Here are a few aspects of what the arcanum “The Great Labor” is meant to signify. First of all, the polysemy of the term “labor” is meant to be fully savored. It invokes childbirth and work at the same time, something that is happening on its own according to laws that we don’t really understand, but which requires strenuous effort on our part. Both we and the child will die if the labor isn’t carried out, and one or both might still die even if it is. It consists in peak experiences which are supremely painful and ecstatic simultaneously in a way that words cannot describe. The image of a mother giving birth to a child is the key to any adequate philosophy of history, clearing up confusion over whether humans have any real agency, or whether there are cosmic cycles at work over which we have no control, or whether existence as we know it is the product of some kind of slow-motion explosion. I believe that the correct ratio of freedom and necessity in human history is more or less the same as that which pertains to literal childbirth.
It is also meant to contrast with “abstract labor”, the organizing principle of the reigning paradigm of civilization: Great Labor is a higher type of value: Not C-M-C, not M-C-M, but something closer to M-M. We must think deeply about the relationship between childbirth and money: we don’t yet know what money is, but it is worth imagining that money is form itself: somehow the Great Labor will culminate in the self-realization of money as such, beyond exchange. “The coin which cannot be exchanged”, as I believe Plato puts it in the Phaedo.
The Great Labor transcends the distinction between subject and object in the sense that it always manifests as a relationship between the “object within the subject” (the creative force within me that operates quasi-autonomously according to rules that I do not understand) and the “subject within the object” (a potentiality within my audience that awakens upon contact with my work).
It must encompass the distinction and connection between names and bodies of work. Ancestor worship is a key feature of Great Labor: it involves conceiving of a history to which human beings similar to one’s self have suffered and created, leaving behind lasting contributions scattered across various dimension of the akashic field, whether they be institutions, artworks, formulas or simply deeds. Personally I find the disjunction between a work or idea and the author of that work or idea to be strangely perplexing; I feel like I am too often under the spell of dead people or strangers who have influenced me. The key point is that a canon of works, deeds and authors creates a kind of horizon legislating what is possible and what is necessary. No human being can escape the tendency to populate one’s mind with a canon of important figures and works. What I’m trying to get at with this topic is that there must be some effort to think of history in terms of making contact with objective reality (for example, anyone who is not aware of the importance of the distinction between modernity and everything else, which was cloven into civilization about 500 years ago, is not in contact with objective reality), but there also must be an awareness that one has the power to choose and legislate the past so as to authorize a particular type of future. I don’t know that I’ve fully mastered this point; I have more to learn about what I’m trying to say here.
Finally, the Great Labor seems to encompass two directions of time, personified by Kel Valhaal, with her hammer of Aesthethics (Adaxion, Apocalypse, Endeavor), which is swinging backwards, and Reign Array, with his sword of Renihilation (Ascesis, Catharsis, Fervor, Majesty) which slashes into the future. These should be understood to correspond roughly to the scientific and artistic impulses in civilization, respectively, or to consciousness and the unconscious.
I’d like to begin to use this particular feed to give my personal account of particular bodies of work, particular authors, and what they mean to me in particular.