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Website Profile: Precis: We have apparently entered an age of great catastrophes. With climate change and the rest, it certainly looks like the next several hundred years will be very hard for human beings. What can I do? I would like to speak to the survivors. Can I?
Overview: The Alphabeticon is a new website art project with an unusual public service purpose. It is a proposed divination system that is supposed to be survivable in the age of horrible catastrophes and busted junk that the human race is apparently now entering. The system is ultimately a slimmed down version of Tarot but with the concepts rearranged onto the English alphabet and packed with memorization aids. You can memorize the concepts then throw the materials away. The developer is the leading experimental artist in the Pagan movement in the U.S. The website has some pretty extensive thought provoking text, an artwork picture gallery, software for doing readings with various layouts and a free download do-it-yourself kit. The artwork is modern art in black and white. The project is work in process.
Some Preliminary Discussion Of The Project
February 9, 2008, 6:23 AM
We have apparently entered an age of great catastrophes. With climate change and the rest, it certainly looks like the next several hundred years will be very hard for human beings. What can I do? I would like to speak to the survivors. Can I?
If we can, I'm sure there's much that we should say to our descendents. Now is the Information Age and countless matters that in other times were utterly unknown or mere conjecture or arguments of faith are now actual facts to us if we are simply well informed individuals. Even knowledge of ourselves, which is the ground of wisdom, through anthropology and history and medical science and the rest, has now become rich with well known facts beyond the fondest hopes of the Enlightenment. I guess much of that is likely to be lost in the coming general impoverishment. So could we save some bits of it that seem most important by somehow speaking them very clearly now? And even with myself personally, my own researches into Mind and also the passage through the Twentieth Century of my parents and myself, which I observed carefully, both strike me as worth adding to the store of human knowledge if I can.
And besides all that, we surely owe posterity some accounting for what we did to them. How did we do our crimes and why?
Well, actually, I'm only planning to express my own stuff with this project. The rest of human knowledge will have to speak for itself. The apology for our destruction of the planet is not explicitly included in the project's prospectus either because I haven't found a way to say it, although it may be looming in the background. So this piece of artwork concentrates on my discoveries in Mind and some of the lessons I think I probably learned from the Twentieth Century.
You may be familiar with my extensive work in Tarot. That's all fine and good, but Tarot is a child of the printing press and therefore it is probably not appropriate technology for the age of busted gear that is probably beginning. Currently, our culture's most popular divination tool, which is Tarot, in its present form, is obtained by the magical practitioner from a high tech manufacturing and distribution network. That is unsustainable. In our culture divination is tied up with industrial production. That is way out of line with basic tenets of the Western Occult Tradition's perennial wisdom teachings and it is frankly bizarre.
We need a divination system which the practitioner would mostly carry in their head. There is an old system in some regions of Africa where you draw a diagram on an open space of soil one evening - presumably it is a schematic diagram of life, the universe and everything that you have memorized and/or adapted - then you return the next morning and read the footprints added to it by animals during the night. In the photograph I saw, it looked rather like a large backgammon board with various extra marks. I wish I knew more about it. It sounds kind of like a cross between Ouija and Tarot but fabricated into a material object extemporaneously on the spot. I guess also perhaps a practitioner might keep private notes or sketches.
And too of course there is I Ching. In our peculiar realm today, I Ching requires a book you obtained from a printing press, plus your personal experience, pencil, paper and three pennies. But actually, in fact, in its ancient natural habitat in China, an I Ching reading required your knowledge, a brush, ink and paper, and a box of dried flower stalks that you previously collected and kept on hand. No book. The system does have almost as many icons as Tarot - 64 hexagrams versus 78 cards - but the I Ching system is packed full of memorization aids. The 64 hexagrams have many various memory aids attached to them. These include very concise poems of breathtaking beauty, comic and dramatic story bits, fascinating geometric diagrams, cosmology theories, and much else. It's true there have been printed or scribe-copied I Ching books since ancient times, but when doing divination sessions you were supposed to graduate out of using that manufactured object and work fluently from memory.
(I should mention here that I have a paragraph on Norse Runes further on.)
(I should also make this note: Practices where you simply drum or dance or chant or sing or meditate or pray or breathe intoxicating vapors or ingest intoxicating food or beverages or gaze on majestic scenery or have sex to reach the proper mental state of complete otherness, and then simply speak, are here omitted from discussion. Necessarily. Divination techniques in that category are not very popular in our culture. If you and I are personally acquainted, it will be no surprise to hear I value that kind of doing very highly, and it has shaped my life and work countless times, as recently as last Saturday, but Western culture for several centuries now has strongly preferred the highly analytic kind of divination where you have a structured understanding of life, although it is certainly open to your interpretations, and then you mystically conjure Mind to select the pertinent bits of it, as in Tarot or I Ching or that African geomantic method described above or even Ouija too. That analytic idea structure thing is certainly not unique to our Western culture but it apparently fits our Western culture very well, and especially as developed in Tarot, but Tarot, in its present form, will probably be lost soon. So there is something of an emergency. A survivable replacement for or version of Tarot should be offered soon. Soon. That is what I'm hoping to address. So the whole other world of non-analytic divination is out of scope in this project. But thank you for wondering.)
Here's the project's statement of purpose:
We want to offer a replacement for or version of Tarot that is survivable for the likely coming age of horrible catastrophes and broken junk. That means, for one thing, that the system must be carried in the user's mind and then manifested with materials that come to hand. That means it must be rewarding and easy to memorize and easy to imagine with. That means it must be a pretty accurate portrayal of human beings and their doings, but open to mental play, and well equipped with memory aids and have much fewer icons than the current awkward overloaded factory version. And it must be colored for the times in which it will be used, which is to say it must be helpful to people who have dreadful painful lives.
I got the meanings for the letters in Alphabeticon from Tarot. It just so happens that the Aces plus the Major Arcana in Tarot total 26 cards. And I knew this set of meanings can work in divination sessions because the Aces plus the Major Arcana form a kind of summarized upper level or view inside the Tarot deck. It is even an old accepted practice to do readings with a stripped down simplified deck consisting of just those cards. Very nice. Excellent coincidence. Sweet.
The Norse Runes are a very interesting example of a similar but different system that is popular alongside Tarot today. The Rune practitioner is required to study an ancient foreign alphabet and ancient foreign language (Early Norse) and is thereby invited to the profitable exercise of imagining what life was like in a very different culture than their own. This historical reenactment study method is not for everyone, of course, but it does offer interesting implications for our project. Imagine someone three hundred years from now using a version of our product which they obtained by word of mouth plus maybe some teacher's personal notes and sketches. The person who first published the Runes in modern times told a story where they got it just like that in northern Scotland.
Current project design calls for publishing it as a workbook. This workbook will have pages printed with the cards which the user can cut out. There will be a variety of pages printed with a layout sheet - a tabletop pattern for doing divination - which the user can also cut out. There will be suggestions for making little letter "stones" from clay or wood or pebbles or etc. with the letters of the alphabet written on them that the user can use for divination instead of cards, after the cards have helped them commit the divinatory meanings of the letters into memory. They can, of course, also choose to discard the stones, paper layout sheets, the book itself and all after the letter meanings are secure in living memory and therefore freed in their imagination. Indeed, this workbook has suggestions for using letters keyed to ideas about human life completely as mental concepts without cards or stones at all, even maybe without pen and paper. Numerology, bibliomancy and so on. Philosophic meditation. Analysis of sacred texts?
Why modern art? Why black and white? Please insert some explanation here involving the fact that the Alphabeticon cards are intended to be merely self-instruction material. They are alphabet flash cards like children use but designed by the leading experimental artist in the Pagan movement, blah, blah, blah. Also black and white is cheaper and lower tech to print than color. Also modern art is psychologically very close to children's art and thereby encourages a user to make their own sketches of the pictures and throw away mine. There is complex interacting music, dance and play, etc., etc., in this art. My informative chart "New Modern Art - The Theory In A Nutshell" will definitely be included in the book.
The word "Alphabeticon" has a previous meaning. The previous meaning is quite obscure, non-trademarked and only related in the very slight way of involving a similar train of thought on different subject matter which is the art history of the Soviet Union. So I re-used it. Apologies for any confusion.
What is this claim about the lessons of the Twentieth Century being in the project? Huh??? Where? Well, see, that material is embodied in the interpretations which I gave to the Aces and Major Arcana cards when I adopted them from Tarot into this project. My interpretations of the Tarot cards which I gave the Alphabeticon letters. They embody a certain viewpoint on life. They have a certain coloration. My parents were an alcohol addict and a traumatized veteran of the War To Kill Hitler, who worked very hard and did all they could but could not show much warmth. I grew up as a white boy in the Jim Crow South, seeing madness in my people. I was a Cold War soldier. I was a Hippie. I am a pacifist. I am a Pagan. That is all distilled into the teachings about life which I wrote for the Alphabeticon. Those little writings are my lessons from the Twentieth Century. I hope they are loving and free. If so, I guess they might be a voice the future needs. In any case, they may be a worthy effort.
Blessed be us all.
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