Blog

Gorgias and Language as Enchantment

For centuries, the Sophistic movement of ancient Greece was either ignored or marginalized, likely due to the negative portrayal they received at the hands of Plato. They were written off as charlatans and frauds who had little to offer of philosophical value. 

Gorgias of Leontini

Of all the Sophists, Gorgias even today remains the most recognized and well known. In contrast to his contemporary Plato, Gorgias did not believe in the possibility of absolute truth. Instead, he believed that the best we can manage is an educated opinion, and that all knowledge is subjective and contextual.

He is famous for the following paradox: “Nothing exists; or if it does exist, we cannot know it; or if we can know it, we cannot communicate our knowledge to another person.”

In the past, some have read this statement either as a parody, or as an excessively resigned and nihilistic take on epistemological reality.

But for Gorgias, this state of affairs was not to be lamented, but rather something to be accepted and worked with.

The impossibility of absolute truth was no cause for despair, but instead simply a recognition of the limitations inherent to human language and cognition.

For Gorgias, the purpose of rhetoric was to allow us to navigate the uncertainties of a reality created by and shared through imperfect language. In a world where truth always remained elusive and uncertain, rhetoric could help us to establish consensus as the basis for action.

The rhetoric of Gorgias is firmly rooted in a relativistic epistemology that views all language and all argumentation as inherently deceptive (in that it obscures the full truth, a position which foreshadows Burke’s concept of the terministic screen).

He even directly compares the power of language to magic, with its capacity to enchant and to cast a spell over the listener. For him, words are creative, rather than merely descriptive. Words are the best tools that we have at our disposal to create a shared consensus reality in a world where nothing is ever certain.

It is better, for Gorgias, to recognize the powerful but limited nature of words as a kind of spell or enchantment–for only then may we hope to retain some measure of control and skill in their use and application.

King of Pentacles

King of Pentacles

Keywords for the King of Pentacles

SUCCESSFULRESPECTED
ACCOMPLISHEDSELF–ASSURED
GROUNDEDGENEROUS
STRONGWEALTHY
POWERFULABUNDANT

In the image on the card, we see the King of Pentacles seated out in his garden, with his castle rising visible to his right in the background. He is dressed in rich, sumptuous robes made of a dark velvet embroidered with ripe purple grapes.

We also see the King’s left foot emerging from the folds of this cloth, and are able to see that he wears a suit of armor underneath the fine fabric. 

This foot rests firmly upon an anvil, representing how he is grounded in the physical, as well as the [gravitas] and weight of his personality, displaying the role that his own hard work has had in tempering his character and creating his world.

The images of oxen which cover his throne reinforce this connection to the cultivation of self and world through strenuous labor carried out with intention. 

Although he is now free to enjoy his extensive wealth and abundance, he will never lose sight of what has made all of this possible. 

King of Pentacles Interpretation

Like all of the court cards, this can represent someone in our outer environment that shows the same qualities and characteristics of the King of Pentacles. Alternatively, in some instances it can also refer to how we ourselves are showing up in a given situation.

Either way, the King of Pentacles represents someone who is grounded and secure both in himself and his achievements. He is a practical man possessing common sense, who is competent and capable in all that he does.

He can often be seen in the image of the successful businessman or entrepreneur as someone who has the capacity to take his ideas and turn them into practical results in the material world. 

However, he is not limited to the fields of money and business, but can also be an artist, an architect, or an engineer, as long as he is able to translate his vision into value expressed in the realities of the physical world. 

Unlike the Knight of Pentacles, however, he does not glorify work for the sake of work. Unlike the Knight, who lives to work, the King of Pentacles works to live. He sees his practical action in the world as necessary to create an abundance which is meant to be enjoyed.

This King is one who enjoys both the simple pleasures of nature as well as the finer things in life. He is not afraid to indulge in luxuries such as fine wine, a gourmet meal at his favorite restaurant, and expensive, well-made clothing and attire.

He has the ability to appreciate not only the physical but also the spiritual value in the material objects which surround him, engaging with them to create a sense of deep-rooted fulfillment and a peaceful satisfaction with life.

Queen of Pentacles

Queen of Pentacles

Keywords for the Queen of Pentacles

DOWN TO EARTHGROUNDED
NURTURINGRELIABLE
RESOURCEFULLOYAL
CARINGTRUSTWORTHY
COMPASSIONATESELF-ASSURED

It is a sunny and warm late afternoon in the countryside. We see a land filled with verdant fields, flowering trees and abundant wildlife all around. 

Amidst this vibrant and lush natural landscape, we see an attractive Queen seated on her throne, holding a golden pentacle in her lap, as gently as if it were her child. 

Her nurturing and maternal nature extend not only to her offspring, but to the cultivation and care for all life around her.

Queen of Pentacles Interpretation

Like all of the court cards, this can represent someone in our outer environment that shows the same qualities and characteristics of the Queen of Pentacles. Alternatively, in some instances it can also refer to how we ourselves are showing up in a given situation.

When the Queen of Pentacles comes up in a tarot reading, it often refers to a person who embodies this queen’s nurturing and down-to-earth personality.

This Queen is known for being grounded and calm, likely due to her confidence and trust in her own ingenuity, resolve, and capacity for resourcefulness. She is practical and wise in the ways of the world, possessing a resilient spirit that will find a way to make do no matter what circumstances or challenges she faces in front of her.

Furthermore, this card refers to a person who is consummately caring and compassionate. She is generous with her love, affection and attention, making sure that the people she loves are taken care of.

This card is related to the archetype of Mother Earth, Gaia, the Divine Mother–figures which are the all-loving, all-nurturing, all-giving source of life and sustenance for what is born from the body and the earth.

As the Queen representing the element of Earth, she is most concerned with the practical matters of life. She possesses a very matter-of-fact way of being in the world and relating to others. She is simple, sensible and realistic.

This Queen is also able to appreciate the beauty and magic which the natural world contains with a sense of wonder and appreciation. She sees and nurtures the living spirit which shines through and animates all matter. 

Above all, she is known for her ability to lovingly create comfort, provide sustenance, and nurture those around her. This is made possible by her deep connection to and reverence for the earth and the many creatures it gives life to. 

Knight of Pentacles

Knight of Pentacles

Keywords for the Knight of Pentacles 

HARDWORKINGPESSIMISTIC
RELIABLECAUTIOUS
SERIOUSBORING
DEPENDABLESTUBBORN
RESPONSIBLECONSERVATIVE

In the image on this card, we see the Knight of Pentacle seated astride his black horse, wearing a dark tunic and heavy suit of armor. Both the Knight and his horse appear to be utterly immobile.

The Knight holds his pentacle outstretched in front of him. And yet, he does so with a certain absent mindedness almost seeming to look past this symbol of magic, hardly even registering the meaning or value that is there before him.

This represents the fact that this Knight is the most practical and materialistic of all the court cards. He places an extraordinary amount of emphasis on the concerns of the physical world. While this Knight is very rooted in the material world, he seems to somehow always miss the magic in it.

Knight of Pentacles Interpretation

Like all of the court cards, this can represent someone in our outer environment that shows the same qualities and characteristics of the Knight of Pentacles. Alternatively, in some instances it can also refer to how we ourselves are showing up in a given situation.

This Knight is cautious, conservative and concerned more with safety and diligence than with speed. He is known to be quite stubborn and often resistant to changes in his life and environment.

However, the Knight of Pentacles does possess many admirable qualities. He is known for being dependable, responsible and reliable to those around him. 

While he is admittedly less dramatic, exciting and spontaneous than the other Knights of the court cards, he is nonetheless someone who is eminently trustworthy and can be counted on to follow through on his word. 

While some might accuse this Knight of being a bit boring and conservative, his unparalleled commitment and dedication to his work and his values have the capacity to make him a reliable friend and trusted associate.

Radical Self-Acceptance

Journal Date: Saturday, December 19, 2020 2:45pm

I’m at home, in my room right now. I just got back from a walk around the neighborhood.

As I walked, I listened to Tara Brach’s book, Radical Self-Acceptance. (And cried).

It was an emotional experience.

It’s been so hard for me to have compassion for myself.

But that wasn’t even the most painful part.

I found myself even having compassion for people like my mom.

I found it co-existed there with all the anger and resentment and everything else I feel toward her.

It doesn’t take that away, and it doesn’t change my decision not to have any contact with her.

But I was able to see how frustrating and full of pain her own life had been. And how that continues. And how most of it is due to Abuelita, to her own mother. For no other reason than Abuelita’s own pain…


And I could see how difficult it must have been for mom to have me as a daughter.

Not through any fault of my own, really—I’m not buying into that anymore.

But I saw how likely it was that Abuelita was putting an extraordinary amount of pressure on my mom back then to dominate and control me, just the way that she had done to my mom.

I can even see how I may have appeared to my mom—maybe I really was the greatest source of her misery, the way she made it seem. I’m sure she suffered from her mother’s constant criticisms about not controlling me or punishing me enough.

It must have been hard having that woman around her, constantly criticizing, shaming and rejecting her.

And yet…

That still doesn’t absolve her of what she did to me.

It doesn’t mean that she had no choice.

She was in pain, she suffered,sure; but that doesn’t mean that there was no possibility for her to have had compassion for me, her daughter.

She still had eyes to see me cry, ears to hear my grief; and she chose to turn away from it.

She chose to add fuel to the flames, to kick me when I was down, and to abandon her own child completely.

I have done many stupid and foolish things, but—I know that it is possible to refrain from abuse, at the very minimum. And to even feel compassion and care.

I know, because I could do it for my mom, despite everything.

There’s no reason for her not to have been able to do the same for me, despite her many challenges.


So that was one of the first times I cried.

The second time was as I listened to Brach tell a story of a woman who was dying of AIDS, and the priest who was trying to comfort her, to no avail.

Brach tells us:

“The priest saw a framed picture of a pretty girl on the dresser.

‘Who is this?’ he asked.

The woman brightened.

‘She’s my daughter, the one beautiful thing in my life.’

‘And would you help her if she was in trouble or made a mistake, would you forgive her?  Would you still love her?’

‘Of course I would!” cried the woman. ‘I would do anything for her. Why do you ask such a question?’

‘Because I want you to know,’ said the priest, ‘that God has a picture of you on his dresser.’”

Brach continues, “You might find that as you’re listening, that if you can just invoke a certain image, maybe an image of someone that you really know and trust loves you, that just the remembering of that person opens the heart a little.”

Hearing that story was very painful for me.

I had no one’s image to invoke; there was no one out there I could trust ever loved me (I ended up just thinking of my dog, Beso).

And the way the story was told, how it was so naturally just assumed that the mother loves her daughter, “would do anything for her…”

How that is just so normal, such a matter-of-fact, assumed feeling that she would have towards her daughter… well, it really highlighted how abnormal my own experience was. How much of a loss it truly was. 

That it’s not just me being “too sensitive” or “overly emotional” about the way I was treated. No, it’s perfectly normal for me to have been upset about such a loss.

It’s perfectly normal for me to have suffered deeply for the lack of all the love and care I never received.

That has always been a major component of my pain that has gone unacknowledged.

I’ve always been told by everyone else in my family that “everything’s fine” and that I’m upset in any way, it’s because there’s something wrong with me.

I have had no right to grieve.

I have not even been allowed to tend to my wounds, because I was only further punished for even recognizing their existence.

I have been barred from any compassion, or any semblance of basic human dignity.

Unwilling to care for me, they denied me the right to even care for myself.

I was to have nothing. To be completely bereft was the only outcome they would accept for me.

And in their eyes, this was good and right and just. It was only what I deserved: nothing.

Page of Pentacles

Page of Pentacles

Keywords for the Page of Pentacles

PRACTICALAPPRECIATING BEAUTY
GROUNDEDLOVE OF NATURE
CREATING ABUNDANCEA SENSE OF WONDER
CURIOSITYPHYSICAL ACTIVITY
OPPORTUNITYSENSUAL ENJOYMENT

In the image on the card, we see a lush and verdant countryside before us. To our right, we can see soft purple mountains off in the distance. Closer, we are able to discern a furrowed field, quite recently plowed and planted with seeds which will one day bear fruit. 

On our left, we can almost hear a soft breeze rustling through a tall grove of cypress trees. We can easily imagine how enjoyable it might be to take a break from the many demands of the day, pausing to take a break from the late afternoon sun and rest under their shade.

We pull our attention closer, and see that in front of us stands a young man, dressed in what appears to be the simple yet attractive attire of a farmer or peasant. He stands on a soft bed of grass, dotted with small, colorful wildflowers all around. 

This Page holds a brass pentacle aloft in front of him, held gently, almost even adoringly in both of his hands. He gazes up in rapt attention at the object in front of him. 

Like all Pages, he is a student; representing the suit of Pentacles, he is concerned with the element of Earth, representing the physical, mundane, practical and material aspects of life. 

Page of Pentacles Interpretation

Like all of the court cards, this can represent someone in our outer environment that shows the same qualities and characteristics of the Page of Pentacles. Alternatively, in some instances it can also refer to how we ourselves are showing up in a given situation.

Physically, the Pages tend to represent children in our lives, however, these cards can also refer to any person who has a very youthful energy and lighthearted, innocent and carefree way of being in the world. 

As a Page, this card is associated with students, or those who are new to their path in general. They tend to possess a certain pure, uncomplicated passion for life and for the way they express the energy of their suit.

The Page of Pentacles can indicate someone who is very grounded in the material world, and who feels very comfortable and at home in their physical body. 

This card can also refer to a person who appreciates the natural world. He may be a nature lover, someone who enjoys spending time outside, going for hikes out in nature, and likes to observe the wild flora and fauna as he travels through the landscape.

When this card comes up, it can also indicate an opportunity for us to focus on the natural world as the object of our study.

By extension, this Page of Pentacles can refer to sensual enjoyment. Although some would interpret this as sexual in nature, this is not necessarily the case. Rather, in this case it refers more to enjoying our experience of the world through the five senses: smell, taste, touch, sight and sound. 

The Page of Pentacles asks us how we might start to embody his attitude of wonder, awe and joy ourselves. He encourages us to get curious about the world around us. 

This page reminds us of the beauty and magic which permeate the natural world, one which we can have access to any time we are willing to slow down, and shift the focus of our vision to perceive the divinity which surrounds us. 

By channeling the energy of the Page of Pentacles, we can begin to catch glimmers of the magic in the mundane. He knows that the sacred is everywhere, if only we are willing to look.

De-minimization

Journal Date: Wednesday, December 16, 2020

I’m reading a bit in my book on CPTSD before I get started on my work today.

“Confronting denial is no small task. Children so need to believe that their parents love and care for them, that they will deny and minimize away evidence of the most egregious neglect and abuse.

De-minimization is a crucial aspect of confronting denial. It is the process by which a person deconstructs the defense of ‘making light’ of his childhood trauma.” –Pete Walker

This is part of the process I’ve been in for the past nine months.

First, I had to realize that what I experienced was in fact abuse.

And that no amount of rationalization or complaints about how I was just “too sensitive” would ever change that.

This in itself was a big deal. I’m not sure if I realized the magnitude of it at the time, but this realization was the turning point that would change everything.

Ever since then, it’s been a process of de-minimization, just as Walker speaks of in the quote above.

It’s coming to terms with the fact that it really was as bad as I remembered it (and honestly, maybe even a little worse than that).

One thing that I’ve been trying to wrap my head around recently is the possibility that my mom actually didn’t ever love me at all.

I always felt like (and half-seriously told my friends) that my mom hated me.

Now I think that was probably true.

Everything she said and did made it seem that way.

The only thing that kept me from fully believing it was my dad (and to a lesser extent, some of the other members of my family). 

The narrative I was always forced to buy into by my dad was, “she does love you, but she’s ‘incapable’ of treating you better. She’s incompetent, it’s just her nature. You need to understand that” (and accept that and act like it’s all okay).

Hm… I just had a little flash of insight: it seems likely that my dad so insistently demanded I believe this lie, because it was probably the same exact lie he was telling himself. “Your ex-wife really loved you, she’s just incapable…etc.” (And I’m sure that wasn’t true either).

The narrative from my aunts was always: “She does love you, but you’re just too sensitive/emotional/bad/etc…”

I don’t think any of that is true anymore.

I don’t think my mom ever loved me.

(Maybe as a baby, but surely not much longer after that).

I think she did hate me, whether she was willing to admit that or not.

I’ve been thinking more about my mom’s relationship with her own mother.

And I don’t think Abuelita loves my mom, either. Regardless of how many excuses my mom makes for her.

My mom is completely controlled and dominated by her mother. She always was, and she still is today, at 64. 

I don’t know what happened when my mom was growing up, but it seems my grandmother selected her to be her servant, her puppet, and bullied her into never having enough initiative or self-esteem to escape.

My mom is completely submissive to her. She complies with any of her mother’s whims and demands, and then makes excuses for her. 

Her own father was never around, so there was no one around to intervene or be another source of support or care.

When I was born, things were very different.

My dad was much more invested in the family and in being a father to me.

As a baby and younger child, my dad gave a lot of attention to both me and my brother.

And I think there may have been an element of jealousy with my mother, because she had never experienced that as a daughter to either of her parents.

It was expected that I would go to school, finish my education, and have success of my own in a way that was never considered for her. 

And it was assumed (by my dad and the larger American culture of which I was a part) that I would grow up and achieve independence from my family and have a life of my own.

These are all things that had been unthinkable as options for my mom.

And I believe that she really did resent me for that.

I’ve never wanted to believe this (even now, it still makes me feel bad to say it).

But the more I consider it, the more likely it seems that it’s true.

Maybe my mom really was determined to make sure that I never got what she never had.

It’s so hard to imagine that a mother could feel that way towards her child.

But there’s plenty of evidence, both from my life, as well as my mothers (with regard to Abuelita), to show that it’s very likely this was the case.


I can understand how she would feel upset about the loss of her own childhood and her own opportunities.

This was something that also came up for me when I was spending a lot of time with my younger cousin.

I remember seeing how well-loved she was, how cared for, nurtured and respected she was by both of her parents.

And I was sad. It put into stark contrast my own upbringing, and made very clear for me exactly what it was that I had lost.

But the last thing I would ever do is hurt my cousin.

It was just the opposite. I loved her so much (and I still do).

I put so much time and attention to being a good older cousin to her. We had pizza parties and sleepovers, we dressed up in silly costumes and wore animal face masks, and we had the best time together.

So yes, I can see how painful it is to confront what you never got, but no, I don’t make any excuses for it.

I know that it’s possible to act differently, because I did.

I loved my cousin, and while was sad, I wanted to make sure she had every opportunity to experience the things that had been missing for me.

Ten of Pentacles

10 of Pentacles

Keywords for the Ten of Pentacles

ABUNDANCEORDER
WEALTHDOMESTICITY
STABILITYFAMILY LIFE
PHYSICAL COMFORTMUNDANE CONCERNS
FINANCIAL SECURITYBOREDOM

In the image on this card, we come upon a scene in the life of an obviously wealthy family. Inside of a richly decorated interior, we see seated to our left an older man, the patriarch or head of the household. He is dressed in intricately embroidered robes covered in images of ripe purple grapes on the vine, a detail reminiscent of the King of this same suit of Pentacles.

This man looks out toward the scene outside the arch. We can see various tall buildings located within the walls of the family property. We also see the other members of the family: the son stands with his back toward us, facing his wife who looks beyond him, seeming to ignore their child who is anxiously clinging to her dress with one hand while the other pets one of the family dogs.

In fact, the two dogs here are the only ones who pay any attention to the old man within. Although in theory it is he who commands authority as head of household, in practice it seems almost as if he has been forgotten and ignored by those who depend on him. Each is distracted, caught up in their own individual worries and concerns.

Ten of Pentacles Interpretation

When this card comes up in a reading, it often indicates the opportunity for achieving material success, wealth and abundance. It can refer to financial prosperity and good fortune in one’s work, business or career. It can indicate the coming to fruition of our plans and goals, where we finally receive the rewards of our previous efforts and hard work.

The 10 of Pentacles can also indicate stability and security, of having a solid foundation upon which to stand. It can refer to a stable and ordered family life, where each individual has a unique role to play which contributes to the greater overall cohesiveness and functioning of the family unit.

However, unlike the joyful, loving family seen in the 10 of Cups card, the one portrayed here seems to be less emotionally engaged and fulfilled. Although perhaps cohesive as a social unit and capable of meeting the material needs of all members, they seem to lack the emotional intimacy and mutual appreciation that is so clearly evident in the 10 of Cups. 

While the potential exists here, no one seems to pause long enough from their concern on mundane matters to recognize it.

Indeed, this reveals another meaning this card can convey in a reading, that of an excessive focus on the material world, where financial matters and physical possessions are prioritized over connections with other people.

Even though these are people who seem to “have it all,” it appears they have lost their ability to appreciate the magic inherent in the natural world around them. While their blessings are many, they seem to have fallen into the trap of allowing stability to become boredom with what one has.

The Progression of Recovering

Journal Date: Sunday, December 13th, 2020

I’m up, and still reading about Complex PTSD.

I’m on chapter 4, “The Progression of Recovering.”

I thought this was very relevant to the problem I’m facing now:

“It is important to understand that recovery is gradual and frequently a backwards and forwards process.

Effective recovery is often limited to only progressing in one or two areas at a time. Biting off more than we can chew and trying to accomplish too much too soon is often counterproductive. I spent years in mid-range recovery workaholically spinning my wheels trying to fix and change everything at once.

We often need to simplify our self-help efforts in early recovery.”

This definitely struck a chord with me. 

I really am trying to do a thousand different things at once.

So ultimately nothing gets done.

It’s frustrating and ineffective and I don’t want to do it anymore.

A big component of that has been with my books, and my compulsion to be studying a thousand things at once.

I seem to be incapable of discernment, and everything seems just as important as the next.

So I have a hundred books half-finished, and I feel like I’m “working” hard, but I’m just spinning my wheels and dissociating via text all day.

I’ve spent years like this.

It’s probably been around a decade now that I’ve had this habit.

I’ve always been a big reader, but it wasn’t until after college that this really became a problem.

That was when I got super depressed, I started seeing a psychiatrist, I got on all the pills, and then really went crazy…

For most of that time, I wasn’t working, just in school, reading all day.

I knew I was fucked up, and I hoped that I could read my way to being normal or okay.

I became obsessed with discovering The Answer™ to why I was so messed up and how I had to change to get better.

I read hundreds of books, and I avoided my own life very well with this excuse.

Although it wasn’t totally an excuse to dissociate and avoid reality.

Eventually, I did find myself on the right track, and I have read many things which have been useful and have helped me heal.

But I think I’m reaching the end of the road with this.

I spend all day reading and searching for the next best thing that will finally fix me, and in the process I neglect the actual business of my life.

Maybe it was important for me to do this at one time. It got me here.

But I don’t need any new theories.

I’ve decided I’m going to stop here, and sit with what I have now.

Honestly, I feel blessed to have found this CPTSD book. I know it’s going to be a game changer for me, and I’m ready to slow down and actually do the practices (instead of rushing to finish the book, then dropping it and running off to chase another theory, like I usually do).

So I’m committing to this now, to slowing down and doing it right.

Coagulation | The Seventh Phase of Alchemy

The seventh and final phase of alchemy is known as coagulation, in which the alchemist completes the Great Work and creates the Philosopher’s stone. 

In laboratory alchemy, this is thought to occur after the process of distillation is completed and the matter congeals into a solid substance. 

In personal alchemy, it signifies the completion of the process of solve et coagula, or dissolve and coagulate. 

In what is known as the lesser work, the elements of the lower personality or ego are burned away and dissolved in order to be recombined into a greater whole. 

The great work culminates in the final union of the purified self with the greater whole, a union of the microcosm of man with the macrocosm of the universe. According to Paracelsus, the result is a “completely healed human being who has burned away all the dross of his lower being and is free to fly as the Phoenix.” 

On a spiritual level, the completion of the great work is thought to produce an entirely new body for the alchemist, an energy body of golden light that would survive beyond physical death. Paracelsus referred to this body as the Iliaster, or “the Star in Man.” 

Once the Philosopher’s stone has been created, the alchemist can then use two operations, projection and multiplication, to increase the effects of his powerful achievement. 

Projection is the use of the Philosopher’s stone to transmute base metals such as lead into gold. According to Dennis William Hauck, “it is said that just a tiny piece of the Stone or a pinch of the red powder of projection made from it is enough to perfect the metals and transmute lead into gold.”

Multiplication is the ability to heal and increase the amount of whatever it comes into contact with. “Just a touch of the Stone or a grain of the red powder will cause plants to grow to perfection or cells to be healed and multiply perfectly,” says Hauck. 

This highlights the ultimate purpose of achieving coagulation and creating the Philosopher’s stone: it is not simply to transcend the material plane, but to bring the spiritual wisdom encountered back to heal the earth and other people.

As the Emerald Tablet says, “Its inherent strength is perfected if it is turned into Earth. Thus you will obtain the glory of the whole Universe.”