Virtual Altars

I have been thinking a lot about ritual objects, and then yesterday a friend out of the blue wanted to work on a virtual altar project.

I personally have a poor relation with objects. I attribute this to my experience in manufacturing — all objects have become disenchanted. I cannot seem to re-enchant them.

What does it mean to have a physical or a virtual alter? It is an imaginal embodiment of your desire. How is this different from say a new years resolution or a list of goals? Well I think it is the triggering of visual thinking versus written thinking  – so this is a different type of logic.  Writing follows the rules of prepositional logic, wishes and desires dont. Perhaps it is more correct to express desires as images rather than in words.

But then what about drawing images versus making alters with physical items? Again there is something about the embodiment of a thing, even if it is a virtual embodiment. I think it helps, psychologically, to imagine how this item fits within the world in a way that maybe a drawing does not.

But the caves of lascaux were probably early alters. They are no less powerful for their drawing rather than physical offerings, so perhaps it does not matter.

Joyce and Words

I am reading an excellent biography of Joyce by one of his friends and contemporaries. The author talks a lot about Joyce and his relationship to language.   He mentions Joyce has a relationship to language that most people don’t have. For him there is a plasticity and a physicality to words themselves.  He knows his own novels and stories backwards and forwards.

I do not have this relationship to language. Some words, give me pleasure, but words in general do not. I do not delight in puns, or word play.  I love poetry, but I love the images and the metaphors, the rhythm and yes the language. But this seems to be beyond the materiality of language and more about ability of language to evoke or create meaning.

Hopefully this makes send.  The distinction between the materiality or medium and what is expressed. I am not sure if this is an important distinction, but to me there should be something of material fetish for the artist involved in creating in a medium. What this says for mixed media artists or conceptual artists I have no idea.

I have been thinking of what medium I have a special relationship with and I would have to say it is computer code. The materiality of code is something that I have a fetishtic relationship with.  I love the materiality of code itself, how different languages express concepts and processes.  The product of code is something that I struggle with  since there is no necessary relationship between code and the expression of a code.

When Joyce creates a sentence, there are perhaps many ways to interpret it but there is one way to render it – as a sentence. With computer code, there are many ways to interpret and render the code, or perhaps there is one way to interpret it and may ways to render it.  Is the role of the reader or audience inverted? Are there two audiences?

There are two levels of appreciation: the code and the expression of the code. Is this similar to the appreciation of text as word and as a meaning or of anything with multiple levels of interpretation?  I am not sure.

Ntozake Shange

I was saddened when I heard that Ntozake Shange died recently (Oct 28, 2018). I remember reading  Sassafrass Cypress and Indigo  over 20 years ago.  My most vivid memory of the book is when one of the main characters gets her period and her mother celebrates it with a ritual bath.  It was  so affirming and uplifting, and still speaks to me after all these years.

I am going to go back and re-read it now, although with For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide /When the Rainbow is Enuf. What we need now is art like this that uplifts people and connects people in the highest expression of their spirit.


I have been journaling for a few years now and I am not quite sure what I am doing. I rarely look back over my journals, and I do not have a reason behind journaling.  No matter what I do it is always recommended that I journal.

When I started doing Kung Fu, it was recommended that I keep a kung fu journal and write down thoughts about my sparring. When I was playing chess, it was recommended I keep a chess journal. When people lose weight, or try to lose weight, they are encouraged to keep a food journal. I have not been encouraged to keep a music journal but I imagine that too would be encouraged.

I just keep a journal where I write (and draw) every day.

Something about this seems futile.

What am I doing? Is this contact with my soul, is this work towards a wholistic creation, or is this just like doing morning push ups -an exercise – not the work but preparation for the work. And if it is preparation for the work, am I exercising the right muscles.  Is the preparation for the work the work itself? Or through working you create THE WORK. But I supposed if this is correct then we must work correctly.

All this must see very cryptic. But I have decided to change things up. First off, I am going re-read my journals weekly with a meditation on the weekly thoughts. When  I am completely done with one with one journal, I will reread it and transfer those things I find most moving to a larger book.

I am finding my journals becoming more multimedia. I started making crochet and knitting in the books, these may be re-created in some form in a final book, or just left in the original journal.  When I am moved to I will journal after yoga, as I feel so moved to these days, or after playing music.

Why? What is the purpose? I am not sure – but I am interested now in the idea of reworking in addition to working. So why not experiment with that.



I went to a talk over at the Bard Graduate Center on ritual objects. There was an 18 minute documentary on what I would call object veneration or transference or a transitional object – I dont really know… It is the manifestation of a desire in a physical object.

I, personally, do not have reverence for objects and I feel like this is a personal shortcoming. I feel like my work in manufacturing has disenchanted objects for me. But this is really not what this is about. It is about the uniqueness of an object but about making an object unique through some sort of personal identification or transformation – through desire.  Perhaps there is something wrong with my desiring mechanisms, that I do not have ritual objects…

In any case, one of the objects that are imbued with desire is the Ekeko.  Ekeko seems more like a god, or spirit, but it is an object brought to life by the desire for what the Ekeko symbolizes – abundance and material wealth (for example).

Recently, the Ekeka has been introduced. This is the female verso of the Ekeko. I imagine a factory in china making Ekekas, similar to the one that probably makes Ekeko, probably out of poly resin. Does this make the Ekeka more or less valuable or precious. It is, for me, the intersection of the capitalist economy with the gift economy that perhaps make me the most uneasy.

The Circle and the Mandala

Jung drew mandalas every day for a period of time.  He looked at it as the state of his soul.  He wrote about the circle and the mandala, and how this relates to the magic circle used in folk magic as well as circle structures. It probably also probably inspired Huitzinger’s notion of the magic circle in games.

But there is another circle that this reminds me of – Ba Gua –  also called circle walking. There are many similarities between Ba Gua and Jung’s method as well as their connection to the I Ching. First that comes to mind is that Ba Gua is for people in the second half of life, as often Jungian analysis is said to be.

Analysis in general is a mental activity. When the indian monks came to the shaolin temple and saw how weak the monks were from only meditating.  They could not even stay away or hold a posture for meditation. The Indian monks started teaching them physical exercises – and this is the origin story of kung fu.

Where many contemporary practices fail is that they ignore the body- psychotherapy included. Now I have heard about things like Rolfing and Adler’s orgasmatron device -but I have to do more research.  The failing of all practices today and education in general is the distinction between the mind and the body – because if you cant stay awake while you meditate, you cant meditate at all.

Ritual Knowledge

This image is inspired by the book The World Does Not Exist, by Markus Gabriel. It is a wonderful book, very clear and thought provoking. Sadly no one will read it in 10 years.  What is the thesis?  The world does not exist, as we talk about it. But really the thesis is that all knowledge is domain based knowledge and to talk about the domains of all domains is to talk about something that does not exist.

Ok this is an interesting point, and one that I think a lot about. These days we cannot help talk about levels of reality. How we reconcile water as the molecular structure of H2O with water as something human, animals, plants, drink.   Water as a molecule is under the domain of chemistry perhaps, or science, and water as something I drink is probably under multiple domains such as resource management, wellness, and so forth. There is some hat tip for the Foucauldian distinction between discourse and facts (medieval laws against witches vs the eruption of Mt Vesuvius and the destruction of Pompeii).

What it means to exist is to  itself exists in a field of sense, and no one can sense the world.   In this respect it reminds me of Gilbert Ryle’s complaint about Philosophy of Mind- namely that it is a category mistake. It is like going around looking for the university and the tour guide shows you all the buildings and the sports teams but not the  university.  Well the university, like the world, is a concept that does not exist in the physical world – only in the world of mental constructs.  Does this mean that it does not exist. That is beyond the rocky shoals of rationality and we cannot talk about it.

When did we become so concerned with what we can and cannot know, when the limit in mathematics was explored? This started in western Europe with Leibniz and Newton. Augustin Louis Baron Cauchy gave the first definition of the limit.  And ever since we have been talking about the limits of things. But now we are starting to talk about the sets of things (set theory) or domains, and also the topologies of things (Deleuze).  I think we should start talking about the exchange between things. The interface between the things, the translation from one domain to another.

I have no idea what I was thinking when I named this blog post ritual knowledge. It is very provocative for me? There are different ways of knowing and aspects to knowing beyond reason that we are now beginning to understand.  What is ritual knowledge? Is that knowledge as a ritual, or knowledge of a ritual. What is a ritual it is an activity that puts you in a state of mind, that creates a certain mood, that invites a certain interaction. What has that to do with knowing? Or with the world or with any of this stuff?