ithell colquhoun magician born of nature
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esoteric writings:

the night side of nature Humankind’s place in Nature is the subject of this essay. It was first published in 1953, but had been written about ten years earlier, making it contemporary with The Water-stone of the Wise, which it complements. It is the longest of the essays in which Colquhoun outlined her personal philosophy. Unusually for her, she tried to use the sober language of science rather than the imaginative images of the poet or the paradoxes of the alchemist. In the main she succeeded, although it becomes progressively more obscure as it proceeds. There are no references or quotations to be hunted down, but few readers will reach the end without having reached for a dictionary. In the essay, she made a case for animism and defended the so-called pathetic fallacy, proposing that Man, the microcosm, is subjected to the same forces that impel the macrocosm. She drew parallels between human psychology, natural phenomena and historical events. Colquhoun took her title from the well-known book of the same name by Catherine Crowe. First published in 1848, Crowe’s intention had been to argue for the serious investigation of hauntings, döppelgangers, presentiments and other supernatural happenings and to reject the usual rationalist explanation that they were simply evidence of abnormal mental states in those experiencing them. (1) In fact, Colquhoun did base her arguments on mental states. She endeavoured to give scientific weight to her proposals through a discussion of psychological types; an explanatory construct that was then current in psychological and psychodynamic circles. However, she would have tested the credulity of her scientific readers by proceeding to make the claim that such states have non-human equivalents that are present throughout the universe. For example, she suggested that so-called splitting, evident in certain individuals as a schizoid personality, occurs in nature in such phenomena as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and riven rocks. Similarly, the person with a manic-depressive-type personality who shows moods swings, is experiencing internally the same forces that result in booms and slumps in financial markets and in the cyclical patterns of history. Paranoia, which she characterised in humans as aggressive or defensive behaviours, is represented in nature by carnivorous plants and parasites on the one hand and self-protective strategies such as camouflage and defensive mimicry on the other. Colquhoun would have been well aware that Salvador Dali’s account of double images being discovered through ‘paranoiac-critical activity’ also refers to this mode of thought. Often, but not invariably, based on suspicion or perceived hostility, the paranoid individual sees links between things that are not ordinarily regarded as connected. Although she did not give specific examples, it is clear that Colquhoun regarded camouflage and mimicry as naturally occurring double images. Caterpillars that resemble bird droppings, succulents that resemble stones and moths that look like wasps are, for biologists, instances of adaptive behaviours. They occur because they counter threat and predation, thereby promoting survival. They do this, obviously, independently of observation or discovery by a human sensibility. To spot, as did Colquhoun, the visual correlations between rocky pillars, penises and upper thighs (Scylla, 1938), or between genitalia and the domes and minaret of a temple (Tekke of Um-Haram, 1951) does require a human intelligence to make such a connection, although to do so has no obvious survival value or significance. But, for the occultist, of course, even surface resemblances indicate real connections and are of the greatest significance. Colquhoun’s comments concerning the relationship between the organic and the inorganic worlds, particularly the passages on mimicry, must owe something to the writings of the French thinker, Roger Caillois whose “Mimicry and Legendary Psychasthenia,”had been published in the French surrealist journal Minotaure in 1935. It is also possible that a further influence was Charles Fourier (1772-1837), the utopian visionary whose writings influenced the surrealists following his rediscovery by André Breton in the 1940s. Fourier set out a theory of Nature in which he anticipated not only the end of divisions within the human world but a blurring or even disappearance of boundaries between the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms. Notes 1. As someone who studied the Qabalah, Colquhoun would certainly have been familiar with the term “nightside” in connection with the Tree of Life, referring to the Qliphoth, the world of shadows.
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