Author Topic: Useless Science: What's in a Name?  (Read 1440 times)

Matt Koeske

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Useless Science: What's in a Name?
« on: March 10, 2007, 09:43:02 AM »

The name of this website comes from the Remedios Varo painting, Useless Science, or the Alchemist.

I love the complexity of the painting . . . the "statement" it makes about inner Work.  The apparatus the woman is using is ridiculously elaborate . . . yet can be turned with a simple crank.  It seems to distill the atmosphere, drawing the Tincture out of it.  The bottled Tincture sits in the background unceremoniously.  The contraption, though!  It looms over everything, preposterous and wonderful.  Distillation as a process of convolution!  Lovely!

The alchemist pulls the floor (checkered with the opposites) over herself like a blanket.  This blanket is not only a part of the floor (a kind of prima materia on which everything is established), but (if you look closely) also a part of the alchemist's head.  Her look seems to convey so many things: sorrow, concentration, patience, determination, resignation, prayer.

To me, this painting says everything about the Work (in Jungian terminology, the individuation process), about what it feels like to devote oneself to it . . . and it says it so subtly.  This sense of subtlety begs the viewer to pour him or herself into the painting . . . itself a process of distillation.

The Work truly is a "Useless Science".  It is "useless" when viewed through the rationalist's eye . . . because the psychic materia is immaterial.  To that eye, the alchemist in the painting is an absurd figure.  But the alchemists knew all about the "uselessness" of their Art and the seemingly worthless stone it was meant to produce.  The alchemical process is, I believe, a process of valuation more so than anything else.  Transmutation, yes, and rebirth, sure.  But what strikes me as most important is the valuation of the Work . . . which is a process of transmuting the desire for material things and valuation of material or worldly objects and pleasures into a valuation of the inner life, of the Self . . . and of the process of seeking, excavating, and re-valuing the Self.

Alchemy is a study of wealth . . . but even as this wealth is accumulated through the Work, the consciousness that it is worthless or useless to the outer, social world is also accumulated.  The alchemist must devoutly differentiate the inner from the outer value . . . as any confusion between the two will spell his or her downfall.  I've always felt that it is important to understand the ultimate "worthlessness" of psychic attainments.  I do not think such attainments should be confused with currency.  They do not convert into miracles, or power, or wisdom.  There is a profound emptiness to alchemical gold.  Go to grasp it, try to "spend" it, and it disappears.

We can buy nothing with consciousness.  It awards us with a humbling impoverishment.  This is probably why hardly anyone pursues it with rigor.  Consciousness is always a giving away, a sacrifice . . . and is stalled primarily by stinginess or possessiveness.  We want it to serve us, we want this gold to make us rich, this tincture to heal or preserve us . . . but everything gained through the Work is gained only for the Self, for one's god.  This is, I suppose, why all misappropriations of alchemical gold are "inflations".  They are like stealing a god's food in the primitive hope that consuming it will make us like that god (this all reminds me of my past dream "Gandolf's Prisoners", which I'll re-post here eventually) . . . a fetish or totem object that is supposed to house the essence of the god.

But the second we put our hands on it, that essence evaporates.  It cannot be possessed . . . only transferred, only given away.

As far as the connection of this "individuation philosophy" to this website goes, I'd like this to be a vessel of mutual transformation, a place where people searching for meaning and understanding in a loosely Jungian paradigm can influence and be influenced by others.  It is the nature of the beast that this influencing will occur primarily in the realm of ideas.  I hope that we won't feel it necessary to disparage this limitation.  A great deal can come of this, I think.

This is the science of our exploration.  We compare and contrast, test the waters, hypothesize, argue, observe, see what sticks.  It's the quest for Logos . . . which is a quest to learn the language of the Self.  We could also call it Gnosis (a term which I mean to employ generally, not specifically relating it to the ancient Gnostic belief systems).  We seek to know . . . and although we may also seek to believe, it is not my personal intention to make Useless Science into a house of beliefs and conversions.  All belief systems are welcome here . . . but the emphasis (at least the emphasis I will place) is on trying to know.  I think the best we can hope for is to construct beliefs that will facilitate the process of Gnosis.  Gnosis, I feel, is open to the myriad languages of belief.  It is not corrective of these languages, per se.  Gnosis is like a star with immense gravity that can pull these various bodies of belief language into its orbit.  These bodies, these planets, need not change for us to know and pursue knowing . . . but sometimes their orbits will shift.

I look forward to having my orbit shifted . . . to learning from those of you who will participate here.

Aside from the mutual pursuit of knowing, we do offer a Dream Work forum for anyone who wishes to pursue the Work through dream analysis.  I also hope that we will be able to find a way to talk about the experience of individuation, an issue typically kept locked away in a dark inner room.  I worry that the Jungian individuation paradigm has locked up the individuant with the shadow.  I personally don't like this "Bluebeard" approach to the subject.  I think it's time to blow open these locked doors and push forward into a more detailed analysis and understanding of the actual process of individuation.

These are my personal interests . . . and these interests have led me to this name: Useless Science.

You will see me following this path here in the forum . . . and I hope you will choose to follow your own paths here, as well.  And that we will meet somewhere on the Road.

My Best,
« Last Edit: August 24, 2012, 10:26:10 PM by Matt Koeske »
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