To be honest, I can't be certain that Proust had anything to do with these lyrics. Yet the fact remains that Zeppelin did name their music label Swan Song and the first volume in Proust's magnum opus, In Search of Lost Time is called Swann's Way. Further, a swan song comes from an Ancient Greek phrase to indicate the last gesture, effort or performance before death. Charles Swann, the character who provides the Way in the title is one of only two protagonists who die in the first four volumes of ISoLT – as far I've reached in my reading. Swann's death doesn't get considered much, unlike the narrator's Grandmother, but we do get one poignant scene in the third volume where Swann tells his friends the Guermantes about his poor health and limited time, the narrator grasps the gravity of the moment, but the Duc seems to not care and prioritizes rushing off to a party. His wife, the Duchess, seems torn between the two positions, wishing to stay and talk to Swann, but being dragged away by her husband. This turned out to be Swann's swan song in the novel. Zeppelin's Swan Song began life as an unrealized epic instrumental piece by Jimmy Page before lending its name to their fledgling music label. The irony of using a phrase indicating imminent death for a new record label may relate to Mr. Page's "reading and research" into the Golden Dawn and Aleister Crowley's Thelema which confront death full on with material from The Egyptian Book of the Dead among other sources.
Monday, August 24, 2020
Saturday, August 15, 2020
Robert Anton Wilson’s Quest To Turn On The World
by A Student
In a jailhouse interview, Timothy Leary responded to a question asking if he was trying to change the world with his activities in the 1960s: “Yes, we were trying to change the world. We knew the odds were against us, but we had a sense of humor about it.” For his efforts, Leary got rewarded with trumped up drug charges resulting in enforced retreats in multiple jails and prisons. He lived for months on the run as a fugitive before getting illegally kidnapped in Afghanistan by the U.S. authorities who placed him in solitary confinement next to Charlie Manson in Folsom Prison. Richard Nixon had named him the most dangerous man in America. His compadre in the conspiracy of Higher Intelligence, Robert Anton Wilson, took a less public, more low-key approach to the same mission. In spite of facing significant social challenges by going against the grain of economic slavery and following his own vision, Wilson managed to not get burned at the stake, locked up, or vilified in the tabloid press like several of his predecessors. He knew how to keep silent and the necessity of that for effective communication. The Greek God Harpocrates, pictured as a babe on a lotus flower, forefinger to lips in the gesture of silence, represents the god of protection.
I am not aware of Robert Anton Wilson ever directly expressing an intention to transform the world. He did carry a life-long interest and transmission of the work presented by Aleister Crowley while distancing himself from Crowley’s personal philosophies:
“It is this synthesis of Eastern and Western occult traditions with modern scientific method that is probably Crowley’s major achievement. His notorious anti-Christian philosophy – a blend of Nietzsche Supermanism and anarcho-fascist Darwinism – is quite distinct from his methodology. Whether you like that philosophy or not (and the Libertarian does not), you can still use the methodology of research Crowley devised” (Cosmic Trigger I, p. 70 Hilaritas Press).
Later in the book, he tells the story of meeting a clown in the park named Parcifal doing Sufi exercises as part of his routine. Parcifal accurately predicts that RAW will soon find his son whom he’s looking for. RAW later looks up his name: “By Cabalah, Parcifal = 418 = ‘The Great Work Accomplished,’ i.e. the total awakening of all humanity” (CT I p. 102). This appears to be Wilson’s unique interpretation of the Great Work, I’ve not encountered it elsewhere in quite that formulation.
A few pages later while discussing the Cabala of The Book of the Law he returns to 418:
“The second major number in the book is 418, which, ‘coincidentally’ is the number of Crowley’s home in Inverness, Scotland. Its standard cabalistic meaning is ‘the Great Work accomplished,” or the Illumination of all humanity.” Crowley has a lot to say about 418 in Sepher Sephiroth, this number has the most extensive entry in the whole book, but nowhere does he say it indicates the “Illumination of all humanity,” though that certainly makes a valid conclusion, RAW’s conclusion. He continues:
“Crowley interpreted this to mean that his mission was not to illuminate a few, as other gurus have done and are doing, but to set in motion occult forces which would result in the illumination of all, by the end of this century; 418 is also the number of ‘Parcifal,’ the Sufi whose life so oddly intersected mine in that mad summer of 1973” (CT I, p. 111)
I’ve been reading Crowley and the secondary literature consistently for many years without encountering that interpretation RAW attributes to him. Recall that 40 pages earlier, he distanced himself from Crowley’s philosophies while aligning himself to his methodology. One of those methods includes playing fast and loose with facts in order to transmit a particular piece of Intelligence.
Boleskine, the name of the house Crowley owned near Inverness adds to 418. Though subtle, RAW deliberately calls it the number of Crowley’s home without referring to it by name. He then connects it with the Sufis, in particular, someone doing Sufi exercises in the park.
418 also = “Servans misericordiam” which translates as “keeping kindness,” or “keeping compassion.” The root of the second syllable of the second word, “cordi” = heart. Boleskine, now in preservation and restoration after multiple fires ravaged it, lies very near to the geographical center of the Scottish Highlands.
Cosmic Trigger I appeared relatively early in Wilson’s literary career. We find similar sentiments expressed in the last novel he wrote, Nature’s God. This note from Sigismundo’s Wilderness Journal sounds like it might be autobiographical:
“I ran away from the Priory because I cannot waste time being an Emperor. I have more important work to do. I want to become the concert master for future evolution” (NG, p. 128, Hilaritas Press)
Later, Sigismundo explains the intentions of the “Free Builders” to the indigenous shaman who seems both his friend and enemy:
“They wished to cure not just suffering individuals but the entire suffering race of humanity. It was their aim to help all humans walk through the gate of the four quarters and become like gods.” (NG, p. 161).
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From his work, it appears that Robert Anton Wilson’s efforts toward illuminating humanity consisted of showing people how they could turn themselves on, how they could proceed towards transforming their lives into whatever they desired; how they could move in and out of different ideological spaces, increase their intelligence, and live longer, not only physically, but vitally. In the field of voluntary evolution, he showed a remarkable talent for transferring and transforming technology from a variety of sources, taking information and methods, integrating them with his own practices, strategies, and experimentation to eventually communicate them back out from the understanding of personal experience personally experienced. The legacy of his philosophical research gave the world Maybe Logic and Model Agnosticism, approaches to making sense of life forever associated with his name, explained well elsewhere, only as far away as an internet search engine. His tinkering with and ceaseless trumpeting of the 8 Circuit Model of Consciousness, originally conceived by the good Doctor Leary, remains his most extroverted and recurring example of broadcasting a set of tools for conscious change.
Like the jazz guru bandleader Sun Ra (see the documentary, A Joyful Noise) whose name they both shared, RAW valorized the Unknown. His excursions outside the domains of the norm and into new territories sometimes led to startling events and conclusions far outside acceptable scientific consensual realities. Rather than invalidating them, or reducing them to a psychological or sociological profile, he appeared ok with ultimately remaining agnostic about the nature of these discoveries. His skepticism seems as legendary as his willingness to stay open to any possibility.
* * * * * *
The technology I have personally benefited the most from RAW is magick. Magick is spelled with a “k” to distinguish itself from stage magic and illusions although both of those can help with magick. It’s also forever associated with Aleister Crowley who revitalized that spelling. Crowley based his magick on the Golden Dawn while significantly modifying and expanding it.
Crowley’s most significate accomplishments don’t appear to be his not inconsiderable mystical and magical attainments, but rather his ability to communicate the methods and schema where you can do that for yourself, or in his words, produce Christs. RAW based his magick on Crowley’s while significantly modifying and expanding it in his way. I’ve come to understand Crowley through RAW and to get a better grasp of RAW through his understanding of Crowley.
Significant magickal instruction appears in every single book I’ve ever read by Wilson, particularly in his fiction where you’ll find it usually coded, though he helps the attentive reader crack the code. In the spirit of pearls before swine, he doesn’t seem interested in freely giving out esoteric data, rather he makes the reader, the student, work to discover and realize it for themselves. This appears one intention behind Guerilla Ontology, or Operation Mindfuck: feed the system with blatantly false information, then less blatantly, dubious information that may or may not be true in order to get the reader to think for themselves, not blindly accept everything or anything the Author/Teacher says without question. Balanced skepticism seems the first order of business in a career of magick. When RAW taught Crowley 101 online in 2005, during the 101st anniversary of the reception of The Book of the Law, the first essay he assigned for study was The Soldier and the Hunchback, Crowley’s dialectic between certitude, as represented by the Soldier (!) and doubt from the Hunchback (?).
For the past several years, RawIllumination.org has often hosted weekly discussion groups usually featuring one of Wilson’s books. By reading a tiny chunk, this weekly voyage through a small portion of his literary world enables the iso-magnification of the text to reveal more of the depth of his transmission than you might get from reading straight through without feedback and analysis. His books seem ideal for reading slowly and contemplatively and makes for a great deal of fun for people like myself who love to solve literary puzzles and who love to learn.
Much of the magick in his fiction remains to get discovered. I comment extensively in the group discussions only limited by available time; I perceive much more than I can comment on and I miss a lot that other people notice. Since I see much more now than in past readings, I can reasonably expect additional didactic tracks currently unknown to me to come up with further study in the future.
RAW is my first and primary teacher of magick. Through him I met E.J. Gold whom I’ve learned a lot from indirectly, mostly by example. Like Crowley and RAW, Gold uses guerilla ontology, communicates on multiple levels and has fluency with Qabalah. One of the first things Gold told me is that 50% of what he says about the Work is a lie. That makes it a 50/50 chance that the figure of 50% is a lie if you accept the statement as true. Sometimes it seems a much higher number. Gold and RAW were friends. There are a couple of sets of recorded talks they did together at a 4th Way Convention in 1980 in San Francisco. Gold once told me that he and RAW were in the same School together.
Circa 2003 or 2004 Gold suggested that I reread The Golden Apple, the second book of the Illuminatus! Trilogy. I decided to read the whole thing and experienced new strata of previously opaque Qabalistic imagery open up. When that finished, I received a strong intuitive sign from the environment to go on, so I continued with Schrodinger’s Cat. That coincided with an intense period of my life that felt like going through Chapel Perilous while also producing a jazz record in Paris. I experienced so many synchronicities with events toward the end of the book and events in my daily life that it felt like I was living inside the novel, or the novel had jumped outside its pages to encompass my entire world. It’s hard to describe, definitely reset some neural wiring and increased my respect for the power of the word.
Lon Milo Duquette is a teacher who played an invaluable role in my education, initially with his book, The Magick of Thelema, now called The Magick of Aleister Crowley, A Handbook of Rituals of Thelema. The title speaks for itself. In one of his books, Duquette calls RAW his hero.
I have held a great affinity for the writings of Crowley since I first read the Equinox and the Confessions at the age of 22. It took a long time and the help of the above to fully penetrate his presentation and I’m still learning. RAW’s communication of magick bypasses Thelemic administration and a lot of the formalisms, generally getting to the heart of the matter while adding his own twists. The process of understanding the magick in Wilson’s writings seems similar to the process called the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. Both cases require a feedback loop between subject and object. You read his writings, they can inspire a change of some kind, new habits, new experiments, new attitudes that make you a little smarter, funnier, and more sensitive to a greater range of energy. You read or reread more of his writings and comprehend significantly more, leading to different changes; the process of growth. With the HGA, it seems the creation or discovery of a spiritual guide through exercising intuition. Like both RAW’s fiction and nonfiction, the HGA communicates often through Qabalah. One can learn to establish lines of communication with whatever that is by studying RAW. Synchronicities appear key to this type of communication. Information can be received through coincidences. You can learn about yourself through observing how you interpret them.
I will go so far as to say that RAW forged a link with the Secret Chiefs for anyone making the effort … just making the effort! of understanding his books from the perspective of magick.
As an adept, RAW knew how to invoke. Meaning he knew how to draw into his writings Intelligence beyond his own personal knowledge. I asked him about the Secret Chiefs and he told me “they are a useful metaphor.” I infer from this response that he used this metaphor to some advantage. I’ve also found it a useful metaphor. It once got me into a personal message dialogue with Kenneth Grant less than a year before he died.
The spiritual path seems a construction, as given in the contemporary iteration of the tradition RAW speaks from. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law, can mean figure it out for yourself, forge and follow the path you create; follow your bliss as Joseph Campbell suggests. Take what you find and use it the best you can. Improvise, if you don’t have a wand, use your finger or a stick of incense. Magick, the way RAW presented it, doesn’t have a rigid, proper, formal way of doing things. You are free to improvise. Magick defines itself as a Science and Art, some seem to overlook the latter, some overlook both. RAW emphasized and balanced the two. In Cosmic Trigger I he quotes Nietzsche as saying, “we are all greater artists than we realize” (p. 28). Nietszche didn’t exactly say that, or maybe we read different translations? In what I saw, Nietzsche implies this without the clarity RAW artistically transforms his words into.
Immediately following this quote we find a brilliant statement about magick, one very accurate and true in my experience:
“Learning to remember the invisible donkey who carries us about — the self-programmer — is the first step in awakening from conditioned, mechanical consciousness to true, objective consciousness. Whether or not there are fairies, elves, and extra-terrestrials hiding behind every bush, awakening reveals that the universe is full of invisible intelligence. It is very hard for us to learn to contact that intelligence without clothing it in projected humanoid forms” CT I, p. 28)
The spiritual path appears an eclectic construction to the scientific and artistic traveler. In Cosmic Trigger I, Wilson provides a great deal of raw material, hints, formulas, programs and suggestions for initiating the construction of this path; actually, in many of his books. “Buildung supra buildung” as Joyce puns in Finnegans Wake. The 8 Circuit model provides a framework to hang your soul on with enough information, particularly, in The Game of Life, to build a super highway to the stars, metaphorically speaking. Different types of people get drawn to different materials and methods. There’s something for everyone. Model agnosticism allows the freedom to pick and choose.
Crowley’s system seems opens source code – he allows variation, improvisation and experimentation. He emphasizes the creative, artistic side in his chapter, The Circle from Magick Book 4: “… the scope of any (wo)man’s work depends upon their own original genius.”
The focus of his system gets quickly revealed in Liber E., the first set of exercises in The Equinox:
“6. The experimenter is encouraged to use his own intelligence, and to not rely upon other person or persons, however distinguished, even among ourselves.” That seems a reiteration of the intention behind RAW’s use of Guerilla Ontology.
The kind of magick most often found in Wilson’s books is theurgic, which he once defined as magick intended to raise consciousness. Thaumaturgic magick, magick intended to change the environment appears less common and seems usually done in the service of theurgic magick, of raising consciousness. We find thaumaturgic magick in the manifesting quarters exercise, the first exercise in Prometheus Rising. I have found the training of attention to visualize in that way very useful for manifesting parking spaces in crowded cities. I got the idea to try this after ex-Merry Prankster Mountain Girl said she always calls upon the Parking Angel to find her a spot and it works.
Robert Anton Wilson’s final novel, Nature’s God contains an extensive, quantity unknown, treasure trove of both coded and uncoded magical information. It begins bluntly with a quote from Nietzsche: “The world itself is the will to power — and nothing else! And you yourself are the will to power — and nothing else!” Power in the sense of the power to do, the power to act, not simply react, the power to create; not power over others. This connects to the True Will of the Thelemites and to the self-programmer in the quote above. It takes Will to awaken at will. Will and intention seem both keys to magick.
The awakened individual seems turned on from an electrical point of view, like a light switch. To turn on the world, provide the tools, methods, motivations, mysteries, maps and philosophies for each individual to turn themselves on as thou wilt, along with significant doses of humorous entertainment to help the medicine go down.
The proof of the pudding, speaking mathematically of course, is in the eating of it. RAW, a product of his work, exemplifies genius … in the original Latin sense of the word, from the verb gignere – to give birth, to bring forth. This will likely sound politically incorrect, but I recognize Robert Anton Wilson as a spiritual Master. This doesn’t mean he was a perfect human being (an oxymoron if ever I heard one), or a Saint or a Guru or that he never got annoyed with people. Crowley was a spiritual Master who completely sucked at relationships. It means, among other things, that he had an ability for specialized communication, he could, in the words of the Sufis, transmit baraka. I know this from direct experience, I wrote a blog about it.
It confirmed for me that this could happen over the internet. Baraka can be found in his written materials, but it has to get unlocked.
More evidence of adeptship can be found in the prognosticating Intelligences he conjures into his books. Wilson has talked about a scene in Illuminatus! similar in content to the Jonestown massacre that occurred a few years later. I found it more startling to find the gematria of the historical graffiti that appears all over a chapter in The Widow’s Son adds to a number equivalent to the word “crown.” The King of Spain makes his one and only appearance in the Historical Illuminatus Chronicles at the beginning of this chapter in relation to the graffiti hence “corona,” the Spanish word for crown. No prediction of a virus, but the plague becomes part of the set elsewhere. The graffiti represents an early meme meant to disarm the Pope whenever he sees it as it predicts the timing of his death. RAW introduces Thomas Paine near the close of The Widow’s Son and makes a pun with the closing words which I interpreted as learning to deal with pain cheerfully; I pointed out other allusions to strategies for dealing with pain in those closing pages. We read that maybe a week or two before the lockdown due to the corona virus. Our society has gone through a great deal of collective pain ever since, it has yet to let up in any significant way and might be getting worse.
In Nature’s God, Sigismundo Celine on a retreat in the 18th Century American wilderness, makes the offhand prediction: “By 2020, autokinotons may even fly to the moon” (NG p. 127 Hilaritas Press). By very simple Qabalistic computation: “By 2020 = b(2) + 20 + 20 = 42. According to Crowley: “This number 42 is the Great Number of the Curse … This number is said to be all hotch-potch and accursed” (The Book of Lies p. 95). This gives an accurate assessment of the current year. The terribleness of 42 gets elaborated upon elsewhere, but we hardly need to read more when we can just look at what goes on right now outside our windows and on our networks. We’re living it. The notarikon, the addition of the initials, in the second phrase = 110 which might suggest the final secret of the Illuminati to anyone who looks up 110 in Sepher Sephiroth found in the back of Crowley’s Qabalah dictionary, 777. It radiates RAW’s optimism as we travel through the current cultural Chapel Perilous. This interpretation seems more plausible than a lot of the ones I’ve seen attempting to read Nostradamus’ quatrains into historical events.
Chapter 38 from The Book of Lies might be where RAW derived the interpretation of the Great Work as illuminating all humanity. One of the most straightforward and informative books on magic is The Tree of Life by Israel Regardie. RAW and Regardie corresponded. Regardie wrote an introduction to Prometheus Rising.
In the words of the Master: “I can say this so simply in music, but when I try to say it in words only paradox and nonsense approximate to what I mean” (NG p. 133). I’ll then close with a musical suggestion. I don’t know how much RAW appreciated The Beatles but he and Shea did put a Yellow Submarine in Illuminatus! Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Reprise into A Day in the Life.
” A crowd of people turned away, but I just had to look, having read the book
Friday, May 29, 2020
Come to me and I'll show you how
We'll do it fast, we'll do it slow
Then you'll know the walk everywhere you go.
Johnny Boyd - lead vocals
Ji Tanzer - drums and percussion, background vocals, production assistance
Allen Hunter - upright bass
Mike Elson - piano, backing vocals
A.G. Donatella - electric guitar, backing vocals
Willie Matheis - tenor saxophone
I plan to play some live shows to support the release after the fog clears, but for now, we will stay connected through the magic of recorded music. Until then, thank you for your love and support. I hope you like the new music. I miss you all very much.
* * * * * *
Recording this was a lot of fun. The core group of musicians and the production team had worked together for over five years, most notably on the sensational album of crooner tunes by Johnny Boyd, Someday Dreams of You. Most of the musicians comprise Johnny's regular touring band and sax player Willie Matheis has sat in multiple times.
Jackpot Recording in Portland is a power spot for me. By that, I mean it acts a portal for what Idries Shah called the Inner Circle of Humanity. For the music, it means that forces inevitably come through, not only from the synergy of the musicians' performances and technicians' recordings, but from the conjunction and synergy of that group in this particular place, at this specific spot on the Earth. The entire atmosphere at the point of creation gets recorded along with the audio, they are interconnected, and becomes translated as mood. For the involved listener, it gets received as spiritual nourishment.
Here is some evidence. In days of yore, shopkeepers would hang a shingle outside their establishment to indicate the nature of their business. This is a shingle on the building just outside Jackpot's door:
Obviously a Sufi signifier, no explanation needed.
Another power spot for me in Portland is my place of residence in the guest room at Casa Boyd located atop a hill in King's Heights overlooking the city. The hospitality provided by Angela and Johnny rivals the Sufis, I feel like a King or a Noble Ambassador when staying there. Four double hung windows provide a panorama view of Portland, the Williamette River, and five distant surrounding mountains. After retiring, I'll write or read something like Crowley, Deleuze or Pynchon, or listen to music, keeping the blinds open to glance up and watch the flickering electric lights from the city illuminate the night. The ever-changing traffic in motion, flowing like blood through the arteries of the city, reminds me that every individual in that stream thinks they are the center of the Universe, and they're right!
The view faces south and east so I leave the blinds open all night to greet the morning light. If I am lucky, I will have observed the sun as it arose across the sky from the horizon to gain ascendency in the new day. After leaving Mount Olympus to make our way back to Jackpot, we'll have an informal production meeting to plot strategy on the drive down. For this album, Johnny turned me on to the artist J.D. McPherson who has a similar old school, rock 'n roll aesthetic but with a modern sound. We discussed what we liked and didn't like about their production.
Then arriving back at Jackpot, it was like going straight from the dojo where you contemplate, pray, eat, rest and rejuvenate to the dojo where you work. The kind of work, from the occult point of view, represented by this sign in the studio's entrance chamber:
When it came time to mix, I took it to Ancient Wave Studios, another power spot, to take advantage of their Trident TSM vintage desk. Another album I was referencing for the sound of Jump With Johnny was Blue and Lonesome by The Rolling Stones which had recently come out. Unlike all their albums since Exile On Main Street, this one had a gritty, slightly dirty, live feel. It sounded like an older record yet with the clarity of modern production. The sound was compact, more mono than usual, giving them an intimate sound in a small room. This was the aesthetic I was shooting for.
After Johnny heard the first few mixes he basically thought they were too tame. Everything was too properly in its place, the vocals were sitting a little too on top for him. There was a classic conversation which I wished I recorded where he iterated and reiterated the idea that I should go wild and crazy with it. "I want it to sound like it's coming through a broken piece of equipment on the verge of completely dying and shattering the fabric of time and space." I found myself both disappointed and elated. Disappointed, because I really liked the sound of those first mixes, I felt they captured the concept I was going for; elated because no one gives me that license to push it to the limit since I worked with Tom Waits, usually it's the opposite and I end up reeling the craziness in.
To achieve this, I pushed the TSM mixer as far as it could go, I used the summing bus on that as my stereo compressor, and didn't use anything else across the stereo bus. I also took advantage of the Tridents mic pres to blend in parallel some overdriven stress and light distortion. Larry recorded JB with the two microphone set-up we have found works so well on this voice consisting of a RCA 77 Ribbon and a large diaphram tube condenser, one providing classic vintage warmth, the other more clarity in the upper mids and highs. Sonically, they gave me the old and the new to blend as I wished.
You can only go so far with planning and premeditating wildness, so to keep the chaotic x factor I mixed all the songs live. That is, I relied very little on automation. After getting the sounds, I might have applied some very basic automated moves in Pro Tools, but I mixed it riding and moving faders on the fly. Some times it might take me 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 passes to get it. Sometimes, I would do a pass I liked, keep it, then try for a better one. I did take advantage of the fact that I could punch in sections of the mix. If I got halfway through really well, then messed up, I could keep the beginning and go on from there.
Johnny immediately liked this new approach. I'm very proud and happy with the way the sound came out, it has a unique quality that speaks for itself. I consider this a legacy project.
Jett Galindo of The Bakery was brought onboard for the final stage of mastering the mixes for release. Jett had apprenticed under the late, great Doug Sax at The Mastering Lab, one of my all time favorite mastering engineers. Galindo skillfully added the final polish to the mixes without compromising the integrity of the sound Johnny and I had achieved. She deftly balanced and placed all the energy, rawness and wildness of this early rock 'n roll musical experiment in the context of a contemporary release.
The timing is perfect to listen to this, dance with this and feel good despite the darkness of the moment. Jump With Johnny will help things change. Enjoy!
Thursday, May 7, 2020
Here is what Maitreya wrote to describe the music:
There is an initiation woven into the fibers of every persons life. We may or may not recognize it when it comes to shake our world to its foundations, but it always comes. Life demands of us our greatest beauty, strength, heart and soul, and will stop at nothing to forge us into the greatest possible expression of our souls unique being. I was drawn into my initiation unexpectedly and with great force and have dedicated my whole being to walking that path well ever since. These songs are the fruits of that journey. I have harvested the medicine from my time in the fertile darkness of my own being and I offer it to you now as a gift and a blessing for your journey of Life.
Beauty feeds the soul. May you be well nourished on your singular odyssey.
Thursday, April 23, 2020
The push to open the US economy against the advice of health experts and before adequate testing is in place to determine who is sick and who is not, seems another example of the schizophrenic side of Capitalism. The probability seems high that another surge in covid 19 illness would further cripple the economy, not to mention kill off consumers. I prefer this model as an explanation, the schizo proclivity of Capitalism, to the darker one that population control, i.e intentionally allowing people to get killed, motivates the rush to open the economy.
I was inspired by a Facebook game to listen to Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited while driving into town to pick up some Iris cuttings for our garden. It struck me that some of the lyrics, when isolated, written circa 1965, resonate with current times. Of course, many of his poetic lyrics sound timeless, but I found fresh significance particular to this time in some of the imagery.
For instance, from Tombstone Blues - the song's title alone reflects the current atmosphere of death:
The ghost of Belle Starr she hands down her wits
To Jezebel the nun who violently knits
A bald wig for Jack the Ripper who sits
At the head of the Chamber of Commerce.
Belle Starr was a 19th Century American outlaw. Her name also alludes to a Tarot card image, the woman pouring forth celestial sustenance on the Star card. Dylan studied the Tarot at some point, probably somewhere between Rimbaud, Kerouac, & Ginsberg, and Jesus Christ and The Talmud.
Jezebel the nun refers to the wife of the Biblical ruler of North Israel instrumental in steering her kingdom away from Judaism. She wasn't a nun, the first nuns appeared in the middle ages, however nun suggests nihilism.
The third and fourth lines of this stanza indicate Trump and Capitalism. Trump's overly aggressive, combative inclination to attack anything that challenges, criticizes or opposes him resonates with Jack the Ripper. Advocating to open the economy at the expense of people's health and lives also recalls Mr. Ripper's aesthetic. Like Capitalism, Trump displays schizophrenic reactions, he can and does abruptly reverse or change course depending upon his mood and contingencies. He's not Jack the Ripper all the time, but that character comes through enough to make him appear extremely, existentially dangerous when large amounts of human life sit in the balance.
Then we go to the chorus:
"Mama's in the factory she ain't got no shoes" - Health-care workers in the front line lacking sufficient Personal Protective Equipment. Hopefully that's changing, yet we hear talk of a possible second wave, more likely sooner rather than later if social distancing lets up too soon, and we could be scrambling for more PPE again.
"Daddy's in the alley, he's looking for food." - More people than ever are lining up at food banks, most for the first time in their life.
" I'm in the kitchen with the tombstone blues." - In esoteric, or occult fashion this line actually signals the redemptive power of the song.
Dylan has received criticism over the years about being excessively cyncical. In my view, he states and confronts problems, but then always, often mysteriously and cryptically, points to a solution. Whether this comes from "Bob Dylan" or the Intelligence invoked into the song, I do not know, it seems to always appear, just not as obvious as the problem.
"I" - the source of active redemptive force, the presence of that kind of attention, love under will,
"am in the kitchen," - the place where you make food. In certain esoteric communities, the kitchen is known as the heart of the community. In this way, kitchen connects with Belle Starr.
"with the tombstone blues. The blues inevitably feels redemptive to me, even blues chord progressions and rhythm without lyrics - the SOUND of the blues always lifts me up when it's right. That's why you sing the blues, to change the mood of the current situation, to reterritorialize tragedy into something that feels better, something that can even feel good.
The other song that caught my attention on the drive was Highway 61 Revisited. Highway 61 is kind of legendary for what has happened along it: Bessie Smith was murdered on Highway 61, Elvis Presley lived and died very near there, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated right by it, Bob Dylan was born close to Highway 61 and grew up near a different part of it. In the song, it sounds like a place for the con games of Religion and Capitalism that inevitably lead to war. We find an obvious redemptive stanza to the situation.
"Now the rovin' gambler he was very bored
He was tryin' to create the next world war
He found a promoter who nearly fell off the floor
He said I never engaed in this kind of thing before
But yes I think it could be very easily done
we'll just put some bleachers out in the sun
And have it on Highway 61"
Bleaching, cleaning, out in the sun suggests a solution, but the most obvious occult counterforce to the challenges or tragedy on Highway 61 - which can also be considered as Chapel Perilous or the Bardo, comes in the stanza before:
"Now the fifth daughter on the twelfth night
Told the first father that things weren't right
My complexion she said is much too white
He said come her and step into the light he says hmmm you're right
Let me tell the second mother this has been done
But the second mother was with the seventh son
And they were both out on Highway 61."
The second mother expresses as Babalon (also the second He in Yod He Vau He) in Thelemic terminology, the human manifestation of the archetype of the first mother. 7 = Venus. This line could represent the ON formula, the combining of male and female energies to produce some kind of love under will.
The are other lines on the album, even whole songs such as Like A Rolling Stone, or maybe ALL of them it seems now that I think of it, that easily fit the context of the moment. It makes me wonder about music and its ability to jump over time - be just as relevant in multiple, different moments of time.
Saturday, April 11, 2020
The track list:
1. Golden Spiral
4. Seven Holy Mountains
The running time is slightly longer than 60 minutes, conventionally speaking. It can seem both much longer and much shorter, or timeless when external clocks are removed and the full immersion of presence and attention is engaged with the music. You can ENTER HERE.
Speaking of linear and nonlinear time, it also seems that the end of Seven Holy Mountains connects with the beginning of Golden Spiral. The former suggests Alejandro Jodorowsky's iconoclastic film, The Holy Mountain known to be an allegory on the art of Alchemical transformation. Mount Analogue, a Gurdjieff influenced book by Rene Damaul is another Holy Mountain allegory of personal transformation. For instance:
"One finds here, very rarely in the low lying areas, more frequently as one goes farther up, a clear and extremely hard stone that is spherical and varies in size—a kind of crystal, but a curved crystal, something extraordinary and unknown on the rest of the planet. Among the French of Port-des-Singes, it is called peradam. Ivan Lapse remains puzzled by the formation and root meaning of this word. It may mean, according to him, "harder than diamond," and it is; or "father of the diamond," and they say that the diamond is in fact the product of the degeneration of the peradam by a sort of quartering of the circle or, more precisely, cubing of the sphere. Or again, the word may mean "Adam's stone," having some secret and profound connection to the original nature of man. The clarity of this stone is so great and its index of refraction so close to that of air that, despite the crystal's great density, the unaccustomed eye hardly perceives it. But to anyone who seeks it with sincere desire and true need, it reveals itself by its sudden sparkle, like that of dewdrops. The peradam is the only substance, the only material object whose value is recognized by the guides of Mount Analogue. Therefore, it is the standard of all currency, as gold is for us."
Mount Analogue was one source for Jodorowsky's film. Seven Holy Mountains sounds like the alchemical journey, climbing the mountain, expressed and translated as music. One can mine the peradem, the imperishable stone of Self, there. Feels even more effective when followed by Golden Spiral and another cycle through. The music and sound design of Against Empire repeats cycles within cycles differently each time.
The idea of connecting the ending to the beginning to create an endless cycle or an M.C. Escher-like effect famously began in contemporary times with Finnegans Wake by James Joyce which ends in the middle of a sentence, yet continues with the beginning of the book. Other writers have played around with this technique, most notably Vladimir Nabokov and Thomas Pynchon. Laswell applies it to music extremely effectively.
Against Empire sounds amazing! I'm listening on my new Neumann KH 120 studio monitors which are very transparent, analytical and not at all flattering. They let you know exactly what is there, a rich palette of multitimbral instrumentation and processing. Expertly engineered by James Dellatacoma, the sound design by the production team employs extremely tasteful, varied and dynamic use of effects. They architecturally design music environments that expand the known universe of sound. The mood created by the sound at the drum entry of Golden Spiral recalls Fourth World Volume 1: Possible Musics by Brian Eno and Jon Hassel if they had continued in that direction.
Highly recommended for anyone who wants to know what good production sounds like.
The remainder of this post gives a more detailed description of what you're in for should you accept this mission. I copied and pasted it from the bandcamp page:
Over the course of three decades, visionary bassist/producer Bill Laswell has been one of the most prolific and restlessly creative forces in contemporary music, always a few steps ahead of the curve, EVOLUTION/REVOLUTION.
AGAINST EMPIRE, a new category of magical, electro/acoustic technology. Further research may shed a most revealing light on the development of sound storage in material culture.
AGAINST EMPIRE projects a hybrid activity, constantly evolving texture crashes against smooth, unfolding rhythms built around the solid and elastic drum foundations of four iconic drummers - Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel), Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Hideo Yamaki (Japan's top dummer) and Satoyasu Shomura (Japanese pop phenomenon). The legendary saxophoniost Pharoah Sanders, especially known for his radical collaborations with John Coltrane, versatile multi-instrumentalist Peter Apfelbaum, minimal contributions from the great Herbie Hancock on electric piano and the unmistakable touch of master percussionist Adam Rudolph.
AGAINST EMPIRE, an iconoclast offering of multi-directional movements .... avant-jazz, rock, dub, experimental, ambient, sub-bass and on and on .... a dream colonization, a bizarre image of paradise, an imagined quality of elsewhere, constructs of the imagination, essence of difference.
Nothing is True, Everything Is Permitted
AGAINST the EMPIRE of LIES
AGAINST the ANTI-MUSIC of MEDIOCRITY
AGAINST COMPLACENCY and COMPROMISE
AGAINST SHAMELESS and UNINFORMED PRIVILEGE
AGAINST INHERENT RACISM DIRECT or INDIRECT, KNOWN or UNKNOWN
Bill Laswell: bass, effects
Pharoah Sanders: saxophone
Peter Apfelbaum: saxophone, flute, keyboards
Herbie Hancock: electric piano
Jerry Marotta: drums
Chad Smith: drums
Hideo Yamaki: drums
Satoyasu Shomura: drums
Adam Rudolph: percussion
Created at Orange Music, West Orange, NJ
Engineering: James Dellatacoma
Mastered by Michael Fossenkemper at TurtleTone Studio, NYC
Photo by Toshiya Suzuki
Artwork by Yoko Yamabe @ Randesign
M.O.D. Reloaded: Dave Brunelle, Yoko Yamabe
Monday, April 6, 2020
I love what Jodorowsky had to say and I love your post.
In confronting death on the horizontal plane right now, we are collectively invited to learn the lesson of Death. "Death" is the ongoing culmination of the alchemical Quest. That full engagement of the great Quest is called the reddening (rubedo).
As I see it, that lesson for each one of us is to realize our authentic, individual form as the Holy Grail, as the Form of all form, Prakriti. Each one of us is already eternal – in our specificity as well as in our universal essence! – if only it is realized.
How do we realize what seems to be our separateness and our vulnerability as the Holy Grail itself? There's no easy answer, but there is a simple one. Each one of us must Balance the prevailing attention toward the multiplicity outward with a corresponding and equal attention to the unity within. That solution includes knowing Self, and it is a lifelong quest. The present pandemic poses an invitation to deepen that balancing act, or to get started.
As I'm guessing you already know, Death is the name of the Tarot path corresponding to the Hebrew letter Nun 50. Nun connects Netzach-Venus—Love—with Tiphareth-Sun-Beauty. Death is intimately connected to the Heart.
Love in Venus is Bhakti. It is the fervent dedication of all one is to the Whole.
Beauty in the Sun is Harmony‚—the balanced engagement of all of the various components of one's incarnation this time around.
Nun-Death is the path of the Woman in alchemy. Females approach it differently than males, but, regardless, to tread it requires that we embrace our physical and psychological embodiment, our separateness. To embrace it requires courage. I'm glad you used that word.
Why courage? Because it is not enough anymore to wallow in our egoic pursuits. Also because it is not enough anymore to run away from our animal form and from our supposed imperfections toward the admittedly glorious Christ aspect. The feminine (specific form) can no longer remain regarded as evil and pestilent. Balance is now required between the form and the essence below the Abyss even as IT is unified eternally Above.
So on the one hand the pandemic invites us to face our egoic illusions and phantoms—our Bullshit—when it comes to every last thing we ever felt, thought or done. If we were to die today, those illusions would be shown to us as empty fantasies. If you've ever been with someone who is dying, you know this.
Yet on the other hand, the pandemic also calls us to loosen our egoic attachment to what we really are! It invites us to see who and what we are for its crystalline structure, for its potential. It invites us to live who we really are and who we must be for the sake of All Beings Everywhere. Our curse is our gift if we courageously live it as such.
We need courage because we must not be afraid to die. To be afraid to die is to cling to our illusions, when in fact what is real about us can never die. Death is only a change of form. The Source of Form and the Source of Life are eternally unified in a state of pure potential. Manifestations change to protect the innocent as well as to satisfy those who know.
Death requires the magical link to be made securely. To die properly, one must have rapture, and that rapture must be devoted exclusively to one's own Divinity. A great deal of rubbish clearing has to happen in order to have the courage to "follow one's bliss" to quote Joseph Campbell. This pandemic invites us to see what automatically stokes our passion and to follow it.
This pandemic invites us to appreciate the impermanence and rarity of any given form. Cherish it. Cherish it.
It says, "Be who you are. Make the most of your life. You shall never pass this way again.
93 93/93 Erica M. Cornelius