July 28, 2021
Gyrus on the Rise and Fall of the Polar Cosmos, Part I
We are often told that the map is not the territory, but is that always true? Cosmology can shape the ways in which a people or a culture asks questions so basic that they affect the kind of maps which can be made, and may even shape the way the territory of reality is perceived.
Gyrus has thought long and read deeply about these matters, and has fascinating insights into the importance of cosmology, orientation, and cosmic Dasein. In Part I of a long and fascinating conversation about the history of cosmology in the west (and beyond) we discuss a number of important developments with linked ramifications, including the transfer to settled, agrarian ways of life and the effect this may have had on cosmology; the rise and fall of the geocentric kosmos that characterises the western world-view from classical antiquity until the modern period, and the importance of the pole as a symbolic locus within such a kosmos.
Gyrus is an acclaimed writer and thinker. His acclaimed ‘zine Towards 2012 blew a lot of minds in the 1990’s (including your host’s) and his later projects include the ongoing Dreamflesh website (since 2003), concerned with, among other things, … ‘overcoming dualisms — or failing that, making them more interesting. With intellectual rigour and deep respect for the living moment, we draw inspiration up from the past, down from the future, and into the liminal present.’
Gyrus’ book North: The Rise and Fall of the Polar Cosmos is available from Strange Attractor Press.
Works Cited in this Episode:
[The article on heavenly ascent referred to in the episode, making use of Levi-Strauss 1983 (first published 1964 as Le cru et le cuit) is Segal 1980, cited below.]
- Geoffrey Ashe. The Ancient Wisdom: A Quest for the Source of Mystic Knowledge. Macmillan, London, 1977.
- Idem. Dawn Behind the Dawn: A Search for the Earthly Paradise. Henry Holt, New York, NY, 1992.
- Hans Dieter Betz, editor. The “Mithras Liturgy”: Text, Translation and Commentary. Number 18 in Studien zu Antike und Christentum. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, 2003.
- Mircea Eliade. The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion. Harcourt, Brace & World, New York, NY, 1959.
- Ezekiel 1:4: ‘And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire.’
- Joscelyn Godwin. Arktos: The Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism, and Nazi Survival. Thames & Hudson, London, 1993.
- Gyrus. North: The Rise and Fall of the Polar Cosmos. Strange Attractor Press, London, 2014.
- Graham Harvey. Animism: Respecting the Living World. Hurst & Co, London, 2005.
- Claude Lévi-Strauss. The Raw and the Cooked. University of Chicago Press, 1983.
- David Lewis-Williams. The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art. Thames & Hudson, London, 2004.
- David Lewis-Williams and David Pearce. Inside the Neolithic Mind: Consciousness, Cosmos and the Realm of the Gods. Thames & Hudson, London, 2005.
- Porphyry, De antro nympharum 6: οὕτω καὶ Πέρσαι τὴν εἰς κάτω κάθοδον τῶν ψυχῶν καὶ πάλιν ἔξοδον μυσταγωγοῦντες τελοῦσι τὸν μύστην, ἐπονομάσαντες σπήλαιον <τὸν> τόπον.
- Alan F. Segal. Heavenly Ascent in Hellenistic Judaism, Early Christianity and their Environment. ANRW, 2(23.2):1333–94, 1980.
- J.Z. Smith. To Take Place: Toward Theory in Ritual. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 1987.
- Erich von Däniken. Chariots of the Gods? Putnam, 1968.
- Spielberg, Steven, dir. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1977.
Gyrus’ North is of course the key reading for this episode: see also his Dreamflesh website, which contains much additional North material from the cutting-room floor and ongoing discussions of polar cosmology and related matters, along with much else.
Apocalyptic, Arthurian Myth, Astrology, Astronomy, Cosmic Ascent, Eranos, Katabasis, Mircea Eliade, Mithraic Mysteries, Mithrasliturgie, Orphics, Plato, Shamanism, Tasawwuf, The Pole, Traditionalism
September 4, 2021
Wonderful talk, as always. I came to the discussion of verticality through James Hillman’s Hills and Valley (soul/spirit), Bruce Chatwin’s Songlines (horizontality and the non-sedentary) and Morris Berman’s Wandering God (all over the place but posits the idea that verticality is a side effect of civilization amongst other things), but all of these sources are more literary/poetic than history. It’s great to see these ideas intersect with esotericism and hear people who know a thing or two about these things discuss it. One thing I struggle with in esoteric circles is this vertical transcendent tendency, which can sometimes become tedious, while the repressed horizontal equanimity thing tends to come out in jokes (Mr. Natural as exhibit A) etc. Are there horizontal esoteric traditions? Can esotericism be rewardingly re-read in this context? [not asking for anyone to reply specifically of course]
September 6, 2021
Hi Phil, glad you enjoyed. Been thinking about possible responses to this, a huge topic of course. But I just saw someone tweet this quote, which I think nails something important about this concisely, without (of course) necessarily ‘resolving’ it: ‘The last degree of esoteric teaching is plain common sense.’ (A.R. Orage)
September 7, 2021
Thanks for the reply! Lovely quote (and yes I will resist with all my will the temptation to assert that the discovery of sensus communis is the first step to esotericism.)