The pressure of marking about 170 undergraduate essays has kept me distracted from blogging but aside from work pressures it's been a strange week. The weather has been sunny and beautiful making it a spring to remember, but there's something quite unseasonable about it. It feels wrong to be walking about in shorts in March. The new moon has been exquisitely beautiful, dancing around the western sky with an almost conjunct Venus and Jupiter, but Mars has also made his baleful presence felt in the East.
Most of my friends are having a tough time, financially or emotionally or with poor health. I suppose it makes sense that artists and ne'er-do-wells are likely to feel the pinch first of all, but being the sensitive types that we are I think we're also picking up the prevailing mood of the country. The Tories are back to their old tricks again, flogging off the family silver, blaming the country's ills on those most disenfranchised by the system, and lining their pockets as they go. The cuts are biting. Art is valued by its economic worth. The mood is glum.
But all is not doom and gloom. For one thing I've been watching this fantastic talk by my latest hero, graphic novelist Alan Moore. You could do worse than sit back for 90 minutes and listen to this amiable raconteur and skeptical psychedelic adventurer explain how he came to worship Glycon, a glove-puppet snake god from late Antiquity. I've yet to find a more cogent exposition of the arts magical.
Last week I went to the Revelatory Experiences conference at Kings College Hospital in London. It brought together theologians, neuroscientists, historians, psychiatrists and anthropologists in a day of exciting dialogue. Amongst other things I learned that so-called delusional experiences are extremely common amongst the populace, not least amongst members of new religious movements. The reason why these people haven't all been sectioned is that they have a positive framework within which to make sense of their experiences - ie religion - evidence, perhaps, that Jung was correct in thinking religion necessary for our mental health (the link to the paper is here, though it may not work if you aren't reading this on a University network).
Then I went to see old friend Matthew Watkins give a talk about the extraordinary (and extremely psychedelic) patterns underlying the distribution of the prime numbers for the Ibn Arabi Society. I had never heard of medieval Sufi mystic Ibn Arabi, nor did I know he had his own dedicated society, based here in Oxford: delightful discoveries both. Volume two of Dr Matt's Secrets of Creation trilogy is now out - I shall review it here once it's risen to the top of my book pile. After all this erudition we retired to Jim's canal boat where we indulged in some hardcore drone-based space-folk improv. Nice.
And then to London again last night to see the ever-wonderful Spiro on their album launch tour. They were on glorious form and their intricate, spiraling technoid folk elicited paroxysms of pleasure in the audience, who whooped and cheered with all the fervour of a revivalist meeting.
So, strange times, but we on the crooked path stride boldly onwards.