Archive for April, 2010

Beware…the Noosphere!!!

April 17, 2010 4 comments

One of my last days in California (yes, I just made it back to the UK hours before the volcano) I was reading up about the Coastal Miwok who inhabited the Bay Area before the European settlers arrived.  What was interesting for me was the easy time they had of it due to the clement weather and water and land abundant with plants and game.  It seems even the Native Americans then enjoyed the Californian lifestyle.  This put me in mind of an article I wrote many years ago about something called the Noosphere.  It was written for people interested in mystical things, including Feng Shui and geomancy, but I felt it important at the time and still do.  Now as my body clock is still all over the place, I haven’t got it in me to write a new article entirely, but fortunately managed to find the original.  It’s even more rough at the edges than my blogs, but I like it and hope you do too.  (And apologies to those who have been reading me for so long, it’s too familiar.)  Here follows the original article, doctored only slightly:

In India I was taken once to the grave of a Sufi master.  The grave was located on the crest of a small hill where a remarkable phenomenon could be observed, even participated in.

The master’s disciples invited me to try and lift a small boulder with them.  About eight to ten of us tried with no success, it wouldn’t budge an inch.  Then we placed our index fingers under the rock, chanted the name of the master three times – and tossed the rock high up into the air  (quickly getting out the way!).  I asked how far around this strange phenomenon occurred and they said anywhere on the hill but no further.  It seemed that one man’s enlightenment even transcended the effects of gravity.

There is an old Ray Bradbury story about the first settlers on Mars.  As the pioneers explore their new home, the only evidence they find of previous inhabitants is some artefacts and paintings showing the aliens to have been ‘dark and golden eyed’.  The aliens, whoever they were, were long gone.  Meanwhile, there is a nuclear war on Earth and communication with it no longer happens.  The settlers get on with their lives, learning to love and be with the new land, and eventually they forget all about their home world.  Centuries pass and finally a ship comes from a recuperating Earth to check how the settlers are doing.  The astronauts report back to Earth, saying there is no trace of any humans, although there is a benign alien civilisation, quite human-like, ‘dark and with golden eyes’.

The aliens are, of course, the adapted humans.  The story illustrates perfectly how I perceive the effects of the noosphere (pronounced ‘noahsphere’).  The noosphere is perceived as being the psychic or mental collective atmosphere, distinguishable from the non-living world and the living world. I consider it connected to social conditioning, weather – the physical atmosphere – and environmental ambience, that mysterious je ne sais quoi in any given area.  But ultimately it is separate from all these.

The common thinking in New Age circles is that the noosphere is a good thing.  The mystic Teillhard de Chardin refers to it, saying, “Pushed one against the other by the growth of their number and by the proliferation of their connections, approached one to the other by the reawakening of a common force and by the feeling of a common anxiety, the future human kind will form nothing but a unified consciousness”.

This all sounds very cosy but experience tells me a different tale.  What I have found is that the noosphere varies from place to place, as do the atmosphere and ambience, but with one common element:  it dictates how you should be in it.  I asked a German DJ once why such a small country as Britain should produce such a large output of good music.  “Simple.” he said drily. “The weather and emotional repression.”  This struck a chord with me, for I’d often thought about the Brontës and how ‘Wuthering Heights’ etc. could only have been written on the Yorkshire moors.  The British tend to pour their hearts out via their arts.  Yet the really great artists and writers always transcend their own culture.  I don’t know if the Brontës are popular world-wide but I know that Shakespeare is.  The Italian director Franco Zeffirelli – who made a few films of Shakespeare’s plays – commented on this, talking about how he knew of Shakespeare performed even in China in Mandarin.  Akira Kurosawa turned two Shakespeare plays into Japanese language films.  Peter Brook did ‘The Tempest’ in French, performing in Glasgow.  The fauna and flora of the plays are distinguishably English – many of the plants are very much in evidence around Stratford-on-Avon – but the plays seem to transcend location, culture and even their own language.  Not to mention time.

If you can follow what I’m saying, then it should be clear that specific areas on the planet will feature specific aspects of the noosphere.  This has good and bad implications.  A story has it that George Bernard Shaw used this to his advantage when he was searching for a place to be in the last years of his life.  He was walking through a graveyard when he saw that a lot of the graves were for people over a hundred years old when they died.  One grave stated ‘So-and-so died at the untimely age of ninety-six(?)’.  “This is where I want to be,” Shaw said, “in a place where dying at ninety-six is considered untimely.”  He moved there and, of course, lived to a very ripe old age.

So, you can utilise the noosphere by choosing what qualities you wish to invoke.  But it comes at a price, for all conditioning is double-sided.  For example, you may value directness of approach and move to, say Germany, where you consider that quality predominant, but you may also get the flip side of insensitivity.  Or do you like Italian spontaneity?  Well then you will also have to put up with chaos and inconsistency.  The list is world-wide, so I’ll leave it there (and we’ve already mentioned the Brits).

The noosphere can be isolated down to very small areas.  Reflecting this, good linguists can not only tell what area of what town you are from but sometimes even the street.  Geomancers attempt to do this by studying the lung mei or ley lines, determining what the overall ambience and conditioning of a specific area is and can sometimes tell if a child grew up in a house where there was water underneath, for instance.

Put bluntly:  there is no escape from the noosphere.  It dictates to you how you should be, what you should think, how you should feel.  You can move away from particular aspects of it, but you will merely be substituting them with other aspects.

Now you may well be comfortable with this, for particular areas do enhance certain qualities that we need at particular times in our lives.  This is fine as long as it works.

I am reminded though of when I met a travelling shaman-master some years ago and he said, “Your friends are your enemies.”  It took me a while to detach myself from this statement and understand what he meant, for my friends are very important to me.  He was referring not to the deep bonds of friendship and the immense support and nourishment that can result, but to the unconscious assumptions that people tend to make, that they know someone.

There is another Bradbury story which illustrates this  (he seems to be have been a remarkable navigator of the noosphere!), where an alien becomes whatever projection an individual throws at him:  a lost love, a missing child, a deceased parent, until he can’t stand it any longer and escapes, yelling, “I’m a referent!  Not a label!”  This is the danger, that we become our labels.

So what can we do?  Well, I have known very few what I call ‘Noosphere Warriors’ who have defied their surroundings successfully, but they all had one thing in common:  everyone around them thought they were crazy.  This is because the necessarily peaceful rebellion against the noosphere is always individual, it’s never collective.  A revolution will change the faces but keep the rules.  ‘Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.’  Groups may provide relief from the local influence of the noosphere, such as MacDonalds putting identical restaurants all over the globe, but this is just another area of the noosphere, not a release from it.

Group effort is still important, for it can improve the quality of life obviously, making physical existence that much more bearable.  Environmental groups are a clear example of this, but a Noosphere Warrior has different concerns from a Rainbow Warrior.  To be one requires remarkable courage, honesty, determination and individuality.  The Noosphere Warrior may inspire others eventually but they will not be a leader.

Case in point is a lady called Helen Martins who lived in Nieu-Bethesda, South Africa 1898-1976.  In her fifties, after the death of her parents, she started knocking holes in the walls of her house, replacing them with stained glass, building stone effigies of owls and camels, filling the house and courtyard with them; plus numerous other bizarre works of art.  It took her 25 years of contending with meagre resources, failing eyesight and crippling arthritis.

Now her ‘Owl House’ is a point of pilgrimage.  People all over Africa and the rest of the world go to see it and the small town in the Karoo is blossoming with cafes, guest houses and art galleries.

I felt when I visited I could understand some of what she was doing.  From the slothful, gluttonous male creatures in the Corner of Debauchery (by her father’s room), to the coloured light in the dark recesses of rooms, to the ubiquitous owls – it was as if she were working on herself, bringing light into the darkest corners of her own life.  But she was accomplishing much more.  In the courtyard she had a sculpture of Kompassberg, the local mountain and ‘power point’ for the entire area.  (The Japanese do a similar thing in their gardens, honouring their source of earth ch’i or life force via a small representation of it e.g. Mount Fuji.)  Helen Martins had been mostly working on herself, but the entire area benefited, or so it seemed with the generally happy atmosphere.

Becoming a Noosphere Warrior is not for everyone but there are two steps I would recommend to anyone interested.  In brief:

1.  Befriend Mother Earth.  Do it through environmental awareness, gardening, whatever works for you.  The paths are limitless.  Even focusing on your own body is applicable, for it too is of the Earth.

2.  Identify what is truly you and what has been imposed.  This is not a reaction to cultural influence but can be accomplished by really getting to know your area of the noosphere.  Enjoy it by all means – the culture, the weather, everything – but don’t be limited by it.  Then rebel peacefully and lovingly.  Be yourself.

The point is to embrace what has been given you and then become bigger than it.

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Update – April 2010

April 9, 2010 1 comment

Howdy everyone!  Greetings from the post-comic convention aftermath command central in northern California.  It’s only now that I finally get a chance to offer a catch up.  Pramada’s busily working away at our new shop link on the Omni site, and I’ve got a bit of time now for a few words.  But if you haven’t checked the recent updates on the site please do so as it’s grown in size exponentially just in the last weeks, with a lot more to explore at your heart’s content.

The Wondercon in San Francisco itself was the first convention I’d ever been to – I’m not that conventional generally –  and it was all more than a little overwhelming.   It struck me as a vast Hall of Desires:  the sellers, artists etc. desiring people to desire them and their wares, and the fans desiring to meet their idols or find particular comic books or merchandise for which they’ve been yearning.  This theme was accentuated by the likes of a scantily clad Psylocke or Wonder Woman frequently passing by.  So, yes, I wandered dazed and confused for much of the time.

It was only in the last half-hour that I found a book I’d been looking for (and my desire therefore somewhat placated) and then by chance ran into David Mack, the creator of Kabuki and various other masterpieces.  After checking he was still going to be there for ten minutes, I ran to get the rest of the team and we descended on poor Mr Mack like a small mob of bedazzled fools.  The strange thing is, I’d been up and down the Artists’ Alley several times, purposely looking for him in particular and never seeing him till that last half-hour; the same thing happened to Pramada with him the previous year.  I suspect, as a martial arts devotee, he’s been practicing kage, a technique where the fighter lets darkness and shadows hide him till he chooses to reveal himself.  Anyway, David was incredibly generous with his time and gave us some signed art books ‘Reflections’, and I’ll remember much of the conversation in times to come.  What I was particularly struck with was here was an immensely successful writer and artist who was still willing to stand for hours and days at a stall, unannounced and humble, totally willing to be available to his fans – even when, like by the time he met us, he was clearly exhausted.  We exchanged business cards and I’m hoping he will find time to check in on the Omni website.

So what did I learn from the experience?  Well, the main thing for me was that there is a huge amount of talented people looking for their break in the comics world.  I still feel – in a detached and objective way I hope – that we in Omni are offering something more unique and further-reaching than anyone else, but that doesn’t matter in terms of the business.  What does matter is how we’re going to get noticed in this sea of yearners.  The reality is none of the publishers have got back in touch with us properly, and we’re not going to waste time waiting for an acceptance letter to drop  in the mailbox.  I’m not going to reveal our marketing strategy in full, but a large part of it involves viral campaigning:  this blog, annoying emails to you, shouts on Facebook etc.  This will allow us to pursue our art without worrying unduly about public acceptance, yet still pushing in hope that eventually a tipping point will be reached.  In the meantime, we’re going to be putting our completed mini-stories on the site so that you, our devoted readers, will have something to placate your desires!

My time in California is almost up this time round, but i’m pretty sure I’ll be back before long, because it’s been absolutely great.

Here’s a picture of two of the beautiful people at Wondercon – no, not me!

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