I wanted to talk for a moment about Esoteric Disorientation Manual. A long time ago, I added a section for this idea I had of a feature project, and have slowly added a few general thing since. In general the point of this is to provide a place for important critical analysis work reflecting on the sections of the library but which work is more meta and that isn’t properly the primary material of the section. Meaning, references and resources that do critical analysis of the material, in the spirit of a “Disorientation Manual”. Examples include warnings and admonitions of failures and pitfalls in the material or corpus, but also hints and clues toward having fuller experiences engaging with the subject matter. Back in the day, and I assume still ongoing, students and alumni of The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, and my undergrad alma mater, produced these documents, collections of critical analysis of the overall TESC experience by those who had gone through it, and that inspired me to do something similar for the library. So, again, generally, there has been and is a place for such material, but it hasn’t been something I’ve done a lot with. So, as a reminder that it exists, to myself and everyone, I just now have added some specific items, certainly not new, but very relevant, to the general page itself and also added Disorienting Aleister Crowley and Disorienting Peter Lamborn Wilson / Hakim Bey. I can imagine that eventually there may be more in these sections and also there could be pages for disorienting any and all of the other sections of the library.

The idea is essentially one from an academic footing, which recognizes that even important material, both historical and current, can be problematic, and that it is important to include awareness of the critical analysis of that material when fully considering the subject matter. Personally I don’t follow the academic idea of “the death of the author”, based on the essay by Roland Barthes, which suggests the author of a work’s intentions and life should not be considered when engaging with their work. Quite the opposite, I feel it absolutely necessary to consider the particulars of the author and their entire corpus when engaging in an item of their specific work. To do otherwise is to deny that the author is a human doing human things in the world and that their work participates in and is informed by the human experience which takes place in time, with things, both during and outside of the author’s life span, that come before, during and, after the author’s work that reflect on that work.

In this case, I advocate, with apologies to Hayao Miyazaki, the Feri Tradition, and Dr Manhattan: I think and feel that it is important to see with eyes open unclouded by hate; neither to condone nor condemn, but to understand. It’s my personal academic stance on the material at the library. There’s certainly some material at the library that I don’t like or agree with for some reason. But, moreover, I don’t require everything I read agree with me, or me it. I try to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, with uncertainty, and with holding opposing ideas in my mind for consideration. That’s essentially my recommendation to you, and my intent in my own work, but ymmv! But, now, let me also be clear, it is important to identify, name, and call out critical issues too! These things, an academic stance and calling things out, are not mutually exclusive, but rather part of the whole point of understanding, QED.

That doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t also have filters and standards about what they read and think about. Open the window, certainly, but that does not mean never close it when there is reason to do so; like to keep out the weather or burglars. There’s plenty of shit I won’t bother with, frankly; and that’s a big topic maybe for another time. But, for work that seems important for some reason, and for some value of “important”, it is, I think, essential, and approximately as important as the work is itself, to take an attitude toward that item of work which allows for the fullest consideration possible of it as a manifestation of, and given one’s own limits within, an overall human condition, experience, and situation.

And, with that, welcome to the Esoteric Disorientation Manual.

—John Griogair Bell, Librarian