“The ethereal nature of poetic resonances teaches us about the inner dimensions. It is up to us to immerse ourselves and trod through the gross associative landscape of common expectations to recognize the buried treasure in our midst. But no matter how strong and beautiful feeling tones may appear, they are still traps. The arrow of mind must not stop at any target. Hitting a target means grasping at some phenomena, whether it is a paradise or a hell realm. The pursuit of gnosis has no end. No stoppage point should deter its longing for the infinite. The goal is for the dynamism of the arrow to be realized as equal to the space in which it flies. The open nature of that dynamism usurps its linear motion, and a new aspect of its meaning becomes possible, and it is reborn. In this manner we approach En Sof, the unattainable. If the arrow stops and hits any target, contemplation is officially over.”
– David Chaim Smith
Living near the Georgia Guidestones, I am constantly reminded that the world is filled with strange frequencies. When Dr. Raymond Moody was developing The Dr. John Dee Memorial Theater of the Mind to facilitate his experiments with mirror scrying and the therapeutic effects of necromantic divination, he followed certain design principles aimed at developing a sense of temporal displacement in those who would enter the institute’s psychomanteum chamber hoping to manifest an apparition of a past loved one. He found that creating an environment where ideas of time and place are displaced through mismatching antiques and curios was a powerful way to draw the seeker out of their normal sense of self.
The town of Elberton, Georgia where the Guidestones are located, and really the entire surrounding area, needs no additional tweaks to accomplish this. Situated in the midst of antiquated farms, untended woodlands and the general pace of rural life one is immersed in an atemporal environment where contemporary influences mix freely with the decaying images of the past – dead memories dance in step with the living present to create an phantasmal environment that is prime for contemplative experimentation.
Another benefit to this sense of being out-of-sync with time is that it naturally facilitates the kind of poetic unmooring mentioned in the opening citation from contemplative Kabbalist David Chaim Smith. Within this kind of environment it is much easier to cultivate the ability to access a constant state where “the open nature of that dynamism usurps its linear motion, and a new aspect of its meaning becomes possible.” Ancient farm houses crumble to the sound of trains pulling contemporary commercial and industrial production through the beautiful landscape. All around exists signs of nature returning to claim its own as agriculture struggles to maintain a grip. Historic buildings house modern businesses, antiquated cars park next to new models, and the whole thing spins a strange web of discontinuous phenomenal fluctuation while people live their lives in whatever capacity they can, with whatever is on hand.
In an essay titled A Silence That Speaks: The All-Embracing Unification of Space and Mind, which appears in John Zorn’s Arkana V anthology, Smith discusses how these resonant environments can be created simply through sound meditation when one is not immediately surrounded by the convenient discongruity of a place like Moody’s Theater of the Mind or the pleasantly atemporal environment of north Georgia:
“Music, like all great artforms, has the capacity to point to the absolute within itself. “
In his visual art Smith has used these concepts to bridge the rhythmic and tonal qualities of imagery and words with the all encompassing sense of immersive soundscapes. One of the first keys to contemplative work is being able to access the cognitive field in which all of the senses merge into one, seeking this image of the absolute forms a core component of Smith’s practice, both artistically and in meditation.
“Some artists use glitch not as an artifact but as a medium for conjuring or divining. Knowing that a glitch parasitically uses a system as a conduit for the delivery of unexpected wisdom, they use glitch as a device for divination.”
– Errormancy: Glitch as Divination, Kim Cascone
Working with this directly in terms of creating cognitively engrossing sonic environments, experimental sound designer Kim Cascone has been developing the concept of ‘subtle listening,’ which he defines as:
“a mode of listening where one’s imagination is open to the sound world around them, helping their inner ear and outer world intersect. ”
Reflecting on a recent presentation Cascone hosted at Leeds Metropolitan University, sound artist Phil Legard provides more context saying that ‘subtle listening’ focuses on:
“exploring our own reflexive relationships to sound through meditation, listening exercises, drawing, writing and often ‘transcoding’ between these in order to bring participants into a vital relationship with sound ‘in itself’, rather than the more superficial semantic or symbolic qualities that sounds often immediately suggest.”
These kinds of contemplative sound experiments are one of the most immediate ways to engage in deepening our sense of the ‘luminous space’ which surrounds us. Working with them as a listener we are able to enter into states of consciousness which transcend habitual personal constructs and allow us to access the continuity of the phenomenal field which we are immersed in. Working with the sounds themselves as an artist allows for a direct engagement with the ‘material’ of the recording, which gives us room to discover nuances that exist within the aural environment that are hidden by our unconscious listening habits.
Inspired by conversations with Smith and Cascone, I’ve been experimenting with a series of recordings that seek to encapsulate the aetheral environment of north Georgia, focusing on the area surrounding the Georgia Guidestones where the strange influences of conservative religion, rural living and Hermetic philosophy intertwine to break down our assumptions about the borderline between the real and the imaginal world.
Using field recordings, objects attuned to temporal decay such as chimes from a broken clock, folk instrumentation such as tenor banjo, organ and broken guitars, techniques associated with EVP recording and Instrumental Trans-Communication, I’ve created a series of long-play aural sculptures to aid adventurous psychonauts in accessing the concept of contemplative listening. The source sounds have been stretched, sublimated, dissolved and fixed to disassociate them from ‘superficial semantic or symbolic qualities,’ allowing the ‘ethereal nature of poetic resonances’ to come to the forefront. These pieces provide a ground in which to explore ‘the message’ hidden behind our habitual self image.
The method for using a soundscape (whether natural or artificial) for meditation is simple:
1. Find a quiet place where you will not be interrupted.
2. Position yourself so that you will be able to completely relax without falling asleep.
3. Use headphones, or position your speaker array, so that you are bathed in the sound as you relax your focus and allow your mind to enter into the space created by the soundscape. If you are in a natural environment allow your listening awareness to integrate all of the sounds that surround you without separating them into habitual categories such as ‘artificial’ and ‘natural.’
4. Allow the sounds to merge with spontaneous emotions and imagery in your mind’s eye, and with your actual vision if your eyes are open, as you enter into a unified perceptual field evoked by the intermixing stimulus of all of your senses.
5. Listen to the message contained within the experience.
One of the most exciting elements of the ‘experimental counter-culture’ is working directly within ourselves to explore the interstices where objective and subjective intermix. Your mind is the best laboratory there is, so join me and open yourself to the subtle images and emotive tones that flicker through it.
Click Here and listen to The Message.
The Message is a contemplative sound project created by the Liminal Analytics: Applied Research Collaborative to aid in exploring the outer edges of society and mind.
Researcher, editorial director and multi-platform creative, David Metcalfe currently acts as a contributing editor for Reality Sandwich, The Revealer, and The Daily Grail.
His writing is featured in The Immanence of Myth (Weaponized 2011), Chromatic: The Crossroads of Color & Music (Alarm Press, 2011) and Exploring the Edge Realms of Consciousness (North Atlantic/Evolver Editions 2012).
Current collaborations include a lecture series featuring the material aspects of exceptional experiences at the Observatory Room in Brooklyn, New York with photographer Shannon Taggart, and an ongoing project studying Santa Muerte (Saint Death) with Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut, Chair of Catholic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.