Candle Through the Brain Darkly
Updated: May 30
To begin to elaborate on this working project, I must first introduce my context and medium. I work in an evolving continuum within a commercial entity and theoretical domain called ASYS Spirituality. (IG: @asys_spirituality) It can informally be called a ‘company’, though strictly speaking it is not even a company, but a one-person-business, owned by me. Or it can be related to some more imposing type, the corporation -- a kind of legally forged inhuman and 'non-natural person', separate from any single 'natural person' -- composed of a kind of 'body' of incorporation, a 'face' of branding, and a 'soul' of capitalism. However, everyone knows that corporations are evil, and ASYS is tiny, and very unprofitable.
I like to work within a business because of its affordances and constraints. It is an explicit market-actor and regarded as such, unlike art. Though it is also, in my idiosyncratic conception, an artwork. I think that the company can be poetry, painting, theatre, and most of all, a sculpture. It is a form carved out of human, imaginary and financial 'stuff'.
However, it would be best to not assume that ASYS is a company because of its complication by divergent elements. ASYS contains an additional aspect: a para-academic journal focused on spirituality. It is best called a 'domain'. This domain has two heads. The first head creates and sells products. The product so far has only been candles. The second head theorizes spirituality. Both heads of this domain are interested in 'spirituality'.
So, with 'spirituality' being so central, it is imperative to now define it. This is not an easy task. Spirituality is multifarious, and carries many definitions. It can be oriented both within religion, outside of religion, and against religion. It can be both human and post-human. The conception of spirituality that I have developed, after surveying many papers on its definition, begins in the following excerpt from my forthcoming publication:
Spirituality is a type of interior life, separated by an unbridgeable distance from the world, across which its experiences are untranslatable and only partly communicable. In this dim privacy, a spirituality maintains its specific space, and develops its eccentric shape, absorbing and ‘living-in’ various theological and religious fragments. In this interior space, belonging intimately to its host person, there is safety, freedom, repose and belonging.
Spirituality begins from the feeling location of the inner self, the kernel of inspiration and an agitating problem and expands out into a surrounding space. It blossoms out of a special conflux into a space drawn out of an uncollapsible interior tension, its resolution suspended, held productively out of reach.
This space is arranged upon a basic relation: between the worldly self and something beyond it – like a deity, a vision, or a principle. This defines ‘spirituality’. Though it is a difficult to pin down term, scholarship on spirituality generally agrees that it has “something to do with the unification of life by reference to something beyond the individual person." (Schneiders, 1986, p. 266) This basic relation between the ‘self’ and the ‘ultimacy’, or in more religious terms, between the God and the human, is the uncollapsible problem, a distance between the two that is the basis of every spirituality.
This ultimacy that the self relates to is both local and absolute. It is an absolute that is held to within its private world: a local absolute. It belongs to the spiritual-interior locale of the individual person.
This simultaneously broad yet chiseled definition of spirituality is developed into a toolbox of 'spirituality's capture and simulation' through 'templates' and' vignettes'. For now I will not elaborate further, and look forward to elaborating in the future.
Spirituality's analogous concept is 'candle-space'. The candle generates a ‘candle space’: the curved interior space of human spirituality, like the concentric sphere of shadowy light and flame-lit warmth around a single candle. This womb-like intimate time and space of a single human being can become a dimension of spiritual concern.
As part of this project, I am designing the object that produces a candle-space, namely the candle. The candle contains a constellation of meanings and functions. It represents the human life, the human soul, enlightenment, consciousness, portal to spiritual worlds, communication with gods. It generates a dreamy ambiance.. Most importantly, the candle is the object of universalist spirituality.
Plugged into the ASYS domain, the candles that I design are also necessarily purchasable products.
There are three parts to every ASYS project:
1. Candle Product.
2. Theory of Spirituality.
3. Marketing Campaign
Out of these three dimensions, of the Candle Product, Theory of Spirituality, and Marketing Campaign, the sculpture will form.
When it comes to my post-humanist interests, I am drawn to the psychological, present and mundane challenge to 'see ourselves as we really are'. This goal no-doubt has spiritual alignments. I am not imagining a radically alien intelligence, but a kind of self-realization. Though this may seem a rather mundane trajectory, perhaps the attainment of this self-realization would require inordinate amounts of human rewiring, so much that it would have to veer into fantasy.
“You like to think you have all these experiences, that you author all your actions, but the sad fact, my dear, is that you simply accompany them.” p. 559
“What would it be like to walk without self or conscience, with plans indistinguishable from compulsions, one more accident in the mindless wreck that was the world? What would it be like to act, not as something as puny or wretched as a person, but as a selfless vehicle, a conduit for everything that came before?” p. 529
from Neuropath (2008) by R. Scott Bakker
After reading by R. Scott Bakker's 'Neuropath', I am inspired by his daring exploration into what it may be like to understand the 'Self' or lack thereof, from the depersonalized posture of regarding the human as biomechanism. The title of my project refers to the book written by the novel's protagonist, psychology professor Thomas Bible. This fictional book is title Through the Brain Darkly,
An array of postures around this position would develop, attempting to live in it, or negotiate with the brutality of eliminative materialism, the position that there are only brains, not minds, and that psychological categories like 'the will', let alone ideas of the 'soul' can be eliminated. Having once found this philosophical position brutal and repulsive, now it compels me.
What would the candle of eliminative materialism be?
The element of candle product design, so symbolically bound to ideas about being human, is the perfect matrix for handling a post-humanist research trajectory.
My point of departure in creating a so-called 'eliminative materialist' candle is a mutation out of the work I just completed. I turned the shape of my first designed candle product -- a voluptuously shaped natural candle made of beeswax and cotton wick -- into a plastic replica, an artificial candle 3D printed in ABS and run through with a LED circuit. This plastic candle was modified into partially melted form, suspended in mid-melt forever. The infinite candle. The eternal flame. This plastic candle was affixed with an orange LED in the form of a flame.
Affixed to the top, under the LED, is the title of 'GrandMaster' in red underlined letters. This title refers to Sir Jacques de Molay, the final GrandMaster of the Templars, a real historical person and a character in Pierre Klossowski's 'Baphomet' (1965). I use the GrandMaster, and it's dialectical counterpart the 'Saint', referring to the famed medieval mystic Teresa of Avila, in my forthcoming writing project: Issue 1 of the ASYS Journal of Spirituality. The Saint and the Grandmaster are posthumous souls, whirling about as disembodied 'breaths' in the baphometic afterlife. They represent the two approaches to the dire metaphysical problem of this dimension: the problem of self-identity in a world without the stability of bodies. The GrandMaster strives to preserve a constant self-identity while the Saint strives to dissolve it.
Finally, true to the form of my project, I am designing a marketing campaign for the new candle. I have been sketching out the virtual site for the still imagery and videos. It is a bedroom. A pleasant, female-coded bedroom, maybe a Parisian or a New York bachelor apartment, fitted with boiserie wall paneling, a golden metallic bed modeled from one sold at ABC homes, and a creme color scheme. At the center is an unmade bed. Suspended over the bed is a chandelier, that I have not yet designed. The chandelier is suspended very low, hovering right over the bed, almost touching the bedsheets.
This will be my starting point for developing the marketing campaign material, for designing the head that will dip into the dark waters of the market.