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Archive for the ‘Mystery’ Category

Nazi // Occult // High Fashion

In Government, History, Mystery, Religion on December 22, 2009 at 9:51 am

Nazi Propaganda depicting America as a monstrous war machine destroying European culture.

On December 18th, I read an article on BBC News about the Arbeit Macht Frei sign that was stolen from the entrance to the Auschwitz Nazi Death Camp .  Hundreds of thousands of prisoners passed under the sign into the camp during the Holocaust, but the majority were murdered or worked to death.  My sister Hannah alerted me to the fact that the date the article was published held a special meaning.  Our grandfather, Max Heinz Cahn, was born in Königswinter, Germany on December 18th, 1915.  He was a prisoner at Buchenwald but managed to escape and changed the spelling of his name after coming to America.  This synchronous event encouraged further sibling investigation.  My sister took the time to delve further into our family lineage and uncovered several gems.  On such beauty is this poem by English poet and wit, C. S. Calverley (born on this very day in 1831) that notes our family brow and peculiar disposition:

I love to gaze upon a child ;

A young bud bursting into blossom ;

Artless, as Eve yet unbeguiled,
And agile as a young opossum :

And such was he. A cahn-brow’d lad,
Yet mad, at moments, as a hatter :

Why hatters as a race are mad
I never knew, nor does it matter.

She also discovered that we have distant cousin who was a corsetière and left Germany for Australia in the late 19th Century.  As whalebone is a key component in the construction of corsets, placing herself so close to the Ocean must have proved quite lucrative.  Fashion holds an extreme power in human society.  Men and women will go to great lengths to “possess” the right aesthetic.  Indeed, the desire is not merely to possess the style, but also to be possessed by it.  Like a haunted mask, anyone who adorns their body in the distinct aesthetic will be magically transformed into something new and different.  Sometimes ideas and experiences organically form around a growing fashion trend, giving the style a historical context and an particular psychological feel.  In the opposing scenario, a unique aesthetic is consciously fabricated to be the material manifestation of a specific ideology.  This type of propaganda may be exemplified by the attractive qualities sown into the psychic fabric of the Third Reich Fashion.

The art of propaganda consists precisely in being able to awaken the imagination of the public through an appeal to their feelings, in finding the appropriate psychological form that will arrest the attention and appeal to the hearts of the national masses.

::Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf::

The most dramatic uniforms were worn by the Nazi soldiers of the German army. With their mania for black leather, brass buttons, medals, and armbands, the Nazis proved as bold in their fashions as they were brutal on the battlefield. The German uniform style during the Nazi period was so eccentric that the American novelist Kurt Vonnegut called it “madly theatrical.”  Where other totalitarian societies, such as Russia, opted for functional dress codes and muted color schemes that de-emphasized individuality, the Nazis preferred expressive styles designed to make the ordinary citizen feel like part of a grand national enterprise. The development of smart looking uniforms for everybody provided visible evidence of German unity.

Nowhere was this sense of identity more evident than in the German military. The Nazis believed that their army represented a modern recreation of the Teutonic (or ancient German) Knights, the mysterious military order of medieval Europe. Instead of the chain mail and plate armor the knights would have worn, the Nazis substituted black leather.  No one in the Nazi high command, not even Adolf Hitler himself, felt fully “equipped” without an extensive leather wardrobe.

In the case of the Nazis, black leather acted as the mercurial solutio allowing individuals to be possessed by a collective fervor.  In the book Black Sun, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke reports how Carl Gustav Jung described “Hitler as possessed by the archetype of the collective Aryan unconscious and could not help obeying the commands of an inner voice”. In a series of interviews between 1936 and 1939, Jung characterized Hitler as an archetype, often manifesting itself to the complete exclusion of his own personality. “‘Hitler is a spiritual vessel, a demi-divinity; even better, a myth …the messiah of Germany who teaches the virtue of the sword. ‘The voice he hears is that of the collective unconscious of his race.'”  The early Jung was influenced by Theosophy, solar mysticism and völkisch nationalism in developing the ideas on the collective unconscious and the archetypes.  Jung’s suggestion that Hitler personified the collective Aryan unconscious deeply interested and influenced Miguel Serrano, who later concluded that Jung was merely psychologizing the ancient, sacred mystery of archetypal possession by the gods, independent metaphysical powers that rule over their respective races and “occasionally” possess their members.

The actual design and construction of Nazi fashion is even more fascinating.  The all-black uniform of the Nazi S.S. was designed by Prof. Dr. Karl Diebitsch and graphic designer Walter Heck who worked intimately with HUGO BOSS.  From 1933, the Hugo Boss company was the main firm that produced these black uniforms along with the brown SA shirts and the black-and-brown uniforms of the Hitler Youth.  Some workers are acknowledged to have been prisoners of war forced into labor.  This information is striking when looking at the 2009 Hugo Boss Men’s Line.  Note the familiar black, white, and red color scheme and the carefully selected Aryan specimens that would make Himmler’s rotting skeleton smile with appreciation…

And why not?  Even if the Third Reich was a failure, the imagery was a success.  This is because the minimalist design evokes an emotional response independent of Hitler’s ideology.  Visually, black and white with red highlights is a very seductive color scheme.  The black and white create a visual contrast that is clean and orderly, while the provocative touches of red stimulate and awaken the senses.  Success stories of this combo abound from typewriter ink to Sin City to the design of this very blog.  The infamous adage “the medium is the message” fits snugly inside the realm of aesthetics.  Adagium (Latin) or Adage or  can be further separated into two to create Ad Age, a clever nod toward the symbolic reality.  The Nazi’s weren’t the first to understand the power of symbols.  The Catholic Church, Tibetan Buddhism, Medieval Alchemy, Surrealism, all owe their success to symbols.  Man needs a world of symbols as well as a world of signs.  Both sign and symbol are necessary but they should not be confused with one another.  A sign is a token of meaning that stands for a known entity.  By this definition, language is a system of signs, not symbols.  A symbol, on the other hand hand, is an image or representation which points to something essentially unknown, a mystery.  A sign communicates abstract, objective meaning while a symbol conveys living, subjective meaning.  A symbol has a subjective dynamism which exerts a powerful attraction and fascination on the individual.  It is a living, organic entity which acts as a carrier, releaser, and transformer of psychic energy.  Symbols are spontaneous products of the archetypal psyche.  The archetypal psyche is constantly creating a steady stream of of living symbolic imagery.  Ordinarily this stream of images is not consciously perceived except through dreams or through waking fantasy when the conscious level of attention has been lowered.  However, even fully awake this stream continues to flow underneath  the ego without notice.  Symbols seep into the ego, causing it to identify with them and act them out unconsciously; or they spill out into the external environment via projection, causing the individual to become fascinated and involved with external objects and activities.  This is what Jung was viewing in Hitler.

No wonder there is such obsession with Nazism and the Occult.  According to Goodricke-Clarke the speculation of Nazi occultism originated from “post-war fascination with Nazism.”  The “horrid fascination” of Nazism upon the Western mind emerges from the “uncanny interlude in modern history” that it presents to an observer a few decades later. The idolization of Hitler in Nazi Germany, its short lived and brutal dominion on the European continent and Nazism’s irrational and gruesome Antisemitism set it apart from other periods of modern history. “Outside a purely secular frame of reference, Nazism was felt to be the embodiment of evil in a modern twentieth-century regime, a monstrous pagan relapse in the Christian community of Europe.”  By the early 1960s, “one could now clearly detect a mystique of Nazism.” A sensationalistic and fanciful presentation of its figures and symbols, shorn of all political and historical contexts gained ground with thrillers, non-fiction books and films and permeated “the milieu of popular culture.”  Both Nazism and the Occult fulfill a deep human need to become part of of something that transcends the individual in the realm of the archetypes.  Catholicism and Tibetan Buddhism provide a similar structure. When this desire is suppressed by a culture, there is danger of sudden eruptions or perverse fetishism.

Nazi chic refers to the approving use of Nazi-era style, imagery, and paraphernalia in clothing and popular culture.  In the 1970s Punk Subculture, several items of clothing designed to shock and offend became popular. Among these punk fashion items was a T-shirt displaying a Swastika, an upside-down crucifix and the word DESTROY — which was worn by J. Rotten.  Uniforms and other imagery related to Nazi Germany have been on sale in East-Asia, where some considered it cool. Hong Kong and Japan have each witnessed a growth in the casual wearing of SS-uniforms, as well as increased interest in the music-genre known as Rock Against Communism. Sometimes in east Asia, Nazi uniforms are used as part of cosplay. In South-Korea, an area generally isolated from Nazi cultural influences during the Nazi era, TIME Magazine observed in 2000 “an unthinking fascination with the icons and imagery of the Third Reich.” Nazi-inspired imagery are also featured in various early releases from Japanese band The 5, 6, 7, 8’s.  This trend will continue to thrive until another significant channel can be created to redirect psychic energy.

Still there is something disturbing about the overwhelming interest in Nazi Fashion.  Hetalia: Axis Powers is a webcomic, later adapted as a manga and an anime series, by Hidekaz Himaruya. The series presents an allegorical interpretation of political and historic events, particularly of the World War II era, in which the various countries are represented by anthropomorphic characters. Hetalia is a portmanteau combining hetare (Japanese for “useless”) and Italia.  This is to make light of Italy’s apparent cowardice during World War II.  This fan video seems to glorify the style.  I could tell you what I think about it, but it’s better to simply let the comments speak for themselves. WARNING: THE FOLLOWING MONTAGE IS EPIC.

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Dionysian Mystery and Laughing Gas Teeth

In Dreams, History, Image, Inner Space, Mystery, Pharmacopeia, Science on December 8, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Candy and Cronus take their toll.  I had my wisdom teeth extracted on the 4th.  I was given local anesthesia for my face as well as nitrous oxide and a general anesthesia to dip me into a semi-conscious state for the procedure.  The day before the operation I traveled to Philadelphia to visit the tter Museum.  This vast and eclectic collection of medical curiosities is managed by the prestigious College of Physicians and is truly a spectacular exhibition.   Glass cabinets line velvet walls providing temporary shelters for partial skeletal fragments, waxen fetal reproductions, medical journals and anatomy textbooks bound with human skin, and photographic documentation depicting an endless amount of bizarre cases that would keep Victorian scholars  baffled and intrigued for years.  That night I had a terrible nightmare wherein I was shrunk down to the size of a rodent and dissected in a dark amphitheater to a hostile (and possibly, sinister) public.  And reclining on that dentist’s chair at 7:45 in the morning, I could not help but think of all the butchering that had happened in the name of science and all those rusty, archaic instruments now resting in glass cabinets… waiting to be picked up, and used again.  As the gas kicked in, I briefly hallucinated the surgeon pulling out what could only have been some sort of bone-crushing device meant for extracting brain matter.  Those Bastards, I thought, they are going to butcher me here on this slab and sell the profitable parts to the Black Market… possibly even back to the Museum. I braced myself for a frontal lobotomy, but nothing came and eventually I lost interest as the drugs set in.  I was “awake” for the entire operation.  I heard the crunching, slicing, and whizzing of the drill used break up the teeth, sending tiny splinters across the room.  I distinctly recall the dentist informing me that they would “have to remove an infected molar, as well.”  I used my free arm to give him a big “O.K.” symbol with my hand and managed to mumble something to the degree of, “That’s totally fine with me, dude.”

Re-enactment of the first operation under anesthesia (ether). The actual operation took place on October 16, 1846; this re-enactment took place shortly afterwards.

After the operation I asked for my teeth back.  They told me that I could not have them because they were now a BIO-HAZARD.  “At least let me say goodbye to them… to my babies.”  They consented and brought me to the recovery lounge.  The nurse came in with an extended arm and opened her hand, palm up.  There they were, exposed to the open air:  five half-rotted teeth laying in a pool of blood on her cold, rubber glove.   And observing the teeth for the first time without possession and function, I appreciated them for what they truly were:  five overturned tombstones from a graveyard.  “Now that the gums are unplugged, the souls are bound to escape,” I told the nurse, but she seemed nonplussed.  It was probably too late, anyway.  The ghosts and demons once held at bay by those ivory monuments were now free to roam the far reaches of Earth and pursue their dark, inhuman desires.  “You fools,” I shouted as I was discretely escorted from the premises.  They were all doomed, but I didn’t care.  They had unleashed their own destruction, and there was no escape.  So be it.  Good luck and Godspeed, my babies… Godspeed.

I went home and turned on the television.  Twin Peaks was on the Chiller Network. It was the episode where David Duchovny plays FBI Agent Denise/Dennis Bryson.  It is unclear from the series whether Bryson would self-identify as a cross-dresser, a transvestite or transgender.  Bryson began wearing women’s clothing during a DEA undercover operation and found that it relaxed him. Bryson identifies as “Denise,” wears women’s clothing and presents female behavior during working hours and otherwise. When required for a sting operation, Bryson dons a man’s suit and goes by “Dennis.”  This was interesting for two reasons:

First, there is an obvious connection to Dionysus.  In Greek mythology, Dionysus is described as being womanly or “man-womanish”.  He is the god of duality and was raised by Hermes.  He has two separate origin stories that accent his “twice-born” character.  In one he is the offspring of Zeus and the mortal woman Semele.   The mortal demands Zeus to reveal himself in all his glory as proof of his godhood. He comes to her wreathed in bolts of lightning; mortals, however, can not look upon an undisguised god without dying, and she perished in the ensuing blaze. Zeus rescued the fetal Dionysus by sewing him into his testicles.  In the other origin story, Dionysus was the son of Zeus and Persephone, the queen of the Greek underworld.  A  jealous Hera attempted to kill the child by sending Titans to rip Dionysus to pieces after luring the baby with toys. (See Dionysus and his Mirror)  Zeus drove the Titans away with his thunderbolts, but only after the Titans ate everything but the heart, which was saved, variously, by Athena, Rhea, or Demeter.  Zeus used the heart to recreate him in the womb of Semele, hence he was again “the twice-born.”  As a champion of androgyny, the allusion is obvious.

Two Denises

Secondly, “Denise” Duchovny in drag looks surprisingly like my mother, whose name is also “Denise.”  To further the coincidence, my mother was named after her older brother Dennis who died soon after childbirth.  Their visual similarity is superficial, of course, being two people with Czech/Slavic descent and similar hairstyles.  I was pondering the implications of these events and enjoying the “Percs” of the operation when it occurred to me that losing teeth was a powerful symbol of death and rebirth.  Also, the dream in which I was “transformed” and “dissected” was about a dramatic psychological change.   Manifestations of Dionysus are manifold in this reality and it is necessary to acknowledge and understand the intentions of this divine entity if one is to maintain psychological health.  Therefore, it is imperative that one give respect by honoring the god in the traditional way:  Bacchanalia.

Dionysus is a god who transcends boundaries,  subverting preexisting borders between life and death, man and woman, wilderness and society. The earliest rites took place in the wilderness – in the forests and woods, the marshes, and particularly high in the mountains, where the lower oxygen content was suitable for trance induction. Later the ‘priest’ would simply cast their staff into the ground, at any suitable location, and hang a mask and an animal skin from it, the circle drawn around this center becoming the sacred precinct for however long the staff remained.  Underground chambers were also often used for initiations, which may have originally taken place in natural caves, particularly those by the shoreline. Liminal boundary zones being especially sacred to Dionysos.  The Orphic texts of the late period record a boukolos, or ‘cowherd’, as an offerer of sacrifice, sayer of prayers, and hymn singer, who seems to have been the nearest thing they ever had to a priest. Other inscriptions record an archiboukolos, or ‘chief cowherd’ presiding over these boukoloi, and in some records there is also mention of boukoloi hieroi, ‘holy cowherders’ as well as hymnodidaskaloi,’hymn teachers’.  The cowherds were necessary because the “sacred wine” used in the ceremonies contained hallucinogenic mushrooms that grew on the feces of local cattle.

In intoxication, physical or spiritual, the initiate recovers an intensity of feeling which prudence had destroyed; he finds the world full of delight and beauty, and his imagination is suddenly liberated from the prison of everyday preoccupations. The Bacchic ritual produced what was called ‘enthusiasm’, which means etymologically having the god enter the worshipper, who believed that he became one with the god.

::Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy::

Traditional offerings to Dionysus include but are not limited to the following: musk, civet, frankincense, storax, ivy, grapes, pine, fig, wine, honey, apples, Indian Hemp, orchis root, thistle, all wild and domestic trees, black diamonds.

I call upon loud-roaring and revelling Dionysus,

primeval, double-natured, thrice-born, Bacchic lord,

wild, ineffable, secretive, two-horned and two-shaped.

Ivy-covered, bull-faced, warlike, howling, pure,

You take raw flesh, you have feasts, wrapt in foliage, decked with grape clusters.

Resourceful Eubouleus, immortal god sired by Zeus

When he mated with Persephone in unspeakable union.

Hearken to my voice, O blessed one,

and with your fair-girdled nymphs breathe on me in a spirit of perfect agape.

Dream #2

In Animals, Dreams, History, Inner Space, Magic, Mystery on November 22, 2009 at 10:18 pm

Do you ever have dreams where you find secret doors? Hidden rooms? I often have such dreams.  On many occasions, I am at my house, or my elementary school, or another familiar place when I come across a previously concealed opening.   I crawl inside and navigate among a network of fleshy tunnels, sliding between walls, climbing up cold metal vents, and going down dark shafts to places strange and unknown.  Several times, these paths lead me to obscure worlds…  alien locations super-imposed on familiar locales.  I’d like to think that these dreams are metaphors for exploring your own “personal” psychic space.  There is a scene in the movie Dreamcatcher (based off the Stephen King novel) where the protagonist explores a metaphoric warehouse of his own memories while an alien creature inhabits his body.  While I do not advocate watching such a terrible, terrible film, the image is clearly useful and pertinent to the conversation.

One such dream lingers on my mind.  In this dream my parents purchased my favorite Haunted House in Ocean City, Maryland and wanted to run it as a family business.  To those unfamiliar with the Haunted House at the end of the Boardwalk, let my explain that, basically, it is a seated two-person ride where frightening automated tricks are triggered as the cart travels down a winding track through a serious of horrifying scenes.  The labyrinthine layout of the ride confuses the passengers’ understanding of space and time while the psychedelic optical effects of the black-lights loosen their subconscious minds, successfully allowing the ghosts of the ride unmitigated access to the personal fears of the travelers, or at least, that’s how I’ve always felt.

In the dream, I returned home to Maryland to help them renovate their new business.  I was walking through the ride and I noticed a door that I have never seen.

It was down the crooked psychedelic hallway with its chipping black-light paint…

Past the terrifying old mill with its rusty saw blades…

Past the torture chamber with its racist primitive and its tied up maiden with giant animatronic heaving bosoms…

And directly after the horrific decomposing Victorian skeleton knitting a neon tea-cozy by moonlight.

There against a blank wall was a small, mysterious door shrouded by darkness.  I got on all fours and crawled through what seemed an endless maze of cobwebs-and-sand-encrusted tunnels.  Finally, after a long while, I reached a drafty, open chamber made of stone and marble.  The silvery moon must have been bright that magical night, because before me I saw illuminated some sort of ancient subterranean burial tomb.  It was then that I realized, “Holy shit.  This Haunted House is really just the top of a buried Egyptian pyramid!  Sweet.”  It was like the tip of an iceberg peering out of the water, only it was buried deep and forgotten in that cigarette-butt and broken beer bottle infested coastline that hugs the waters of the Atlantic.  I knew right then and there that I had found a great psychic doorway to the Underworld.  The ghosts that ran the haunted house were the lingering spirits of powerful beings.  At last, there would be proof that a proto-human species inherited these colossal geometric structures from their divine celestial fore-bearers (at least, these were my thought at the time).  And the best part… it was all mine to explore.  I don’t think I have ever been happier in a dream.  Then I woke up.  The dream was over.

Last night, I went looking for the actual blueprints of the fun-house (which I found) and luckily, I was charmed enough to come across The Bill Tracy Project, “a comprehensive look into the personal and professional life of the greatest designer and builder of dark attractions the amusement park industry has ever seen: Bill Tracy.”  He designed and built the Haunted House in Ocean City along with many others across the good ol’ U.S. of A.  He also designed many of the early Thanksgiving Day Parade Floats (how timely) and some display cases for Macy’s.  The list of his achievements is daunting (46 Dark Rides, 15 Walk-Thrus, 8 Water Rides, 6 Ride Displays, 1 Park Front, 1 Concept Ride, 1 Park Design/Layout, plus 2 Unknown Projects), and his carefully researched biography… fascinating.  This excerpt in particular seemed portentous:

Tracy’s creativity flourished and he became nationally known for his ceramics after being featured in the November 11, 1940 issue of Life, where a photo of Tracy’s ceramic creation, “Jonah in the Whale,” was published in an article covering the Syracuse Ceramic Show at The Museum of Fine Arts in Syracuse, New York, where his piece was on display. His unique sculpture featured a whale with a portion of its side removed to reveal a person trapped inside. 

For a full-page synchronicity, see Dream #1.

How did the young Bill Tracy gain access to the dreams of a of an individual 69 years in the future?  Why were the dead and hidden secrets of Ocean City’s occult origins revealed to humanity?  Will Nathan actually destroy the foundation of his favorite childhood thrill-ride to satisfy the ephemeral desires of a dream?  And just how much will the tickets cost to this new and wonderful attraction?  The answers to all these questions (and cooking tips for the holiday season!) in the next penumbra report.

Mystery Woman

In Image, Mystery on November 13, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Flexaret Model

I found this photograph on the internet.  I sold my Flexaret a few months ago.  I came across this picture while looking up the camera model.  She is beautiful, no?  Sometimes I just sit at my computer and stare at her hips.  The way the soft lens of the camera engraves the light into the film is incredible.  I love the hazy beach background covered in fog, as well.  In fact, I think about this photo so much, that I tried to channel it when taking my own photographs of Haley on the Dunes of Mendocino.  haleylegshaleyfacebw2I think I did an OK job with creating  a similar feel between the images.  I was using a Diana my sister got me and not a Flexaret I assume was used for the prime image.  The plastic is too soft and the distortion too heavy, but it was fun nonetheless.  I have so many small obsessions like this.  Little mysteries that I try to duplicate in order to gain a greater understanding.  What is it about soft black and white photographs that make them seem so dreamy?   If the oneiric nature of photography is obvious, then the connection to death is implicit.

 

In mythology, the Oneiroi were the three sons of Hypnos, the god of sleep. They lived on the border of the Underworld and were the rulers of visions, the personifications of dreams.  Morpheus (the root of the drug morphine) was the sculptor of dreams and had the ability to take any human’s form; Phobetor (root of phobia) orchestrated nightmares; and Phantasos (root of fantasy and phantasmagoria) produced tricky and unreal dreams. The twin brother of Hypnos was Thanatos or Death.

Susan Sontag writes, “Photographs tend to transform, whatever their subject; and as an image something may be beautiful—or terrifying, or unbearable, or quite bearable—as it is not in real life.”  In fact, the collapsing act of photography pulls an image deep into the bosom of the underworld.  We’ve all learned from our collective education to depreciate images, to concentrate rather on ideas, conceptual formations, and to assume that the psyche and the ego are equivalent.  This has the effect of blinding us to the reality of the psyche as an autonomous, objective entity.  It is through photography, cinema and dreams that we make contact with this strange creature, or at least, witness its functions and habits at close hand. The psyche is a wild beast, and like any other beast, it hungers.  To understand its needs, we must observe the environment in which it thrives: the dream.  What we eat in dreams is not food but images; we possess a psychic need for nourishing images.  It is the consumption of images that fascinates me, and it is here that I will attempt to flesh out certain phenomena intrinsic to the digestive process of my own psyche.