HomeLetters to “Z” 2007-2019

Letters to “Z” 2007-2019

Letters On Film, Violence, Deconstruction, Metaphysics, Epistemology, Aesthetics, etc…
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In college I had been told that universals and my structuralist ideas were no longer taken seriously and yet no one ever pointed my way to anything post-structural.  I assumed that academia had backed down from  the paradoxes to embrace what a professor of mine called “a celebration of difference”.  So when I read Ken Wilber I took his word when he confirmed my own hastily formed suspicions of post modern thought, even though his work seemed to be missing the point.  I couldn’t quite put into words what that point was until I caught your essays on integral world.  But when I read your book I was completely absorbed as every word seemed to re-arrange the workings of my mind, each idea fitting perfectly into the opening I had allowed.  I finished school five years ago, but only now do I feel like I can finally embrace the music of language and relationships without having to stop and look around, trying to escape the disharmony between my fixed relations and an always fluid ground.  It seems like lifetimes living for that dialectic, searching for the next new note to bridge the gap if only for a moment.  Finally I can rest my heart with the unity of the field and the wide infinity of its relations.  Thank you so much for being a part of it.
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I am glad my email meant something to you.  I had written it the day before, but almost chose not to send it because I didn’t want to bother you.  I used to feel the same way with professors in college.  I was always overly excited about ideas and wanted to discuss their relation to life, but even when I was politely encouraged, it seemed like most professors were so busy with all their responsibilities that whatever passion for discovery they had took a back seat to their role as a teacher in an institution.  In retrospect, I was young and perhaps too impatient, never wanting to stick to the assignments.  I once brought in chaos theory to a paper in an archeology class.  My professor (at the University of Illinois) had done interesting work on the beginnings of tool use and language and how it corresponds to handedness.  I of course flew way off topic into theories of symmetry and degrees of freedom in evolution.  It wasn’t appropriate, but I was young and having visions I really needed to understand.  Anthropology was my major and it seemed the best shot to find some genuine dialog on the nature of reality.  Cultural studies seemed like the only field where “reality” was understood in some ways at least, to be an agreement.
For me, reality was a shared dream that I wanted to analyze and improve if possible. I was exploring psychedelic drugs at the time and adopted the anthropologist’s fascination with the occult.  None of the philosophy classes I took were looking at language, so I drifted ever further to mystical philosophy, especially Sri Aurobindo.  I also really enjoyed what I could understand of Whitehead.  He kept me thinking about science and my hope that it could be imbued with creative values.  I once asked a visiting professor in a philosophy of science class if he thought that maybe we were creating reality as much as discovering it with our pursuit of knowledge.  The haughty old physicist laughed at me.  Fair enough.  It is a hard line to cross, and even more difficult to draw; especially within an institution where learning is the main idea.  Learning can be a great idea but I never got rid of that haunting feeling, similar to Derrida’s comments on school sickness, a kind of deep mistrust of authority and any static agreement that I am not taking part in.  Knowledge without creativity seemed not only boring but wrong.  I did a year of substitute teaching at some tough public schools which made me even more skeptical of the ways development is conceived and how easily we label pathology when people aren’t being passive receivers of socialization.
I understand that there are places in academia that are more conducive to these kind of ideas.  However,  I am less interested in laboring away at one area in detail than I am with bringing your kind of critical focus to the frontiers of our connection with the infinite(i.e. psychic/ spiritual transformations), where visions and ideas abound, yet relevant distinctions and descriptions are harder to find.  As critical as I am of most of what is pejoratively categorized as “New Age”, I tend to be drawn to the open minded creative spirit of the meaning making process; something the New Age has at heart.  The ideas in Jane Roberts’ Seth Books for example are so rich and full of potential for illuminating meaning in every aspect of life, it is hard for me to resist mentioning them.  This interest in mystical entities is enough to bar me from most intellectual communities. Yet I think an extension of meaningful context beyond the narrow focus of our true/false logic will become a necessity, since even the everyday banalities of life are becoming irreducibly complex, as they become more and more contaminated by other times, places and information demanding a new context.  Well if it isn’t a necessity, there at least is becoming a  greater opportunity for understanding how and why infinity is in a grain of sand, or perhaps even how every event in life is also happening in a context that produces meaning between people unacquainted on the surface, through unlimited yet structured realms of possibilities, and stretching out into many pasts, futures, and “alien” worlds of our imagination.
Anyway, thanks for being interested.  If you ever feel inclined, I would be very interested to hear your beliefs or experiences related to ways we can speak of different types of “quasi-transcendence”, and possibilities for your type of metaphysical orientation helping make sense of discoveries in science and consciousness that may demand a rethinking of how we order relations between entities.  I feel we can come to know and manipulate time and space as we displace notions of beginnings  and endings as effects of a non-linear causal efficacy(i.e. Aurobindo’s Supermind and other notions of higher consciousness not as a more objective subject but a more effective field of force).  Some of the more far out ideas of the New Age seem compatible with yours, does that bother you?  Does it interest you?  What inspired you to write those essays on Ken WIlber, which brought you here to this letter?  Would it be possible or desirable to develop integrative communities and philosophies without resorting to fixed meaning and relations?  At any rate I appreciate you letting me rant.  I hope that when knowledge communities do reach that ground in rhetoric, it will open the doors to a greater connection in society between spiritual knowledge and worldly power.  Only time will tell.  But it is our story to tell.
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Upon reading the essay you sent me, I can now appreciate the subtlety and the varying levels of prominence or transparency in which you strive to employ the “comic” frame.  It does help me frame my question to you, which I had trouble articulating in my last message.  The question is always of course some form of when to take a stand, or what frame is most relevant, pressing, effective, etc.  My original impetus was a more specific concern with social change and justice.  Wanting to avoid the traps of an abstract moralism or an ethics of of mere pragmatic complicity, I have been struggling with how one can effectively evoke and describe in terms of deconstruction what I have usually had a more mystical conception of.  My first major influence Carlos Castaneda’s advice has stuck with me for years.  He says not to confront people bluntly; that we must be outside the circle that presses them so we can direct the pressure.  Recently Deleuze’s Nietzsche has given me a better idea what I mean by this power without direct struggle.  In places Nietzsche chastises the “mere critic” in contrast with the “artistic listener”.  He seems to be looking for a way of creating new values and alternatives that neither exist in a vacuum of self reference, nor merely pander to established values.  He is worth quoting at length:

“We must still ask: how are established values attributed? It is always a result of a combat, a struggle, whatever form this takes- the will to power is engaged in combat, precisely because the combat determines those who will profit from current values. It is characteristic of established values to be brought into play in a struggle but it is characteristic of the struggle to be always referred to established values: whether it is struggle for power, struggle for recognition or struggle for life- the schema is always the same. One cannot over emphasise the extent to which the notions of struggle, war, rivalry or even comparison are foreign to Nietzsche and to his conception of the will to power. It is not that he denies the existence of struggle: but he does not see it as in any way creative of values. At least, the only values that it creates are those of the triumphant slave. Struggle is not the principle or motor of hierarchy but the means by which the slave reverses hierarchy.”(Nietzsche And Philosophy p82)

How is this transvaluation accomplished?  How can we criticize a system or person’s values in a productive fashion; how do we frame its limitations in way that avoids imposing abstractions but also avoids just helping it along its path in an uncritical way.  From a strictly formal point of view, there always seems to be a gap there.  If someone asks me for advice, I seem to always want to avoid imposing my own values too much, but just helping them be themselves, helping them realize the values they already have seems naive and critically debilitating.  

While reading the David Mikics book you recommended I came upon a quote from Derrida that when I read it, made me jump for joy: “Form fascinates when one no longer has the force to understand force from within itself.  That is, to create.”  Unfortunately Mr. Mikics didn’t heed that advice and seemed to completely misunderstand the force of Derrida’s oeuvre.  I did enjoy reading it though, so thanks for the lead.  But he seems to be the example of what I am trying to move away from.  For most of my life I have felt like I am in hell with my judgment always coming out passionately bringing me into the circle of forces I am trying to overcome.  What Mikics criticizes Derrida for is what he himself is doing.  He misreads Derrida in order to make his own point.  Of course we all do that, and that is the point.  But do we transvalue in order to overcome the other person’s influence or to open up a more productive space of new values?  Derrida at his best seems to only reverse hierarchy as a means to open up this kind of space, where Mikics only sees the slave’s revolt.

To attempt an answer to my questions, I would say this question of justice being a suspension of judgment, as Mikics frames it in his book, is an oversimplification.  Like other concepts Derrida is accused of destroying and attacking, judgment seems to be merely resituated.  Rather than proceeding to make decisions based on a given framework, Derrida seems to want what Nietzsche wants: a way of exercising judgment by changing the context in which the problem presents itself so as to open up a way through the unproductive undecidable impasses that are the native ground of each given uninterpreted perception.  It is this compulsion to take the world as given that seduces us into passing a judgment on it, rather than deciding how we can best change it through the power of our interpretation.  Hasn’t this always been philosophy’s function, stated as such or not?Perhaps Mikics is right in situating Derrida well within the tradition of skeptical philosophy.  But in emphasizing the creative nature of our criticism, Derrida gives us the freedom to embrace influence as a power, and responsibility as a chance to be more than just passive commentators and reflectors of our world.  We can be the leaders and dreamers of a new world. We can be heroes.  

And it is in that spirit that I read films.  To illustrate, here is part of a letter I never sent you back when we were discussing Batman:

why the necessity of calling it mythology to allow the characters to be symbols or forces?  To me the most inspiring art isn’t very characteristically tragic or comic, that is, concerning flaws of humanity.  It is mythic, heroic.  Even if it is melodramatic, tragic or comic in structure, inspiring art has soul; it achieves a depth of feeling that connects us with the universal and eternal.  It takes what is limited and connects it with what is infinite.
 
You mention Aristotle.  I have only read his ethical writings, but I do remember Stephen in James Joyce’s Portrait of an Artist discussing Aristotle.  If I remember correctly, he says something like false art merely tries to convince you of a point of view, where as the true art “arrests the mind and connects it with it’s secret cause”.  Now we know there is no getting around the rhetorical aspect of all expression, but I think he makes an interesting distinction between different attitudes we can have both in creating and interpreting art.  We can be opened up or attempt to open up others to the beautiful complexity and mystery of life, or we can seek to incite and be incited into desire.  He gives pornography or advertising as examples of art that makes one desire an object rather than challenging one to surrender to the infinite. 

 

I am not sure if this is ever an assured quality in the art itself.  I do know that when I am listening to music, watching pornography, viewing an advertisement, or looking at a person on the street, I can do it in a way that comes from one perspective, one part of my body, one level of my instrumental being or I can do it with my soul.  I can see the world as an object to be dominated, fucked or eaten, emoted, verbalized, analyzed, or I can let it speak to me intimately.  Certainly different objects carry different forces that determine yet do not limit my apprehension (or perhaps limit but do not determine, haha whatever!).  If I look at something pornographic it definitely appeals or wants to appeal to my sexual nature.  I can of course detach from that and analyze it critically.  However I can also open to it without surrendering to its exclusive demands and let in reveal something about my sexuality.  That of course necessitates not being isolated in that level of awareness but allowing an interesting play of relational tensions to open up a field of novel insight.  
 
Now the problem I have with criticizing art because of the message it sends, is that it is a hopeless road.  Hopeless because there is no way to safeguard against harmful ideas, especially when confronting those ideas in a mood of pure tragedy.  For example, some gangsters love gangster movies.  Even if we view a film as extolling the tragedies of their lifestyle and violence, they find beauty in that.  They obviously are attracted to that type of beauty. So tragedy should not be viewed as a rhetorical device to dissuade us from certain ideas of life.  I find this view of life and art unnecessarily negative.  It is hypocritical because followed to it’s conclusion it would recommend the elimination of that which it perceives as dangerous, even if it is this very attitude it wants to overcome.  Now I know you are much more subtle than that.  I think we both want the same thing.  We want to situate or displace lesser quality art and thought in a wider context of knowledge that shows its limitations. But one cannot do that purely through critical means.  I think the limitations of deconstruction are that it is essentially about limitations; it is essentially a tragic discourse.  It shows the beauty of our limitations, but does not explore the possibilities of life very far.  Yet like tragedy, it opens the gate to the unknown by showing the limits of the known.
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I must disagree with your appraisal of The Dark Knight.  I think it throws the whole melodramatic formula into question.  While it may fail to resolve the emotional conflict of the characters, or offer a way this could have happened, it paints what I think is a realistic and very important portrait of what happens when we try use power to change things.  It is such a good movie about everything I have learned from you that I am in awe that you wanted a emotional trauma film, when we have a beautiful power play.

None of the three main forces of character in the movie are pure moral qualities.  We have Batman, Joker and Dent all representing different things, but I think it would be a bad misreading to say they are Good, Evil, and Both, respectively.  I think all three characters are dealing with the same thing in different ways, and they are very dependent on each other.  Far from the Joker being portrayed as pure evil, ignoring otherness to fuel his rage; he is seldom angry at all.  We see Batman and Dent as the angry ones.  They all want to change things.  The mob wants things to stay the same.  They want to resist a change in power.  Before Batman and Dent, things were “corrupt” but stable.  They provoked a conflict with the powers that be by their attempt at changing the structure of power more in favor with their principles.  This caused those powers to give rise to the Joker who is not interested in power at all, or rather he is only interested in undermining it.  He is not a function of the mafia powers that Batman was trying to neutralize, which he did by the way not through violence but by finding their weakness, their desire and dependence on money.  The Joker acknowledges and embraces his dependence on Batman and does not want to destroy him, he wants to play.  He wants to test power, he wants to push buttons, and show people that rules are the way the play of life is destroyed.  He does not offer any positive solutions, and he acknowledges this, saying to Batman “you complete me”.  Batman thinks Dent is his “other” and that he will complete him.  He misjudges.  He thinks Dent is the white Knight he dreams of being, or that he dreams Gotham needs.  A pure law, incorrupt.  The Joker spoils this by showing him how much an illusion this purity is, how much it depends on power, and therefore how unstable and subject to chance.  In the end Gordon thinks the Joker has “won” that chaos cannot be defeated or controlled.  But Batman understands in the end.  Dent ends up as two face because he can’t understand the complexity, he only sees chance without a pure rational order and justice.  Batman sees that he must be willing to embrace the whole spectrum, to be the right kind of power at the right time and not foolishly rage at what is beyond his control.

Maybe this seems like a stretch, but it is much more what the movie is about then their childhood trauma.  Line after line of dialog confirms these themes, and no matter what the reasons that they choose one path or another, they are still choices the characters make on their own.  They are not simple automatons of their childhood.  Drama is more than just the “tragedy” of conflict.  As you have helped me see, conflict is the stuff of life.  We are all exploring ideas and life together by embodying certain roles and seeing how they work together or do not.  I don’t think this makes characters less human.  I think it is more sublime when characters can really embody an idea, then when they play out banal predictable formulas of human emotion.  Characters learning to see things from each other’s point of view and the audience seeing multiple points of view is crucial to high drama.  Which I think is more to your point than how fantastic or exaggerated a story is.

I think one a key idea is expressed in one of the great lines of the movie, but first I will explore the theme in terms of the character’s emotional motivations so it will seem more human to you that way.  Rather than asking of a drama, How is conflict resolved?, The Dark Knight seems to ask, why do we want to resolve it?  Bruce Wayne was hurt by the tragedy of life and wants to change the world and make it a better place so it won’t happen again to him or to others.  Dent seemed pretty unscathed by life until tragedy touched him and his weakness was revealed.  Unable to find meaning in tragedy, he only sees the senseless, the randomness, the cold hand of fate.  He wanted to believe that one made your own luck, but he was naive and did not understand the contexts in which he did make his own luck.  So when those limits were realized his only option was to enforce his new philosophy of life: random meaningless tragedy (why would he shoot the mobster’s driver?, and while he was in the car!)
The Joker has had a bad life it seems and yet he doesn’t seem to think it a tragedy.  He gave the scars to himself, even if his Dad suggested it.  He doesn’t blame “bad guys” for life’s tragedy like Batman, nor does he blame chance like TwoFace.  He has no need to blame because he sees nothing wrong with tragedy.  He invites it and forces others to deal with it.   It isn’t that he represses the “other” so he can harm him.  He doesn’t respect other’s point of view for sure, not to mention their right to live.  He is certainly not to be admired.  But this is the Joker’s film through and through, and not just because of the performance and it’s significance.  The character is the shadow of all melodrama, as you call it.  He is here to put into question all our desire to fix the problems of life, to end chaos once and for all, to establish a rule by which all pain would cease.
I think you are right that in a perfect world, the Joker would heal his pain, and therefore everybody else would too.  There are certainly films that tackle the essential problems of individual suffering and find solutions that are admirable and are excellent models.  They can be more entertaining in a different way, I completely agree.  But one thing I learned from you that I always had a problem with before is knowing when to not be the hero.  The image of the dialectic was so ingrained in my philosophical mind that when I read your book it turned my world upside down to feel that “difference is older than being”, or various other metaphors that helped me overcome my desire to always be the hero, always find harmony even when harmony was not possible.  Batman cannot do this at first, however.  He even employs questionable surveillance techniques to stop the Joker’s schemes.  But the Joker is more than a man, just as Batman is.  They are symbols, forces at work in our world.  Batman foils what he thinks is his plan, the people on the boats don’t take the bait, and Batman thinks he won.  But the Joker laughs.  They are battling for the soul of Gotham he tells him, but both know they cannot kill the other.  If the Joker was pure evil he would want to kill Batman but he says he does not.  He obviously does not want pure chaos.  He implies repeatedly he wants the truth as revealed through play.  And then here in his final scene he says the line I mentioned as being so great, something like, “We are destined to do this forever, which is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.”  To me that line is deeper than any daddy drama.  And it is not that one character or the other is one symbol or the other.  They both have traits of each metaphor.  Together it is the psychic metaphor for incommensurable difference, for a relation so primal that if dissolved would destroy all life and motion.  At that point Dent as the acting soul of Gotham is playing out his confusion of this new complexity, somewhat akin to the Dionysian/ Apollonian split.  When Batman finally sees the state of his white knight, he finally realizes his own responsibility in the drama.  They had caused the chaos by trying to impose their order on the wild and corrupt Gotham.  But of course they do not see this as in inherent mistake.  Should we never try to take a stand?  How could we not?  Batman realizes he must become a Dark Knight.  He must shift from being a hero acting out of pure principle without thought of consequence, to a wise warrior who can play any role and may hopefully guide Gotham out of the stalemate of opposing principles to a possible society where they exist in dynamic harmony.
The only way to stop the Joker’s carnage would be for society to evolve to a state where government and institutional power were replaced by a Divine anarchy.  In the meantime, Gotham’s leader’s and Batman might have to find a way to let this drama play out in ways that are less violent.  Perhaps if they healed their trauma as you suggest, they could enter a polite debate, but even then the same ideas are going to be involved so why not see them displayed in a dramatic nature?  Why else make a movie?  As you have shown me, their is violence inherent in all our wills to change the world.  I admire a film that confronts that.

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Reading Deleuze’s book on Nietzsche tended to make me a bit too radical in my embrace of an anti-dialectic.  Thanks for helping me steady that quivering relation between Hegel and Nietzsche, between my own desire to overcome and my desire to multiply in relation.
It opened the door for me to explore the more metaphysical thinkers I can’t help but be drawn to.
I have always felt-since I encountered it- that deconstruction was at best a necessary supplement to a more synthetic metaphysical vision.  I enjoy reading books by those who use it and extend its reach.  You seem to do that quite well (I might have to read your latest book, it looks quite interesting).  However I still can’t get through any of Derrida’s actual books.  The rhythm seems too halting, too pensive.  Thank God people like you can tease out the movements for the rest of us.
I would have written sooner but I took a detour through some books on ancient occultism and new science that I would be hesitant to share with serious academics.  I can’t help but be fascinated with some of the early(as in ancient and the new speculative attempts at what should be a new paradigm soon) efforts to theorize what is going on in the interstices of consciousness and “matter”.
I am drawn particularly to the less well known and in my opinion more authentic theories that derive all physical phenomenon from a layered vision of the universe, of sets of scales of force/matter unification, of a continuum of densities in what used to be called the ether when it was considered as a neutral medium, but what is now termed in some circles a “super-fluid vacuum” for various reasons.  This line of thought seems to be on the right track, linking phenomenon on all scales through a vertical symmetry that structures the freedom on any particular level of focus.
I find the incompleteness of quantum theory to be naturally correlated with deconstruction.  I might not go as far as Zizek in equating Derrida/Levinas with just a post-modern iteration of Judaism, but it is a useful comparison.  For instance have you seen the Cohen Brother’s film from last year A Serious Man?  I don’t think the link between Judaism and quantum physics is accidental.  The film seems to point to the anxieties of our time, living in uncertainty, anxiety about what the Other wants from me.  I have been reading and listening to lectures of Zizek a lot lately and am finding him an effective tool to connecting my young contemporaries with theory.  While I may not always agree with him, agreeing with him is usually besides the point.
I recently turned thirty and in my current job I seem to more and more take on the role of guide.  I have been learning a lot about health and am helping people shift from the old model of disease so powerfully promoted by drug companies to a new model emerging from the alternative health community I have been working in for years.  I suppose there are still bad guys, but instead of the bad guys being actual beings like bacteria and viruses, or vital nutrients like fats and cholesterol, they are the rancid vegetable oils and refined sugars of the modern diet.  Still the over-all frame work has moved from focus on what is good/what is bad to what foods contain the right balance of nutrients and bacteria to balance the inner ecosystem and the community at large.  Still… sensitivity to Otherness doesn’t seem to be the problem of some paradigmatic people who come to our store.  In fact they are often too sensitive: chemically sensitive, sensitive to all the impurities in the modern diet and modern environment; so much so that they come to our store looking for purity.  What I find myself doing is not trying to make people less sensitive of course, but to help organize their sensitivity, to make their affectivity a positive capacity for difference, rather than a passive receptivity to the Other.  I find Deleuze to point towards this more fluid positive conception of difference, but somehow he seems to fall short of connecting the self and other in any way other than in blocks of mutual becoming.
 Its tough balancing the openness to the Other with the demands of a greater collective vision, but I find myself drawn to Zizek’s take on our culture.  While he tends to chide deconstruction, it seems more of his challenge to his friends (like Judith Butler), than a rejection of its insights.  Even in his Hegelianism he seems to include Deleuze’s rejection of the dialectic, or rather dismisses Deleuze’s Hegel as not the real Hegel.  In any case, the gap, the rupture, difference seems to be an integral part of his more synthetic vision.  Where as with Derrida it becomes the central metaphor, and with Deleuze it tends to become reified in an absolute difference.  (I have started to understand Deleuze’s notion of absolute difference and its reference to the virtual and like many of his dualities, they are temporary constructs made to make a point… still the overall trajectory and political implications seem limited).
Im not sure if its Zizek’s low brow humor, pop culture references, or if it is related to his over all vision, but I find him to be more accessible and relevant to our contemporary situation than the strictly post-modern thinkers.  Living in the Northwest is an interesting experience.  We have a lot of what is called”hipster” culture.  Zizek is considered by some to be the natural philosopher of hipster culture.  People use the term ironically and disparagingly, but I can’t help but be implicated in the attitudes and issues that confront youth culture today.  As I find myself getting older and having a bit more distance from youth culture, it becomes easier to see its points of genesis and potentials for growth and evolution.  While I think Zizek and possible others who embrace both the irreducible differences along with versions of the dialectic in visions of new possible orders are going to be more and more relevant to the political mapping of the future, I think we need a new spirituality that Zizek in his materialism cannot provide.
Which brings me to the book I just finished that prompted this email.  Its called Avatar Bodies: A Tantra for Posthumanism by Ann Weinstone(Prof of new media and literature at Northwestern).  If you ever get a chance, I would love to hear your take on it.  Drawing from Derrida, Deleuze and the traditions of Tantra, she weaves together a fine book from real emails, imagined correspondence, and very poetic theoretical musings.  Using the terms of deconstruction she leaps across the divide of différance and connects the mind and soul.  Even if you think she fails, its at least an admirable performance.  The final chapters are all about email, particularly between those that have never met as a practice for what she calls the Avatar Body.  And so I remembered I had to write you.
Thanks again for your time.  Hope I am not rambling too much.  Just wanted to give you a taste of a few of the things I am working with (on?).  Not sure what concerns or interests you and what doesn’t.  Your chapter on Physics and language theory is still a great starting point for me when thinking about these uncertain areas of New Physics.  Deconstruction, particularly your clear vision of its import, seems to be the honest ground I come back to, the pause that connects all theory with its effects.  But ever since I read your writing I felt compelled to make that pause a beat in a rhythm of oscillation.  Granted Deconstruction is also about oscillation, but the rhythms seem too hesitant to risk the greater violence of proactive change.  In Ann’s book the metaphor of a continued oscillation is kept central, but the speed is allowed to increase beyond normal boundaries of discrete forces.  I see a similar thing in the occult sciences as well.  A continuum of speeds of oscillation.  The higher levels are not amorphous.  The vibration is just so rapid, the action becomes more non-local and entangled, and the medium more dense accordingly.  But thats getting far out… Here are some quotes from Avatar Bodies.
Indian Tantra points both deconstruction and posthumanism toward a thinking of the self as a zone of relationality, a zone of expression or immanent emnations.  These are not self-possessed expressions; they come and go, expand and contract, mutate, modulate, travel.  
 
In the most general and profound sense, Tantra is a set of techniques for local sensitization to nonlocal reality, conceived as a fabric, a weaving, a Tantra in which every thread touches every other thread.  The bound person, one who is not sensitized to his or her relational participation in cosmic reality, is relatively powerless because he is particularized or individualized.  A more adept person is aware of having a shared body that by the very nature of its being manifest must contain differentiation and therefore multiplicity in some sense….the higher the shared reality, the less the constraint.
 
Post-deconstruction could be a nomination which inaugurates  a letting go of the ideological work that we have called upon an Other-as-such to perform in favor of a more pervasive notion of iterability, one in which there are gradations of quasi-presences and quasi-absences that are never identical to themselves, disallowing the “as such” and its disciplinary distinctions even with respect to the categories “self” and “other”.
 
The alternative is not the forgetting of difference or of différance, but a change in syntax that intensifies and continues the work of deconstruction.  The syntax of deconstruction has been that of the interruption, the space, the rupture, of the fort/da.  This is a syntax that breaks into an interior but preserves a more definitive exterior even as that exterior lies within: it is a syntax of effraction, or burglary.  The preceding discussion suggests that the intrinsic undecidability of distinction and indistinction constitutes relationship as such.  This requires a syntax that trembles all the way down, a syntax of vibration, of the break that pulses so rapidly it blurs, a syntax of stretching and oscillation.
 
My addition to this Greg, is that in order for deconstruction to be continuous, the oscillations of the undecidable must not get stuck in any of its constitutive moments. But it also must be capable of varying its speed or resonating on many levels if it is to do the work of a synthetic discipline.  Like quantum physics, deconstruction seems to be aimed at the infinitesimal, a natural consequence of the use of analytic powers.  In both the most ancient occult theories and the modern disciplines based on them (of which Aurobindo seems to be singular in his authenticity), transformation only comes through a balance of the synthetic powers of ascending consciousness with the descending powers of analytical discipline.  To them, anxiety is overcome not by closing the gap into the purely synthetic and metaphysical, but by becoming the gap itself.  When the pulsations and oscillations of undecidability become rapid enough, when we go up and down and back and forth so fast that the gap closes not to cover up the wound of affect but to become one with affect by becoming one with its source, and so becoming spontaneously adjusted to the consequences of our actions.  This may sound like blasphemy to you, but when I watch videos of Derrida, he seem so razor sharp, but hesitant and calculating.  Zizek looks like a nervous wreck, but he seems like he is doing what Derrida talks about.  Being spontaneous, if there is such a thing.  No doubt he penetrates deeper than Zizek but Zizek synthesizes and takes apart in a smooth motion that carries us somewhere.  He seems to be deploying whole fields of subject/ object relations where as Derrida seems to shift with the perspectives he is using.  Who would be the better ruler?  Zizek would probably slide from State discipline to State terror on occasion and Derrida would ponder each decision into paralysis.  Who knows… But the point is that language should not act to protect us from affect which Zizek might do to some extent, or make our wounding the primary ethical act as Derrida follows Levinas at some points, but shift our focus to the realm of “pure” affect/effect, away from the subjects and objects of affect/effect.
Sat-Chit-Ananda (Existence-Consciousness-Bliss) is one of the main names of the Divine in Tantra and a preferred term for Aurobindo.  Its active component he writes as simple consciousness/force.  The true mysticism of which Tantra was a return to, was not to rise out of affect and context but to rise out of attachment to the movements of the mind so that the play of direct affect can be embraced as an immediate reality.  Ann Wiestone says it like this:
“Making an impression, a mark, invites every part of the body/text to open to deforming influence, to a baroque plethora of transindividual imprints that flood the prophylactic gap between self and everything else.  Mantra for a postdeconstructive avatar: You are my body, too…”
Have you ever used the I Ching (Chinese Book of Changes)?  It is one of the oldest and yet certainly the most context embedded book known to man.  I have used it so much over the last decade, I know what it is going to say before I even toss the coins.  It has trained me to be very reflective and honestly so about each of my choices, in every moment.  It can certainly make one feel at the mercy of forces beyond control.  But if one follows the  conscious path for long is there not a greater structure that one may begin to sense that makes the forces and changes possible.  Its not a stepping out of context to see objectively, but a vision of  whatever is undeconstructable in each new iteration.  Never a certainty but a faith in the game stemming from knowledge of the open but determinate laws of all change.  Not Essences or essential forms but essential contradictions, the questions that structure all our attempts at stable answers and radical re- inscriptions.  Not faith in the Other, but justice as opportunity.  We reach the point where rupture is no longer a strategic intervention in the dynamics of power but the very ground of our being.  From The Great Treatise on The I Ching:
“In the Book of Changes a distinction is made between
three kinds of change: nonchange, cyclic change, and
sequent change. Non change is the background, as it
were, against which change is made possible. For in
regard to any change there must be some fixed point to
which the change can be referred, otherwise there can
be no definite order and everything is dissolved in
chaotic movement. This point of reference must be
established, and this always requires a choice and a
decision. It makes possible a system of coordinates
into which everything else can be fitted. Consequently
at the beginning of the world, as at the beginning of
thought, there is the decision, the fixing of the
point of reference. Theoretically any point of
reference is possible, but experience teaches that at
the dawn of consciousness one stands already inclosed
within definite, prepotent systems of relationships.
The problem then is to choose one’s point of reference
so that it coincides with the point of reference for
cosmic events. For only then can the world created by
one’s decision escape being dashed to pieces against
prepotent systems of relationships with which it would
otherwise come into conflict. Obviously the premise
for such a decision is the belief that in the last
analysis the world is a system of homogeneous
relationships–that it is a cosmos, not a chaos. This
belief is the foundation of Chinese philosophy, as of
all philosophy. The ultimate frame of reference for
all that changes is the non-changing.”
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There’s definitely something of the shock and awe strategy in Tarantino’s films, and I remember your insights in this regard from your book, you called it whiplash…  But I wondered if his latest inspired any thoughts on melodramatic cinema since the film seemed to be somewhat about its effects; about how identity, specifically heroes and villains, is formed by the way stories are told.

The characters in Inglorious Bastards are preoccupied with how they are being dramatized.  The story seems to be structured as a strange meta-reflexive melodrama, in that it draws critical attention not only to the way we are led into sympathy with certain characters and disgust with others but also seems to ironically point to how this has been most often done in the history of film (war films, often involving Nazis), and how the impact of the film industry has structured popular readings of history (the Jew’s revenge).
But maybe I read more into his films then I should.  I have always liked his films; he certainly seems to share my love for movies and despite the celebration of violence his films seem to revel in, I think what sticks with people is the interesting characters and dialog.  I would say that Harvey Keitel’s last line in Pulp FIction sums up Tarantino’s film morality.  While it doesn’t follow the tragic mode (of getting one to feel sympathy with the thrown-ness of both sides of any conflict), nor the cheap morality of melodrama, I think he wants us to sympathize with the self-aestheticizing plights of the post-modern subject enmeshed in the irredeemable violence of a culture raised on melodrama.  Keitel’s line “just because you are a character, doesn’t mean you have character” seems indicative of Tarantino’s desire to make us aware of our preoccupation with our personal character aesthetics in a world of moral relativity and the blurred lines between fiction, art and real life.  While I don’t think he’s making any positive moral statement, nor is his highlighting the problems of our culture in any helpful critical light, he does seem to dramatize what life in our strange culture is like in an interesting way.  In terms of Keitel’s line, perhaps he wants us to recognize the difference between being a character (someone Keitel says has no respect), and having character, which given the moral thrust of his films, seems to mean something like respect for one’s enemy.  I think you called it “honor among thieves” in your book, and I understand your concerns with its trivialization of violence, and I won’t waste your time arguing for more creative readings of every melodrama I happen to like.  The Matrix is tempting, at least taking the whole trilogy, for the same reasons I brought up Inglorious Bastards.  Is there not reflexive elements to these melodramas?  Is not Tarantino’s films and the Matrix films great examples of the post-modern, in that they highlight our predicament as agents in a system, or actors in a melodrama, who’s moral choices are sometimes limited to how we think about the violence we are forced to participate in?  And how we define ourselves in the Matrix, how we create our character and identity has taken the place of the political struggle in our era of post-political cultural capitalism?
The Matrix sequels seem to at least attempt a deconstruction of the melodrama of the first, searching for a balance or some kind of Hegelian synthesis, but always questioning the structure of that initial opposition, an ending with a direct statement about fundamental relatedness.  It seems to me that there are various ways of making a melodrama reflexive.   In a media environment where melodrama is the unavoidable stage that is forced upon us, and given our intense longing at this stage in culture for some radical changes, I admire the Matrix’s attempt at exploring the possibilities and problems with radical change.  What it lacks in character complexity, it makes up for in exploring the complexities and double binds of social change and revolutionary narratives.  It fueled much more thought for me than the realism and tragedy of The Baader Meinhof Complex, which I am guessing you saw and probably liked  (I liked it okay).
 Inglorious Bastards’ made me think about how important the media war is at this point, the branding of people as Nazis in particular, .  Your concern with Tarantino’s trivialization of violence is understandable, and some attack him for being just what everyone seems to despise in post-modernism, i.e. moral relativity.  Yet with all the evoking of the holocaust in today’s media, and this Tea Party thing making today’s populism looking more and more like pre-Nazi Wiemar Germany, a little consciousness of the narrative construction of history could save us from taking our ideologies for more than an attempt to be the heroes in a very complex and convoluted moral landscape.
———-
Thanks for the book suggestion.  I have been reading books on Bohr and Einstein lately, exploring Physics’ encounter with consciousness and it’s relation to Whitehead and Plotinus.  But most of these books are written by physicists and are too simplistic in there interpretations.  Scientists make poor theorists it seems.  I’m about a fourth of the way through Plotnitsky’s book and I like it very much already.  It is much easier for me to follow the metaphors of someone who is used to thinking in metaphors and not trying to use them to express the profundity of a rather simple basic metaphorical take on rather detailed physical experiments.  I like this approach of encountering science at its fundamental metaphoricity.  But what really interests me are these deep structural assessments of conceptual systems.  I like the metaphor of a conceptual economy and I look forward to seeing what he does with it.
Since I have an interest in alternative physics, which tends to make use of a lot of geometry and metaphor to reframe our ideas of energy and matter, I am hoping to get a better foundation in the metaphorical and geometric structure of conceptual systems in order to give a more solid structure to what is a rather rich but questionable field of ideas.  In any case, I have more hope for an integration of the sciences and humanities along these lines of thought, then I do for anything coming out of the universities.  I think there is a great future in applying critical concepts from the humanities to the rather awkward theories of scientists.  Although I can’t help but feel there is more potential in the more elegant geometries of the platonic solids and patterns of vibration and codetermination in a unified field than in the complementarity of awkward dualities with no mediating metaphors, and clunky concepts like dark matter, big bang, and other logical absurdities that give us something from nothing, or in any way render the conceptual fabric with metaphors and abstractions taken to stand for distinct objective realities.  In his errors, Einstein had a point, even if he couldn’t see outside of determinism.  Quantum physics is incomplete.  Not because it cant account for all the data, or because there is a more deterministic theory possible.  But because there is a whole universe of synthetic structures that can produce more powerful encounters with what is obviously a fundamentally differential reality.  The true unified field will assuredly not ever be a final theory, but nonetheless it should be a real consequence of a simultaneous accounting for the contexts of both subjects and objects in both the largest and smallest scales.  Complementarity is definitely a grounding deconstructive metaphor, but what we essentially relate need not be any of the metaphors we are used to, and with any luck we can use various general economies to frame a growth in knowledge that will take us into the heart of the universe for centuries and maybe eons to come.  Assuming we don’t let this culture war destroy us.
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I have been meaning to write you ever since the shooting surrounding the Batman movie in your neck of the woods made me ponder our conversations.  After seeing the most recent Batman film and now that I have seen Django Unchained, I don’t think I will try to defend either films.  Both Nolan and Tarantino seem to have lost any reflexivity present in their previous melodramas and have given into just the reflex of melodrama- to paraphrase your books.

It has been quite a while in the qualitative time of my life since we last conversed.  The past couple years have been good to me.  I have formed a great relationship with a woman.  We have been living and working together the past couple years, and I really think some of the ideas you exposed me too have helped most in that arena.  Actually I think I was reading D.H. Lawrence when I met her- after watching the movie of Women in Love that you suggested.  Lawrence has a way of making marriage and monogamy sound not so bad.

I think getting into deconstruction was an important transition for me at a difficult time when I was questioning a lot of my defenses and opening up to uncertainty.  It helped me embrace and find meaning in my anxiety and finally, ironically, become decisive and at ease.  It has lent a formal and rhetorical integrity to my thinking and relating that continues to serve me.  Yet I still am very much a spiritual thinker however much I may agree with your critiques of its language and much of its use.  Post-modernism seems at its core a critique of power and entrenched hierarchy, which I still feel is best deployed by understanding power and hierarchy through more favorable hierarchies not just their destabilization.  Deconstructive discourse seems to be too much within the realm of liberal theory’s framing of freedom as surface rights rather than creative opportunity and innovation, which demands something be kept stable long enough to order change coherently.

I would like to expound on this if you don’t mind.  If you have time to read this or give feedback, it would be appreciated.  But no pressure.  I have tried not to be too repetitive, but some of the ideas are far out so I wanted to express them from a few different angles and contexts.  It is just helpful to write to you, not only because you have been so helpful and generous, but also you seem to position yourself as a critic of spiritual culture who is not convinced of its message, but is open to it, awaiting a good argument.  For me, the good argument is not really important to convince anybody of anything, but to establish more universal structures that can bring our society’s play of difference into a harmonious frame.  I do not want to win an argument and end the conversation, but I do think synthesis is the ideal ground when it is constantly renewed and agreed upon as a basis within which we play a harmonious exploration of life and awareness.  Ideally, boundaries should change and flow with meaning and need not be a formality and only becomes central when the tune is lost.

My spiritual experiences have been the most real events of my life, so I need not convince myself or anyone of anything.  But they do motivate me to bring myself and the culture around me into harmony with the deeper music of the universe.  While differance and complimentarity might be the substance of the creative, they depend on continuity and coherence to be truly set free.  I think this kind of sentiment is at the heart of esoteric thinking, and I do not think Western theory has grasped it properly.  I have found other thinkers with similar inclinations like William Irwin Thompson and Antonio de Nicolas who have have studied ancient texts with critical philosophy and come to similar conclusions.  De Nicolas’s book on the Vedas inspired a generation of esoteric enthusiasts to see the “sacrifice” of spiritual metaphysics in a way more similar to the movements of “differance” than anything Ken Wilber has come up with.  But whereas deconstruction seems to ultimately believe power corrupts so should be limited, or determined just or not by its structure, true spiritual metaphysics aims to guide us into a just harmony.

I have been reading the alternative science literature I was just starting to discuss with you when we last spoke.  At times I was reading Plotnitsky’s work along side the many books that are trying to theorize all the anomalies in the current scientific paradigm that tend to demand a new concept of an ether as a non-local field that generates all space-time structure, and responds to conditioning through morphic resonance with the spin coherence of analogs in local space-time, especially consciousness itself.  While some of the literature is less than rigorous, the science/ technology of seeding the field by both mechanical and “spiritual” means in my opinion is not only the future, but it was also our ancient past.

Developing criteria for judgment in this field has become an obsession for me.  One reason is my job, where I work selling supplements to people.  I am lucky to work in an environment that encourages us to research and debate and give as much in depth help to the sick people that come in as we can manage in a retail environment.  The alternative health field is full of conflicting claims and it has been quite an interesting intellectual exercise to find truth in a field where the lies of the corporate establishment are countered with endlessly proliferating products and therapies relying on various theories of subtle energy and causality.  At my job I tend to focus on nutrition and biochemistry, using herbs and nutrient-dense diets in the tradition of Weston A. Price, and work more psychological angles into the conversations if possible.  The healing process always seems to be about becoming more aware of the relationships between one’s self, others and environment.  Yet people are so used to medicalizing all of their problems, that these more subtle relationships tend to get quantified into some kind of “energy” medicine.  I am interested in developing the healing arts away from the medical model and towards questions of meaning and relationship.  The mistake tends to be confusing awareness and the “qualia” coherency it invokes with some type of deterministic “quanta” or energy.  Of course compared to mainstream medicine which continues to horrify me the more I learn the bigger picture, it is easy to see why there is such interest in the alternatives.  At their best they are a movement back to a meaning that is responsible yet relational; that trusts and recognizes the coherent intelligence in living systems, and an awareness of how much the scapegoat metaphysics of modern medicine and the fetishized products of corporate science and agriculture are destroying our physical substance.

So I enjoyed reading your e-book a while back, but when it crossed over from your critiques of spiritual metaphysics into what seemed a dismissal of the actual phenomenological experiences that metaphysics has always attempted to describe, it made me ponder how we could agree so much and yet have fundamentally different ways of seeing the world. While I agreed with your critiques of the New Agers and New Atheists, it seems quite presumptuous to conclude that such a vast range of experience that we call spiritual is simple wish fulfillment because it is often described in terms we may not agree with.  Your argument sometimes seemed to amount to saying something doesn’t exist simply because it’s identity partakes in its other.  You can say the same thing about anything.  Why is timelessness or Spirit or any other phenomenological description invalid simply because it can be situated more relationally by deconstruction?  Green is green because blue is blue but if someone in a blue world said green doesn’t exist because it would have to have blue in it, we would think it reductive.  More advanced spiritual systems and the new ether sciences are all about time as a variable, not as an independent entity that can be present or absent but a function of the dynamics of a fundamental phenomenological field of awareness.  Like all things time is a quality of awareness that can become objectified and quantified as a linear process but has other dimensions that are different enough to seem wholly other and defined as such even if they have a relation to our more common experiences of time.

Your epilogue I think anticipates many of the attitudes and conceptions that figure heavily in the kind of spiritual thought I tend to study: occult science as a means of creating and affecting awareness or coherent field patterns, not some injunctive science that delivers preformed religious experiences as Ken Wilber promotes.  The occult sciences are older than history, but only recently are we discovering many of their physical aspects and testing them scientifically.  One heavily theorized and misunderstood body of research is the Russian physicist Kozyrev’s “torsion” physics where he describes conditioning the medium as causal engineering.  Russian scientists are finding a different technology that is less mechanical manipulation and control of effects through a linear causal chain, and more of an imparting of organization to the complex and normally indeterminate forces that drive so much of the effects in higher-order systems.  This does not imply a higher degree of determinism in micro-physical effects or a violation of quantum limits.  It does change the rate of flow of time.  It does not change the text, but more importantly it changes its meaning.

In trying to bring some philosophical clarity to this field I have read other writers grappling with these issues.  Most writers seem to prefer Heidegger and Deleuze to Derrida when supplementing or translating spiritual metaphysics and esoteric science.  One writer I have found a lot in common with is a man named Peter Wilberg.  He makes a good case for interpreting Heidegger in ways that are useful to generate a lot of substantive critiques of current scientific, medical and psycho-spiritual ideology.  I still find Derrida’s terms to be a more helpful context and I keep in mind yours and Derrida’s critique of Heidegger.  Deleuzian ontology I really can’t get into despite everyone else in my thought vicinity seeing him as the perfect fit for post-modern mystics.  I liked his book on Nietzsche but it seems like people just see in him what they want to see.  I think he seems to expound spiritual ideas but he puts them in a context of virtual materiality instead of figures and qualities of awareness and so misses all the meaning that comes from grounding order in awareness as mystics do.  Not to mention his fetishizing of difference, novelty and creativity seems to substitute endless production for meaningful connections in a bizarre mirroring of the capitalist system he supposedly critiques.

These kind of Marxist critiques of Deleuze point to some of the crucial weaknesses in post-modernism.  I have spent some time reading radical theory, especially David Harvey and getting into anything exploring how we structure space and time, even in materialist terms.  Harvey’s critique of post-modernism is interesting.  He makes a great case for the need of layered systemic critiques and meta-narratives.  Even though people tend to see Marxism as a materialism, what I get from him- filtered through Harvey and Peter Wilberg as well- is not that man is a product of material conditions by nature- but as a condition he can be liberated from.  Not into some abstract void but into an ordering of his material conditions in ways that are spiritual by dint of a society guided by higher modes of awareness and harmony, not simply structures open to difference.

With all the problems in physics pointing to a direct interaction of consciousness with what post-modern science and theory at its furthest reaches can only define as a virtual and stochastic medium, the need of a more radical theory of substance should seem obvious.  Mystics have always looked to theory as practical psychology, not just as a socialization tool (which it often devolved to admittedly) but an analogical guide aimed at the ontological transformation of the individual and his consequently powerful effect on the world with or without any direct change in social structure.  The best social structures and deconstructive laws in the world would only provide a suggestive framework for the far more direct action of whatever the leading culture may be.  Of course we need more than leaders.  The best thinkers today seem to be at least attempting to theorize how that extraordinary change can be made a more socially broad and institutionally progressive phenomenon.

Of course making mysticism a pseudo-science like Ken Wilber does is going in the wrong direction.  Peter Wilberg -despite his preference for turning Heidegger into an even more metaphysical philosopher than he would have appreciated- seems to have the right idea in grounding both science and psyche in a phenomenological science- grounded in “qualia” as sensual qualities of awareness.  I have a few problems with his style but over all I think he avoids Husserl’s problems and think I can defend his type of thinking to the critiques of deconstruction.  Sometimes it seems to me as if academic philosophy falls into Kantian agnosticism when it confronts the limits of objective knowledge.  I read a handful or more of Plotnitsky’s articles after I finished his book on Complementarity and it was frustrating how much of a Kantian he seemed.  He really turned me off Deleuze the way he takes all that intricate Deleuzean topology and makes it a cultural shadow of some unknowable chaos.  Deleuze still seems to me- especially through Plotnitsky- to be mapping the wrong territory, detailing the shadows in Plato’s cave so well it almost seems like we can see the light.  But if we just come right out and say what is really going on here- that the territory is awareness, that everything is patterns of awareness and they are conditioned from beyond merely cultural forces, then we finally can do some real critical work with real consequences.  We can find meaning in material phenomenon as objective manifestations of more fundamental qualitative relationships and do the spiritual work to become more aware of these relationships.  Instead of all these topologies of formal space that Plotnitsky does we can continue the work of the ancient thinkers doing topologies of qualitative space- that is, grounding formal qualities in the qualities of awareness.

Doing so allows us go deeper with our critique of the metaphorical economy of our society.  Deconstruction can then go beyond being a limiting ethical factor.  Deleuze and Plotnitsky’s economies become more than just liberating spatial frameworks.  We can make much more meaningful connections.  For instance you make an analogy in one of your books to emphasize immunity rather than germ warfare.  An ethical limiting factor that is on the right track.  But the whole functional economy of disease comes into focus if one takes the deconstructive insights further.  One may acknowledge co-factors more easily with a greater appreciation for context.  There is so much to challenge in modern science that goes beyond appreciation for relational context.  There is a symphony of meaningful connections that need to be made and can be made when we learn to ground theory in awareness and understand the hierarchies it creates and the organization that flows from it.  Emphasizing immunity or any limit brings to mind the stalemate of the undecidable that so characterizes deconstruction.

AIDS for instance is quite clearly a disease that results from a lack of immunity.  But what really is at work is someone’s microbial environment has been destroyed (a truth that Peter Duesberg and others have defended for decades against such hostility, and that is finally becoming more accepted by researchers).  While going after microbes can keep the afflicted person alive but further undermines their microbial ecosystem, and boosting their “immune system” can help, what cures them is re-establishing a harmony of microbes within them that makes terms like “immune system” seem archaic.  That inner microbial environment is a materialization of qualities in the subject’s relational awareness.  Even if the “cause” was over exposure to too many “others”, and a subsequent abuse of increasingly destructive anti-microbials, these are manifestations of relational disharmony, a real flattening of many lines of “defense” that metaphors of mere balance in oppositional tensions do not account for.  It isn’t as if boundaries need to be properly maintained merely on the level of self/ other.  The organism has to be organized properly so that things that belong at a certain level don’t get out of control.  Cancer, microbes, cholesterol all serve important functions and are part of the substance of what we consider our self.

It is not as if we just need a boundary judge to keep proper proportions of self/other in check, or even in a dynamic tension of exchange.  We need an organized, integrated awareness that does less deciding on the undecidable and more ordering of the unordered.  That ordering process only works well if there is the proper knowledge, awareness and functional coherency of the organism.  If one has to rationally weigh each possibility from each factor before every decision, then anxiety and indecision are naturally going to be the result since possibilities are endless and endlessly indeterminable.  If on the contrary we impose unexamined preferences to fend off uncertainty, a certain ordered rigidity creates its own health problems.  Healthy systems however, examine their preferences against the standards of harmony, a different criteria than balanced oscillation or conservative order.  It becomes less about proportion, and more about being guided by a knowledge of each factor’s place within the psychic economy of the organism.  One does not need to pick apart each piece and let it have its say, but rather finds the proper place of each factor, not within a “natural” order but an order that is created through an evolving knowledge of the power structure of the relational environment.

As deconstruction helps us point out, disease isn’t a mere “presence” of some pathogen.  But neither is it about immunity, really.  Things like polio, bird flu, swine flu, mad cow, are now being seen as possibly due to toxic exposure, and the great epidemics ended not through vaccines but sanitation and relational harmony.  We live in a sick society, where people get sick to help us wake up to the toxicity of our environment.  The body can handle toxins and is made of microbes.  It gets sick as an expression of its relational environment- the ecosystem of qualitative relations that is healed not by isolating a cause or balancing a collection of them, but by embodying the meaning of our sickness and letting the AWARENESS that flows from the order of the whole organism, heal the whole inner and outer relational environment.

My point is deconstruction can point to lack of balance in accounting but what we need is to consider questions of harmony that take us past core boundary issues and require layered substantive critiques of consciousness and the way the world is ordered by it.  And yet that emphasis on organization is actually what is meant in the fledgling new age therapies and ancient metaphysics, even if they end up reducing causal force to some meta-structure termed life-force or consciousness.
I think we see such a bias towards “logo-centrism” in the traditions because they evolved out of a more ancient pragmatic discipline of self-determination and ruler-ship whose aim was to teach adepts and technicians how to structure the universe with an analogical science that tempers the disparate fields of the cosmos into something akin to “equal temperament” in music. If laymen mistook it for religion, that was often by design. It was created by and for an elite class and was transmitted using metaphor to guide their negotiation and manipulation of the “field”. They weren’t teaching literal truth even if the masses took it that way. But to divide the metaphorical “esoteric” from the literal mundane as so many mystic apologists do is to miss the point.  It is not about simple injunctions and subjective experience as Wilber suggests. It isn’t a simple direct magical influence through affirmation as many New Agers promote.  It is a “sympathetic magic”: invoking resonance and creating structure through the medium of consciousness and its power of non-local influence. People mistakenly call it a subtle energy field but it is not a passive carrier of information but the medium of mediation from which energy and matter arise as analogues and meaningful symbols not of some transcendent “reality”, nor just some other symbols in a sliding chain, but of consciousness, which is power.  All things are analogically connected.

The studies of the direct physical effects of consciousness are now showing that Reality is not a quantum-physical phenomenon which splits the base of existence into complementary causes, that the mind then “constructs” into meaning.  These quantum effects are merely the limits of our objectification.  What we see in quantum physics is a by-product of what we have already partially domesticated into our sphere of awareness; indeterminate quantities awaiting qualitative deployment as our captured strata of symbolic substance.   But what Plotnitsky seems to do is domesticate this to a complementarity that emphasizes the break and loss of autonomous structure over the continuum of organizational fields.  This he must do to retain his materialism.

What the ancient occult scientists did with their phenomenological science is emphasize that loss as a “sacrifice” that was controlled as a means to create a complete and coherent ordering of the universe.  The “purity” of complementary but incomplete systems or tones of meaning is sacrificed for a complete tone series of relative coherency.  As in tempering an instrument.  This sacrifice was a sublimation of difference and an acknowledgment of the need for a voluntary sacrifice of the many to the one in order to create a unified substance of understanding.  They knew without that sacrifice, the world was ruled by conflict and chaos.  But originally this wasn’t a foundational transcendent that one obeyed, but rather created again and again.  The creative and the coherent, was privileged over the receptive and the different.  They weren’t repressive of difference and chaos, they were receptive to it.  As the ancient Chinese sages knew, the receptive, while equiprimordial with the creative, was ordered below it logically.  When a novel force was confronted it was not repressed, but neither was it given equal power on its own terms.  It was understood to be a contest for coherency.  The wise rulers knew harmony demanded not a conformity to tradition but a continuity with it (like Alexander in Egypt). When different creative forms are in coherent harmony we are receptive to form as a continuous substance of spirit mediating relations between the more coherent and therefore more creative entities.  We can then stop arguing over what key to play in and start harmonizing over the full range provided by a tempered field.

I won’t go into too much detail about it unless you are interested, but mainly I think that esoteric spirituality and science used metaphysical analogies to protect against abuses of power since their terms were often more for an elite ruling class trained in its use and interpretation than components in a general social philosophy.  Many levels of knowledge were often encoded into myth as an analogical key to perpsectival meaning rather than an objective map of uniform reality.  Plato may seem onto-theological to us, but if he was continuing in the Pythagorian tradition, he was speaking in code to a select audience about the principles of harmony(see Ernest McClain’s work).  Of course around Plato’s time there was obviously a tension between the old occult world which had fallen into stagnation and corruption and a more rational and individual age that was on the rise in enough major cultural centers that some have termed it the axial age.  I tend to see this philosophical spirit as a reaction to the religious dogma which was itself a degraded relic of what in far more ancient times was akin to a subjective science of a more enlightened and unified culture.

Esoteric science and the belief in its antiquity, often as a social engineering tool, has been the obsession of so many of the brightest minds and certainly many of the powerful throughout Western history. I think a good case has been made by several researchers that many of this great science’s secrets have been found and developed and my concern is that it does get the more democratic framing that post-structuralist theory lends to substantive ideas.   Even without some of the more far out speculative technologies (UFOs, scalar weaponry, alchemy), a technological elite with a power over the substance of life seems inevitable.  With the instability in the geo-political scene and the accumulating crises in capitalism, the people with the power to provide seemingly unlimited clean energy, social stability, and a host of technologies that seem other-worldly and divine are going to be treated like gods by many and attacked as the devil by others. At the very least, the crises of complexity and competing claims on the organization and ideology of the emerging global order are going to create a situation ripe for exploitation by those with a vision that offers something that brings peace and order to the chaos and an understanding of mankind and his place in the universe. As Slavoj Zizek often points out, the New Age culture is becoming the mainstream in the West and its various ideologies and memes seem perfectly designed for a less-than-ideal world order. On the horizon approaches a world with many similarities to the one our ancients mythologized, where an elite rules over the masses with God-like power and technology, directing the evolution of our very substance. The economy of ideas I see coming from the academy seems to not adequately answer this challenge.

For instance – So much theory focuses on the limits of deterministic structure yet misses the power and freedom of analogical influence. Much of current physical theory takes time as constant and scalar and not as variable, or along with space in relativity, it is perceived as an effect perceived variably not as a generative force. In the many ether theories being developed, space and time are not effects of mass and motion but variable qualities of the medium that generates all structure, matter, energy.  Motion and mass are effects of the relationships of forces that emerge from the qualitative medium. This medium carries influence analogically.  What we perceive as irretrievable loss in entropy is just the gap of freedom. But that freedom isn’t unconditioned but pulls from its conditions of consciousness-its geneology of organizing force- through other times and dimensions of possibility and actuality not embodied and oscillating on the same space-time frame.  Nothing is lost into nothing.  Nothing comes randomly from nothing.  I got the impression in your e-book that you wanted to emphasize entropy but is it not central to deconstruction to emphasize pruning AND productive movements?  Is it not always a transformation?  It is just awareness moving through and changing relationships.  There is no center to truly formalize the accounting.  We change the order as we experience it.  Nothing is lost forever, because it lives through what is gained.  The self lives on in the other just as the child lives on in the adult.

Post-modern theory misses much with its materialism and pretenses to democracy.  It seems so schizoid (as Deleuze would admit and celebrate).  It is modernity facing its shadow.  Does not deconstruction expose the inevitability of metaphysics and lead us back into just one possible tone of emphasis?  It has its strengths and weaknesses like any other metaphysics, as it acknowledges.  But it seems to take a cliched view of that weakness as, like democracy itself, being the worst except all the others.  It is a pessimistic attitude that, like Derrida, longs for someone to trust.  It betrays the desire for dogma and certainty so typical of the wounded romantic.  It works well in times of instability, when things could go many ways and helps negotiate the conflict that goes with that.  But the true Divine play of difference cannot be approached with such trepidation and mistrust.  The wound must not heal into blind trust, but into faith, not in dogma, but in meaning, not as an objective condition to be relied upon, but a sympathy of awareness to be built upon.  No form can guarantee justice, but if people can just agree on a form, it can fade into its proper place as margin to the deeper more direct contact between beings.

The neutral attitude of Deconstruction with emphasis on formal equality of opportunity is just the sort of philosophy so exploited by Neo-liberalism.  And in a time when we are so blinded by the shell of democracy that we fight over its shell instead of its substance, it could even be a regressive one.  If we want to fulfill the values of the Enlightenment, we need to go all the way and that demands metaphysics and unity.  Liberty and Justice/ “equality” are at odds without fraternity.  The post-modern liberalism chose liberty over justice.  Even our conception of justice conforms to our ideals of respect for surface form and its individual liberty.  We now recognize the limits of identity politics and deterministic science, but can see no other option since we have scorned depth.  We need to listen to the music in the void.  It speaks in infinite tongues but it is tuned into a tonal palette by a leading culture of learned people.  Our leading culture of materialist priests are leading us to disaster, and no democratic uprising is going to help without a reordering of what our place in the universe is.

Current science precludes any meaningful understanding of cosmology.  Sure many are trying to extend our culture’s romanticism to the physical world, but it just repeats the same causal thinking.   I think Heidegger’s critique of instrumental rationality is apt.  The scapegoat structure is indeed a more extreme version of this, one Heidegger falls into somewhat, I agree.  But deconstruction falls back into a calculative mode even as it critiques its extremes.  Perhaps a more dialectical relationship between the strengths of deconstruction and hermeneutics/phenomenology would be helpful.  The extremes of metaphysics are dangerous but the sanitized liberalism that is taking over the world is more difficult to criticize without seeing context- not as an infinitely extendable and therefore only quasi- determinative force- but as a symbolic effect of a depth dimension that is lost in the process of objectification.  The scientific priesthood and their capitalist masters get to define the context of objective reality with their digital matrix of culture commodities within which we are free to indulge in powerless meaning and commodified relationships. The New Age seems to want to heal that divide between subject and object and re-enchant the world, but without more radical, critical thought, we just enchant and mythologize the disparate structures of a commodity nexus.  Post-modern topology problematizes space with indeterminable chaos, but the answer is in understanding that infinity not as gaps in a surface structure but as transitions into an increasingly subjective space with its own topology, which when more coherently organized, orders the field of material relations.  But to Deleuze, this subjective space is made to seem like an escape from power and coherent organization into virtual freedom and creative intensity.  By contrast, occult science sees power flowing between vast gestalts of qualitative relationships, mediated and expressed through a medium that underlies the quantum reality studied by physicists.

Paul  Lavoilette’s cosmology – similar to other ether theories – has mapped out that transitional sub-quantum space.  Instead of causal singularities, we have a process of continuous creation and there is plenty of evidence that this is the way things really work. The ether foaming up matter and energy that sometimes grow into massive bodies and galaxies that are not big black hole-centered collections of burning down fireballs but radiating, energy generating and order-radiating system generators, where fusion is secondary to the generative energy involved in planets and stars and the super stars in galactic centers. It isn’t something from nothing like a higgs-boson, nor is it something winding down to nothing like entropic teleology. These empty bookends of modern cosmology are the vapid structure that sets the tone for the empty capitalist culture of meaning we try to fill up the voids with. The new theories are mathematical and metaphorical economies of how to engage and co-create order as it moves through time in its immortal dance through a medium that is non-linear and ever transforming- through the vehicles that evolve to channel and embody it, give it context and remember their part in creating it to begin with. The void is not a true void, it is the gap of freedom, the wound that begets birth. It’s infinite potential is never completely present in time or out of it, but it has texture that shifts and molds time and space with and as shifts of consciousness and perspective. It is the womb of the transcendent but it is not a frozen model of ideal forms. It is an infinite medium of models, ideas and beings; an economy of quality that is always being modified by the beings who interpret and redefine it.

So much of post-modern thought seems to take materialist principles for granted and does its best to take moral stances against the structures of man’s conditions and context.  I find post-modern concerns helpful when dealing with structural and social conditions, but find it to be a necessary supplement not the central issue.  Through context we find substance.  Context is an essential supplement to substance and therefore is part of substance- its essential margins.  Of course where context and substance differ should remain undecidable in theory.  But something must be made background so that sense can be determined.  Progress may be relative but it is impossible if we are always changing key.  I don’t think this changes deconstruction.  It just challenges its choices in emphasis.  Since concentrations of power are always happening, even if we can agree this is something we want to destabilize, undermining any representation of hierarchy is not always good strategy for the ideals of its own emphasis.  It seems like justice would be a better ideal that may be conservative or radical in different circumstances.  For radical spiritualists, concentration of power and its margins should both be accounted for but not forced into a flat field of representation, no matter how much oscillation and temporary hierarchy is allowed.  I still think deconstruction is a powerful philosophy that should be part of the game since even the most stable hierarchical representation becomes unjust when naturalized and its application unquestioned.  But there are some serious layers of power going on that need to be understood in a way that is impossible if instability and the undecidable are the central motif and not the essential margins.  Development becomes impossible.  Without some kind of deconstruction of course, development becomes naturalized and divinized, as In Ken Wilber.

Reform and compromise can be part of ethical action but I do not think they should come before the ideal.  An emphasis on pragmatics and negotiation is helpful in direct confrontations, but a higher order of influence comes from a position of mystic detachment, so long emphasized in the East and its cherished text the Gita.  It emphasizes a different approach than merely answering the call of human suffering in the way Levinas and Derrida and so many advocates of the micro-political and post-modern emphasize.  The face of the other may be the ethical imperative but I think the lessons of the more metaphysical thinkers need to be heeded.  There is a deeper truth at stake than visible form.  Their is a higher action that calls us than the merely ethical.  There is a higher social ideal than neutral democracy.  Spirituality and metaphysics at their best are practical psychologies that aim to lift us out of short sighted calculation of surface effects to deeper pragmatics concerning the development of consciousness.  As social philosophy and foundational texts they desperately need critical perspectives to protect against their abuse.

But since no theory or action can guarantee or even predict its future applications, is the horizon of thought really a hesitating and calculative awareness of the impossibility of calculation?  If we are really playing odds in an undecidable situation, wouldn’t it be better odds to embrace transcendent metaphysics and risk the abuses if indeed it can produce beings with better judgment?  Why stop on the fairly obvious insight that we cannot script good judgment as a foundational proscription?  We crave structures that can increase the odds of good decisions but in both social and individual evolution it is just that ethical trepidation that prevents the mistakes we need to grow and become beings capable of making good decisions without government and foundational texts.  If deconstruction could guarantee justice that would be one thing.  I am convinced it can increase the odds and it is a powerful addition to social discourse especially with so many institutions that we still need and depend on and will for some time.  But because of the very limits of knowledge that deconstruction points out, this liberal attitude cannot know what its ultimate consequences are.  It can, like neo-liberalism become the very opposite in essence to its rhetorical persona and outwardly perceived form.  Is not so much of post-modern theory and its turn towards the language of libertarianism and away from development been an example of this?  Would not the depth language of development framed with a context for its other as essential margin be more likely to provide justice than a central narrative of individual difference?  Even a balance of different/same contributes to the flat topology that is so easily exploited by whoever can organize hierarchically since that organization is deemed too macro a narrative to be accounted for in any terms deeper than its representational context.

Conflict and its consequences makes context more central for a moment.  But as you point out, like war, it does not accomplish anything except to bring us back to the central issue of determining meaning.  Facing our limits teaches us about the periphery of an idea.  It may force us to confront its other.  But if we make conflict the center, even if it is to try and reform it, we lose the greater context which is defined by more than its material limits, and most by its purpose and origin, which are always in the souls of beings.

Meaning isn’t outside the text, but it isn’t within it either.  It is formed between beings primarily as a text of awareness that is symbolized by more objective texts of all sorts from books to stars.  Those texts may influence the “deeper” texts of awareness, but that doesn’t mean they are central.  Power may accumulate in physical symbols.  But the power always comes from a “higher” awareness than the medium that connects two beings.  If it had equal power it would not serve its function well as substance.  It would add and subtract too much.  Of course their is no pure passive substance.  Nor would that be ideal.  But the polarity and hierarchy of the universe are what allows for activity.

If we want justice we would do well to emphasize greater harmony instead of just a free play of differance.  In fact the “higher” principles of organization that mystics call Divine are in such harmony that the need for an “other” as food and symbolic substance, our world and its rules, becomes the margins of a more direct free play of awareness.  A more integrated substance, that is, an instrument that is no longer an object played by a subject, but a harmonious transformation and flow of awareness, definitely changes the experience of time.  When we are in the key of the Divine, we don’t need time to hear the gaps that clue us into differance; time becomes the development of an idea with out the need for a static backdrop (space) to which we reference to make sense.  We don’t need Plato’s cave to watch the shadows to discern the forms of light.  We can dance directly in the light, that is, in the space of awareness and the time it takes to traverse its tones as iterations of an evolving idea that exists forever and is known and depended upon but whose meaning is infinitely expanded with each resounding of the ages.

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I am also very curious what you have to say now on The Dark Knight.  I just reread our exchanges where you seemed convinced by my appeal to its deeper themes.  Although, nothing like mass murder to change one’s mind.  I know it made me think again.  What a sad, strange tragedy.

But while I think ultimately the Dark Knight trilogy fails in the end and fails rather disturbingly to follow through on its deeper themes, I do think its attempt to tackle some rather difficult dilemmas in contemporary society on a scale that transcends a character drama, are indicative of its symbolic power.  In our previous exchange you seemed to equate this mythic level with characters that are mere forces of nature or pure ideas with a simple structure, and contrast that with human beings who are complex and capable of approaching and appreciating moral ambiguity.

I will wait to see what you send me before I go into too much detail, but I will just say now, since I have a few minutes, that what I will say about the Wire will be along the same lines of my analysis of the Dark Knight, although I think we will both agree that the Wire does not fall into melodrama.  Both series attempt to tackle the heroic mythic questions that are the Holy Grail of Western literature and the alchemy of our psyche.  The Kingdom has fallen into decay, how can the hero proceed?  How can he bring the Light back to the Land?

I will no doubt attempt to argue for a move beyond the tragic discourse as the horizon of aesthetics and appreciate myth as the lifting of tragic character identification to a level of symbolic density that makes one see the longer game of real consciousness change and the bigger picture of the soul and society.

Tragic character dramas and tragic, deconstructive critiques may help us develop a capacity for compassion and perspective taking, but mythic art and critique should actually produce symbolic transformation into a new order of understanding of life and society.  Granted myth has a history of being melodramatic, of failing to live up to its potential to give a greater depth of vision.  But like the Wire, it can go beyond merely helping us develop greater appreciation for complexity and the context of character.  It can help us see that context in a greater mystic vision and through tragic limitation, show us a better way.  I might even say that what you call reflexive melodramas are incipient mythopoeia.  For myth should not just show us limitation but a better way.  As I said in my letter on metaphysics, the true mystic and mythic narratives were concerned with the sacrifice, with limitation and conflict, with the necessity of limitation, not as a nihilistic vision of impotence, but as the only means of progress.  They taught to not just see the tragedy of violence, but as Krishna shows Arjuna and McNulty sees at the end of the Wire, there is a much bigger picture that cannot be changed with such sweeping melodramatic gestures but rather in doing our simple duties, you know, Krishna slaying his brothers or McNulty not using homeless people for his “greater” cause….

I think the Dark Knight (the second film) ended on promoting the lie in the name of justice, just as the Wire played with it, but could not recover into the mythic vision the Wire confidently moved towards throughout and found in the end, and instead in the third film fell into rather dark and cheap resolutions that were difficult for me to watch so soon after that tragedy.  I am glad you are finding meaning in the madness and look forward to reading what you have.

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As usual I am mostly in agreement with you along the lines you discuss but see the tragic and critical vision is best used not as a metaphysics in itself, but as part of a frame that constellates the limitations tragedy composes within a meaningful collective vision.

I suppose I was a bit surprised, given your last message acknowledging that myth was the metaphysical dimension of our narratives, that you relegated it to either light-hearted comedic or dangerous melodramatic categories.  I understand you were trying to classify it as a specific structure, given Campbell’s generic descriptions, and therefore I can see the strategy.  But I think your appellation amounts to saying that man’s most essential stories, the myths that confront the sacrifice inherent in community, are incapable of tragedy and higher aesthetics if they have a structural resolution.

Since we are doing a kind of structuralism here, I think it is good to remember  the common theme that is developed in that literature, that it is not structural resolution in the cultural artifacts but ossification and literalism in its interpretive context that has so often spelled the demise of high culture; and that it has always been because of a shift in basic myths and structures of society not a structural feature of the narratives themselves.  Some have even argued that the rationalist paradigm that argues conformity to a certain structure is always a sign of a breakdown in the vitality of a culture into spectacle, an over-emphasizing of Apollonian balance and order to manage the populace over a more musical resolution and dissolution of order in the Dionysian quality of collective ritual.  We seem to be at that stage where art has become spectacle and we as critics naturally want to dampen its ill effects.  But Dionysus needs his outlets, and if we cannot create a sacred culture and a harmonious ritual to fill that need, no amount or art films will stem the tide of increasing absorption in violent melodrama and media spectacles.

I think myth moves beyond tragedy or comedy, often into melodrama, but sometimes, when successful, into a meaningful performance of the unifying effect of great art.  Myth is meta-fiction, and it can be dangerous when tragic violence is rendered as a necessity to community cohesion or the establishment of peace.  But when sufficient attention is brought to the comedy or tragedy of man’s errors, not as a means to manufacture peace and harmony as in melodrama, but as an aesthetic vision that brings us into harmony, a metaphysics arises different than that of a tragic character drama where the message is one of moral ambiguity.  While that ambiguity might have positive social effects, myth models those effects into the drama and becomes about the strange relationship between media, spectacle, war, social cohesion, tragedy, etc.

The Bhagavad Gita, the central of myth of Eastern culture, is a good example of this, where the central message is quite clear:  The sacrifice should not be a means to an end, violence will not bring peace, but if one moves beyond the surface tragedy of it and sees the spiritual vision of life, that vision liberates one to selfless action, aware of the limitations of all partial motives and viewpoints.

I guess I don’t see how myth necessitates that it must have characters that are inhuman or simplistic metaphors as in mere allegory.  There is a big difference between allegory and myth.  I would argue myth is the opposite of allegory; it is successful when the characters become archetypes and gestalts of awareness, bringing all life into an aesthetic vision that can obviate the literalism and object-bound awareness that is the source of all suffering, and which often results even in tragedy if it does not move beyond identification to some kind of experience of integration in perspective.

In any case it seemed like a strange strategy to say that since there was a weak back story to the Joker character that you were justified in critiquing the Dark Knight on its merits as a character drama, while for No Country you ignored those same standards and applauded its more metaphysical/ philosophical dimensions.  There is plenty to criticize in the Dark Knight – especially the third film-on its socio-philosophical dimensions; I was surprised you stuck to your traumatic childhood theme and even more surprised you put it with horror films based on qualities it shared more or less with No Country.

The Joker does seem to be a more seductive character than Chirgurh, but to say that violence should be seen as a mere force if it is to be dealt with on a collective/ mythic level and the attractiveness of chaos not acknowledged for fear of its misrepresentation, I cannot agree.  But I grant that in the case of TDK, the Joker was made more attractive than the plot was able to compensate for.

I realize you have specific aims that necessitate certain selections and your categories make sense as far as they go, but they seem to lead you to some conclusions that seem incongruous.  If you stuck to the broader interpretation of myth you could make more broad and deep comments on various media attempts to answer philosophical questions.  Critiquing the Dark Knight on this level I think would be more effective, but that might require complicating your categories and the whole thrust of the book.  I will just say that I think The Dark Knight was trying to do what the Matrix trilogy was doing, which I have more respect for.  I think the Dark Knight failed to make the sacrifice a properly symbolic and philosophical gesture and so you might have some point in eluding to its more character driven style obviating some of its mythic dimensions.  But I think this was a failure to sustain what was the underlying tension of ideas and a collapse into film stereotypes, more than it was a failed
attempt at tragedy or character complexity.

The Matrix, on the other hand, started with a standard antagonistic structure in the first film and attempted to undermine that structure in the sequels, which I think succeeded on some levels, depending on how one reads the self- sacrifice at the end.  But perhaps it failed precisely because it lacked the character depth to make it credible in this fashion, and the philosophical depth of the sequels merely confused the only people that were giving it a chance in the first place.  Self-sacrifice seems a cheap way to solve the paradox, and I am reminded of your analysis of Burke in your first book.  It usually is a sign that myth has become allegory and tragedy a melodrama.

The Dark Knight was trying in a similar vein to confront our appetite for heroism, and similar to Watchman, tries to question that impulse and put it in dialog with its shadow.  Both films frame the sacrifice and the lie as questionable compromises but ultimately fail to offer alternatives beyond the dark resignation to a violent world with uncertain morality.  I suppose I wanted you to explore that dimension of TDK more than comparing it to horror or character psycho-dramas.  The whole super hero trend seems part of the trend of pop culture replacing high art because of the collapse of traditional myths and meta-narratives that are a necessary prerequisite for tragedy to give catharsis.  Without that ground of mythic and mystical communion to connect with, tragedy becomes, as Nietzche points out, a nihilism.  And at this point in our culture tragedy only pacifies the intellect, while the emotional part of our psyche reaches for the nearest Dionysian fix.  We long for that union, and we will continue to embrace melodrama and reactionary structures as long as we are missing mythic symbols to connect us with a meaningful way of understanding and creating a dance of chaos and order, Apollo and Dionysus.

TDK is just one attempt to answer mythic questions similar to No Country for Old Men, but I think it fails not because it should have been about trauma, or about the tragic limitations of law and order, but because it was unable to integrate those themes without sacrificing what I think could have been and was at times a synagonal conflict structure.

I think literature that aspires to myth needs to have integration and a tentative passage from chaos to harmony.  Sacrifice becomes necessary which can be rendered tragically but if if it is seen as one side sacrificed to another rather than a sacrifice of exclusivity and dominance itself to a greater harmony, then it falls into melodrama and dangerous messages of violence.  A mythic symbiotic integration is not easy to accomplish, but the effects are more powerful than the tragedy that merely mourns the difficulty and uncertainty.

I agree TDK may be more likely to inspire violence that No Country for Old Men, and I agree No Country is a much better film, but TDK, in attempting to model heroism beyond its tragic and vain dimensions, and in its attempts to explore the socio-economics of crime and law, make it part of a culture-wide attempt at knowledge and justice that No Country stops short of.   People will still crave justice, maybe even more so after seeing the horrors depicted in No Country.  They just might feel like there is nothing they can do until they see the next melodrama and it subtly suggests to their psyche that justice is possible; or if it isn’t, society should be destroyed, which is becoming the new popular myth if you haven’t noticed.  Look how many end of the world movies came out the past year or two.  The Joker is a convenient scapegoat , but for a society that sees no justice is possible, characters like him are quite attractive.  Meaningless chance and chaos go hand in hand.

Both TDK and No Country deal with similar questions of law enforcement, the limitations of order, and the role of chance and chaos in violence and suffering.  The Dark Knight films are quite clearly attempts by the creators to tackle larger social questions and philosophical themes.  To say that because the Joker has a back story he must be part of a character drama seemed like a convenient way to protect No Country from a critique that could be applied equally to it.  And I don’t think we ever settled this point years back in our Dark Knight dialog, but I still think you should watch the movie and see that the Joker makes TWO separate references to how he got his scars in the film.  Neither one of these I would call a flashback, which is what you called it.  And neither one is plausible since they can’t both be true.  In fact, he seems to be making a mockery of trauma-induced theories of his motivation.  The movie makes a point of showing the limitations of Batman’s attempt to understand him and neutralize him.  Alfred tells a story that illustrates that some people aren’t driven by rational things.  This is not to say that there aren’t reasons for the Joker’s actions, reasons that could be addressed in a character drama.  But what makes a drama more mythic is not the presence or absence of character complexity.  In fact the best stories have both good characters and broader themes the characters explore as relationships of ideas.

In fact what stands out in this coupling of universal and particular is that what is at stake is not just these characters but society as a whole, not in an allegorical sense, which would be the case if they were mere universal archetypes, but as an embodied vision of the truth that individuals are made out of society.  The particular character’s fate is besides the point because it is not a symbol for a universal.  It is the relations between the characters that are the Real and are what constitutes society as the formative matrix of character and drama.  It is the community that is the main character, like the chorus in classic tragedy.  Those collective myths are the background of the action and the spiritual protagonist that must go through changes not by virtue of personal changes in the characters but by the change in the community that produces them and is altered by their conflict.

If the chorus and the myth become just silly stories or abstractions then we lose high drama and mythic art, we lose order as a communal compromise with an always uncertain and evolving demand for justice, and we get the chaotic culture of our times, where repressive order and chaotic freedom go to war over who can fill the gap in meaning we only find as part of a communion with the evolving substrata of the universal.

The Wire for instance is quite clearly in this category.  The individual characters may die or be saved only to be replaced by similar structural iterations.  This fact is played to a great effect that points to a more complex symbolic relationship between comedy and tragedy, myth and melodrama. Comedy and tragedy seem to be negative messages of limitation, while melodrama and myth seem to be the positive messages of suggestive action that are often overlaid.  The Wire seems to use comedy and tragedy, character and trans-personal / mythic scales of narrative complexity to make a melodramatic message unlikely.  It functions like sophisticated myths are supposed to, giving us a vision where limitation becomes transcendence, even if the vision is always possibly inscribed back into dogma and melodrama.  But what the Wire has as a more mythic narrative and No Country does not as a more limited tragedy, is that it models characters learning not that justice is futile, but that it is found in sacrificing their vanity not into moral ambiguity or that enduring American myth of a self reliant justice of “natural order”, but into the selfless humble actions that come from a metaphysical vision that transforms a complex causal web of dependence and limitation into a power of justice that depends on our character and our surrender to that vision of interdependence that is lost whenever we refuse to dance with Dionysus or try to make him serve an instrumental reason.  The Wild West can’t be tamed by any cowboy or vigilante, nor any critic- only through a society ready to take responsibility for its part in creating its violent symptoms and healing that need for unity through the fabric of relations that is our everyday spiritual drama.

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I am glad I was some help and I am glad you liked John David Ebert’s take on Cronenberg.   He seems like an interesting counterpoint to you along the lines I was suggesting in my last letter.  I stumbled on him looking for help interpreting D&G’s A Thousand Plateaus.  He has some good youtube lectures on movies and philosophers.  His more in-depth readings are available on Google play, which seems like maybe a good marketing idea for us non-institutional intellectuals.  Writing a book seems so overwhelming to me without much of an audience and market.  Which is tough for philosophical material in this electronic media culture.  What makes it worthwhile to you?  I have dreams of writing one as part of starting an alternative education and media group someday- if my brother can ever get the financing together.

You wanted to know my opinion on the distinction between subtle and more readily available interpretations?  I suppose I find it strange since what you are talking about in your work is a more subtle effect of suggestion to the viewer that might play out in later conflicts and I am more interested in the mythic meaning they take away.  One can frame the distinction different ways I am sure, but my point is more to say that I think it is problematic.

In the Dark Knight for instance, my original interpretation we discussed years ago was perhaps a less likely reading than a more literal reading might be, but any philosophical reading would be, including yours.  I believe Nolan’s Batman films are pretty clearly an attempt to argue for a heroism of self-sacrifice and a justice of compromise.  The first film was very much about how even if the law was corrupt, chaos and murder were not justified to bring justice and how symbols could be used to change the justice of the system.  The second and third films questioned the limits of those premises, only to reinforce them in rather cliched ways.  I don’ think we need a voice over to say there is a suggested frame in these movies and my original interpretation is just a philosopher’s riff on how those themes are played out in the second film, just as yours is.  We both are describing what we think the themes suggest to someone based on more subtle details in the text and their reference to things outside the text in culture at large.  My more recent point was less a particular reading than an argument for reading melodramatic violence as part of a larger economy of meaning that necessitates a mythic reading of popular film as a cultural response to the questions left unanswered by the post-modern myths of our day.”Violence, whether spiritual or physical, is a quest for identity and the meaningful. The less identity, the more violence.”  — Marshall McLuhan

I saw this quote the other day, a variation on the one J.D. Ebert included in his review of Cosmopolis, and it made me think about our differences in emphasis.  You seem to see the post-modern destabilization of subjectivity as something with possible reactionary consequences, but which ultimately is a good thing because the potential for a violence justified by metaphysics is lessened when violence loses its meaning.  But what I loved in Cosmopolis was how they spent the last scene just trying to find reasons for violence.  It highlights how the post-modern world, the death of God, the destabilization of the subject, only increases the potential for irrational violence and the violence of searching for meaning.

To me, the violent search for meaning cannot be defused through tragic catharsis, only forestalled.  Myth however can make tragedy part of a meaningful order.  What we see in so much violent melodrama is an attempt to make mythic meaning.  And perhaps this impulse is better suited to the creative fields than the religious ones, since there is less potential for dogmatic ossification. So for me, to merely take an ethical stance against melodrama is not unjustified, but it is a bit abstractly moralistic, since the problem is not solved through post-modern metaphysics or tragic drama but through a shift to new myths and a new consciousness.  McLuhan held out that possibility, and William Irwin Thompson has read into McLuhan’s media epochs a theory of consciousness evolution, not in the Ken Wilber sense of linear progression, but more in line with Gebser and Aurobindo, acknowledging the losses in culture and the dark ages of disorientation that preceded each new leap in consciousness.
In No Country for Old Men you seem to argue that the post-modern mythology it presents is less likely to inspire violence but I don’t think that is clear.  The Batman movies are more likely to serve as a psychological support for excusing institutional violence and reactionary politics, at least in its ostensible message.  Admittedly the bad guys are more interesting characters and make revolutionary terror quite attractive too.  But these are both reactions to a post-modern world where order and chaos are often opposed and incommensurable.  I don’t think there is any escape from the fact that we live in a violent world in troubled times.  To oppose certain media because of its structure may be the more accessible part of your approach, but it is the subtle reasons this media exists that must be understood if we want to actually solve the problems it is a symptom of.
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Well I wouldn’t call the science and worldview struggling to emerge out of complexity and fractal theory a position. It is more of a philosophy of organism and sustainable organization with its roots in German vitalism and ancient esotericism. Academic theory has played around with a philosophy of organism but I think it has been more of what Spengler calls a pseudomorphosis. So far the academics, perhaps because they are so schooled in Western culture, seem to express this philosophy in reaction to our culture’s preoccupation with questions of authority and freedom. Our mechanistic authoritarian science has made it difficult to understand the principles of coherent organization which are demanded by any study of process, biological or otherwise. I do think a science of sustainable organization, theories of creative process, morphogenesis, etc. are such an important part of life, that their various attempts seem to be an attempt at universal metaphysics. But the impulse to universality and sustainability need not be complicit with hegemonic control. Our conceptual oppositions are incompatible with a science of mediation, never seeing past the rather limited notions of compromise between its opposed notions of subject and object, whole and part, etc.

Rather than letting quantum physics guide us into what some of the German fractal people call “endo-physics”, a science of subject/object interference dynamics, we retreat into an abstract phase space that reduces the subject to an object and flattens the temporal context of nested rhythms, into a spatialized dimension in a vector field. I think we need to go the other way around. See space as a function of time, a product of phase mismatches that create a continuum. Post modern science, while trying to free us from totalizing causal schemes, obfuscates the science that can create fields that organize interference into wave guides for the ideal of harmonic inclusiveness.

Deleuze and post-modernism seem to have been a reaction against authority, a vitalistic urge to free us from systems of authority. Consequently, when Deleuze picks up the thread of vitalism he does so as an anti-organismic philosophy, assuming that the organism is the source of the blockage to vital flow. But this impulse for uninterrupted distribution is a question of organization, not a flow that is being blocked by some repressive other.

I have much more respect for Derrida, who seems to recognize the aporia, although he does not see through it. Derrida seems to confront the question of the negative head on (at least you highlight this aspect which I have found to be of central importance), but his solution seems to be a hesitant and careful but unavoidable destructive interference and preference for fluid hierarchy. Deleuze seems caught up in avoiding interference, struggle, dialectic, etc., and attempts an escape that takes him into a bizarre parody of everything he avoids and attacks until he has no choice but to jump out a window, the only line of flight being into the abstract phase space that science has taken for the real. I do however think his impulses are correct in that there is a phase space of sorts that allows for perfect distribution, but it is not a “smooth” space with no interference or hierarchy. It is the impulse of all systems to understand their inherent process of order and approach a perfection of that order as an asymptote of perfect coherence.

I would love to write a proper analysis of this stuff, but not being an academic, I am more concerned with the practical demands of living in a culture where everyday people need a way of understanding a very confused world. Sustainable development in its many forms seems to be on everyone’s minds on every level of society and being. Coherence, specifically quantum coherence, has become I believe, the important concept for the future. In quantum coherence, everything is in phase conjugation, everything is a factor of everything else; all processes are in superposition, none are subject to the tyranny of any “one”, or any concept of the whole. The whole is a limit that is never reached, because there are always changes; but when everything is in almost perfect phase coherence, those changes are transmitted instantaneously. Not to say system coherence is a totalizing attractor. Phase coherence is not phase locking, or entrainment. Quantum coherence is true coherence, where all systems are in sync, from the tiniest fastest rhythm to the largest most cosmic cycle. But every step out of equilibrium changes the whole -which is infinite -in an adjustment that is never perfect and creates the material world that precipitates/involutes out of the field to store then reintegrate(evolve) the lost information.

To the extent that things are out of phase, we get the production of entropy, and the more material concepts of organism, energy storage, phase delay which is linear time, etc. The things Deleuze attacks: the State, the organism, striated space, arise as attempts to overcome these limitations through dissipative systems. They are not the cause of any blockage but merely an effect of material systems trying to redistribute resources that were stored as a by product of phase delay and destructive interference. The evolution of material forms is an attempt to recapture this stored energy and build organisms capable of overcoming entropy. This entropy is no enemy either, but something that only approaches an infinitesimal limit in coherent systems.

Coherent beings are coupled to dissipative structures (organisms in Deleuze’s sense) to the extent that they need to compensate for that lost energy. But so much of the stratification of living systems is a way to capture that missed opportunity and recycle the resources through the nested cycles of life. The hegemonic structures that supposedly are sucking the excess out of “creative production” that Deleuze so hates are nature’s way of making a harmony of disharmony. The source of the “problem” is in the lack of coherence that always couples itself to a dissipative process. The hierarchy of exploitation that so bothers the post-modern mind is a valid concern. But the answer lies in coherent organization, not subsuming the enemy as in traditional western metaphysics, not escaping its field and scrambling its code from the outside as in Deleuze; and while some amount of destructive interference is necessary in this world, Derrida misses the character of what the most desirable interference would be. Everyone can sing their own song if there is a coherent field to guide us into harmony. It isn’t a single system that resists improvisation. It isn’t some new age dream of absolute transcendence, which I might add is closer to what Deleuze does than what I am suggesting. Both dreams are dangerously in line with the current trend towards absorption into the astral plane of unfettered desire that is becoming so hegemonic with capitalist culture and the new media.

There is a path through structure that builds symmetry out of asymmetry with the golden mean. It is not just metaphysics, it is what is emerging out of all the latest physics and biology, especially where they meet. Until we build culture on sustainable wave dynamics, human civilization will be locked into organismic cycles of growth and decay. Post modernism is just this period’s critical phase, taking apart the patterns that no longer serve us. Deleuze I think was trying to transition into a sustainable ontology and I admire his ambition. But trying to disentangle creativity from power is pointless. At least Foucault knew power flows from everywhere, and so turned from any repressive hypothesis and towards cultivation. Deleuze, despite his qualifying of every dualism and essentialism he created, fell back on a belief in dionysus over apollo, the unconscious over the ego/superego, and therefore destroyed any possibility of a balanced approach to culture and society, let alone the subject, which only escapes subjectivation through engagement with the organisms that define it, and breaks free from those only through an ever more refined coherence with the light of what Gebser called “the ever present origin”.

We need to escape from this oedipal drama, stop going back and forth between rebelling against nobodaddy’s harsh rhythms and trying to escape into mother space. We need to grow up and become the gods nature is designed to produce.

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Thank you for the stimulating dialog and your concern over my interest in the “occult”, if indeed it is concern and not a rhetorical strategy! haha…just kidding, though it is interesting only knowing someone through this medium.  I don’t think anyone that knows me in person would have such concerns. People tend to think the opposite of me, that I am too critical of everything.  And it is true, I have a critique for everyone and everything.  But I also try to see the value in everything and everyone, though it isn’t really my nature.  It has taken a lot of work for me to be open! My tendency is to think everything is cliche, and I have never liked any groups, classes or teachers, just friends I can critique with.  You are the closest thing to a mentor I have had in my adult life just because you are a living intellectual that I respect and talk to.  I find myself exaggerating the influence you have had over me when telling people about you, mostly  because I want to promote your work and deconstruction as a powerful discourse of promoting openness and respect—something I have always admired in you.  But also because it is nice to have something positive to say about someone I “know”.

My instinct though is as a critic, and the more I listen and learn the more I tend to think that anyone with authority in this society is deluded or borderline autistic.  I haven’t even been to a dentist in over a decade or a doctor in two decades.  I healed all my tooth decay and my chronic illness and help others do the same, to think for themselves, heal themselves; though I enjoy helping people find the few smart people out there like you that have pieces of the truth to help them along.  And I do think there is much to be hopeful for as non–reductive systems thinking is becoming more incorporated into society and its institutions.

Countercultural figures have problems too of course. There are good people everywhere and mostly well meaning but in health and psychology most people in the mainstream are incredibly dangerous and the alternative people are mostly crazy.  The Chinese have a deep tradition of very grounded occultism though.  The master I mentioned is a medical doctor and acupuncturist/ martial artist who fled China to get away from the thousands of students he was forced to teach there (not alternative at all, In China they fund and control their occult masters. They learned their lesson after they realized the value of their tradition again.  Of course we just train our own in Black Projects).  Like most humble Chinese men, he has no interest in cults or power.  It’s those Indians that you have to watch out for! He just has little Tai Chi classes for his acupuncture clients sometimes, but my little brother, who goes around challenging every martial artist in town happened to figure this guy out as a real master.  In any case, people started challenging him and after having to embarrass some of the supposed martial arts masters in town, he keeps to his medical practice now.
But honestly I hear what both mainstream and alternative physicians tell people every day and while they both say some stupid shit, mainstream doctors and nurses are some of the most brainwashed unthinking people there are, though they don’t realize it; In contrast Chi Gong masters are some of the most finely tuned instruments on the planet  There is plenty of lab studies and research to back this up if you don’t have the personal experience.  The level of sensitivity of these cats is worthy of respect.  They can diagnose people accurately with a simple wave of the hand.  Nonetheless I have little use for him.  I healed myself and work with people that are doing the same.  He can work on the people that can’t do it themselves.  I do enjoy learning the tai chi he taught my brother.  It is very empowering.
So as for the Nimitz incident, it is significant because it was recorded and allowed to be released by a group trying to use the public to advance their agenda.  But as even they say, these events themselves are nothing special; they are near daily occurrences with the Navy; they just aren’t usually publicly acknowledged.  Before this there was mountains of evidence but no one official enough to connect the dots for the common man who only listens to what he is told is acceptable.  It’s just a conspiracy theory unless it is the corporate media’s conspiracy theory, then it is “evidence”.  You seem to be impressed because it is an example of a formerly occult phenomenon rising to the level of banal consensus reality.  Which is understandable.  I am just less interested in judging truth by the standards of what reaches the level of common opinion. Doxa has its place, but thinking for one’s self is what is important.  It is hardly just an issue of spiritual or esoteric culture.  In Deleuze’s metaphysics it is the opposition between doxa and creativity, between the singular and ordinary that is the important distinction.  The banal binary of true/false is merely the brute and factual “secondness” as Pierce calls it.  Same with anything reducible to cause/effect or the law of the excluded middle(again a theme in D&G’S WIP).  Facts have their place, but they are always an abstraction from semiotic processes and their “quasi causal” inflection points.  Ignorance of this breeds the worse kinds of delusion.  Authoritative factuality is one of the most presently active destructive ideas in our culture.  Hardly anyone listens to gurus anymore unless they call themselves scientists.

Again, I find it hard to reconcile your more Derridean inspired metaphysics with your positivistically flavored epistemology.  But I look forward to reading your book to see how these influences pan out.  It seems to me that you conflate some of the epistemological standards of linear science, which was dominant back when positivism was actually taken seriously by thinkers, with fields of science that are inescapably nonlinear—with the study of what is the vast majority of phenomenon in the world and which science is increasingly focused on.  Nothing of real interest conforms to the standards you mentioned, though we can learn things by subjecting them to causal intervention.  Yes machines and mechanisms are reliable and repeatable but we would have no psychology or social science, and no real effective biological modelling without complexity and nonlinearity, without a way of organizing mechanisms and models as causal interventions (see Ian Hacking’s work in philosophy of science and Byrne and Callaghan’s “Complexity and the Social Sciences” for an excellent overview).
Most of what we call occultism is just “practical psychology” as Aurobindo once defined “yoga”.  But as Feyerabend points about scientific method, it is always just a myth retroactively applied to a process that is always complex and nonlinear.  Method IS for suckers.  But that is exactly why it is important for consensus, right?  You just seem to value one kind of consensus as good because it happens to be the most popular now, and the consensus of the fringes as evil cults.  Had the Nazis won, I think you would have seen a much more explicitly occult science consensus across the globe, and few in this reality would imagine that as good.
As it stands we are headed that way anyway under different terms because there is nowhere else to go.  The universe is an occult game whether we call it that or not.  It’s all just different sorts of power games, for good or ill.  Just because someone is exposed as being unethical doesn’t mean they weren’t using occult power.  A “free” will can do amazing and terrible things.  Even someone with marginally strong independence and detachment can really dominate this world of needy suckers.  And if you think it is all just normal psychology and placebo, I think you should take a look at the research before you assume too much.  Again the line is fuzzy; in a sense we are all using occult power all the time.  We just don’t have ways of understanding it that are coherent with our other cultural concepts.  You certainly won’t understand UFOs without understanding the occult.  I understand not wanting to put the time in to learn and practice something without certainty of results.  I never had that problem.  I took too many drugs as a kid; meditation—learning to bring order to the chaos of energies I unleashed with drugs has been the only thing that has kept me sane.  But drugs can be done safely.  Aren’t mushrooms even legal in Colorado now?  I took way too much LSD way too many times.  I don’t advise drugs for most people, as we have discussed before.  Don Juan told Castaneda they damage the energy body but that he uses them on people too stuck in rational structuring.  The way I abused them they damaged my body for sure, but that forced me to learn for myself and figure shit out.  Because after the floodgates opened I could not close them.  There was never any choice or seeking out the occult for me.  I stumbled into other worlds way over my head and had to learn to swim or drown. Too bad there aren’t more good masters to guide young people.   I could have used one as a young man; though I doubt I would have listened, since all the authority figures in mainstream society jaded me to all authority.
It seems like the word occult has too many associations for you so let’s just consider metaphysics.  I once heard Chomsky critiquing the word “physical” in an interview, pointing out how it is basically just used nowadays for whatever we think we understand.  In which case metaphysical would indeed by a good synonym for the occult—just that stuff that defies common understanding.  So by these definitions yes the occult will be countercultural, opposed to doxa, fringy, relegated to cults, precisely because that is how we defined it—as beyond what has been domesticated into common knowledge.  But as I was trying to illustrate before, the line changes all the time.  As the metaphysical, that is, the abstract knowledge of generalities and “universals” gets formalized into concrete applied science, the metaphysical aspect gets repressed even though it forms the base of the science.  The most easily understood linear phenomenon were the first to get formalized by modern science but over the last century or so, the formerly mystical aspects of biology and sociology, the “vitalism” and “Geist” of German idealism and natural philosophy have reemerged from a long battle with reductionism into the increasingly dominant paradigm of complex “emergence” in scientific modelling.  (Physics was the first to get reductive and the first to discover reductionism’s limits, but the consequences have been diverted by both academic and occult politics).
Psychology and Medicine are on their way back towards the metaphysical after their reductive periods.  Freud helped domesticate a lot of occult psychology, but it wasn’t through any narrow reduction to technological science.  Though that did eventually play a part.  But like in other sciences, the reductive aspects which played a part at the incipient stages of science, in order to separate it from the occult, eventually hits a dead end of banality and the occult reemerges as the virtual.  The behaviorists will linger on but the cutting edge is at the fringe, where difference and differentiation (key Deleuze terms) are valued over repetition.  Even theorists in academia while still couching everything in Freudian/Lacanian terms have long since embraced Jung in form while dismissing him in name (see Terrence Blake’s blog on this matter).  Deleuze was ever the honest metaphysician, quoting Jung and Castaneda as well as the early Christian mystics along with his empiricism.  He was smart enough to combine traditional metaphysics, science, an ontology of difference and reflexive modelling in a way that integrates everything in a nonconformist science and an (anti)psychology , unlike Ken Wilber’s conformist model of identity and compromises with positivism.
Both reductively and “generically” the virtual and metaphysical is becoming incorporated into the mainstream models and science itself is finding its metaphysics in the topological study of systems.  It was this “metaphysics of science” that Bergson was looking for in his vitalism, that Deleuze embraced as it was just then coalescing in complexity theory as finally becoming “physical” or “material”, that is, understood with mathematics and capable of reliable modelling.  Does it conform to the reductive logical formulas of linear science?  Of course not.  Not much in Biology does.  Even linear processes in physics are the exceptions to the rule of non repeatable open systems.  Only be closing down interaction and restricting systems to a linear relation between mechanisms can repeatability be maintained.  This is helpful to find those causal trigger points within the virtual web, but if one restricts science to the mechanisms we can’t do much else beyond build simple machines and track the simplest point attractors.  All the true high technology requires nonlinear science, requires an understanding of cybernetics, of how control is achieved in systems and especially evolutionary systems and organisms.
This doesn’t preclude predictability at all.  It just necessitates modelling the occult; that is, understanding and formalizing the factors that have long been the domain of occult science—the extrapolations from patterns into predictions and projections of causal relationship.  The fact that medicine seems to still follow the expectations of a scientific model long out of date is what causes so much misery.  The focus tends to be on the relatively linear aspects of drugs, which have all kinds of unpredictable side effects, but their main effect is linear and therefore trusted over the traditionally intuitively nonlinear modelling of alternative medicine.
Are there charlatans in alternative medicine and psychology? Sure.  But this is in some part a function of its position as countercultural.  In China, where the esoteric aspects are still respected and are being integrated with Western science after a brief(in the timescale of Chinese civilization) Communist Party repression, there are more standards in place to protect against charlatans.  To be a top acupuncturist there, you have to study for decades to develop an appreciation for and understanding of the complexity of those energy channels you seem to dismiss.  Here doctors are little more than drug dealers and mechanics.  Who are the charlatans really? The guy that sells you a quick fix that will repress your symptom the same way every time and keep you coming back for more, or the guy that works with you to develop a true progression towards independence if you make the effort?  Again, this is no different than any exercise in self mastery.  Most occultism is just helping people learn their instrument.  Like any art, there are no assurances.  It takes true creativity, not “automatic” formulas to master any medium or instrument.
But no need to debate.  Once again, I think this comes down to you thinking this is about belief.  You only believe what you think has been proved and I don’t believe in anything; that is, I find belief dangerous. I certainly don’t want to convince someone to believe anything.  I don’t do anything I don’t understand or feel I can understand it safely by trying it.  Though in practice, I am much more weary of things I do understand about what people don’t know they don’t understand, i.e. I don’t go anywhere near hospitals because they have no idea what they are really doing.  I don’t “do” or believe in the occult either.  It is how I see the world.  Method is for beginners.  Though methods are fun games when you know what they are about.  All my choices flow from consideration of patterns that are common sense to me and other people who see the world like I do.  Those patterns are formed through hours of daily self analysis.  Unlike much psychoanalysis which you seem to be okay with and I admit has a limited use for those at a certain level (though even then, my style draws more from the alternative schools as well as philosophy and tantra as Peter Wilberg has formalized), the central theme of the occult is, as it was when philosophy emerged from it, self analysis, not experience or authority seeking.  The irony is that I see the occult as the means to overcome external authority and you seem to be arguing for conformity as a way to protect against losing one’s self to someone else or to a false belief.  The occult is always about self mastery, whether for one’s own good and the good of others or for the mastery of others in the black magic tradition.  Yes there is the tradition of surrender to the guru.  When Ouspensky asked Gurdjieff about this discrepancy, Gurdjieff laughed at him.  He said “you have no will yet to give away”.  It is the same in psychoanalysis.  The therapist must use projection and transference to help empower the patient.  In a society where everyone is just looking for someone to believe or to approve of them, there is much room for abuse at all levels, though believing the certified authorities is often a much worse fate than believing the rather low level grifters on the spiritual scene.  Reducing truth to what can be produced “automatically” as you suggest is not just a recipe for conformity, it is, despite the hope I have for a non mechanistic science and future spiritual culture, a likely dead end for humanity if we don’t recognize the con of neutral democratic liberalism and start scrutinizing every truth for the hidden “occult” will behind its power.  My feeling though is that Theosophy, unlike the New Age might be right.  We have a long hard road ahead regardless.  I just hope to sew a few seeds for the alternative culture while I am here.
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Hey, I was talking with some Taoist alchemy enthusiast at a park today and he tells me that he publishes his articles on IntegralWorld.  I mentioned I was having a conversation with someone about the reality of the occult that I had found on IntegralWorld and he knew exactly who you were.  The “Derrida guy”.  He really liked your articles.  I thought that was a funny coincidence right now.
Anyway I feel like maybe we are talking past each other, and this miscommunication may be a good example of the very slipperiness of abstract terminology you mention.  Then again, maybe it is a consequence of dialectic, of trying to separate out the real meaning from the false instead of finding value in the divergence.  Or maybe in reading you correctly and finding its value I can find my own.  I will try here to do both.  To recognize the truth you are expressing, and misread you a little to  express my own thought.
To start with I do recognize that the democratization of knowledge which has been part of philosophy since Socrates and which really took off in Modern times with science is mostly a good thing.  But with it goes the reduction of culture to the lowest common denominator of mass culture and repetition which you seem to be saying is culture.  That really surprises me coming from someone who writes defending the cultural standards that tend to only come through education in reflexive academic discipline; though I do agree that simple repetition tends to play the biggest role, even in education, even when we try to teach creative thinking.  And there are good reasons why philosophy defined itself against the mystical and inspirational aspects of culture to make way for science.  Though I think in science and philosophy, as Deleuze and complexity theory exemplify them, we are seeing a return of the “analogos” as against the dominance of logos; which is part of a general desire in our times to integrate the digital and analog, the creative with the repeatable, the mysterious with the understandable, the wetware and the hardware.
Deconstruction opens up a path to the analogos that we see in Deleuze which I don’t think Derrida fully takes because of a residual uncertainty and idealism.  I agree with Jason Rez Jorjani that given Derrida’s deconstruction of logocentrism, the philosophical tradition’s prioritization over mysticism is oddly characterized, given Derrida’s project.  He retains in its place a structure of hope and a kind of Theology.  In Derrida’s defense it seems like mostly the authoritative pronouncements of mystic intuition that he understandingly critiques, but he seems to still long for certainty.  You seem to go much further into criticizing metaphysics in a way suggestive of logical positivism. It seems to me that the bankruptcy of positivism led to the very return to theological language even in analytic theory.
I am not a fan of the overuse of theological language, but I see it as exactly a vicious cycle inherent in idealism and nominalism, the dyadic discrete structure of what Deely, following Pierce, calls “the way of ideas”.  As Peirce points out, when you start with doubt as Modern philosophy did, the mysterious unknown is always part of the structure.  But, Pierce says, we really have no concept of the absolutely incognizable.  Rocco Gangle rightly connects Pierce, Spinoza and Deleuze with a semiotic logic that I would equate with the fractal.  Like a piece of a hologram, some language use gives a murky image of the greater network, but the path into meaning is always there in the relation.  Tying the relation to the concrete and repeatable is always the decadent phase of culture which can no longer grow the network and instead tries to fix its meaning.  The old guard doubles down and the dreamers look for pseudo transcendence. The dogmatic element returns in every era, as the mind reaches out towards the semiotic void and desperately tries to fill in the space, or recoils back to protect itself from the abyss.  But the abyss is always a failure of context, an oblique relation begging for broader praxis.
So you have said that all language is more or less metaphorical and metaphysics is more or less inevitable, so why the literalist attitude towards spirituality? Why connect the justifiable critique of dogma and authoritarianism—why reduce a critique of what is essentially the inability to tolerate contingency, ambiguity, metaphoricity, relativity, etc—to the desire to be more concrete and literal?  It may seem to make the common man in his natural literalism more appropriately dogmatic when his dogma is grounded in mundane facts that are seemingly mostly literal and concrete anyway.  But I think those conservative German critics of Modernity were right in seeing a great loss and decline in this movement, or as Spengler put it, as the very loss of culture into this repetition, which you identify with culture.  You open up so many issues and this is already a long though interesting dialog… so perhaps we will just have to read each other’s books when they come out.  Even so I feel “compelled” to go into this minefield a little further.  Your comments in red:
“Okay, I was just curious about the extent to which you find the information relating to the Nimitz event to be compelling and unusual given the number of Pentagon and Navy personnel who have been willing to 
talk about it and confirm the info in the video.
I went ahead and watched a few episodes.  But first, this word “compelling” reminds me of a word you have used before in a similar way, “convincing”.  You used that word in your work somewhere for deciding a claim in terms of evidence in a persuasive context.  This kind of rhetorical framing, I remember thinking at the time, was an odd note within the deconstructive frame you were using that put it more in line with positivism than with poststructural, post “correspondence” theories of truth, but the rhetorical framing left the issue open.  Now it seems you followed up on that thread more fully.  I know you use both words as merely tentative evaluations, but they show a certain commitment to accepting meaning as unproblematically discrete.  Hence your concern with “belief”.  Now I don’t nitpick words, I say “I believe…” sometimes, but the certainty/uncertainty divide is overemphasized to our detriment in Modernity and haunts some forms of postmodernity.  It has distorted quantum physics into idealism and it has negatively affected popular culture as well.  It bothers me to no end when hippies read Robert Anton Wilson and think we need a “maybe” logic and eliminate “is” from speech.  To me this is exactly the wrong interpretation of the whole thrust of the Romantic/Nietzchean/ hermeneutic/postmodern assault on truth. We don’t want to relativize it into uncertainty, but make the truth of being creative and divergent, and known to be unavoidably so, as well as capable of kinds of isomorphic repetition and representation.  But in some sense, to be is precisely to differ, to be singular and not repeatable or a repetition of a model of the true and real.

So I did not find the Unidentified program’s narrative that compelling at first because I think it paints a few clueless officials and their pop culture mascot as heroes in a movement that is in my opinion way over their heads or understanding. Or what little they know is classified, so they are pushing on aspects of the phenomenon that are more likely to be believed because of the nature of the events discussed, events which were witnessed by multiple expert people.  This naturally will get more broad publicity for the issue.  This is all fine though it may deflect attention away from the ongoing disclosure coming from people willing to whistleblow, willing to disclose classified material that is far more “compelling” in the sense of making sense of the much vaster collection of related phenomenon.  Of course just because a narrative fits doesn’t mean it is true.  There are reasons to critique a story even if it explains more, especially if the storyteller has unknown or ulterior motives.  But ultimately the motives and biases behind all narratives and explanations of phenomenon are part of the phenomenon and all should be considered if possible, and within reason.
This may be a difference between us.  You seem to be interested in deciding truth value based on a likely correspondence to an objective condition decided by consensus or community, a common theme in the sciences and early 20th century empiricism.  I am more interested in making sense of anything I meet in the world, making connections and building context.
But I am liking the show more in the third and fourth episode as they talk to the local fisherman and visit that creepy island.  And I think the people involved have good intentions.  But it seems so far to want us to believe that UFOs are ignored by military and intelligence elites because of fear of ridicule, and that these few people organized by a crazy former rockstar are the forefront of disclosure.  None of these people are discussing anything classified.  It is just people more or less out of the loop that saw something.  The inclusion of Hal Puthoff is interesting.  He probably knows more than he can say as well as the skunkworks guy.  Puthoff has hinted before that his declassified CIA psychic studies were abandoned because the real programs were already going on in Black projects that he would never dare discuss.  But I suspect, like many of the officials in the disclosure movement, they know enough to know there are people that know, yet the show seems to emphasize the ridiculous idea that all UFOs could be our “enemies”, either from this planet or not, and yet the military is just ignoring and has been ignoring these events for the past half century because they don’t want people to freak out or make fun of them.  The inclusion of the Russiagate conspiracy narrative to explain Podesta’s email leaks was particularly annoying and indicative of the level of establishment b.s.
The Nimitz incident is convenient because it was probably alien and not military, and the military involved were not informed or debriefed.  This fits well with the narrative that Delonge has been promoting for his generals, that the UFOs are a threat and the government is good.  Other officials behind Steven Greer having been pushing the opposite narrative: UFOs are spiritual saviors and the government and military are evil.  It’s part of what Grant Cameron calls “Managing Magic” in his book of the same name. In any case, the Nimitz incident isn’t that interesting in itself if you are familiar with the history.  I do like that Christopher Mellon admitted on a FOX interview that these sightings by Navy pilots were a near daily occurrence.  In the fourth episode they are branching out, which is good.  There are so many incidents often with many or even hundreds of witnesses (Phoenix lights).
But since the Nimitz incident was intercepted by navy pilots and they didn’t even bother to debrief them with any binding of secrecy, the incident serves a good purpose for this narrative of cluelessness.  It has such a good marketing campaign that it is unusual and not altogether a bad thing in my opinion.  It is bringing this to the mainstream.  But most UFOlogists have commented on how so many of the signs point to this being an attempt at manipulation of the UFOlogy community by a faction of elites with mysterious motives.  Podesta, Clinton and their Rockefeller connections have been on this tip for a while.  I have had a similar opinion of Steven Greer, another Rockefeller associate who was being used before Delonge came along in this more organized popular campaign.  The whole field though is ridden with paranoia because there is no doubt different factions using different personalities to direct their own disclosure narrative, either to manipulate the public as an end in itself or perhaps to press other more “in the know” factions to release more of the truth.

“As for “my” ideas about the occult, they are not really my ideas. It is a definition I derive from the work of Wittgenstein. And I think it has merit with regard to explaining why so many people (scientists in particular) are not persuaded by many accounts of occult phenomena or experiences. If these accounts are of phenomena observed or experienced by only one person, then they qualify as of the same order of events as dreams, hallucinations, and revelations, which are experienced by only one person. If, for example, 10 people were on a camping trip together and woke up in the morning and discovered, through reports to each other, they had all had the same exact dream, then that would be an event transcending the Wittgenstein criteria for an occult experience. And it would be easier to investigate the significance of the dream in relation to this community of 10 people, for whom the dream is highly relevant because each of them experienced it on the same night. In this sense the dream event gains some community traction for the 10 involved because they have a shared experience to refer to. Now substitute for “dream” any other paranormal experience. In this respect, the Skinwalker Ranch phenomena become more socially interesting and researchable than reports of other such phenomena. The ranch itself becomes a replication center.”
You are concerned with the verification of paranormal claims and you are conflating that with metaphysics and the occult—which are the very heart of culture, the “made up” part that then gets repeated.  Scientists don’t so much as dismiss religion, art and metaphysics to the extent they serve a useful human function; they just tend to not put them in the same category of truth.  But anyone aware of the role of metaphor in truth construction would not make such a trenchant distinction.  But even scientists aren’t concerned with verifying the truth of a poem; it either means something to us or it doesn’t.  Whereas that queen of occult arts, astrology, does make predictions that are increasingly accurate as the nascent science develops (in fields like financial astrology).  More predictions than almost all of mainstream social science.  So accordingly, is astrology real culture and music and art just somebody’s fantasies they make up to win attention? Artists… what a bunch of charlatans.  They make shit up and everyone parrots the patterns without looking into the actual truth value of the art.  Occult inspired art critics have actually attacked much modern and contemporary art on precisely these grounds, as Plato probably would.  They have a better ground than the idea that the occult has some essential meaninglessness that people can only parrot and real culture is authentic repetition.
I know Wittgenstein liked poetry.  I half remember a book I read 15 years ago called Wittgenstein’s Poker where all the positivists would come over to talk about clarity and truth and he would just ignore them and read Tagore(one of my favorite poets too) loudly right over them.  Poets are more or less occultists focused on the higher centers.  The explicit occultist just tries to formalize the process of inspiration and builds tools to aid the development and stabilization of visionary/poetic awareness.  And of course many of the greatest poets were explicit occultists.  As one of the few academic philosophers openly into the occult, Peter Sloterdijk points out how in secular culture “inspiration” is the one mystical word that still gets a pass in the academy.  Is it the idea of formalizing inspiration that you and or Wittgenstein dislike?  Or is it just the tendency of the occult to claim metaphysical truth and court belief as opposed to the more explicitly metaphorical nature of poetry, metaphysical, inspired, or not?  Because again, most of that is due to the very rise of mass culture and the popularization of the occult that has come with the increasingly sense bound rationality of modern consciousness, and with it a whole shift in the meaning of the word “literal” as I wrote about in my essay on the virtual.
Was Wittgenstein cool with poetry even though it has ambiguous meaning because it is just a language game not attempting clear communication of a set meaning?  Is his famous quip about passing over mystery in silence, a sign of respect or dismissal of the mysterious? You seem to be suggesting culture be reduced to what can be verified as true.  Even Plato wouldn’t go that far; he just wanted the poets to speak the truth and not merely abuse rhetoric and art.  Deleuze’s point is that there is truth in the divergence from the model, in the simulacrum of art in its mode of internal difference from the model, so it shouldn’t be about deciding either/or, p or not p, but affirming, critiquing and exploring differences.
But even with the paranormal, there is plenty of research and science on occult phenomenon.  The brain science stuff on meditation is mainstream.  The paranormal is harder to study because few people are at that level, but it is done frequently in Russian and Chinese science and a few labs here(Bill Tiller, Puthoff).  Most scientists don’t pay attention to it or dismiss it because it violates their worldview.  There are skeptics that come up with all kinds of excuses for the Nimitz incident for example, which to me are much more ridiculous than just admitting the obvious fact that there were advanced craft flying around that day that defy mainstream physics.
“Any paranormal event that is witnessed by more than one person has greater potential for arousing public interest because of its shared nature. What I am talking about here does not include “similar” experiences had by various people at different times. It must be the same event shared by more than one person at the same time”. 
When it comes to verifying strange events this makes sense.  But very little of the occult is concerned with these kinds of events.  The ones studied in labs are the effects a meditator or master can have on measuring devices.  Even this is mostly a side show from what most occultists are concerned with: training people in the liberal and occult arts, not showing off to win believers which is what science does.  Technoscience is the black magic tradition in some sense.  It departed from the traditional occult stream to master matter and win over culture with predictions.
“Similarly, if the event can be reproduced at will by anyone, then it gains even more social traction. As when someone creates fire by rubbing two sticks together and then shows someone else how to do the same thing. Such events then gain social currency. But if the event is of the nature of a dream experienced by one person and unreproducible for anyone else, then it has no strong social currency. Other people are very limited in what they can do with it for themselves because the dream has no phenomenal address to which they can refer. They must take the dreamer’s word for everything that occurred in the dream—and the dreamer may not have recalled the dream accurately or may have forgotten essential details in the dream. This is the sense in which dreams have no strong social currency. Aside from the dreamer, there is no way to verify or access its contents. And even the dreamer may be unreliable in doing this.” 
All true culture starts with the imagination.  Very little of it progresses far from it into any sort of claim on truth.  What gets traction is dreams that have meaning for people.  This tends to be repeated in a mechanical way and becomes popular culture, but true genius or creation can never be repeated in the same foundational way.  Even theoretical science I would characterize, as Einstein did, as being an imaginative production.  To the extent that it explains practical problems and mysteries we don’t understand, then it gains much traction.  It’s the same with all culture and dreams.  If a dream/visionary representation proves to be of value to others in making sense of or improving life, then it becomes our literature and art.
The big difference is not between authoritative nonsense and verifiable sense, both of which are a scientistic myth, but between varying levels of sense.  Dreams become knowledge when they make sense to people.  All knowledge is coherent imagination.  Nothing is ever verified or falsified, just coherent or incoherent within a certain context.  True knowledge illuminates, making everything a potential source of knowledge by rendering each thing precisely more than it appears.
This defines the problem of experiences had by only one person and accessible to only one person—and this is Wittgenstein’s problem with the occult, which he sometimes calls the “metaphysical.” Similarly, words like “spirit” and “soul” have no physical address but only a metaphysical address—insofar as each person must form his or her own understanding of what these terms mean independently of any shared physical address. Thus, their communal usefulness is limited and subject to wide variation (more so than terms for physical objects). When I say “spirit” or even “occult” I don’t have as clear an idea of what the word may mean or evoke for you as I do when I say “apple.” 
As well as most ideas and most of what we call culture and all that is good in life.  It is creative and relational, not a matter of fact to verified.  Words become more specific within communities where they have more established networks of meaning.  Here in Eugene Oregon we discuss the astrological weather as easily as the physical weather.  Across wide cultural divides even the most simple concrete nouns/concepts can lose their seeming absolute coherence.
Wittgenstein’s point is that it is difficult to talk sensibly about things when we don’t have any clear idea what it is we are talking about or whether someone else can access the address I may be giving to particular “metaphysical” terms. 
Isn’t that just common sense? Complete tautology? If I don’t know what I am talking about or know whether you know what I am talking about then yeah, communication is going to be tough.  I mean the conclusion is in the premise here. But communicating a completely predetermined meaning is the least interesting part of life; it is the animal basis of language, and hardly qualifies under the meaning of the word “clarity”; maybe certainty, the doubt ridden search for which Pierce thinks is the blunder of Modern philosophy.  If clarity is defined as having to do with a physical address and communication is held as the only point of talking, we would be little more than animals.  Deely points out how Wittgenstein confuses language with communication.  In semiotics they use language as the word for the uniquely human mode which goes beyond communication into metaphysics/culture.  You made a similar point in “Cult of the Kill”, did you not? ( I haven’t read it in 10 years and I leant my copy to a friend): that Heidegger’s emphasis on communication over rhetoric was problematic and was it in your afterword to Macksound’s book that you discuss how we talk not just to communicate but to produce new information and relations?  I always loved that; it really changed my world.
Even Heidegger, however, has some great points about critiques over his intelligibility.  I do appreciate plain language thinkers like yourself as well and often find myself reading literary critique rather than real poetry, but I would never for that reason claim that a difficult poet is a bad writer.  In fact as Harold Bloom puts it, all bad poetry is sincere; I would add that all dumb culture can be reduced to a literal meaning.  Some philosophers are bad writers indeed, but mostly because they are trying to simply communicate and failing; with the more poetic ones, one can’t make the same accusation.
Derrida’s point is that to the extent words may have accessible addresses at all, they nevertheless necessarily have MORE THAN ONE such address. And these double addresses can potentially change to new doublings with every passing moment in time and context. Thus, the meanings of words are always questionable and always debatable, but not, for that reason, indeterminate or incoherent or as you please. Derrida adds that this problem remains the case for words Wittgenstein would call “metaphysical” as well as for words for physical objects. Part of the reason for this is the metaphorical use of words. And Derrida essentially argues that the use of every word is essentially metaphorical. There is and can be no “literal” use of a word except insofar as the word “literal” is itself a metaphor. 
I agree more or less.  But from here you backtrack from deconstruction into essentialism:

Thus, the study of language reveals the problem of the occult where the problem consists of a lack of shared determinate meanings (even though these meanings manifest the feature of duplexity). To the extent meanings cannot be reliably shared and replicated (even in their doublings), then to that extent such meanings remain in the realm of a cult, where everyone defers to the leadership of “the one” or “the elect” who know, because they have had some personal experience others are not privy to. In this sense, the occult leads to authoritarianism and facilitates charlatanism.  Contrast this with what may be called “culture,” which has very broad social traction because it contains meanings (understandings) that can be demonstrably shared and replicated at will by anyone—such as rubbing two sticks together to make fire.
Reliably shared meaning, you had just pointed out, is contingent and mediated.  Now a lack of exactly replicable meaning is essentially a cult?  One could perhaps characterize a dogmatic cult as a sustained or fixed asymmetry between amount of access to meaning between the creator and consumer of meanings.  But meaning asymmetry is the structure of all acts of communication and learning, which is “addressed” through the process of communication and learning.  Defining the occult as the epistemology of cults I think is very wrong, but even if that is your definition, then it does not follow that any asymmetry is a cult unless you say that the cult is part of the structure of every act, that is, that the metaphysical is essentially a cult, so every act of communication begins as metaphysical because of the meaning asymmetry, and may become physical, though how would you know for sure?  If you mean by cult that the asymmetry is central to the culture, than you are just talking about authoritarianism. If you mean perhaps the more specifically religious, the occult as authoritarian religious groups based on mystical experiences, maybe you mean that communication is false, that the people aren’t really experiencing what they think they are.  But how would you know?  How do we know people dragging themselves to the symphony, the opera or modern art museums aren’t just forcing an appreciation because of cultural authority?
The kinds of culture that fix the asymmetry are those with a pedagogy of mere repetition, exactly the opposite of the occult pedagogy from which the liberal arts education descended from—which is all about learning for one’s self.  You associate the occult with dogmatic religious priesthood but that is not the occult.  Rarely have occultists held worldly power.  Perhaps in prehistory.  Perhaps again. That was the dream of Hebrew occultists, the Grail cycle and Freemasonry.  In some sense they may have partially succeeded in America for a while but if there is any occultists in power now as conspiracy research suspects, they aren’t wielding power through belief in their authority, but through hiding their control(and making their stooges they control through blackmail take all the blame and credit for worldly power).
In any case, the occult is all about training people to have knowledge and knowledge that was always adapted to the language and symbolism of the people learning.  Whenever there was an “elect”, they held their knowledge in secret precisely because most people are only ready for repetition, and people would abuse it.  Those that do the work to any moderate degree have no interest in wielding it as priestly authority over people.  The occult was repressed first by the Church and then by Modern philosophy and Science and its priests who do claim to know, and demand authority, while denying the reality of anything other to it or anyone not initiated into their specialized language and knowledge “game”.
There have certainly been authoritarian cults throughout history but they gain traction and so often become the dominant mass culture precisely because they are imitations that lean more on mindless repetition as against the occult emphasis on inner gnosis.  It is precisely the shifts in emphasis from knowledge and ritual to belief and repetition in Catholicism, then especially Protestantism and then to secular work in Capitalism that made for a vast increase in effective authoritarianism .  Likewise the shift from disciplinary societies to our contemporary society, called “control” society by Foucault and Deleuze, allows further entrenchment of power through belief sanctifying repetition, this time not in just the proven truth of mechanized efficiency but now in the creative freedom of a cultural capitalism, where even the imagination has been colonized; our private interior spaces have been transformed into repeatable and consumable commodities, guaranteeing that any divergent meanings become the protocols of network control.  If a truly uncapturable truth emerges, it is “unreal” unless marketable.  Foucault saw the real conflict as between spirituality and theology, not spirituality and science, and consequently saw as unfortunate the replacement of the practices of spiritual training(occultism) with mere intellectual method.
In short, the distinction you are using is putting the occult and metaphysics on one side of some essentialized and hierarchical opposition with science and culture that doesn’t hold up to deconstruction.  No one really likes authoritarianism, but the proof game and the freedom game have “proven” far more effective traps than Religious dogma, and dogma was just the early game that repressed true spirituality which is occult techne.  If instead of an essential type of thing called “occult” you instead talked of an historical thing “occultism” you would be on firmer ground.  But even if the name refers to an essence of a singular historical process, this can cover up the true “essence” of something: that concrete universal aspect called a multiplicity, Deleuze’s replacement of essence; which points us towards something’s possible meanings and elborations.  The essence of the occult, the problem of metaphysics, is in that every process has a pole in the virtual, in the unseen, and the problematic.  Every thing is more than a thing, more than it appears.
The survival of human community depends much more on replication than on ritual, which is why what is called “science” now dominates what is called “religion.” 
 
While science creates predictability, that does not, as Derrida would remind us, mean that it creates knowledge. Just because we can predict an event does not necessarily mean that we have the correct theory for why that is the case. It only means that we have arrived at a theory that enables a certain level of prediction. Think here of the difference between Newton’s explanation of gravity and Einstein’s explanation. And Einstein would be the first to admit that his theory is not necessarily the “true” explanation of gravity. It’s simply an explanation that provides better predictability of certain subtle features of gravity than Newton’s theory. 
This view of truth as correspondence conflates repetition and conformity with some privileged objectivity, even if is qualified as “not knowledge”. This hedge is needed to hide the implicit appeal to authority.  If someone dazzles with predictions they are given a special essential position as concrete and verified, even if you hedge with partial constructivism.  This kind of debate played out between Lakatos and Feyerabend.  Feyerabend puts everything back on the same playing field.  Unlike their mentor Popper, they both agreed all theories are born partially falsified, but Lakatos tried to use contingent consensus to prop up scientific objectivity.  Feyerabend gets down into the way all ideas are forms of knowledge, not in the sense of correspondence as Derrida rightly critiques, but as concrete universals, as constructs that makes sense, either in regressive or radical ways—still, all sense is virtual, relational, metaphysical, not just doubled or multiplied, but essentially problematic and therefore more or less productive and ultimately irreducible to any actual reference or solution.
I would agree that objectivity denotes something intersubjective, but in semiotics an object is just an object of a sign, it doesn’t follow that that object is also a real thing, or “more likely” real, just because a certain number of people believe in it or claim to have experienced it, or can tie its existence to something repeatable or predictable.  Much of the important advances in science were theoretical with very little difference in prediction.  What better theories do is make more sense of phenomenon.  Often this takes the form of a cult around the new idea long before many people recognize the value enough to recognize its potential and invest in any “verification” beyond the more important task of making sense out of data already available (especially now that we are awash in data with little understanding).  It is always the consensus that prevents the progress of the cult to new paradigm.  Even if you hedge that this consensus is just fallible and provisional, as a standard it totally sides with the collective side of the opposition and we know how that goes.  Though I don’t think, following Deleuze, that the issue of whether that “object” is a “real” thing or not should be the focus.  I am more interested in the value of the object.  I am interested in truth, but to me, following Feyerabend, I look for possible connections between truths and truth claims, to judge what is most valuable and most true in the sense of making the most sense out of a given phenomenon.
Nevertheless, he who can successfully demonstrate a track record of accurate predictions will have broader collective influence than he who does not. That is what I mean by social traction. That is also why science leads to what has been called “progress” whereas religion does not. Keeping in mind that this “progress” and its technology may very well lead to the destruction of the planet precisely because of its “success.” But this may be the case only because what humans can do far exceeds their maturity in control, much like children given guns to play with. Planet of the apes where humans are the true “apes.” Hope that isn’t the case, but that remains to be demonstrated!

This isn’t abstract to me.  I am constantly debating nutritional and health research with my friends where we work giving health advice to people.  The stakes are high in my mind because so many people are getting sick and dying younger and they don’t know why, and the truth isn’t easy to see without a lot of context.  It takes an occult/metaphysical ability to “see” the hidden relationships signified by traces in the people and the research.  We need visionary/intuitive thinkers now more than ever to form more socially valuable consensus than the industry funded con we are getting.  Scientific consensus is no less a cult just because it is more popular and gives lip service to contingency.
To sum up, there is nothing essentially different about the occult from any other cultural phenomenon.  One can have authoritative leaders in any cultural mode when people don’t take the leaders as inspiration but instead just repeat or recycle their productions.  Hell most universities are little more than machines of reproduction of old cultural forms.  Little is done to reproduce the creativity in a person that would allow them to become their own Beethoven or Shelley, let alone Einstein.  It is becoming worse every day.  Very little science is actually reproduced.  No one funds the repetition of a study.  “Progress” is made where people can be exploited.  Real progress happens in the margins with the thinkers and tinkerers who think the new but who are getting increasingly marginalized by scientism.  We won’t get another Einstein with these conditions.  We have had them and they are ignored.
So yes there are religious leaders that claim to have the sole truth but so are there science leaders that do the same.  The culture as a whole is becoming more pluralist and so both the religious leaders and scientists that have gotten the most traction lately have been less dogmatic.  Science has gotten the most traction however, not because of this humility, but because of the opposite, because the certainty that people look for in their authority, with science is being justified with an appeal to the few useful and fancy gadgets and whole lot of dangerous and otherwise useless crap technoscience has produced.
There is a lot of good science out there too but it is producing models of systems, not anything with a concrete address.  The abstract models are precisely what makes sense out of the mass of useless data we have now.  The concrete technology of most science in medicine, biotech, chemistry and physics is garbage.  But they have run a successful marketing campaign, the thrust of which is the idea of “science” as some special mode that is true because some ideas that we also call “science” helped build a few things.  To me the most impressive technology came out of Newton the mystic and the genius developments of those abstract dreamers, the mathematicians whose development of differential equations opened up a world of engineering for humanity.  I marvel at our engineering, our bridges our architecture, our ability to blend art, science, and philosophy into building communities the way we imagine.  Progress is possible if we keep dreaming and investing in our dreamers.
I am sorry if we keep talking past each other, but this is interesting.  I feel there is a deep irony here I find fascinating.  I am tempted to think you are just messing with me! You introduced me to deconstruction which has motivated me to use it to help include marginalized discourse into philosophy.  And now you seem to tell me that it all deserves to be on the margins not because of contingent historical reasons, or even definitional relations (the occult as marginal phenomenon), but because it is a kind of thing that has an essential nature to be tainted with authoritarianism and charlatanism. But maybe you just mean to say that the occult is a kind of culture that is difficult to tell the real deal from the phonies and so maybe they are all just phonies.  There are certainly ambiguities judging greatness in art, but maybe it is a little different in that many people get into the occult not because of the ideas but because of some promise of power or transcendence.  But like in art, most of the people enamored with perceived greatness or projected power or fame fall into cults and never achieve it for themselves because they do not love what they practice, they only desire an end that is difficult to achieve without the right motivation.  The true artist and lover of wisdom just enjoys the journey and discovery.  The trick is always how to handle people looking for the answer or the method.  They tend to fall for the exploiters in every field and learn little even from a decent teacher.  But trust me, some of us practice the art and are not searching for anything but the unfoldment and clarification of what is inherent within.
Or maybe you are just making the simple point that people are easily dazzled, confused and exploited by rhetoric that has no need to prove itself.  Metaphysics is definitely meaningful to people for all kinds of reasons, some of them having more to do with belief and false hope than anything resembling understanding.  I would even agree that that is probably the majority of the cases nowadays and for most of history.  But I would argue that this will persist until people are willing to put the time in to think for themselves and see for themselves.  Proof and concrete reference are another con game.  The only way to not get fooled is to aufheben the doubt/hope game into the emotional independence of joyful and endless discovery.  That is the path of any true lover of wisdom, esoteric or not.  In any case, it has been interesting as usual even if we aren’t going to see eye to eye.  Thank you for your time.
P.S.: Check out Jeffrey Mishlove’s show if you have the time.  He is a parapsychologist who has brought back his old PBS show on youtube.  His dozen or so videos with my friend Debashish Banerji cover a lot of similar themes we have discussed here.  I met Debashish at a conference he and Michael Murphy put on in 2008 on fundamentalism in yoga communities, where he used Heidegger to deconstruct the structure of cults in a nuanced way.  Debash is a very humble and thoroughly postmodern scholar of the occult.  He is actually a relative of Tagore’s (the poet Wittgenstein would read).
Also this video with Jorjani and Mishlove on Strieber and the Greys might be of interest to you.  Jorjani is a bit of a twerp but he is one of the few people continuing Jacque Valee’s work on the symbolic aspects of UFOs that doesn’t just reduce them to psychological factors. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WOgW48cvck