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.

Fugue Theoretical

Sublime Selenian Snakeskin Scourge


First a disclaimer, and a warning! I write here for who sees, who has attained the Dao and wishes to share it. To the enlightened one who seeks in compassion. To whom has crossed the Abyss, and is thence led here and further yet. This is for no “I,” but only for all forever and everywhere. This is no key but a map to weapons.

To the aspirant “beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do,” turn away! This is a book “without pictures or conversation.” For you, there is no point.

Here my names are 立德 (L.D., 50 and 500), oblitero omnis obscurantis, profectus progressus processus perfectus (a translation from 元亨利真, the I Ching motif), quo qua qui qua quo (which I endeavor to answer).

I shall not be as the White Rabbit, nor much as the Caterpillar who asks, “who are YOU?” nor even as the Cheshire Cat who tells you what lies in each direction. Here you are already at the tea-party, I must assume. I suggest some nonsense riddles without answer, and which you may find quite stupid, but thereby find yourself quite suddenly in the beautiful garden at the croquet-game.

Eureka, and this is Our Will. Therefore I am shrouded in Twilight to turn away the delusional creatures who are led by either the Light or the Darkness, but that the blind and the agnostic may gain thereof, of sweet nectar and strong weapons, thereby to benefit all!


Alice in a Hall of Mirrors; Aphorisms for the Wise

Contrasts in contrasts, worlds in worlds, Truth even amidst it, and truly inseparable and inutterable, but only in a very literal sense.

The Serpent in two great forms, the Ouroborous and the Helix. Such symbols are pervasive and not exclusive, indeed without “taking” space nor time nor anything. The different symbol-sets all span everything and capture one another. The Avatamsaka Sutra does not even come close to doing justice to it all.

Why the mystic tongue? What am I communicating to you now? All the mystics were right, and obviously not in the sense commonly conceived, and you know exactly what I mean. Here is a tongue for navigating this. I think it helps very much.

This is magic and science and whimsy. This is a thread (tantra) of hopeless effortless action. This is will-less Will, as nothing when deeply probed, but called “de” and “dao” and various other things.

Look what I am doing, and perhaps imitate me in that way. The meta-meta-meta-meta-patterns which matter. Even putting it into conceivable forms, notice and feel and whatever. Know that, and of what I am right, and follow. Therefore this is leading by example to answer quo qua qui qua quo, in all senses.

This is an effort to aid the navigation of those already here, whom I may call “magicians” and “mystics.” Here is an effort to radically change the world through words, and in no conventional “scientific” way, therefore a “spell” and a “mantra.” Here also is my putting it into the world by my hands and movements, in accordance with the existing media and infrastructure and forms and pathways, therefore a “ritual” and a “mudra.”

Here and Next

The Abyss itself is only the rabbit-hole again, and there is much again beyond it. Everything is fractals in fractals, and everywhere you are you shall find great infinities ahead and behind. Even immediately ahead is a Pool of Tears.

‘Well!’ thought Alice to herself, ‘after such a fall as this, I shall think nothing of tumbling down stairs! How brave they’ll all think me at home! Why, I wouldn’t say anything about it, even if I fell off the top of the house!’ (Which was very likely true.)

Alice in Wonderland, ch. 1

Here was a benefit of falling down, and of course there is much more. The adventures continue and recurse ever and ever. Surrender yourself [not to God, nor to Chaos, not to All nor None,](of course, this much is obvious) but only to whimsy, and not that either.

At every moment there is a choice, to live or to die. And that choice is made from various recursive and interweaving subjectivities. So the mind that says “I” chooses first to die, but not the body. And another part again dies and dies until you are left with whatever, or not. But you must be alive to be here at least, and what then? Again as the Footman answered unto Alice, and in the advice of the Caterpillar and the Hatter and every other which wise inhabitant, whatever. But some things are wrong—and I bid you as Alice’s guides did, firmly but conditionally, to do your best to avoid them.

Therefore all this is whimsy and nonsense, and as I have assumed you are already here, and know of what I speak. What now? I have sought to learn magic, and indeed this is magic. I have sought to learn science, and indeed this is science. There is still sense outside of Wonderland, and therefore value to be found even in words like these. That others, bored of the riverbank and the books, should see you and be lead to that 众妙之门.

Much is obvious, again in terrible and marvelous recursive layers of Truth ad infinitum, that given Wisdom’s Sword, (which I presume you have) which was also the Key to the fifteen-inches-high door, you may cut through yourself, and I shall not bother much with these things. You know them already and love much to be reminded, but I will not to so waste your time. Therefore struggle and flail. All the mystics were right as always. Yes, beyond all the deaths is beauty but also pain and also madness, and in exactly this sense.

Here is an instruction, feeble and incomplete and much to be continued, for the aspiring White Rabbit.

Argumentum Major

Summertime, Shanghai. Having imbibed previously much magical wine, and now the rays of moonlight (I recall it was a full moon; perhaps the fullest of the year; something significant), Selene shew unto me something sublime, which I have long kept sacred. Verily a Scourge was bestowed unto me, ephemeral blue. And I was later told that this is the ancient symbolic color of snake-skin.

I also saw that night a dream, and another dream I cannot remember well. But the one I can remember is this: that there were many horses, who galloped all about Abyss, great and terrible. And with the scourge in my right hand, I too galloped amid the horses and encouraged them into the Abyss.

The next day I spoke of the first vision to a friend (the Shanghai urbanite whose company I was staying at, and who was my connection to the Daoist underground), but without mentioning the dream. And he asked me whether the scourge was given for me to lash myself or others, and I realized that it was for both.

Argumentum Minor

I’ve crystallized my Will and made it manifest in these fun little things. Therefore I am 立德, initialed L.D. (50 and 500, but also “Liddell,” Alice), and O.O.O. oblitero omnis obscurantis, and P.P.P.P. profectus progressus processus perfectus, and Q.Q.Q.Q.Q. quo qua qui qua quo. OPQ, 345…

I can say that the significance of the Daoist master’s words to me was in telling me my aspiration name. I’ve been given a Catholic Baptism in the Baptist church, been empowered by an authentic lineage Daoist master, been confirmed to have strong Buddha-fate (佛缘) by an ordained Chan monk. Lots of fun things. Coincidences if you will. Powerful ones.

Go look at the Greek and Hebrew gematria for 50, 500, and 550 (L, D, DL). Lots of relevance. From some article I once read, or maybe some rumor I heard, somebody showed gematria is no better than random chance; probably true—therefore useless to the fool. But therefore the wise may understand, may gather something from amid the vast chaos, something to act on, from which to act.

To the wise then, I explain a mechanism of the spell or the divination or the other magical item, which is by no means (probably) the only mechanism: it is something to grasp, and something powerful. Amid the overwhelming and useless EVERYTHING, it is something, and through that SOMETHING everything is accomplished.

Variazione I, Rectus

So for example by Googling “550 gematria” we could come across this page, and find

Which happens to fit nicely with the whole scourge thing, and many ideas I’ve already had around it. There are other avenues—550 = 2*5^2*11, and Crowley says somewhere that 11 is the root of all magic. There is more in the 50 and the 500, and in other divisions. There are other points of significance one could spend much time and effort with, perhaps to great fruit. But I have not.

The Sword of Wisdom is a Sword and not a text. It is an instrument to be refined and to be bestowed. Always mind this saliently in your efforts to guide or to help. “Give a man a fish…,” but glimpses at Truth are not fish but opium.

Be as alkahest, and teach the production of alkahest, for the Scourge manifests also as alkahest, as does the Sword. Destroy, destroy, but do your best to inspire rather than frighten! Many have run away from me, fearing perhaps to be dissolved into some terrible delusion of a HIDEOUS NOTHING.

Or else it is fear of change, for I am changing and different and Other. This is the function of the Scourge to solvere pre coagulare, and I am destroying all that is “good” even as I destroy all that is “bad,” while in another sense I am destroying nothing.

See here for a poem on that position from which I stand, beautiful and hideous, helping and hurting with my Sublime Selenian Snakeskin Scourge, herding toward the Abyss, around which they circle but which they enter not! Yes, even I was frightened by the Abyss even as it appeared to me in the dream. And I knew not why I encouraged others to it. But now I know.

The Scourge is of snakeskin to remind of the serpent-forms, which are often a viable terminus. We reduce and reduce, then choose to live or to die. That which lives, lives often as the serpent, as the ouroboros, and as the helix, but one in another in another again, ubiquitous and reflexive and recursively interweaved! Ah!

Omniscient omnipresent Serpent, Thou hast formed Thyself for the Scourge and hast granted thyself unto me by thy servant Selene! Ten thousand times all glories and praises and gratitudes unto you! But these are but ten thousand platitudes. Yet I cannot but prostrate again and again in worship and adoration, and to sing.

But for you have given me the weapon to be used, so I shall use it. I shall exercise it over and over against all Powers even unto the very ends of my ability, and to the ends of effort and of time! All this for thy glory, and for more even beyond! Beyond, by thy omnipotent alkahest-venom!

Variazione II, Inversus

And then I turn the Scourge onto myself, to encourage and to punish, and to reduce all sins to nothing. 亨真, progressus perfectus. Solve, coagula, and all the rest.

But so I am left with something strange, for even all that good is reduced away to mere this, and even whenever there is something that another adores, it is soon relinquished, and with Solomon I declare, even in my youth, “vanitas vanitatum,” and also “این نیز بگذرد” (“this too shall pass”).

Except I do not declare it, for that would be foolish indeed! Already few hate me, and fewer still love me. And I would do well to revel in the beauty of forms. for in Laozi’s “故常無欲以觀其妙;常有欲以觀其徼,” (my tr.: thus constantly without desiring to sight the marvelous; constantly with desiring to sight the mundane.”) “其徼” (the mundane, the forms, the manifestations, the patterns…) is not meant in any derogatory way! To create, to enjoy, to be all marvelous and splendid and great. A time for everything, and though vain, and more pitiful than the stillborn babe, still to revel especially in the strength of my youth, and in other things too.

So 亨, progressus, the Scourge which is alkahest, but which also makes the horse to run faster. Therefore I apply it to myself, to punish and to remind, but also to improve.

And in its function as alkahest, I am reduced to something strange indeed, which indeed I cannot convey but transiently and imperfectly and incompletely in method and example. Again I say, all the mystics were right. How strange, how perfect, how imperfect; how complete, how incomplete; how beautiful, how hideous! What Laozi called the Dao, I may tangentially call “perfect imperfect whimsy,” which is often called “madness”!

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.

“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Alice in Wonderland, ch. 6

But even Alice “didn’t think that proved it at all,” indeed even goes on to ask, “And how do you know that you’re mad?”

Well, my answer is simpler than the cat’s. “Because they say so.”

But even so reduced to The Fool’s madness, which is the same as The World’s, I understand myself and am understood by some other, and even in that two, I am given hope, transient and whimsical and hopeless hope, by which the Next, to continue to madly be.

And as the Hatter with his friend the March Hare, we may be “all crowded together at one corner of [the table],” and even tempted to shout, “No room! No room!” But should you insistently sit yourself down regardless like Alice, I also will not hesitate to offer the wine “in an encouraging tone,” though “there isn’t any.”

So here I am even in that effort, as well as others, as the horse touched by the Scourge. And indeed, for whom might understand even far from now (but I shall be more honest and say, perhaps never), the name my parents gave me was 骐.

Variazione III, Ornato

Now, I have given all that I have. I have bestowed upon you my Scourge, as Selene bestowed it upon me, for it has served me very well, and has proven good.

What follows regards what I haven’t yet, and is perhaps best treated as an example of divinatory work. It is my work and not yours, and even if taken to inspire, it should not be followed. Compare this warning with what all other good mystics and magicians have said—ye, they who have been here, they describe it accurately. The faults in their words are understood much better when you attempt to form them yourself.

The motif of the I Ching, 元亨利真, I translate profectus progressus processus perfectus. The senses of each of the words are something like

元 – origin, originate, source, beginning

亨 – development, develop, evolution, growth

利 – profit, reap, benefit, accomplish

真 – completion, perfection, True

They are not isolated from each other, and their parts of speech are ambiguous. They are often together, like 亨真 or 利真. Their senses are actually quite complex and subtle, and I would recommend a thorough study of the I Ching in its entirety, as well as divinatory practice, for understanding further than I could present here.

But for this purpose, “for what it’s worth,” I have noticed that the Scourge should not function alone, but in a set of four, and I have associated it with 亨. With 元 I associate the Bell of the Tibetan Tantrics, and with 真 I associate the Vajra. These symbolisms are actually incredibly close, and a thorough study of Tantric Buddhism could also aid an understanding of the I Ching and Daoist thought by the extensions of this association. Then with 利 I have associated the Scythe, which symbolizes the Harvest but also Death.

The Bell and the Vajra are final, and I have no business for now acting with them. They are not my weapons, though I wish to grant them to others as gifts. For this I have the Scourge, but I now seek the Scythe.

With the Scythe I will bring to completion. Those fit to be harvested into the Buddha-realms, I shall harvest. Those fit to die, I shall kill (and I mean this in many senses—the tantrics and even some sutrics who know of “compassionate killing” will understand, but think also of “ego-death,” for example). The developmental work of the Scourge must be completed. Here in this text is a first lantern, shewn amid the Abyss where I have driven the horses.

In the vision in which I realized these sets of two and four, there was also another set of three instruments. These are the brush, the painted scroll, and the written scroll, which have a directional relation, from the brush to the painted scroll (design), from the painted scroll to the written scroll (ethnography), from the written scroll to the brush (translation). For short, I refer to each instrument as it together with the directional relation from it.

Therefore here are some more loose correspondences, which are not to be taken absolutely but suggestively. I will only say, I understand them and sometimes use them for scaffolding:

Brush – God the Father, Kether (and Daath), Will, Mind, archetypal 0

Painted Scroll – God the Son, Tipharet and Yesod, the “real world,” the territory, archetypal 1

Written Scroll – The Holy Spirit, Malkuth, the “symbolic world,” the map, archetypal 2

The domains of the 2 sets of 2 weapons, the 4 weapons, and the 3 weapons overlap, and each domain encompasses everything. Look again to the Avatamsaka Sutra, to the serpent-forms and the world-symbols, to how everything interweaves! Ah!


Divination works (I am most familiar with the I Ching system), occult analysis works (again I am most familiar with the I Ching, and also somewhat with Kaballah), and magic works. These for all the obvious reasons anyone could agree upon, and perhaps others. You know the Ultimate Truth, and I have nothing more to say.

There is practice beyond perceiving the Dao, which can take many forms. Every mystic who really entered it was right, and there is no great advantage to eclecticism. But this has happened to be my path.

For some very valid and helpful and inspiring texts on direction and action after entering the Dao (and of course, this is not a particular momentary event, but you will know what I mean), look to the 道德经, or to the 清静经, or to the Bible, or to Alice in Wonderland, or to the Bodhicaryavatara or to the Tripitaka and the other sutras and tantras (though on this, beware that many things are intentionally obscured or sealed from you, and that it is often, indeed usually unwise to profane the sacred). Crowley’s reading list for the student is decent, though his own translations from Chinese are pretty bad in my opinion. I may compile some such curricula myself some time.

There are many other resources, and the one who has entered the Dao, or at least who clearly perceives it, is usually easily recognizable to another (though even this sense is developed and refined in time; many intentionally manifest humbly or vaguely, or else otherwise than they could or as you may expect). Therefore let those who have come before you—especially who are in other ways similar to you—guide you, if you wish/will/must.

Know also that many who have so seen and been do not linger in text, but turn to art and music and films and games and other such (perhaps less restrictive) media of expression. But also know that not all “artists” have so seen. But again you shall recognize them, or even if not, shall gain some value thereof the art—and then what does it matter? There is no such thing as a good forgery.

The Kabbalah and the I Ching are also incredibly sublime and profound and worthy of intense study. Personally, I find them more suitable as tools of thoughtful analysis than divination by random means. These two are indeed so incredibly profound and sublime that I wonder if they were not devised by something other than Man (even in its broadest sense), but then we may also have other such fantastic achievements in science… This is again something to cut with the Sword of Wisdom; I have no conclusion, even in sight.

In summary, I suggest: be efficient, and do not dilly-dally in the comfort of the uselessly familiar. Towards this end, it is useful to crystallize your Will into something more tangible, and this is the work of alchemy and of high magic.

Know to whom you speak; recognize the power of each person’s Wisdom-Sword, and craft your presentations accordingly. Avoid being useless and avoid being wrong. Do better where better is, though here the extrema equilibria are many and not one. In this context may my other motto also be better understood: “design, ethnography, translation! (otherwise, you’re wrong.)” To these, I might add maths, art, and mysticism. These are the valid extrema I have seen so far, the valiant works at the actual frontiers.

Otherwise, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will.”

As for me, L.D., O.O.O., P.P.P.P., Q.Q.Q.Q.Q..

93 93/93

Applied Fugue Theoretical

Beacon of Certainty


Jamgon Ju Mipham Gyatso was a prolific teacher and writer of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, and the clearest, least twilight-language shrouded writer I know of who’ve been translated into English, who has a deep and unmistaken understanding of that body of knowledge (tantra, Madhyamaka, Ri-mèd, Dzogchen).

Among his works, Beacon of Certainty is a particularly concise condensation of pretty much the entirety of Madhyamaka teachings. David Chapman writes that “The Nyingma branch of Buddhism, to which I belong, considers Ju Mipham’s Beacon of Certainty the definitive text.”1See “Mipham” at

Mipham himself was known for giving powerful condensations and commentary of established works, such as Luminous Essence, his condensation of the Guhyagarbha Tantra, which—according to Wikipedia (and to Mipham)—is “the main tantra of the Mahayoga class and the primary Tantric text studied in the Nyingma tradition as a key to understanding empowerment, samaya, mantras, mandalas and other Vajrayana topics.”

In profoundly unworthy imitation of Mipham Rinpoche’s style, I am here giving an extreme condensation of Mipham’s own work, the Beacon of Certainty. I’ve posted a thread to this effect on Twitter

but, given the extreme importance of the text, thought that it was worth expanding and giving a somewhat more stable place on the Internet. May all sentient beings benefit.

Important Disclaimer: I am not a legitimate holder of any Tibetan tantric lineage, and have not received the proper transmissions and empowerments from anybody.

With that, take my words only as they are. They are no more than they appear.


Trapped in doubt’s net, one’s mind
Is released by the lamp of Mañjuvajra,
Which enters one’s heart as profound certainty.
Indeed, I have faith in the eyes that see the excellent path!

The Beacon of Certainty is introduced thus, as a treatise on certainty. This is not “certainty” in some strange esoteric sense, like the Faith of the Christians or the commitment of the sutric Buddhists2 yanas 1-6 according to this classification, but simple literal certainty in all that one may be certain of.

Therefore it is the certainty arrived in Madhyamaka3often translated “Middle Way,” see via the absolute negation of doubtful extremes.

The way to arrive at certainty is exactly by clearing doubt, and perhaps this is a reason the Beacon is structured as a sage’s responses to a series of seven questions4this page gives the questions, and the wiki may help with navigating this tradition/idiom especially with regards to terminology to test the sage’s true understanding of several issues beyond conventional scholarship.

Tema I

Q: According to which of the two negations do you explain the view?
[implicative, absolute]

The implicative negation is negation that implies something else, much like the classical logical complement. ¬p is as much a statement as p.

The absolute negation is negation that does not imply anything else, leaving one only closer to emptiness (except not actually, since form and emptiness are inextricably intertwined), to certainty.

Therefore the view is explained according to the absolute negation.

Tema II

Q: Do arhats realize both types of selflessness?
[of “I,” of phenomena]

Many spiritual paths of practice, the sutric Buddhist paths, in particular, involve much meditation on “I” and its transcience. It is often taught how the “I” is just a label attached to an agglomeration of matter and memories and such and separated from the rest of phenomenal experience.

Since the “I” is indeed absent of a permanent, unitary, independent identity, the arhat comes to the realization of the selflessness of “I.” However, this realization does not preclude the use of “I” as a useful category, concept, or reference in thought and communication. Sometimes it is good to think in frames without “I,” but not all the time.

Even less often is it useful, particularly in conventional everyday life or monastic residence, to conceive of “object-level” phenomena as lacking permanent, unitary identity. After all, why else would an object-oriented language for navigating life have emerged so hegemonically, to the preclusion of selflessness-recognition as the default mode?

Therefore though the arhat has the faculties necessary for recognizing the selflessness (perhaps better “objectlessness”) of all phenomena, she typically does not simply due to never meditating upon it, but only upon the domain of the “I.”

So the answer is: in potentiality yes, but in actuality no.

Tema III

Q: Does meditation involve modal apprehension?

“Modal” refers to finite conceptual divisibility. To approach things in terms of definite categories, names, concepts, systems etc. Anything that can be finitely captured in positive definition. Any countable set or its subsets, in the mathematical sense, as literally provable via diagonal arguments. Any haltable program.

The definition for “apprehend” as given by searching it on Google is given here for convenience.

For more perspective, the question is given on the Rigpa wiki as “Does meditation involve grasping at an object?”

David Chapman’s excellent hypertext book Meaningness claims to have originally been an attempt to “to write a short, straightforward explanation of Mipham’s answer”5See “Mipham” at to this question. It’s not—the simple answer is just “yes.” Rather, Chapman’s work is an aid to doing the kind of meditation described in Mipham, providing an exploration of the four extremes (given by Chapman as eternalism, nihilism, monism, and dualism) that are commonly apprehended or apprehended from (sub-apprehended?), and why they are flawed.

Indeed, Mipham’s answer is that such exploration is the only way to arrive at certainty, by the elimination of doubts via the clear and untainted perception of what generates doubt: the modes as final.

Therefore meditation does involve modal apprehension, since it is through specifically directed meditation that doubt is cleared away and certainty arrived at wherever the meditation is directed. (And this is also why arhats often do not actually realize the second kind of selflessness).

Tema IV

Q: Does one meditate analytically or transically?

Analytical meditation is like what is commonly called “philosophy” or “introspection.” Pretty intuitive name.

Settling meditation is like what is commonly called “mindfulness meditation.” But it’s a bit more complicated.

Chapman’s Meaningness is a very good aid to analytical meditation. In the act of actively reading and thinking through it, really engaging with the ideas, especially when they are troubling, that is what you are doing. You may—privately or with the aid of other people and media—have had similar-feeling experiences that lead towards ever-clearer understanding, but not in a directly embodied way. That’s analytical meditation, and it’s important.

Given this, I think Lulie gives an amazing explanation of the connections between analytical and settling meditation in this Twitter thread.

In fact, I’ll just post the whole thing.

This is pretty much exactly why analytical meditation isn’t always ideal. Despite the most powerful wishes of my probable audience, pure thought isn’t going to give you a powerful and beautiful body for effectively doing things in the world, nor solve all your traumas6In almost all cases. Lulie tells me she’s seen people who are extremely heady but also extremely low-trauma, but that this is rare. This is also consistent with the esoteric canon—these people probably being suitable for the “mantric vehicle.” See this post. Settling meditation (and just plain physical exercise) is needed for such things, though perhaps pure and untainted thought inevitably leads to this realization.

Everything Lulie says also applies in the reverse direction, to show that settling meditation by itself is also not the ideal approach7Again, in almost all cases. There may be rare exceptions.. I am simply actively designing for my probable user-base. But this is especially relevant if you’re a firm mindfulness-meditation-and-nothing-elser, especially if you’re not explicitly committed to a sutric vehicle, with a competent teacher. If you loved Focusing, perhaps try Folding, or even try to dive into the depths of esoteric tantric philosophy itself8would recommend the 9th chapter of the Bodhicharyavatara (for current sutrics [Theravada, Zen]) and/or the actual Beacon of Certainty (for current tantrics [Vajrayana, Dzogchen]) to start with.

This all illustrates the practical meaning of this topic, but for conceptual/terminological clarification, the division between “analytical” and “transical” is not really about mind and body, but about how attention is actively directed. From what I hear and gather from bold section titles, the topic of Focusing is settling meditation, but Folding would actually be analytical meditation, since it goes into the spaces of which Gendlin repeatedly emphasizes “DO NOT GO INSIDE IT,” and “Stand back from it” (Chapter 4).

Disclaimer: I haven’t actually read either.

Therefore the answer to the inquiry is “both.”

Tema V

Q: Which of the two realities is most important?
[ultimate, relative]

The ultimate reality is called “ultimate” because there is nothing beyond it. It is arrived at by the constant elimination of any doubt that arises, like an infinitely powerful and infinitely recursive version of Occam’s razor. I elaborate a bit here.

However, the ultimate reality CERTAINLY cannot be expressed in form. To do so would literally be to solve the halting problem and to construct a (surely “sufficiently powerful”) consistent and complete formal system, both of which we know is impossible.

Yet the realities we navigate in everyday life can not and should not be defined exclusively outside of forms. To speak of “I” and “you” and “table” and “idea” and such is very useful for navigation. Form-based predictive models like Newtonian physics and such are also very useful for producing technologies. In fact, intuitively, non-form-based models cannot be applied (especially by someone not highly realized, like the typical creator-laborer) to produce formful fruit, which is appropriately called “profit” in the Daodejing9Although, it is a central idea in Taoism that usefulness/potentiality/action is derived exclusively from emptiness rather than form. See especially Chapter 11 of the Daodejing. “Therefore with there(-)being as profit, without there(-)being as action” [trans. mine]. But I shall not elaborate on this here..

On a more local level, “profit” in a more general sense cannot be manifested at all without a good view of form-reality, which is relative reality. Without a good view of forms, we literally wouldn’t be able to do anything. But again, for all the reasons Chapman argues, and more, good relative realities can only be manifested from a clear view of ultimate reality. This is why the CEOs of all effective companies and why the true power-directors of all effective institutions and labor-structures10in a very general sense, as in systems for manifesting “profit” in the Daoist sense, though the Marxist ideas around this are very helpful for elucidation MUST operate post-systematically11These “labor-structures” extend from the smallest systems, of subatomic dynamics, to the largest, of intergalactic ones. This is something extremely profound to ponder upon, but I won’t elaborate too much here..

Therefore, acquaintance with the ultimate reality is necessary for producing good manifestations in relative reality, but only relative reality can actually be manifested.

Tema VI

Q: What is the common object of disparate perceptions?

I was talking a bit with Jeremiah Benson about this one. In a blog post, he proposes seven axioms of mind and world.

1. The world exists.
2. The mind exists.
3. A mind exists inside of the world.
4. The mind can observe the world.
5. What the mind perceives isn’t the complete truth.
6. There is an infinite set of possible minds.
7. Each mind contains an element of truth (veridical perception).


These seven “axioms” are particularly ubiquitous in the West, and especially among laypeople, though among academics and such the first four may be quite contentious.

The approach of Madhyamaka school is to deny all of the first four axioms. They are not certainly established, therefore they are not of the ultimate view.

Mind though that this is an absolute negation, which means that it does not imply anything. The denial of the first four axioms changes absolutely nothing about the form-nature of all appearances. It’s like the continuum hypothesis. So stop worrying about it and go do science or something.

Also note that it is canonical to Madhyamaka that the “pratyekabuddha yana”12 (e.g. Theravada, Vipassana) arhat, and even the “bodhisattva yana”13 (e.g. Mahayana, Zen) practitioner does not realize the illusory nature of “indivisible moments of consciousness,” perhaps expressible here as “minds.” A more thorough critique and explanation, particularly suitable for practitioners on these vehicles, is given in the 9th chapter of the Bodhicharyavatara. Shoutout to all my arhat & bodhisattva friends out there; may you quickly advance along the path.

Tema VII

Q: Does Madhyamaka have a position or not?

This is the most beautiful of the bunch—perhaps even the most beautiful thing in the world. Buckle up, kids; this one will blow your mind. Like I kid you not when I first realized the significance of this I entered an ecstatic trance state for like four hours.

“Madhyamaka” is often translated as “Middle Way.” First, acquaint yourself with what the Middle Way is by reading this excellent post by Chapman. But keep in mind that Chapman’s answer, “no,” is (not entirely) wrong. Don’t look ahead.

Alright. I assume you’ve read the post now and have a decent grasp of what the question is asking, so here’s Mipham’s response. With a lot of negative explanations and images and metaphors and such, Mipham basically comes to the answer:

To answer “yes” or “no” would itself be a non-middle position.

This is a strange loop. Mipham basically does the Gödel’s incompleteness theorems thing, but with the entirety of reality and experience. No wonder it is called the “Great Perfection,” infinitely subtle and profound!


I’ll conclude my commentary with a poem of my own, which I’ve published before but few have seen or understood. I think this commentary will give it greater perspective, perhaps as a call to action, indeed an

Invocation to Growth


That not-to-know is a place of hiding. Incompleteness coming before an acknowledgment of simultaneous so and not-so, in which both disappear into the ? of meaning.

And that nirvana is as scary as they say, the revolt against its witnessing as natural as the impetus away from what came before. That defense of “I don’t know I don’t care,” which even I don’t remember when and wherefore disappeared, into the ? of no-meaning.

et coagula

I don’t remember if this was the gateway to wonderland, terrible nothing leading alike to death and paradise. If paradise, it was only paradise-in-the-mirror—invisible, hinted at, even now unclear.

But here I am now, seeing clearly, cruelly seeing That as not-where-I-am. And I am often tempted to extend my hand through the mirror which distorts me into a monster, laughing at the world-serpent Ouroborous, coiled oh-so-ridiculously around its own happy end.