Sime~Gen Inc. Presents

Recommended Books

April, 1997

"Consenting Adults "


The Darkover Series by Marion Zimmer Bradley & The Friends of Darkover. I don't even know how many novels there are by MZB, and adding the anthologies of stories by The Friends of Darkover that she edited, it is millions of words. Most of these novels are available from DAW books in various editions, including a long list of translations.

Star Trek: Created by Gene Roddenberry and propagating long after his hand relinquished its grip. ST: DS9 [Deep Space Nine], the spring premier episode about Odo adopting a baby ShapeShifter and ST:Voyager, the spring episode "Unity" about discovering Borg refugees on a remote planet.

Babylon Five -- the TV Series.

The overall topic for 1997 is mastery. Mastery is either the topic that has captured my attention or the topic that is actually in the fiction I've been imbibing recently.

Mastery is an even more complex and more abstract topic than identity, which we discussed last year. The student of magick who is about to embark on the path of initiation that will lead to mastery must consider carefully whether they really do want to reach out and take responsibility for commanding so very much power.

That's one of the questions always put to the candidate at the Threshold of the Temple when approaching to request initiation. Do you really want to do this -- do you consent?

You will note that on the Tree of Life, the Guardian at the Gate whom we discussed last year guards the path to the Astral -- Yesod, The Moon. There are, however, two other paths up out of Malkuth -- out of our everyday consciousness of material reality (what has been termed by famous astrologers the Saturn Illusion, and by students of Eastern wisdom, Maia -- the illusion that reality is real) and into a higher plane. One leads to Netzach and the other to Hod.

The translations of those two words leave a lot to be desired, so I won't mention them here. It's better to learn the word-symbol as a foreign sound, and then attach a set of concepts and symbols to that sound directly without confusing yourself with an English gloss that has nothing to do with the underlying semantic load.

The important thing to note here is that these other two realms, Netzach and Hod, do not have the same sort of guardianship to keep out the unwary and inept that Yesod does. Hod is a mode of consciousness cultivated by a study of science. Netzach is a mode of consciousness cultivated by a study of art. They're both equally dangerous but even more accessible than the mode of consciousness represented by Yesod -- dreams (the kind you do while asleep, not aspirations).

My personal opinion is that many of our world's current ills are the result of an imbalance in our group mind's skills in the two disciplines, science and art.

But this month's topic isn't about what I think the underlying problem is. We all can look about and find things "wrong" with everyone and everything around us. That's a well-cultivated skill in our society -- fault-finding. It's even considered laudable in some circles. And it definitely has its uses in trouble-shooting a complex system, especially if there's a psychic dimension available to the trouble-shooter.

This month, the fiction pouring onto my head has riveted my attention not on what is wrong, but in how we decide what to do about the perception that this is the real problem. (Whichever this you might be obsessing on at the moment.)

Let's assume you are the hero of the story and you've found "the" problem -- and let's assume you have the capability armed and ready to fix the problem. You know what to do and you can do it.

But should you?

Most sf/f heroes don't spend many pages meditating on that question. The question itself and the answer a particular person arrives at by a personalized path of reasoning doesn't seem like dynamite entertainment to today's audiences. In fact, it's so insufferably boring you could never sell it.

Or could you?

If you're clever enough, maybe you can. And if you as a fiction-consumer are clever enough, maybe you can engage in a dialogue with the author on these matters, and the purchasing editors, publishers, producers, and the Powers That Be don't ever have to know what we're really talking to each other about.

As I have pointed out over the last 50 of these columns, commercial writers of fiction are doing with their stories and novels and TV shows just exactly what folks today do on the Internet newsgroups and list serves and bulletin boards -- holding a public discourse with each other on an issue. One writer does a novel that says this is the problem. Two years later, a novel appears from another writer, countering that analysis. That's because the writers know each other and we read each others' books.

Before the Internet it was just the writers -- or fiction creators -- who could speak out in fictional context. The advent of the Internet as a household fixture is changing that. Most of the sf/f TV shows have Powers That Be monitoring and even participating in discourse with the viewers. And it's spreading to other kinds of TV shows. Viewers participating in this dialogue are now seeing how elements of what they think, feel and say are being picked up and discussed by writers of the TV scripts. For example: fans have been concerned about pon farr on Voyager, so this season at last we got a pon farr episode -- just not the one we wanted.

Still, most of us just sit and listen. As in most acts of high magick, listening is very hard work. In fact, it's much harder than talking. Talking is "giving" and listening is "receiving." I've established in a prior column that in the Qabalistic view of the universe, receiving is acknowledged as by far and away the harder of the two. Receiving is, however, just as important as giving. Allowing one to be emphasized over the other puts one internally "out of balance" -- and I think that kind of internal imbalance can be detected by a good acupuncture specialist, though they might not know why the physical manifestation occurs and recurs.

When you are trying to "fix the problem" you are trying to "give" -- you are functioning in output mode. When you are trying to figure out what the problem is, you are trying to "receive" -- you are functioning in input mode. "Receiving" is hard, which is why we must practice by receiving fiction.

You will note that we receive initiation into magickal orders. The reason that so many ceremonial initiations don't "take" is that most candidates haven't sufficient practice at receiving. One reason so many of us have so little practice at receiving is that it is very painful to receive at the hands of a giver who isn't well practiced at receiving.

A giver who isn't a master of receiving is very often a power abuser. (Not always, note -- just often enough to be statistically significant.)

We learn early in life to defend our inner Selves against receiving; we put up internal psychic barriers because of the pain caused by a giver who is oblivious to what it's like to receive. And we do that so early in life that once we are adults who can consent to a receptive moment, we can't take that barrier down. Mostly, we can't even find it to examine it. We don't even know it's there. It has become a part of our identity, to be defended at all costs.

When someone has become convinced that they know What The Problem With You Is and that someone comes at you to Give You The Solution To Your Problem -- to fix up your life for you -- to tell you what's wrong with you -- the first thing they encounter is that barrier in you against receiving. The effect your barrier has on the giver-who-can't-receive is to trigger an outpouring of energy -- a veritable blazing torrent of urgent intent. The more they love you, the greater the outpouring.

The stronger your barrier, the more intense the outpouring. The thwarted giver feels an intense need to break your barrier down and pour their energy into you -- and it can reach a level where the thwarted giver-who-can't-receive honestly feels their own life as well as yours depends on breaking that barrier and forcing you to receive this life-affirming message.

This positive-feedback-spiral gets out of control sometimes because the giver-who-can't-receive cannot hear the message, "I do not consent to being altered into your image of what I ought to be." The giver-who-can't-receive doesn't understand the necessity for consent at all -- at least not on an emotional (Netzach) level -- because they've never experienced the sensation of receiving and how it changes with and without consent.

If the giver-who-can't-receive understands the necessity for consent only on an intellectual (Hod) level, they could easily take almost anything as consent -- even a clear statement, "No" or "Stop."

And consent is only one of many tricky elements in the give/receive paradigm. The only way to gain mastery of all those elements is to live and work on both sides of the paradigm. Here's a Lichtenberg-ism (North Node in Virgo in 1st): Life isn't about being perfect: Life is about mastery of error-recovery techniques. Practicing living on both sides of the give/receive paradigm, you make mistakes, you get hurt, you hurt others, and you then get to practice error-recovery.

The Western occult tradition has come up with a rule of thumb for deciding when you might be in danger of abusing power because you're not-receiving. Break this rule, and you are said to be practicing black magick. Bend it, and you're into the gray magick area. Keep to it assiduously, and you are on the white side of the line. But it's a very hard rule to keep. It is, however, a necessary rule in Western cultures which emphasize giving as more virtuous than receiving and therefore regard the couch potato with contempt.

The rule is simple. We learned it by reading all Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover novels -- which I recommended in the first two columns for this magazine. (Another version of those first two columns is posted at

A telepath must not force another person's conscience.

That means a telepath must not use that gift to make another person want to do something they don't want to do. The rule applies whether the other person is a telepath or not. The entire Darkovan society is based on this rule and variants of it -- that it is not legal to force another person's conscience. (Of course, like any human society, they glitch out here and there and get to practice error recovery techniques.)

The Darkover Series is a long series of novels that sprawl over a vast reach of the history of a colony of humans on an inhospitable planet. A type of local crystal called a Matrix Jewel and interbreeding with the natives brings about a group of seven families with psychic gifts they can use to do all of what technology does on Earth (and more). Technology belongs to Hod. Psychic gifts belongs to Netzach. Darkover is MZB's explanation that what's wrong with this world is an imbalance between science and art.

And almost all of the Darkover novels are entirely and purely action/adventure. Usually the plot just whizzes along at a blinding pace. Characters seldom ponder, ruminate, meditate or even discuss philosophy. They just conflict over their conflicting views until they reach a resolution of some sort -- however tentative or temporary. MZB is one of those very clever writers mentioned above who can sell the outer reaches of abstract philosophy to the commercial marketplace!

Gene Roddenberry is another.

Both these great fictioneers have developed techniques for discussing the most rarified abstract points of philosophy in the context of the most rip-roaringly good entertainment you have ever encountered. And with only the slightest effort, you can use their fiction to practice receiving.

What techniques do they use to achieve this incredible feat? Yes, this is supposed to be an science fiction review column, but for a writer, sometimes the element that needs reviewing is the purity and elegance of the writing. And this particular episode of DS9 sent me into paroxysms of admiration for the writing craftsmanship.

So a few days ago I wrote a little essay on ST:DS9 for the writing school I work at on -- WorldCrafters Guild (see URL WorldCrafters Guild for info). This workshop is full of new and professional writers who want to learn the craft tricks I use. I have always aspired to be a very clever writer like MZB and Gene Roddenberry, and draw pictures of what I see is "wrong with the world" for other people to receive if, and only if, they actually want to. If they don't want to -- they'll never notice that I'm "giving" at all. They'll just enjoy a good story and go away unaffected. But the real payoff in any giver's life is having someone receive what is given.

I received something from this episode of DS9 that I was able to give via the workshop. Shortly after I posted the following analysis of this episode of DS9, someone e-mailed me to say they Got It! That is so exciting that I wanted to give it to you, too. Maybe the next time you see this episode in rerun, you'll receive something new because you've read this analysis.

So, this is what I wrote to the writing students who have been studying dual point of view [pov] story structure.

I'd just seen the new episode of Star Trek:Deep Space 9 where Odo buys a baby Changeling from Quark and Kira has the O'Briens' baby at last. And it put me in mind of the writing workshop subject I've been sidling up to via flashbacks.

This episode of ST:DS9 clearly illustrates and exemplifies the dual pov story structure. We have two story lines, two pov characters, but only one theme. This is how it would look in a writers' notebook of story ideas.

Odo buys a sick baby Changeling from Quark.

Kira finally gives birth to the O'Briens' baby.

Theme: relaxation sparks self-discovery.

Odo: In one case, relaxation resolves an internal conflict. (Odo vs. being frozen in shape -- which caused him to go on a long journey of self-discovery -- vs. his parent-figure tormentor who taught him to shapeshift.)

These two internal conflicts are shown to be one and the same conflict. By releasing his tension and accepting his father-figure's advice on tormenting the baby to teach it, Odo comes to bond with the baby (who tries to form his shape) and then because of that bond, the baby gives him back his shifting ability. Meanwhile, the baby's story is the obverse or reflection -- it is learning to stop relaxing and tense up its unused shape-holding ability.

Kira: In the other case, relaxation initiates an internal conflict. (Kira ends up after her journey of self-discovery relaxing to give birth and discovering that she wants a baby of her own.)

"Baby" is symbolic of both endings and beginnings -- the end of a new parent's freedom / the beginning of a new kind of freedom only a parent can understand. Kira's new conflict can only end in a new freedom -- if there's any justice in the world. But it will take time. Lots of time.

In this episode:

The ending of Odo's being frozen in shape is the death (ending) of the baby shifter's life.

Juxtaposed to the reflected story:

The beginning of Kira's need to have a child of her own is the beginning of the O'Briens' second child's life.

Both beginnings and endings create freedom -- if and only if (the theme states) they are experienced in a state of relaxation.

Symmetry -- physicists tell us -- is an ubiquitous property of the Universe. Art (I'm saying here) consists of revealing the ubiquitous properties of the Universe. This episode of ST:DS9 reveals symmetry in life and is therefore art.

That's the end of what I posted to the workshop. Most of these workshoppers have little interest in the occult, so I didn't point out the giving/receiving paradigm in this show. And I didn't label art as belonging to Netzach.

You will note that Odo started out having been so abused by the supreme power in his early life that he was "frozen" mentally into a receiver-who-cannot-give. When a baby's life depended on him, he had to give. And he had to give "tough love" -- measured amounts of pain for the purpose of overcoming a barrier against receiving. That is a very advanced initiation.

By learning to give (albeit by breaking down a barrier without consent, more like real life than pure philosophy), Odo regained his ability to shapeshift. He had been frozen into humanoid shape by his own people. He had received the message, "Freeze" -- once again taking the role of victim of abuse -- even to the extent of accepting this as a just penalty for a crime! Being unable to rise gracefully afterwards and give, he thus remained a victim, frozen within his penalty-box. Now, because he was able to give tough love to a Shifter infant, he was then able to receive love from that dying baby.

Being a reciever-who-cannot-give almost guarantees you will receive no love because you can't receive love without having given it. Giving and receiving love is represented in astrology by the opposing 5th and 11th Houses. You can learn how to prime your love-pump by studying that 5/11 axis in your natal chart.

Now consider, using the Give/Receive paradigm, what Kira did for the O'Briens. Note that "relaxation" and "lowering your own barriers" are terms that could be used interchangeably. In her Darkover novels, MZB uses the term "lowering your barriers" to indicate receptivity to telepathy. And she deals dramatically with the pain, the joy and the dangers you expose yourself to when you lower barriers.

And may I point out here that Star Trek seems to be receiving the message given by Babylon Five. B5 was created around the "story-arc" concept, and focuses most of it's "arc" movement on the plot. It's the story of a gigantic interstellar war. The characters, as in the classic WWII movies, are caught up in the crunch of larger events and have to eke out space to live their lives between ugly battles. All the relationships are secondary to and mere complications to the plot. But it has garnered a terrific following because of the economic use of air time allowed by a story-arc.

ST, on the other hand, has begun to develop a story-arc derived entirely from the relationships, and totally independent of the plot. If you weren't following Odo's story-arc, you'd never have known the significance of that Shapeshifter baby to his give/receive paradigm. In ST the galactic conflicts are secondary to the relationships -- and I suspect that the relationships will be the key to resolving the interstellar conflicts.

B5 has shifted the theme from victory-is-better-than-peace to it's-a-time-of-change and I'll have to discuss change in another column. Meanwhile, please note that the great positive emotional "rush" that comes from "victory" is exactly the sensation that the giver-who-cannot-receive experiences upon the collapse of the resisting receiver's barrier. The giver who also receives has an innate aversion to that sensation.

Now we come to the ST:Voyager episode "Unity." This is the episode where Chakotay and a "red shirt" (an extra character you know is about to die to prove the situation is dangerous) stumble on a planet where refugee ex-Borg are trying to make a society for themselves. Meanwhile, Voyager finds the deactivated Borg cube ship which the refugees came from and Janeway's eyes light up at the idea of studying it.

The Borg society is based on assimilation -- eradicating all differences and creating a single unity out of a diversity. We have seen in the movies how the Borg are willing to override the conscience and will of anyone or anything that doesn't want to be assimilated. The Borg have found what's wrong with the galaxy and they're out to fix it.

The refugees convince Chakotay that they aren't Borg anymore.

When Janeway says that Voyager will provide all assistance except reactivating the cube ship's collective-consciousness maker, the Borg refugees -- in their desperation and conviction that they know what's wrong with their society and have the power to fix it right now -- reach out and grab Chakotay unconsenting, and force him to activate the cube ship for them.

In the end, Chakotay sums up the theme of the episode and all of Trek by applying the definition of black magick to the Borg behavior. I don't have the exact wording, but he said that "they didn't hesitate to impose their collective will on me." And he did use the word collective.

This is a beautiful episode and a gorgeous script because in that one sentence, everything that has gone before comes into stark focus. The whole political commentary that has always been the essence of Roddenberry-Trek (which is why he loved to use Shakespeare so much in the original episodes) comes into focus here.

In twentieth century America, we are raised to yield to (receive) the will of the majority. Majority rules. It's what makes our society work and our country stable. It's actually a very clever approach to settling disputes in advance of the dispute. It's a content-independent method. And it works better than anything real living humans have ever tried. It works so well that very rarely do we ever question the underlying assumptions behind it.

In other words, people using the system in twentieth century America aren't using it by choice (as our ancestors did) but by habit. The system might work a lot better if we had all chosen it -- by consent. One of the political doctrines we live by is "consent of the governed" -- but the fact is that as school curricula have changed, we've lost the grammar school course material that led to an informed consent at the voting age. And by lowering the voting age to 18, we've removed the rite of passage of first vote from the influence of the powerful transit of Saturn Upper Square Saturn which occurs at the age of 21 and really does produce a psychological initiation of choice.

As a result of that lack of consent, when we are in the minority on a vote, we receive the will of the majority as it comes crashing through our barriers. As one famous button/bumper sticker slogan put it: "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch."

In order to arrive at consent, we need to go through the process of questioning the concept of rule by majority vote.

Voyager -- as all great art -- has called an unconscious assumption -- a social habit -- into question without really taking a stand on the issue. As Gene Roddenberry went to some lengths to teach me, Star Trek's mission is to ask questions, not answer them. This Borg episode would have made him proud.

In astrology, the issue of rule by majority is represented by the opposing First and Seventh Houses, the self/other paradigm. Should others rule over self? You may notice that it's difficult to have a relationship without at least one self and one other. Likewise, giving and receiving are difficult without that polarization.

I leave you with a question in the Roddenberry tradition -- a question with no answer that I know of. "Given our society's de-emphasis on the sacred joys of receiving, is the problem that this is a democracy that can vote to have lamb for lunch, or is the problem merely that this is a democracy where the majority of the voters are givers-who-can't-receive?" I wouldn't have the least idea how to design an experiment to determine the answer to that. However, I suspect very strongly that enhancing the respectability of art in our society might help us find an answer to the question and generate the all-important next question.

Send books for review in this column to: Jacqueline Lichtenberg, POB 290, Monsey, N.Y. 10952.



Find these titles by using copy/paste (in MSIE use right mouse button to get the copy/paste menue to work inside text boxes) to insert them in the search slot below -- then click Book Search and you will find the page where you can discover more about that book, or even order it if you want to.   To find books by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, such as the new Biblical Tarot series, search "Jacqueline Lichtenberg" below. logo

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