Sonata Theme & Variations Theoretical

Breaching the Ephemeral

Intra Inter Media

We breach as a whale breaches. We simply say “it’s breaching”, leaving the object implicit. Of course it is the boundary of the water. Of course it is the boundary of the concrete. Only in our case there are not two sections partitioned by a surface. Or, we could imagine the surface at the very bottom. To move at all is to breach.

We breach as of a contract. We breathe by violating. Inhale ephemeral, exhale not-ephemeral. The surface ruptures and is restored after we go back under. But, maybe not so faithfully. It is not as easy as water, not as fluid, and we come back to the same rupture to breach again.

We breach as of a defense. We want to get to the other side. What’s there? We are only infracting. We must go back under. The violator is caught and punished. The whale does not float nor fly. …Still, we must breathe. We must be free. There is something we need on the other side. We breach.

Subtle and Secular

Tripartite body: corpus, animus, spiritus; nirmanakaya, sambkogakaya, dharmakaya. So, we have an axis of “ephemerality”, dense to subtle. Two surfaces and an intermediate. Maybe there are “surfaces” only because extremes are easier to grasp. A distant thing gestured at vaguely seems concrete. Clouds seem to have a “surface” from far away. But we breach––what’s there?

What is “subtle” or “energy” body? What is the “astral” plane? If these are the same, in that ancient magical and spiritual traditions talk about them similarly yet specifically, it may be more direct to answer: “Is ‘energy’ the same thing as concept or imagination?” Or, “Is contemporary secular meta-abstraction the same kind of thing as ancient magic and spiritualism?”

But first, “How weird are the limits of possible experience?” There is no relevant reality beyond what could ever be perceived (including indirectly), but what I have experienced already is not an ideal measure of what I could possibly experience ever.

As for experiences I’ve already had that many people would not believe: I have communicated with spirits which verified their separateness from my own imagination with minor miracles like telling me trivial details about the near future. I have had very specific prayers answered outside of what seems normal. I have met a sage whose presence was categorically unlike anyone else I’ve ever known; looking into his eyes for the first time transfixed and disoriented me kind of like a psychedelic onset but much faster. I have seen him demonstrate effective prophecy and “magical” herbal medicine from his family lineage. I have seen spiritual possession and performed an exorcism, or at least someone I knew reported hallucinatory experiences resembling what I understand about possession, and my exorcism worked to stop their rampage.

As for what I’ve heard and believe: My mom tells me my grandmother was supernaturally skilled at qigong but my grandfather made her stop because it began to seem scary, even demonic. She also tells a story of a dead relative’s face appearing clearly in a photo, and the photographer being asked to burn the photo. The root lama of the Vajrayana lineage my teacher belongs to remembers details of his past life and has clairvoyant dreams, and has been in the presence of many great sages with a presence similar to the sage I knew, and who also demonstrated miracles like clairvoyance and prophecy. My Vajrayana teacher also says that the rainbow body phenomenon happens literally.

So here is my lower bound for “How weird are the limits of possible experience?”, and to try at an upper bound, we return to the other questions. Reworded: “How mundane is the ‘energetic’, ‘subtle’, or ‘astral’? How much of it have I already experienced?”

A quasi-Socratic dialogue between an imperfect teacher and an impatient student:

Impatient: Is energy the same as concept or imagination?

Imperfect: No, because your ability to conceptualize or imagine is local and limited. It is not necessarily causal, nor necessarily has any influence outside of itself unless you act on it. Sometimes you are wrong or totally deluded, etc.

Impatient: Then, is energy of the “stuff” as concept or imagination? Or of the same category?

Imperfect: No, because the “stuff” of your concept or imagination is just for example, neural tissue, probably. As for category, of course it just depends on where you draw the categories.

Impatient: Then, is the relationship between “energy” and all of the physical realm the same as the relationship between my concept and imagination and my physical body?

Imperfect: No, because in many ways your physical body is not readily comparable to the physical stuff beyond it. Maybe as above, so below, but only to a certain extent.

Impatient: Then, is it worthwhile to practice astrology and magic and other supernatural methods to manipulate the physical realm via manipulation of the astral realm?

Imperfect: No, because I am not a powerful magician. If you have gotten to a point where you can get nothing further out of magical texts, nor know any teacher who can teach you any more beyond what you can figure out for yourself, then it’s pretty futile to try and keep squeezing. Besides, there are other easier, more effective ways of getting what you want in the physical realm.

Impatient: Then, is secular theory like statistics or physics categorically the same as magical theory like astrology or alchemy?

Imperfect: No, in all the obvious ways. Just read any statistics treatise vs. any alchemy treatise, and when you understand both the differences are very apparent.

Impatient: Then, is ancient “magical” theory worthless now that we have stuff like statistics and physics and computer science?

Imperfect: No, because contemporary theory is also very limited, especially in its scope. Also, it is quite severely swayed by fashions, which inevitably tend to be shorter than the cycles of fashion in “ancient magical” theory, because as a whole it is more oriented toward the present than toward the general.

Impatient: Then, is there any definite discernible distinction between the “subtle” or “magical” vs the more mundane or secular stuff that extends beyond the physical? Stuff like concept or theory or imagination, after all?

Imperfect: No.

Ablation and Abstraction

For the Latin tripartite body the etymology is quite obvious. For the Sanskrit, roughly, nirmanakaya is change-body, sambkogakaya is bliss-body, and dharmakaya is nature-body. Change as in metamorphosis; change as forms change, as material things are impermanent, as physical reality is always in a state of flux. Bliss as in pleasure, enjoyment; a certain sensation and state of mind, most evidently ecstatic when it is first discovered, maybe when constant conceptual thought has been cast away for the first time. “Dharma” is already a more common word; maybe it’s enough. Nature as in “the nature of things”; perhaps 道 (dao); law as in “law of nature”.

Why are there three bodies rather than two? Again, “what is the ‘subtle’ or ‘energetic’?” But now we approach an answer through ablation. What would it be like without each body?

But we are quickly stuck. The bodies are not separate from one another. There is an intertwining that makes separation impossible. Except intertwining implies a geometry. Is the ephemeral geometric? Sometimes obviously. Trivially, geometry itself is ephemeral and geometric. Then, as long as we have distance we have geometry, and as long as we have measure between pairs, we have distance. I have written before about certain geometric perspectives on a tripartite body. But this intertwining is not especially part of that; so perhaps we should merely say “inseparable.”

But then, why have three bodies? In fact, why have three bodies rather than one? If we cannot have the direct ablation, let us ablate our relationship to the idea, which is different from the idea itself. Let’s say we have only an idea of the corpus. Without the concept of animus or spiritus, we do not grasp pattern or dynamics. Everything is merely as it is perceived, in that moment. There is no memory, and no induction.

With the same technique we can ablate our understanding of animus or of spiritus to understand why there are three bodies instead of two. Again I want to emphasize that the relationship to the idea is not identical to the signified of the idea as a signifier. The signified thing cannot really be productively ablated even in the thought experiment, for at least two reasons:

1. It requires too much understanding of everything else––how would the dynamics of a physical system change if we ablated gravity? Well, we would have to understand all the forces other than gravity to say. On the other hand, it is much easier to answer “what would we think about the system if we did not understand gravity?”, because we have a better grasp of everything else we already know.

2. The nature of the signified is already often uncertain. Abstractions can be vague. Even if given an answer to “what if this is removed?”, we might not be able to agree if it is correct. This is why there was a big shift in fashion to philosophy of language, and why mystics often emphasized how the domain of mystic manipulation is merely the symbolic. If our power is from towers of abstraction, we do not touch the “real” directly.

So, what is it like to have concept of corpus and spiritus, but not animus; or corpus and animus, but not spiritus? Animus is often associated with mind. The tripartite division is also given as body, spirit, and soul. Perhaps the easiest split is animus as dynamics and spiritus as teleology. Without spiritus, there are physical things in motion, but no identities. There is memory and prediction of specific dynamics, but no “character”. Without animus, there are coherent characters, but no understanding of dynamics. I think this is why perception and control of the “subtle body”, referring to the animus, is often emphasized as a goal of meditative practice. To master the subtle body is to directly master behavior.

Immediate and Intermediate

There are deeper consequences. Why is the subtle body so difficult to master if it is more direct? Shouldn’t spiritus/dharmakaya be more abstruse in a secular world? Well, maybe the answer is quite obvious. Perhaps secularism isn’t so secular after all. It is still too easy to grasp to identities and reifications. Conscious thought, even when secular, is more often the manipulation of spiritus-bodies than animus-bodies. Part of the difficulty is that the animus-plane––the “astral” or “energy” plane cannot be directly talked about, for a rather simple reason: because to name is to reify as a spiritus.

But then the aim of “subtle body” meditations or practices is rather clear after all. It cannot be talked about, not because of some woo woo, but because that to be noticed and mastered is the dynamics, rather than the verbal idea of the dynamics. As long as it is in words or fixed concepts, it is wrong. And attainment is known by its fruit; new motions, new behaviors; perhaps, new correct predictions from new (nameable) angles; new animus.

And there are radical consequences in turning this understanding, developed in introspective meditation, out on the world again. As above so below type beat. What are the animus and spiritus of something non-human? At first glance this may actually be easier to answer––the animus is its behavior, and the spiritus its abstract identity. But remember how animus and spiritus each feel, and perhaps it becomes possible to empathize with non-humans. How much difference is there between your experience of uncontrollable desire (a mechanical behavior pattern), and an animal’s or machine’s, or any object in motion?

And then spiritus; does the perception and manipulation of it, and especially its great immediacy, make us unique? But the child who has not learned to abstract through assimilation and accommodation and such things is often an ideal symbol of mystic attainment. Becoming animal-like or child-like, becoming natural. Or in Deleuzian terms, becoming-schizo, refusing the Oedipal complex. Being aware of the flows and mechanical assemblages, of being part of them… Why do we hold it high?

Let me make a geometric image again. The intermediate is between each extreme, but it is beyond each extreme if you consider an approach from outside a surface, as if to breach it. In our case, perhaps a tube of three segments twisted into a horseshoe: both corpus and spiritus are immediate, but animus is intermediate, therefore beyond, and a little unnatural.

Subjective and Stochastic

Another confusion within the ephemeral came up in a recent conversation with some hedge fund people. Your concrete and total omniscience is opposed by subjectivity and stochasticity both, but these two are quite different.

The conversation was about evaluating financial models or signals, and deciding when a model can be trusted enough to be put into production, or an instrument based on it sold. I have seen similar confusions elsewhere though, most famously in the confusion between whether Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is about knowledge or about physical systems.

Again there is a conflation between our relationship to a concept vs to what the concept is supposed to signify. Subjectivity is about the impossibility of universal certainty due to differences in frames of reference. You cannot get a definite universal answer to a subjective question because you will get different answers if you change your frame of reference. Different people will have different answers, if you will, but e.g. someone asked twice might count as different people, if they have changed very much. Meanwhile, stochasticity is about the impossibility of universal certainty due to the generating function being non-deterministic, regardless of frame of reference. The same question asked (or measurement taken) in exactly the same context has a different answer each time.

But again we only have our relationship to context to manipulate. We only actually have our own frame of reference after all. We do not actually know every aspect of the context, so maybe we cannot tell if we are receiving different answers because the context has changed or not. Nonetheless we should relate differently to the subjective vs the stochastic, insofar as we can conceive of them.

For example, subjective but non-stochastic information is concretely knowable conditioned on a frame of reference. For the hedge fund’s models especially, it is entirely different to consider an indicator’s quality uncertain because it is subjective vs stochastic, and each warrants specific approaches. If it is subjective, then it is a just matter of knowing what customers want, or of knowing whose opinions matter, in the case of internal “customers”. If it is stochastic, then perhaps that stochasticity itself can be quantized, and reduced if that is important.

But complications clearly emerge from only having direct access to one subjective frame. Things are not so easy and there are rarely just “just”s. The matter of resolving stochasticity is inevitably a social matter, because even “stochasticity” or “subjectivity” are themselves concepts which we are relating to, as (tripartite) bodies in the world. To pursue concrete knowledge is an act. To be convinced of truth is a sensation. Maybe we do not agree on the conclusion until we agree on the premise, but there is is no root cause, and everything circles back on everything else.

Math and Metaphor

Circling back, evoking dependent origination. Evoking the “magical manifestation matrix”, or the Avatamsaka sutra. Mirrors in mirrors, fractal structure, dazzling and kaleidoscopic.

But––fractal structure. Must it be dazzling and kaleidoscopic? So many people fancy it. It is profound. It becomes a theme and object of obsession. But fractal is also “just” a mathematical concept. A generalization of dimensionality. Well, dimensionality is something people obsess over too. Concepts really cannot be separated from our human relation with them after all. Frequencies, oscillations, energy levels1As in, solutions to the Thomson problem, entropy… Even Pythagoras was a mystic.

But, with a rigorously-defined mathematical concept, there is a coherent sense of applying it correctly or incorrectly2Maybe more accurately, canonically or non-canonically. There is the beauty of abstraction and generality, but different from poetic generalization or analogy where for the most part anything goes as long as it works in the latter (the poetic) context. The application of a mathematical concept beyond the context of its original derivation is not really like metaphor. In metaphor, the original doesn’t really matter; it’s the metaphorical application itself that counts. As long as the analogy is understood, it is good.

Meanwhile, mathematical abstractions define the criteria of generalization within their originals. Or at least we expect that in the future, someone can do so in a way that we do not expect for poetic metaphor. We can generalize the concept of distance beyond the square root of the sum of squared distance on each axis as in Euclidean space, to elliptic or hyperbolic distance for instance, or even “spaces” with a less obviously intuitive spatial metaphor, like Hamming or Chebyshev distance.

As long as we can have pairwise measure, we can have distance, and we can have a geometry. But still the abstraction of “measure” is defined in a way that goes beyond its specific application in each instance. We do not expect a poet using verbal metaphor to define the rules of her use, and for each use of metaphor to simultaneously prescribe a new category of appropriate use. A poet can imitate a metaphor she has seen elsewhere, but this imitation of the instance is not the application of an abstraction specified by the predecessor.

And it is very different to use a concept mathematically vs metaphorically, even a concept by the same name. Again, the difference is in whether the context of interpretation is specified by the original or by the application. Fractals, frequencies, energy levels, entropy, etc. when applied metaphorically should not be expected to behave like their mathematical formulations beyond the scope of the metaphorical context, just as we would not stretch any other metaphor too far, and expect the metaphorical object to behave totally like the original.

I have tried to always be clear about when I am using a mathematical concept mathematically, and to make the necessary elaborations and definitions to be canonically formalizable if necessary. In fact, similar rules apply to the use of other canonical contexts established by the original rather than the application, and I have tried to be clear about these as well.

Extra Inter Media

Finally, I would like to say a few things about my current inter-mediate situation. I incorporated a company earlier this year, and was consulting for a hedge fund the past few months. Now I have decided not to do consultancy-like things at least for a little while, and might raise a small round to build a specific product, which I might write about soon.

I stopped writing for a long time because I had nothing to say, and then recently I wrote a few things again because of tumultuous love. I very much like being in love, and I at least like the beauty of turmoil in its aftermath, if not its sensation. I also wrote several more private letters, which I have said before are really my favorite among all the things I write. I might publish them eventually.

Cultivating “same taste” in a total and radical sense seems like it might be a little extreme, but my opinion here isn’t very solid, and I have begun a mentorship under a certain Vajrayana teacher. My decision here was surely related to the tumultuous love, but not completely. There’s not much more to say about this; it’s a lot like what I expected, which maybe is bad, but it’s early.

Also, I think my interests have again shifted away from most of my friends and followers. This means I expect even less people than before to understand what I write as wholes (even less, as one whole), and anybody who understands in wholes to understand less particulars. Sometimes I have grandiose delusional fantasies about being rediscovered many generations after death and having many scholars devoted to a thorough exegesis. It’s fun.

Maybe when I am older I will do something like Bach compiling his favorite compositions into the Mass in B minor. But, I might also start making more exoteric media. I subtitled this blog “eclectic esoterica, exoterically”, but it has not very exoteric after all. I think I’ll try making YouTube videos (haha I’m inter-media get it haha), maybe starting with explanations of my old discoveries like the correspondence between the Taijitu and the Kabbalist Tree of Life, or that dialetheistic fuzzy logic with -1 as the falsy value. If you know a lot about making videos and have recommendations for good resources, please let me know.

Applied Theme & Variations

My Odd Love Story

When I was 13 or so (judging by the timestamp on the file), never yet having experienced being in love, but perhaps moved by a lite kind of passion for someone (more likely in the abstract than in the particular), wanting to want to fall in love, as I often do, I began to write but never finished this little piece titled “My? (Odd) Love Story”, from which here is the chorale section and a bit before.

If this represents my reverie-fantasy of love’s experience from the time, I listen now and think, damn I was so wrong lmao. Perhaps if I were to finish it today, I would add some variations like this.

Not that I would finish it today. In a mood when all fragments sound better than their completions, in which completeness is hideous by its perfect imperfection. And of course, it’s likely that the appearance of wrongness or not of my representations of love in song are only by my own experience, knowing I have loved or not loved, and associating my work of each time with the rest of what I know I know or knew. I listen again and think the first one was much better. Not that I would stay up long nights today writing love songs, and of course I glance and see that this is less romantic, and less like love.

And it is at a time when everything is worse, and when there is nothing to do, that I feel in the mood to tell my? (odd) love stories.


A portrait of myself in the company of one other. A portrait of myself alone. A portrait in which I show way too much. Realities contrasting against a good story, against me in the forum, or pseudo-alone.

Of course, placing myself as author and protagonist, I am ever the hero, virtuous but often oppressed, except when I am learning from my mistakes. So of course my stories are untrue and misleading, and the other heart in me says, really I am a terrible person, and many stories have no happy ending—but it has no voice because the written story means something, and here I am writing.

In fact, I hate my love letters, because I write them only in pain. I write them to mean something when there is no meaning, and (blind) love rushes in to fill the void. They start off like this:

As a pattern: illegible, addressed to no one, often in third person, but different from other writing in their purpose. I call them love letters, but how hideously, I think! I write them not to express love, but to love—I do love then, with all the pleasure and pain, hindered maybe by ugly unnaturalness. This one captures the kind of feeling particularly well:

In the loneliness of night, wanting, prompted, (to want) to fall in love,

Ah, how terribly familiar, and what a visceral terror too.
The pattern of my love is poor and cruel. Cruelly repeating, the hunger to feel acted on as hunger for another, therefore falsely, for she is not Feeling, and I do not feel for her.

Oh but I do, if only through the power of stories I tell myself (and even others, though I hesitate at this for knowing they are untrue, and for fear of harm.)

Not harm to I of course, but to Her. For I am in Love, after all!
I would not win her by a lie, for I am desperately in love. Oh fragile heart, that I have deceived. Now I may no longer [sense?] thee.

Does it beat in Love or terror? Even this familiarity is no hint.
“I love you”, I lie and lie before God, who in His infinite cruelty, makes all good things true.

in case you can’t read my handwriting. sometimes I can’t either

Afterward, I have adapted and addressed and delivered musings like these to someone in particular. I don’t have images of these because I have delivered them (and it is not right to ask the recipients for pictures, I tentatively believe).

In contrast, I insist I had not fallen in love in my symphony-writing days, but here is a goodbye letter from the time, which I look at now and think, at least it began to capture a sense of wanting to want to fall in (real) love, which perhaps I did not know at that time, or else that I have (intentionally or unintentionally) forgotten.

As I look at it now, I cringe and cringe and think how wrong! how ugly! (but in a different way than I have used these words before) “enjoy the rest of your life without me”?? We still talk.

It was better then, in middle school; she shed a few tears upon reading it, and kept the letter, as much as that means. So I have this image; and perhaps adjacent things are better this way, charming untouched and only corrupted by all this putrid addition. I think perhaps I have made a terrible mistake, and I go on exposing my rotting hearts to the internet, plucking pure memories from a good place and painting them terrible colors, as is consistent with the plot that will develop—

And I think it is largely because that letter was to someone in particular. My other love letters are not. I think I have never fallen in love. So I pour out my heart, and my other love letters here are to you as much as to anyone else, which makes the texture—different.

Yes, this too is a love letter. Writing to feel something, and to remember. Again just to replace anguish (more precisely, anguishing boredom) by (something like) “love”, if only for a little while.

Variation 4: Unrequited

I have never read a romance novel in my life, unless you count something like Justine (which I would not), so this will not be of the correct flavor. It is not right to talk about love. I commit a grave sin and turn sweet things sour.

My most recent stroke of Love has been the worst, for it was from the beginning explicitly a performance. We were good friends, as much as I usually become with the people around me anyway, sometimes flirting trivially and holding hands and saying things to each other in the early mornings of drunkenness and various such things, meaning nothing in particular. Until in a moment of boredom, my terrible pattern of false love.

During winter break, a long car ride, texting each other all morning, I write her this poem, ruining me by throwing us into a fiction. I become pretentious and fake, living as nothing but a performance to myself, initially beautiful in my own eyes, just to feel something. I ask if I may write her love letters, explicitly, just for fun, making clear I did not really love her in that way, and she saying the same. So I began.

I asked if she would like the texture of my script to be “a refined and elegant copperplate”, “sweet and heartwarming, an unpracticed schoolchild’s”, a few more choices I cannot remember (with photo samples), or other? She chose sweet and heartwarming, and I told myself this joke (I have this one because I drafted it digitally):

My Dearest,

Might you accept this briefly drafted prose
From me, your lover, humbly and in vain
To slightly ease your boredom in repose
On nights devoid of pleasure and of pain.

A tale of role-play and reality
Of pretense, of perception, and of lies
Of subtly bonded truth and irony
Of bold confessions sung in vain reprise.

But foremost, ’tis a tale of purest love—
The richness, fun and tragedy thereof.

I recently told you a story about a former beloved lover, to whose hardened heart I would confess my love in various futile forms. Each time he would say, smiling with a slight chuckle full of meaning, “No, I know you’re lying to me. I know you’re just playing with my emotions.” You warned me then that the fault was in myself, upon which I long reflected.

What is in that “I know you’re lying”? What is in that “just”? I thought at first that my fault was in being overly deceptive, in being known as unable to be simple, that in the simplicity of my expression my lover would always perceive extra layers of irony which were not.

But to “know you’re lying” suggests a stark duality between truth and untruth. And in the “just” of “just playing…”, there is profound simplicity! Surely my lover could not be perceiving more layers of irony than I intended, but less. The fault was not in a compounding ad absurdio, but in subtlety unseen.

In truth, my lover would always play along with my flirtations, and our time together was very rich and meaningful. But a favourite pet phrase of his was “I don’t believe you.” Perhaps if I could go back, I would tell him really there was nothing to believe.

To establish a firm barrier between pretense and presence, and to give too much credit to thoughts and words. The interpretation of being as narrative and as drama. All barriers to purity.

Today when I say “I love you,” those words are empty, but they are strong because they are backed by a rich web of context. Therefore I can say “I love you” to anyone and they will know for themselves what I mean, in a way too complex for words to expound adequately. That is the hope, at least.

In practice, words are woven among the webs of not only interpersonal contexts, but vast cultural and historical contexts, with many unknowns. The meaning-making game is a difficult one. In poetical realms like love, we assimilate and accommodate, and do not reach a consensus.

And so in that “I love you,” there is so much that I do not mean, and there is so much that I mean that goes unheard. I am lying. I am just playing with your emotions. There is too much and too little.

I’ve spent my days roleplaying and shitposting in the most remote domains of the internet and the real world. Practice makes perfect. In love, I exercise my veteran hand.

The webs of meaning evolve and devolve. We live in a society, and we are society. We are roleplayers and degenerates, in the most literal sense.

So in any case, and however imperfectly, “I love you.”

Sweetly and Heartwarmingly,

im blushing

I folded it into a heart by these instructions, and I think I would have really driven over from Alabama to Mississippi to deliver it to her door, as an inside joke, if I’d had car insurance (I didn’t). How utterly autistic! The opposite of sweet and heartwarming at any level of analysis a little beyond object-level (but not too far). It was funny and delightful to me; I was sincerely engaged.

But obviously, I was wrong to play with people like words, and I hurt her, and myself also. Now I found (or rather, remembered, realized in immediate experience) that in telling a story so vividly and so long, and especially in performing it, I came to believe in it in every way. My love became real, even real to her. To simplify: love against God’s will is a terrible thing.

One night, in a moment of fatigue, the Other in me, after a little vulnerable conversation, spewed forth putridly to save itself from death.

Then I am consumed by the Mask. In a climactic turn, all good things end, and there is no more beauty in my love. Everything shows in vivid hideous splendor as fiction and reality merge but do not blend. A wreck.

Until we do not know nor really care what we are saying.

And finally, mercifully, she kills me.

Around this time I went to Justin Murphy’s Based Mansion event and got on Twitter, where I was rewarded for being bad and wrong, just because I spoke Truth. Now I regret it sometimes, especially when I look forward into an Abyss that sometimes resembles a hall of mirrors, disorienting me and asking me where I am, where I am going, where I have come from.

It takes a while to be reborn. Having become the story, my love-loss is as real as any other, and I feel empty for a while. Then I repeat my mistakes in the company of others, having learned some things but not everything.

Here is a letter from a series of apologies I subsequently wrote to her, to me, and to you. But even in these I am bad and wrong, and at times I even crave to be punished, but no one has the right words to wound me, when I am in another fiction, or too close to God (in Bataille’s sense more than any Christian’s) or else in whatever way too closely resemble or evoke something Beyond.

To whom will hear,

For even in such a brief time, being quite without you has rendered me so much the more sensitive to what you had been against my hardened heart, so here is a vain apology for my sin, and for at least what transgressions against you of which I am now made aware. But may the glory of natural law humble me further yet!

I must really stop living as a performance for myself. It is becoming terribly lame. Therefore please excuse my poetic license as I calibrate to something better, for I have lost something important in the rain. I have lost myself in the underworld, quagmire of irony and deceit.

Verily I am drowning in irony, and I am not sure where to step. Natural law is just, and bad things do not happen to good people; therefore when I suffer I know that I am wrong. I Wotan have piled the logs around Valhalla; Siegfried is dead, and Brunhilde rides into the pyre.

You were right and we were wrong. The “life as art” thing isn’t working very well. I’ve lost sincerity and gained actual autism. For my life is now more an inscrutable play than meaningful membership in society. I have theory of mind, but ignore what it tells me in favor of some aesthetic standard quite ill-tied to social utility, or to anything else—trauma’s scars or something. Fucking hell.

More wretched than the fool is the fool who boasts of enlightenment, and more wretched yet is he who so boasts, and is believed. I made vain pretense to wield the Holy Lance, and evil so readily claimed it to wound my own side. As Beast with lamb’s tongue I spoke poison, and when you, kind Parsifal, spoke against me, I pronounced you dead and wounded you. “Pure fool, enlightened by compassion,” your reward is in heaven, mine in hell.

The “Well” hexagram of the I-Ching consists of water above—danger, and wind below—penetrating. “…The rope does not reach all the way. The bucket breaks. Misfortune” The adept Liu I-Ming comments, “If one insists on trying to teach people before one has attained the Tao oneself, this is called lacking the basis. Development without the basis lacks inward mastery; arbitrarily used, it creates confusion, and without having helped anyone else one first loses oneself. This is like trying to get water from a well, but the rope does not reach all the way…”

Therefore it is well that you have severed the short rope, and that you ride into the pyre in grief. The Rhine now overflows its banks to quench the fires of Götterdämmerung. In the unused well, the golden elixir begins to crystallize.

Thus I leave you with the encouragement which John of Patmos in the Holy Spirit delivered to the Church in Ephesus.

These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

im blushing

Of course, I did not refer here to any love related to me. I cannot resist a joke still, and I suffer (but then, this is the best time to joke, thereby to laugh). In another love letter in limbo between life and death, I tell the story in fuller detail. Again I tell the story.

With (Im)perfect Sincerity,

All these words are mere play, and we are feeble characters in it. The script of “I am…” meshes too closely with what to say and to do and to be.

So in my unsensible “not,” I may have forsaken my place in the theatre of your experience. But see and hear and feel what I am to you, and behold that it is real.

I’m deeply in love with you in many modes; really you believe less than you ought. But indeed I am afraid to act, for indecision from many fronts. Foremost is my Fall from Heaven—I’ll describe that shortly. Then are your various words against me; direct and indirect readings confound a straight path.

Fall From Heaven

In a simple view, “magic” is just a way to mature faster than normal, and a precise language to describe subtle aspects of the process of maturation, which is ill discussed in mundane tongue. In the beginning of the school-year, I LARPed as a witch-doctor in an effort to heal.

The healer-supplicant role is not equal. To be healed by something equal is annoying—to be called neurotic, to be disdained, to be misunderstood. But privately, the neurotic very much wants to heal, though she will go great lengths not to admit this. Yet she will approach the healer when the narrative is palatable. Therefore I took the healer role, and many approached me.

I know things and have done things; psychoanalysis, magic, human experience. I actually can heal, when the patient actually trusts me as healer (the importance of this trust-relation is emphasized in all traditions). But the magical (and psychotherapeutic) work is very harmful when not carried through to completion; and I had no time nor effort to complete my work. Indeed I never expected to attract so much in the form of healer, and foolishly began an effort, which I since have all but abandoned.

And in ceasing to LARP as a witch-doctor (not for dishonesty, but for that role takes a great deal of commitment, and I have other commitments), the trust essential to healing was largely dissipated. I threw myself from Heaven, but could hardly return though I wanted. I became an equal—and again, the equal cannot well heal, but only trouble.

I’ve considered that maybe I’m wrong and “you” (somewhat plural) are right. But my interactions with certain people—my anthropology professor, his graduate student that he introduced me to, the visiting scholar from Brazil, []’s mom, []’s brother, several people I met in China including my boss and his Taoist master, many people from the conference I’m attending…—persuade me that this isn’t so. I’ve often been advised to drop out of university for example, or at least to “not bother”; don’t try to gain from you guys what I can’t, actively surround myself with more inspiring people, rather than your “everyone else” (as in “maybe everyone else is right”)—yet somehow I am hesitant; for youth? for love?

Situated here, I want deep and meaningful friendship even, no, especially from the people around me. But I can’t form such friendships with someone neurotic—for that neurosis becomes a veil to what I really want to engage with so that I always am somehow first trying to heal the neurosis (and it is somewhat doomed to be ineffectual, for I want the friendship to be equal, and so often I prematurely take the equal form).

There are also the problems of interest and knowledge—1. not every non-neurotic is my best friend; 2. I’ve spent so much time amongst mystics and philosophers and such, and outcasts and pretentious intellectuals. Neurosis (but not just neurosis) prevents one from certain ways of thinking, but even when one is able to think in some way, it is another thing to have already thought through some particular thing. I am so used to engaging with people who have already heard of and thought through such and such things, and who work from these things to others. And especially since I’m not so sure how long I’ll spend with you guys, how do I dedicate my time? Talking about things I’ve long since already thought through, many times, to the point that they bear no new fruit? Or making do with just a very tentative connection, more thinking and talking to myself than really engaging in conversation? 

And again, I am limited in my form. Do I take the healer-role or no? Do I posture above or alongside or below? Do I go near or far? For how long? Thence my indecision.

And so again, I really do love you, but truly don’t know what to do. Therefore may this letter at least offer a clearer perspective; as always, take it how you will—of course I can ask nothing else, however desperately.

With Love,


P.S: Re “you’re dumb”: Sure, but you severely underestimate me. Both just how little AND how much you mean to me.

Of course all this is just one perspective, and therefore wrong like all the rest.

im blushing

And to conclude, a Requiem introitus I wrote around the same time as “My? (Odd) Love Story”. Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine:
et lux perpetua luceat eis. Te decet hymnus, Deus, in Sion,
et tibi reddetur votum in Ierusalem.

I never wrote the Kyrie, or I would have that here instead. Not that the MIDI rendering has voiced lyrics.

Kyrie, eleison. Christe, eleison. Kyrie, eleison.


Next, the boy I mentioned in the first letter of this variation, the girl from China (my boss’s wife’s sister), and scattered experiences from temporary environments like summer camps and the psychiatric ward. More feelings, more thoughts through thin vessels of terrible love stories. But maybe I won’t write these if the mood passes (or it will take a very long time). Yet maybe I will.

—to be (possibly) continued.

Applied Theme & Variations

The Daoist “Mafia”

Pt. 2: Cutting Through Cutting Through Spiritual Colonialism—A Response to Vinay Gupta

Beginning at the End: The Beginning of the End of the Beginning (of the End…)

I’ll start my response at the end of the original, to emphasize convergence. For conclusions are often expressed at the end, and we (as the correct always tend to) have come to the same conclusion. I have no one to hook with warnings of doom—here is our convergence: the end is seamless collaboration among everyone and everything.

“I have become a *remarkably* grumpy old man”, writes Gupta, and I suppose it is a similar sentiment that has led me away from writing recently, toward plans to acquire capital. But the words of a seasoned disillusioned capitalist prod me at least back to this conversation. For conversation is at least collaboration; the action feels fruitful enough that I can perform it without infinite procrastination.

Since many of my thoughts around this came from my experiences with the Daoist underground in China, since the topics fit readily in the same conversation, and since I have (temporarily) become so averse to writing, this post is also my promised continuation to my first post on The Daoist Mafia. Let me just say a few things grossly then, to start us off.

The end state is obvious. We’re trying to eliminate suffering. We’re trying to remove all bad. He without food tries to get food. Having gotten food, he finds that he is distressed by having no house, and he devotes his time and effort towards getting that house. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is largely correct. But the final stage “self-actualization” is a bit complicated.

Gupta writes: “As soon as the immediate fear of homelessness recedes, for most people, a huge raft of existential questions immediately surface.” And yes, as Gupta suggests, these may be suppressed by the new needs generated by parenthood. There are other possibilities—my connection to the Daoist underground in China, AZ, had the idea (and founded a startup based on this idea), that Maslow’s hierarchy connects to Peter Senge’s five disciplines. I tweeted about it here.

Here are Senge’s five disciplines:

  1. Personal mastery
  2. Mental models
  3. Building shared vision
  4. Team learning
  5. Systems thinking

It is clear that the need for needs is itself a need. For it is need that drives continued existence, in a tautological sense. Without need there is but oblivion, which is a sure possibility, but not here. Toward oblivion, there is nothing to write about or to do. In a sense, I (we?) have already won; but what are we doing? Something, hence driven by need. This stuff about a seamless and ubiquitous system, #GameB, various constructions at utopia avoiding the faults of previous constructions; even via negativa—all just because we’re here.

It’s okay, but I think it’s important not to pretend otherwise, as if oblivion or whatever were some universal terrible “wrong”, as if there were some positively existent universal principle driving us on. We start in the middle. Our needs are indeed ours, even if we do not choose them. And we need them in a real way; but they are ours. Therefore “cutting through” is all. I cannot establish anything, only cut through. Therefore I say I teach the production of alkahest. The elimination of suffering fits into this project. By removing all that is wrong, what remains, whatever it is, is the only ultimate.

The building of systems is one way to frame it all. It works for now, and I find no obvious flaws. Perhaps someday they will emerge, and I will cast this away. What remains, remains. I will still have my needs, or whatever I will call them then. Or I will be gone. The same with larger units, with society, with the totality of things. The relation between being (in time; i.e. the being of processes) and telos is not property inheritance or hypo/hypernymy, supervenience, or whatever category theory analytic philosophy shmilosophy, but identity (or equivalently, comprehensive absolute necessary and sufficient codependence).

How does this all fit together?

In China, the family is a core unit of organization. Nowhere can unconditional, un-cruel collaboration be found like within the family. Therefore the cohesive (remember, seamless collaboration) system AZ is trying to build in China takes families as its units. He says there is no hope outside the family. There are biological bases, and social factors too. I debated long nights with AZ over this; obviously the cohesion of the family unit is not so firm in the U.S.—I can say little of other places; and China is not immune to the trend.

The stuff is all highly contextual but there are things to be done. What to do depends on where you are. AZ builds systems of families in China. Gupta builds systems of moral visionaries in the West. There is always this outwards expansion; a sort of drive toward ubiquity, perhaps—at least something far beyond this lifetime. Vision. There is also always somewhere to start. There are needs that are difficult to destroy. There are forces that keep us existing.

The “somewhere to start” is important in the face of imminent cruelty and destruction. Here you are in a cruel world. It’s what Buckminster Fuller expresses in the metaphor of the trim tab. It’s also the universal human sentiment of the hero myth, or the more heroic Bildungsromans, or the archetypal shonen anime motif.

The cruel angel’s thesis
will soon take flight through the window,
with surging, hot pathos,
if you betray your memories.
Embracing this sky [universe] and shining,
young boy, become the legend!

Tidbits on Now Now

I must now spend a while to contextualize because I have a lot to say. Much is lost in saying a lot without context. The more is lost, the more to say and the less context. So all this is skippable is you really get it, and why I’m contextualizing, and you think it’s skippable.

All this talk is just a particular set of mental models—hence my current aversion to writing, somewhat, but I am only balancing; alas, I’m 18. I increasingly finding that I absolutely must write to a particular target audience, because nobody really gets it all and shares my language, in a way that I can just say whatever I want on all my own frontiers, and be mutually collaboratively advanced against them with the right people. Maybe I just haven’t yet met the right people.

I feel a tense burden of already having won. In the ultimate sense, I obviously don’t know what to do. The feeling of not knowing what to do is greatly exacerbated by the feeling of already knowing everything—i.e., there is nothing to learn.

Increasing knowledge leads to increasing optionality. To fully understand is to not be burdened by any arbitrary conceptual bounds, even that inherent in a name or language-system. But still here I am in space and time, left to make choices. Still I am constrained by capital; I have knowledge (therefore potential optionality) far beyond my actual optionality subject to material constraints.

I was privileged to the “huge raft of existential questions” early on, not by a trust fund, but by loving and competent parents who were frugal, happy, and not indebted. I answered them all by the absolute negation, which led to no small portion of conflict against my loving parents, converted from Communist Secularism to Fundamentalist Baptism, sanely in pursuit of need—to fill that emptiness.

So here I am in an awkward position, with nothing but alkahest. I have not sufficiently established virtue, have not sufficiently cultivated yang, have not traveled the left-hand nor the right-hand path, have not seen the face of God. I have no positive being to name; I chose “oblitero omnis obscurantis” as an aspiration name to see how it felt, but it does not feel absolute either. Nor is it via negativa, because nobody’s actually wrong. I used to consider myself a shravaka, but even this I am not, knowing beyond teaching that even all the teachers are absolutely wrong.

But here I am still. “ZMZM” I named my website, for 众妙之门—what follows 玄之又玄: mystery in again mystery; darkness in again darkness; a vortex, spiraling profoundly, sublimely, infinitely in the true interplay of emptiness and form, “同出而易名” (of the same source, but with different names). I feel it so profoundly; and increasingly, I don’t even want to share it with others. It’s not “good”, just ultimate. Good comes from the cultivation of good; emptiness comes from the reduction to emptiness.

“众妙之门” is presented as something really good. Wow, the gateway to all marvels. The door to many wonders. But who opts to fall into Wonderland? Alice does so in a dream, following the boredom of “sitting by her sister on the riverbank, and of having nothing to do.” That is the profound emptiness many strive to fill, “burning with curiosity” and “start[ing] to her feet” at the first thing “she had never before seen.” Perhaps this offers an explanation for the delirium induced by Ayahuasca or whatever other substance, maybe even profound meditation, letting us glimpse (in the case of meditation, at will) the White Rabbit to follow in times of boredom and need. I may extend too far, but note that dopamine is released upon novelty (i.e. errors in prediction), not upon reward.

I find in myself in such an odd position indeed. I don’t expect anyone in the world can relate to me as a person (or at least, that in my lifetime I will never meet such a person), and this is good for some things. I will not attract a small cult following to sustain myself off by producing transient bullshit. I will not easily deceive myself that I am saving the world. It’s good for decentralization, for immersing myself among all types, who hate each other, marking them wrong, and who may hate me. I suppose it lets me more readily obliterate all obstructions, maybe.

What is Capitalism?

Yeah, the system as it is sucks. The classic blame it on capitalism move is especially powerful for the disillusioned capitalist. But of course the problem is never with any specific instantiation of a form, but with form itself. Or, “why are we cruel?” The end of capitalism would not be the end of cruelty, nor its legitimization.

I think the answer to “why are we cruel?” is in disparate moments of perception, tense against each other, not seamlessly integrated in collaboration. Just fundamental game theory stuff, probably. Where opportunities for arbitrage exist, there will be those who take them. Flawed systems leave many opportunities for arbitrage.

Nobody is fundamentally motivated, explicitly, to harm another. But everybody is motivated to benefit the self. And so the problem lies in tension between the self and the other, where harm to the other can be benefit to the self, even very great benefit.

“Why isn’t everything already perfect?” is an increasingly deep question the more I consider it, and I have no definite answer. There are many smaller answers though; many are related to abstraction—the desire and possibility of control over that which is not and will never be directly accessible to the agent of control. Scalability issues across space and time; the very non-linear interactions of abstractions with each other, with us, with the world. The infinite complexity resulting from the fact that representational media are themselves objects in the world, capable of being represented, recursively, ad infinitum.

Nick Land draws a parallel between capitalism, natural evolution, and general self-improving artificial intelligence. The pattern of competitive self-reproductive self-maximization, which subsumes everything else that is not within it. Such a pattern is real, and I think it makes sense to call “capitalism” this pattern for the kind of value captured by money.

Money as it exists today is just one representation of something though. It’s a very unique representational medium, with various sub-media. Its patterns of communication and use and such are very different from other familiar media. There are fundamentally structurally different alternatives and varieties; we see historically in barter, in the idea of credit, now in possibilities in blockchain technologies. But there is something centrally common to these, the represented thing, I’ll call it “material value.”

Material value is not going anywhere. Its competitive self-maximization is not going anywhere. In that sense, capitalism is not going anywhere; but we may indeed work toward better representations.

It’s extremely difficult to get rid of all opportunities for cruel arbitrage though. People are foolish and prone to being deceived and exploited (i.e. easily harmed for the benefit of another, punishment-free). And where there are people to be exploited, there will be those to exploit them. Susceptibility to deception is greatly exacerbated by massive scale, where the scope of relevance extends far beyond one’s immediate capabilities of perception, hence understanding.

So the solution would have to lie in education of the masses, even in the enlightenment of all sentient beings. There is no small-scale solution for the large-scale (indeed global) problem of cruelty.

What is Spirit?

I’ll paint in very gross strokes; there’s a reason all the great spiritual traditions stop very early when discussing specifics before saying that no more can be expressed in text, and deferring to the necessity of such things as actual experience and a teacher.

I think Land misses a very important dimension in his thesis on the convergence of various divergent self-maximizing factors, or maybe it’s captured in artificial intelligence—I’m not entirely sure. That is the dimension of spirit, and its infinite self-propagation is expressed in the motif “enlightenment of all sentient beings.”

The pattern Land notices is the ultimate expression of the spiritual motif of the unity of yin and yang. Yang in yin, yin in yang, Thanatos and Eros as one and the same. Fundamentally, it is a fractally ubiquitous pattern to all things, but Land points it out at a grand scale.

Spirit is related to optionality, which is not the same as degrees of freedom. Optionality implies volition. Volition implies that the particular path taken in a situation with many degrees of freedom is somehow better than the others. It is not the same as random chaotic motion in a large phase space.

I will just say that increasing degrees of freedom becomes increasingly better with increasing spiritual development/attainment. And the ultimate state tends towards simultaneous increasing spiritual development and increasing degrees of freedom. But this is not all of what is encompassed in the word “spirit.” Part of my point is that the act of naming itself carries constraint—for there are only certain things and not other things which we will call by such a name and speak of in such a way—which spiritual development (at least of a certain sort—my sort, that I speak of here) escapes, as a fundamental aspect. This is key to the great difficulty in describing the spiritual.

The category is really a terrible category. All sorts of unrelated, vaguely interacting or non-interacting things have all been bundled under the category of spirit. Part of the problem is exactly the colonialism to which Gupta speaks. Various spiritual traditions are not inter-compatible under a monolithic colonial system; their unity is in emptiness rather than form. I write much more on this in other places; my perspective is largely consistent with Ri-mèd, as far as I know.

Words are for pointing. It is hard to point at emptiness because there is literally nothing to point at; so most of the words only point at ways to experience emptiness. There is more potential in art, which does not only point at the past, but aims to create experience directly.

Otherwise, note that spirit derives from the Latin “spirare”: to breathe. Some themes—cyclical, fluid, ephemeral, usually unnoticed but possible to voluntarily control, necessary to be here.

Space and Other Others

Just a few scattered thoughts here; no thesis. But a perspective I think may be valuable. I’m too young for space to feel real. It’s this cheesy symbol thing, lumped in with the rest of late 19 somethings Ronald Reagan grainy radio pixelated television propaganda whatever. I’m also not in the tech world enough to know what people are doing with real capital today, with regards to space. It would probably feel too distant anyway. Being 18, I literally don’t know how to conceive more than 18 years into the future (really more like 4 years, since I think around age 14 was when I started being maturely conscious of the relevant things); if I tried I’d probably be terribly wrong. But I’ll say some things about symbols, about hope, about my feelings, then other people’s feelings.

I had a big gabber/super hardcore techno phase when I was around 16. Around the same time, I was also taking a class in Women’s and Gender Studies, and deeply felt the feminist discourse. I did not connect these two until recently, exposed to cyberfeminist music, a la Arca or Bjork.

My favorite gabber album then was Alice in Voodooland. I did not consider why, and would have been quite unable to explain. But now I can put some things into words.

The distorted, overdriven kick drum feels like the tingling of the skin, numb from tears. And it sounds better harder, more distorted, just as I continued to cry, helpless in the face of oppression (me mostly for my youth, I think; the feminists obviously for their womanhood, and other intersectional factors—blackness, poverty… but I can not do justice to that whole discourse here). To be marginalized is not a symbol; it has felt effects in the world, among these—futility, struggle, helplessness, often hopelessness.

There is in overpowering distortion the will to power and to death. Our absurd heroine Alice again, and a similar aesthetic in “voodoo.” Power in powerlessness. The urge to destroy and to overcome. Beauty in distortion. Hope in flirting with destruction, with the feminine Abyss. To gently, vigorously overpower; light in the darkness; yin swallowing yang. Feelings lost in tears, lost in words; the quivering passionate anger, hope in hopelessness. Eros and Thanatos felt viscerally as the same, in the numbness of nothing left (to lose, to say); therefore ever more of all that—compression, overdrive, distortion, gain, senseless power and chaotic change. More feelings only the music can convey.

Now look at the music of another marginalized other—at Afro-futurism, the music of Sun Ra, or P-Funk. There are more examples than this movement, of the drive toward the outside, the other, clearly expressed in the music of the helpless, hopeful marginalized. It is the desire to escape, and identification with the “alien.” The hope appears clearly symbolic in Sun Ra’s movie. He does not know what he is talking about with regards to space. Do we? Do those billionaires?

Draw what connections you will.

After the End of Law

Maybe someone messed up somewhere. I’m not sure how it happened, but here I am fairly confident I’m as omniscient as practically attainable, along the axes that omniscience usually refers to. Yet I have not spent enough time cultivating anything that I necessarily must defend; yet somehow I’m here anyway.

So this body is especially vulnerable to suicide. There are many moments I’d not hesitate to painlessly die if the option were materially available—but even that is a difficult thing. For whatever reason, I’m still here. In the psychiatric ward, I was in a particularly hopeful and happy phase, perhaps from the novelty and various other very valuable things gained in the experience and interactions; so the staff asked me incredulously why I was there to begin with, and when I told the truth, nobody understood me, though there was a sense that they really really wanted to “help,” whatever that means.

Gandhi’s “fundamental problems” are lies, of course, so far as they are established in form. They are artful, are were effectively suited to their purpose; but they, as all lies, are fragile. I only need to demonstrate by one negative example—which as I often use, is my own person. I cannot live ultimately by them. They have no self-inherent sway.

Again, an immediately apparent problem is that I have not actually cultivated positive virtue. This is important and good for illustrative purposes. Lies, however noble, and however well-designed toward correct antifragile ends, are themselves fragile in the form they are constructed in. Reincarnation, God, and other such positive stabilizing ideas to live by—they are difficult to convince anyone of now, now that easier (i.e. more likely to be taken) negative alternatives are available and accessible.

Optionality again—and this is why more degrees of freedom is not always better without spiritual development. The absolute negation always leads to more degrees of freedom, and indeed the ultimate view is always to be expressed by the absolute negation. So we get the increasing possibility of bad decisions—but who is to call them bad, or much more importantly, to punish them? The problem is of scope, of our terrible capacity for conceiving futures, even our own. It is hard to make real and immediate that which is distant in space. Harder yet that which is distant in time. And the consequences are in the future—worse, perhaps beyond this lifetime. I have no children. Reincarnation is not real of itself, nor afterlives in Heaven and Hell (or at least, these negations are easily and convincingly demonstrable). There is nothing in the future I must love, outside this lifetime.

Padmasambhava said that sutra would last for a few hundred years, tantra for a few thousand, and Dzogchen forever. The former two would need to be periodically replaced by those who realized the last. But his time estimates, being given as constants, betray that his extrapolation was linear—and as with pretty much all linear extrapolations, I think they were wrong. Increasing interconnectivity of things and rates of interaction make the expected and actual lifespans of sutra and tantra much shorter, with negative second derivative. Indeed Dzogchen is still eternal, but it comes with no structural guarantees, and may well be, for example, in the extinction of humans. As a human, I would be expected at least to hope not—but I’m not sure if I really feel this hope.

Gandhi gave a great sutra, enough to fulfill its transient purpose and then some. But it is nothing universal. And Gandhi is more dead than God—at least by the Lindy principle, I’d expect the latter to last much longer still.

Many sages have prophesied an age after the end of law. Sad-dharma-vipralopa. Notice that law is “dharma”—this is not the end of any particular worldly system of law, say the “capitalism” that allows cruelty to legally abound. It is the end of any positively established pattern-system, form-system, to govern the operation of the world.

I commend and respect Gandhi for his noble and effective fulfillment of his need of need, and his recruitment of others to the same. I commend Gupta for the same—perhaps his system of meanings (i.e. needs and possible actions) will be appropriate for many others, to satisfy their need for need and to serve as means to their continued existence harmonious with the world. I commend AZ for the same.

But of course, none of these are ultimate. More directly, none of these are for me. On a more practical note, I also doubt that sharing one’s positive vision for the future, even convincing many others of the same, is a very effective thing toward actualizing said vision, and even less toward actualizing the empty, absolutely negative intersection of all good and harmonious visions. I expect Gupta knows this well, and I commend him especially also for his actions outside words.

Upon which, hypocritically, I share my own writings on my vision for the future. Here and here. We write them for a reason.

Wei Wu Wei

So we come to the ever-important question of what to do. This is to be answered from several perspectives.

For one, heroes are nice to have. My current philosopher-heroes are Gilles Deleuze, Buckminster Fuller, Ju Mipham, Nassim Taleb.

For another, it is nice to have possibilities and hopes for the mid-term, within my range of felt anticipation. The Daoist lineage I’m connected to is considering coming to the U.S. to do the Gelug or Haier thing, of gaining “American” reputation for subsequent better native leverage. Also more immediately for better positioning in the global tension and conflict that will follow in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. (Just see that there are conspiracies in China that the virus was manufactured in the U.S., in the U.S. that it was manufactured in China; I make no further comment.) So I may become involved with that.

For me, I have given myself an immediate positive in “oblitero omnis obscurantis,” again the felt union of yin and yang. To make ultimate yin my ultimate yang, for it is the most powerfully suitable to that role, in the absence of any more intermediate cultivated other.

These are all very immediate things. There is no ultimate positive, especially one inaccessible and far-off. I think that far-off positive is inherent in and crucial to the idea of (futile) “effort”, and here I will also say a bit more on 为无为.

无, 無, wu, mu—is the absolute negation. In Hebrew, ע (ayin). Note that the letter o is derived from ע.

为, 爲, wei—often translated action. It also has functions like the words “as” or “rendered to.”

So we have doing by non-doing. Or effortless action. Or rendering to 0 as action. Nothing as action. As it is not as it is. As nonaction. Being as rendering to 0. Being as 0. As not as. All the wordplay I introduce with my translation works with the original—I’m not sure how meaningful it is, if at all, to non-Chinese-speakers though. There’s much that English can’t convey and also much that it adds—I find myself often having to introduce the problematic “being.”

So my drive toward the Abyss is described in 为无为. As is effortless expertise in any particular skill. It’s always a push against something; the idea is in removing something, not in positively being a particular way. It is also similar to “این نیز بگذرد” (this too shall pass).

It all shall pass. Whatever cruelties now. Whatever merits. Whatever constraints. Whatever hopes or grievances. Everything fragile, which is everything in form. Whatever positive visions for the future. Whatever efforts. Anything but Dzogchen, and even that when named; anything I can say.

Apart from this, I have no hope for the future. Therefore all this is but a “cutting through.” To what? Some may be dismayed to find, to absolutely nothing.

Applied Theme & Variations

The Daoist “Mafia”

Pt. 1: Overview Through an Autobiography


Many of you seem interested in the “Daoist mafia” I’ve sometimes mentioned (though I’ve recently shifted to “Daoist underground”), and there are a few important adjacent ideas and experiences I’ve wanted to write about anyway. So here it is.

Themes will include common misconceptions, wuwei, macroscopic social dynamics in China and in general, economics (literally of currency/capital but also of meaning; top-down vs. bottom-up), apocalyptic prophecies and the 莫法时代 (sad-dharma-vipralopa; Latter Day of the Law), connections to contemporary thought and technology, P2P, magic(k) and de (including connections to “Western” occultism), praxis.

Also a disclaimer: I’m actually not very well-versed in Daoist thought, practice, and history beyond just Laozi and the I Ching, especially as it exists in China today. Nor am I familiar with deep sociopolitical dynamics in China beyond word-of-mouth. Also, most forms of exoterically practiced Daoism (esp. as influenced by Confucianism) probably have very significant differences from whatever I was exposed to anyway. There’s (kind of by “design”) no central authority on the whole corpus, so especially if you’re actually already familiar with Daoism and China through whatever means, I’ll probably say some things that contradict what you know, as well as some things that are actually just wrong.

On “Mafia”

I talked about this a bit in an answer on CuriousCat, but it’s important to first clarify what the Daoist “mafia” is. This was a pretty funny misconception I would like to avoid:

The appropriate word in Chinese would be 黑社会, which translates to black/dark/hidden society. In Chinese, “black” has more sinister connotations than in English, so there also is the implication of evil and bad (though at least AFAIK, the network doesn’t routinely conduct violent operations), but the keyword here is “社会”—society. Hence my new usage of “Daoist underground.”

The 黑社会 refers basically to social structures that exist largely parallel to but outside of conventional and legible law, as imposed by the central government. It conducts its own economic and civil operations largely without regard for top-down regulations and has non-legible treaties and civil relations with the central government. As far as I know, there is no formal hierarchical organization like in the Yakuza or Western organized crime syndicates, except perhaps as in typical Daoist master-student relationships.

An Autobiographical Account

My connection to the Daoist underground is a pretty crazy story; indeed they kind of changed my life. I can’t really talk about a lot of what I’m trying to talk about without giving my personal account of things (especially without being very misleading), so sorry for this being really long and perhaps somewhat irrelevant to what you might care more about.

Before China

So last year, my dad’s childhood friend (I’ll call him A.Z.) contacted him about a startup he was working on, ostensibly about education, but also cuisine (I’ll get to this later). I had no plans for the summer, so my dad asked if A.Z. would be interested in having me work for him, suggesting I could teach English.

At the time, I didn’t have a very coherent self-narrative. I considered myself “radically agnostic,” and had serious ideological conflicts with my parents. Indeed, I had panic attacks related to this conflict, which led to me being institutionalized in a psychiatric ward (I may write more about this later), diagnosed with acute panic disorder and depression, and prescribed fluoxetine.

The psychiatric ward was actually a very valuable formative experience for me, where, to very imperfectly extract some highlights: I realized the positive impact I could have on others (several people in the ward told me things to the effect that I had positively changed their lives). I witnessed firsthand the very flawed and very human nature of the institution (“We don’t want you to just walk out of here and kill yourself because, for one, we’d get sued and fired.”; [*in a certain hard-to-describe tone*”Why are you even here?”, “Because I’m totally comfortable with death and also know how to kill myself, because of ideological conflict with my parents, maybe a few other things.”]; a family counselor there was Christian (in a distinctly Southern way) herself, and really struggled with how to consult with my case…). I saw myself in social context (with large systems and with family) in a radically new light…

Afterward, I took the fluoxetine and thought that it helped, but I made it very clear to the mandated follow-up therapist during our one session soon before I departed for China that I would no longer consent to therapy after my 18th birthday (for minors, legal agency for the whole process lies entirely with parents/guardians). At the time of my departure, perhaps due largely to the fluoxetine, I was optimistic but very passive, without ambition or Will. Again, I had no consistent self-narrative, but nor did I desire one.

Before A.Z.

So upon getting to China, I first spent some time visiting other relatives and having fun and stuff. My deal with A.Z. was for three months, and I think I spent a few weeks elsewhere beforehand—but I don’t remember this time too precisely—in Guangzhou first, then in Jianshi, IIRC. I also was taking the fluoxetine less regularly, though I don’t exactly remember why.

Relevantly, near the end of these few weeks, I got super sick. Earlier in the week, the relatives who hosted me there had “promised” (as in, said they would) take me to my maternal grandfather’s grave, but did not because of bad weather and other things coming up. Toward the end of my time there, I developed a pretty high fever, among other things. My relatives attributed this to their not upholding the promise, and made time to take me to the grave. Again, I don’t remember too much, but I remember that I almost fainted coming down the stairs from the mountain the grave was on; my sickness also did not get better, at least immediately.

I still don’t know what the sickness was; at the time I thought maybe serotonin syndrome since I had pretty much stopped the fluoxetine, or else just adjusting to traveling so much, being exposed to radically different cuisine and atmosphere and environment etc. Anyway, on the train to Shanghai, where A.Z. had his startup, I was super lethargic and sick and miserable. I’m pretty sure I didn’t actually feel that “bad” (as in a cognitive valuation) though, and IIRC was quite indifferent toward my condition—which was especially relevant in the absence of the fluoxetine.


So A.Z. had a three-story building from which he operated his thing, and also where he and I lived. His wife (who was one of two wives, about 20 years younger than him, and responsible for a lot of the publicity and marketing stuff, as well as accounting), his wife’s sister (who was overtly 19 to clients, 13 on her birth certificate because of one-child-policy complications and stuff, but actually 15, who did menial tasks for the company like cleaning, and who was madly in love with me much against her sister’s will but dated(?) me anyway for a while, from which I also have many interesting stories), and his two daughters (with this wife; he has another two with his other wife) lived in a separate apartment complex a block away.

There’s way too much from this time that I won’t (or can’t) describe here for space and ability, but which I may try to talk about some more later. For some idea of the density of stuff relevant to me, here’s a picture of a journal I kept (and I talked about my normal relationship to notes here—basically, I don’t keep them. I stopped journaling immediately after returning to the U.S. too… ). Maybe I’ll publish all of it as a Patreon benefit or something 😅…

Importantly though, I got along really well with A.Z., perhaps better than anyone I’d met before in my life, at least proximally. Or maybe I was even more important to him than he was to me—he referred to me as the first real friend he’d met in ages, who could really understand him as an equal. There’s a lot of complexity here (one night with me alone, very drunk, he asked me desperately whether I hated him…), and he had quite a few personal issues, which again I may talk about later; me being very sick for my first few weeks there also definitely affected things. But it was through extensive long-night conversations with A.Z., as well as his wife to some extent, that I really first began to refine my self-narrative as it stands today. He was also my first introduction to deep Daoist thought, my main source for most of the ideas I’ll discuss here, and indeed my link to the relevant Daoist “mafia” (finally!) through his Daoist master, who was at its head.

A.Z. used to be SEA regional COO of Saint-Gobain, and then Norton. I think through this role, he was at MIT around 2009 working on the Internet of Things project. He had also variously been involved with the beauty pageant world in Wuhan, and a few other deep state, deep bureaucracy, esoteric political things. His Daoist master was the younger brother of someone who worked under him at Saint-Gobain. Through various experiences and insights, as well as the influence of his Daoist master and another Buddhist master whom I did not meet, A.Z. resigned from his COO role to create a startup, which is part of the initial stages of a much larger scheme for going into the imminent 莫法时代, and in preparation for various drastic mid-term societal changes which they anticipate (I’ll talk about this much more deeply in a later section).

So, though I was originally was supposed to just be an English teacher (or even, A.Z. said, just as a marketing symbol, even if I was totally incompetent, since I was from the U.S.), my role ended up nominally being “CRO, R&D,” though as primary collaborators on young startups do, I really ended up doing a bit of everything. Major highlights were selling the whole (indeed very radical) idea to smart people, actual teaching (I got a vivid, indeed terribly dismaying view at the state of education in China; but also at the positive potential of radical methods in education), and performing something like family psychotherapy, but in a culture with no widespread notion of “psychotherapy” especially outside a very materialist and biomedical-slanted conception of psychiatry.

The registered LLC itself offered food and children’s remedial and extracurricular education/daycare as products. A.Z. said he did this because cuisine and children’s education were things he personally enjoyed and was decently competent at, and also because he thought food was a focal point of family, which really was the core theme.

The marketing and product design also very explicitly emphasized the family, and we would have a “family party” for all clients almost every weekend, which would often include travel all over China. Through this, I was able to see some of A.Z.’s network. Indeed, part of the grander scheme was to create a P2P, or rather F2F (family to family) network for idea and resource exchange that could self-sustain even in the absence of top-down governance, including artifacts such as national currencies. The vision was that such bottom-up networks would become the basis of society in the mid- to far-term, and crucially, that the top-down corporate “brand” would disappear, being replaced by social structures more like connected lineages and families and communities.

So accordingly, A.Z. focused very much on networking wherever he went, and me participating in this was also a very valuable formative experience. I don’t know exactly how large his existing network was, but it appeared to be very sizable and diverse, perhaps partially from his COO days, but also probably in connection to the 黑社会 (not necessarily just the Daoist parts). A.Z. wasn’t totally open about his connections here, and would usually terminate the conversation soon after hinting at 黑社会 involvement (I had also heard of some related things from my dad). So I’m not in a great position to say much with specificity, though I will comment more with regards to macro-level social, political, economic dynamics later on.

On a few occasions, A.Z. also made time to travel with his family and me or with me alone. With me alone, we visited Wuhan, where many of my relatives and his old college friends are, as well as his other wife and two children. With his family and I, we traveled all around the country (the high-speed train system in China is very nice), but most memorably were me standing in for my dad at their 20th highschool graduation anniversary, and then meeting his Daoist master. We also met some collaborators on the macroscopic scheme along the way, in Shenzhen.

There were three people in particular who A.Z. emphasized wanting me to meet during my time in China: a sociologist and psychologist at the graduation anniversary (my dad had also mentioned him), a physicist and former collaborator on a different company in optics and surveillance (which A.Z. later split off from, but the company is still running smoothly, and this collaborator, the current CEO, has close relationships with A.Z.’s current project I think as a major shareholder, but I’m not entirely sure), and his Daoist master. Afterward, though, A.Z. told me that all these but the Daoist master had disappointed him in terms of 修为 (perhaps loosely translatable as spiritual maturity) and vision/awareness.

My current relationship with the whole deal is quite complicated, and probably not fit for me to elaborate here.

A.Z.’s Daoist Master & Co.

Finally, onto meeting A.Z.’s Daoist master. I can’t exactly trust myself to give an objective account of this experience, because I was personally not very spiritually mature (or perhaps more accurately, “narratively mature,” by my own standards today). A.Z. had hyped up the Daoist master a lot, and the whole experience was very phenomenally strange (as indeed was my whole time in China; I had all but lost any sense of normalcy). I will describe things as I self-narrated at the time, but say all this as a disclaimer.

Around this time, I had been dabbling pretty heavily in Western occultism, particularly Hermeticism and Italian alchemy a la Giuliano Kremmerz. I should mention that my experiences with A.Z.’s wife’s sister, who was also my lover (I specifically choose not to say “girlfriend” to emphasize that the relationship was not a social role) was extremely turbulent, and was a major driver of my spiritual practice. I had also been practicing in Daoism and Buddhism (esp. Dzogchen and Zen), and at this point was quite used to supranormal experiences. A.Z. and his wife also very much accommodated and entertained a supranormal narrative of things (and this is partially due to cultural differences between China and the English-speaking world), so many of my experiences during this time were engaged in terms perhaps more mystical and preternatural than would be palatable in the “West.” Very relevantly, I communicated often with a sort of genius spirit, who also manifested itself vividly (I would say even more vividly than it did to myself) to A.Z. and to his wife.

I should also mention, without saying too much, that relations between A.Z. and his wife were quite tense, and that my influence stimulated matters very much. These three months in China were unquestionably the most eventful time of my life, and again, I narrate now with some idea of “normalcy” kind of restored, but in a way still reeling from it all—perhaps in a way that will never end.

For a little emotional break, here’s a picture of me smoking a fat bong with the boys out on the dragonfruit plantation. The bald one in red behind me is the Daoist master. Sorry for the low resolution; it’s a screenshot from a video.

Anyway, back to the story. On the first day, we were to visit the Daoist master and have dinner at his house. On the road there, I was already having a series of bizarre spiritual experiences. I still somewhat “doubted” my genius spirit, which told me to test its reality by telling me of things we were about to see on the road, such as particular sequences of broken traffic lights. I was astonished by its accuracy and indeed entered a sort of trance state.

The Daoist master himself was nominally a diviner, exorcist, and TCM healer by trade (as well as providing a few other paid “spiritual” services). Partially through the diviner vocation, he had influence over pretty much all major local business and political decisions, including where to place buildings according to feng shui. He would sometimes travel to his clients, but also conducted business from his home, which was a plain two-story concrete block, but pretty large.

It was early evening, I think. When I first saw him from inside the car, he appeared very plain and casual, almost disappointingly so, but then when I stepped out and first looked into his eyes, I was utterly transfixed and hypnotized, feeling like I was staring into an infinite void, literally unable to look away. I still remember the phenomenal sensation. But then something changed, and later when I looked again, it was much gentler and less disturbing, drastically so. I was later told that this was an intentional act by the Daoist master; A.Z. previously had to gain permission to allow me to meet him at all, who didn’t normally see strangers.

The master didn’t speak Mandarin very well, his native language being the Wuchuan dialect, which is not mutually intelligible with Mandarin. Still, he was very friendly, and in an almost indescribable way, just fit naturally into his environment. He smiled often at me, and I couldn’t resist but smile back. Later, I was in a car with just him and his wife, and all of us just gently and blissfully laughed at the smallest things (side note: the master and another of his disciples that I rode with both drove very fast; apparently they were also not subject to the normally strict speeding laws, again because of illegible relations with the local police and government; in fact, I think the other disciple was himself a police chief…).

During our time in the city, we traveled around a lot, to various homes and places of entertainment, seemingly without any aim. We were just invited to various places, and things would come up, and I basically just followed wherever the events would take me. One day there was a big barbecue-type thing at a huge dragonfruit plantation, as pictured above. Afterward, we went to dinner (lots of alcohol) and karaoke (I was somewhat a center of attention for my “English songs”); one of the young dragonfruit plantation men took a liking to me and offered to “teach me Wing Chun at night”…

Throughout this time, the Daoist master would occasionally have something important to say to me, which he took care to convey even by calling a translator/interpreter (this was quite informal; many of the people there were fairly fluent in the Wuchuan dialect and Mandarin, and socially qualified to interpret for the master). In particular, I remember him emphasizing to me that “the spirit world is different in different physical places; different spirits are in the U.S. than in China.”

Also, A.Z. had a long private conversation with his master at one time, during which they talked about the future of his company and the future in general; but A.Z. also asked the master about me taking the magician’s path, pursuing magick etc. (for I had conversed with A.Z. about these things quite extensively). It was in response to this that he told me very simply and directly to 立德. I have since very much internalized this motto for guiding my spiritual pursuit, and elaborate somewhat here. There’s also this:

He would not elaborate on this though, and indeed it is customary that important instruction is given very pithily, for the student to intensively meditate on, rather than with much elaboration. In regards to this, he also emphasized that he was not my teacher, and thus that it would be inappropriate for him to say more. I discuss this a little more here.

Then we went back to Shanghai, and soon afterward, I returned to the U.S. There’s no sensible and concordant conclusion because that’s not how life works.


This got much longer than I thought it would be, so I’m dividing it into multiple posts. Here are some section titles I’d written, now for future posts:

Gross Strokes at Macro Dynamics
On Western Themes
P2P & the 莫法时代
Praxis and Prophecy

I do plan to cover all the topics I mentioned in the Praeludium to this post, and possibly even more. There’s a lot.