Saturday, March 2, 2013

General Semantics, Dune, and Whole-System Thinking

Some of the most important works in the field of consciousness has been done by mathematicians.  Even to name a few:  Lewis Carroll, Arthur Koestler, Buckminster Fuller, Alfred Korzybski, Heisenberg, Bertrand Russel, and P D Ouspensky; all mathematicians.   According to Korzybyski, founder of the Science of General Semantics; mathematics is a language

So what is language, then?  Language is a model.  It is an internalized conceptualization of the world around us.  Thankfully, as an internal map, it takes up no physical space.  But as a map of an observer-observed based reality, it must include the observer within it.  In other words: your own all-inclusive map of reality includes you.  And here we are then, back to the concept of self-reflexivity, one of the major tenets, I believe, of consciousness.  *Note:  All-inclusive in this context should be understood as "not leaving anything out"  or  attempt-at all-inclusive internal map.  Korzybski stressed the importance of the fact that our internal map does not cover all possible experience or sense-data.  The reader must be willing to go up and down the ladder of abstraction, so to have "Consciousness of abstraction." 

According to Korzybski, the internal map is a generalization, or mental projection, based on experience.  As such, it cannot contain all experiences.  Korzybyski also stresses the importance of awareness of the level of abstraction present in a given conceptual model, which is what he means when he states “the map is not the territory.”  There is a component of abstraction present in all verbal models.

Not only is math a language, but as such a model, it is a more accurate representation of reality than is accessible through the semantically-flawed colloquial English most of us have used since birth. The reason these men, these mathematicians, were able to see straight to the core of the consciousness issue was because they were given a sixth sense, that is:  an alternative conceptual model with which to view Universe.  

“As words are not the objects they represent, structure, and structure alone, becomes the only link which connects our verbal processes with the empirical data.” - Korzybyski

One of the fist impasses I came across when I began to read Buckminster Fuller were his bizarre coinages, omni-inclusive concepts, and strict attention-to-precision.  Bucky’s language-model of the universe was a direct result of his own concept-model of the universe.  Simultaneity and all-inclusiveness, relativity of motion, space-time, inside-outness, (rather than upside-down-ness, as there is no up/down in a relative system) these are all concepts that Buckminster Fuller had internalized as part of his world view.  Buckminster Fuller understood the importance of concept-models, real and imagined.

It’s no good to shoot holes in somebody’s battleship if you aren’t going to even give him a dingy to paddle home in.  Such is the state of General Semantics today.  There is no ready-made language that one might learn which would solve all the ills of our outdated (Korbzbyski called them Aristolean) language systems.  You can’t discuss the state of politics in the Middle East in pure mathematics.   

According to Korzybski, the best ways to understand his theories are to explain them to others.  Frank Herbert might have taken this idea to heart when he took some time out of his own schedule to write articles for General Semantics advocates in San Francisco.  Of the many ideas that Herbert fused together to create Dune, such as Ecology, Politics, Eugenics, Natural Selection, and so on, General Semantics is often forgotten on the wayside.  I think what impresses people most of all with Dune is this: Herbert’s Dune appears to have the complexity of a real universe:  Vastness, Intrigue, but most of all: (and important enough to repeat) Dune is COMPLEX.

There is already an article written on Dune and General Semantics, by Ronny Parkerson.  It appears in the magazine “A Review of General Semantics.”  It is available online, but it doesn’t cover a lot of the connections which I saw between Herbert’s and Korbzybski’s work.  Considering that this is a topic which droves of books could be written about, I think this scholarly article falls short, at least in my way of thinking.  Following are some of my own thoughts on the Dune-General Semantics connection.

Dune has always sent the semi-mystical neurons of my brain firing:  What is the Weirding Way?  What are the secret inner- teachings of the Bene Gesserit?  How did Paul become the Kwisatz Haderach?

G.S. themes are all over Dune, and their influence is subtle, but Frank Herbert turns subtlety into a force, a theme even.  For example, when Paul chooses his name among the Fremen, he chooses the name “Muad'Dib” after the Jerboa mouse, a subtle, silent, and omnipresent creature, which is “wise in the ways of the desert.”

If you read Science and Sanity, Korzybyski’s major G.S. text, you will observe a specific, almost Nietzschean delineation he makes between two types of possible people: Human and Animal.  This, mind you, is the same exact wording that Reverend Mother Gaius Mohiam uses when she is testing Paul with the pain-box.  “We Bene Gesserit sift people to find the humans.”  Now this is a highly loaded remark, considering the Bene Gesserit are the orchestrators of a Universe-wide Eugenics program, breeding for certain traits.  Subtlety-upon-subtlety, we later find out that these three people present, before testing with “the box,” are actually grandmother, mother, and son. (Mohiam, Jessica, and Paul, respectively)  This scene is the first and probably most memorable happening in the entire book.

According to Korzybyski, the term “time binding” is a non-elementalistic term which refers to any and all factors which “as a whole make man a man and which differentiate him from animals.” (My own emphasis)

Therefore what we are seeing in the “pain box test” is verification that the teachings took root, so to speak, in Paul’s consciousness.  To answer the above posed question “What are the secret inner-teachings of the Bene Gesseret?”  I believe these are the teachings of General Semantics.  Herbert goes on to add a little sci-fi extrapolation to these semantic skills and states that the Bene Gesserit can use them to manipulate people against their volition and even without their knowledge.  Frank Herbert calls this ability “Voice.”

Another byproduct of an advanced Semantic model, in Dune may be “Truthsense or Truthsay”  The most common example of this concept in the real world are “poker tells,” which are a result of the physical body (or perhaps right brain) rebelling against its own conscious verbal deception.  This concept has been brought to full extension in the “lie detector machine.”  Frank Herbert implies that a mastery of semantics could result in a human lie detector.  This Truthsense, as Herbert calls it, should be understood as separate from Paul’s developing oracular sense, such as he experiences in precognizant dreams. 

Additionally, we will remember, Paul was being trained as a Mentat.  Now, this is really important, and I’ll refer directly to Dune for the definition of Mentat:  “that class of Imperial Citizens trained for supreme accomplishments of logic.  “Human computers.””  Paul was trained from youth as a Mentat, and we see the fruition of several mutually complementary disciplines in Paul, culminating with drinking the water-of-life and becoming Kwisatz Haderach.  The Kwisatz Haderach is said to be the “male Bene Gesserit who could bridge space and time.” 

According to Korzbyski, the mathematical semantic model is vital for understanding the problems of the world.  “…without the help of professional mathematicians who will understand the general importance of structure and mathematical models, we shall not be able to solve our human problems in time to prevent quite serious breakdowns, since these solutions ultimately depend on structural semantic considerations.”

Korzybyski believed that only young people (as opposed to retrained older-people) who had not been permanently altered by the Aristolean semantic model would be able to employ the new semantic models intuitively and seamlessly, to their fullest value.

Duke Leto explains to Paul, that they have been, without Paul's own knowledge, training him as a Mentat:  "Your mother wanted me to be the one to tell you, Son. You see, you may have Mentat capabilities."  Paul stared at his father, unable to speak for a moment, then: "A Mentat?  Me? … [] …the special training from Hawat and his mother --the mnemonics, the focusing of awareness, the muscle control and sharpening of sensitivities, the study of languages and nuances of voices -- all of it clicked into a new kind of understanding in his mind.”  -Dune

Paul was the Kwizach Haderach, but born a generation too soon.  Mohaim states that Jessica was ordered to bear only Female Children, and the plan of the Sisterhood (Bene Gesserit) was to marry a “female Atreides to a male Harconnen” and bridge the gap.  Another couple of concepts come into play here.  We will remember that at the time of Jessica’s conception of Paul, she was Bene Gesseret, but was not yet a Reverend Mother.  This is a significant fact.  While every single Reverend Mother has a slight varying volition, there appears to be among them a common will.  This collusion could be interpreted as representing the common will of the entire female line, or even the Anima of the human species.  When Jessica chose the sex of her child, Paul, she did this as a personal choice, out of love.

In the later novels in the Dune Series, Chapterhouse, especially, we see that the Sisterhood uses more than just Voice (Semantics) to manipulate Kings.  At the time of Chapterhouse Dune, the Sisterhood is practicing a well developed method of sexual bonding and enslavement.  When the Sisterhood states that they want a Kwisatz Haderach that they can control, this is one nuance of the meanings present.

You can also see some structural similarities between the writing styles of Dune and Science and Sanity.  S&S starts all of its chapters with a few cerebral quotes, often from mathematicians, sometimes from philosophers.  Herbert takes the same format by heading his chapters in Dune with fictional excerpts from fictional holy-books, historical documents, or quotes/commentary from relevant characters.  This has the effect of setting the mood and also proving the validity of ideas that may not be familiar to the general reader.

What is the Spice?  How does it change consciousness? 

The Spice is an amalgam-symbol for the relationship that human beings have with drugs.  There are similarities between “the spice” and Aminata Muscaria, which has a history of Shamanistic and Mithraic use (that is, use in the worship of Mithra), possibly due to the function of muscimol as a GABA agonist.  But really, the way that Spice is used in Dune, it really appears to bear just as much a resemblance to Caffeine or Nicotine.  Paul states at one point that the spice is in everything on Dune.  In our everyday life, humans are coevolving with a huge, innocuous, and ever-present prevalence of mentally-altering substances, in just about everything we eat. 

Subtlety and accumulation, the difference between a poison and a medicine is only the dose.  "The spice," [Said Paul], "It's in everything here--the air, the soil, the food.  The geriatric spice. It's like the Truthsayer drug. It's a poison!"  [Jessica] stiffened.  His voice lowered and he repeated: "A poison--so subtle, so insidious . . . so irreversible. It won't even kill you unless you stop taking it. We can't leave Arrakis unless we take part of Arrakis with us."  The terrifying presence of his voice brooked no dispute.  "You and the spice," Paul said. "The spice changes anyone who gets this much of it, but thanks to you, I could bring the change to consciousness. I don't get to leave it in the unconscious where its disturbance can be blanked out. I can see it."  -Dune

From S&S:  “Any factor capable of altering the colloidal structure of the living protoplasm must have a marked effect on the behavior of the organism.  Experiments show that there are four main factors which are able to disturb the colloidal equilibrium” [are:]

1.       Physical
2.       Mechanical
3.       Chemical
4.       Biological
5.       Semantic

Crucially, Korzybski believed the semantic reaction to be equally important as the other four categories!

The Bene Gesserit Reverend Mothers, are able to effect the actions of their internal metabolism on the “colloidal” level by a combination of physical and mental conditioning, as well as by their use of the Spice Drug.  The Spice, were it real, might well fall under more than one of these five categories, by Frank Herbert’s definition of it.

Within the fictional realm of the Dune universe, eugenics is portrayed favorably, as one of the contributing factors to the creation of this Kwisatz Haderach Superman.  Similar undertones (or perhaps overtones) are present in Korzybski’s work:

“…besides the moral and ethical gains to be obtained from the use of correct symbolism, our economic system, which is based on symbolism and which, with ignorant commercialism ruling, has mostly degenerated into an abuse of symbolism (secrecy, conspiracy, advertisements, bluff, ‘live wire agents,’ etc.) would also gain enormously and become stable.  Such an application of correct symbolism would conserve a tremendous amount of nervous energy now wasted in worries, uncertainties, etc, which we are all the time piling upon ourselves, as if bent upon testing our endurance.  We ought not to wonder that we break down individually and socially.  Indeed, if we do not become more intelligent in this field, we shall inevitably break down racially.”

Dune is eminently the most quotable book I’ve ever read.  It reads like a collection of aphorisms put to narrative.  Many of these aphorisms within Dune are prefigured in Korzybski’s Science and Sanity.
For example, compare these two quotes:

 “Growth is limited by the necessity which is present in the least amount.  And naturally, the least favorable condition controls the growth rate.” –Dune

“In all of these cases, [of vitamin deficiency] it is important to notice that the lack of a minute amount of some factor may have the most varied, pronounced and seemingly unrelated consequences.  The symptoms can now be produced deliberately on experimental animals, by diets free from the particular ‘vitamins’ and can also be cured at will by feeding them with the proper ‘vitamins.’” -S&S

The chart above shows Korzbyski’s “levels of abstraction” model.

There is a famous line in Dune where Paul is chastised by his combat instructor for not fighting up to his aptitude, Paul states “I guess I’m not in the mood for it today.”  Halleck responds “What has mood to do with it?  You fight when the necessity arises-no matter the mood!  Mood’s a thing for cattle or making love or playing the basilet.  It’s not for fighting.”

Reaction is faster than action-this deceptive statement is important for a number of reasons.  With higher levels of expertise, and under the action of stress or time-restraint, you default to your “un-speakable,” reactive levels of action.  This is to say, when pressed, your reactions become first-order, thoughtless, and fast.  Heisenberg discussed that reaction is faster than action, and used gunfighting as an example. 

Heisenberg poses this scenario:   Two gunfighters “draw” on each other, one drawing/initiating the action, and the other reacting/drawing on the first, both shooting as fast as they can.  The reaction-based draw “shoots and kills” the other every time.  The reason for this surprising, and demonstrably-provable result, is that “reaction” draws upon more semantically first-order mechanisms to complete the task.

When Gurney Halleck admonishes Paul about bringing “emotions” into the fight, what he is saying is, semantically, emotions, thoughts, feelings, etc. are third order events(see Korzybski’s chart, above) while the happening itself is a first order event.  Therefore, first-order reaction is faster than third-order action.

“The majority of [] creative men reported that they "think" in terms of visual structures.”  Korzybski, here, is talking about a more first-order experience, which is why he puts the word “think” in quotations.  Korzybski is here referring to nonverbal thinking processes.

“[Paul]Muad’Dib learned rapidly because his first training was how to learn. [General Semantics]  And the first lesson of all was the basic trust that he could learn.  It’s shocking to find how many people do not believe they can learn, and how many more believe learning to be difficult.  Maud’Dib knew that every experience carries its lesson.”

Science and Sanity, Alfred Korzybski
Dune, Frank Herbert  The Role of Language in the Perceptual Process, Alfred Korzybski
Dune and General Semantics, by Ronny Parkerson

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Voice of Thunder

And I heard, as it were, the voice of thunder.
One of the four beasts saying come and see,
and I saw, and behold: A white horse.

Before the Hebrew Language took modern script form, it existed as a hieroglyphic-style pictogram alphabet.  The Modern Hebrew letters take their names and meanings from the pictograms which prefigured them.   These meanings have made it into Kabbalah and Golden Dawn Western Magical Symbolism.  In order to study the Hebrew Language more deeply, more visually, I am trying to learn these pictograms.  I am also teaching myself the names and sounds or pronunciations of the modern letters.  Learning the two side-by-sides is a pleasant and intuitive process.  The reference material I am using is called The Ancient Hebrew Language Alphabet, by Jeff A Benner.

Interestingly, Benner chose to end this aforementioned book with a dictionary, or compilation of two-letter combinations of the pictograms, and his interpretation of the meaning of these “words.”   The Ancient Hebrews thought in very physical terms, as in it-is what-it-does.  Modern people think more visually, as in it-is what-it-looks-like.  This is important when making metaphor or analogy. (which is all a language is)   A physical thinker would classify things together under their purpose or nature, whereas a visual thinker would put things that look alike in the same category.  This also brings to mind the adage against not taking something as what it appears to be, but to understand its true purpose.

One of the most important ancient Kabbalistic works is the Sefir Yetzirah.  One way of reading the Sefer Yetzira is as a descriptive narrative of the creation, from scratch, of the Hebrew language.  Language was seen as a Holy thing, a tool of Priests, a key to reveal the mind of god.  Language was still new, elite, and revered.   Just like modern physicists with string theory or geneticists with the human genome, written language was a world changer.

If you pair off the 22 letters of the Hebrew Alphabet two-by-two, and assume that that each two letter combination means something, you have a 484 (22x22) word dictionary.  (Benner’s list of words has 483.)

Sefer Yetzirah takes a similar approach.   It advises the reader to make a ring or circle of the 22 Hebrew letters, and draw a line from each letter, one at a time, to all of the other letters.  These lines form what are called the “gates,” or two-letter word permutations/possibilities.  This gives you your 231 “words.”  This number assumes also that neither symbol points to itself, which it cannot do in a circle.  For example, a the two letter word Aleph-Aleph is eliminated as a possibility.  It also assumes that a two letter combo means the same reversed therefore is not counted.  For example: Aleph-Bet means the same or is a redundant form of Bet-Aleph.  This brings the number of words down from 484 to 231.

In my copy of Sefer Yetzirah, by Aryeh Kaplan, all the charts showing the gates are in Modern Hebrew script.  My chart below shows the pictographic form of letters, and for the most part, Benner has meanings for all these combinations in his book. 

This other chart is organized as instructed by the Sefer Yetzirah.  It has doubles and obverses removed.  These 231 combinations are what the Sefir Yetzirah names “gates.”  I can’t even stress enough how important the original symbols are.  I can, however, show how they help understand some basic Kabbalistic concepts. 

Thinking in Symbols

In my last post I discussed The Universe/The World Tarot card and the “four beast” symbolism.  The chart below shows the pictograms I used to symbolize the four beasts, I tried to make these associations based on the pictographic meanings of the letters, using Crowley’s 777 as a guide as well.

I used the letter Taw or Tau for Mark/Lion because of the meaning of Mark being the same as that of the verb form of the word mark, as in to signify/label/imprint.  When this Resh/Tau/Aleph/Quoph combination is used, it presents some interesting Gematria values.

Tau is not to be confused with Tet, which is a cross with a circle around it.   Benner states that Tau looks like a basket as seen from above and I’ve also discussed the connection between Tammuz, the God of the seed and winnowing or grain baskets.  Tau also looks like a round loaf of bread seen from above, or a “hot crossed bun.”  Salvador Dali is famous for his use of bread as a phallic symbol in his paintings. 

Hebrew Letter:  Resh
Pictogram/Proto-Hebrew: The head of a man
Meaning: 1st , beginning, top
A head reversed

The Human form is the Kerub of Air

Gematria:  200
Hebrew Letter:  Taw
Pictogram/Proto-Hebrew: a cross
Meaning: Mark or Signature

The Lion is the Kerub of Fire

Gematria: 400
Hebrew Letter:  Aleph
Meaning: Strong Leader, Power

Kerub of Earth

Gematria: 1
Hebrew Letter:  Quoph
Meaning: Horizon, Sun, needle(?)
The back of the head

Crowley states that Eagle-Snake-Scorpion is the trinity of the Kerub of Water


I could have, just as easily, used Zain/Sword for Air/Gemini, Mem for Water, Shin for Fire and one of many others to signify earth (perhaps even Tau.)  The above chart is by no means the only or best interpretation.

I would like also to discuss some other four-score-symbolism, though, while we’re at it.

The Four Horses of the Apocalypse

These horses differentiated by their color:  white, black, red and green (often called pale.)  The last horse, whose rider is “death” is commonly called the “pale horse” but the original word describing the color of this horse is the Greek word Khloros which means green.

The horses represent four common evils of society.  The first horse, white in color, is usually associated with conquest, which may be interpreted as “false nobility” or simply “righteous war.”   The second, the red horse, carries a sword, and is associated with civil war, or perhaps even oppression or tyranny within one’s own country.  The third horse, the black horse, is associated with famine, the rider of this horse is said to carry weighing scales.  A more modern interpretation of this black horse might be market manipulation which results in unfair trade, and often famine.  The last horse, according to my own opinion, is nature and/or natural death which represent nature’s power to take back what she has put forth.

David Lynch uses a white horse as a representation of the presence of evil in Twin Peaks.  This symbol is also seen in a Blade Runner dream/vision sequences where Deckard is experiencing memories which are ambiguously real.  How does the brain tell dream memories from real ones?  I think it’s amazing that we remember the past at all.  It’s not any more likely that we should remember the past than the future, if you think about it.  Neither exists in real time, they only exist as ideas in our mind.   The past may have never existed and the future may never come into existence.

Sefir Yetzirah discusses the importance of the three mothers and assigns one to each of the three columns of the tree of life.  The three mothers are mem/water, aleph/air, and shin fire.  I found another interesting parallel between the symbolism of the three mothers and another symbol which I have discussed before on this blog, on my post titled “The Great Reconciler.”  That symbol is a snake with a bee at its mouth.  I have previously stated that the bee represents collective, right brain consciousness and the snake represents left brain, ego-driven, individualism consciousness.

According to Sepher Yetzirah, “Mem hums, Shin hisses.”  Shin can be seen as the hissing snake, representing Binah Consciousness and the humming bee represents Chokmah Consciousness.  Aleph is said to be a balance on a scale deciding between the two.  Also indicative of these concepts is the fact that water “gurgles” or hums while fire hisses, and air is silent.

In Castenada’s system these ideas are called Tonal and Nagual.  The words shin and mem spell the word shem which means name.  Therefore a name is a combination of what something is called and what it does.

The tonal and the nagual are two different worlds, in one you talk, in the other you act.

777 –Aleister Crowley
The Ancient Hebrew Language and Alphabet-  Jeff A Benner
Sefer Yetzirah- Aryeh Kaplan
Teach Yourself to Read Hebrew- Simon and Anderson

Friday, February 1, 2013

Dune, Medicine and Mycology

The worm is a spice.  The spice is a worm.

There is a race of people in Dune which is myth-logically synonymous with what is commonly called the “Grey Alien.”  One of the common beliefs among abductees is that the Greys are using human experimentation to try to create “alien babies” to combat their own infertility.  Versions of this theory often state that Grey aliens are “us” from the future, returning to obtain genetic material to fix some future sterility of the human race.  I’ve written before about how I think it’s irresponsible to write aliens out of the Dune myth.  They’re a massive aspect of the Dune storyline, and they’re called the Bene Tleilax.

From Wikipedia:  “The Tleilaxu are described as short, dwarf-like characters with gray skin, hair and eyes, elfin features and pointy teeth.  Tleilaxu Masters control their creations by forcing them into a hypnotic state with some predefined, implanted sound (often a specific humming or whistling noise)”

Tlielaxu are also immortal, have trouble reproducing conventionally, and are experts at cloning.  They have a slave class of servants called “face-dancers” who they use to infiltrate and impersonate important personages, replacing key power positions with their pawns.  Tlielaxu are the inventors of axolotl tanks, which are used for cloning mélange spice and people.  The growth of mélange spice in tanks, implies something about the spice which we could also intimate from the life cycle of the worm:  The spice is a mushroom.

"The thought of that water beneath him was maddening. He imagined it now--sealed off in strata of porous rock by the leathery half-plant, half-animal little makers--and the thin rupture that was pouring a cool stream of clearest, pure, liquid, soothing water into . . .
    A pre-spice mass!"

Mushroom supplementation is common within Traditional Tibetan and Chinese Medicine, selling at thousand dollars a pop for some rare species.  Promising research has linked mushrooms with Cancer treatment, cardiovascular problems, immune support, and even neuroregeneration. 

So, if mélange (spice) had a real world counterpart, what would it be?  There are some likely candidates.  First of which is Cordyceps, or winter worm mushroom.  Cordyceps, in the wild, grows on (and eventually kills) rare Tibetan caterpillar which makes it an Entomopathogenic fungus.  The Cordyceps genus of fungi is especially interesting because it has the ability to turn the host into a “zombie” and modify its behavior.  Cordyceps is used as a performance enhancer in sports  and is believed to enhance oxygen uptake.  Cordyceps is one of many mushrooms being grown in lab environments on media.  Of course, if you can’t get real spice, axolotl-tank-variety is the next best!

The word Axolotl refers to the reproductive tanks in the Dune stories, in real life an Axolotl is a gilled salamander-like aquatic animal native to Mexico.  Perhaps Herbert was making a reference to the aquatic-ape appearance of an undeveloped fetus.  In later novels it is revealed that “Axolotl tanks” are actually human wombs.

Another interesting mushroom I would like to discuss is called Lion’s Mane or hedgehog mushroom.  Lion’s Mane is unique in its potential use as a neuroregenerative, which is the ability to grow/regrow neural tissue.  This places Lion’s Mane at the forefront of my list of possible real world versions of mélange.  In Dune, mélange spice served the purpose of a life-lengthening, mind-expanding, food flavoring, wonder drug.  Is there a real world mushroom that does all of this?  Perhaps no, but visualize mélange as a fictional stand-in for all mushrooms; then we might be on to something.

Neither, then, is the mushroom the only Medicine/Drug within the pages of Dune.  We just have to look a little harder.   

The Fremen warriors, natives of Dune, are famous for their water-conserving stillsuits:

"Properly suited, your forehead cap tight, all seals in order, your major
water loss is through the palms of your hands," Kynes said. "You can wear suit gloves if you're not using your hands for critical work, but most Fremen in the open desert rub their hands with juice from the leaves of the creosote bush. It inhibits perspiration."

Herbert thought of everything, it seems, and even accounted for the loss of water in the form of sweat through the hands and face.  The stillsuit was not perfect; manual labor and practicality still required the Fremen stillsuits to allow use of the face and hands.  Herbert hospitably explains that the Fremen rubbed the oil of the Creosote Bush on their faces and hands which acted as a natural anti-perspirant, preventing water-loss.  Creosote has been used by Native Americans for many different skin issues, mainly for its antibacterial properties.  In the spirit of finding more appropriate real-world analogues of Herbert’s ideas, is there a real world counterpart for this anti-sweat plant?

Sage (Salvia officinalis), common to kitchen use, can be contrasted with Sage(Salvia dorrii) of a more ritually-used type.   Sage is probably the best natural anti-perspirant to be had, it is said to cut perspiration by 50%!  Sage oil is not advised to be taken orally.    

The danger of sage-oil is caused by a certain chemical contained in sage, similar in this sense to Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) and Wormwood, (Artemisia absinthum.)  Sage oil has an extremely high content of a drug called Thujone.  It is important to note that some chemicals which are highly dangerous orally can be less dangerous when absorbed through the skin. 

Sage(Salvia dorrii) has been a common herb in the Native American tradition, and is often burned for its scent and mild hallucogenic properties.  While both Grocery-market Sage and other taxonomic varieties may contain lesser or greater amounts of Thujone, many spice companies artificially dry Sage at high temperatures, which may reduce Thujone content.  Excessive ingestion of Thujone through the skin or otherwise has been documented to cause dangerous epileptic episodes, especially among those predisposed to seizure-related medical issues.

Were the Fremen based on Native Americans?

Herbert was clearly familiar with Native American Myths, and I believe, Kaballah, which is to say either Western or Hebrew mysticism.  Herbert wrote a book called Soul Catcher which touched upon a quite a few Native American myths.  Clearly Dune uses Islamic-sounding names, which would take some time to completely flesh out.  Thankfully, one website article: Islamic themes in Frank Herbert’s Dune(see source #1, below) makes an effort to explain etymologies according to possible Arabic sources/meanings in a helpful chart format.  Herbert did not restrict himself to a single culture or knowledge base, which I will get back to in a few paragraphs when I discuss the etymology of “Bene-Gesserit.”

In Dune, Paul Atreides has visions of his future wife/concubine Chani before arriving on Dune, he sees her in the water catch basins, calling to him.  Chani’s other, tribal name is Sihaya, which means desert spring.  That Herbert used the Hebrew word Chia or Chiam as a meaningful phonetic basis for Chani’s name is likely.  Chia is a Hebrew word meaning life, as in the phrase Etz Chaim or Tree of Life.
I have discussed the generative womb and it’s symbolic connections with the Sephirah Binah and fountain/Tree of Life symbolism.  Chani also bears some resemblance to the Native American word Cheyenne. 

According to Wikipedia, the name Cheyenne derives from a Dakota Sioux exonym, Sahiyena, meaning “little Sahiya” apparently referring to an ethnic group. 



The Meaning of Bene-Gesserit

According to Islamic/Arabic Etymology:  “The witch sisterhood, or class that Paul's mother belonged to are called Bene Gesserit. The phrase in Arabic means "Sons of the Island/Peninsula". The Arabian peninsula is often called "Al Jazirah" (The Peninsula). Also, the term "Beni" can mean descent from, or a village/town originally inhabited by a tribe/clan. However, an alternative explanation is possible, that the origin is Latin, and means "he/she will do well", or "it will have been well borne". Perhaps Herbert was playing with words, and intended dual meaning here, although I doubt it, since the Bene Tleilaxu share the same prefix "Bene", but seems to be inspired by Central and South American history.” (Source #1)

In a response to my post “The Great Reconciler” a reader had an interesting comment that Djeserit means “Holy Woman” in Egyptian.  To which I responded:  I wonder if the word you mention is related to the Hebrew word for leader or bee?

The Hebrew word Davar means leader, and is also the root word for “speak” “honeybee” and “Deborah.” 

In Egyptian Hieroglyphs, the letter Djed(which may be phonetically and etymologically related to Djeserit) means “spine” and is often written side-by-side with the Tyet hieroglyph, and the two symbols are said to represent Osiris and Isis.  

The prefix “bene” has the connotation of “good” as in Benevolent or Benefactor.  Therefore the new/expanded meaning of Bene-Gesserit would be Good-Leader or perhaps even more appropriately:  Beneficent Matriarch.

Disclaimer:  (Since I’ve been discussing several medical uses of herbs/mushrooms.)  These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Talk to your doctor before trying any of these things!

Source #2:  Paul Stamet’s Mushroom Website:
Source #3:  A good Herbal Reference:
Source #6:

Cordyceps against cancer?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Return of the Genii

The world is still full of miracles. –Eli Levi
Magical thinking or (to put it more aptly) thinking like a magician, is the mindset that there is a message in the moment, that reality itself is capable of dialogue.  The belief in an animate spirit, a will, a desire behind every act, every evolution, is a legitimate philosophical proposal.  This is the reason why children are natural mystics; they still have the ability to be amazed with the world. 
                The Tarot tells a story, and a story is only as good as its ending.   According to Eli Levi, this story ends with Eve triumphant “the great initiatrix, the heavenly mother of the Zohar, the Isis of Egypt, the Venus-Urania of the Platonists, the Mary of Christianity, throned upon the world and setting one foot upon the head of the magical serpent.”
“The Universe is an egg.”

This symbolism begs comparison with India’s famous Shiva Nataraja icon, where an “above the abyss” reconciled or hermaphroditic God dances the dance of destruction at the end of the Universe.  This is the same exact symbolism which is present in The World Tarot card.  The World represents an ending to a cycle of life, a pause in life before the next big cycle beginning with the fool” (Source 1) Crowley, in his Thoth Deck, updated the World Card to a more modernized concept, renaming it “The Universe.”
Symbolically, in the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot deck, the snake may be represented by the green scarf wound around “Eve.”  There is actually a snake under the feet of Shiva Nataraja as well, because the dwarf, who represents ignorance, holds a cobra.
 “Nature abhors Equilibrium” - Buckminster Fuller
Effects are coexistent with their own causes.  In other words, effects cannot be removed from what they cause without unbalancing the equation.  Unlike modern algebra, where finding the terms to balance an equation is the solution, in nature/reality, a balanced equation means death, because it removes movement.  The Universe card is what happens when you look at God face-to-face.  Which is why, in the Kabbalistic sense, God is considered as existing apart from his creation, or as having negative-existence.  The eye of Shiva destroys what it sees.
Abomination of Desolation: the Unfitting Sacrifice
Abomination is another term for “idol,” which reminds us of the Biblical Commandment against worshipping brazen images.  Eli Levi reminds us that the original commandment was not against idols themselves, but against mistaking a metaphor for what God actually is.  An analogy is silent; it points.   This is a hard distinction to make, especially when, as I said above, belief in animate spirit is a major tenet of magical thought.
“I go.”
The original ankh symbol may have been (according to Egyptologist Sir Alan Gardiner) a pictograph sandal strap, symbol for Mercury, or the Logos, the Word of God who “races across the universe.”  The most rudimentary symbol for “going” is the hieroglyphic sandal strap, of which the winged shoes of Mercury are only iteration.  What is a better symbol for a “primary mover?”  Mercury, we remember, is the messenger of the Sun.  The Logos, therefore, is synonymous with light, “no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”  Additionally, Hermes, the Greek version of Mercury may have gotten his name from the word eirein, which means power of speech, as in “I am the word.”
Buckminster Fuller referred to the Universe by dropping the common proceeding “the,” making it similar in expressive use as when one refers to God.  As in: “There is nothing outside of Universe.”
In Crowley’s Thoth deck, Universe is depicted with a solar-generative eye of Shiva, similar to the one depicted on the Tower card.  In the Indian Sanskrit language, the word ambaka means eye, while the word amba or ambika means Mother.  Therefore, we have another example of Robert Graves “triune Goddess” contained in third or three eye symbolism.  Indians call their three mother goddesses The Ambikas.  
The four beasts in The Universe card represent the four quadrants, the mystic division of space in the form of a cross.  They also allow Eve, or Mary to represent the fifth element by standing in their middle, as the result of their alchemical union.  The most recognized modern picture of a window would be four quadrants, or panes.  Appropriately, the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet is He and means window.  The main purpose of a window is to let in light.  The mention of the word light five times in Genesis is said to acknowledge the Kabbalistic connection between the number five and light.  In Hebrew He is a “female” letter, and feminizes words in whose spelling it ends.  The Hebrew letter Tav also appears in this card, in the Thoth deck, underscoring the four-quadrant symbolism as the Proto-Hebrew Tav symbol was a cross glyph.  Tav is also the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, as the Universe is the end of our story.

Wikipedia article on The World Tarot card:
The Thoth Tarot Deck, and the Book of Thoth, by Aleister Crowley
Understanding Aleister Crowleys Thoth Tarot, by Lon Milo Duquette
Transcendental Magic, Eli Levi, Translation by Waite
777, Aleister Crowley

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Marriage of Totem and Taboo

“If we seek to penetrate the original nature of totemism, without regard to subsequent accretions or attenuations, we find that it’s essential characteristics are these:  Originally, all totems were animals, and were regarded as the ancestors of the different clans.  Totems were inherited only from the female line.  There was a prohibition against killing the totem (or-which, under primitive conditions, is the same thing-against eating it).  Members of the same totem clan were forbidden to practice sexual intercourse with one another.” -Freud

In all of Freud’s Totem and Taboo, we lack the grounding of a full discussion of Shamanism and it’s psychological effect on pre-patriarchal societies.  Shamanic vision was at once metamorphosis and mystery.   After the fall of the early matriarchal society, “from that day on, the mystery is also the thing you are ashamed of.  This development depended, in turn, on the developing history of metamorphosis.  Each from had its own perfect sharpness, so long as it retained that form, but everybody knew that a moment later it might become something else.  At the time of Europa and Io, the veil of epiphany was still operating.  The bellowing bull, the crazed cow, would once again appear as a god and girl.  But as Generation followed generation, metamorphosis became more and more difficult, and the fatal nature of reality, its irreversibility, all the more evident.  Only a generation after Europa, Pasiphae would have to crouch inside a wooden cow, a big toy on wheels, and have herself pushed as far a s the meadows of Gortyn, where the bull she desired was grazing.  And from their union was born a creature who would never be able to go back to either being beast or man.  He would just be a hybrid, forever.  And just as the craftsman Daedalus had had to invent another object, the labyrinth, to conceal the son.  The Minotaur would be slain, Pasiphae was to die in captivity and shame.  Humans could no longer gain access to other forms and return from them.  The veil of epiphany was rent and tattered now.  If the power of metamorphosis was to be maintained, there was no alternative but to invent objects and generate monsters.” –Roberto Calasso

Totem, when associated with the Matriarchal line, puts one in the mind of Matrilineal succession of lineage, right to rule, and sacred marriage.   The divine King was only such as result of his marriage to the divine Queen. 

Freud makes an effort to explain why exogamy, or marriage outside of one’s clan, came into being for merely psychological reasons.  He infers that natives knew nothing of the dangers of inbreeding.  Freud is unlike many of his predecessors and colleagues, in his assertion that children growing up in close proximity did have sexual feelings toward each other which were not naturally curtailed by “familiarity during upbringing.” 

It is to be understood that Freud was the major forerunner of the idea that children even had sexuality, a theme that Wilhelm Reich was to expound upon in his works.  Freud believed there was concealed energy in sexual taboo which could be sublimated to higher civilized impulses.  Reich differed, advocating that an extremely open sexuality was healthy and even necessary to full health.

Did Freud explain exogamy with the Oedipus complex?  Are his theories purely scientific, practical, or even probable?

Freud believed that the taboo of exogamy was created by the guilt of “killing the father.”  The Father, according to Freud, was associated with the totem animal.  Freud theorizes:  A dominant tribal male was leader and champion of a large band of women, who he alone slept with, and ruled.  Lesser, marauding, jealous bands of “sons” waited in the wings for signs of the father’s weakness.  The warrior-male bands, watched and probed for weakness, finally finding the bravery to overthrow and kill the father.  Overcome with guilt, the men were unable to fully take the father’s place, and identified the father with the ritual totemic sacrifice, whom they deified. 

Now, I can see where reading the myths of ancient Greece could put you in such a mind.  What then, is the role of the Queen or Consort, in all of this generational warfare?  Let’s take Zeus, the God of the Pantheon, and ruler of Olympus as a perfect example of this psychology.  Zeus killed his father, the Titan Chronos, and took the kingdom of Earth as his own.  Later, the God Thetis rejected Zeus, as a lover, out of knowledge that her own son would have the potential to overthrow him.  Thetis so loved Zeus that she refused her own progeny existence, preserving his sovereignty by closing her legs.  “Thus the need for a woman’s help was not limited to the heroes but also applied to the greatest of the gods.”  -Roberto Calasso

Some help, that, a woman who chooses not to mate, for fear of her own offspring.  There is something latent in the next generation, something to be feared.  But none of this explains the continued respect and ancestor worship that predominated in these same early cultures.  Kill the father, and then pray to him for advice?  I don’t think so.

I believe the totem can be explained by shamanic vision trances, which also included visions of ancestors, and all under one common and well documented experience.  I don’t buy into Freud’s confabulations.  Oedipus makes a good Greek myth, and even a decent psychological truth, but tell us something about exogamy, it does not.    Marriage is more custom than Psychology, and custom defers to tribal values over personal urges.

There is going to be some inbreeding, and I’m not even sure this is a great mystery.  Perhaps the best boon to exogamy was the dowry.  Perhaps the genetic traits that plague inbred people are washed out after several more generations of breeding with unrelated people.  Royalty, Swineherds, and landlocked New Englanders have all been notoriously inbred, and apart from the ever-prevalent Innsmouth look, or hereditary harelip, what’s to worry about? 

I think there is clearly a connection between totem and father figure, and it has to do with ancestry.  I suspect, as time goes on, ancestor worship and spirit channeling will be studied covalently.  I know that, for a fact, I am similar to my father.  Even more interestingly, when I am “excited” I can literally channel certain expressions and speech patterns, especially in his physical presence.  Combined with a potent belief system, and a sufficient level of ecstatic state, I could easily “possess” my father in a very convincing way.
I would also like to discuss a dream I had several days ago, I will note, I had this dream before I reread Totem and Taboo for this blog.  

I began the dream with my father, who was an "Indiana Jones" type adventurer.  He had stowed a large, “undocumented” Egyptian wooden totem in our basement.  Later, I was in a large house with my mother.  There was an approaching tornado, and my mother was “remodeling the house.”  There were candles lit throughout the house, and I was concerned she would burn the house down.   I retreated to the basement, to hide from the tornado.  We lived off jerky that was human flesh, which I spit out, horrified.

Now let me interpret several factors of this dream.  The human flesh is at a state of death, which entails decomposition, eating it adds another layer of slow decomposition which is digestion.  This, I believe, is representative of a controlled or consuming destruction.  The potential fire and tornado represent “fast destruction.”   Additionally, you have my father identified as the one “bringing home the totem.”  The totem represents ancestry, and mystery.  It also seemed that the totem may have contained “mummy meat” which was the jerky that we were eating.  I only remember the dream because the thought of eating the human flesh repulsed me so much.  Tornadoes are also associated with consuming destruction on a large scale, which would have been worsened by fire.  

Perhaps the native value of the original totem animal was the mystery of consumption; the mystery of life living upon life.  Our physical bodies live by consuming the corporeal flesh of animals, while our souls live by consuming spiritual food.  So, the answer to Freud's unintentional question of "how are totems and fathers similar?" is this:  After death, the father, as ancestor, becomes the spiritual food, the sustenance of the soul.

“There is no such thing as an isolated mythological event, just as there is no such thing as an isolated word.  Myth, like language, gives all of itself in each of its fragments.  When a myth brings into play repetition and variants, the skeleton of the system emerges for a while, the latent order, covered in seaweed.” –Roberto Calasso


Freud, Totem and Taboo

Roberto Calasso, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Universal Fountain

I believe in the contiguity and the homeopathy; I believe in the Ether.

The Fountain (2006 Aronofsky, Director) covers quite a bit of magical ground in a great simplistic beauty.  I think most people expect truth to be complex and rational.  I expect truth to be simple and intuitive, and cumulative.  In The Fountain, Izzy(Rachel Weisz) gives Tom, (Hugh Jackman) a magical record, a book which details a fictional account of a Conquistador searching for the Fountain of Youth.  Isabel (Izzy), is Queen Elizabeth, who embodies the Tree of Life, and represents the fountain of youth, as the tree-tomb/womb, the canvas of creation and the natural source of renewed life in childbirth.  Izzy writes the book, allegedly, to help herself and Tom cope with her impending death from cancer.  I see Izzy’s book as a magical journal, which in reading causes Tom to remember his past life, and possibly his future lives as well.     

Magical Memory is a Crowlean (and Castanedan) concept which describes techniques for remembering past lives.  The technique recommends listing (journaling) all your past history, who you’ve met and when, and is intended to initiate a “great remembering” of past lives.  Past lives are perhaps a misnomer to start with, perhaps contiguity of lives better states the experience.  I am a bit enamored of the idea that we live all our incarnations simultaneously, and perhaps to a lesser degree, live out any and all possible individual life choices as tree branches of parallel realities.   

“My father’s house has many rooms.”

The Memory Theatre is another similar, mnemonic concept which Frances Yates discusses in her The Art of Memory. The technique consists of making an imaginal estate with many rooms, filled with memory cueing action and imagery.  While Yates describes famous feats of memory and the life and times of several famous mnemonic masters, (Llull and Giordano Bruno, for example) Yates leaves out any relevant discourse as to how one might use (or be used) by this mnemonic art.  For that we can go to Science Fiction and Mythology: 

Turings Apples, by Stephen Baxter is an excellent science fiction short story, the gist of which is that You are the memory component in the universe.  Fascinating ideas…

Myth: as mnemonic device, anyone?

A similar theme is given to this Art of Memory below, but with a very Robert Graves (a la Greek Myth) kind of twist on this website:  

“Greek mythology, with its archetypal gods of nature, was in fact Llull's 'universal theatre,' developed thousands of years earlier by musical-astrological philosophers to help society remember 'the great book of the universe.' As personifications of the forces and geometries underlying harmonic physics, the Greek gods must have been designed as memory objects to help store knowledge about nature in the theatre of the human mind. The mythical gods' ancestry, traits, marriages and affairs were used to symbolize their place in the cosmic theatre, forming a holographic and hierarchical cast of characters that could be retrieved and retold through Greek fables. Lullism was nothing less than the ancient Greek worldview, originating from the study of harmonic science and music perception just as I had found while writing my book. Perhaps it was no coincidence that Llull had been a traveling troubadour in his youth, telling stories and singing songs. […] But it will always be the people who are the actors in this passion play. As nature's very own cast of memory objects, it is still our job to help nature remember what it learns by remembering what we learn. Let us never forget that we are nature too – we are nature's memory.”

So, if we extrapolate that Izzy is the canvas of creation, inspiration and wife, then Tom is the Protector, the memory component of the universe; the Magician as King and husband. 

From Frazer’s Golden Bough: “In his character of the founder of the sacred grove and first king of Nemi, Virbius is clearly the mythological predecessor or archetype of the line of priests who served Diana under the title Kings of the Wood. And who came, like him, one after another, to a violent end.”

In the conquistador section of The Fountain storyline, we see the conquistador changing places with the last guardian of the chalice/grail or fountain of youth, in a duel-to-the-death, as in Indiana Jones the Last Crusade.  (Itself a fountain of youth yarn)

Continuing the Frazer Quote:  “It is natural, therefore, to conjecture that they [these kings] stood to the goddess in the grove in the same way Virbius stood to her; in short, the mortal King of the Wood had for his queen the woodland Diana herself.  If the sacred tree which he guarded with his life was supposed, as seems probable, to be her special embodiment, her priest may not only have worshipped it as his goddess but embraced it as his wife.”

Such is the symbolism of the chalice or Parcival’s Grail, and also the Tree of Life itself.  Now, this is all philosophy, and right it should be, but it is also an intuitive Geometry, of an ancient sort:

“Plato describes three kinds of being:
1.)that which is uncreated and indestructible, changeless, eternal, imperceptible to any sense, open only to the contemplation of the intelligence, and this is the principle of the Father [spirit], the ideal or formal essence of the world;
2.) that which is sensible and created and always in motion, the Child [matter], the world of change and life;
3.) the Mother [spacetime], like the Father, is eternal and admits not of destruction. She provides a home for all created things, and is apprehended 'without the help of sense, by a kind of spurious reason, and is indeed hardly real.'
This mothering space is the cause of the determinism of nature. Plato identifies it as the material element of being. As pure matter, it is purely indeterminate, but it is receptive. The four elements, earth, air, fire and water, are formed from it, for 'the mother substance becomes earth and air, insofar as she receives the impressions of them.'

Plato's conception of the formation of these elements from the original substance was as purely mathematical as are our modern physical notions. 'God fashioned them by form and number,' he says: and the forms which he assigned were the forms of the regular solids. Thus the form of the fiery element is the pyramid, of air, the octahedron; of water, the icosahedron; of earth, the cube. “

The fifth solid, the dodecahedron, is the form of the universe as a whole, or perhaps one might say the scaffold upon which the spherical universe is constructed. “

Salvador Dali’s Dodecahedron Last Supper has an interesting backdrop, as Jesus is pictured crucified to a tree/dodecahedron!

This painting, by Salvador Dali, (Which is in D.C., I’ve seen it!)  shows the dodecahedron structure of the universe as promulgated by Frater Achad, Buckminster Fuller, and Plato.  The lights in the picture are a reflection from the glass covering the painting off the lights in the room, but this is about the right coloring; it is quite a dark painting.

Another topic I would like to touch on is soul-binding, or the relationship between the King of the Wood and his sacred tree.  According to Frazer,” Kings of the Wood, who regularly perished by the swords of their successors, and whose lives were in a manner bound up with a certain tree in the grove, because so long as that tree was uninjured they were safe from attack.”

This theme we see to a lesser and greater extent in The Fountain and also in HBO’s Carnivale miniseries.  Hugh Jackman’s character, Tom is compelled to eat of the tree (twice), first for the promise of eternity with his beloved, and second to actually survive that eternity. 

In Carnivale, the Demonic Preacher is one bound to a tree on a “holy hill” overlooking his ministry and church, then when it comes time to injure him, his only weak point in battle is his tattoo of the same tree, on his chest.  This sympathetic connection between himself and the tree makes the preacher a “King of the Wood” in Frazerian myth.  There was, of course, some overlay with another common Frazerian meme: the “corn-king” myth.  Carnivale also refers to Ben Hawkins as "John St. John," which is the title of one of Crowley's "Libers" which refers specifically to the method of recovering "magical memory."  

Placing a holy tree on a hill outside of town goes back to ancient Israel and the worship of Asherah, God’s wife.  Worship of Asherah took place on a “Bamah,” Hebrew for high place.  Bamah later became synonymous with altar and is represented inside modern churches as a raised dais or pedestal.   Worship of Asherah, consort of the old god El, came to be Biblically associated with the grove or tree, but early worship predominantly consisted of worshipping a simple wooden pole, known simply as an Asherah.
From the Bible, Song of Solomon 4.12-16

“A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.
Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard,
Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees frankinsense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices:"

"A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.
Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.”

“A fountain sealed” is another phrase which Crowley associated with The Tower Tarot card.  The fountain that is woman dries up in pregnancy, as the seed of new life has been planted in the womb.  The pomegranate is the dodecahedron, the symbolic seed from which the Tree of Life blooms.

The very first picture in this blog post is the Fountain of Youth by Cranach the Elder.  On it, I’ve superimposed the hidden sacred geometry of the dodecahedron, which is less subtly drawn within Salvador Dali’s The Last Supper.  I did the same, with a less dramatic result with The Fountain’s Garden of Eden screenshot.  (In the movie the Garden of Eden is atop an Aztec temple) 

I don’t have any trouble at all connecting the fountain with the tree.  Trees themselves are ephemeral fountains of sorts, using the natural levitative energies of water to act as heat syncs for climatic control.  Another look at the Aztec temple scene adds some more insight, connecting the fountain to the death principle, the Thanatos.  We see Tom confronted by the guardian of the fountain, who states “death is the road to awe,” before appearing to give a lethal blow with a flaming sword.

The connection between the dodecahedron and the pomegranate has to do with the mathematical concept of the closest packing of spheres, discussion of which inevitably draws comparison to beehives as well.  A brief Internet search will turn up several serious scientific articles with such headlines as: “The universe is a soccer ball, so say scientists.”  Johannes Kepler's studies of the latticework of closely packed spheres prefigures Buckminster Fuller's study of the way energetic systems blossom.  Simply stated: spheres squished together predict the synergetic shape of the universe; and atomic structures, to boot.

The Titans Goblet:
The ultimate concept garnered by all this speculation is can be esoterically (?) summed up as:
Nuit (Nut) or, to take a page from M. Bertiaux’s Voudon Gnosticism:
“…the “Black Goddess of Space,” Binah, the emanation of Mother/Father/Space/Time called “Saturn” by the Classicists, and “Geudhe Nibbho” by the preists of Voudoo science.  The consort of the Black Goddess of Space is Death, the God of All Transformations, known as Mystere Royale (Desak’karum), who shines his supreme eye through Saturn when in Scorpio, “whose throne is in the east.””

Article on Kepler's Six cornered snowflake, closest packing of spheres article:
(?) = not sure about coinage of the word esoterically