Mundus Imaginalis


Mundus Imaginalis is a term invented, I think, by Henry Corbin, the scholar of Islamic Philosophy and mysticism.  It describes the space of imagination separate from the space of reason and the space of somatics.  I understand the rules of somatics, it is kinetics & kinesthetics & physics. I understand the rules of reason it is logic and computation (perhaps some others). This maps to body, mind, and But what are the rules of the imagination? 

Henry Corbin talks about the the Mundus Imaginalis as described by Islamic Theosophists as the eighth climate.  This ‘space’ is populated with geography or as Corbin calls it topologies. There are mountains and islands, as there is an individual who makes a journey… the stranger or the wanderer.  We could perhaps call it the quester – which brings us into the imaginal realm of the tarot or the symbolic realm of geomancy or other divinatory practices. 

It is a geography that does not follow quantitative measurements of things like distance, everything about the geography is qualitative.  Movement from place to place involves a transformation in the state of the questor, not in the location of the questor. Maybe we can imagine the state as the imaginal state or the emotional state or the spiritual state. The state the questor is in allows her access to different realms. It is an inner journey.  The map is almost like a map of a memory palace and I wonder what the relationship of these topos are to other ‘imaginal’ topos like those in astrology (the houses of hellenistic astrology and the nakshatra of vedic astrology).

How do we perceive this realm? It is the realm of symbols translating between the somatic (or material) realm and the intelligible realm, but it is not a mere translation engine.  Corbin talks about imaginary vs fantasy. There is a question that some may ask  – how do we know we are accessing the imaginary realm? I am not sure how valid this question is? The imaginary realm the realm of truth and falsehood? It is the realm of subjective experience and either you have the experience or you do not, either you are in a state or you or not.  We can map the three realms to the body or instinct, the self or subjective reality, and the world or objective reality. 

What does image mean? It comes from Latin

imāgō f (genitive imāginis); third declension

  1. imageimitationlikenessstatuerepresentation
  2. ancestral image
  3. ghostapparition
  4. semblanceappearanceshadow
  5. echo
  6. conceptionthought
  7. reminder
  8. (rhetoric) comparison
  9. (art) depiction

When we talk about images we often think of visual representation, but it is any kind of representation. We could have sound images or perhaps computational images, participatory images (theater/ritual)

The realm of imaginal is the realm of analogy, I would also say the realm of metaphor and symbolism. And, as Corbin states, there is a mapping from the material to the imaginal, the passage through the imaginal realm is inner not outer.

There is the sense, from Corbin, that our imaginal faculties are atrophied. That cultures with rich angelic hierarchies have access to greater imaginal depths for example.

Really how do you improve this imaginal faculty. I am reading a book Corbin writes and there is an analysis of the the imaginal and the realms of the 12 Imams – there are 12 months, 12 apostles – there are many symbols associated with 12. I have no idea what this means for the structure of the imaginal plane or how the 12 Imams map to this. I imagine other visionary works like Blake, or the divine comedy, or Ezekiel.But what is the structure of the imaginary?

Where Physics Comes From


I am reading this book “Distilling Knowledge” by Bruce Moran. It was recommended to me by Emma who is in a creative group I participate in. It is an analysis of alchemy as a science in its own right.

The interpretation of alchemy is always changing but some snapshots include
– Alchemy as being the marriage of internal state and external experimentation. The success of alchemy depends as much on the state of the the individual as on the external state. IE alchemy depends as much on the subjective state of the alchemist as on the objective result of the process.
– Alchemy as marriage of matter and spiritual. Objects in the world exist in different spheres if you will, we can call them contexts or world views, like a material body and an ethereal body. Alchemy is about the combination of these different spheres.
– Chemistry/Alchemy also seemed to have been the first “lab” science – I dont know if this is true or if I read this correctly, but it seems very provocative. 

Then there is the more mundane stuff that I was familiar with, the relationship between alchemy and chemistry (the academic discipline), alchemy and metallurgy, and alchemy and art (making paints / glazes etc). 

I underlined a line on page 89 “the best way to know the body and to understand its functioning was by means of chemistry”… and then I put a note at the front of the book. 

What are ways that we understand the body? Well there is biology, the study of the organs etc, and there is perhaps physics, how the body moves, how electron gradients permeate cell walls, and chemistry  different chemical reactions (enzymes etc) in the body. I suppose I had always known about this, but I had not really thought about it.  There is an enormous discussion of the doctor making cures (chemistry) and diagnosing illness (perhaps biology). The chemical lens was the last lens, after spirit, physics, and biology. It makes me consider what other lenses are there are is it useful to discard a lens after a while. Like once you are done priming the canvas and affixing it to the frame you dont need the vices to old the canvas and frame in place any more.  Scaffolding (and psycho-tools) are helpful at a stage and then become a hindrance. 

But let’s continue. So we have the laws of the universe, the biological (evolution), physical, chemical, and of course with me being me I consider, what would it be to consider the computational body. What would it be to look at the body as a set of computations?  I am not sure what that means exactly. It is something more precise than dynamic system. Something that unfolds in time according to a particular methodology. And it is likely that different parts of the body operate by their own computational law. What does computation mean but to process an instruction set. And this is what happens when a ribosome makes an enzime according to a strand of rna. But it also happens when chemical interactions take place. Where does chemistry start and computation begin? I don’t know.

As a coda to this I thought I would include the following….  Today I am also reading an Artist Book recommended to me by a (past) lover –  it is inspiring and beautiful … and coincidentally the name of the artist is Chimes – greek for chymes (alchemist).


Erotics of Programming

art, consciousness, philosophy

I have talked about erotics for probably my whole adult life. It is probably because I read a lot of greek philosophy as an undergraduate at university.

But I was unclear about the meaning. Erotics for me was about love, sexual love in a particular sense, or love that gives rise to passion. But I never really thought about it.

I used to describe my feeling towards programming as erotic- that I found programming erotic. What did I mean? Did I mean it was embodied? Yes, yes but his would be somatic. Did I find it arousing? Perhaps, I do find find programming exciting in this visceral (somatic) way.

Then I came across that famous Sontag quote “We need an erotics of art.” What the hell does that mean?

This week I watched the 4th episode of the meaning crises by John Vervaeke, and there was a brief discussion of erotics that began to unlock this question for me. 

The discussion mentioned that erotics was related to care.  There is an ethics of care that arose out of feminist thought. It is a form of normative ethical theory (ie value ethics) that prioritizes interpersonal relationships and the specifics of individuals. This is not what is meant by erotics and care. Care here is what you care about, a person or thing. 

This jailbroke erotics for me.  We need a care of art – like people need to actually care about art, not use it for virtue/cultural signaling… But lets move even further. 

But care is not enough to understand erotics. Erotics for me is something connected to physical love, to embodiment/somatics, and to passion.  I think this is key to understanding erotics – it is an embodied care. 

What is passion?  I always think of the Passion of Jesus, which is Jesus’ anguish on the cross. And then I think of limerence, that feeling when you are (or think you are) falling in love and cant stop thinking about the beloved. But lets talk about the Passion of Jesus. The word passion, from latin ‘passio’, has connotations with emotion, and perhaps comes from the greek pathos. Pathos is related to suffering and death, but also any strong feeling. To think about this psychologically, passion is to be in the grips of an emotion. It was first used in relation to sexual desire I think by Shakespeare in Titus Andronicus, a very gruesome story involving rape.

I don’t know if we can connect passion to eros. These are in conflict, and from googling on the internet Socrates/Plato does discuss this in dialogues I have read and I have since forgotten. 

There is also the notion of libido, that Freud introduced for psychology. libido is more of a sex drive, and eros is more of a life force – vitality. In order to have vitality, to create, sex (biologically for humans) is involved.

Erotics is a vital caring, it is a generative caring, it is a participatory caring. I care with my whole self, not just with my mind. The passion of jesus is reinacted during the easter as a participatory ritual. Erotics as I imagine it is participatory. 

When I write code, I am participating in the code, I feel what it is to care about one thing verses another, it is more than just a product of my mind.  Part of that has to do with my body (somatics), because participation involves the body, but it is not only the body. For an erotics of art, it is about participating in an artwork, and feeling what it is to care. 

These videos I am watching with a group are about a so called “meaning crises.”  I can translate this as not knowing what to care about, which I definitely struggle with.  And if care is about eros, then that is something we need to reintroduce back into society.  Perhaps an impossible to do in world experienced through zoom.

Negative Capabilities


In one of my discord servers there has been a discussion on what it means to be generative – create new ideas, rather than analytical which ends its life in optimization (operations research). Dr Jason Fox, who runs the server, wrote a fantastic piece on something called negative capabilities, a term coined by the poet John Keats in a letter!

Negative Capabilities is the ability to live with uncertainty, doubt or paradox. This is one of the things lost today, particularly in cancel culture and in contemporary human life.  The desire to take time and consider a situation in all of its gory incomprehension is antithetical to life hacking, optimization, and even the dopamine hit that comes from acting (and social  media actions in particular).  There is no dopamine in dwelling in the quagmire of paradox. But perhaps there is an increase of depth or of capacity for feeling that may make our later dopamine hits that much more pleasant… 


Mythology and Psychotechnics


I am part of a group that every week watches and discusses The Meaning Crisis. 

And this point in time we are in the middle of a meaning crisis. There is a mass reckoning with structural inequality and with perceived notions of unquestioned institutions such as the police. The protests in the street are an example of participation in history (see below) in response to a world that is very broken.

The meaning crisis is an attempt by cognitive scientist John Vervaeke to discuss the history of meaning making. This week we watched part 3:  a discussion of the developments of the psychotechnics of the ancient hebrews and ancient greeks. 

Here is a list of psychotechnics that I picked up

  • reason (from the socratics) – I have lots of thoughts about this and the development of logic and computation
  • patterns or relation (and the cosmos) – Pythagoras developing the notion of mathematics from arithmetic. The idea that numbers can be expanded to describe relationships between things and the world – such as the octave. This is probably the beginning of modeling. Also the notion of the cosmos vs the universe. The cosmos being an ordered beautiful thing – seeing the beauty in the world. 
  • historical time vs cyclical time – So with the development of exodus story we have the notion of history. We can break out of the perception that everything is a circle (thank you for returning us to the circles Nietzsche with the eternal return) What happens then … we can act! we can influence the future. I think this is the beginning of the science or need for decision making.  There is also a discussion in the lecture on participation – that in ancient cultures there is the notion of participation – this is what it means to be in a ritual.  Historical time allows us to be participants in the world.  So this is interesting participation vs observation.
  • real vs illusion – this we discussed in our group a bit. V mentions that people used psychotechnics to distinguish between the real world and some sort of false world. This I have a problem with, although members of the group had different interpretations.  Why does real vs illusion matter?  If you want to act in the world, participate in the world, then you want a mental map that helps you do this. If your map some how does not match the world, or if you find yourself going off course – then you have an illusory map. Perhaps this is the meaning. In this case you need a bunch of real maps not just one -and that is metamodern. And the reality of the map is related to what you want to achieve.  This notion of achievement and destiny or goal – like we are on a journey with a goal. This I suppose is the meaning crises.  Historical time presupposes a goal and there really is none beyond the journey and the extent to which you participate in the journey.  I do like the Hanzi notion that we want to experience greater depth and range and then integrate this into ourselves.
  • mythological space  – V talks about how these psychotechnics arose in a mythological world that we no longer inhabit. What is the mythological world? We discussed this a bit. But if you imagine the distant past as a world we were deeply embedded in (participating in via ritual), and via the scientific revolution we are engaged in the world as an observer -perhaps that has something to do with it. V talks about the notion that we have regressed to a world view that preceeds the axial age and historical time with the advent of the scientific revolution.  And that when we apply the psychotechnics of the axial age to the modern age it makes no sense, because we are not in the world in the same way. 

Have we left the mythological age? Probably. Have we returned to a previous age? Probably not because we still have the cognitive apparatus of mythological grammar. What is the sort of participation we have now? Is the ability to determine a deep fake similar or different to the ability to judge whether or not the divine right of kings is true or whether a statement is logically true or false? True or false are unhelpful categories. We just want greater clarity in order to act in the world with full participation. And this is perhaps the shift in pyrotechnics that we need. This capacity to look at a phenomena with many different maps and from many different perspectives to get a full understanding of how to act. This is so difficult in the modern world as there is so much information and things are moving so quickly and it is difficult to understand even what the most important thing in life should be. Also we are alienated from abilities to take care of ourself in a most fundamental way (food, shelter, support). We are looking for a higher meaning, but there is instability in our lower levels of support or a lack of understanding and transparency. Perhaps the we must now return to the beginning not necessarily to grow our own food, but do that too, but also to understand where food comes from the points of failure the precariousness of the network. We are looking for meaning in higher levels of the maslow pyramid but perhaps even if we are fed and sheltered, we have neglected the bottom of the pyramid in a substantial way.


psychotechnologist – writing and the computer

Maps and Metaphors


The other day my friend Jennifer, from the MEP, gave me a tutorial on GIS mapping (geographic information systems mapping), I used arcgis and made a map of all the mints with my son who is obsessed with gold.  Jennifer and I then went through a series of story maps.  Story maps are like essays with maps, maps that tell a story or explain a point of view. They can show different perspectives or changes over time. We have medium for writing, and youtube for video, why dont we have something for maps, why are maps less of a narrative medium? We went through the story maps and described what we liked and did not like about each story and what we are going to include in our own story map that we are building.. stay tuned. 

I have been fascinating with mapping for a long time. In fact one of my early skills, before GPS, was reading maps, and my parents would say things to me like “Meredith, you are good at reading maps, where are we.” And it was true I was good at reading maps and I loved maps.  

As I grew and learned about the situationists and psychogeographics. I am still not entirely sure what  psychogeographies is, especially if both Guy Debord and Robert Macfarlaine are both psychogeographers, one a marxists using psychogeography as a way to live more ‘authentically’, the other writing poetic meditations on walking knowledge, nature, and history. But whatever, the journey is more important than the destination and perhaps psychogeography is about that.  

There is the idea of the Derive, what is my personal journey through the urban landscape if I am motivated by nothing other than the terrain itself (versus say my need to get to a meeting).  However this idea of a personal journey plus a map is also interested, because I am interested in the map as a landscape but really I am interested in navigating the map via routes. 

Then there is knowledge embedded in the land (this can be extended to physical objects, or perhaps psychic objects like memory palaces). There are some excellent discussion of this in books like Keith Basso’s Wisdom Sits in Places, or Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta. We can understand why people walk pilgrimages – like in the Canterbury Tales or the Carmen de Santiago.  Knowledge and experience, knowledge and the journey are of a piece and they interact with the moving through the land (walking) and the land itself. 

All these things titillated me, but not enough to actually make a map until this past week when I fired up ARCgis. And suddently I was wondering why people dont make more maps.

But what is my meta interest around maps and here I drew inspiration from Conner Habib’s podcast with Peter Bebergal. The main take away here is that maps are metaphors. I don’t know if that is true, but maps are something, they are a gauze over the world that enable you to see things from a particular vantage point and isolate particular features. A hill in a topographical map, is something different in a nature map (like what is growing on the hill). So we see an item in many different perspectives, or perhaps we can call it world views.  Sometimes you need the right map to highlight the route you want to take. Like I want to see a topographical map of San Francisco not just a road map, because SF is hilly and I don’t want to deal with that. 

How is a map a world?  A map is a tool, it is a technology. It is a world building technology. It outlines a particular ontology – ie it outlines beings. What are the tools that outline a metaphysics, ie the assumptions of the world. The map exists in a metaphysical frame where there are different world views. Ie metaphysics create an environment for tools. Or perhaps tools create a world in tandem with a metaphysics. 

One thing I would like to note is the discussion on technology in the podcast. There was a discussion on the role of the consciousness of the user in interacting with a tool – this I think is non controversial, although there is the one perspective of tool building that commodifies sense perceptions in that they standardize inputs and outputs.  The possible range of measurements that come from a ruler with inches and feet will always result in inches and feet, and this ruler will look at everything in terms of length (or two dimensions). There was a discussion of the film My Friend Dahmer, and how Dahmer would have fake seizures, but then had a real seizure and would not stop – that is when the ‘complex’ took hold, when he became a serial killer. Tools are things we can use to displace these sorts of personal transformations, we can work on a tool before we work on ourself. 

Personal work makes a difference. The particular practices an individual undertakes, whether it is religious, athletic, meditative, or what not affects a person both internally and externally. Tools and technologies are a way to transform the world with minimal transformation on the self.  If we imagine ourselves in co-creation with ourselves and the world, this additional variable what are ways to act on the world in a low footprint way is an ecological perspective. 

Living in world can be a heart hardening experience, how can we preserve the softness in our heart?


Fraud and Marx And Depth Economics And Occult Economics


I was not going to blog this week. The racism and inequity and violence in the USA – ie the killing of black people – is ineffable. What on earth is worth writing about? During quarantine, I have stopped listening to a number of podcasts that I love because I just am tired of hearing the same point of view.  Maybe I am also tired of hearing my point of view…

However, I have my Marx reading group tonight so I am going to write this blog post so I can put together my thoughts and contribute something to the discussion. I would suggest listening to 1619 by the nytimes.  Also capitalism and racisms and violence are all linked. I am not sure if Marxism is the alternative but Marx’s analysis of Capitalism is brilliant and nuanced. 

Fraud AND Appearances

So on to fraud and Marx, this is from Chapter 5 of Marx’s Inferno – where people perpetrating fraud are punished. Where does fraud figure in Das Capital?  From Roberts’ framing it is not entirely obvious. One possibility Roberts states is in the structure of Das Capital itself.  He states: “The sine qua non of fraud is a certain discrepancy between appearances and reality, seeming and being.”  In Das Capital Marx again and again says, this is how things ‘appear’ that is a clue that he is now going to uncover how things really are and to further quote Marx “the surface process of market-exchange camouflages the depth-process of exploitation.”

Fraud AND Violence

Last week I went on a tirade on Zachary Schomburg. I then wrote a snarky poem. Maybe I will post it at some point.  I was responding to a poem by Zach about Violence and poetry. I felt that Violence is the thing that is not poetic. So does Zach kinda, but not really, I have major problems with this and if you are really interested you should  read it and then we can talk about it.

Anyway reading Robert’s reading says fraud is a process while violence (and force) is an act. I agree. Violence is not poetry but maybe fraud is.  Fraud is a process that unfolds in capitalism over time (diachronically) – it is a historical revolution.  The force of capitalism is the market, it being paid for labor. The fraud in capitalism is that you will be able to reproduce yourself with this (my interpretation). 

What else is fraud? As Roberts rightly analyzes it is the working day. Reading Das Capital I was completely fascinated by the analysis of the working day. Why such an analysis? Here follows there is a discussion of increased leisure that technical innovation (and capitalism) promises. However, the working day is a standard that seems never to change. It is an invariant of capitalism. Perhaps this is always why all alternatives to this fail. Why is the working day an invariant to capitalism. 

What are the conditions of this fraud? It is the clothing of all human relations in exchange – ie the quantification of all human relations.  The way of overcoming fraud is not changing the numbers of the exchange but changing the exchange itself so that social relations are no longer quantified or exchange based.  It seems to me that this exchange puts the works on one side and the capitalists on the other, or that perhaps they are separate variables. And the Marxist solution is that by removing this class divide, by making these variables equal or these sides equal, then we will break the equation. I do agree that something needs to change in this equation.  I wonder how this equation is changed today by technology, by mines and extraction, by global capitalism, etc. 

Proudhon identifies the collective work as greater than the work of the individuals. But his conclusion is that the workers need to share in the profit, it is working within in this existing capitalist equation. This is the surface of capitalism not the inner work of capitalism. Marx is practicing a depth economics.  The fraud is what happens on the surface. This is perhaps there is a modern distinction and marxist distain for style and ornamentation. It confuses the outer and the inner with design and content. But the truth is there is a design to the outer and the inner and what we are calling surface and internal is really explicit and implicit or apparent and occult. The false struggle is to struggle for fair wages – the correct struggle is to struggle for more free time. 

Marx says, with capitalism, “the cooperation of wage-laborers is entirely brought about by the capital that employs them.” We can contrast that with something like the labor of masons on a cathedral brought together by religion or belief or perhaps slavery – I have no idea. What are some ways of social organization other than capitalism that allows us to organize ourselves and create something that is GREATER than the sum of our parts. 

There is something about the division of labor that encourages the automation or technification of processes (according to Marx).  There is a cybernetic feedback loop that makes it impossible for an individual to become free because a) she is beholden to the machine (the task master) b) she is contorted to work like /interface with a machine.

The worker believes she is selling her time to the capitalist, but in reality the worker is selling herself. This is what Marx says. This is the fraud. The wage contract is a fraud.  I think that it is impossible to sell only time, you are always either selling yourself, or selling a product. If you are selling a product are you still just selling yourself? 

I talked a lot about time, and selling time. This is perhaps incorrect – I should be calling it “labor power”, per Roberts: 

There is the notion of wage as relative. There is not an absolute wage but a wage in relation to everyone else to the “reserve army of labor”. This is an interesting point. 

But finally, what is the nature of cooperation in capitalism.  This is what capitalism does very successfully, but through this reduces the dimensions of the human workers and makes the human worker aware of the capability of producing something in collective -the emergence of this new human the collective laborer. Now can we have this collective or cooperation without capitalism?


What does this have to do with the present moment? I don’t know – only that perhaps capitalism gives the illusion of freedom but it is structurally impossible, and that racism is part of that structure – part of the structure of capitalism.  That there is a fraud perpetuated.