Tagmysticism

Review: THE DJINN FALLS IN LOVE & other stories

Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin‘s THE DJINN FALLS IN LOVE & other stories is a stunning anthology of multicultural perspectives on the various lives and natures of the creatures known alternately as Djinn, Jinn, or Genies. Each story is, in its own way, breathtaking, heart-wrenching, melancholy, and joyous; at once familiar and fundamentally alien and Other. Which is precisely as it should be for a collection about the places where the lives of these beings intersect with our own.

As Murad and Shurin note in the introduction, almost every Asian culture—as well as many North and East African cultures—has something like a Djinn. The creature that burns brightly, made of smokeless fire, or fireless smoke; that grants wishes, or resolutely does not; that knows of our desires, tastes them, feels them, and seeks to make them real; or twists them to show us our ignorance, our selfishness, our folly. The Genie of the Lamp, the Ring, the Rug; the Djinni made by God, before humans, capable of a form of salvation and divine communion that humans could never fully grasp; the Jinn, who see us and know us, but perhaps don’t quite fully understand us. And whom we don’t quite fully understand. This book opens a window onto them all.

After the introduction, the anthology opens with the eponymous poem, by Mohamed Magdy, whose pen name is “Hermes.” If you read our previous review, then you are perhaps struck by what it means for the name Hermes to appear writing in Arabic to explore the concept of the place where divinity and humanity meet, where love and compulsion and and possession and freedom are one thing. It is the title poem, for a reason.

Kamila Shamsie‘s “The Congregation” is a story about what it means to sacrifice and what it takes to shape yourself in the name of love. Love of yourself, and love of others. Family.

Kuzhali Manickavel‘s “How We Remember You” is about that place in which the cruelty of youth sits within the vault of guilty memory. About being confronted with the miraculous, the divine, the otherworldly, and needing to bleed it of that so that it might prove itself to you. About understanding that you’ll never get to understand what you broke and what you stole.

Claire North‘s “Hurrem And the Djinn” is a story about expectations regarding the type of power women wield, about a refusal to respect that power or assess those expectations, and about how that chain of events can come to spell disaster.

J.Y. Yang‘s “Glass Lights” is about desire. Want. Need. About what a creature made to sate desires, might desire for herself. About how little we understand of what it takes and means to grant a wish.

Monica Byrne‘s “Authenticity” is about desire, too, but desire as a brutal hunger. A dreamlike touch and taste, moving from once thought, one touch, one node of resonance to the next. Desire felt in the visceral urges and needs, in the juice from bitten orange, the abrasion of rough sand.

Helene Wecker‘s “Majnun” is about loss and loneliness. About seeking redemption in the whole of what you are, by paradoxically denying what you have been. About abjuring that which made you happy, and the question of whether you get to make that choice for anyone but yourself.

Maria Dahvana Headley‘s “Black Powder” is about desire twisted into regret, about time and hate and family. A story about killing what you love, and loving what you kill. About someone loving you enough to stop you, so everything can start again. It begins with a paragraph that stars “The rifle in this story is a rifle full of wishes” and ends “Maybe all rifles seem as though they might grant a person the only thing they’ve ever wanted.”

[The cover image to THE DJINN FALLS IN LOVE & other stories]

Amal El-Mohtar‘s “A Tale of Ash in Seven Birds” is about being hunted, being driven, being forced and tricked to change yourself, for the sake of another, and about what you can become when you finally learn to anticipate those tricks, and embrace that change for yourself.

James Smythe‘s “The Sand in the Glass is Right” is about thinking that if you just had a little more time you could finally get it right, and about the many ways you can be told that maybe there’s no “right” to get.

Sami Shah‘s “Reap” is about the many ways the 21st century puts the lie to the idea that we are any of us disconnected, detached, objective. About the ways in which what we put out comes back to us.

Catherina Faris King‘s “Queen of Sheba” is about dreams and legacies, about the traditions we pass down from one generation to the next, and about what’s going on in all those houses with the well-lit windows while noir detectives are out there in the dark.

E.J. Swift‘s “The Jinn Hunter’s Apprentice” is about the future of our relationship with the magical and the strange. Is about what might happen if we as a species make our way up and out only to find that some of our oldest companions came along for the ride. Or were already there, waiting.

K.J. Parker‘s “Message in a Bottle” is about duality and trust. It’s about who we think we are and know ourselves to be, and the paralyzing fear that comes with being shown that what we thought we knew—about ourselves, or about our world—is supposition and speculation at best.

Saad Z. Hossain‘s “Bring Your Own Spoon” is about building community in the face of degradation, in the face of people trying to strip every last bit of person-ness from you. It’s about the warmth and joy that come from sharing a meal with a friend, and about the hope that meal can bring, even in the face of all evidence to the contrary.

Neil Gaiman’s “Somewhere in America” is about need and power and fear and the ability to finally understand an give yourself over to what you truly want. It’s about finding your way in a new place and accepting a new role, and never, ever granting wishes.

Jamal Mahjoub‘s “Duende 2077” is about find oneself in suspicion and fear, and the place we might all find ourselves if authoritarianism took hold and stamped out all opposition. It’s about the voices that whisper of revolution and revolt, and it’s about the understanding that those voices’ interests might not be recognizable to us, on the other side of that fear.

Sophia Al-Maria‘s “The Righteous Guide of Arabsat” is about letting fear rule you, letting it twist you, letting it push you away from everything you claim you desire, and toward a cracked, desperate version of yourself. It’s about refusing to see what’s right in front of you.

Kristy Logan‘s “The Spite House” is about a world in which the social pressures of otherworldly neighbours cause humans to make blandly evil choices. It’s about being trapped in our own need and hatred, and about needing to push that off onto someone else, to make them responsible for the thing you wanted all along.

Usman T. Malik‘s “The Emperors of Jinn” is about the monstrousness of having every desire immediately sated, about the innocent and casually evil lives of spoiled children. It’s about what that lack of limitation might cause us to become, and about the forces we might unleash when we demand the same instant gratification of time and history and divinity itself.

Nnedi Okorafor‘s “History” is about celebrity and about being a part of something much larger than you could ever hope to comprehend. It’s about not needing or wanting to comprehend it, but knowing that you’ve done your part to make that thing real.

But that’s just some of what all of these stories are about, and I’ve told you nothing of the richness and lushness of the settings, the depth of the characters, the feel of these worlds. Many of these stories are masterful expressions of the short story form, in that they are finished in themselves, giving whole windows onto complete arcs, with the fullness of a world behind them. And some of these stories instead offer keyhole glimpses onto sections, snippets of lives that make you want more and more, whole books and series worth of more. Which is to say that every story in this anthology is pretty much perfect.


You can get THE DJINN FALLS IN LOVE & other stories pretty much everywhere.

Review: MAGIC IN ISLAM by Michael Muhammad Knight

On one level, Michael Muhammad Knight’s Magic in Islam is an exhortation to study Islam through psychedelic drug use, rap music, and mysticism. On another level, the whole text is an argument to reframe the ways in which we draw categorical distinctions between orthodox and heterodox/heretical practices and beliefs, altogether. Knight makes the case that even the most fundamental or orthodox positions (be they in Islam or any other belief tradition) are at least in part founded on principles that would be considered heretical, today.

Knight starts the text off working to problematize the term and category of “magic” as a whole, saying that the only things that really distinguish magic from religion are context and practitioner self-identification. This sets the stage for the book’s overarching question of “Is there any such thing as ‘Pure’ Islam?”

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Interview: Investigating the Buddha’s World

“The teachings of the Buddha have been variously understood by scholars, monks, and laypeople over the centuries. But what was it that the Buddha actually taught? While this remains an open and oft-debated question, scholar John Peacocke”‘in his work as both an academic and a dharma teacher”‘asserts that by looking to the history, language, and rich philosophical environment of the Buddha’s day we can uncover what is most distinctive and revolutionary about his teachings. Peacocke, who does not shy away from controversy, argues that in some very important ways, later Buddhist schools depart from early core teachings.

Peacocke has been practicing Buddhism since 1970. He was first exposed to Buddhism at monasteries in South India, where he ordained as a monk in the Tibetan tradition. He later studied in Sri Lanka, where Theravada Buddhism has flourished for centuries. Returning to lay life and his native England, Peacocke went on to receive his Ph.D. in Buddhist studies at the University of Warwick. He currently lectures on Buddhist and Hindu thought at the University of Bristol and next year will begin teaching at the Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy Master of Studies program at Oxford University. A former director of the Sharpham Centre for Buddhist Studies in Devon, England, Peacocke also serves on the teaching council at nearby Gaia House, a retreat center offering instruction in a variety of Buddhist traditions. He now teaches and practices in the Vipassana tradition. Tricycle editor James Shaheen visited with Peacocke near Bristol University in April to discuss what the language of the early Pali and Sanskrit texts tells us about Buddhism today.”

(via Tricycle. h/t: H~Log)

The Nature, Structure, and Role of the Soul in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

Thesis Book Cover by albill.

I haven’t had a chance to read all of it yet, but blogger Al Billings has made his thesis on “The nature, structure, and role of the soul in the Hermetic Order of The Golden Dawn” available for free as a PDF download.

Summary:

“The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was a 19 th century English society engaged in the creation of a systematic form of western esotericism. Its founders created a synthesis of previous strands of esotericism and spiritual thought that had existed in Europe. One aspect of this synthesis was the creation of a new vision of the soul. This soul went beyond a simple mixing of elements from earlier traditions and provided an integral portion of the spiritual vision that gave an overall purpose to the spiritual practices of the Golden Dawn. A discussion of the nature and structure of this soul, its key influences, and unique aspects gives clarity to some of the spiritual goals and vision of the Golden Dawn as a system of spiritual practice. This demonstrates a system of thought unique to the end of the nineteenth century that places it with other spiritual traditions of the world.”

(via In Pursuit of Mysteries)

Interview With Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee is a Sufi mystic and lineage successor in the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya Sufi Order. He is an extensive lecturer and author of several books about Sufism, mysticism, dreamwork and Jungian spirituality. Vaughan-Lee was born in London in the year 1953. He began following the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya Sufi path since the age of 19, after meeting Irina Tweedie, author of Daughter of Fire: A Diary of a Spiritual Training with a Sufi master. He eventually become Tweedie’s successor and a Sheikh in the Naqshbandiyya Sufi Order. In 1991 He moved to Northern California and opened the Golden Sufi Center to help make available the teachings of his Sufi Lineage.”

(via Elephant Journal)

The ?Bloody? Baron von Ungern-Sternberg: Madman or Mystic?

“My name is surrounded with such hate and fear that no one can judge what is true and what is false, what is history, and what is myth.”
Baron Roman Fedorovich von Ungern-Sternberg, 1921

“In Mongolia, there was a legend of the warrior prince, Beltis-Van. Noted for his ferocity and cruelty, he spilled ‘floods of human blood before he found his death in the mountains of Uliasutay.’ His slayers interred the corpses of the Prince and his followers deep in earth, covered the graves with heavy stones, and added ‘incantations and exorcism lest their spirits again break out, carrying death and destruction.’ These measures, it was prophesied, would bind the terrible spirits until human blood once more fell upon the site.

In early 1921, so the story goes, ‘Russians came and committed murders nearby the dreadful tombs, staining them with blood.’ To some, this explained what followed. At almost the same instant, a new warlord appeared on the scene, and for the next six months he spread death and terror across the steppes and mountains of Mongolia and even into adjoining regions of Siberia. Among the Mongols he became known as the Tsagan Burkhan, the incarnate ‘God of War.’ Later, the Dalai Lama XIII proclaimed him a manifestation of the ‘wrathful deity’ Mahakala, defender of the Buddhist faith. Historically, the same individual is best known as the ‘Mad Baron’ or the ‘Bloody Baron.’ His detractors are not shy about calling him a murderous bandit or an outright psychopath.

The man in question is the Baron Roman Fedorovich von Ungern-Sternberg. His exploits can be only briefly sketched here. In the wake of the Russian Revolution, Baron Ungern found himself in eastern Siberia where he aligned himself with the anti-Bolshevik ‘White’ movement. However, his extreme monarchist sentiments and independent ways made him a loose cannon in that camp.”

(via New Dawn Magazine)

The Fat Lady’s Aria? Humanity’s Last Stand? Or Just Another Apocalypse Soon?

The Fat Lady's Aria? Humanity's Last Stand? Or Just Another Apocalypse Soon?

“For the third time in less than 15 years, the End of the World draws near. It’s discussed in coffee shops and saloons, and texted from couches by punks of the New Age while UFO Hunters flickers unwatched on TV. Theories inundate the Internet and books are already in print. Although apocalyptic theorizing might seem a hard sell in these grim times, conferences are being staged, at least two major motion pictures are planned, and the collective consciousness wonders if the date 2012 is already copyrighted. We can be certain we are going to hear a mess of both ominous and grandly metaphysical predictions for 2012 before the crucial date arrives.

We have, of course, seen all this before. In July of 1999, after much consternation and endless documentaries on the History Channel, we survived the quatrains of Nostradamus predicting terror descending from the sky. Then, on New Year’s Day 2000, we made it unscathed through Y2K and the near-hysterical scenarios that every computer across the planet would crash due to a basic time-keeping glitch. Airplanes were supposed to fall from the sky that time, and the Midwest find itself without power in mid-winter. A third major End Time in less than a decade is hard to embrace. Too many hints of that cracker-barrel ‘fool me once’ proverb that George Bush can never quite remember. On the other hand, stress levels are currently running high, and that is frequently when an Armageddon panic pops.”

(via Los Angeles CityBeat. h/t: Doc 40)

A New Look at Mystical Los Angeles and its High Priest, Manly Hall

“Last Sunday evening at the Silent Movie Theater, a clip from the 1938 astrological murder mystery “When Were You Born?” was shown as part of an “Occult L.A.” program curated by the author Erik Davis. In the clip, legendary occult scholar Manly P. Hall, who had also written the movie’s script, appeared on screen to introduce the concept of astrology. With penetrating blue eyes, thick dark hair and a rakish mustache, Hall had the looks of a silent film star, and he radiated intensity as he explained the various personality traits of the different sun signs — Leos are loyal, Capricorns are brave, and so on. But that’s not all: “Astrology can solve crime!” he exhorted. “It has solved many crimes in the past.”

At this the audience burst into laughter: Yet another absurd Hollywood twist. It wasn’t the late Hall’s finest moment — in fact, he’d done the scene reluctantly. But afterward he held out hope that “When Were You Born?,” the first major motion picture to treat the subject of astrology seriously, might help “open the way for a great cycle of occult philosophy,” he wrote.

The film was a bomb, but the fact that this obscure clip was being screened before a sold-out crowd of artists, intellectuals and spiritual seekers shows that the cycle of Hall’s influence continues. And it may grow in the coming months, for Process Media has just published “Master of the Mysteries,” the first biography of Manly Palmer Hall, written by Louis Sahagun (who is a staff writer at The Times).”

(via Los Angeles Times)

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