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Archive for the ‘Homunculus’ Category

Probably everyone has had the experience of having an inspirational moment. Maybe it was a workshop or conference, maybe it was the birth of a child, maybe it was a great book you read–we’ve all felt how great it feels to experience inspiration (L. in, into + spirare, spirat–, to breathe).

But how long does the feeling last? Once you’ve birthed that new feeling, how many times are you able to do it the new way, to resist your habit, before you get worn down and tired, and you slip backward?

Sometimes you never do. Sometimes it’s a year. Sometimes it’s five minutes. Making an homunculus is hard…educating one is even harder. I’ve been thinking for a couple of days now on what to write about how one would go about metaphorical homunculus education. All the same dadburn things kept coming up–meditation, be here now, forgive and forget, blah, blah, blah–but it all seems so old and so damn hard! I’m remembering all those “wise people” stories about how you already are/have everything you want, you just need to open up your eyes and realize it. You know, like when the Buddha held up the flower silently and that one fellow goes and get enlightened? That’s what I mean.

My experience is that it is easy enough to open up your eyes and realize happiness (to make the homunculus) but to keep happiness alive and flourishing long term is really, really hard, without first joining some sort of convent. And probably even then it might be hard.

So. I guess I’m forced to do the trick that I do when I don’t know the answer. I’m going to get a book, one that seems right, I am going to say my question in my head, and I’m going to open the book to a random page. Then I’ll read it and see if it makes sense. If it does, I’ll write it here:

Something is happening now that should not be happening, and it is preventing me from being at peace now. What you are doing or failing to do now is preventing me from being at peace. The above are assumptions, unexamined thoughts that are confused with reality. They are stories the ego creates to convince you that you cannot be at peace now or cannot be fully yourself now. (Eckhart Tolle-A New Earth)

Hm. That didn’t work for me. Next:

Relationships are never about power, and one way to avoid the will to power is to choose to limit oneself–to serve. Humans often do this–in touching the infirm and sick, in serving the ones whose minds have left to wander, in relating to the poor, in loving the very old and the very young, or even in caring for the other who has assumed a position of power over them. (William Young-The Shack)

Eh. Still nothing coming up for me exactly. I need a tie together. Something that will really sing…I’m going for the big gun, my most favorite book for random looking:

God speaking: Begin by being still. Quiet the outer world, so that the inner world might bring you sight. This in-sight is what you seek, yet you cannot have it while you are so concerned with your outer reality. (Neale Donald Walsch-Conversations with God book 1)

Ho hum. Perhaps I’m being cynical today, but all these answers appear tainted with skypieism. (This is a term first coined by me, based on the lyrics written by labor organizer Joe Hill, leader of the Wobblies. The Preacher and the Slave song chorus:
You will eat, by and by,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.

Tell your friends) I mean, they are good reads and all, but wow, easier said than done, dudes!

1. It would appear that there are no hard and fast rules for metaphorical homunculus education. 2. It would appear that all you can do is try really hard to do it right and that sometimes some people get better at it. 3. It would appear that people who try really hard get better at it than people who don’t try really hard. And probably people who try medium get medium results. I hope that this helps. Thank you for reading.

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Paracelsus says that to make a “little man” who can do your bidding, one must mix together semen and horse manure and let it putrify for forty weeks. My last statement in TOEAHWZ: part 1 was a thinly veiled metaphor describing the connection between 1.) birthing a little man out of carefully tended but powerfully rancid fluid and 2.) finding the ingredients to birth a new existence out of the rancid slop of a traumatic experience. I worked pretty hard on that metaphor…so…I hope you got it.

Ekhard Tolle says that people who have more pain in their lives (or past lives) have an (easily overlooked at times) advantage in that they

often reach a point  where they feel their life is becoming unbearable, where they can’t take any more pain, any more drama. One person expressed this by saying plainly and simply that she was ‘fed up with being unhappy.’ Some people may feel, as I did, that they cannot live with themselves anymore. Inner peace then becomes their first priority. Their acute emotional pain forces them to disidenitify from the content of their minds and the mental-emotional structures that five birth to a perpetuate the unhappy one. (from A New Earth)

Sounds a little cheap to me, sort of doesn’t-it-feel-good-when-you-stop-smashing-yourself-in-the-head-with-a-hammer?-ish. But I think I understand the point. The worse the situation, the more powerful the ingredients to burn out the unnecessary and birth a new idea of who you are (as long as you don’t die first).

Anyway. Paracelsus doesn’t stop with the warming of the shit. Oh no, he goes on to say that the homunculus

should be afterwards educated with the greatest care and zeal, until it grows up and begins to display intelligence.

Now, I’m going to, just for a brief moment, delve into what homunculus education would look like for ye olde Paracelsus. I don’t know, but I imagine anything born out of rancid semen and cooked manure wouldn’t be overly hygenic. Would he have his own little book set that he could smut up with his poopy little fingerprints? Did homunculus have his own little desk and oil lamp? I can just picture  Paracelsus pacing in front of the tiny wooden desk (which would probably be located inside some sort of a large custom made glass beaker with a cork stopper in the opening to keep the homunculus from escaping) reading Latin or Greek vivaciously, homunculus reluctantly taking notes and sneaking angry glances at his captor.

However, the actual homunculus situation is one that I am not prepared to go too far into right now, because my interest is all wrapped up in the metaphor. In the metaphorical twin situation, the one I referred to above, the person is educating his/her new idea or plan of action that was distilled out of an otherwise awful day/month/year/etc. Which some of us have sometimes. Not to point any fingers.

How does one educate his or her homunculus, metaphorically speaking? I’m not sure yet. I need another day on it. Look for part three, coming soon.

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Recap: Paracelsus, an alchemist/physician/knave of the fifteenth century, explained how one goes about making an homunculous:

Let the semen of a man putrefy  by itself in a sealed cucurbite [glass vessel] with the highest putrefaction of the venter equinus [horse manure] for forty days, or until it begins at last to live, move, and be agitated, which can easily be seen. After this time it will be in some degree like a human being, but, nevertheless, transparent and without body. If now, after this, it be every day nourished and fed cautiously and prudently with the arcanum of human blood, and kept for forty weeks in the perpetual and equal heat of a venter equinus, it becomes, thenceforth, a true and living infant, having all the members of a child that is born from a woman, but much smaller. This we call a homunculus; and it should be afterwards educated with the greatest care and zeal, until it grows up and begins to display intelligence. (taken from The Devil’s Doctor by Philip Ball) (End recap.)

This all sounds a bit like tricky business. Forty weeks? That’s how long it takes to make a real baby, plus some! Dang. That’s no small feat, keeping venter equinus warm for that long! It really takes round the clock observation. Plus there’s the arcana of human blood to deal with.

Alright, I have to admit, I don’t know exactly what this means. So, from the online etymology dictionary:

arcana: from L. arcanus “secret, hidden,” from arcere “close up, enclose, contain,” from arca “chest, box,” from PIE *ark– “to hold, contain, guard” (cf. Gk. arkos “defense,” arkein “to ward off;” Arm. argel “obstacle;” Lith. raktas “key,” rakinti “to shut, lock”).

Is human blood arcane because it is secretly homunculus food? Or is it arcane because making homunculuses is arcane? Maybe blood is a secret recipe in alchemy? I still don’t know. But that’s not the point.

The point is this: I think it’s interesting that the homunculus is made from festering rot. I mean, really! Wouldn’t you think it would be made from sugar and spice? If you’re going to have the thing around all the time–folding clean laundry, washing the dishes–wouldn’t you want it to smell nice at least?

Alas, Paracelsus knew that the only way to get the little man is to mix up the building blocks of life, manure and sperm (ahem), and let it rot until it is a swirling mess of putridness. Only from this jug of disgusting, fetid swill can the homunculus appear.

Only the process of putrefication–the distillation of old from new, tainted from pure, useless from helpful–can bring about new life.

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Paracelsus was an alchemist and physician from the 1400’s. He was a very unusual character, accused of being a drunkard and and a knave by many upstanding citizens in many countries in and about Europe. He happens to be one of my favorite characters, mostly because he said that you can make a “little man”–a homonculous–by mixing human semen with putrefied “venter equinus” (horse manure) for forty days:

After this time it will be in some degree like a human being, but, nevertheless, transparent and without body. If now, after this, it be every day nourished and fed cautiously and prudently with the arcanum of human blood, and kept for forty weeks in the perpetual and equal heat of a venter equinus, it becomes, thenceforth, a true and living infant, having all the members of a child that is born from a woman, but much smaller. This we call a homunculus; and it should be afterwards educated with the greatest care and zeal, until it grows up and begins to display intelligence.

I’m not making this up. It comes from a book called De Natura Rerum, written by Paracelsus. He wasn’t the only one either. Thomas Aquinas, Jabir the Kufan alchemist from the Middle Ages, Avicenna, and poor, poor Goethe’s Faust all putrefied stuff in glass jugs to make creepy little people who helped them with the house work.

Besides all that though, Paracelsus was a successful doctor (by the successful doctor measure of 1450, that meant that half of the people he treated lived to trill the fife another day). He had the unfortunate habit, however, of irritating his colleagues until they ran him out of town. Which brings back me to the topic of today’s blog…excrement.

In chapter 11 of The Devil’s Doctor, Philip Ball describes a scene in which Paracelsus announced to the doctors of Basle that he wanted to reveal to them the greatest of medical secrets. The doctors gathered in the finery afforded the physicians of the day, silk and feathers flowing. Paracelsus stood before them with a covered dish:

As he held up [the] dish and revealed its contents, the assembled crowd was confronted with steaming human excrement. Predictably, they stormed from the hall in outrage, pursued by Paracelsus’s accusations: ‘If you will not hear the mysteries of putrefactive fermentation, you are unworthy of the name of physicians!’ But it was not all calculated insult; Paracelsus genuinely believed that ‘decay is the beginning of all birth’ –and that all health, for ‘that which prevents putrefaction also will prevent health.’

Life is a series of sublimated putrefications. Let it be.

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