Welcome To The Biggest Shift In My Career As A Writer

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My future’s so hazy … and I’m not talking about the smoke in the Spokane air. I’m talking about the biggest shift in my author’s “brand” since I started writing publicly in 2003. My flight out at the airport departs in a little while, and the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention is in my past. I leave the convention as I came in, a soon-to-be-published SF/fantasy author writing in the genre for the first time. But now I am no longer disconnected to the social universe of SF/fantasy writers and the publishers, artists, and other groups who exist with them in a mutually beneficial ecosystem. I’ve been through WorldCon.

As I officially become known as a SF/fantasy author for the first time, I will still put on the hat of Integral thinker explicitly at times, but newly situated in a novel shade of the East-West, Buddha-meets-Freud philosophy that resonates with my particular poetry and fantasy world building. I promise that my books in progress will articulate an innovative magical system that actually functions in the world in a post-metaphysically “magically” interesting way. My books don’t just open up imaginary worlds; they disclose THIS world in a new fashion by helping us to forge a new and more holistic relationship between body and mind, society and Nature.

Embarrassing admission ALERT! It’s almost unimaginable for me to realize that a year ago I had no idea that I was even writing a science-fiction/fantasy book. I knew was writing a “weird” book, but in my mind it was without genre; I was writing a book I saw in my mind as a timeless classic, one similar to the great books of world literature such as the I Ching or Dante’s Divine Comedy, but imagined through the lens of Integral philosophy that I had hewn from the glass of thinkers such as Ken Wilber.

But it turns out that I was wrong. As my books took shape in the past year, it became apparent that their poetry and prose could not be contained in one book, but in a series of nine books called The Kalendar which tracks a single immortal man gifted with 3,000 years of life on the Earth. The books would need to track him from a time over 2,000 years ago to a point nearly 1,000 years in our future. That means in the early books I have to put a sword in his hand and watch as he grows up in the world of antiquity, fighting for maturity as a swordfighter. And in the later books which I have envisioned I will need to put high-tech gadgetry and maybe even a space-ship in his possession, and watch as he pioneers our shared future.

I thought I was just writing a book. I was somehow oddly blind for a long time to the fact that I was writing a genre book specifically in fantasy and SF. It’s still a book which I have imagined as closer in spirit to Dante Alighieri than to George R. R. Martin. Definitely more Tolkien than Twilight. But (with a publisher on board) very soon what I think of what I’ve written will be less important than what you think, and all the readers think.

One thing I learned at this WorldCon is that if I’m going to be the best SF/fantasy author I can be, I need read fewer classic works of esoteric spiritual imagination and read more books by contemporary storytellers who are connecting with readers TODAY. Actually I just need to make more time to read, period.

So anyways today I am bringing home with me a bunch of SF books as contemporary as can be and will soon be wearing an additional hat: the fan, the reader, the explorer of imaginal universes of contemporary visionaries. Integral thinkers are one kind of visionaries. SF/fantasy world builders are another sort altogether. What sort of overlap there may be, and how their respective positions as purveyors of story and meta-myth may interweave, I do not claim to know. (Naturally I’ve got some ideas, but I need to let them percolate for a while.)

Thus begins the creative process of transformation which as a reader of this blog you have stumbled upon. I’m an author who has booked and blogged for more than a decade in Integral thought and spirituality and LGBT topics … now undergoing a major overhaul in what I do. My coming books will combine a blend of poetry, prose, philosophy, and art with a SF/fantasy twist. If that doesn’t appeal to you, let’s part as friends and I’m sad to see you go. But if you can get your geek on, don your sword or light-saber of choice, then come along with me. There’s important work I can only do from this perspective, and I’d love to have you on board.

Now onward … to build a new blog with lots of fun stuff coming, see the first book in The Kalendar series out the door, and then execute on an ambitious vision for many more books to come.

The Train Out of Radical Linguistic Postmodern Relativism is Now Boarding

train1“Will fans want to learn your new language like Dothraki [the language from Game of Thrones] or Klingon [the language from Star Trek]?” my friend asked. She saw that I was posting something about a new language on social media. She also knew that my forthcoming book, The Kalendar: Book One, includes a fantasy/sci-fi novel. I wasn’t surprised by her question.

“No,” I said. “I don’t think so. I think that fans will want to learn the new language the same way that people who get into Yoga want to learn Sanskrit, or people who get into Aikido want to learn more about Shinto and the Japanese language.”

It’s something hard to communicate when the books aren’t here and the language’s grammar and vocabulary are still under development and not public knowledge. How do I say about Lingua-U that the language is part of a spiritual path, one which doesn’t really exist yet, outside of my own nascent practice?

I don’t know. Anticipating the challenge of communicating the spiritual path to people who will become fans of the books, or for people stumbling across my blog and social media, I have taken the first step of giving the path a name. I’m calling it Integral Renewal for now, and that will have to do until a better name comes along. It is a path not merely about development to new heights, but about making the world new again, full of beauty and life which sprouts from deep and honored roots. I have a mind not to define or create a path, but to describe for others what I have found true and useful and important, and set in motion a movement which others may want to carry with them.

So “Integral Renewal” is really the name for the spiritual path which uses the practices which are described in the forthcoming and future books of The Kalendar: the Lingua-U, the New Magic, the New Zodiac, the New Tai Chi, and the cognitive landscape chartered by the New Atlas and the New Map of the Heavens, among others. These aren’t just elements of a sci-fi/fantasy story that has no connection to this world: like the stories themselves, they are part of this world and contribute their wisdom to it.

Since 2004, I have found myself drawn to the Integral spiritual movement pioneered by figures such as Ken Wilber, Deepak Chopra, Marc Gafni, Terry Patten, and more. But there is no deep understanding of linguistic iconism in the Integral Theory. As I wrote recently, Integral Theory has inherited a fetid and murky version of linguistic relativism from postmodern linguists, and it hasn’t bothered to change the bathwater. Without an appreciation of linguistic iconism, there can be no Integral Magic, nor really any deep appreciation of certain aboriginal and shamanic contributions to wisdom, in my opinion. Go ahead and keep paying lip service to “including” pre-modern wisdom, I dare you. Your claims will ring increasingly hollow as a more authentically Magenta/Violet alternative arises.

Integral Theory as it stands now cannot support the truth that the sign is not arbitrary; that there are universal patterns which connect the phonemes of the world’s many languages, patterns which cry out with significance, beauty, and power. It has erected a fine conceptual scheme upon words which it falsely takes to have no iconic significance in themselves. But the root of magic lies within these patterns, at least those roots that I have personally explored the most deeply, and so I am called to break from the Wilberian traditions of the Integral movement, so that I may describe a new path unencumbered by a rigid intellectual edifice.

It is a maxim of AQAL that the truths of all Four Quadrants (individual subjective, collective subjective, individual objective, and collective objective) must be recognized and honored, and that truth “tetra-arises” in all of them simultaneously. The very definition of reductionism is to plant your feet in one perspective only and insist that it bears the whole truth. Well, to my way of thinking, AQAL does something rather similar on a subtle energetic level. It honors very specific vowel and consonant patterns in its ethos and just as specific numerology in its conceptual scheme; it takes these energetic patterns to be universal and absolute. In fact, the phonemes which it honors most especially are merely a small portion of the total set of subtle values and powers manifest among the universal patterns of language. A more whole ethos must include truth from, forgive me, “marginalized and oppressed” vowels and consonants and numbers, which are not spoken in Integral Theory as it stands today. The wisdom of truth from every letter of Lingua-U must be incorporated into a truly integral synthesis, and the practices of Integral Renewal are, for one thing, about doing just that.

No one ought to learn Lingua-U simply because they think it will be fun or a hoot to speak in code at a science-fiction convention to perfect strangers. A good reason to learn Lingua-U is that humankind today has forgotten the wisdom known to ancient shamans and mystics who understood that the sounds and letters of language were a map to human nature and renewal. I intend to help reclaim that wisdom because I am convinced it is the way forward beyond postmodernity which can include everyone’s wisdom, the old mysteries revealed and new mysteries unveiled. To anyone in Post-modernity or Integral who is fed up with the radical green linguistic relativism which infests them both: the train is boarding.

The Philosopher’s Quest for Universal Truths

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Once you understand that the sounds of language have universal sound-meanings which arise somewhat independently from reference (word-meanings), you recognize a tremendous pluralism of voices and values articulated by the letters themselves. You may even exclaim boldly, as the linguist Margaret Magnus has done, that there are in a manner of speaking gods in the words and archetypes in the consonants, waging wars with each other and forging alliances not unlike the Greek gods of old! Only upon coming to an understanding which enfolds these truths may you fully realize the philosopher’s dilemma in our day: the quest to harmonize the sound-meanings of language as such, not just one particular language, but actually the object of the linguist’s fascination: language in general; not just any arbitrary list of sounds, but the whole catalog of sounds recorded in the International Phonetic Alphabet’s standard table (see diagram for the IPA’s consonant list).

Of course, there will be philosophers and linguists who do not accept the premise that sound-meanings exist at all. They hold to a rigid and false understanding of the linguist’s maxim that the sign is arbitrary, an unproven and in fact disproven statement. There is an uninteresting way of putting the notion that “the sign is arbitrary” that basically expresses the wisdom obvious to a 3-year-old, as Margaret Magnus has written. Yes, different languages exist and they use different sounds to represent different word-meanings. But linguists don’t generally admit that that’s ALL they believe. In fact, most mainstream linguists have imported a hardcore postmodern pluralistic relativism into their philosophies in practice. The Integral philosopher Ken Wilber, for all the beauty and sophistication of his Integral Semiotics, doesn’t bother to question this maxim; he repeats it; and his essay seems to confuse the entire realm of sound-meaning with its most simple form, onomatopoeia.

Integral Renewal, the brand of trans-modernist philosophy that I am developing and advocating, does not make these mistakes. So that is a good thing, insofar as it opens the door to new potential ways of meaning-making and exploring human nature. But simply avoiding a pitfall does not necessarily take us to useful and impactful findings in itself. It could well be, for instance, that sound-meanings exist in a pluralism that is irreducible and cannot be ordered coherently; or that an ordering of sound-meanings is possible, but it does not seem interesting from a practical point-of-view. That is why for all my enthusiasm for Lingua-U, one of the major technologies of Integral Renewal which is currently under development, I must qualify my expectations severely. The importance of the work I have chosen still needs to be demonstrated; the burden is on the advocate to prove its value and helpfulness.

And so I humbly begin work on a potential breakthrough in human technology. If Lingua-U tames the unruly and pluralistic angels of the consonants and deities of the vowels into a new harmony, then the nature of what people can say and think could be radically altered. Every letter of every alphabet in every language might become a beacon to the divine calling, fulfilling its unique role, orienting in a similar and structured fashion, the essential truths of human nature and spiritual processes. The order of letters in the universal alphabet and the order of evolutionary development must be connected, not in a random fashion but in a way that optimally helps us to make sense of the human condition and improve it.

That is what I imagine is at stake in articulating a new meta-language at this point in our history, and why I have set out to do so, despite the fact that I am not a professionally trained linguist. In my studies over the past decade, I have reached the belief that language itself is a guide to happiness and health and enlightenment and peace; not any one language in particular, but all languages, the universal essence of them. We can know this if we are willing to listen with the ears of a child, and with a little help from Lingua-U. The secrets of language are the secrets of human nature; unraveling one gives us novel access to wisdom about the other. These are remarkable conclusions if true, so I now set out to show you, step by step. I hope you will stay tuned on this blog and my forthcoming and future books to follow along with me on this journey.

Sounds Have Universal Meanings, Surprised Linguists Keep Reminding Themselves

In “Spoken language could tap into ‘universal code'”, Science Magazine says mainstream linguists are figuring out how wrong they’ve been all these years. The notion that the sign is arbitrary and its related fallacies have increasingly come in for criticism by a steady flow of research. I’ve been watching these studies trickle in over the years (e.g., MIT might have discovered a universal language just last week), and I’ve never seen a study saying, “Guess what, here’s proof we’ve been right all these years! The sign really is just as arbitrary as we’ve dogmatically insisted it simply had to be all along!”

Here’s a taste of the article:

For years, mainstream linguists have said that most of the sounds we use have no meaning. A few words—think “splash” and “bow-wow” in English—clearly have their origins in the noises of the natural world, and the universal “mama” might be the result of an infant puckering up for a kiss of milk. These kinds of words have what linguists refer to as iconicity—the ability to evoke an image in the mind’s eye. But the vast majority of words, from “fish” to “sushi,” are arbitrary. Or at least that’s what linguists thought.

To explore the idea, researchers asked pairs of students at the University of California, Santa Cruz, to invent new words for 18 contrasting ideas: up, down, big, small, good, bad, fast, slow, far, near, few, many, long, short, rough, smooth, attractive, and ugly. Their partners then had 10 seconds to guess which one of the ideas the “word inventors” were describing. The students weren’t allowed to use body language or facial expressions though they were sitting face to face, and they weren’t allowed to use sounds related to similar English words.

Surprisingly enough, the partners scored better than chance on the first round. And during subsequent rounds of the game, students got faster and more accurate at guessing which word was being created. Analyzing the data, author Marcus Perlman—a cognitive scientist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison—says the guessers were successful because the inventors consistently used certain types of vocalizations with certain words. For example, made-up words for “up” had a rising pitch, whereas made-up words for “down” had a falling pitch. “Slow” had a long duration and a low pitch, whereas “fast” had a short duration and high pitch. And “smooth” had a high degree of harmonicity, whereas “rough” had a high degree of the opposite quality—noise. Overall, each of the new words varied reliably from its opposite in at least one feature, and 57% of the words had unique prosodic “calling cards.”

The article makes clear that the study results with English speakers still need to be confirmed cross-linguistically. The first effort to do so shows that sound-meaning works pretty much the same way in Chinese. Mainstream linguists were once again surprised.

Ramblings of the Conscientious Detailer

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Hey fellow artists,

Couldn’t fall asleep, so I logged on. Saw a gorgeous work of art shared by my friend Heather who writes: “instead of pointillism, this is like visionarilism, painting with discrete visionary wholes. Love it!”

The artist is Eduardo Rodriguez Calzado, and while I haven’t seen his art before, it is truly a life-giving vision to behold. Originally from Torreon, Mexico, Calzado says, “I am an artist obsessed with detail. Expresing emotions and imagery through broken down elements of form and color, infusing a great light into each of my paintings.”

As it happens, I couldn’t have found this detail-obsessed art at a more appropriate and helpful time. This is the week that I have begun to re-launch my Web presence with more than one series of new posts that will elucidate my vision of a world philosophy, via a holy/unholy combination of art, philosophy, literature, poetry, and drivel.

(This is an example of the drivel.)

Every detail is so ALIVE in Calzado’s oil paintings. What’s the corollary in my philosophy?

It is a philosophy where every WORD is re-engineered from the ground up so that it is comprised of phonemes (sound-meaning units) which are strung together to tell stories about the Nature of Things in the Way Things Are and Could Be. I’m calling it Lingua-U … and only a few days ago kicked up the #linguau on Twitter and Facebook.

Yuck!, a hypothetical critic might say. Who wants a philosophy grounded in WORDS!!! (Especially when there are gurus sellling silence for free, sign up today!!!)

Ah, but I reply, you have misunderstood the role of WORDS in my philosophy. It is not logocentric. It is grounded in a series of nine major trans-metaphysical Integral practices which will simply be more DETAILED in important ways than we have previously seen if their stories are more fully told.

You can look at my first posts on a new Integral martial art — Taɪčivi — to see that it will bring 39 new primary forms of integrated body/mind practice, all of which are essential and integrated, and harmonized completely with the Lingua-U. Learn Lingua-U, you know the essence of the martial art. Learn the martial art, and you know the essence of Lingua-U.

It is the same with the New Zodiac which I have begun to write out for you. 54 new animal totems in 27 new signs in 9 new houses … all indispensible, all interwoven into a aesthetically pleasing whole with Lingua-U and beyohd.

And I haven’t even gotten to the really cool stuff, the hyper-detailed epic poem which constitutes Part Two of my forthcoming book The Black Stone, The Kalendar: Book One. Look for it this fall from Tangent Publishers.

Sometimes I feel my detail-obsession can get too onerous for me and tedious for others. Do we really need all that detail? The self-doubt creeps in.

Some spiritual teachers say there’s a simplicity on the other side of complexity. That’s true, sometimes, but then I look at what they offer up as simplicity and I know they haven’t quite seen the thorny problems in the complexity which they bypassed rather than solved in their own version of simplicity.

I’m an Enneagram 1 (The Perfectionist) with a 9 Wing (The Peacemaker). Does this help to explain it? It’s fascinating to me on multiple levels, but that’s a topic for another day. I’m rambling now.

What I want to say because it’s therapeutic to me is that I’m scared. I’m only at the beginning of a multi-year process of unfolding this PHILOSOPHICAL SPIRITUAL ART and sometimes I really feel that no one is paying attention, no one cares, that it’s all for nothing. I get caught up in my egoic feelings and wounds and wonder if I’m ever going to be good enough.

I’m not one of those spiritual thinkers who can crystallize their message into simple slogans like Happiness and Love and Peace and Nothingness is Wonderful or God Loves You, and then watch the adoration and money flow in to their ministries. I envy them because I imagine their work is easier than mine. But it probably isn’t. They’ve probably encountered just as difficult challenges on their path in their own unique ways. My path is more solitary. The Enneagram suggests that a good label for me is Conscientious Detailer (one of the sub-types of the Perfectionist).

Maybe the sooner I get around to accepting my unique gifts in this respect, the sooner I can get over my limiting beliefs stopping me from ROCKIING THIS WORLD.

I frequently feel like a sculptor chipping away at granite slowly in full public view. People walk by, see the incomplete sculpture, and hit the Unsubscribe or Un-Like or Un-friend buttons. That hurts. Moving on, celebrating the infinite joyous possibilities I could be attending to instead…

Love & Light,

Joe