There’s something very grounding about the invocation of the stars as a cultural schelling point of the collective body. I find comfort in the reliable cycles of our celestial bodies during a time where truth shifts as easily as sand. Overwhelmed by the disorienting chaos of our immediate environments, perhaps we merely need to shift perspectives and look heavenwards to the moon and stars. If we’re lucky and the sky is clear, we can take a slow, deep breath and notice that we stand with feet firmly rooted to Earth, surrounded by the cosmic movement of the universe.
Our friend C, who has been drawn deeply into Hellinistic astrology, recently guided me through my astrological birth chart reading. She shared this beautiful myth about an originating cosmic consciousness that wanted to experience itself, so it shattered itself into pieces and became the universe. As she spoke, I had this vivid vision of my soul, as a fragment of this greater consciousness, passing through the planets in our Solar System and picking up the qualities and energies from each celestial body, and then eventually landing on earth to be born as my uniquely situated self. “We are all made of stars,” she said, and I suddenly understood the power of this evocative phrase that I might have rolled my eyes at in the past.
I remember only a couple of years ago when we were chatting with our friend K about the rise of the Spiritualism movement between the late 1800s and early 1900s in Western nations, where powerful, wealthy folks consulted with spirit mediums and Ouija boards to speak with dead relatives and seek outcomes of wars. We brought up the ancient practice of trepanation , where a doctor would drill a hole into the skull a person’s head to let out evil spirits, and marvelled at the practice of more contemporary voluntary trepanation, where proponents claim that it can “improve the blood circulation around the brain” and expand one’s consciousness. We scoffed and said: “Ha! Can you even imagine?!” – with the smug confidence of modern, secular, rational thinkers.
Okay so we’re definitely not drilling holes into our brains, but during this surreal isolating dreamscape of COVID-19, we have started consulting the I-Ching to wonder – even within the bounded container of a Safe Ghost Space – about a Greater Mystery that invites us to co-produce cryptic, cosmic meaning into the “random” casting of an algorithm. We can accept the reality of our experience – the qualitative phenomenon of a surprising moment of clarity or insight when that “random” reading seems to hit home and resonate, helping us pull personal meaning out of a chaotic situation. We can (and do) say: “Heh – I don’t believe in this. I don’t actually think it’s real or True (with a capital-T). I just do this for fun!” But then again, because the Folie à Deux loves digging back to first principles, we wonder: What is belief? What is Truth? What is reality (dude)?!
For a while, we’ve relied on replicability and reliability in Science as a way to determine what is “fact” and objective reality. Take a hypothesis, test it. If the same thing happens again and again, it’s probably real. If we can build more stuff on top of it, then it’s more real. But do we limit what we believe in what is empirically replicable within a lab? Clearly our lives are entangled in concepts, metaphors and stories that where we “believe” in – we’re quote-unquote “Canadians” in the concept of the nation-state of “Canada”, led by a “Prime Minister” whose power is bestowed upon the myth of “Democracy”. The continued power of these shared stories – the circles that we draw around the dots – aren’t built on “facts”, but rely on some degree of shared resonance among the collective body. With stories – what is felt is what is true. So in this strange liminal time, we’re noticing that our current systems and stories are no longer resonating (and for many, they never did at all), we’re believing less and less, and therefore, the truth of stories are also dissolving. So what new beliefs, truths and realities do we create from here?
As we stretch our thinking through Karen Barad’s quantum metaphysics of Agential Realism (since we’re both reading her book Meeting the Universe Halfway ), the phenomena we experience are not representative properties of what is “out in the world” – this “objective” world outside our heads that we are separate from. No, these phenomena are material realities that we co-produce through our perception and meaning-making – the entangled intra-actions where I meet Cosmos, and Cosmos meets I – is what drives our shared becoming in the world. So rather than seeking capital-T Truth objective reality, maybe we need to collectively make new meaning – rich, resonating, co-evolving, life-affirming, sympoietic meaning. And guess what, Meaning is the sexiest when it meets Mystery.
Okay, so maybe I’m just trying to justify taking pleasure in being suffused by the growing zeitgeist of sacred spiritualism, astrological symbolism and occult divination – basically indulging in witchy vibes. I still believe that we need critical discernment, yet I am but a small part (hopefully an imaginal cell) in the collective body going through metamorphosis, and my membrane has permitted my careful curiosity around Magic as a way to expand past the limits of our relationship with Known. Like most great leaps in Revolutionary science, you have to give yourself permission to notice the unusual, the strange, the chaotic and the unexplainable in the current frames of how we see the world, in order to wonder about them, then perhaps follow those threads towards new ways of becoming, meaning- and world-making.
As I brush past the shimmering veil of the “woo” to step deeper into the dark forest, I also sense that we – through the trials and tribulations of historical traumas and ancestral knowledges weaving through our flesh – are developing a greater senseful discernment around these domains. We’ve been through and still observe the cult-like dynamics that arose from the Western counterculture movement in the 60s and now with Q-Anon. We are learning about the toxic potential for coercive and often abusive power relations around spiritual gurus and mystics, and really, as #metoo revealed, behind any person afforded asymmetric power within Capitalism. We’re advocating for greater literacy and support around mental health and trauma healing. We will not so easily surrender our discernment.
As the Folie à Deux (our “Madness of Two” ) jumps off the edge – because leaping away from the known is how we move towards possible futures that are unimaginable to us now – I’ll save a place in our pantheon of selves for the Critical Cynic, who will grumpily grip onto the bungee cord tied to our waist. This Post-Modern Cynic remains stubbornly alive in me, skeptical of all meta-narratives and whispering to us about the Void. So to honour her, I will finish with a quote from Thomas Pynchon’s postmodern opus Gravity’s Rainbow… and still say that an aggregate of last moments is not unlike the drops of water returning to a vast ocean.
“It’s been a prevalent notion. Fallen sparks. Fragments of vessels broken at the Creation. And someday, somehow, before the end, a gathering back to home. A messenger from the Kingdom, arriving at the last moment. But I tell you there is no such message, no such home – only the millions of last moments . . . nothing more. Our history is an aggregate of last moments.”