Monday, April 1, 2019

93_The Aleister Crowley Primer by J. Edward and Erica M Cornelius


Now there grows among all the rooms, replacing the night's old smoke, alcohol and sweat, the fragile, musaceous odor of Breakfast: flowery, permeating, surprising, more than the color of winter sunlight, taking over not so much through any brute pungency or volume as by the high intricacy to the weaving of its molecules, sharing the conjuror's secret by which - though it is not often Death is told so clearly to fuck off - the living genetic chains prove even labyrinthine enough to preserve some human face down ten or twenty generations.
 - Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow, p. 10

 93_The Aleister Crowley Primer  proves beyond all reasonable doubt that the tradition, known as Thelema, presented by Crowley and bequeathed to future generations is vitally ALIVE,  growing, evolving, and informing.  Death in this context means the death of Aleister Crowley's legacy by turning it into a dogmatic, sectarian orthodoxy. This Primer is the opposite of that and is critical of those who would take Crowley's legacy in that direction.  It is a scholarly book, quite clearly an authoritative work of those who practice what they preach.  The dyad Cornelius generously gives us their vision of Thelema in a way that gently challenges the willing reader to begin, continue or reinvigorate the labyrinthine journey to gnothi seauton (know thyself).  The 93 Primer gives much more than a data dump of information - though it has a wealth of that - it can also serve as a work book or lab manual.  93_ The Aleister Crowley Primer presents an encounter with a school.  In other words, it has much practical value alongside the study of Thelemic theory; a Primer in theory and practice.

The authors don't ask for the reader to agree with what they write and definitely aren't asking for anyone to believe anything.  Their intent seems a wish to guide, tease, coax and cajole readers into thinking for themselves. Much like Crowley, they implore the student not to automatically accept what they say, rather make the effort to verify everything  for yourself.

 After a brief history of Thelema including extensive biographical footnotes, The 93 Primer's format becomes an extensive series of questions and answers.  The authors say it can be read in a random order though there is some intentionality to the sequence .  This soon becomes apparent in the second question, What do the initials A.'. A.'. mean? wherein they give the two primary tasks or ordeals of this system abbreviated as The Angel and the Abyss.  Right off the top, anyone totally new to this ideology and ontology gets a clear and concise North Star to aim for.  This fact alone makes it worth the price of admission.

Arguably, the most valuable monkey wrench (to wrench the evolving spirit away from the monkey), absolutely indispensable to students new or grizzled, arrives in the very first question, What is a Bullshit Meter and do I need one?

The idea of a Bullshit Meter isn't new to popular culture nor even to the legacy of Thelema.  I'm not aware of its genesis, first heard of it in the first line of the song Garageland by The Clash, released in 1977.  To my knowledge, this concept made its Thelemic debut in the Introduction by Robert Anton Wilson  to a new edition of Israel Regardie's The Eye in the Triangle published in 1997.  Wilson mentions and advises its use right off the top without further explanation.  The 93 Primer is the first publication I am aware of to take this concept and run with it, expanding and explicating this notion into a practical working model.  However, this didn't mark the Meter's expanded debut.  One of the authors, Erica M Cornelius, recently wrote and published On Getting a Bullshit Meter or, If I Remember Lemuria, Will You Pay Me $100 a Year (2016).  I haven't had the opportunity to read it yet, it's on my list.

Writers who promote these metaphysical devices attempting to inspire independent thought in readers are known to intentionally introduce material for detection, i.e. bullshit, into their books as a test.  We see this in the title of Erica's study.  Obviously, remembering Lemuria is much more valuable than $100/year... at least twice as much I would think!  The seemingly non sequitur instances of the Bullshit Meter's recurrence in the 93 Primer suggests test material to evaluate.  For example, at the conclusion of  Who exactly is Choronozon?  out of nowhere comes the advice: "The sooner you pick up a proverbial "Bullshit Meter," the better off you'll be." (p. 156)

The Bullshit Meter has a much broader range of use than trying to determine whether the author is pulling your leg as you'll see in the Primer.  Also, check the following example from the book One Truth and One Spirit - Aleister Crowley's Spiritual Legacy by Keith Readdy. p. 255: "Cornelius' writing is best understood within the context of polemics aimed against the O.T.O."  A footnote gives the example of his 2018 publication: Memoirs of an A.'. A.'. Initiate: Being the True Story of the Struggles for Freedom in the 1990s Against the Restrictionists

On my personal Bullshit Meter, as shown above, that statement goes somewhere between Get A Shovel and Bullshit!!! On another Bullshit Meter the needle might point to True, particularly if the only writings by Cornelius that they've read is the book listed in the footnote.  I haven't read it, but could see it best understood as a polemic against the O.T.O. because that's pretty much stated in the title.  From reading the 93 Primer one infers that the Restrictionists = the O.T.O. and the branch of the A.'. A.'. connected to them.

The Primer does contain some criticism, not a lot, against perceived dogmatic attitudes and some restrictive policies and practices in official Thelemic orthodoxy (a paradox if ever I heard one) as promulgated by the O.T.O.  I find the Cornelius' arguments compelling in this regard and look forward to hearing from the other side which is why I picked up One Truth and One Spirit. Critical and existential examinations of how Thelema manifests in contemporary society seems one way that Crowley's legacy remains vitally alive.  I would characterize the two viewpoints as rhizome vs arborescent in the Deleuze and Guattari sense of those concepts.  To very roughly paraphrase: rhizome = it can sprout up anywhere and make connections to anything; multiple ways to manifest. Arborescent models must conform to a specific form; only one way to do it.  One can easily see this translated into a dialect of freedom vs restriction.

I find Cornelius' work best understood in the context of learning more about Thelema and how it can practically work.  Among other things, I have learned a great deal about the ON formula that Crowley placed great importance upon.  This partially explains its significance to me: O = Ayin = the path that connects Tiphareth 6 with Hod 8.  Anyone who follows this blog stream knows the importance I assign to 68.  I connect it with the discovery by Crowley in The Paris Working of the identity of Mercury and Christ, among other things.  I wrote about this in Thelema, Deleuze and 68; that post also has links to additional blogs on the subject.  As I discovered from a reference in the 93 Primer, Crowley writes of this path in The Book of Wisdom and Folly in the chapter Further on these Paths: Now the Path of Ayin is a Link between Mercury and the Sun and in the Zodiac importeth the Goat.  This Goat is called also Strength, and standeth in the Meridian at the Sunrise of Spring, and it is his nature to leap upon Mountains.  So therefore is he a Symbol of true Magick, and his name is Baphomet ... Therefore this Goat, making each leap with Fervour, yet at all Times secure in his own Element, is a true Hieroglyph of the Magician.  Mark also, this Path sheweth One continuous in his Exaltation upon a Throne, and so it is the formula of the Man, as the other was of the Woman.
I suggest that if you know what gets exalted then you have a good start toward understanding the ON formula.

The other path, the path of the Woman  = N = Nun = the path connecting Tiphareth 6 with Netzach 7 = Death in the Tarot Major Arcana.    In the chapter preceding the one just quoted, On The Keys of Death and The Devil, Arcana of the Tarot of the R.C. Brotherhood Crowley writes: "Nun joineth the Sun with Venus, and is referred to Scorpio in the Zodiac.  This Path is perilous, for it seeketh the Level, and may abase thee, except thou take Heed unto the Going.  Of its three Modes, the Scorpion destroyeth himself, as if it were a type of Animal Pleasure.  Next, the Serpent is proper to Works of Change, or Magick; yet is he poisonous also unless thou has wit to enchant him.  Lastly, the Eagle is subtlest in this Sort, so that this Path is proper to a Transcendental Labour.  Yet are all these in the Way of Death ..."
People who know me know of my strong interest in technology to handle Death in all aspects, literal and metaphorical.  I've been called obsessed with Death.  My real obsession is with Life, and the music it makes.  Death appears a gateway to a greater life.

This barely scratches the surface.  The Cornelius' dive much deeper into this formula with great clarity.

The 93 Primer has something for anyone with an interest in Thelema.  It can become an invaluable aid to those with little or no prior exposure to Thelemic philosophy.   It can do the same for anyone with experience ranging from moderate to extensive.  The potential for unlocking new keys, for pursuing new avenues of research in Thelemic study and practice seems just as unlimited and vast as unlocking new keys and gaining new insights to the human mind and nervous system.  This book rewards repeated rereading.  It's structured more like a map than a linear textbook.  You can jump in anywhere you wish to go.  Often, you'll see references and suggestions for other writings to investigate that will further elucidate a point or topic... like hypertext.  These ancillary references include the authors' previous publications, Crowley's writings (as would be expected), some of them obscure to me, along with what seems like unpublished material - excerpts from letters and diaries.  We also get suggested reading completely outside recognized Thelemic circles.  On the practical side, we see an excellent exercise for imprinting Qabalah on pages 43 - 44.  Elsewhere, the authors give their recommendation for how to get started, what practices to begin.

There is a plot element in the new season of the excellent Netflix science fiction series, The OA (Original Angel) where you have to solve a complex puzzle to unlock a corridor in an unusual house that leads to an Interdimensional Choice Point space (i.e. the bardo).  House = beth = The Magus. Crowley's magick has always appeared a complex puzzle to me and many others.  The 93 Primer goes a long way to putting those puzzle pieces into place.  Yet, this book too has a puzzle-like component to it.  To give a small example: On p. 82 they quote Crowley: "The man of earth is the adherent..."  At the conclusion of the book, immediately following a quote from Timothy Leary to "Question authority," they give the first step they teach (in large bold letters): "Learn what it means to be the AHERANT!"  At first reckoning this appears a rather substantial typo with the mispelling of adherant.  Or is it?  Qabalistic analysis of this "typo" reveals something interesting which wouldn't be expressed with the correct spelling.  Below this, in small letters we see: (all else is pendant to this).  This phrase is numerically equivalent (by the method of Notarikon - transposing and adding the initials) to a phrase that concludes What are the Fifty Gates in Qabalah? (p. 45).  This latter phrase recurs throughout the 93 Primer and represents a core concept in Thelemic theurgy.

Yes, this book is the real deal.  That doesn't necessarily mean you'll agree with everything, I don't.  In the introduction the authors state times where they don't agree with themselves.  They also reserve the right to change and revise their model with future information and gnosis.  Again, this is a living, growing, mutating tradition.  In terms of the lineage question, whether or not Grady McMurtry did the proper administrative dance to warrant the authority to establish a legitimate line of the A.'. A.'., whether all his eyes were dotted and tees crossed etc., the question itself seems counter-intuitive after reading the 93 Primer.   It documents McMurtry's intensive contact with Aleister Crowley as well as Crowley's trust in McMurtry to carry on his legacy.  It also documents the close relationship and mentoring between McMurtry and Jerry Cornelius.  Among other sources, the baraka passed from Crowley to McMurtry and then from McMurtry to Cornelius.  This baraka has been imprinted and passed through this book.  That doesn't make it infallible, if anything it makes it dangerous ... and real.  If you don't pick up on this energetic right away, keep reading and experimenting ... eventually you will.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The West Coast Bill Laswell Residency


Ontological Sound System

Chairman: Item six on the agenda, the Meaning of Life.  Now Harry, you’ve had some thoughts on this.

Harry: That’s right, yeah. I’ve had a team working on this over the past few weeks, and what we’ve come up with can be reduced to two fundamental concepts. One, people are not wearing enough hats. Two, matter is energy. In the Universe there are many energy fields which we cannot normally perceive. Some energies have a spiritual source which act upon a person’s soul. However, this soul does not exist ab initio as orthodox Christianity teaches; it has to be brought into existence by a process of guided self-observation." However, this is rarely achieved owing to man’s unique ability to be distracted from spiritual matters by everyday trivia.


Max: What was that about hats again?" - Monty Python

Which brings us to music, in particular the extraordinarily powerful, multifaceted, musical event of Bill Laswell's five day Residency at The Chapel in San Francisco's Mission district.  I am just beginning to process it and likely will be doing so for a very long time.  Paradoxically, I feel both extremely worn out from 5 long days of work ... and incredibly amped ... electrically charged from the various new neural tracks, pathways, connections and voyages into different spaces and realities engendered by different configurations of musical assemblages and intensities in a very condensed period of time.  In other words, I'm totally messed up ... in a good way.  The routine has been shattered, the persona destroyed,  solve in motion without coagula just yet, still coming down; between lives, in the bardo once again.  The body is tired, the spirit unleashed to voyage both above and below the horizontal plane of everyday consensual reality. The only solution is to take a cue from Burroughs and write my way out of it.

I don't know that I've ever experienced music this intensely in such a compact period of time.  Six different bands in five nights which, of course, resonates with the Golden Dawn formula of transformation 5 = 6, the pentagram of the balanced 4 elements and spirit of a human becoming the godhead symbolized by the hexagram; the microcosm of the individual uniting with the macrocosm of Universe(s).  The resonance of five nights presenting six bands was not only numerical, it became experiential.  Six different universes of sound in a diurnal consecutive series.  It blew my mind.

Day 1: Divination - Laraaji, Bill Laswell, Hamid Drake

Day 2: Bass Invaders - Jah Wobble, Bill Laswell, Josh Werner, Peter Apfelbaum, 
                                     Hamid Drake, Dorian Cheah, with special guest Ravid Kahalani

Day 3: Sypher - Dave Lombardo, Bill Laswell, Dorian Cheah with special guest Mike Patton.

            Massacre - Fred Frith, Bill Laswell, Charles Hayward

Day 4: Third Rail - James "Blood" Ulmer, Jerome "Bigfoot" Brailey, Bill Laswell

Day 5: Method of Defiance - Doctor Israel, Bill Laswell, Guy Licata, Graham Haynes, Peter Apfelbaum, Josh Werner with special guest Devin Prasad

 * * * * * * 
Ontology = the Science of Being; Manifestation = to bring into Existence

We have here a manifestation of a system of sound that creates being by transmitting being, a being forever becoming something new and different.  The system, in this case, encompasses the musicians, their instruments and all the methods of amplification and electronic processing modifying their sound to bring the music (being) into existence.  This music alchemically affects and reacts with everyone in the space - musicians, audience, staff, and technicians.  It may affect others around the world on subtle levels.

Alchemy = a material process for catalyzing and activating ontological manifestation.  It works at different rates of speed and varying intensities over long periods of time.  This process functions on the food we eat, what we do with it, and intention; food on many levels - music = food for the soul, not be confused with soul food which also has been known to fuel some mighty fine music.

Bill Laswell
Photo by Anil Prasad

The sequence matters.  Day 1: Divination invokes the univocity of being - the advised way to begin any magick ritual after banishing.  Divination featured Laraaji on the electric zither, a variety of processing pedals, vocals and laughter.  The ethereal sounds of the amped, cascading strings and their phased and fissioning harmonics invoked Kether and the Supernal Triad in a big "Atoh" - "Unto Thee." (referring to the initial gesture in the Golden Dawn's Qabalistic Cross which prefaces and closes the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram).

Very dynamic musical voyaging with this group, a nonlinear improvised flow traversing through different galaxies and dimensions traveling on the wings of univocal being.  Bill and Hamid created a solid but extremely fluid foundation for the zither to zith in; Rhythmic, melodic and harmonic beauty and surprise navigating and guiding the ship whither it may go.

Thou who art I beyond all I am
Who hath no nature and no name
Who art when all but Thou are gone
Thou center and secret of the Sun
Thou hidden spring of all things known, and unknown
Thou aloof, alone
Thou the true fire within the reed
Brooding and breeding, source and seed
Of life, love, liberty, and light
Thou beyond speech and beyond sight... 
                                                   -The Ship, Aleister Crowley

That was Divination.

  Divination: Laraaji, Hamid Drake, Bill Laswell
Photo by Anil Prasad

 At the end of the night as I was closing up shop, the owner of The Chapel, Jack, enthusiastically expressed his appreciation of the music describing it on the order of a religious experience.  In the Fourth Way we call this striking a strong "doh." Divination seemed like a cosmic singing bowl was struck that vibrated as an undercurrent all week.  A very good beginning.

* * * * * *
Every drummer this week played absolutely amazing; rhythmic sounds guiding flows of time beyond description.  The beat ruled. Laying a solid foundation (Yesod) that felt like it reached down to the center of the Earth while supporting melodic ideas and excursions to take flight into different worlds and and alternate environments of sound.  Every drummer played a uniquely different style.  Every one world class playing to their peak, no doubt partially due to the compression, intensity, and environment of the Residency.  

The Chapel is the perfect room to see, hear and grok world-class drummers.  Intimate enough to hear every subtlety, big enough -with decent acoustics when it's filled and a strong sound system, to somatically touch the power and punch, to feel the sound.

Hamid Drake went completely beyond anything I had heard him do before.  He has an amazing fluidity, very dynamic while keeping the groove solid, funky and moving ...  and ... painting atmospheric textures along the way; I don't know, maybe he grows extra limbs like a Hindu deity, that's what it sounds like sometimes; very strong melodic sense too.

Bill Laswell is someone who compels, silently, just by his presence, musicians playing with him to perform their best, to be at the top of their game and go further. Here to go. Expanding beyond seems the code of real musicians. I suspect that partially explains how it went for Hamid. That, and the powerful trio synergy with Laaraji and Laswell; the eye in the triangle.

* * * * * *

This Residency gives a tip of the iceberg glimpse into the informal musical community and network of musicians Laswell has worked with over the years.  The purpose of this shapeshifting group seems always invocational and exploratory, innovative and dangerous, thus suggesting a completely singular, non-hierarchical mystery school similar in intention, different in approach, to the schools set up by Gurdjieff and Crowley.

Ontological Sound System works as one description for what Crowley and Gurdjieff were up to, particularly the latter who formulated a law of ontological creation cycles, the Law of Octaves, based on the diatonic scale in music.  The schools manifested by Gurdjieff and Crowley introduced and used alchemical principles and techniques for an ontological production of some kind.  Gurdjieff called it "Real I,"  Crowley's school signifies it as "True Will."

There was a question the other day as to whether avid Crowley collector Jimmy Page actually knew anything about magick, ontologically or otherwise.  I don't know the answer to that question but suspect he experimented.  My point is that something of Crowley rubbed off on Page through all his contact with the artifacts and the work he did to promote AC's books through owning an occult bookstore ( The Equinox) and publishing one of Mather's translations that Crowley wrote an Introduction for. Whether aware of it or not, Page made a connection with the 93 current and transmits it in the music of Led Zeppelin.  Theurgic magick requires a high level of energy and that energy or prana can get extracted and used by listening to Zeppelin, particularly to Page's guitar playing on the live albums.  Whether musically "correct" or not, it transmits an energy, prana, or baraka.  

I don't know how or why, but it seems obvious to me looking at it from the inside that Bill Laswell has a strong resonance and connection with the 93 Current and it gets reflected and transmitted in the music he constructs.  Encountering and confronting this music means confronting and encountering a school.  Caveat emptor, this comes more as a warning than a suggestion.  Intense exposure to the Ontological Sound System can provoke the temporary destruction of personal identity, then, like Humpty Dumpty, you  learn how to put yourself back together again only different.
* * * * * *  
Day 2 Bass Invaders meant a reconnection and reconstitution of the  musical assemblage with the iconic Jah Wobble.  The name of this group an homage to his band, Jah Wobble's Invaders of the Heart.  Wobble is one of the most influential dub bass players to shake this Earth, known for his sound (his own O.S.S.) starting with the unprecedented massive low end on the first Public Image Limited (PIL) recordings.  Bill Laswell, picked up on this and went on to innovate and changed the dub remix world introducing various outside elements and aesthetics including jazz, ambient and international sounds, sensibilities and textures, avant garde experimentation and chance operations among a host of other musical elements and processes.  The influence Laswell brought to the dub genre was heard by Wobble and fed into his compositions with Invaders of the Heart.  An artistic feedback loop circulates between these two pillars of the bass guitar.  

In fact, having Laswell and Wobble on stage in the same band reminds me of the twin pillars, Jachin and Boaz that marked the entrance to King Solomon's Temple in ancient Jerusalem.  These also symbolize the right and left hand pillars of The Tree of Life, the pillars of Severity and Mercy.  Jachin translates as, he will establish, while Boaz means strength within.

The two pillars were joined in their bass invasion by Josh Werner also fluent in low end dubbese.  All 3 bassists didn't rock the subsonic range at the same time the entire set.  Like Divination, Bass Invaders played fluidly and dynamically always listening to each other and responding.  Josh jumped in on the dub lines when space opened to do so, otherwise he played short melodic phrases or short chordal pads on an old school synthesizer.  Occasionally, Wobble put down his bass and rocked a cowbell in steady time giving Hamid Drake even more leeway to throw in rhythmic pirouettes and somersaults while locking down the groove; simultaneously anchoring and steering the musical voyage.

The three bassists reminded me of an all-time favorite album, Middle Passage, credited to Ginger Baker, produced by Bill Laswell.  That album also features Wobble and Laswell holding down the low end while a third bassist, Jonas Helborg sometimes plays higher register melodic parts.  It remains one of the best sounding albums I have ever heard and is a primary reference I use when listening to new sound systems, both live P. A.s and studio reference monitors.

On my way to to the FOH mixing post I noticed a book on a patron's table, "Memoirs of a Geezer, The Autobiography of Jah Wobble."  He told me he got it at the merch table out front so I picked up a copy and later discovered from it that Middle Passage was the first time Wobble met and worked with Bill.

Wobble has been a musical hero of mine since my friend Hutch - later to become the soundman for D.O.A. (legendary Vancouver punk band) - played the first PIL album for me in 1980 pointing out the  massive bass response which sounded like nothing we'd ever heard before.  Hutch also told me the story of how they got that sound, quite possibly the studio equivalent of an urban legend.  The story went that Wobble cranked up the bass cabinet and pointed it at a stone wall in a small room.  It does sound like that could be true.

Later, in my theurgic researches and experiments I came to really appreciate the name Jah Wobble because Jah really does appear to wobble in the Rastafarian sense of Jah.  Naturally, I asked him to sign the book and he did.  I haven't had the chance to fully read it yet, but the parts I've sampled are an excellent read - a behind the scenes look at working musicians along with a healthy dose of humour.  I highly recommend it.  You might be able to find it here.

Multi-instrumentalist Peter Apfelbaum contributed exploratory melodic and chordal segments and ideas in a higher harmonic register with Rhodes piano, Korg synthesizer, tenor sax, flute and melodica.  Special guest, Ravid Kahalani of Yemen Blues added to the line-up that day, brought a Middle Eastern flavor to the proceedings with mostly tonal, sometimes lyrical improvised singing that seemed cathartic at times as if working through and working out a deep reservoir of pain; a personal pain or the pain of the world situation as it impacts him or a combination of both.  Kahalani, raised in Israel by a Yemenite family who emigrated from Yemen can not return to the country of his ancestors without fear of persecution and nearly certain death.  Ravid joined the bass part of the invasion during the last song of the first set by plugging in and playing his gimbri, a Morrocan bass lute.

Electric violinist Dorian Cheah added his expertise in the second set providing an edgier voice in the upper register, the harmonic distortion from his pedals suggesting the timbre of an electric guitar but with the bowed attack of a violin.  His sound added another element of danger, contrasting as it did with the more sonorous tones of the horns and keyboards.

Bass Invaders in the Green Room.  From left to right, Ravid Kahalani, Hamid Drake, 
Jah Wobble, Josh Werner, Bill Laswell, Dorian Cheah, Peter Apfelbaum.
Photo courtesy of Josh Werner

Day 3 Sypher  Dave Lombardo continued the sequence of mind-blowing drummers.  He's mostly known for his innovations in heavy metal drumming with Slayer, yet his solid and powerful style sounded much freer and less repetitive than that.  More like jazz, though the boundaries between these genre seem fuzzy and indeterminate, a feeble attempt to communicate something that is best experienced.  Lombardo is known for his fast double bass drum style.  During sound check I put a noise gate on the bass drum to reduce some of the low end ringing that happened when the room was empty.  He heard that immediately and asked that it get removed saying that playing with a gate on the kick drum was like trying to run in the sand.  Later he mentioned that he had enjoyed the dub delays I occasionally put on the drums.  

The power of the drums was met and matched by the power of the bass guitar.  Bill played with a heavier sound than either of the previous nights utilizing an array of pedals and effects to create a war machine on the bass.  Dorian Cheah responded with an even more electric guitar-like agenda than the night before.  At times it sounded indistinguishable from a Stratocaster going through a Marshall stack and when he ran his violin through a wah wah pedal I could imagine the ghost of Hendrix smiling with approval.  

There was also a war going on with the volume police that culminated in this set.  It didn't come from the staff of the Chapel, who seemed very supportive of the music's aesthetics, but rather from one intolerant neighbor who lived on the other side of one of the venue's walls.  I had been warned about him after the first night, but thought I was off the hook when Bass Invaders went complaint free.  It seemed that if they didn't shake his cage, then nothing would.  Turns out he had gone out that night.

Sypher welcomed special guest Mike Patton to vocalize in the ending sequence.  I worked with Patton at least 20 years ago when he sat in with Painkiller at Slim's in San Francisco and again in Paris.  I expected it to be non-stop screaming like I remembered it before: a vocal chord war machine trying to burst the containing seams of the skin to let the vital essence out to bleed all over; an intensity hard to reach any other way.  Patton and Painkiller's Mick Harris patented the style and were quite the sub rosa alliance when they joined forces.  Patton has refined his style over the years.  This time around his vocalizings seemed to communicate in a sort of nonhuman, advanced language.  Some of it recalled the alien language of Leeloo in the film The Fifth Element. However the roots were still there - Sypher ended on a Painkiller-like blast with a full on vocal and musical catharsis.

The name Sypher appears a variation on cipher with a qabalistically significant change in spelling.  The definition of cipher: "1. a zero, the figure 0. 2. a secret or disguised way of writing; a code. "  This code often involves numbers.  We use it in the context of tracking the magick - attempting to see traces of what goes on in worlds more subtler than the consensual one.  

Qabalistically, Syp = 150,
                        her  = 210
                        150 + 210 = 360

If you study the gematria of 150 and 151 in Crowley's dictionary, 777 and you have an idea of the work implied by 210 (Robert Anton Wilson gives it away in one of the Historical Illuminatus novels) you may get some notion of an ontological system.

360 = the number of degrees in a circle.  While the bands played throughout this Residency a circular symbol created for this event was projected centrally onto the middle beam of wood above the stage.

As you can see, rays fan out in many degrees from a central location.  Compare that to the information contained in 150, 151 and 210 and learn more about this ontological sound system.

Massacre - Ever since I've known Bill, he has been in what I consider the preeminent band in free jazz circles; always playing with other master musicians.  I was lucky enough to catch a set of Last Exit at the Knitting Factory before they diverged and was fortunate to work with Sonny Sharrock, Ronald Shannon Jackson, and Peter Brotzmann on other projects.  

These days it's Massacre.  Tonight's set showed proof of concept, twisting and stretching the boundaries again.  Every guitar player in the world should listen to this evening's performance in my opinion.  The possibilities of this instrument with pedals and technique sound limitless here.   I find it difficult to describe.  I put on the recording to help inspire words and just listen to it in sheer amazement.  All I can think to say is: a sonic manifestation of the activity implied in the above symbol.  Some of it reminded me of the psychedelic explorations of early Pink Floyd, or if it had evolved.  Set the Controls for the Center of the Sun. 

After the volume restrictions placed on the sound in the last set, Massacre's level started off on the conservative side.  Within minutes, Jack, the owner, insisted that it get turned up.  So I completely ignored what I'd been told in the last set and mixed it as loud as I wanted. No complaints. Plenty of kudos. This music has a Will to be heard on it's own terms.

* * * * * * 

The Laswell Residency was like a magnet drawing the hardcore cognoscenti from lands near and far. A taper came down from Oregon taking time off work to attend and record the first three shows.  My friend Dosh and his friend came up from Arizona to attend all six shows.  I saw so many old musical acquaintances that I hadn't seen for years I thought I may have died resulting in the bardo of my musical history flashing before my eyes.  But I also forged new musical colleagues: Josh Werner, Dorian Cheah and Dave Lombardo among them.  I was thrilled to meet and hang out a little with the great music writer Anil Prasad whom I knew from his compelling advocacy for artists on Facebook.  He gave me a copy of his book Innerviews: Music Without Borders subtitled Extraordinary Conversations with Extraordinary Musicians.  Some of the chapter titles jumped out upon a first glance.  Bjork: Channeling thunderstorms, Bill Laswell: Endless infinity, John McLaughlin & Zakir Hussein: Remembering shakti, David Torn: Mercurial mastery, McCoy Tyner: Communicating sensitivity.  I have only had the chance to peruse this book in random fragments so far, but everything I have read confirms my opinion that Prasad is one of the best communicators (and thus facilitators) of music out there.  I highly recommend checking it out.

* * * * * *
Day 4: Third Rail James "Blood" Ulmer walked out on stage causing a warm pulsing wave of emotion to quite palpably ripple through the crowd as if seeing a blood relative return home after many years.  I don't know when he last played in San Francisco, it felt like the crowd had missed him and were delighted to have him back, a very warm welcome.  I had missed him a lot too, and Jerome "Bigfoot" Brailey and everyone else from the original Third Rail who couldn't make it today, Amina Myers and Bernie Worrell.  

The adjective "legend" sometimes gets overused to describe great musicians, this time it's legit. Blood is a living legend of a unique side of the blues.  Everyone there knew it, either by previous reputation, or if not then they saw it this night as manifested by his presence and the command of his instruments - voice and guitar.  Blood was the bandleader tonight.  They had worked on several of Ulmer's songs at soundcheck, but this attempt at a formal structure got largely abandoned in actual performance for a more freewheeling and spontaneous offering in the same spirit of devil-may-care improvising  all the other groups in the Residency subscribed too.  

Esoterically: Blood, Bigfoot and Bill, what more needs to be said?  You just need to know that foot refers to Malkuth, the material world, the physical space/time continuum, and that Bill adds to 72 which means "a breakthrough."  The third rail is the rail that provides the electricity to the subway train.

Day 5: Method of Defiance

"Difference must be shown differing.  We know that modern art tends to realize these conditions: in this sense it becomes a veritable theater of metamorphoses and permutations.  A theater where nothing is fixed, a labyrinth without a thread (Ariadne has hung herself).  The work of art leaves the domain of representation in order to become 'experience', transcendental empiricism, or science of the sensible."  ...

This empiricism teaches us a strange 'reason,' that of the multiple, chaos and difference (nomadic distributions, crowned anarchies)."

 - Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, p. 56 & 57

All music ultimately goes beyond representation when it works.  Most of it can still get represented by agreed upon terms and classifications after the fact, we can usually find a comparison with something in the past to give the music a familiar reference point.

Method of Defiance defies description.  That is part of its defiance, it leaves the domain of representation to ... see the quote above.

Method of Defiance  - a sonic collage, a pastiche of cut-ups, a bricolage, a schizoanalysis music investigation into a new being of music. an ontological sound system.

Put all these elements into the nuclear reactor of a small performance space: live drums, drum loops, dubbed drums, modulated turntable scratching dubbed and delayed, low end for days and galaxies of bass morphologies with pedals and effects, samples, electronic trumpet landscapes, obscure and arcane chords and intervals on keyboards and horns, trumpet and sax, occasional rippling of flute across the wake, a M.C. and rapper, Doctor Israel (is real) as tour director and guide for the voyage.  You'll get transcendental empiricism balanced against insanity and chaos.  This music touches the Other, that which exists completely outside of anything known.  It touches the Other and brings some of it back into the performance space translating it into a somatic and tactile awareness through the low frequencies of the beat and groove.

Into this cauldron of sound and mixture of chaos, 11 year old Devin Prasad was initiated into the Residency, into the O.S.S., as a special guest sitting in on guitar.  He played an excellent supporting role, and like all on stage, was keenly listening to everyone else and reacting in kind.  The only way this hybrid music monstrosity works is if everyone pays attention and listens to everyone else.  The stage becomes a nuclear reactor constructing  a new architecture of sound.  James Dellatacoma briefly tutored Devin on the range of styles he might hear and tips on how to respond with the guitar.

Method of Defiance.  Left to right: D.J. Logic, Josh Werner, Doctor Israel, Devin Prasad, 
Guy Licata, Graham Haynes, Bill Laswell, Peter Apfelbaum
Photo by Anil Prasad

* * * * * * 

Knowing this would be a major event in my music career I endeavored to track the magick as best I could.  By that I mean, to attempt to view what was going on in dimensions and worlds to subtle to impinge our normal senses.  Tracking the magick seems a type of transcendental empiricism.

The night before the Residency Bill, James and I arrived at the Phoenix Hotel within 5 minutes of each other.  They flew in from New York.   I drove from Grass Valley, left later than planned and got delayed on the Emperor Norton (Bay) Bridge for an hour.  We unintentionally arrived at nearly the same time.  The Phoenix is where everyone stayed.  It’s a funky and clean hotel in the Tenderloin district, also an institution of sorts.  It is thee rock-n-roll hotel in San Francisco, the place where many touring bands stay when in town.

A weird thing occurred Thursday night after Third Rail.  Before the show, I turned off the wi fi in my laptop to maximize its cpu for recording.  That night before falling asleep at the Phoenix, my girlfriend Paula and I watched the first episode of Russian Doll on Netflix using the same laptop. In the morning, I went to check my email and discovered no connection because the wi fi was off. I hadn’t turned it back on since the show. Somehow we watched Netflix without any known internet connection. Maybe the wi fi turned itself on for the show then back off the next morning? I’d find that equally strange. The weirdness factor increases because it was that show.

 Signs are the true elements of theater.  They testify to the spiritual and natural powers which act beneath the words, gestures, characters, and objects represented. -  Deleuze, D & R p.23

The day after the Residency concluded I drove Paula to a dealership in Roseville where she bought a car that she named Silver Phoenix.  Following that, she had to pick up a few household items so we motored in tandem to a nearby Dollar store.  The dude checking us out had PHOENIX written in all caps on his name tag.  I asked if it was his real name and he said it was, but had never been to Arizona.  I told him about the Phoenix rock-n-roll hotel in San Francisco.

Taken as an entire series, music expressing this power, emotion and intensity in a live setting is extremely rare.  A lot of popular contemporary music seems solely for the purpose of entertainment or to cover the noise.  Music with the artistic commitment to experiment with the creation of being as occurred in the unfolding of the Laswell Residency only comes along once in awhile and never the same way twice.  It would be amazing if this sound system were to repeat though you can be guaranteed that when it does, it will be different.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Make Believe by Dalyrmple MacAlpin

How do you raise the consciousness of the planet? How do you make this a better place to live? How do you bring people together, mend divisions and encourage processes of creative problem-solving that affirm life?  Many attempts to answer these questions get tried everyday in large and small ways.  I saw a play the other night that, among other things, gently introduced the audience to a world of magic.

Some theater offers an Initiation, some seeks to entertain, Make Believe does both.  It very explicitly offers the key to magic.  From the Author's Statement:

Children grow up believing whole-heartedly in the most unbelievable things.  So how is it we ever lose faith in the power of our imagination?

My wish with Make Believe is to remind the audience that magic not only exists, it also contains an inescapable soul, which has actually never left us. 

- Dalyrmple MacAlpin

It's my experience that this musical play is an extremely effective portal into other domains of reality often considered inaccessible or nonexistent.  If that sounds scary, and it probably should, well ... it's a mere fairy tale.  As Herman Hesse famously wrote in Steppenwolf: "Magic Theater - Entrance Not For Everybody.  The great thing about this kind of voluntary Initiation is that you can jump into the waters, so to speak, as much or as little as you like, or as you can take.  Just because you discover a quantum wormhole into an alternate dimension doesn't mean that you have to jump in.  Simply enjoy the view of things outside common sense reality.

Multi level stories generally contain puns and other literary tricks.  Make Believe is no exception starting from the subtitle: "An Archetypal Musical Theater Fairytale For The Young And Young At Heart," because it also plays to the Jung at heart.  It contains a strong Jungian component exemplified by a quote from Carl underneath the Artist's Statement: One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.

This play rewards attention, the more you bring to it, the more immersed and inside of the story you become.  MacAlpin's language often expresses itself as riddle or rhyme and does not really sound of this century, however following closely draws you in while contributing to the otherworldy atmosphere of the space.

I had the pleasure of working with MacAlpin in his previous incarnation as the primary force behind  the esoteric folk (think of Pentangle) Lasher Keen who described their music as inspired by ritual induced trance states.  We recorded, mixed, mastered and released their 2014 album Mantic Poetry Oracular Prophecy.  He is a dedicated multi-media artist spending three years composing and producing the music for Make Believe going so far as to pick up a formal education in music theory, composition and orchestration as part of the creative process.  In his bio he mentions that he also studied traditional Czech marionette carving at the prestigious Puppets in Prague institute. "This skill he expounded upon in order to carve a vital and living consciousness into his very first puppet, Rumpelstilzchen."

All aspects of the production of the play were amazing and highly professional: the acting, the music, sound, set, lighting, costumes, etc.  It was of a quality and calibre you expect to see from theater in New York or London, although perhaps it gained some mystique and magic from the resonance of opening in Nevada Theater, the oldest active theater west of the Mississippi, site of some of Mark Twain's first public lectures.

One of the most effective moments for me happened in the song, The Blessing of Pan.  There was a slide projector showing various iconic images of Pan revolving around the backdrop while Pan did his number about rescuing one of the children.  I flashed back to my previous adventures with Pan recording the music of Jajouka in Morroco's Rif Mountains while they did their ritual to the ancient God.  I wasn't surprised to read in the bio of Angela Holm, the Assistant Director and the person doing the projections, that "She likes exploring esoteric communication through the mysterious process of capturing image, in particular the aura of the unexpected that can happen through optical mechanics.

Synchronicities of a particular intensity seem to indicate contact with something, some force or Intelligence of one kind of another, much bigger than yourself.  They can appear as an affirmation of being on the right track or going in a productive direction.  After Dalyrmple began writing this story about 6 archetypal sisters exiled from their Mother and home by their evil Uncle, he discovered that in actuality a family with 6 sisters were neighbors to the Grimm Brothers.  Many familiar fairy tales such as Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella and several others were originally told to the Grimm Brothers by those sisters.  When you begin writing about archetypes then discover that the form you're writing about already had a major impact on folklore, then to me it seems more an issue of tuning in to some kind of current than of making something up from scratch; technically known as Invocation.  Make Believe appears a strong and successful Invocation.

Driving home from the play with my girlfriend Paula in a pleasant and alert altered state, listening to jazz on the classical radio station, an unfamiliar song came on singing the lyrics:  "When I write a letter to you ........ I ...... make believe ...... make believe ....... I'm right beside you."

This post is too late to convince anyone local to catch the play while they can.  As of this writing, there are only two more performances, tonight and tomorrow.  Its intent is to communicate the delight, great pleasure and spiritual value of Make Believe continuing on for future runs.  A special shout out to Promoter and Producer Paul Emery for having the vision and daring to make the initial run possible, much respect!  For more information check out

I'll let Dalyrmple MacAlpin have the final word form the program's concluding lines:

"So let us commingle and conjoin with the shadowy contortionist of our nightmares and the imaginary friend who is our guide. They are there for a reason."

Original painting by Benjamin A. Vierling

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Bill Laswell Manifestation: Ontological Sound System

Music has the ability to convey a powerful spiritual force, a force, a multiplicity, encouraging and enabling planetary transformation; a force of magick functioning and operating on the all-worlds-connected quantum level.

Good music, music that destroys systems of control, that awakens and transforms heart and soul, seems on the rise

Music serving as a vehicle for Magic colonizes Space and suspends Time.

"As Deleuze remarks in Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, music indeed 'deeply traverses our bodies and puts an ear in our belly, in our lungs etc.', but ultimately it rids bodies of their inertia, of the materiality of their presence. It disincarnates bodies. In turn, through the manipulation of its sonic matter, 'it gives the most spiritual entities a disincarnated, dematerialized body.' Music, in short, through its heightened yet somehow dispersed, intangible sensuality, has the power of undoing the coordinates of the commonsense world and creating a sonic body of speeds and affective intensities, that sonic body traversing listeners and turning their organized, material bodies into dematerialized vectors spread out across an a-personal, trans-individual body without organs.

- from Violence in Three Shades of Metal by Ronald Bogue

Or in other words, music may operate as a catalyst for the alchemical process,

Solve Coagula

"... there is a sound block that no longer has a point of origin, since it is always and already in the middle of the line; and no longer has horizontal and vertical coordinates, since it creates its own coordinates; and no longer forms a localizable connection from one point to another since it is in "nonpulsed time": a deterritorialized rhythmic block that has abandoned points, coordinates and measure, like a drunken boat that melds with the line or draws a plane of consistency.  Speeds and slownesses inject themselves into musical form, sometimes impelling it to proliferation, linear microproliferations, and sometimes to extinction, sonorous abolition, involution or both at once. The musician is in the best position to say: "I hate the faculty of memory, I hate memories," And that is because he or she affirms the power of becoming."

- Deleuze & Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus p. 296

"And as the artists become other, they pass into things, they become 'absent but everywhere in the landscape,' at which point they are able to render palpable in the work of art the impalpable forces of the world" - Ronald Bogue, Deleuze on Music, Painting and the Arts

Special thanks to Yoko Yamabe for the graphic design of the poster images.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

FLY ON The Tale of the Tribe

"Who's your favorite female superhero?

- Special agent Clarice Starling"

  - email exchange between Steven 'Fly' Pratt and Robert Anton Wilson, FOTTOTT p. 53.

"And you various tribes that fly with the halcyon
Over the rolling boom of the ocean
Come quickly and listen to what's going on,
Here we are mustering in all our variety
Of long-necked birds;
For here there has come a venerable sage
Full of ideas
Full of new ways."

- Aristophanes, The Birds (translated by Paul Roche)

Near the beginning of his introduction to the Gurdjieffian universe, Making A New World,  J.G. Bennett makes the point that Gurdjieff deliberately started many 'lines of work', many different projects and ideas without finishing them.  Bennett argues that rather than indicating a failure to carry projects through to completion, Gurdjieff deliberately set up several courses of work for his students to pick up and continue.  

Robert Anton Wilson planted several semantic sprouts and seeds and left the ever evolving Tale of the Tribe meta-history (and her story) project to his spiritual progeny to bring into bloomin' fruition. The Tale of the Tribe was an ambitious book Robert Anton Wilson had planned to write.  He indicated what it would cover in a short synopsis at the end of his penultimate book, TSOG, The Thing that Ate the ConstitutionThe Tale of the Tribe was also the name of an 8 week online course presented by the Maybe Logic Academy and guided by Wilson in 2005.

The book Fly On The Tale of the Tribe (FOTTOTT) - A Roller Coaster Ride with Robert Anton Wilson recounts the autobiographical odyssey of Steven 'Fly' Pratt side by side with his constantly changing, multiple visions of the Tale of the Tribe.  One can see it as a treatise ebbing and flowing, weaving and winding its way like a river through the canyons of postmodern thinkers  and their transformational experimentation; a nonlinear narrative that can sometimes appear as holographic as the writing he is describing as holographic, mostly Finnegans Wake by James Joyce.

This book is also one of the rare (so far), and invaluable primer books for the writings, philosophies and methods of Robert Anton Wilson.  For that alone, I highly recommend it, but there is much else too.  We get a cast of philosophical and scientific heavyweights and a synopsis of some their prime ideas and practical contributions to human development - the Tale of the Tribe.  Among others, we hear from Nietzsche, Alan Moore, Claude Shannon, Giodorno Bruno, Giambattista Vico, Buckminster Fuller, Wilhelm Reich, Korzybski, John Lilly, Tim Leary, Ernest Fenellosa, Jung, Yeats, Aleister Crowley, Marshall McLuhan, Orson Welles, Paul Krassner, John Sinclair, and of course, the Tale of the Tribe's first two stars, James Joyce and Ezra Pound.

Sombunall of the subjects include:

What is the Tale of the Tribe? and its corollary, what do we do with it?
Augmented Reality(AR)
What is art? We are all artists.
Eprime and certainty; the effects of language on consciousness.
King Kong, his sister Hong, and Guerilla Ontology.
Finnegans Wake
James Joyce/RAW inspired geo-mapping APPS - I suspect this one brilliant idea alone would revolutionize the consciousness of whomever used them.
Hologrammic writing.
The contribution of Chinese ideograms to the Tribe.
Holometic Retribalism,  a Fly neologism which seems a portmanteau of hologram and hermetic.
The influence of psychedelic drugs on the Tribe.
Quantum entanglement and spooky action at a distance.

FOTTOTT is full of amazing quotes, the large percentage from Wilson, but many from other conspirators that serve to fill out and substantiate this vision of the Tribe.  Perhaps my favorite parts are the email and interview transcripts between Fly and RAW and any personal exchanges they had as it presents new light on the venerable sage.

I'm very interested in this topic because the online TOTT course became one of the most significant teaching experiences of my life; extremely intense at times, it felt life-changing.   I  regret not archiving the entire course exercises and discussion when given the opportunity.  So it was with some excitement to read that Fly included the course in the intro definition of TOTT .  I always assumed that someone at the MLA would archive it, and still hope it exists elsewhere other than in a few carbon-based memory banks and the akashic records.

Effects I can remember the course having on me include a quantum leap in understanding and comprehending Finnegans Wake that went a lot further than the information taken in by the group discussion.  I read it in its entirety for only the second time after the course finished and thoroughly enjoyed it, taking copious notes along the way.  The first read through felt like running a marathon through a thick swamp.  I would get mildly high from reading the book like you would meditating, but it seemed like I understood about 3% or less of it.  The TOTT also course introduced me to The Cantos by Ezra Pound.  It took a minute for that spark to catch, like almost the entire 8 week course, but it did flame and I also read The Cantos all the way through and looked at some of the secondary literature after the course.  I remember subjecting some of my mixing clients to recitations of inspiring passages.

At the time of this course my writing was limited to posting in these online courses and on the MLA Forum.  I remember something happening in the course that caused me to resolve to always write and get my point across as simply and directly as possible. I learned about "fossil poems."  The concept originates with Ralph Waldo Emerson in this quote:

“Language is fossil poetry. As the limestone of the continent consists of infinite masses of the shells of animalcules, so language is made up of images, or tropes, which now, in their secondary use, have long ceased to remind us of their poetic origin.”

RAW expanded and put this into practice by suggesting listening to short phrases from any source, he used the example of CNN, and hearing them as fossil poems rather than in their ordinary context.  Short phrases, even with only a couple of words, that can poetically imply much more. I don't recall any of his examples, but to take what normally passes as mundane and hear it as poetry seems enlightened.  The first one I submitted was from the Rolling Stones: "Jumping Jack Flash is a gas, gas, gas," which reminds me of sexual alchemy.

It was in this course that a sequence of events arose which led to my verification that baraka can get transmitted through the internet.  In Cosmic Trigger, this gets called a contact experience. I posted a blog about it.

One thing I look for: are there actual real world changes being made as a product or byproduct of engagement with The Tale of the Tribe?  Is it doing anything?  The answer is absolutely yes! and I can give a direct example I just discovered a few days ago as this post gestated in my brain.  The Tale of the Tribe course occurred in the autumn of 2005 shortly after Hurricane Katrina.  In one very intriguing post RAW initiated with a headline that began: "Housing ...," he suggested they use Bucky Fullers mobile, portable housing structures to provide temporary housing for people displaced by the hurricane.  At the time I thought this a brilliant notion, but also rather cynically expecting that it probably wouldn't happen.  A couple of days ago Raw Illumination had a post linking to Alec Nevala-Lee's announcement about writing a biography on Buckminster Fuller.  It mentions that emergency shelters influenced by Fuller's designs were indeed used in the aftermath of Katrina. 

FOTTOTT  compares favorably  with Cosmic Trigger.  It pulls a few triggers of its own.
Very few people can attest to the extraordinary nature of Wilson's TOTT course, by the end of it there were only about a dozen or less active participants and it seems that at least 40 people had initially signed up.  Fly was one of the few that saw the whole thing through and the one who has most explicitly launched  the Wilson inspired Tales trajectory forward starting with multiple collage-like posts in the MLA Forum, that. much like this book, in the spirit of Ezra Pound, James Joyce and others who have worked with this concept, examined and re-imagined The Tale of the Tribe.

On p.38 we see the instruction: "That's the aim of the game folks.  Build your own tribe."  This book introduced me to Slavoj Zizek for the first time.  Zizek opens the door to French postmodern philosophy and psychology, especially the work of Jaques Lacan, also briefly discussed herein.  Besides translating Jaques Derrida, perhaps the most prominent of the lot,  Zizek has also ably contributed to the secondary literature of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.  Guttari was also a student and therapeutic client of Lacan.

In the comments from a couple of the later weeks of the Email to the Universe book discussion over at, I point to at least 4 or 5 instances of RAW obviously alluding to ideas from Deleuze and Guattari.  RAW knew about these dudes, I strongly suspect.  Deleuze in particular seems quantumly entangled with many other card-carrying members of the tribe.  His interpretation of Nietzsche published in the early 60's is said to have revived interest in the philosopher eventually making him a sweetheart of the counter-culture.  He writes about Orson Welles in his books on the cinema.  Delueze also finds much inspiration in Burroughs, using and expanding his ideas as much as  Wilson.

A good introduction to the world view of Deleuze & Guatarri is through their concept of the rhizome.  The nonhierarchical, decentralized process of growth of a rhizome appears isomorphic with the development and proliferation of the Tale of the Tribe.  Their essay on  the rhizome, initially published separately, later became incorporated as the introduction to A Thousand Plateaus.

A primary characteristic of some of the more integral members of the Tribe involves their use of multiple meaning and multiple levels of meaning in the same word, phrase or sentence.  They can seem very punny guys.  James Joyce, who gets more air time in FOTTOTT than anyone else apart from Wilson, leads in this area with Aleister Crowley not far behind.  Most or all of Wilson's fictional writings appear rife with multiplicity of meaning.  This characteristic receives further elucidation in a future post.

Deleuze & Guattari also communicate multiple meanings in simple and elaborate ways.  For instance, the Rhizome piece starts with an illustration of an avant garde fragment of musical notation.  The header on this notation reads "XIV piano piece for David Tudor 4."  Deleuze & Guattari comprise two doors (Tudor) into multiple, philosophical, postmodern concepts and scenarios.  Multi-level writers tend to be qabalistically fluent.  This appears true with D & G.  In the example given, XIV, 14 = the key number for the path of Daleth which connects Chokmah and Binah and gets associated with Venus.  4 = the numerical value of the letter Daleth and Daleth in English = door. 

A theme that cycles around in FOTTOTT from Nietszche via Cosmic Trigger: we are all greater artists than we realize.  In an essay on Michel Foucault, Deleuze wrote:

"It’s a question of 'doubling’ the play of forces, of a self-relation that allows us to resist, to elude power, to turn life or death against power. This, according to Foucault, is something the Greeks invented…it’s a matter of optional rules that make existence a work of art, rules at once ethical and aesthetic that constitute ways of existing or styles of life . It’s what Nietzsche discovered as the will to power operating artistically, inventing ‘new possibilities of life."

One of my favorite quotes from Fly's book:

Thus relativity, in the hands of James Joyce, is translated from the realm of mathematics and operationalist volumes of philosophy into a living laboratory, a living zoo or circus where no single word can define meaning concretely, yet a string of them together can cast a powerful message to the reader.

My question becomes: what grows?  If we indeed find ourselves in a living laboratory, and I agree we do, how do we describe what grows?  The attempt to define this may benefit the process.  We'll put this under the microscope, or the telescope, in the next installment here regarding The Tale of the Tribe.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Servants of the Star & Snake

I've held a deep fascination for Kenneth Grant since first hearing about him in Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger, The Final Secret of the Illuminatti.  Wilson invoked Grant's researches into his story to support the hypothesis that Beings from Sirius were transmitting preternatural Intelligence to certain individuals on Earth.  Wilson, appropriately enough, cites Grant 11 times in Cosmic Trigger, the first one being a quote from The Magical Revival stating that Crowley identified the heart of his magical current with Sirius.  As well as being adepts at Qabalah, Grant and Wilson also shared an appreciation and a practical use for the works of H.P. Lovecraft.  They both experimented extensively with theurgic magick.

I have strong affinities with many of the subjects and disciplines found in Cosmic Trigger particularly Sirius, Magick, Qabalah, Lovecraft and synchronicities.  If Wilson acts as a spiritual progenitor of sorts for me, then Kenneth Grant seems like an Uncle from the same lineage.

Servants of the Star and Snake published this year by Starfire and edited by Henrik Bogdan beautifully illuminates the salient points in the legacy of Kenneth Grant's often controversial and iconoclastic career.  The chief influence on his path was undoubtedly his wife, Steffi as evident by the subtitle: essays in honour of Kenneth and Steffi Grant; the cover photo is of a painting of the couple by Osman Spare and across from the title page is a photo of them on their wedding day, February 14, 1946.  One of Grant's great acts of service was helping Austin Osman Spare continue researching and publishing his magical system and art.  Grant is responsible for bringing a great deal of recognition to Spare's work.  Without him, most of us would never have heard of Austin Osman Spare.  It was Steffi Grant who first brought Spare to Kenneth's attention.  I don't know who turned him on to Lovecraft.

Many of the essays appear to have been written by people who had a close relationship with the Grants.  The love and respect they have for his work comes through quite clearly in the writing.  All of the main bases in Grant's legacy seem covered: the fruitful relationship with Spare, Advaita Vedanta, Gerald Massey, Lam, Sexual Magick and Tantra, etc.  There is the excellent essay, Foundations of the Typhonian Trilogies that provides valuable background on how Kenneth Grant's unique expression and continuance of the magical tradition came into existence.  It was the first two volumes of the Typhonian Trilogies that Robert Anton Wilson cited from in Cosmic Trigger.

Some of the controversies Grant was severely criticized for get addressed in this compendium.  His creative incorporation and use of fiction by H.P. Lovecraft, Sax Rohmer and others receives some exegesis and clarity here.  His view, following the lead of Frater Achad, that the aeon of Maat had shown up early to supersede the aeon of Horus receives an inside perspective in the essay by Nema, Kenneth Grant and Maat.  Nema had visions of her own in that regard and relates an interesting synchronicity when she sent a record of them to Grant.

Two interesting points made in her vision: the presiding deity of the aeon appears a matter of human perspective and that aeons are eternal.  To me, the boundaries between aeons become fuzzy - elements of the aeon of Isis and Osiris as well as Maat appear in the current aeon of Horus.  How they can exist eternally gets explained by Deleuze with his paradox of pure becoming in The Logic of Sense.   Whenever an event occurs, and this applies also to macro-events such as the advent of aeons, we can distinguish two dimensions of time.  He called the ordinary sequential flow of time which is limited and measured, Chronos.  The second dimension of time he called Aion.   Viewed in the time frame of the Aion, when an event occurs it splits off simultaneously into the infinite past and the infinite future.  This indicates the flow of pure becoming.  The causes and origins of the Maat event go infinitely into the past of its occurrence, therefore can get tuned into now.   I hold the opinion that Horus best describes this aeon in the Chronos time reference.  The becoming of the aeon Horus = the aeon of Maat.  The DNA of the Maat aeon seems encoded in the one of Horus.  Tapping into it may explain why some occultists feel it  has arrived.  I don't see a sharp dividing line between the two, but suspect that we still have a ways to go.  The current president of the United States seems a strong throwback to the male dominated Age of Osiris.

One of my favorite lines in the book is a quote from a letter Grant wrote to Nema: "You do not appear to be able to let go of the idea that the 'self' is some kind of entity ..." She selects a few additional excellent exchanges in their letters then states the hope that this correspondence appear in print.  We second that motion.

Servants of the Star &Snake.  I no longer consider the Star to exclusively represent Sirius.  I see it in its sense as described in the previous episode of this blog flow, Beethoven and Simrit, itself based on the description of the Star card in Crowley's The Book of Thoth.  Or as Liber Al 2:62 gives it: "I am uplifted in thine heart; the kisses of the stars rain hard upon thy body." The Snake gets a shout out in Liber Al 1:61 toward the end: "Put on the wings and arouse the coiled splendour within you: come unto me!" Hindus and yogis call it kundalini, sexual energy which = spiritual energy.  Seen with this perspective, the title Servants of the Star & Snake becomes synonymous in one sense with the service of love under will.

The valuable contributions, connections, and expansions Kenneth Grant brought to Thelemic sex magick are clearly expressed more than once in the book.  Dialectically contrasting his work in sex magick with Crowley's seems shortsighted.  I would avoid conflating Crowley's experiments in that area with the extensive practical information found in Liber AlThe Book of LiesThe Book of Wisdom and Folly to name just a few sources in Crowley's oeuvre.  To focus on his possible experimental mistakes or wrong approaches against what Grant got right occludes a great deal of useful data on the subject found elsewhere in Crowley's writings, data potentially supplemented quite well with Grant's modifications.

My favorite essay is Shakti in Chinatown by Michael Bertiaux.  The literary, "fictional,"  (I would call it magick realism) nature of it seems well-suited for getting to the heart of the Grants' legacy. It is the only chapter, in my recollection, that directly exposes the theurgic character of their work.

In another excellent essay on Babalon in the Typhonian tradition, Manon Hedenborg-White states that Grant has a propensity "to play with and destabilize meaning," (p. 137) when he or she writes of the controversial claim Grant makes by identifying Babalon with Choronozon (Chaos).  This further aligns Grant with Robert Anton Wilson and other writers (including Crowley) who employ what Wilson called guerilla ontology - making provocative statements that might not literally be true, but that serve to help dissolve the readers preconceived views.  Hedonborg-White goes on to articulate Grant's use of this technique.  Christopher Hyatt refers to it as "breaking set" in the Preface to the Eye in the Triangle.  Another example of Grant's literary tricksterness is the title Against the Light.  Subtitled, A Nightside Narrative the undiscerning reader might conclude this is about dark things fighting the light and never crack open he cover.  If they do make it to the Contents page, they'll discover opposite it a quote from Finnegans Wake by James Joyce about holding up a verse against the light to read it better.  In other words, the assumed meaning of the title gets reversed.

Like the writings of Crowley, Wilson and others in this lineage, learning to understand, use, and flow with reversals of sense and paradox appears key to deeply penetrating into the alchemical/transformational percepts and affects found in the Typhonian Triliogies and Kenneth Grant's writings in general.  It goes without saying that any understanding of Qabalah aids the endeavor logarithmically.  "Paradox is initially that which destroys good sense as the only direction, but it is also that which destroys common sense as the assignation of fixed identities." (Deleuze, Logic of Sense p. 3)  I elaborate on the esoteric use of paradox here.

 In her essay, Nema quotes from Outside The Circles of Time another common theme:

It is not my purpose to try to prove anything; my aim is to construct a magical mirror capable of reflecting some of the less elusive images seen as shadows of a future aeon.  This I do by means of suggestion, evocation, and by those oblique and 'in-betweeness' concepts that Austin Spare defined as 'Neither-Neither' ..." (p.180)

The quote goes on to explain the benefits of such a practice.  The state of 'in-betweeness' is what Tibetan Buddhists know as the Bardo.  'Neither-Neither' also describes the Bardo.  The term comes from the Tibetan Book of the Dead.  Kenneth Grant appeared a very intrepid and experienced bardo explorer.  The term 'magical mirror' also becomes a clue for the realm or area of exploration we're talking about.  The bardo sometimes gets considered an unravelling of consciousness.  Chapel Perilous seems an extreme sector of the bardo that can seep into and disrupt normal social stability.  Knowing that Grant practices bardo exploration may make it easier, or you braver, to navigate the stranger areas of his writings and benefit from them.  By reading his writings, you will explore the bardo, it comes through in his books.

This may (or may not) explain why Bertiaux put Shakti in ChinatownChinatown is a favorite of Robert Anton Wilson. Chinatown in that film gets portrayed as a bardo-like area of mystery and unpredictable danger; dark and scary.  Bardo exploration has also been referred to as Darkside Dreamwalking, another appropriate description for some of Kenneth Grant's adventures.

Servants of the Star and Snake is a beautifully conceived and executed book with a high aesthetic on par with it's content and subject matter.  Praise Thoth!  Every article is worth the price of admission though the entrance may not be for everyone.