Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Harry Smith and the Consciousness of Magic

I was happily surprised to recently learn all kinds of amazing things about Harry Smith, the man whose personal record collection was to become the Smithsonian Anthology of American Folk Music. First of all, Smith regarded himself as a magician and was deeply interested in the secret magical societies as well as spiritualism and alchemy. He was also one of the early experimental animators and his work is a remarkable fusion of music, image, and magical symbolism. The animation itself serves as a form of alchemy, and I can be used for certain kinds of meditations on consciousness. Here is a prime example:

I want to use Smith and this film as a springboard for thinking about metaphor, magic, and consciousness. I am working on an article right now that has as its central theme the question of whether or not there is a mystical consciousness that independent of cultural ideas, religious tradition or personal expectations. Jung, for example, saw these kinds of alchemical symbols has playing an important function in the development of archetypes or rather, serve as vessels for archetypal imagining. But the symbols themselves are the product of very specific cultural and religious ideas, having their own history and even Western bias. Is it possible to parse how symbols can be both cultural/historical and perennial?

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