28 June 2009

Chinatown by Polanski, 1974

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 10:46 am

This to me is as iconic — as portalic — an image sequence as the one in Vertigo where Jimmy Stewart sees Kim Novak fully revealed as the dead version of herself. Jimmy realizes the uncanny haunting he’s entered; Jack doesn’t get it yet.

chinatown anglo

chinatown chinese

[Originally I posted only the second shot; I added the first one in light of discussion.]

27 June 2009

The Portality Notebook Transcripts Conclude

Filed under: Ktismata, Psychology — ktismatics @ 5:39 am

[This should end the transcriptions of my old Portality Notebooks.]

(11 Nov 02) Praxes of the Portals

The Portal inverts, goes inward, through myself. I follow myself in. Is this the ultimate self-absorption, or its opposite? Especially if there’s nothing on the other side…

Alternative Portals:

  • Church – prayer, meditation, etc. (The Mass turns to stone, part of the church itself, while the tourists come and go)
  • The Tao
  • Attachment (Once just a vector of genetic transmittal, now a self-oriented metaphor of love.)
  • Psychoanalysis, quest, consume, True Self, art, sex, travel, home, drugs.

What I need to do is to transform these prototypes, each of which is a praxis, into an Alternate sensibility, driven by the Discontinuum and the Interval.

(12 Nov 02) Truth or Truths?

I cannot say that the Portals and Intervals are true or real, more so than Solipsism or the Continuum. But I can create them, and then they are true-as-created. There is the overdetermination of shared fantasies: an Alternate picture is a delirium until others regard it as real already.

It’s like the Glass Bead Game: inside, the Game is integral; outside, it’s doomed. Or, perhaps equally true: if it’s embraced by the culture then it’s coopted, transformed into the Continuum. It has to stay marginal to exist, which means it can’t exist. Paradox and tragedy.

Does that make it art, “only” art? Is it virtual? The opposite of virtual – nowhere but everywhere, fictionally pervasive. The thing is Real, the “world” in which it’s embedded is imaginary. All the more reason then to make it extreme. But it must be possible, like the Bead Game. There’s no real reason it couldn’t be, except that the world renders it impossible. Not like Borges or Dick, where fantasy supports an idea.

A society in which the Portal functions is not tenable, because the Portal is a way out of culture. It must exist only for a Remnant.

Do I describe the Portal itself, and not just the ideas? Can I avoid telling a story?

(18 Nov 02) Cosmopolitan Reality

It is an Interval in which individuals encounter one another and create conversation with emergence. Not based on apathy, where the other self-absorbs.

(20 Nov 02) Emergence

Emergence of Self from the World ↔ Emergence of World from the Self

These are the two complementary movements:
Self from World → difference, plenitude, individuation, subjectivation
World from Self → difference, creation, (dis)engagement

Engagement is possible only with separation of Self from World and World from Self. But emergence implies more than separation: to “come out of” is also to emanate from, to be born by, to irrupt, to transcend.

Does the world emerge from the self? Yes! Self absorbs and consumes world → world loses its autonomy; world is “for” self, instrumental. Emergence of world from self is more than only separating and naming.

(21 Nov 02) Interval as Emergence

Is a Portal a link between Self and World? Is an Interval an emergence of Self from World and/or of World from Self? Perhaps always an Interval is the mutual emergence of Self and World.

An Interval of Creation

Something of the World emerges from Self. It’s not pure creation out of nothing, nor is it a thing that could have come into being independently. And it does separate off from Self to exist on its own.

Does Self emerge from World in the creative Interval? Do you become different in the act of creation? By separating off a piece of the world, do you also separate off a piece of yourself? Surely so.

It’s the Strands linking Self to World that are sundered and re-engaged in the Interval. An engagement of World where Self is lost: what is this? Good or bad? E.g., lost in a novel or a piece of music.

This isn’t Showbiz. But it might be fun.

*   *   *

In my second novel the main character returns to his old Portality Notebooks in preparation for turning them into some sort of system for exploring alternate realities. He reads these old notes and finds that they’ve largely lost coherence and meaning for him, as if he’s excavated writings from some ancient civilization written in a dead language. He ends up slipping through a portal that he hadn’t anticipated. I think my motivation in returning to the Notebooks now is to figure out how the portals-and-alternate-realities schema can retain its centrality for a real-world praxis. This feels like system design work, trying to adapt the alt-reality framework to customer demands/expectations, which seem invariably to invoke more routine paradigms of therapy and coaching and career counseling. But when people hear the words “alternate realities” they tend to think of scifi/fantasy or new age spirituality, neither of which is what I have in mind.

26 June 2009

Projectus Interruptus

Filed under: Ktismata, Psychology — ktismatics @ 3:44 am

How often is a movie or a novel set in motion when a project, well underway and approaching its objective, is, without warning or evident motivation, interrupted? The interruption intrudes from outside, breaking the frame of the project, throwing the operation into disarray. But the interruption also erupts from inside, undermining the action or motivation of one or more of the participants in the project, rendering them immobile or ineffectual. The interruption opens up a hole in the project, throwing a short-circuit into the smooth operation of the project’s circuitry, cutting off its energy flow, bringing the project to a halt. Soon it becomes evident that the energy hasn’t stop flowing; it has been rerouted. The energy has begun flowing into the hole. Or is some foreign energy, generated from outside the project, flowing out of the hole, overloading the project’s circuitry with its excess? The hole in the project turns out to be a portal into a different project, hidden from view. The original project doesn’t just dry up and die: it is sucked into and through the portal, projected from inside out into something else altogether. The project organizing itself inside the portal turns out to be the generator of some alternate reality…

24 June 2009

A Hermeneutic of Sneerage

Filed under: Culture, Ktismata, Psychology — ktismatics @ 8:52 am

I don’t want to start no blog war or nothing, but the topic is psychologically interesting to me. Dr. Zamalek’s latest post on projects and energy suckage is entitled The Banality of the Troll. It seems that what I’ve been interpreting, per k-punk, as grey vampirism Dr. Z  has demoted all the way down to troll. (I wonder if we can infer that he’s been subjected to considerable negative criticism in his Belgrade presentations.) He says this:

“One thing to remember is that trolling is not just an unpleasant social phenomenon, but also an INTELLECTUAL ERROR. The sneer from nowhere is not just rude, it is also shallow and insufficiently aware of what it is doing. It lives in a world made solely of people, not of realities more generally. Sneering is not a project, it is an anti project. Projects are in touch with realities, not just with people…”

Dr. Z seems to contend here that the interpersonal sneer precedes and probably produces the intellectual critique. For many sneering critiquers this is no doubt the case: one hopes to gain relative status by publicly poking the needle at someone better known than oneself. But projects created by people are also often motivated at least in part by all-too-human egoistic considerations. Project producers tend to get pissed off when a “hermeneutic of suspicion” is applied to their work, suggesting that their project masks the creator’s “real” agenda of defending neoliberalism or paternalism or imperialism or whatever. I think the same goes for the recipient of intellectual critique: exposing unsavory psychological motivations for the sneer isn’t the same thing as dealing with the substance of the critique.

[A personal note: To find yourself subject to sneering critique is to have already achieved sufficient status that you’ve attracted the iconoclasts. Good on you. Most projects and their creators are ignored and would welcome the opportunity to discuss their work under practically any terms dictated by the discussant.]

Earlier in his post, though, Dr. Z depersonalizes trollish critique, embedding it in a broader intellectual culture:

“The troll, however, is extremely abundant, and is a direct byproduct of the model of critique that dominates most modern conceptions of what it means to be an intellectual. If we were to choose one global intellectual bias whose overturning would do the most good, it would be the primacy of critique”

This is worth considering. Empirical psychology is constructed piecemeal from studies that pit themselves against the “anti-project,” or “the null hypothesis” as it’s known in the biz. The goal of the research project is clear: starting with the assumption that randomness prevails, demonstrate that the pattern in your observable evidence is very unlikely to result from chance. The method doesn’t pit one theory against an alternative theory; it pits one theory against non-theory — a “critique from nowhere,” if you will. Still, I know what Dr. Z means: research driven by a pre-emptive attempt to poke holes in the Nowhere often results in a lot of trivial and mundane “normal science.” Still, in the aggregate the scientific enterprise is effective in building fairly intricate structures across the Void.

Like Dr. Z, I’m a big, naive fan of expanding these void-spanning structures rather than either siding with the Void or engaging in zero-sum debates about nailing down Plank A versus Plank Not-A. This critique style isn’t limited to intellectual circles. The corporate environment might look attractive to the outsider who believes that the entre-/intrapreneurial spirit actively cultivates creative risk-taking. Not so. Most new ideas don’t pan out; most risks fail, and workers have quite a bit to lose by actively promoting a risky new idea that will probably fail. But of course joining the chorus of nay-sayers makes failure all the more imminent. Conservatism is overdetermined. It’s amazing really that any new ventures succeed. Usually they’re championed not by the idea people but by the financiers and marketeers who’ve calculated the risks and conceived of the sales campaign. This is also why most new offerings in the marketplace aren’t all that new, and why the cineplex is filled with sequels and knockoffs.

Object-Oriented Psychology

Filed under: Ktismata, Psychology — ktismatics @ 6:20 am

[More transcripts from my old Portality Journal…]

(9 Nov 02) Psychological Objects

A Psychological Object can be a theoretical construct. It can be a statistical nexus. What is it when you want to put a Psychological Object forward as an Object for its own sake, or for the sake of the Alternate and the Remnant, rather than as a predictor or a revealed truth?

A Psychological Object can be an artistic creation. Is it a writing? A performance? An experience? I think it should be an “objective” thing, existing independently of the creator and the audience. Like a Portal or an Interval.

Interval as Object

The Intervals can be described abstractly, categorically, reductionistically – like a rationalist or a scientist. This is the description of Intervals.

An artist can portray Intervals, or give subjective experiences of Intervals. The attention begins to focus on the medium of expression rather than the Object itself.

An Interval is an obect that can be entered into. It is a kind of place and time. A description of an Interval isn’t an Interval per se. I want to create the per se.

To the extent that an Interval exists independently of the person experiencing it, to that extent it can be described, portrayed, represented. To the extent that an Interval is emergent from interactions with those who enter it, to that extent it can only be illustrated or exemplified, as in a story or a study. Or, it can be created in real time.

(10 Nov 02) Postmodern Realism?

There is no going back; the present is crumbling; the future is a trajectory – what else? Create the postmodern thing that is neither otherworldly nor subjectively imagined. Something that is, but fantastically out of alignment with the Continuum. Something that is because someone imagined it into existence, named it, brought it forth.

It is understood that Realities morph in unpredictable ways by virtue of our interactions with them. So the Interval is an arena of Dasein, of experience, not of abstract Being. It is a There, an arena that turns into something else by virtue of being played in.

*   *   *

It’s interesting that I had gravitated to the object-oriented constructions around which Graham Harman was building his particular form of Speculative Realism. Maybe it was an eddy in the Zeitgeist. My objective wasn’t to eliminate the distinctly human from these constructions, but I did want to decenter them away from the entirely intrasubjective. Individuals don’t just think things up in their heads; they occupy and immerse themselves in realities. Anyhow, his elaboration of an object-based theory is why I felt inspired by Harman’s Guerrilla Metaphysics when I read it earlier this year.

23 June 2009

On Projects and Energy Suckage

Filed under: Ktismata, Psychology — ktismatics @ 6:01 am

I’ve been both intrigued and vaguely troubled by the warnings against “grey vampires” issued recently by popular bloggers, PhD-earners, and successful project-executors k-punk, Dr. Zamalek, and Dr. Sinthome. Generally I agree: if you’re pursuing a focused project you can lose energy to others who aren’t similarly engaged. I have no interest in defending energy suckage per se, nor in what k-punk calls criticizing from nowhere — from no positive ground of my own. So I’ll offer a few caveats and qualifications as a way of clarifying my own ambivalence about the grey vampire proposition.

The mere possibility of “having a project” is a kind of luxury. Most people’s work projects are pretty pedestrian: get through the day without exhausting yourself or compromising your integrity, make some money, find some small pleasures in the workplace to keep you going. Even among knowledge workers, concentrated pursuit of some specific project is typically governed by demands of bosses and customers. Academic projects aren’t immune from marketplace considerations: working on a hot topic is more likely to get you noticed than exploring some small deserted corner of your field; the academic aspirant who receives active support from a network of advisors and colleagues is more likely to get ahead than the lone wolf. Still, compared to practically any other work environment I’ve experienced first-hand, academe affords far more freedom to do one’s own thing in an atomosphere that actively encourages independent creative thinking. So it’s a shame to squander the opportunity while it’s available, even if your interests eventually lead you out of the academy.

Most of us who read and write theory-infused blogs are pursuing projects. Some projects are more focused, with specific means and ends clearly identified — conduct a study, write a book, do a detailed critique, create a theory, (re)design a course offering. Other projects are more nebulous and diffuse: learn to think like a scholar, understand so-and-so’s theoretical perspective, see different points of view on a particular topic of interest.

All focused projects emerge from unfocused exploration. The dangers at this exploratory stage are varied. Your attention wanders so that nothing ever comes into focus. You get too grandiose, trying to come up with a grand unifying theory or the great American novel rather than formulating this particular theory or writing that particular novel. You foreclose alternatives prematurely, locking into someone else’s ideas or techniques before giving yourself a chance to discover your own perspective and voice. In this exploratory phase your attention is appropriately drawn to the middle distance as you oscillate between microscopic inspection and the panoramic view.

Once you embark on a focused project, it’s important to concentrate your attention and energy on doing what you’ve set out to do. The danger is distraction: letting your attention get diffused into other topics and perspectives, second-guessing yourself too much, worrying about how your project will be received by the field, and so on.

After your project is completed, it gets launched into a world beyond your control. While you’d like it  to remain iconic and pristine, pretty soon it starts getting transformed into raw material for the development of others’ projects. Some may build on your work while others attempt to dismantle it in order to make room for their own work. Most will ignore it altogether. Any reaction to your  finished project is better than no reaction: at least it’s having an impact. And any feedback on your completed projects is better than none as you plan your next project. Immunizing yourself from criticism, even of the “critique from nowhere” pot-shot variety, is like running your own Nixon-Bush Administration.

Who are the grey vampires, sucking your energy away from your project? They differ depending on what phase your project is in. If you’re in the formative, nebulous, middle-distance phase, then anyone who keeps your focus either too broad or too narrow can be an energy-sucker. For example, the grad student with a domineering advisor is too easily sucked into becoming a disciple or acolyte rather than channeling his/her energy into exploring something distinct. Conversely, the domineering advisor can be sucked into complacency through the flattery of fawning admirers. Academe is good at promoting these sorts of codependency relationships. The underling grad student, in order to establish a distinct identity, may have to pursue a course of active resistance to established ideas and respected figures in order to break free, even if that means being perceived by these respected figures as a grey vampire. And the established advisor may have to resist his/her students’ admiration and support, even if in so doing the students feel rejected and consequently drained of energy.

Dr. Zamalek says that you cannot change the grey vampire so you should just avoid him/her. I’m not so sure. Being-vampire may be an inescapable phase of becoming-individuated and becoming-productive. The trick is not to get stuck for too long in any of those vampiric phases of action and reaction. Remain in the nebulous phase too long and you get spacy or nitpicky. Keep working on a focused project too loing and you get obsessively perfectionistic and never get done. Spend too long contemplating the (non-)reactions to your last project and you never move on to the next one. Concentrate too long on kissing or kicking someone else’s ass and you never disover your own passions.

Finally, with respect to blogs… For even the most popular of blogs, there are far more people who don’t read it than who do. Among blog readers there are far more lurkers than commenters. Among commenters, far more comments are written on new posts than on older ones, even when the subject of the post is not time-limited. Blogs are a medium best suited for pursuing exploratory projects, where people sharing similar interests but different perspectives and different levels of commitment can converge for a day or two, then move on the next blog and the next topic. Complaints about trolls and grey vampires are the complaints of successful bloggers who are good or lucky or popular enough to draw an audience. Most people’s blog posts generate no discussion at all.

22 June 2009

Where Sacred Interpenetrates Secular

Filed under: Christianity, Culture, Psychology — ktismatics @ 3:17 pm

Here’s most of an email I sent to a guy last Friday: he’s an academic postmodern theologian who teaches at a nearby university. This is one of the directions I’m trying to take my practice.

I “work on work,” helping people reconnect the circuitry between passion and calling, between subjective agency and objective/intersubjective standards, between who they are and what they do. The ego is decentered in my praxis. Work isn’t all about what makes you happy or where you score on aptitude tests and interest inventories. Work contributes to culture, and hopefully work motivated by something like Truth, Beauty, and Justice can contribute to the construction of a better culture.

As you know, many evangelicals interpret the idea of “in the world but not of the world” in a way that dichotomizes church and human culture. Evangelicals can go into “the ministry” or conduct prayer breakfasts before work and so on, but the secular job itself? It’s a place to work out their individual salvation maybe, but not an arena where God is actively engaged. Emerging types can lament the worldliness of consumerism and pollution and neoliberal globalization, but they’re often more intent on building the church as a countercultural alternative to secular culture than on taking individual and collective stands for “good works” at the secular workplace.

As I’m sure you know, the TV show The Wire has prompted a lot of discussion in theory circles. Some dismiss it as just another racist indictment of inner-city drug-and-violence culture or a crypto-fascist valorization of vigilante justice. I’m more in the camp that regard the show as inspirational. Is it possible for some subset of people to be moved, as individuals and collectively, to Fight the Powers and take an active stand for justice? Are there rhizomatic movements of Spirit that, irrupting in particular places and times and situations, set the preconditions for a just event to break through? Can individual and collective agency amplify and concentrate this movement of Spirit in an intentional act of de/reterritorialization? Even if the world eventually absorbs the event and carries on as usual, such events embody and prefigure an alternate reality in which highers standards prevail.

This is already a long email, so I’ll get to the specific agenda. I’d like to make a push into the church world, looking for people who might see the Spirit at work in the workplace but whose subjective agency is hampered both by the marketplace ethos and by the Christian ethos of ecclesial hermeticism. Can individuals hear and heed the rhizomatic movement of Spirit? Can collective Wire-like initiatives in the workplace be assembled through some kind of Spirit-led biopower? I’m not talking about self-consciously church-branded programs, but emergent efforts where the sacred interpenetrates the secular.

I sent a somewhat shorter and less abstract version of this email to a local pastor. No response from either so far.

Non-Humanistic Research Psychology

Filed under: Psychology — ktismatics @ 9:55 am

I’m going to try writing posts while I’m thinking about them, rather than doling them out in regular intervals or choreographing a particular sequence of posts. When I save up ideas for later I either forget about them or lose interest myself.

So, the thought on my walk this morning was that academic psycyhology, ironically enough, is non-humanistic. A human participant in a research project is called a “subject,” but the real subjects of psychological research are the variables and forces that converge on and animate humans. Researchers are interested in aggregate statistics: means, standard deviations, correlation coefficients, structural modeling equations, and so on. Individual difference is of little interest, being dismissed as noise or random variation in the aggregate models.

While I was working on my doctorate in psychology I split my time between research and practice. My sense was that, in the person-to-person encounter of psychotherapy, research was pretty much irrelevant. I practiced a distinctly humanistic version of therapy, emphasizing personal connection as a means of strengthening the client’s self-efficacy. At the same time, clinical research was increasingly focusing on identifying “evidence-based” interventions: treatment strategies and tactics that, on average, generated significant positive outcomes. The problem in practice is that, even for statistically significant findings, the noise was always much stronger than the signal. In other words, individual variation far outweighed the strength of the averages. Building a humanistic praxis on the basis of weak non-humanistic research findings just didn’t seem very useful to me.

Tarnation by Caouette, 2003

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 8:39 am


Games, Interstices, Religion, Practice

Filed under: Ktismata — ktismatics @ 5:06 am

[More from my old Portality Notebook, wherein I started sketching out the basics for a psychological practice.]

(5 Nov 02) The Glass Bead Game and Perky Patty

For Hesse, the game is alternate, monastic, high-status, institutional, real. For Dick, the game is alternate, common, alienating, paranoiac, fantasy, part of the systematic repression of a bad reality, something to be overcome. Dick is closer to the portals than is Hesse.

The Salon is Interstitial

The Salon occupies the place and time between the Self and the World. Self is of the Remnant; World is of the emergent and discontinuous Alternate. The Salon is a place where Self engages World in order to generate Realities. The mechanisms of the Salon for this purpose include: strands, intervals, create/destroy, emergence, fate. The Salon is not a place to be healed, empowered, enhanced, coached, modified, or treated. It is a place for Self to engage, to create or destroy, to be subjected to emergence and fate and chance. It is a place to be in = Dasein.

(6 Nov 02) Portality is Religious

The intent is to create a new heavens and a new earth. Portality has all the components of a religion:

  • The Chosen, the Remnant, who are callled.
  • The Quest, which is to get outside of Self by getting out of the World, and vice versa.
  • The Code – something that functions like a morality, getting you beyond self-absorption, committing you to the World yet isolating you from it at the same time.
  • The Fellowship.
  • Transcendence.
  • Plenitude – something like salvation and transformation and ascencion.
  • A Meaning.
  • A Genesis myth that is also eschatology.

It’s not really the creation of a new heavens and a new earth. Perhaps it’s intensification and diversification: follow the strands, obsess on them, weave them together until emergence happens. No goal: it’s an engagement that’s called for. But it’s a detached sort of engagement, detached form self-absorption and from culture. It’s the creation of a world that’s more intense, less expected, yet less coercive. That’s why there is no end to the creation: once it starts attracting the masses, it’s doomed to fail. We require continual renewal. Not new: different. An earth that doesn’t fill up, but that grows from the surface, adding complexity.


What strands link self to world? Disease as the vector: blood sugar and symptoms are subpersonal. Health status is personal, self-oriented. Where’s the link between the subpersonal and the world? It’s probably cultural. What drives up blood sugar in the culture? Blood sugar as it flows between people, as if it were a communicable disease. Blood sugar as a behavioral trajectory across people, not just within people. A shared obsession with the blood – what it turns into cannot be known in advance. Latch onto the strand, pull it, weave it together with others, create something, put it in front of people who might care to see if they belong to the Remnant. Whether all who pick up the woven strand are Remnant is irrelevant, since it has a life of its own.

(7 Nov 02) Salon, Studio, Portal

A writing is an Object; so is a concept I choose to write about. There are perhaps three venues for creating psychological Objects:

  • Salon. Self-other, subject-object, plenitude-zero.
  • Studio. Create-destroy, strand, aesthetics, ethics, market.
  • Portal. Place and time, beginning and end, discontinuum, intervals, Quests and Pilgrimages, explorations and escapes, the permanent traveler. The Portal is a weird tourist bureau, or a surreal tour prospectus.

*   *   *

Post hoc observations on these Notebook entries… I see that I envisioned a threefold practice: the Salon, to assist clients in discovering, creating, and occupying alternate versions of themselves; the Studio, for doing the same with alternate realities; the Portal, for different ways of exploring the physcial world. The first two praxes would later merge, and this is the merged praxis I’m currently trying to rehabilitate. The merged Salon and Portal became the basis for my first novel, The Stations, which I wrote as a thought experiment about how such a practice might play out with certain kinds of clients. The central character in the novel embodied the idea of blood as a strand or trajectory linking people together pre- and intersubjectively, an idea toward which I gesture tentatively in this cahier entry.

I see that I called here for “a Genesis myth that is also eschatology.” I wound up elaborating just such a myth in my Genesis book, in which my (literal but deconstructive) reading of the archetypal story serves as the basis for a praxis leading toward new creations. This idea is of establishing new founding myths is perhaps related to Kvond and AnodyneLight’s recent proposal to sketch out an Antigone Complex.

21 June 2009

Black Orpheus by Camus, 1959

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 10:24 am

orpheus rhizomes

Not having read the story, I can’t offer much help to Kvond in assembling an Antigone Complex, but watching Black Orpheus last night gave me a chance to think about retrofitting mythic stories to contemporary lives. Throughout the film the characters pulsate with music and movement, animated by the inchoate and protean spirit of life. Though seemingly chaotic, the Greco-Deleuzian lines of flight seem predetermined to assemble themselves into the same configurations again and again. Many recurrent patterns are trivial, mundane, insignificant, ignored except by those who experience them directly. Assemblies that carry particularly intense and universal meanings become commemorated in myth.

orpheus spirit

Are these mythologized events purely empirical, purely materialistic, the meaning conveyed on them retrospectively from a vantage point outside the event by creative storytellers? Or is the commemorated event already imbued with meaning that the observer can apprehend directly? In terms of the film, is spirit bestowed on passive flesh, or is spirit inseparably embodied in a particular material life?

orpheus body

20 June 2009

Alternate, Remnant, Salon

Filed under: Ktismata — ktismatics @ 10:56 am

More transcriptions from my 2002 Portality Cahier. The “Salon” is a hypothetical intervention intended for people who wish to enter portals and to explore alternate realities.

(4 Nov 02) The Alternate Reality

Perhaps it’s best to assume that a dominant reality persists, but that there is an Alternative, parallel reality operating for the remnant.  It isn’t a reality that’s being persecuted, nor will it dominate in the future.  It’s just parallel, alternate.

Services related to the Portals would be relevant only in the alternate reality.  Such services would be useful to the remnant; the services would be useful also to the Alternate.

The Alternate is the emergent diversity of individuals actively engaging the external world.  Stuff doesn’t change and develop; it becomes different.  The remnant comprises the individuals who so engage.  Why?  Because they want to create and destroy, not just produce and consume and maintain.  Because they want different, not more or better.  Because they want surprise, not plans.  Because they want open, not closed.  Because they want plenitude, not self-absorption.  Why?  Who knows?  That’s just who the remnant happens to be.

About the Alternate:
•    It is multiple.
•    It is discontinuous.
•    It is emergent.
•    It is real (independent of perceiver or creator).
•    It is open-ended.
•    It grows from the surface.
•    It is complex.
•    It includes the Continuum – or not.
•    It is inescapable – no transcendence.

Self is discontinuous Alternate reality as well:  multiple, discontinuous, emergent, real, etc.

The Remnant

Perhaps there is a remnant, a subset of the chosen, the supermen, who spin away from the Square.  Let’s assume that such people exist.  There is no need to coerce or to seduce them into the Portals; merely putting up a small sign is enough to draw their attention.  If you are to help the remnant, is your job to open up new realities for them, or to keep them from getting sucked under?

Are the remnant committed to anything outside the Self?  Yes:  the Remnant are not self-absorbed.  Are the Remnant committed to a universalism in which everyone eventually joins?  No.  Are the Remnant committed to each other?  Yes, to the extent that the Other is real, emergent, etc. – Alternate.  Are the Remnant committed to the Alternate?  Yes.  The question is:  in what way?

TThe Remnant want the Alternate for its own sake.  We who live on the Square can try to corrupt this external desire into self-interest, but that’s our hang-up.  The Remnant can function only in the Alternate, and the Alternate can exist only by virtue of the Remnant.  It’s an ecology of sorts; or perhaps it’s a milieu for performance art.

The Remnant rely on each other for Social Alternate:  the diversity of culture and relationship and discourse, all real and for their own sakes.

The Salon is for the Remnant and the Alternate

The Salon is there for the sakes of the Remnant and the Alternate.  It is run by the Remnant; it is of the Alternate.

What sort of thing ought the Salon to be?
•    A catalyst for the eruption of the Alternate?
•    An outfitter for the Remnant?
•    A place of emergent reality?
•    A social discourse?
•    A home for the Remnant?  A source of security and comfort and stimulation and fellowship and inspiration?
•    A church?
•    An inn by the wayside?

The Infinitely Vast Salon performs all these functions.  Ultimately, the Salon is the Alternate:  it is the source of the realities, because I’m writing it.  It’s more than a Portal; it’s a (Diversity) Reality Generator.

The Salon is an Intervalic Tragedy

If the Salon is the generator, it is probably decentralized.  It is virtual, not in the electronic sense, but inasmuch as it exists as an Interval.  But the Interval is the only kind of reality that exists in the Alternate.

The Salon is an Interval, through which the Alternate emerges.  Included is the Alternate-as-self of the Remnant. The Salon is all the things required for being a Remnant self engaged in an Alternate reality.

The unfortunate thing is that it’s doomed to fail.  The Salon is a tragedy, and it must die.  But it’s too beautiful to die, so it comes back.  Goes and comes, goes and comes – it is an Interval, something that cannot last.  And so it succeeds in its tragedy.

19 June 2009

Erdman, Pilgrimage, My Novel

Filed under: Ktismata — ktismatics @ 3:25 pm

Erdman has been posting about pilgrimage. He’s doing a nice job linking his own observations on the contemporary scene with my novel The Stations, films, and works of philosophy and theology. I wrote the novel while I was also writing notebook entries about portals, so it’s not surprising that there’s a close connection. A pilgrimage is a type of portal: a space-time vector linking the present with some past sanctified reality.

Oh What the Hell

Filed under: Ktismata — ktismatics @ 1:10 pm

…I think I’ll reanimate this blog yet again. To get myself back in the mood, I’m posting transcripts of entries in my old cahiers (French for notebooks) focusing mostly on


Cahier One
Preliminary Notions (24&27 Oct 02)

A Portal is a channel between one Reality and another.  The Portal is the place or moment at which you enter an Interval.  To step into the Portal is to engage the Strands.

The Strands are links between the Self and the World.  A Strand is intensely personal, but it operates independently of individuals.  It is transpersonal, but it operates independently of groups.  Strands propel the Intervals.  To let the Strands carry you along is to enter an Interval.

The Intervals are times when Strands between self and world link together with each other.  The Intervals are spaces and times between.  Between self and world, between self and self.  Between cause and effect, desire and fulfillment, before and after.  Together, the Intervals are a multiplex of places/times for people to operate in.

An Interval is an element of the Discontinuum.  The Continuum is there to help you resist the Strands, disruptive Strands such as gods and cruelty and lust and tyranny.  To engage the Continuum is therefore to enter an engagement of power.  But the Continuum cannot make the Strands go away; it has merely covered them over, tried to hide them.  Because they can hide, the Strands can grab you more easily if you seek to maintain yourself in the safety of the Continuum.

Distortion and Pulling Out

The Portals are a bit nutty.  If I believe them, if I am earnest, I don’t need to distort them.  This tension – earnest nuttiness – often leads somewhere.  To distort what you believe is to enter into self-parody.  Did Freud believe?  Did Jesus?  Kafka?

Distortion is a trick performed to achieve an effect.  The purpose of distorting a Strand is to pull the Strand out of rational orbit, or out of the Modern world.  By distorting to the point of pulling out, does something become revealed that would otherwise remain hidden?  Or, by engaging the Strand in earnest nuttiness, does the Strand pull itself out?  Is this a work of fiction, distorted for effect, or is it a real journey?  Am I a fictional narrator, or a real one?  Above all, I am earnest!

There are good reasons why the Intervals should exist even if they didn’t:  hence there is no need for farce, for self-parody.  Similarly, I need not act out the tragedy, the ultimate failure of the intervals, their implosion.  Rather, I need only be aware of and state the absurdity.  And so it is that a Portal is simply the association between an awareness and a reality.

On Borges

Borges emphasizes the delirium and fantasy and unreality to which the portals lead. But he also emphasizes creation and the openness of possibility.

The Pull of the Strand

The Strand pulls you; it focuses its forces on you; you are caught in the stream.  If you choose not to engage the Strand, it might grab you anyway.  Success is a Strand; the pull to succeed is a Portal.  Pressure is a force, tangible, that speaks of Strands and Portals.  The pressure of stress, of influence, of money:  does it come from within or without?  Because the Strand links Self to World, every Strand is both inside and outside; every Strand links inside to outside.  To speak of a Strand as a physical thing is to speak metaphorically.

Preliminary Portalic Deductions

If Difference exists, then there is a playing field in which Discontinuity is the timekeeper.  If the World exists, then there are Portals affording access to psychological states that exist outside the self.  If the World is an open one, then there are times in which Realities are created and destroyed.

Intervals – Two’s a Crowd?

If the Strands link Self to the World, and if the Strands pulls the Self into the Intervals, can more than one person occupy an Interval?  Is an Interval an objective thing, or at least an intersubjective one, like a war or a fad or a relationship; in other words, like a Strand?  Or does the Interval enclose the Individual in pure isolation?  Isn’t the Interval in fact built for the isolation of the Individual, for individuation?  Isn’t individuation the starting point and the ending point of every Interval?  Isn’t that what the Intervals are for?

If you want a playing field where the individual can exist and function unconstrained by nature and culture, then you need a bubble that’s positioned in between.  In such a place pure subjectivity can come into being.  But make no mistake:  the Interval isn’t just a product of Self, which is deceived into being stretched along in the world.  Rather, the Interval is a place and time between, fragile but real.  It isn’t just a psychological state.

On the Existence of the Intervals

The Intervals are a creation.  The Intervals, as created places/times, are art.  And then they exist.

Faith in the Intervals

Unfortunately, it is difficult to feel strong optimism about the Intervals.  I am  overdetermined – by who I am, by what the world will or won’t allow.  Squeezed – from the past by disappointment, from the future by dread and anxiety.  No decision amounts to a hill of beans, or seems worth having been made.  Surely part of the running from place to place is the search for a new bubble of freedom.  After awhile the places seem the same, but home doesn’t beckon either.

Trying to create an opening by sheer force of will requires a cooperative world that lets the opening exist.  If I can’t pry it open I feel badly about myself, about my lack of ability to make something happen.  It’s the world’s fault really.  Must I then learn to make peace with the world?  Perhaps the Intervals exist outside the world of overdetermination.  I am not optimistic about it.

What then am I to do?  How do I make a life from here?  There’s no going back, and the future looms ominously.  Is there a going through?  Is there some other Reality to occupy, present only in the Intervals?  In this other Reality, future and past don’t go out of existence; they mean something different.  The present thus is shaped differently there.

The Christian can see the possibility of a higher purpose, a higher will, a design, a plot.  Faith gives them the eyes to see the patterns.  But if there are no gods, do the patterns exist anyway, or are they pure fabrication?  Either way, can you build a life on them?

What is there to draw you, besides the world and the mystic?  What holds you, besides momentum or the holy spirit?  Is there anything in the world to grab hold of?  If it lets you go, is there no handle for grabbing hold again?  Is there faith in the Discontinuum, faith in the Portals, telling you that something will open up eventually?

Sameness and Difference (28 Oct 02)

The Portals are samenesses, like Fate.  They exist independent of individual participation.  The Strands are overdetermination:  you are linked to the Strand that flows through and over you.  Again, sameness.  Difference emerges within the Interval.

Things become different from the surface outward.  At the depths, everything is the same.

The inability to engage the Strands derives from the fear of overdetermination, of Fate.  For surely you must walk into it, and you cannot change it or absorb it.  You can only engage it as a separate being – separate at least for awhile.

Heads as Portals

Is your head a Portal for things – like memes, like identities?  That’s how things got in there, isn’t it?  And you must fear that they will continue to get in, when you engage.  So you must also disengage.

*   *   *

These are pretty much verbatim transcripts from my cahier, so the writing is a bit cryptic and insular. Subsequently I’ve rethought some of these ideas, but the general thrust persists. Over the next few days I’ll post the continuation of Cahier One’s meditations on the Portals, then see where that leads me.

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