Tuesday, May 31, 2011


The state draws on its tools, which have their own ideals, which have their own shape, which have their own tensile strength. A silent battle ensues. Does the customer win? Are their customers? Or are they clients? Or casualties? Or merely respondents?

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Faith as a Basis for Scientific Knowledge

Thomas Huxley, who strongly supported Darwin's cause in the 19th century, had this to say about science:-
The one act of faith in the convert to science is:
the confession of the universality of order
and of the absolute validity,
in all times and under all circumstances,
of the law of causation.
This confession is an act of faith
because by the nature of the case
the truth of such propositions
is not susceptible of proof.
For those who have ever wondered if science and faith are opposed, this statement should set such fears at rest. Faith, by definition, is the acceptance of belief despite the fact that complete evidence is lacking and proof is unobtainable. It underpins all things, but some things more than others. And yet, if it underpins anything, that thing is based on faith.

It should be noted that Huxley continued by saying that this particular faith was 'not blind, but reasonable; because it is invariably confirmed by experience, and constitutes the sole trustworthy foundation for all action.' This statement, I leave to my readers to evaluate.

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Sunday, May 29, 2011


En arche en ho logos, begins that most theological gospel of St John. In the beginning was the Word. And so began one of the strangest dreams I've ever had, in which I dreamt I was leading the life of a specialist in Greek tablets unearthed on the ancient and shifting boundary between Wales and England.

I remember the dream in great detail because I kept waking up to pen notes on my own real-world thesis, which continued to exist after I had woken up. But the dream persisted despite these useful interruptions, and it involved watching Barcelona thrash Manchester United from a friend's house, at a party involving his many relatives, to which I'd been invited by his late mother.

I remember other details, some involving the evolving house of my dreams, which in this particular iteration was a cross between stacked campervans and shophouses from the south of this island. But the last I remember of the dream was a voice saying to me, "If you find it in Phtakis, it will tell you a lot about Welsh-English relations."

Naturally, when I was sure I was awake, I did an Internet search on Phtakis. The results astonished me. There were few hits. But the hits I got were for a long-dead scholar of that name, whose speciality appeared to have been the collection and cataloguing of... stone tablets with Greek inscriptions, in Asia Minor. Brrrr.

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Saturday, May 28, 2011


A sarcophagus is something which 'eats the flesh'; the word sarx in Greek means 'flesh'. This came out of a random thought I had as I looked at a picture of the pyramids and thought of the great age of those mighty monuments.

And then I remembered the Greek word anaimosarke. This word means 'flesh without blood', or alternatively, 'not of flesh and blood'. It is used in an ancient poem about the cicada, a merry fellow which seems to be anaimosarke.

And I remembered further. I remembered a post from seven years ago. In that long-ago silence, something stirred. I remember an inquisition, and someone telling me that this post was about somebody else. I remember thinking, "This is nonsense, my post is about Superman and Batman!"

The problem in this post-modern age is that it's not about what you intended when you wrote something, but what people think you intended, what people can twist your writing to mean, and what people can say you have influenced other people to write. Whether you did any of it is immaterial. It's the Macavity Syndrome. And when that strikes, it is as good as eating your flesh and everything else in it.

This isn't to excuse anything ill-considered in my own writing. I have written things that I have been sorry for afterwards. And honestly, deeply so. But I am a little upset to be blamed for things I did not write.

Yet, there are still things that abide. Faith, hope and love, for example.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

A Hazy Shade

"Look around, the leaves are brown now; and the sky's a hazy shade of winter," says the old Simon & Garfunkel song. It's an autumnal song, and somewhat unsuitable for the day just past, which was my brother's 40th birthday.

One of the main points of the conversation over dinner was his account of how his new students were unable to say why, precisely, a 'non-traditional security threat' was 'non-traditional'. After all, as he pointed out, piracy and plagues are historically not uncommon.

I laughed and said, "The main thing is that you can't use traditional agencies of state, soldiers and police, to deal with these things, right?"

"Exactly!" he boomed. "But how is it that these young people can't get it?"

That's the problem with the current educational system. Having holy scriptures in the form of the 'Dominant Narrative' (which sounds like The Lord's Prayer, etymologically) of local history, and the 'Ten-Year Series' (which sounds like an analogue of the Decalogue), students don't know things and don't think about ideas that fall outside the spotlit magic circles of their learning. They aren't academics, but pragmatics — doers who do thinking, rather than think.

Of course, there are always exceptions. But these prove the rule (which means they challenge the rule, not that they provide evidence that the rule exists), and in a city-state with a dominant rule, such proving is a perilous task; the tendency to essay such a task is often scythed down by well-meaning friends, relatives and teachers.

Perhaps this year signals a new start. Perhaps those who prove the rule will show it is not proof against criticism. And perhaps we will once again have learners who learn, and thinkers who think.

Otherwise, "Look around, the leaves are brown; there's a patch of snow on the ground."

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Thursday, May 26, 2011


My ancestors were all rebellious by nature, on both sides of my family, unto the third and fourth generation. They left their homes, were expelled, revolted, went on strike, cut themselves loose from family or church, went on unexplained journeys, took up unnecessary labours, were renowned for peculiar and often disturbing behaviour.

And yet, time has sanctified some memories and overlaid others with the sweet dust and patina of time. The unruliness was interred with bone and ash; the good deeds grew like wildflowers. This is by the grace of God. Faith, hope, and love: these three abide, but the greatest of these is love.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The True History of the RFC Triangle

It is always with amused but slightly sour displeasure that I read of the 'dominant narrative' of the founding of the city-state that sits at the tip of the Kra Peninsula. It is dominant only because it serves certain entrenched purposes for a certain elite population, and not because it is the solid historical bedrock that it is touted to be.

Here then, I shall provide links which the uninformed can access so as to enhance their range of historical perspectives. Let me take you to a gateway between two oceans, and I shall introduce you to three men of Britain: R, F and C.

Here is the history of R: [1] [2] [3] [4]

Here is the history of F: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

Here is the history of C: [1] [2] [3] [4]

Examine the sources, O reader. And try, if you will, to answer the question: Who is the founder of that which is founded? Or does the task confound?


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Kepler's Legacy

Early yesterday morning, I started reading John Banville's Kepler. It is a classically intense piece of biographical fiction which aims a heated spotlight on the life and times of Johannes Kepler, astrologer and mathematician, and his painful intellectual relationships with Nicolaus Copernicus (dead but whose ideas act like goads to Kepler) and Tycho Brahe (alive, but not for long).

While still in the first few pages, I glanced idly across the internet and discovered that, by some quirk of time and fate, May 23 was the day chosen by the Episcopalian church to commemorate the lives of Kepler and Copernicus. A skeptic would say that this was one of the many inevitable coincidences of life, only remembered because it was so randomly exact.

To me, it was a sign to think a little deeper about what I was reading. Kepler was a Lutheran holdout in a time of painful religious and political change. Obsessed with the idea of divine mathematics, he routinely cast horoscopes and made predictions that came out right again and again. He ardently believed in the music of the spheres; he claimed to hear it every now and then.

It was his struggle with Tycho Brahe's data on the orbit of Mars that brought him to the realisation that the area swept out by a body in orbit remained the same at any distance for the same period of time. Nearly a century later, Newton was able to build on Kepler and show that this was a consequence of gravitational behaviour.

I have suddenly discovered that I am in possession of Banville's Doctor Copernicus and The Newton Letter as well. What wonderful distractions! I cannot wait to move out from under the burden of educational globalisation and back into the history of science. And somewhere between those points, I hope to enjoy tracing out that arc of my own orbit.

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Monday, May 23, 2011


In front of me sits a curious artifact. It is a sphere mounted on an indented plinth, both parts in shiny, reflective steel.

The sphere is, on closer inspection, a globe. It has a surface made from jigsaw fragments, which as my eldest niece once discovered, can be removed from the underlying sphere and treated as a magnetic puzzle.

It's not an easy puzzle because the crafty craftsmen distinguished land from sea, on this surface, by having the land in matt silver-grey and the sea in reflective silver. From some angles, it all looks the same.

I think of globalisation a lot. This artifact helps me think, sometimes. But just as the artifact is, so also the world. From some angles, many things look quite the same. From others, not so much.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011


Insulation with tea. The random thoughts of a unicorn. The idea of insula, an island, making an island by creating a barrier around it, hence insulation. And consultation, and thoughts of consular vs insular. And hence, here I sit, thinking of insultation. Thanks very much, O pinnate vitreosity!


Saturday, May 21, 2011


Several times in the last day or so, I have been made aware of my own uncharitable and prideful nature. As one old friend pointed out a while back, I shouldn't be kicking people when they're down. And not with polished leather shoes. Even if a lot of it is in my own mind.

It was very bad of me. Hence, a new resolution. Be kind. Forgive. And most difficult for the proud, seek forgiveness.

There are lots of excuses a man can dream of in order to avoid such difficulties. But they don't really excuse, do they? As Lewis once pointed out, it is silly to think up excuses when the Highest knows all the things which can legitimately excuse you, and those that don't. You can be assured that in the divine order of justice, you will be excused where excuse is due.

And also, you will be judged as judgement is due, especially if you think you are beyond it. So, do all things in love.

Hence, this blog will have to stop being angry. And I advise my distant fellows elsewhere to perhaps reconsider your anger too. Some of you have duly done so, and I appreciate that; we can all learn from each other to be kind, to forbear, to "trust God, see all, nor be afraid."

The fellowship remains strong, but perhaps we should not make things harder for the Citadel as it approaches what might very well be a renaissance. We should live in hope, and not in Schadenfreude. There are, after all, ways to seal the Abyss.

Did it take a pagan poet to remind us of this? Sigh. I repent, and hope it will stick.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

The Problem of Small Strong States

A strong state, said Max Weber in 1919, is one which has a monopoly over the legitimate use of force. As many others have added since then (like Migdal in 1988), a strong state taxes the population in some way and reassigns these expropriations to the general purposes and for the general advantage of the population. Migdal also pointed out that a strong state, with its centralising authority structure, is opposed to a strong society, in which authority is decentralised. You can find variations of strong and weak states, and strong and weak societies, all over the world.

The USA is a superstate which balances the strong-state/strong-society dichotomy well. It has the advantage of being composed as a kind of federation of plausibly independent states. Hence there is a balance between the Federal centre and the functions of the USA on one hand, and the state epicentres and state functions on the other. This balance can be found to some extent in Germany and Switzerland, among others.

However, there is less latitude for tiny states. A small state like Andorra or Luxembourg, Monaco or Singapore, does not take decentralisation well because the web of relationships between various components is too tightly woven. Even if you artificially privatise everything, the state still needs to look after the integrity and needs of the overall polity. High-density city-states cannot survive as a bunch of separate but federated components — you cannot build a nation of independent farmer-soldiers or baronies when the population density is too high.

Eventually, individuals in a tiny state will bump into the web of relationships and be subsumed into the ruling establishment. There is little choice, because there is only one centre. Citizens can try to create separate centres of power and legitimacy, but these will only be mitochondria to the mighty nucleus of state government.

Strong states, however, need diversity to survive. Small strong states have the problem of obtaining sufficient diversity within their population limits. This means that, as with the smaller organisms, either asexual reproduction by splitting (probably not viable, but it's been tried before) or sexual reproduction by mingling imported genes must occur.

Most small states have been formed and continue to thrive by receiving external input. The problem is that frequently it isn't possible to tell when you're getting a 'junk' gene input that will never do you any good, a 'good' gene input that will help you do better, or a 'reservist' gene input that might be of use someday but not just yet. So a more diverse net must be cast, and yet more exacting filters must be used.

What a problem! How can small strong states survive? Quite often, they end up as members of an agglomerate, as parasites, or in some sort of mutual relationship where members all provide different functions to the whole. Very seldom do modern city-states thrive.

As of this century, only one full-fledged city-state remains.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

School Quality

In 1966, the Coleman Report on Equality of Educational Opportunity was produced under the LBJ administration in the USA. The findings in that report were of great interest, because the main finding was that the effect of school quality on student performance was less than the effect of family background, by a large margin.

The initial reaction from the Johnson administration was disappointment; President Johnson had wanted to establish a fairer society by reducing unfair social advantage through a level educational playing field. Since school quality effects were minimal, it was thought that perhaps making better schools was not necessarily a good thing; rather, they would just magnify the advantage of family background.

However, this was not the whole story. As researchers sometimes observe, some Americans tend to think that because of the amount of published research they produce, their story is the whole story. But in 1982-3, Heyneman and Loxley showed that across nations, something else was in play.

In fact, Heyneman and Loxley found that the 'Coleman Effect' occurred mostly in economically developed countries, while larger school effects and smaller family effects occurred in less wealthy nations. At the same time, achievement in mathematics and science was strongly related to national economic development; about 1/3 of the difference in math/science achievement could be attributed to this. These effects became known as the 'HL Effect', a reversed Coleman Effect which implied that schools were more important than social background in some cases.

Meanwhile, Ceci (1991) found that for every year of schooling, after accounting for all other factors, students gained 0.3 to 0.6 of a point in effective IQ. That is, by standardised measurements of cognitive effectiveness, being in school made students do better in cognitive tasks. (Yes, of the kind that schools are designed to produce and measure, so this shouldn't surprise anyone.)

Such findings can be linked directly to the history of education in Atlantis. Initially, when few people went to school, those few had a huge advantage in achievement as society's manpower markets required people with certain kinds of cognitive skills. However, when many cheap schools were built and mass education took hold, the overall achievement level rose throughout society, and those who came from 'early-adopter' families found their competitive edge eroded.

This competitive edge eroded even more when more and more students, from all backgrounds, began to spend more and more time in school. This unprecedented amount of schooling acted as a massive socio-economic leveller and raised a large middle class in the Atlantean population.

In modern Atlantis, one would expect to see the Coleman Effect in play again, since Atlantis is now very highly developed. And indeed, that is exactly what one might see. The effect of general school quality, although good, now produces a fairly standard, fairly good-quality product — some studies rate the average Atlantean as one of the best math/science students in the world.

Because Atlantean schools in the 1980s and 1990s produced little differentiable product, and all of reasonably good quality, the effect of socioeconomic background again began to be felt. Richer families could support even more extended and diffuse education opportunities beyond the state provisions. The state countered by attempting to finance its own talent supply, in a classic free-market spiral.

The current state of play is interesting. There is still that huge middle-class plateau, but rising above it are the twin peaks of extreme family background and extreme state sponsorship. Of course, being able to pile Mount Pelion upon Mount Ossa, as the Giants did, would allow an Atlantean to reach Mount Olympus and wield the thunderbolt against the Gods. And few realise that there is much that remains below the plateau, bound in Tarteros.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011


With great readership comes great responsibility. Or something like that. The wind blows the leaves around. Some leaves are not so beautiful; they cry out in vein. Some just leave. I shall repaint the posts. Obviously, Wordpress has more to offer although its interface is more complicated.

I shall meditate, block and delete.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Language as a Way of Knowing

Lector, si argumentum requiris, circumspice. Or something like that.

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Monday, May 16, 2011


Event = outcome. Latin ventus = 'wind', venire = 'to issue forth', 'to come', and by extension, 'to happen'. Venting. Venti, venti, venti. Glug. Caffeine.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Reason as a Way of Knowing

Reason is the way in which we console ourselves that the universe is congruent with our brain's model of it. It seems to work. But it is not so much a way of knowing as a way with which we define a certain kind of indirect knowing.

Reason as most people have it is apparently the linking of facts and ideas so that they appear to meet certain tests. Knowledge based on reason will generally meet the tests of validity and reliability, transferability and generalisability, and perhaps the tighter tests of coherence and congruence demanded by pure logic.

Two main processes operate in what we call reason: induction, which is based on experience and empirical knowledge; and deduction, which is based on rules and axioms. The former assumes that if we have observed prior cases, we can use those cases to formulate rules and generate norms; the latter assumes that if we have rules, we can use those to classify and determine (or delineate) the cases we are presented with.

The provisional conclusions we must draw are called inferences; the possible conclusions we may draw are called implications. This roughly outlines the concept of reason, and also fixes the boundaries of the kind of knowledge it can provide.

Reason suffers from two problems: simply put, deduction requires rules and axioms, and we assume these are right before we apply them; induction requires a critical number of cases, but this is not always known, and we do not always know what cases are relevant. In theory, both should cancel each other's defects out. In practice, this is not always so.

Nevertheless, apart from even more abstruse considerations concerning the nature of reality, reason (by its own self-defined coherence and consistency) is the best bet we have of making useful sense of the world — which doesn't say much, but says enough.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011


It happened as the Cabal predicted, sitting in our caffeinated haze around a humble table on the Hill of Tin. The oldest order has given way to the next generation at last. The past of mud and blood and glory has begun to fade. We are grateful for what they won, but the more discerning have also noted what we lost.

And yet, here we are, standing on the terminus between two oceans, somewhat unafraid.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Senses as a Way of Knowing

Throughout the scaffolding and steel of our bodies runs the silver line of nerve and axon, of filament and spark. The largest mass of this hides in the storehouse, the granary of our heads; but the mass outside is greater than the complex clump within.

The senses are not the ineffable chemical ocean of our emotional selves, but they are the main source of input, the neural net that shifts like a littoral at the periphery, sending messages up the shingle and through the tiny grains along the beach. The senses are directed messengers, sensitive each one of them to specific things that turn them on or off, or more on or less on, moron or lesson.

We have many senses: sight and sound, smell and taste and touch — these five kings claimed the kingdom centuries ago. But they are not infallible, and they are not alone. We have balance and temperature, location and motion, hunger and pain, and a host of other minor players which occasionally may take the stage and steal a scene.

The senses give us data, one datum at a time or many; data by themselves do not constitute information unless a context is woven to give them meaning. And when that meaning is verified, when definition and validity, generalisability and reliability, utility and transferability are all satisfied, the meaning becomes knowledge.

Sensory perception on its own is not knowledge, but it is a way to knowledge. It provides ceaseless, ever self-censored increments of material. From the many strands of sense, each of us builds a structure, weaves a tapestry, crafts a framework. It is the way we know what seems to be, the material underpinning of reality.

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Thursday, May 12, 2011


The times, they are a-changin'...

The old order gives way to new. Our revels now are ended.

Revelatory orders of the times are at hand.

Life is strange, and endlessly so.

World without end.


Emotion as a Way of Knowing

Let us define emotion: it is the sum of the changes of your body as it experiences things; it is the product of those changes as the standpoint of your mind shifts, like shadow of a sundial as clouds cover the sun.

If emotion is a way of knowing, what knowledge does it lead us to? If it is a way, what kind of way — is it a broad thoroughfare or a narrow lane, an iron bridge or a wooden plank?

I sit and try to feel. There is no emotion that does not have the tides of the body, blood, bone, brain, brawn throbbing and pulsing behind it. There can be feelings without emotion, but no emotions without feelings. And each tendril of the emotional experience changes the world.

Emotion teaches you how a body, in all its chemical and biological and physical complexity, responds to the world of sense and being before the straitjackets of sensibility and reason confine it. Emotion bypasses the careful chalice of language, and spills that fluid into the world.

If emotion is a way of knowing, it leads us to knowledge of self, and how the self is the mirror of the other. It helps us to know the world without thinking about what it means in itself, but what it is, and what it means, to us.

Emotion is the manifold path which blazes like fire or spins like web across the forest of complexity. It joins point to unconnected point, it defies the voice of (t)reason. It outraces the slowness of induction, which teaches by accumulated experience and example; it outflanks the lethal thrust of deduction, which teaches by rule and law. It helps us to an intuitive conclusion before the unfolding of the story is complete.

And, if it is all that, it is also unreliable, sometimes scornful of validity, on occasion spectacularly unuseful. But it is the truest portion of ourselves, the bulk of what we are inside.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011


The brain can't be used in the same way too often. I need a break. And more sleep.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Cities are unsustainable. They are too dense; think of the thousands of people crammed into a single square kilometre. There are advantages, of course — you have a wider range of direct human interactions in a much smaller space, there are efficiencies to be gained. The disadvantages are legion — nobody is self-sufficient and co-dependency is a necessity.

Independent city-states, by which we mean a state whose physical limits are essentially the city limits, are all republics of some sort. There is insufficient grist for the totalitarian mill, and the necessary dealings with outsiders must be delegated to a corps of expert representatives.

It is theoretically possible for such a state to be a theocracy, but in this era it is unlikely. Vatican City, where the Holy See is colocated, is the one odd example of the theoretical theocratic city-state in practice. It has few of the functions of the true state, and creates only temporary citizens.

It is also possible for such a state to be a plutocracy, designed only for wealth creation. But somebody must then defend that state from predators, and hence such states become protectorates, subordinate affiliates, or mercenary hotels. This is so with Monaco, defended by France and completely unsustainable as a truly independent state.

But there are far fewer independent city-states than there were in the past. The borders have merged and run together; the city-states of the Low Countries are now the twelve provinces of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the city-states of the Italian peninsula are now the democratic Republic of Italy (minus San Marino and Vatican City). The ancient city-states of Greece are now the modern Hellenic Republic.

There is only one truly independent city-state left. It is unique. Years of brain-sapping 'national education', however, have kept most of its population politically unaware and historically naïve. This is changing, thanks to the rise of the Internet.

It is the Internet's abridgement of psychic geography that has done what history did not; the island at the tip of the Kra peninsula now finds itself not only a nexus for world trade, but a nexus of ideas. It must think about whether it will be a passive nexus, doomed to act as nothing but a transit port, or an active nexus, with something significant to contribute.

Perhaps its republican rulers should enrich the citizens' intellectual and cultural life. The wealth of the state is its defence, but the defence of the state is not its wealth. Similarly, education should free its citizens to be mercenaries elsewhere, building an abiding brand-name, just as the Swiss city-states did. The current situation is that half its education is conducted by mercenary educators.

And here, from my precarious little perch as citizen, I realise that I am seeing both too much and too little. Time for more thought and reflection.

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Monday, May 09, 2011

Word of the Day: Theogony

The Greek root -gonia means 'a point of origin'; in geometry, it is the point at which two different lines meet at an angle. In literature, Hesiod's Theogony is an account of the origins of the Gods.

But Hesiod's masterwork is not just a clever synthesis of all the mythology he could lay his hands on; rather, it is a long poem in which he establishes the right of the poet to rewrite the foundations of his world. In the end, the true story is not about the mythical basis of existence, but about how change and reform are the rights of humanity.

Along the way, of course, Hesiod does mention bloody revolution and how rebels always end up making themselves the new establishment. He mentions it three times. The final rebellion is when Prometheus, the learned titan whose name means 'Foresight', steals fire from Zeus and earns no reward except his loss of freedom and an eagle to eat his liver every day.

It is always fascinating to read mythology. It is not quite fantasy. It is a symbolic approach to understanding the way humans engineer their perceptions of the world so that the stories are easier to tell. And also, in case there are indeed gods on Olympus, this form of narrative disguises the poet and protects him from their wrath.

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Sunday, May 08, 2011

Tav ת

Tav is the last; it is a simple mark of the end of eternity.

It is an instant, a sign that checks a box, that says move on, this is done, there is nothing more to be seen. In the beginning, all was set in motion, say the legends, by what the Thunder said and did.

But this too is the magic of tav; what the Thunder is claimed to have said is not that irrevocable instant between eternity and time. Instead, things unfold like the petals of a rose, and nothing remains the same.


Saturday, May 07, 2011

A History of Atlantis

I realise that I have written often of the blessed island, the beautiful nation, the city that was the light of the south. For those who wish a convenient list, here are some links to what I have written.

When City and State are One: Part [ 1 ] [ 2 ] [ 3 ]

The Atlantean Myth:
1. The Thunderer's Tale
2. The Gnome's Tale [ Elegy ]
3. Black Diamond's Tale
4. Golden Mountain's Tale [ Elegy ]

An Atlantean Bestiary.
An Atlantean Map.
Fear in Atlantis.

Of course, there are omissions. There are always omissions. We seek eternal security, but sometimes we also remember internal security.


Sin/Shin ש

Sin is the twenty-first, and it is an armed bow, about to fire.

It is the aspiration and the moment of ignition, it is both the man who shoots and the missile shot. And where the tongue is, there also is the heart. It is what is to be, and also what it is that is to be.

Shin is the moment of change; where things were, things are not — and yet where things were tells you where things will be. The question that needs to be asked is where the archer aimed his shot before things changed.


Friday, May 06, 2011

Resh ר

Resh is twentieth, and it is a testament; it is catharsis.

It is the lifting of fog at the end of oppression, it is the wind in the trees as the dew hangs heavily. What has been placed in this world does not always serve us well, but God's will is sovereign.

Resh has no magic, but it is of the oldest kind. Before there was sunlight or Adam walked in Eden, the Highest opened the universe. There is a universe in your head; do you know where the front door key is?


Thursday, May 05, 2011

Qoph ק

Qoph is nineteenth, and it has special significance to me; it is enigma.

It is the cerebral mystery, the sentience of the mind or the machine in which the mind resides. It is the catch in the throat which is the pause in the thought; it is the moment between two levels of existence and one level of time.

The magic of qoph is that nobody knows what to make of it. It can be abandoned but not forgotten; it might be the child of promise, but nobody knows it yet. And who is to say what promise it bears, or what secrets it keeps?


Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Tsade צ

Tsade is eighteenth and it is circumspection.

It is the careful hunt and the unavoidable gaze; it is the instrument that captures and keeps, the archivist's tool in the search for truth. It is the selective wisdom of the quest, and the wise ruthlessness of the scholar.

Tsade changes magic into science. It eliminates the superfluity of ritual, but keeps the essentials and codifies them. What is done in the end is the minimal, the ideal, the true. What more can you ask? Or should you?


Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Pe פ

Pe is seventeenth, prime and curious. It is a circular meditation.

It is a bubble from the waters, the beginning of music and the end of dreams; it is the memory of Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you. Whether Gentile or Jew, you who turn the wheel and look to windward, consider.

What magic pe has is hidden in its folding and unfolding. For what cannot be seen in convolution may be seen in involution, and what revolves may also evolve. And that is why meditation is often best when turned upon a wheel.


Monday, May 02, 2011

Ayin ע

Ayin is sixteenth and it is an eye, wisely seeing.

It is the thought before the deed, the moment before action. And when it is there, it has created the action of the mind. But it is the far sound of the wind, as the Spirit moves on the face of the waters.

Ayin's magic is light, and where there is enough light, there is life, and movement. It carries the memory of the deeps with it, and it tells you, Whisper now no longer, and be free to move.


Sunday, May 01, 2011

Samekh ס

Samekh is fifteenth, and it is a nail. More appropriately, it is a post.

It is breath released thinly, because all is held in reserve. But how large the reserve is or what kind it is, these things are unknown. For this is all about secrets, and the movement of shadow as the evening falls. Things retire, silently.

Samekh has no magic of its own save one. It remains unchanged but changes others with the irrevocable. Tell it like bad news, say it in the streets in whispered voices. Even then, nobody can tell the manner of its passing, wherever it comes from.