A Very Personal Review of 16 Maps of Hell from Andy B. (Bonce)

I recently received email feedback from Andy B. and suggested it be reworked into a blog post. Here it is:

I’ve just read page 438 of 16 Maps of Hell:

. . .it confirms Castaneda’s description of  dreaming as a sorcerer’s tool for shaping waking reality. Whatever i am working out here, with this final chapter, I was working on unconsciously thirteen years previously.

To add to the coincidences (or synchronicities) around this,  a similar process,  albeit on a much smaller scale, seems to have been happening to me over the last few days, also coming together by reading the final chapter of 16 Maps.

Two nights ago, I had a dream in which I was having a verbal fight with my oldest brother (I am the youngest of three boys, I am now 40 and my eldest brother, S., is 45)  that turned physical and violent. My brother had succumbed to me in some fashion, I was furious with him and raised a fist ready to punch him in the face with all my strength (my arm trembling). Seeing how he was genuinely frightened, I resisted. The look on his face told me he had (finally?) accepted that, whatever he had done to me, in some sense he deserved the revenge that I was about to inflict on him.

I rarely remember my dreams, so this immediately stood out. Additionally, I have never had an overtly violent relationship with S. (I did fight quite violently with my other brother, B. when in our middle teens). I’ve gotten on well with S. for a long time, so the dream surprised me. I had a feeling that the dream had “come out of nowhere,” but as we will see, it now makes a lot of sense.

In what is seemingly a very similar manner to yourself with Sebastian, I’ve always looked up to, and sought to imitate my brother S., big time (especially aged approx. 7 through adolescence, but to a large degree through to my early 30s as well; his influence on me has tailed off since then, I think). It’s hard to judge exactly how big an influence he has had on me, but sometimes it seems (pathetically?) huge. I remember being petrified of the Silence of the Lambs and Naked Lunch posters on his bedroom wall when I was around 10 or 11 years old. I wonder if this created some kind  of cognitive dissonance (as I think you refer to?) in that, in wanting to imitate him I realised I might have to subject myself to the horror of these films, despite being terrified by the prospect. I remember eventually getting S. to tell me some of the grisly details in Silence of the Lambs and was horrified by what he said. Seeking to self-traumatize as you put it? 16 Maps hypothesizes that Silence may have served a “psyop” function (pg. 414 and 485-6) —  is it possible that my young mind was also intuiting that the film was “off” in some way?

You ask:
Was this a form of unconscious self-initiation and self-training by which I was hoping to “ascend” to the disembodied state of the old seers. . .
As you say, we pass trauma on down the line — the big one, to my mind, is that we pass the trauma of “the thing that didn’t happen” down the line — from culture-maker-aggrandizer to culture-taker, director to audience, older brother to little brother, etc.
I totally agree that the thing that didn’t happen leaves us adrift, somewhat disembodied, disconnected from community, family and the natural world, and that we therefore seek to “get back to a place and time before the thing that was supposed to happen didn’t happen, in the hope that, somehow, this time, it will.” (pg. 394). This would go some way to explain the infantile mother complex, and the quests for immortality “dots” that you join together quite brilliantly  in the final chapter. I also think it is part of the picture as to why we often “aren’t able to tell what’s real.” And as you say, in such a circumstances, “the need to choose a really good illusion becomes paramount” (pg. 395).
Just as this was coming into focus and making me see my dream from two days earlier in a different and portentous light (during page 437, especially: “this is the process of aspiration, imagination, emulation, imitation, and initiation that I underwent with my brother”), I flipped the page to read about a synchronicity you experienced relating to how numerous things came together, including the workings of your unconscious, your relationship to your brother AND A DREAM YOU’D HAD IN THE PAST — amazing!

The other moment in the book that (probably) had the biggest impact on me was also very near the end, in the last chapter (page 431) specifically your quote from Hang-Dog with a Hard-On.

A lot had been building up to that quote, particularly sections 15.3 – 15.6, but also the section in chapter 13 (“They Live”) titled 13.5 : “The Hostile Takeover of Childhood” (which up to that point in the book I had found the most powerful and insightful section). Even more specifically (and again this seems to relate to the “thing that didn’t happen”) my added emphasis in the quote, thus:

My sadistic relish in dark imagery [was] a safe outlet for my hostility, the means not only to have revenge on my mother but, at a deeper level still, to disconnect from the feminine side of myself — to torture and abuse it intowithdrawing entirely… This would have been a way to have power over it — or at the very least, not to be controlled by it. . . .

What came to mind powerfully was not only myself but my friends growing up; and also, maybe, the majority of men (in westernized societies) that loved violent / gory / sadistic movies, particularly during adolescence. As I mentioned before, I was somewhat careful with what I watched (at least compared to my friends), and I was always very sensitive to sadistic violence. I was exposed to quite a bit nonetheless, including through my own choice. And this continues of course (e.g. internet porn — although I have virtually completely cut this out of my life now, esp. over the last 5 years). A number of my friends, now circa 40 years old (kidults?), are still strongly identified with (violent) movies they saw in their adolescence (the continued use of an image of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a Whatsapp profile image for example).

In the moment of reading the Hang-Dog quote I intuited that my friends (along with, no doubt, my older brother, yourself, your brother, and myself to some extent, etc. etc.) had unconsciously (or semi-consciously) been drawn to sadistic stuff because, if they weren’t going to be initiated into adulthood at least they could be initiated into masculinity, or what the culture-makers (who rely on our complicity) deemed masculinity. If that meant sacrificing, or at least violating, their feminine side by (mimetically) identifying with imagery of violence, particularly against women, so be it. A “sadistic relish in dark imagery” is also, seemingly unknowingly, masochistic, schismogenic, and self-destructive. While it would seem to follow that to become whole we need to re-sensitize ourselves and in some sense “resurrect” our feminine side, I am also left wondering — what damage has been done to our masculine side through this process and does that need resurrecting too?

An alternative arrangement of this notion could be thus:  as males during adolescence (or earlier) we erroneously conflate adulthood with a received notion of masculinity, which in turn is defined by its ability to subjugate the feminine.

I’m not a psychologist, so I’m clearly feeling my way here…For whatever reason I’ve always had quite a strong sensitive/feminine side (which is not to say that I’m out of touch with my masculine side — my hunch is we are all somewhat in the dark here), so it may be that I’m reading what I want to hear into this. I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on that (but you’ll have to leave your proverbial string of sausages at the door!).

The following quote from page 393 is also highly relevant here I think:

 We all dream of being little children again, even the worst of us (The Wild Bunch). Is that because we are still children, dreaming of being adults (often the worst kind)?


Some other brief, less well-formed, comments:

For me the book really went up a gear from chapter 12 onwards and got increasingly powerful and insightful from there all the way to the end.

The more journalistic stuff, especially before chapter 12, was consistently interesting and engaging, and fascinating at times, but I think it’s fair to say that some of this was simply the result of your following your interest (as well as the breadcrumb trail) in the subject-matter (mapping hell can include walking down all the back streets I guess). Nothing wrong with that, but I felt it probably relied on the reader already sharing an interest in the subject matter and was not always immediately, directly relatable to what the central themes turned out to be in the last 5 chapters.

That’s not a very well thought-through criticism. I’m trying to express the vague feeling that there was more than one book being written simultaneously. This wasn’t a problem for me, and was a strength in some ways, as it fitted with the idea that the book was a number of separate maps (of hell) that didn’t necessarily each have to tie-in to an overall thesis. (Here I am reminded of Wandering God, Wittgenstein and rhizomatic (horizontal) thinking.)

The stand-alone chapter on conspiracy, chapter 5, was an excellent discussion of the subject and obviously highly relevant to our previous email exchange, that came off the back of the Alexander Adams podcast and subsequent blog post.

One final thing (for now, other comments may come to mind). I’m glad that I was introduced to Steiner’s Christ-Lucifer-Ahriman thing (and Sorat, lord save us) before reading 16 Maps, as in some mysterious way it has given me the courage to “go into hell” with more of an open mind (and less fearful heart). I’m not quite sure what else to say about that at the moment, but I thought it was worth mentioning anyway.

5 thoughts on “A Very Personal Review of 16 Maps of Hell from Andy B. (Bonce)”

  1. It is interesting, informative, fascinating to read a male’s perspective on some of the chapters of Maps. Thank you.

  2. To me, this is a very special form of “review” and in some ways perhaps the best sort – one that demonstrates an internalization of the material that allows for (& stems from) a series of epiphanies about – & a recontextualization of – a lived experience. The text sheds light on the reader’s inner life, and the inner light of the reader’s soul sheds shines on (and through) the text.

    So the manuscript becomes illuminated

  3. NOTICE to those who have ordered 16 Maps of Hell & not yet received it:

    If you ordered a paperback or a hardback prior to late December & you live in the US or Canada, you should have received it by now.

    If you ordered a paperback prior to Nov 1, you should have received it by now, wherever you live.

    If you ordered a paperback after Nov 1, or a hardback at any time, and live outside the US & Canada, you MAY still have not received it because of covid-delays. Allow up to 16 weeks from ordering date for the paperback, and for hardback, from ordering date unless it comes before Dec 20.

    If you feel you have legitimate concern that your book is not going to arrive, contact me (not here in the comments please!). There are a few hardbacks & paperbacks still available, and I can offer free copies at cost of the postage to anyone whose copy appears to have been lost. The only condition (besides be honest!) is that, should your original copy subsequently arrive, you agree to pay for the cost of the second book on receiving that first order.

  4. “been drawn to sadistic stuff because, if they weren’t going to be initiated into adulthood at least they could be initiated into masculinity, or what the culture-makers (who rely on our complicity) deemed masculinity.”

    Exactly. Because “the thing that never happened…” I identified with masculinity in the only way I could, which is how it was presented to me. I certainly didn’t try to feel my way into being myself. Men in my family had many masculine and feminine qualities but were all playacting because the “thing that didn’t happen”, didn’t happen to them either. For many a decade now I’ve observed adults including myself and, not including certain life skills you pick up with experience, watched adolescents trying to navigate life very poorly. The culture-makers are intentionally exasperating a deep wound in the attempt to prevent any opportunity for growth/healing/self-exploration. But what Maps argues convincingly is that they are also caught in the same trap. The arrested leading the undeveloped.


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