The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for June 17th, 2011

such a sight

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Apologies for the dire tone of today’s post, this is the sort of narrative which Our Lady of the Pentacle usually asks me to pass her the hemlock following recitation, but I’m in a mood.

Knowledge of what might occur or exist behind these stout walls in Ravenswood, and the dire truth of what it might be that they guard against is strictly forbidden. The very pavement which provides a pedestrian path alongside these sky flung ribbons of masonry is delineated with the property line of the facility. Private security guards patrol in merciless boredom, watching for the itinerant photographer who might stray too close to this line.

In an age of terror, curiosity is an esoteric and questionable trait.

from wikipedia

Esotericism or Esoterism signifies the holding of esoteric opinions or beliefs, that is, ideas preserved or understood by a small group or those specially initiated, or of rare or unusual interest. The term derives from the Greek ἐσωτερικός (esôterikos), a compound of ἔσω (esô): “within”, thus “pertaining to the more inward”, mystic. Its antonym is “exoteric”.
The term can also refer to the academic study of esoteric religious movements and philosophies, or more generally of alternative or marginalized religious movements or philosophies whose proponents distinguish their beliefs, practices, and experiences from mainstream institutionalized traditions.

Examples of esoteric religious movements and philosophies include Alchemy, Astrology, Anthroposophy, Christian mysticism, Magic, Mesmerism, Rosicrucianism, Swedenborgianism, Spiritualism, the Christian Theosophy of Jacob Böhme and his followers, and the theosophical currents associated with Helena Blavatsky and her followers. There are competing views regarding the common traits uniting these currents, not all of which involve “inwardness”, mystery, occultism or secrecy as a crucial trait.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Angry and pessimistic, your humble narrator fears not, simply because the cosmos manifests and organizes itself in wild chaotics which are beyond all ability to predict or control. Comfort is found in a simple credo of “there is no “then”, there is no “future”, there is only “now”.” Tomorrow might bring a megatsunami or asteroid hit, or a simple infection whose result resolves lethally.

If one was to consider all the possible distopian end states of our civilization with clear eyed rationalism, it would engender longing for a new dark age of blissful ignorance.

from wikipedia

This is the argument that technological civilizations may usually or invariably destroy themselves before or shortly after developing radio or space flight technology. Possible means of annihilation include nuclear war, biological warfare or accidental contamination, nanotechnological catastrophe, ill-advised physics experiments, a badly programmed super-intelligence, or a Malthusian catastrophe after the deterioration of a planet’s ecosphere. This general theme is explored both in fiction and in mainstream scientific theorizing. Indeed, there are probabilistic arguments which suggest that human extinction may occur sooner rather than later. In 1966 Sagan and Shklovskii suggested that technological civilizations will either tend to destroy themselves within a century of developing interstellar communicative capability or master their self-destructive tendencies and survive for billion-year timescales. Self-annihilation may also be viewed in terms of thermodynamics: insofar as life is an ordered system that can sustain itself against the tendency to disorder, the “external transmission” or interstellar communicative phase may be the point at which the system becomes unstable and self-destructs.

From a Darwinian perspective, self-destruction would be a paradoxical outcome of evolutionary success. The evolutionary psychology that developed during the competition for scarce resources over the course of human evolution has left the species subject to aggressive, instinctual drives. These compel humanity to consume resources, extend longevity, and to reproduce—in part, the very motives that led to the development of technological society. It seems likely that intelligent extraterrestrial life would evolve in a similar fashion and thus face the same possibility of self-destruction. And yet, to provide a good answer to Fermi’s Question, self-destruction by technological species would have to be a near universal occurrence.

This argument does not require the civilization to entirely self-destruct, only to become once again non-technological. In other ways it could persist and even thrive according to evolutionary standards, which postulate producing offspring as the sole goal of life—not “progress”, be it in terms of technology or even intelligence.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Childishly, one attempts to explain away the inherited guilt of a thousand generations with the declaration of personal innocence as if some sort of absolution actually mattered. Fate is not malleable, and one born to be king will rule in luxury while those others born to labor will toil and sweat in Malthusian dross.

That thing which might exist at the summit of the sapphire megalith, which does not think or breathe but eternally hungers as it gazes down upon men, finds our antics both humorous and quite profitable.

from wikipedia

Predestination is the Divine foreordaining or foreknowledge of all that will happen; with regard to the salvation of some and not others. It has been particularly associated with the teachings of John Calvin. Predestination may sometimes be used to refer to other, materialistic, spiritualist, non-theistic or polytheistic ideas of determinism, destiny, fate, doom, or adrsta. Such beliefs or philosophical systems may hold that any outcome is finally determined by the complex interaction of multiple, possibly immanent, possibly impersonal, possibly equal forces, rather than the issue of a Creator’s conscious choice.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Civilizations under threat typically react to existential terror by crafting novel mythologies about Doomsday, populating their nightmares with demonic entity and barbarian horde. Vast sums are spent on throwing up city walls, procuring the services of night watch and city guard, and armoring vital infrastructure against the attentions of barbarian sappers. Paranoid imaginings, colored by the capability and abilities of the threatened culture, place god like powers in the hands of bogeymen. In our own age, it is supposed that the esoteric weaponry achieved by the vast industrial power of superstates can be cobbled together with grocery store items and incomplete scientific formulae downloaded from dubious sources.

As always, the true threat comes from within, and it is the product of isolated fear, paranoid loneliness, and economic doldrums. (If you believe in suitcase atomics, you know very little about nuclear weapons, and I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn that’s for sale)

from wikipedia

In Norse mythology, Ragnarök (Old Norse “final destiny of the gods”) is a series of future events, including a great battle foretold to ultimately result in the death of a number of major figures (including the gods Odin, Thor, Týr, Freyr, Heimdall, and Loki), the occurrence of various natural disasters, and the subsequent submersion of the world in water. Afterward, the world will resurface anew and fertile, the surviving and reborn gods will meet, and the world will be repopulated by two human survivors. Ragnarök is an important event in the Norse canon, and has been the subject of scholarly discourse and theory.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Race, ethnicity, and class have always been the fifth column in the American superstate- but a new and far more dangerous force now rages across the nation. Like scavengers biting at the heels of a wounded elephant, the demands of the quarterly profit report and the galvanizing competition of foreign nations has caused the financial industries of our nation to anatomize the American industrial base and render us a nation of waitresses and waiters.

Race and ethnicity are unimportant again, the only color anyone sees any more is green- whether it be rightist profiteering or amorphous leftist societal engineering.

from wikipedia

The terms ethnicity and ethnic group are derived from the Greek word ἔθνος ethnos, normally translated as “nation”. The terms refer currently to people thought to have common ancestry who share a distinctive culture.

Herodotus is the first who stated the main characteristics of ethnicity in the 5th century BCE, with his famous account of what defines Greek identity, where he lists kinship (Greek: ὅμαιμον – homaimon, “of the same blood”), language (Greek: ὁμόγλωσσον – homoglōsson, “speaking the same language”, cults and customs (Greek: ὁμότροπον – homotropon, “of the same habits or life”).

The term “ethnic” and related forms from the 14th through the middle of the 19th century CE were used in English in the meaning of “pagan, heathen”, as ethnikos (Greek: ἐθνικός, literally “national”) was used as the LXX translation of Hebrew goyim “the nations, non-Hebrews, non-Jews”.

The modern meaning emerged in the mid 19th century and expresses the notion of “a people” or “a nation”. The term ethnicity is of 20th century coinage, attested from the 1950s. The term nationality depending on context may either be used synonymously with ethnicity, or synonymously with citizenship (in a sovereign state).

The modern usage of “ethnic group” further came to reflect the different kinds of encounters industrialised states have had with external groups, such as immigrants and indigenous peoples; “ethnic” thus came to stand in opposition to “national”, to refer to people with distinct cultural identities who, through migration or conquest, had become subject to a state or “nation” with a different cultural mainstream. — with the first usage of the term ethnic group in 1935, and entering the Oxford English Dictionary in 1972.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The risks of living in the scientific era are many. The long comfortable childhood of religious fervor and spiritual ecstasy enjoyed by mankind has at long last begun to give way to prosaic logic and motivated self interest. The vast ennui commented on by Sartre and others in the years following the 2nd phase of the 20th centuries “Thirty Years War”, a vague sense that the Hiroshima bomb signaled the death of God itself and ignited the spiritual longings for times gone by and gnostic interests which have come to be known as “New Age” is the rallying cry for the religious ecstatics who populate and color modern discourse.

The Wahabbi is not so different from the fundamentalist Christian or the Hasidic Jew in terms of clinging to orthodox familiarity in the hope of returning to some mythical age of holy splendor. They’re willing to take the air conditioning and cell phones, fly on intercontinental jets, and use the Internet- but are unwilling to swallow the truth that these manifest technologies represent. You can’t cherry pick scientific fact, and cafeteria empiricism is as unctuous to me as similar approaches to Catholicism or Jewry are to adherents of those belief systems.

Of course- they’ve got angels, I’ve got the Hydrogen bomb to believe in.

from wikipedia

Historian Jacques Barzun termed science “a faith as fanatical as any in history” and warned against the use of scientific thought to suppress considerations of meaning as integral to human existence. Many recent thinkers, such as Carolyn Merchant, Theodor Adorno and E. F. Schumacher considered that the 17th century scientific revolution shifted science from a focus on understanding nature, or wisdom, to a focus on manipulating nature, i.e. power, and that science’s emphasis on manipulating nature leads it inevitably to manipulate people, as well. Science’s focus on quantitative measures has led to critiques that it is unable to recognize important qualitative aspects of the world.

Philosopher of science Paul K Feyerabend advanced the idea of epistemological anarchism, which holds that there are no useful and exception-free methodological rules governing the progress of science or the growth of knowledge, and that the idea that science can or should operate according to universal and fixed rules is unrealistic, pernicious and detrimental to science itself. Feyerabend advocates treating science as an ideology alongside others such as religion, magic and mythology, and considers the dominance of science in society authoritarian and unjustified. He also contended (along with Imre Lakatos) that the demarcation problem of distinguishing science from pseudoscience on objective grounds is not possible and thus fatal to the notion of science running according to fixed, universal rules.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Such thoughts are the reason why the long walks with my camera are best performed alone, for these are the sort of things that occupy my thoughts while perambulating the concrete realities of western Queens and the larger Newtown Pentacle. Notions of self importance and aggrandizement fall by the wayside when one witnesses Lindethal’s bridge with it’s double cantilevers, or the ruins of the centuried terracotta house on Vernon. The shoulders of giants are what we stand upon, as we gaze suspiciously at each other.

Btw, I got scooped on the revelation of the exquisite and baroque details of the Terracotta House being revealed, check out for their far more timely set of images and comments.

from wikipedia

The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with faith or belief system, but religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect. Most religions have organized behaviors, including clerical hierarchies, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, congregations of laity, regular meetings or services for the purposes of veneration of a deity or for prayer, holy places (either natural or architectural), and/or scriptures. The practice of a religion may also include sermons, commemoration of the activities of a god or gods, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trance, initiations, funerary services, matrimonial services, meditation, music, art, dance, public service, or other aspects of human culture.

The development of religion has taken different forms in different cultures. Some religions place an emphasis on belief, while others emphasize practice. Some religions focus on the subjective experience of the religious individual, while others consider the activities of the religious community to be most important. Some religions claim to be universal, believing their laws and cosmology to be binding for everyone, while others are intended to be practiced only by a closely defined or localized group. In many places religion has been associated with public institutions such as education, hospitals, the family, government, and political hierarchies.

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