Wednesday, December 10, 2008

An Interlude At Linderhof

I sat enjoying the garden at Linderhof in Bavaria on a chill day that later broke warm sunlight over us, writing observations in a journal as I waited for the others to complete a palace tour. A bad heart, although at the time I thought it the flu, had benched me despite there being few stairs on the two-storey interior tour. I had taken the tour on a prior visit and I hoped our guests would enjoy the opulence of this jewel box of a mansion.

In the garden itself, families strolled, children chased swans and each other, and swaths of sun swept across the slope above the more formal fountains and walkways. Forests surrounded all this.

Behind the palace rose steeper hills, into one of which was set an artificial grotto. In it an artificial lake allowed Wagnerian swan boats to sail from amphitheater seats to the stage across the water, where opera would be performed for Mad King Ludwig. Tourists found this grotto only when guides opened a boulder in the hillside; Walt Disney had been inspired by this as much as by Ludwig’s other masterpiece, Neuschwannstein, only a few miles away.

Jotting notes, it struck me that my three children were likely too young to remember much of this. Our guests, my wife’s mother and her cousin, a retired school teacher, would benefit from it but not in any life-changing way. Capturing some of the scene’s charm, and breathing in the slightly warmed German air as wan sun tried to defeat the misty rain, seemed to me the best way to be in the moment, whether or not I used the setting later in fiction.

The day before, climbing 150 stairs in a tower at Neuschwannstein, I had been forced to pause for breath every ten steps or so, and older Germans had stopped, concerned for my heart. I’d laughed them off.

A few months later a heart attack at age 40 would prove them right, but at the time I thought I was merely feeling a bit under the weather from all the travel. My aches and pains were just a flu, I told myself. Had I died waiting in that lovely formal garden my kids would have missed saying goodbye and my wife’s quick smooch would have been our last touch.

For those few moments sitting in Linderhof’s garden, I imagined how it must have been for Ludwig, when the palace and gardens, the trails in the wooded hills, the walks down by the lake, and everything visible in that perfect little Bavarian valley had been his to enjoy in privacy. An interlude, I thought. A moment’s stillness amidst life’s turbulence.

That it still offered as much to those who accepted it made the place special, like an inadvertent last kiss.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Portrait of a Lady of Will

What has happened to esoterica?

Consider that the unexamined library of one branch of the Order of the Golden Dawn is at least partly in the hands of a smugly ignorant, proudly bigoted, determinedly closed-minded farmer’s housewife with a sense of entitlement bigger than her hubby’s north forty and a dread certainty in how utterly right she is regardless of how little she knows about any given topic. Don’t ask if she’s read this or that; she does not read, but is occasionally read to, by a devoted husband no doubt eager to control wifey’s head content the same way he approves of her friends and the people he’ll share her sexuality with. Don’t pester her with details or citations, she needs none of that and will in fact blame them, as if they are faults, on your refusal to see her as final arbiter of all things. Nothing ever confuses or unsettles her and if she gets angry at you she will deny it and ask you sweetly why you’re so rattled. She will insist her opinion balances any and all massing of facts and she will deny logic has any place in her thoughts. She’s sure and if you disagree, you are obviously a lesser being condemned to struggle until if you’re lucky eventually you get it right like she did her first time out because she’s special, can’t you tell?

Do as thou wilt she takes as a license for selfishness, for example. Her self-centered prattling and intense disinterest when the conversation wanders from a tight-beam focus on her demonstrate which star bedazzles her. She makes up her mind quickly, she brags, not realizing it never takes long to count to one.

That she never changes her mind is also obvious once one realizes she is the only thing in her world that matters. Enlightenment, indeed; she basks in her own glow, sensing no other, unaware of the cosmos around her.

Every light beam curves to show her only what she wishes to see. All endings are happy and all ponies are unicorns. A bland silliness bogs down anything real that attempts to enter her awareness, stopping it eventually before it even glimpses an event horizon of hope. Superficial be thy name, if you can skim far enough across the vast surface-without-depth to catch her glittering sunset eye.

There is no hatred, nor any strong response of any kind, possible with a Scarlet woman such as this. Professional swooners and masochists desperate for nihilistic humiliation hem her in with a delusion of suitor regard, passionate in their unfeeling devotion to accepting her boredom as their due. Their paltry and wrinkled gifts never delight, their witty-like flirting never rises her silver trout flash to strike, and the dead flies on the windowsills of their pining gazes are the litter of her disregard. Her blessing is an offhand, “Whatever.”

This woman marks a type that has taken over esoteric groups worldwide but especially in America, where the species thrives. It goes far beyond the troll type that disrupts so many esoteric discussion groups online. Her lineage maintains rituals with unimaginative inability to diverge from what she’s learned and dominates ceremonial magick with a magisterial arrogance straight out of The Emperor’s New Clothes. Mundanity has triumphed by wielding its Excalibur of literalism. She is the stasis that murders any living system into mere dogma.

So if you are a student of esoterica and wonder why it’s impossible to find intelligence, innovation, or simply involvement in a community or even in another individual, think of this woman and her oft-mentioned Will. By will she means ego, her pridefulness being evident in the preening she does each time she declares this or that as a manifestation of her Thelemic will. “It is my will to disagree,” or “I’ve focused my will on other things,” or even, “That is not my will.” Beware a little learning, oh ye of too much faith.

And so we students must walk our paths each alone, fleeing, fugitive, banished, and migratory, forsaking not the lesson while avoiding like plague itself this plague of brainless little hausfrau teachers who have confiscated, with their strapping farmer husbands, so many clumps and clots of esoterica’s life’s blood to stir in their pots and pans and cauldrons like so much broth for the brood. From mater familias save us all, no goddess she.

--Frater Profugus, Returned