Charles River

Charles River
Upper Limit Cloud/Lower Limit Sail


"Messianicity is not messianism ... even though this distinction remains fragile and enigmatic." (Jacques Derrida)

Friday, January 22, 2010

On Messages from the Beyond

In a New Yorker profile of a psychic investigator & skeptic named Nickells, he asks: if the dead really can speak to us from beyond, then why don’t they have anything more to say than second-rate pop psychology and banal platitudes?

The history of discourse shifts in mediumistic communication from its modern inception in 1848 in New England with the Miller sisters (sic) would be an interesting one to trace. From that time until the high water mark of the séance in the 1920s, it was always the personal dead who spoke a message of healing and comfort. The popularity of this movement appeared to die out sometime before WWII and did not re-surface in a mass way until the 1970s and the appearance of the Seth material by Jane Roberts. This opened a floodgate of similarly coded messages from “beyond.”

The banal platitudes remained more or less the same – recyclings of various ancient philosophies from neo-Platonism to Hinduism, with the main difference being that this time around the messages were from extra-terrestrial or trans-dimensional “beings” instead of from the earthly dead. This shift in sources, but not in register, can be understood as the response to a need for some authority outside the human yet in some way still recognizable. Hence, the gargling theatrics of J.Z. Knight and others channeling ancient beings or galactic entities whose purported wisdom necessarily suffered from the “translation” into primitive human language.

Channeling itself may be understood as the effort to produce a surplus commodity for the spiritual economy – it comes for free, from “nowhere,” as it were, but gains its value only through re-sale on the market. The Other Side is that portion of human activity that seeks to extricate itself from the mundaneness of ordinary exchange, but can only receive recognition of its worth when it is re-inscribed within that system of exchange.

In fact, there is no Other Side from which the dead speak to us. There is only the Inner Side, where, if we are to learn how to listen to our own most urgent promptings, that which would set us free of the deterministic chain of history, then we must first learn ourselves how to speak. This is why poetry and music and all art will always speak with a greater profundity than anything the so-called Other Side can muster.

Channeling is simply spiritual supply-side economics.

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