave Christianity its entire philosophical basis, was based on hallucinations, the many hallucinations of the mind of concepts, born in the abstracting force of written language. None of it has ever been real. There are no "Platonic forms"- there is no "ideal world" out there, which this world is just a flawed shadow of, and the senses of our bodies are not unreliable, flawed things.

The so-called "philosophers" were wrong. They were confused by a new sort of mind that gave them abstract toys to play with, but it was all just mind noise and empty discussion, which divorced people from this world of reality. Bravery is precisely what you experience when someone is brave- and that is all. It doesn't exist in some intangible way "beyond" brave actions. Love is what you feel and experience when you interact with those you love, or with your own soul and other souls; it does not exist beyond that. It doesn't need to exist beyond that, to be an ongoing aspect of our experience, or of nature, which will exist in every situation of interaction, ever.

Plato and Socrates said the senses couldn't be trusted, as they were mortal and limited. In truth, our Senses are divine gifts of the Gods, and sacred, and can be the only vessels of "truth" that we can have, or will ever need. We only need to return ourselves gently to the sacred sensual world- the real world- and stop being lured off to the la-la-land of abstractions posed by these early hallucinating philosophers- men (like Plato) who broke with their traditional religions and cultures, and distanced themselves from Gods and spirits, calling them "superstitions", and drifted away from their own Ancestors- and from all the Ancestral wisdom that we today thirst for.

Home Again Where We Always Were

When we rediscover the world of the senses, and escape the mind of abstractions, get away from the concepts that trap us, we rediscover the soul. The soul has always been here; you've been breathing it in and out all your life, without understanding that you had your treasure, your power, with you always. You were probably taught in school that air was "just air", just a simple gas, an invisible but important substance for us- but nothing sacred. It was just what it appeared to be; it was nothing packed with spiritual powers, and certainly not a really tangible medium connecting you to both the world of stones and fires and water, and to the spirit world!

Take some time, if you can, to understand what I came to understand years ago, even before Abram- that you have been trapped, since your formal education, in the mind of concepts which was engineered in you by our schools and our alphabetic culture. Your soul was taught right away from you, without people even meaning to- because the people who taught you, if they believed in souls at all, thought that your soul was "apart" from your body, and ultimately, that what happened to your body didn't matter, compared to what happened to your "eternal soul". Welcome to alphabetized culture!

Written language, and the sort of mind of abstractions it causes to us now, is what stands between you and the truth behind the legends, folktales, Gods, myths, and magic of the true ancient times. Literacy and language literally stands between you and the direct experience of your world. This is why you can't see those “mythical” things, why you can't go among the Faery-rade (itself a thing that the legends say rode on winds through the sky) and why you can't come to the feet of the Gods or Goddesses. The “mind of concepts”, which has many uses today, and which we are forced to live “primarily” in, covers your mind of senses and the soul like a crust, blocking it.

Luckily, it can be cracked and you slip through that hedge, through that crack, and can engage the mind of senses, the soul beneath it- without having to do away with it completely. Thus, you can live in two worlds at once, the hallucinatory world created by abstraction-mongers, and the real world of power. You’ll discover there that the beings of myth and legend are as real as the wind you felt on your skin the other day, or the heat of the sun, or the sound of rain. They aren’t just “archetypes” or “visualizations” or “aspects of one mysterious divinity”, nothing like that. They are persons, like we are. They can be experienced, too, like another human person can be, or an animal person can be.

Language and abstraction now stands between you and the world that you're a part of, and now, I'm going to show you a tactic for beating that little illusion in the mind. Pay attention. You might win a soul out of the deal. After all, we have quite literally, thanks to the mind of abstract concepts that rules us, "lost our senses"- and more to the point, lost our souls. And some of us can feel that, feel the pain of that. We thirst; we want to find what was lost so long ago. And I'm happy to report that we can, if we are strong and clever.

Coming next:
Part III: The Amnesia Ploy and the Game of Power


  1. Wow. Oh, my Goat -- I am so excited about this series of guest posts from our friend Robin Artisson. Glaux and I have been followers of his writing (books and blog) for some time.

    Robin, your treatment here on breath/psyche/soul is very "inspirational" to me, indeed. I've done a fair amount of research and "reading into" Psyche's story, and I find so much wisdom and meaning there.

    Furthermore, I can definitely understand that soul is breath or wind, based on my own experience. Every great or "difficult" or seemingly big piece of magic that I have done has been accomplished through breath. This is the case for me so much, in fact, that I have come to rely primarily on my breath as the means for "going out" and for "doing."

    Finally, I completely relate to what you've said about being a writer with a distrust for words. In my case, I simply find that they fail where the Art is concerned. Glaux and I are doing our best here, as I know that you and many others like ourselves are doing all over the Internet and in books, but words are slippery stones -- too elusive in their many connotations to be entirely helpful, and too permanent and concrete to transmit the fluidity and individuality of this this type of experience.

    I am looking forward to installment 3 in "Forgetting Human." Thank you, Robin, Son of Art!

  2. I have learned more from this article than in the past fifteen years of meta-physical study. Can't wait to read the rest!


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