An American Mystagogue

The Pools of Lethe and Mnemosyne, Psychic Symbolism



The River of Lethe

THE consort I invoke of Jove divine,
Source of the holy, sweetly-speaking Nine;

Free from th’ oblivion of the fallen mind,
By whom the soul with intellect is join’d:
Reason’s increase, and thought to thee belong, 
All-powerful, pleasant, vigilant, and strong:
‘Tis thine, to waken from lethargic rest
All thoughts deposited within the breast;
And nought neglecting, vigorous to excite
The mental eye from dark oblivion’s night. 
Come, blessed power, thy mystic’s mem’ry wake
To holy rites, and Lethe’s fetters break.

~ Orphic Hymn To Mnemosyne, Titaness of Memory

                               Something interesting I came across, while perusing the webs for information on the Greek goddess/titaness Mnemosyne, from whom the word mnemonic takes it root from. I realized a certain combination of archetypal figures in the Greek mythology that I found most interesting given my particular fascination with Lucid Dreaming.

I’ve always been fascinated by lucid dreaming, specifically what is known as W.I.L.D’s or “Wake Initiated Lucid Dreaming”. For those of you who don’t know what lucid dreaming, or W.I.L.D’s are, information on them are available widely on the internet. I was entranced from the very first time I had achieved one, when I was on my adventure walking around America a couple of years ago, specifically sleeping in a tent in the industrial district of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The ability for the human brain to induce a state akin to what most people only dream of with ‘virtual reality’ without the use of consumed oneirogens struck me as quite interesting, and potentially very useful.

However, even though I have had a handful of successes with W.I.L.D’s, I faced and still face the same issues that most people do when attempting them; how to stay conscious while tricking my body into falling asleep and engaging sleep paralysis so that I could, all pomp and facade aside, hallucinate lucidly. It was for this reason that I had endeavored to create my own, unique mnemonic mantra to help me focus before attempting to W.I.L.D, which served me with much success with the few attempts I used it. The chant essentially centered around beseeching the Force of Memory, who I chose to personify as Mnemosyne, and others including Hypnos, and his three brother/sons the Oneiro. This led me to a fascination with the Greek titaness specifically, and I soon began delving into research about her from an almost information-magpie perspective.

Of course, my human brain kept telling me to go along with a theme, and I started doing research on Mnemosyne it branched into Hypnos, and the Oneiroi (from where the term oneironaut stems from). However, something was missing. While chanting mantras that called upon the archetypal Forces that these Greek daimon/gods represented to induce mindfulness was helpful, I hadn’t begun to focus on the main culprit of my failures; the Oblivion of unmindful, unconscious sleep that would sneak upon me and whisk me hours into the future, with no dreams lucid or otherwise to report on.

It wasn’t until later however that I stumbled across the perfect symbol for the dreaded “Oblivion” point that so many people reach when they hit what is called ‘dead sleep’ or ‘blacking out’; the River Lethe. According to Greek myth, Lethe was a river in Hades, one of five, that (according to different accounts) either went through or around the poppy surrounded cave where Hypnos slept in Hades, guarded by his brothers/sons the Oneiroi; the river which  caused forgetfulness and unmindfulness in whomever drank from its waters and whose burbling sound lulled Hypnos and whomever heard it asleep.  I came to refer to the ‘black out’ period of sleep as ‘drinking from Lethe”. When my mind would ramble on automatically, I would think of this as the ‘burbling of the river”. I figured if a river for forgetfulness was in the way between my goal and I, that invoking the Force of Reminiscence through (somewhat ironically) mnemonic chanting would be the way to go.

Recently I found an interesting if completely reasonable connection between Mnemosyne and Lethe; the initiates of certain mystical orders (perhaps related to the Orphic cult poetry) were told that when they died, they should not drink from the river of Lethe, but rather from the pool of Mnemosyne, so that they could retain their memories. It should come as no surprise that Memory should be used to combat Forgetfulness, but this helped further cement the entire mnemonic endeavor of my own. My research now tightly wound together with my own mnemonic incantations in my mind.

The Greeks certainly knew how to map the mindscape.

~ Seth Moris




Catalyst Ownership and the “Just/Only” Mentality


don quixot

                                  One thing I notice about general humanity is that when they approach the boundaries of what they believe to be possible, they are often stuck waiting along in their lives for some sort of catalystic event to come out of  The “Random” and smack into them like the cue ball of a billiard table. They don’t think of it as such, but they also don’t tend to recognize that most of their change in beliefs are prompted by some sort of outside event. Sometimes a friend may drop a few words of wisdom or ignorance, and a person’s attraction or aversion to one or the other will push them in a direction to or from the experience. Sometimes entropy will take its toll, and a friend or family member may pass away,  a house will burn down, or a business will fail and suddenly they are faced with an ugly truth of life they had been too busy to notice, namely impermanence. Sometimes they will receive good fortune, by winning a lottery ticket or asking someone out on a date successfully and suddenly, shazam, the world doesn’t seem quite so harsh anymore.

                                Relying on these outside catalysts, without any sort of hands on approach from the individual, is not necessarily a bad thing unto itself; one could argue that “Random” catalysts serve as the basis for innovation and discovery, that it lies at the heart of adventure and mystery. Indeed one could truthfully say that growth/metamorphosis  is never wholly internal or wholly external. When the environment changes, the mind changes with it. When the mind changes, the environment is changed. However, there seem to be hidden dangers when dealing with this on  practical level. When these catalystic events impact a person, there is a tendency to hold oneself responsible and feel pride in the matters of good fortune, and a tendency to externalize and blame the machinations of the cosmos when encountering ill-fortune. These are not always the case, but seem to be common enough to comment on.

                         Neither are accurate, in my opinion. But the problem lies in the fact that people do not recognize the environmental and psychic (referring to psyche, like in psychology) interplay that results in this change of worldview/opinion and corresponds to subsequent actualization/manifestation of intentions. Either way, whether or not someone feels ‘deserving’ or ‘undeserving’ of the change, they do not recognize the power that lies in the exchange of psyche and environment. By trying to place absolute ownership of an ‘experiential change’, they cease to appreciate the active participation that both common and rare occurrences have on every second of your life.  Even those who tend to think highly of the power of the mind fail to recognize the power of changing your mind to change your environment, and changing your environment to change your mind. The evidence can be seen in what I call the “It’s Just What I Think It Is’ mentality, or “Just/Only” mentality. Let me explain, and you will hopefully understand what I mean.

                        Imagine you are sitting down, on a picnic table in a park. You are reading a book, lets say “Don Quixote”  by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, and you pause for a moment, because you realized that you had been reading far longer than anticipated. The sun has already begun to set, and the shadows are growing long in the evening. You had planned to rely on your bodily sense of time, and only meant to read for an hour or so, but when you check your watch a whole three hours has gone by. You start to realize that if someone had asked you what you were doing for the last three hours, you wouldn’t picture the fact you were sitting alone at a picnic table in a park, but rather your mind would pull up fantastic imagery of days gone by and the adventures of a retired country gentleman turned mad knight. You personally ponder on the strange, and wonderful ability of the book to be able to give you those memories of things you’ve never done.

                      Then you start thinking about the book itself. How wonderful that they exist! You don’t need a power cord to plug it into, and it requires no electricity. Simply a bound bunch of paper with words written on them, but so magnificent! Then you start to think about the words that line the pages, and you realize if you look at any one of the words long enough, or recite them in your head they start to sound like baby talk. Like strange foreign words, or magical incantations. These scribbles are responsible for the bending of your time, for your seemingly impossible memories. This event becomes the catalyst for your decision to return to writing. No longer is it some sort of nerdy hobby; now it has real power, in your mind.

                     Later you start to tell a friend about your thoughts on the book, and they look you in the eye with a puzzled, half-teasing half- “You Have Got To Be Fucking Kidding Me Holy Shit You Are Retarded” look, and they tell you;

   “It’s JUST a book.” 

                     And so, for those of us in the world who strive to adjust our lives to solve problems, who try to recognize the power that environment and psyche both play on the overall “Experiential Self”, we are faced with a realization; what is wondrous to us is not objectively wondrous to others. What moves us, does not always move others.  For those of us who can recognize that psyche/environment are two halves of a circuit, it means that to try to own only one side of it means that we deny the ability of the other to affect us, or our ability to change it. By refusing to create our own catalysts, or to rig the game in our favor so we are collided into by catalysts of a general preferable state, we allow ourselves to be at the mercy of the “wind”, no more able to move around of our own volition than a tree. And one this is for certain;

                   By labeling the things around us as trite and mundane, we reduce our ability to harness them for these psychic/environmental catalysts.

~ Seth Moris