Skip

New Wave and the New Age: a Blondie Songwriter's Mystic Trip.
September 14, 2010 10:51 PM   Subscribe

Touched By Your Presence, Dear: Ex-Blondie songwriter and bassist Gary Lachman (aka "Gary Valentine") blogs (and is interviewed) about his books on Jung, Steiner, Ouspensky, and Sixties mysticism, and his time spent toiling in the fields of Crowleyana and The Gurdjieff Work.
posted by darth_tedious (20 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't know much about Gurdjieff, never having participated in it, but I'll always have a soft spot for it in my heart because it's the reason I met the guitarist from Television, Richard Lloyd (what is it with these guys?). My high school girlfriend's dad was in the same Gurdjieff group as him, they became friends, and Richard Lloyd started coming to his house for dinner, which I was usually present for.

Sadly, I didn't really know a damn thing about Television until a few years later, and by then it was too late.
posted by invitapriore at 11:10 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have so many things to say about this and so little of them make sense.
posted by armisme at 11:54 PM on September 14, 2010


Belief in magick expected.
posted by Mblue at 2:36 AM on September 15, 2010


narrow-minded, reductionist 'scientistic' thinking dominant today

Heh.
posted by 3.2.3 at 4:09 AM on September 15, 2010


Wow, far out that someone from a post-psychedelic band is into such stuff. Back in the day I would have guessed that such a reading list meant someone had a deep-diving experience that opened up a new universe of questions.

There are many dimensions of human experience that science is mute about because it is, necessarily, blind in one eye. And those experiences can be every bit as powerful or moreso than the ones famous scientists and mathers have reported. Jung's plunge began with the experience that resulted in "7 Sermons" and led him to spend much of his later years exploring the psychological underpinnings of alchemy - a subject about which mainstream science can say nothing intelligible. The fact that Newton left science behind and spent years with alchemy didn't mean he went looney, but you might think so once you noticed how studiously that fact was ignored and hushed up for centuries.

So if Jung and Newton weren't mad, what were they up to for all those years? Hmmm.
posted by Twang at 5:30 AM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


The interviewer, if I'm not mistaken, is Iain McNay, who's also behind the Cherry Red Records empire, a classic post punk label and now the umbrella curator of maybe a couple of dozen other labels, from RPM to Rev-Ola to Esoteric.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:38 AM on September 15, 2010


It's rather fascinating that any discussion of the esoteric must necessarily be larded with blanket condemnation of science. Insecure much, guys?
posted by fleetmouse at 5:45 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Newton's exploration of alchemy did not mean that he went looney. It just means that some of his investigations were more fruitful than others. It is in the nature of research that a certain number of blind alleys are explored, because we do not know in advance what we will find. If we imagine going back in time, and taking Newton back with us to the present for a visit (an event which I am sure cannot happen, but which we can still imagine) Newton would be able to learn about actual chemistry and the reason why it has supplanted alchemy, and he would have no difficulty understanding it. He wouldn't conclude that modern scientists have made a terrible error by choosing science over mysticism.

Jung's bizarre theories about the collective unconscious have never been confirmed by any objective means, and as far as I am concerned can be considered a work of fiction. Possibly they are an interesting and artistic work of fiction, but nothing more than that.

The fact that earlier scientists had more mystical tendencies than later scientists is not an indication that science has lost its way, but rather, it is an indication that science has made progress, which is exactly what we should expect.

As for rock musicians, they are free to believe what they want but I wouldn't depend upon them as philosophical guides. Charles Manson is also a musician.
posted by grizzled at 6:13 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


a subject about which mainstream science can say nothing intelligible.

Nor can science say anything intelligible about God or salvation or what comes after death. However personally rewarding it may be to consider these concepts, it isn't the job of "science" to do so.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:16 AM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Turn Off Your Mind is a mess - too long by half, clumsily written, and badly researched.

The intersection of the 60s counterculture and pre-hippie mysticism really interests me, and I wanted to enjoy it - that story is going to have to wait for someone with more patience, organizational skill, and feeling for narrative, though.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:33 AM on September 15, 2010


"The 'hard-headed' scientific community might not have accepted him,"

Well...yeah. Good for them. He wasn't a scientist and he wasn't doing science.

If anyone can correct me on this point, please do.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:10 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


grizzled: Newton would be able to learn about actual chemistry and the reason why it has supplanted alchemy

But if you were to read what Jung spent decades exploring about alchemy, you'd also learn that it had nothing to do with chemistry whatsoever ... and that nothing was supplanted but the supposed goal of alchemy -- often derided as (and threatened with the accusation that it was) a stupid or criminal attempt at transsubstantiation. But it was far far more, which Jung describes in volume after volume, and with far more dedicated scholarship than nearly anyone else could muster these days.

Jung's bizarre theories about the collective unconscious have never been confirmed by any objective means

Of course they're *not* confirmable by "objective" means of consensualizing reality - to which science is limited - any more than the existence of consciousness, meaning, wisdom and purpose could be confirmed by B.F. Skinner or measured by quantum probes. But Jung's "bizarre" theories are in accord with centuries of experiences that arose from the inner natures of intelligent, questioning, committed human beings - and recognized as such, and as valuable, by many people - among them, in his day, many eminent scientists, such as Wolfgang Pauli, as well as skilled interpreters of myth such as Joseph Campbell.
posted by Twang at 7:47 AM on September 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


Jung featured in a episode of Law and Order: CI, recently. The old wizard must be coming back into vogue.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:58 AM on September 15, 2010


Jung's bizarre theories about the collective unconscious have never been confirmed by any objective means, and as far as I am concerned can be considered a work of fiction.

As can Francis Galton, as can Pierre Janet, as can Freud, as can Piaget, Adler, Maslow, Rogers, etc., etc.
posted by blucevalo at 8:18 AM on September 15, 2010


I don't see acknowledging science may not be the alpha and omega of the whole universe being a blanket condemnation. Don't be so insecure! It's a big universe and there's room for all kinds of interpretation of the external stimulus to our senses that seems to be our lives. Can't a scientist have a hobby? Can't some mystics figure out how to use a GPS? "The romantic and the scientist are good for each other. The scientist keeps the romantic honest and the romantic keeps the scientist human" Can't we all just get along without a pissing contest?
posted by Redhush at 8:26 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you are looking for a synthesis of spiritual and scientific thought, allow me to recommend Constantin Brunner, of whose work it has been written:
[I]n our age a philosophy would have to meet at least three basic requirements. It ought to give an account of the meaning and the uses of science, it ought to apply the scientific insights thus gained to the analysis of the psychological nature of man and his relation to society, and it ought to set its sight also at the larger, the cosmic view of things, in order to search for a positive anchorage in this age of relative, shifting and uncertain values.

The philosophy of Constantin Brunner seems to have met these requirements in a surprisingly full measure.


A great place to start is the compilation Science, spirit, superstition. The spiritually inclined might want to have a look at Our Christ: The Revolt of the mystical genius.

In my view, Brunner's work provides just the rock-solid foundation required by the spiritual awakening of the post-war period to secure itself against the counter-attack of philistinism.
posted by No Robots at 9:09 AM on September 15, 2010


Oops. Here is the correct link for Science, spirit, superstition.
posted by No Robots at 9:13 AM on September 15, 2010


Twang, please re-read your own comment:

grizzled: Newton would be able to learn about actual chemistry and the reason why it has supplanted alchemy

But if you were to read what Jung spent decades exploring about alchemy, you'd also learn that it had nothing to do with chemistry whatsoever ... and that nothing was supplanted but the supposed goal of alchemy -- often derided as (and threatened with the accusation that it was) a stupid or criminal attempt at transsubstantiation. But it was far far more, which Jung describes in volume after volume, and with far more dedicated scholarship than nearly anyone else could muster these days.

It appears that you started off talking about Newton and accidentally switched to Jung. Not that this is particularly important. In any event, if you think that alchemy has nothing to do with chemisty then I am afraid that you do not understand alchemy. I will add that regardless of the immense scholarship which Newton brought to the study of alchemy, it does not alter the fact that the alchemists were wrong in their basic theories, although they were right about many of the chemical details which they worked out in the pursuit of their incorrect theoretical objectives.
posted by grizzled at 9:25 AM on September 15, 2010


I enjoyed watching the interview. Could not get into the blog. Have no desire to read his books. He had a great story about getting thrown out of David Bowie's house by two female bodyguards. His observations regarding the Crowley folks and the Gurdjieff folks were reminiscent of my own experiences. His observations regarding Colin Wilson and Rudolf Steiner seem naive to me.
posted by bukvich at 12:31 PM on September 15, 2010


I liked Turn off Your Mind, but will be the first to admit that I'm not otherwise familiar with a lot of what he was talking about there, so I wouldn't know about the research quality.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:54 PM on September 15, 2010


« Older “Fashions fade, style is eternal.”   |   Mooing Vuitton in the verdant fields of a mall. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post