This is a propitious time to work on addictions and compulsive obsessions.
Be wary of absorbing toxins of any kind and doing stupid stuff that can kill you or lower your life quality. The positive aspect is that this is an auspicious time to work on detoxification, risk assessment, and mitigation.
Late in 2023, I added much content to this card based on things I’ve learned in the 15 years since I first wrote it.
I’ve never been excessively risk-averse, and even now, later in life, I’m still an adventurer. I’ve been both lucky and reasonably prudent in assessing risks and mitigating ones necessary to have worthwhile adventures. I’ve also taught wilderness and urban survival skills. Much of life quality and quantity sharply depends on the ability to keep yourself from doing really stupid things. The earlier parts of the card are next, which focus on addictive temptations, but we’ll look at other classic risk factors after.
Anything that crosses the blood-brain barrier can enslave us. Last year in the USA, there were 70,000 deaths just from Fentanyl. Overdoses killed more people last year than all American casualties in the Vietnam War. There are parts of this country, like parts of San Francisco, that resemble a zombie apocalypse with people living on the streets who have lost their free will and suffered massive permanent brain damage from Fentanyl and meth. Most homelessness is not due to high housing costs but chemical enslavement combined with mental illness before or after. What we call a homelessness zone, Europeans call an “open drug scene,” which is a more accurate label. See the book, San Fransicko
I am not an expert on homelessness, and I know that the San Fransicko perpective has well-meaning critics. My point of view, however, is based on some real-life experience. For six years, I was the building security coordinator and dean of a public high school in the South Bronx during the crack epidemic. Currently, I have two close friends who are homeless due to addictions. From what I’ve witnessed through their first-hand accounts and trying to help them — chemical enslavement has much more to do with homelessness than housing costs, even though that is a significant factor in this massively multi-factorial disaster.
Do everything you possibly can to keep yourself from being enslaved by anything that crosses the blood-brain barrier if you want to have a good life.
“I can resist anything except temptation.” — Oscar Wilde
Temptations are very, very tempting and that is probably why they are called temptations. It is foolish to underestimate their power. Before you reach for a temptation, ask yourself if you will remember this indulgence well on your deathbed. If you will, you’d be a fool to pass it up. If you won’t, and you keep reaching for it again and again and again, then you are on the path of a Ring Wraith, withering into a hungry ghost.
There are many forces within us: appetites, compulsions, complexes, and sub-personalities, and all of them are reaching for the steering wheel. We each need to develop a strong central witness personality, one capable of observing and overseeing the process without becoming possessed by a compulsion, appetite, or inferior sub-personality.
You are surrounded by black magicians — advertisers, acquaintances, and possibly unseen entities, who tempt you from within and without toward a toxic fate. But you are not just a passive recipient of temptations, you may also be a source of temptation yourself, or its all too willing partner. Don’t surrender to anything that is not in accord with your inner truth. Don’t do anything that compromises your inner dignity.
The I Ching says, “He who seeks nourishment that does not nourish reels from desire to gratification and in gratification craves desire. Mad pursuit of pleasure for the satisfaction of the senses never brings one to the goal. One should never follow this path, for nothing good can come of it.” The I Ching does not support compulsive hedonism but also does not support excessive asceticism and galling privations. It is often confusing as we try to navigate between the tendency to be too hard on ourselves and the tendency to be too easy on ourselves. The I Ching says that in ambiguous cases, we should lean toward leniency toward others and discipline with ourselves.
“Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.”
— C.G. Jung
What are your addictions? The addictions could be to foods, intoxicants, compulsive sexuality, unworthy companions, grooved patterns of emotional reactivity, fundamentalist/absolutist rigidities of mind, poor quality cultural products — music, movies, porno, channel surfing, first-person shooter video games, Tik-Tok reels etc., and any sort of habituated, mechanical patterns in your life. The positive aspect is that this is an auspicious time to work on freeing yourself from addictions. You need to be your own wise alchemist, supervising what is entering your cauldron and where and on whom you bestow its contents.
“First we form habits, then they form us. Conquer your bad habits or they will conquer you.”
— Rob Gilbert
Addiction always means that you have enslaved yourself, like a Ring Wraith, to some outside object, some Precious. You need to cast the Precious into the Cracks of Doom and regain your magically empowered inner wholeness. (See: Casting Precious into the Cracks of Doom — Androgyny, Alchemy, Evolution and the One Ring)
We are easily enslaved by addictions that are ruled by the reptilian part of our brain. Almost everyone has to do battle with this aspect of human nature. No matter how many setbacks and reversals you experience, keep struggling to free yourself from that which would enslave you and drain your life energy.
In the words of the old Chinese saying, “There is no harm in falling down, only in not picking yourself up again.”
Depending on the position of the card, it may also refer to someone you are connected to who is addicted. It is rarely appropriate to lifeguard other people. Often the best you can do for an obsessed/addicted person is to lovingly withdraw energy from them while they are in a state of eclipse. Think of them when they are at their best, but extend trust only when they earn it. For more on how to relate to others according to the principles of the I Ching see: A Guide to the Perplexed Interdimensional Traveler.
According to some evolutionary biologists, marsupials, like kangaroos, are limited in their possible evolution because they lack the corpus callosum — the dense bundle of neurons connecting the two hemispheres vital to superior intra-brain communication. These evolutionary biologists further speculate that Homo sapiens may also have a brain communication problem and that it could lead to our extinction. We have poor communication between our cerebral cortex, our center of higher thinking, and our brain stem, the reptile brain that governs appetites and aggression. Anyone who has tried to break a physical addiction discovers how tough it is to get these parts to work together. Headline news is largely variations on the theme of higher thinking being impotent to restrain territorial aggression and other reptilian drives.
But there is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in the philosophy of neurological materialists and fatalistic observers of human history. As William James said, “All that is necessary to disprove the notion that all crows are black is one white crow.” If any human being has ever resolved this problem, then the possibility is open for you not to be ruled by your reptilian aspects. Free will is more rare and more fragile than some presume, but you have a choice. Become a white crow.
Another major addiction that wrecks the quality and quantity of life is poor nutrition. Industrial food scientists are well aware that a fat, sugar, salt combo is as addictive as cocaine and use that trio to enslave people to toxic food-like substances. Though much of the research on human nutrition is highly flawed and unreliable, there is no controversy about SAD (the Standard American Diet, which is now the standard in much of the world) being highly toxic. As Michael Pollan says, “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.” Avoid what he calls “food-like substances,” which are many steps removed from nature and have long ingredient lists.
Another purpose of this card is to promote awareness of habits that may undermine or promote survival and wellness.
Although much nutritional research is of very poor quality, such basics are not in dispute. There is not, however, a perfect diet for all people. People tend toward ideological dietary paradigms and double down on those with religious intensity, but the evidence is that people can thrive on highly divergent diets. See the book, Diet Cults.
Unlike nutrition research, the research showing that exercise has more effect on the quality and quantity of life than anything except meaningfulness and social connection is incontrovertible. Being sedentary is a death trip, increasing your risk of every kind of bad medical outcome. Read the book, Exercised. I also recommend the book, Outlive
To increase your quantity and quality of life, do not become a true believer or absolutist for or against pharmaceuticals, including vaccines. Evaluate these carefully on a case-by-case basis. Pharmaceuticals can destroy your life quality or kill you outright, but they can also save your life and life quality.
For example, if you have cholesterol or blood pressure issues, there are relatively safe medications where the benefits may outweigh the risks. If you take whatever the doctor prescribes without questioning it, you’re being stupid. If you are against all pharma/vaccines in all circumstances, you are also being really, really stupid.
I used to be a wilderness guide, a mountain climber, and marathon runner and was fortunate to avoid life-changing injuries. I’ve avoided sports and adventures where the risks were excessive. Contact sports with high rates of concussion and other injuries reduce life quantity and quality. However, for some, high-risk activities are so valuable the sacrifice may be worth it. But I would put a tremendous burden of proof on that, especially if you are a young male. Young males consistently discount risks and do things at the cost of their future selves. Many species of animals are found in the La Brea tar pits, but male adolescents of whatever species are the most common demographic.
In the classic Jack London story, To Build a Fire, a physically strong but cocky young man ignores the advice of the village elders and ventures into the tundra alone and pays with his life. When you ignore well-established survival principles, unless a situation justifies sacrificing yourself, you’re being stupid. For example, most hypothermia deaths occur in moderate temperatures because people go on hikes wearing cotton, especially denim, which wilderness search and rescue people call “death cloth” because if you get caught in the rain, it can kill you.
Do some research on survival. I especially recommend books by Laurence Gonzales.
To state the obvious, the most dangerous creatures on earth are us. If you are feeling suicidal, call a suicide hotline. I’ve lost three people close to me to suicide. People you don’t think will commit suicide commit suicide. If someone talks about suicide — it’s very likely they’ll do it, even though they don’t seem like “the type.”
Confront the grim reality: people close to you and total strangers may injure, rape or kill you. I grew up in the Bronx during that borough’s most dangerous years with holocaust and WWII survivors like my dad, the only one of his corp to survive D-Day. So I’ve never doubted the lethality of our species, but some who have had more sheltered lives act oblivious to this all-too-obvious reality. Read Gavin Debecker’s The Gift of Fearr, and everybody, but very especially women, should take his free YouTube master class. As a survivor of many life-or-death violent situations, I can tell you that his research is accurate, and you’re a fool if you don’t learn from it.
You might think automotive fatalities are most likely at highway speeds. More often, they happen at intersections when you have the right of way and are struck from the left, on the driver’s side, by a vehicle speeding through the intersection. Look left, right, and left again before you enter intersections. If you’re on foot or a bike, know that intersections are high-danger zones.
In any situation where people wear helmets, wear a helmet. If you bike, get a Bontrager helmet with collapsable cells.
If you think stuff that happens to other people can’t happen to you, you’re a fool and may pay for that delusion with your life.
Consider this an auspicious moment to evaluate all your life risks and reduce those where possible.
Some quotes on addiction:
“Just cause you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town.”
— George Carlin
“Habit, if not resisted, soon becomes necessity.”
— Saint Augustine
“Better shun the bait than struggle in the snare.”
— John Dryden, English poet, dramatist and critic (1631-1700)
“People spend a lifetime searching for happiness; looking for peace. They chase idle dreams, addictions, religions, even other people, hoping to fill the emptiness that plagues them. The irony is the only place they ever needed to search was within.”
— Ramona L. Anderson
“In the course of history many more people have died for their drink and their dope than have died for their religion or their country.” — Aldous Huxley
“All men are tempted. There is no man that lives that can’t be broken down, provided it is the right temptation, put in the right spot.” — Henry Ward Beecher
“A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is… A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.” — C.S. Lewis
“What makes resisting temptation difficult for many people is they don’t want to discourage it completely.” — Franklin P. Jones
“Anyway, no drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.” — P.J. O’Rourke
“Power is the faculty or capacity to act, the strength and potency to accomplish something. It is the vital energy to make choices and decisions. It also includes the capacity to overcome deeply embedded habits and to cultivate higher, more effective ones.” — Stephen R. Covey
“Self-respect is the root of discipline: The sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.” — Abraham Joshua Heschel
“Habits? The only reason they persist is that they are offering some satisfaction. You allow them to persist by not seeking any other, better form of satisfying the same needs. Every habit, good or bad, is acquired and learned in the same way – by finding that it is a means of satisfaction.” — Juliene Ber
“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” — Frank Outlaw
“Enduring habits I hate… Yes, at the very bottom of my soul I feel grateful to all my misery and bouts of sickness and everything about me that is imperfect, because this sort of thing leaves me with a hundred backdoors through which I can escape from enduring habits.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche
“The second half of a man’s life is made up of nothing but the habits he has acquired during the first half.” — Fydor Doestoevsky
“Many of us believe that wrongs aren’t wrong if it’s done by nice people like ourselves.”
“It is with our passions as it is with fire and water; they are good servants, but bad masters.”
— Roger L’Estrange
“I had not taken a bath in a year nor changed my clothes or removed them except to stick a needle every hour in the fibrous grey wooden flesh of heroin addiction. I did absolutely nothing.” — Willliam S. Burroughs
“Opportunity may knock only once, but temptation leans on the doorbell.” — Unknown
“Habit: The shackles of the free.” — Ambrose Bierce
“WE [MOI], AS A GROUP, DO NOT RECOMMEND…VERILY, WE REPUDIATE ANY ANIMAL / MINERAL / VEGETABLE / SYNTHETIC SUBSTANCE, VEHICLE and/or PROCEDURE WHICH MIGHT TEND TO REDUCE THE BODY, MIND OR SPIRIT OF ANY INDIVIDUAL (any true individual) TO A STATE OF SUB-AWARNESS OR INSENSITIVITY … that is to say WE ARE HERE TO TURN YOU LOOSE NOT TURN YOU ON.” — Frank Zappa
Finally, this card has a connection to the Zap Oracle card “Medusa Shield”:
Shield yourself from the Medusa Head — a reptile-brain-dominated psyche.
Our appetites and fight-or-flight reflexes all too easily take us over. According to some evolutionary biologists, marsupials, like kangaroos, are limited in their possible evolution because they lack the corpus callosum, the dense bundle of neurons connecting the two hemispheres vital to superior intra-brain communication. These evolutionary biologists further speculate that Homo sapiens may also have a brain communication problem and that it could lead to our extinction. We have poor communication between our neocortex, our center of higher thinking, and our brain stem, the reptile brain that governs appetites and aggression. Anyone who has tried to break a physical addiction discovers how tough it is to get these parts to work together. Headline news is largely composed of variations on the theme of higher thinking being impotent to restrain territorial aggression and other reptilian drives.
But there is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in the philosophy of neurological materialists and fatalistic observers of human history. As William James said, “All that is necessary to disprove the notion that all crows are black is one white crow.” If any human being has ever resolved this problem, then the possibility is open for you not to be ruled by your reptilian aspects. Free will is more rare and more fragile than some presume. But you have a choice: become a white crow. When possible, avoid taking significant actions while in a state of agitation. Do a searching, fearless, compassionate, calm examination of your motives and actions. Hold everything to the standard of what you will remember well on your deathbed.
The Medusa Head derives from the Gorgon of Greek Mythology and is an example of the Devouring Mother Archetype. The devouring mother could take the form of a destructive person, an addiction, as well as many other forces.
The meaning I derive from the Medusa head is one I have assigned — my own interpretation of a head with writhing snakes coming out of it. I interpret the head of writhing snakes as a “dick head,” meaning someone whose higher cognitive functions have been overtaken by lower reptile drives. Related to brain anatomy, this would be the brain stem overcoming the neocortex. I also interpret the mirrored shield Perseus uses to see Medusa (and slay her) without turning to stone as the self-reflective, metacognitive https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metacognitioncapacities (associated with the neocortex) of an evolved psyche.
Sufficient awareness of our reptilian drives and will can allow us to transcend them. But remember that transcendence includes (rather than permanently separates from) that which is transce
nded. Similarly, our neocortex is associated with transcendent cognitive functions of higher thinking such as metacognitionhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metacognition.
Consider this an auspicious time to polish the shield of metacognition — especially awareness of reptilian drives warping our thinking — and to use the sword of our will to cut off Medusa’s head by keeping ourselves from mindlessly acting out our reptilian drives.