Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Ginger Baker, Onward and Forward

May the road rise with you ...

Ginger Baker, one of the best and most influential drummers of any genre died and left his body October the 6th in Canterbury, England.

Ginger was a force of nature, there was no one like him on or off the stage.


I wrote much about him when reviewing the Beware of Mr. Baker documentary

Ginger might be best known to the general public for his work in Cream.  I was very fortunate and blessed to witness his playing in another trio, in some ways, more powerful than Cream.  Ginger Baker, Bill Laswell and Foday Musa Suso.  Soon after beginning work with them, at one of the first shows, I had an awakening moment, a strong realization that this was on a whole other level. Worlds created and destroyed while you listen, that's what Ginger brought to it. It was an ideal combination.  Ginger was in the control seat that established the time.  His African sensibilities perfectly complemented Suso's timeless griot melodies while Bill's seismic low end viscerally glued the sound and shook the earth.  The synergy of all this remains indescribable in words. Two tours of Japan; on the first, this trio also had Anton Fier on the Fairlight synthesizer; the second tour was the full Material band with percussionist Aiyb Dieng, Bernie Worrell on keyboards, and Nicky Skopelitis on guitar.  Ginger brought a certain kind of unpredictability to the proceedings which were already unpredictable just by their nature. 

Out of the thousands of studio projects I've engineered, Middle Passage by Ginger Baker is at the top of my list with only a few others.  It has extreme power beyond the human realm.  The drum solo piece, Basil, remains the most innovative drum solo/electronics piece I've ever heard.  The only other one that comes close is Led Zeppelin's Moby Dick.  Except for Basil, the album was made by Ginger improvising drum tracks that Bill Laswell and Nicky Skoplelitis turned into instrumental songs.  Ginger's presence seems so strong as to help invoke these extraordinary tracks in his name through the sympathetic resonators of Bill and Nicky's melody compositions and other musical improvisers.  In other words, the fact that this record was for Ginger influenced the invocation in mysterious and magical ways that wouldn't have occurred for anyone else.

I wish him all love and good wishes on his journey.




Friday, September 13, 2019

Gravity's Rainbow, Timothy Leary and the Occult Part 6

"How about letting go," Winsome said after awhile. "Aren't your arms getting tired?"

Pig admitted they were. "Did I ever tell you," Pig said, "the story about the coke sacker, the cork soaker, and the sock tucker."

Winsome started to laugh and with a mighty heave, Pig brought him back over the low rail of the fire escape."

                                                                         - V, by Thomas Pynchon, p. 361

"... of their arrival in Sicily and the difficulty with local bandits on the mountain road (from which Stencil extricated them by telling foul Sicilian jokes ...)" - ibid. p. 444

Undoubtedly, another reason Timothy Leary loved Gravity's Rainbow so much is because it's so damn funny.  From surrealistic absurdity to outright slapstick hi-jinks, Pynchon infuses his horror show with jokes ranging from the ridiculous to the ever more ridiculous (the ridiculously ridiculous) to the sublime.  We get more than a few groaners along the way.

Pynchon communicates qabalistically, the lingua franca of any serious occultist, and qabalists burn the candle at both ends, linguistically speaking.  In other words, they consider the opposite, the reversal, the mirror image of any image, trope, word, or ideogram.  They look at the whole, forwards and backwards. Take, for instance, the character of Frau Gnahb, whose last name in reverse reflects a substantive tenor of the times the book was written; Gnahb with reverse spelling = Bhang, a potent cannabis product from the Indian subcontinent.  Frau, in backwards.qabalese: u = you, a = a, r =  Resh, F =  Hierophant.  Her son's name, Otto, reads the same in either direction.  The opposite of gravity = levity and we get plenty of elevated levitation in Gravity's Rainbow.

Humor not only makes for a fun diversion and light way to pass time, it can and should become a potent weapon in the shaman's arsenal. I once received an assignment to do some research at the Museum of Natural History in New York that required accessing archives not usually available to public eyes.  I got advised: humor will get you past the bardo guards.

A literary classic that greatly influenced GR, a magical precursor if you will, Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes, remains possibly the funniest serious book of all time.  It boasts the most erudite fart joke ever written according to the Guinness Book of World Records.  The central theme in that book, fearlessly living up to seemingly unreachable ideals, to dream the impossible dream, requires much humor to get through the inevitable and constant setbacks and obstacles.  Compare that to Timothy Leary's answer in a jailhouse interview when asked if he was trying to change the world. Spoken in his light, jovial tone, "Yes, sure, we were trying to change the world.  We knew we were outnumbered and the odds were against us, but we had a sense of humor about it."

It seems no coincidence that the most highly intelligent individuals of modern times appear wickedly funny.  Aleister Crowley and one of his most distinguished magickal heirs, Robert Anton Wilson, became masters of the put on.  When I saw Timothy Leary speak at a South Street Pier nightclub in the early '80s, he billed himself as a stand-up philosopher.  Robert Anton Wilson plied the same trade at his speaking engagements.  Humor becomes a major part and parcel of the conspiracy of Intelligence.  At its best, it acts as a carrier wave for the transmission of esoteric data.  One only need watch Marx Brothers films with a receptive mind for conclusive evidence of this.

After a heavy, dark and scary bardo opening in Gravity's Rainbow we meet the first character, Capt. Geoffrey ("Pirate") Prentice who has a passion for bananas, growing them and using them in very creative ways: "tall cruets of pale banana syrup to pour oozing over banana waffles, a giant glazed crock where diced bananas have been fermenting since this summer with wild honey and muscat raisins, up out of which, this winter morning, one now dips foam mugsfill of banana mead . . . banana croissants and banana kreplach, and banana oatmeal and banana jam and banana bread, and bananas flamed in ancient brandy Pirate brought back last year from a cellar in the Pyrnees also containing a clandestine radio transmitter . . ." (p. 11) He grows bananas on a rooftop in England during the height of the Second World War and makes banana breakfasts so famous that people from all over England come to partake. Talk about surrealistic absurdity. Pynchon even throws in the classic slipping-on-a-banana-peel joke.



A good example of the ridiculous co-mingling with the sublime occurs, right after we meet Pirate, as an introduction to the banana fugue:

Bloat is one of the co-tenants of the place, a maisonette erected last century, not far from the Chelsea Embarkment, by Corydon Throsp, an acquaintance of the Rossettis who wore hair smocks and liked to cultivate pharmaceutical plants up on the roof (a tradition young Osbie Feel has lately revived), a few of them hardy enough to survive fogs and frosts, but most returning, as fragments of peculiar alkaloids, to rooftop earth, along with manure from a trio of prize Wessex Saddleback sows quartered there by Throsp's successor, and dead leaves off many decorative trees transplanted to the roof by later tenants, and the odd unstomachable meal thrown or vomited there by this or that sensitive epicurean - all got scrumbled together, eventually by the knives of the seasons to an impasto, feet thick, of  unbelievable black top soil in which anything could grow, not the least being bananas.  Pirate, driven to despair by the wartime banana shortage, decided to build a glass hothouse on the roof, and persuade a friend who flew the Rio-to-Ascension-to-Fort Lamy run to pinch him a banana sapling tree or two, in exchange for a German camera, should Pirate happen across one on his next mission by parachute. (p. 5 - 6)

That roof has seen a lot of action!  I have discovered Pynchon often uses fog as a code word for death.  There was fog on the road when Richard Farina, to whom this book is dedicated, tragically died in a motorcycle accident.  "... a few of them hardy enough to survives fogs and frosts" also translates as surviving death and emotional shutdowns.  The phrase "dead leaves" might possibly be in homage to James Joyce.  In the Tales of the Tribe online course, Robert Anton Wilson wrote of the multiple instances of "leaves" as a metaphor for death in Finnegans Wake pointing out that Joyce knew he was close to death as he completed his opus; death = to leave behind.

Laughter is the best medicine.  It works as a rescue remedy in a variety of tense or dire situations.  Pynchon gives an example in the opening quote to this section of a joke preventing a suicide.  Humor lifts the mood and mood guides us through inner emotional states, for better or worse.  In Gravity's Rainbow Companion, Steven Weisenburger maintains and demonstrates that Pynchon wrote some elaborate narrative subplots for the sole purpose of telling a joke.  Charles Hollander goes further in his short, excellent essay, Jokes and Puns in Gravity's Rainbow, first suggesting a doctoral dissertation on the typology of jokes and puns in the book, then pointing out some of the subtle and elaborate humor, while concluding:

Pynchon (somewhat like Woody Allen) uses most of his narratives as armatures on which to hang jokes, puns, discursions, meditations, allusions, quodlibets, etc., about thematic issues that repeatedly concern him: "power" and "unreason" (Pynchon, WSR 29), the relation of individual and state. The more elaborate the joke, the more likely it is to be thematically important; the more seemingly removed the passage is from the manifest issues of the text, the deeper we may have to look to find the referent. Since text and subtext in Pynchon’s fiction take turns carrying the thematic charge, we have to keep our magic eye peeled to, as the narrator tells us at the end of Gravity’s Rainbow, "Follow the bouncing ball" (760).









Sunday, September 1, 2019

Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Mass Shootings

An underlying factor, a sickness, responsible for the continuing insanity of  mass shootings of random and innocent people boils down to greed.  Americans have too many guns because the National Rifle Association (who knew rifles could associate?), the influential lobby for the gun industry, wants people to buy guns regardless of what they plan to do with them.  They do not want increased background checks disqualifying potential munitions consumers of any stripe.  They made that very clear, recently warning Trump and the politicians they influence to back off on legislation that would help prevent crazy people from acquiring guns.

Capitalism appears schizophrenic because it will go beyond the limits of its own survival and self-destruct.  In this instance, if unchecked, it will keep producing guns despite an epidemic that kills consumers, the life-blood of the capitalist system.  Dead people can't buy guns, or anything else for that matter.  We see this on a global scale with the weapons industry.  The forces the U.S. fought against in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria had previously been provided with American-made weaponry and military assistance.  In WWII, General Motors sold goods for the war effort to both the Nazi's and the Allies before the U.S. joined the war.  The forces controlling the Trump puppet recently pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia, in place since the Reagan era, which banned a whole class of ground-based nuclear missiles.  It's now once again legal to produce those missiles.  Another victory for weaponry and Capitalism, another defeat for the humane treatment of life.

Capitalistic interests perpetuate the gun violence epidemic by blocking efforts to limit gun and munitions access thus increasing the odds that either they, or a loved one, or a colleague (another capitalist interest) will get killed next.  Early in the current Administration, amidst the frenzy of deregulating stupid corporate behavior, the Trump brood made it easier for people with mental health problems to acquire a gun.  In the wake of the recent public blood-baths, mental health and exposure to violent video games received most of the generalized blame/explanation given by Trump, and the politicians controlled by the gun lobby.  That became their talking points. They loosened the restrictions on shooters with mental health issues then blamed mental health for the gun violence.  That = schizophrenic behavior.

Another critical example: the deregulation of environmental protections to enable some industries to more easily fuck up the environment, affecting the health and well-being of everyone, for the sake of the profit margin and increased flows of capital.  Capitalism will destroy the planet if not given an immediate course correction.  It appears schizophrenic, it doesn't care, a blind force that lives in its own reality bubble.

In A User's Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari, originally published in 1992, Brian Massumi has an excellent section examining the self-destructive insanity of Capitalism run amok.  Presciently, it seems, Donald Trump is the face he gives to rampant Capitalism; making way more money than you could ever possibly use for yourself, solely/soulessly for the sake of making money.  Massumi comes up with a brilliant epitaph: "Capitalism is the ethics of greed."

Although Capitalism keeps the guns on the street, it seems far from bearing the entire responsibility of sociopaths pulling the trigger, except of course, if guns weren't available to them, they wouldn't have a trigger to pull. Stupid mass random violence occurs with other weapons.  This reveals an underlying sickness beyond greed that drives some people over the edge.

I suggest looking in the area of emotional health and the lack thereof, rather than mental health. The civilization (if you can call it that) on this planet appears so backwards that the senseless, ideologically and/or anger based, mass killing of random people isn't automatically considered a mental and/or emotional health problem.

The heart can get exercised and developed like the body and mind, or like any muscle.  Our culture appears relatively ignorant of this fact.  I expanded on this in a post written shortly after the Sandy Hook tragedy.  I'm folding parts of it in here.

The Three Basic Centrums of Human Activity

The intellectual, the emotional, the physical.  The thinking, feeling, moving centers, as given by G.I. Gurdjieff and expanded upon by Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson, Antero Alli and others.  Gurdjieff said that in order to really do anything of consequence effectively the three centers need to function harmoniously together and go in the same direction, known as Will.

People have numerous great systems of training for the intellect, wonderful Universities and centers of learning to enrich and develop the rational mind.  We can drop into any library and freely partake of a wide variety of stimulating intellectual ideas as we wish. We can also drop into a gym in nearly any city to exercise and strengthen our physical body for a nominal cost.  All kinds of books  and videos about how to develop and strengthen the body, nutrition, hatha yoga, maritial arts, etc.; competitive athletics to see how far the body will go; world records broken as the body breaks through limits and extends its abilities.  As for the emotional centrum, mainstream culture, especially Western culture, leaves us pretty much on our own.

The story goes that Gurdjieff was asked why little talk of love appeared in his system.  He replied something to the effect that humans don't know the experience of real love or even that of a real emotion of any kind.  Talking about love would only confuse things with false notions of love.  E.J. Gold states in his book Practical Work on Self: Chapter 1 that the feeling centrum, under ordinary conditions, does not function voluntarily as a result of the thinking and moving centrums being reversed.  You can get the details in the book but for all practical purposes it means that without exercise and development, the feeling centrum functions very weakly compared to its capability.

Gurdjieff maintained that people didn't know real love but that they could begin to discover it by practicing on pets or small children.  In my mind this obliquely connects to Crowley through his musical progeny, Led Zeppelin, who in their work that conjures Horus, The Song Remains the Same, have the line "everything that's small has to grow, and it always grows..."  In live versions  Plant does a great ad lib after that line, an ad lib that appears in other songs: push ... push ... a recurring element in their musical alchemy.

It may not seem like it, but the effort, just the effort to expand the boundaries of the heart, to perpetuate the occult force, the vital life-blood, known as agape or divine love, the univocity of being, just a small effort in this direction can make a difference in the world.  

I present a model that scientifically explains how:


 Spooky Action At A Distance

Bell's Theorem introduces the rationale for the the existence of non-local behavior.  It says that particles once in contact can always affect each other at faster than light speeds over great distances of space.  This provides a material basis for the Law of Contagion in magic which states that objects that have been in contact continue to share a magical link after they've been separated, no matter how great the distance.  A magical link means that producing a change of some kind upon one object can result in a similar change on a target object that it was once in contact with.  Spooky action at a distance.  If the Big Bang theory is true, then at one time all the particles of the Universe were in contact with each other in a very compressed fashion just before the Universe, as we know it, popped into existence.

This provides a scientific basis for the notion that an individual or group of individuals can positively influence events at a great distance from themselves.  Don't believe me, and don't believe Bell, try it for yourself.  By the end of this essay I hope to give ideas on how to make these experiments. A good example of Spooky Action At A Distance finds itself in Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger I when he "sees" his son Graham in danger, creates a cone of light around him, and later finds out that  cops on the way to bust or harass Graham and his friends  mysteriously turned away and left them alone.

Anyone can, potentially, can learn how cause positive change at a distance.  Most people don't consider possible because they've been told/programmed/conditioned - you can't do that!   Beliefs Unlimited, by Dr. John Lilly gives an effective remedy for coming unstuck from a constricting belief or set of beliefs.  It starts out:

In the province of the mind what one believes to be true is true or becomes within certain limits.  These limits are further beliefs to be transcended.

Morphogenetic Fields and Morphic Resonance

In his books A New Science of Life and The Presence of the Past Rupert Sheldrake presents an explanation for spooky action at a distance with the idea that similar phenomena have a connective field, " an invisible region of influence like the magnetic field around a magnet."  He calls them morphogenetic fields. 

"Morphic resonance is the process whereby similar things in the past influence similar things today" Morphic resonance may have something to do with the Law of Similarity found in magic. Sheldrake writes: "Since these past organisms are similar to each other rather than identical, when a subsequent organism comes under their collective influence, its morphogenetic fields are not sharply defined, but consist of a composite of previous similar forms. This process is analogous to composite photography, in which 'average' pictures are produced by superimposing a number of similar images. Morphogenetic fields are 'probability structures,' in which the influence of the most common past types combines to increase the probability that such types will occur again."

In other words, when a shooting occurs, the probability increases that it will happen again unless something gets done to prevent it.  The so-called Arab Spring, spontaneous revolutions in several countries around the same time in 2011 - 2012, may exemplify this kind of field and resonance. A maniac went on a killing rampage in China earlier the same day as the Sandy Hook tragedy.

A good summary of Sheldrake's ideas:



Possibly related to  morphogenetic fields exists phenomena known to shaman and other sensitives as "atmospherics." If you take out the word "audible" in the radio definition, you get a pretty clear picture:

"audible disturbances produced in radio receiving apparatus by atmospheric electrical phenomena (as lightning); also : the electrical phenomena causing these disturbances "

These atmospherics could also manifest as obsessive thought forms that, in extremity, could lead to psychopathological behavior by unbalanced and susceptible individuals.  Later, we'll examine how these atmospherics can get safely handled and sometimes cancelled out or rendered insignificant.

To summarize so far:  Multiple solutions need to get applied to the problem of random violence on the street and in schools.  Gun control would help slow it down but you see a lot of opposition to it, and the process by which anything really gets done moves painfully slow in America.  Apparently every day something like 30 people die from guns.  In my opinion, gun control isn't enough.  We must have a collective raising of consciousness.  This has started but needs help.  Morphogenetic fields explain how the raising of consciousness from wherever you are can have a positive influence on something far away.

Aleister Crowley's most basic idea for collectively raising consciousness was to encourage people to find out what they liked doing the most, from the deepest level, and then do that as much as possible; go and function in that direction.  You will encounter resistance, but that can get transformed into a 'pushing force.'  He put it as: Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law which seems synonymous or congruent with being true to yourself; Joseph Campbell's, follow your bliss.

The second part of Crowley's formula goes: Love is the law, love under will.  One interpretation, certainly not the only one: the force(s) called "love" can be directed or placed by Will much like you would direct or place your attention on something.

Grokking Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love with proactive empathy and sympathy as they sing and play to the Shekinah covers the extent of what I wish to catalyze/communicate. 

Shekinah, Shechinah, Shechina, or Schechinah, (Hebrew: שכינה) is the English spelling of a grammatically feminine Hebrew ancient blessing. The original word means the dwelling or settling, and denotes the dwelling or settling of the divine presence.
 - from Wikipedia





Humor

Humor comprises an extremely effective method for transforming malaise into good cheer.  Laughter causes an extremely beneficial chemical reaction in the body.  It also radiates out and can change the mood of the immediate environment significantly.  They say that laughter is contagious, another way of saying that the field of energy it produces has influence.  So just think, you too can help change the world simply by  watching a stand-up comedian you love or a funny movie and seriously laughing your ass off.






Sunday, July 7, 2019

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story

She's got everything she needs, she's an artist, she don't look back.
- She Belongs To Me

Where have you been, my blue-eyed son
and where have you been, my darling young one? 
- A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall

I've spent considerable time reading reviews and news items on the new Martin Scorsese/Bob Dylan Netflix film based on Dylan's 1975 Rolling Thunder tour of the Eastern Seaboard of the United States and up into Canada, and have found that most of the journalists and bloggers don't know what to make of it; it fails to fit into their preconceived categories, their tunnel realities, of what they think it should be.  It appears they can't handle or process the cleverly seamless blend of fiction injected into and interwoven with a historical document.  One publication went so far as to call it an anti-documentary.  I disagree, it doesn't seem against documentaries because it blends fact and artifice.  As Dylan scholar Thomas Palaima put it: "Truth to Dylan, to people who really understand, is not factual information, which quickly evaporates. Truth is something that's essential to the human experience."

I consider this story a postmodern film, a work of art intended to provoke thought and emotion like any great art.  It has many of the qualities attributed to postmodern literature including multiple perspectives  and levels of meaning.  The fictional characters create credible additional perspectives giving truthful insights into different facets of this tour despite not being literally factual.  The money man/tour promoter shares his perspective, the seventeen-year-old fan who joins the tour helping with the costumes, the Rolling Stone reporter doing his job and dealing with his corporate editor, the prisoner and subject of a song protesting injustice, the limo driver, a politician,various fans etc., all reflect different angles of this business we call show.  Some of these characters came from a writer's pen, others known to be historically accurate, and you can't tell the difference between the two unless told.  The fictional and factual characters mingle, blend and interweave their stories between each other.

Multiple levels: This film seems almost as much about the United States of America as it does Bob Dylan and the Rolling Thunder tour.  It begins on Bicentennial Day, July 4, 1976, with footage that has absolutely nothing to do with the tour, which finished over 6 months before, except that they both celebrate America.  In a film that boasts an extremely rich and varied expression of music — not only the concert footage — the rehearsals, impromptu sing-alongs, jams at parties etc., etc, — the first music we hear is The Stars and Stripes Forever from a marching band. The first singing fragment, almost a throw-away, comes from "Uncle Sam" singing a quirky version of The Star Spangled Banner, "dedicated to the future of the Republic, God bless America."  Cut to a solo Dylan singing  Mr. Tambourine Man in concert, then to a Fourth of July parade, marching majorettes displaying a huge Revolutionary era U.S. flag as Dylan sings the line: "Though I know the evening's empire has returned into sand," given a new interpretation especially when considering current events. 

That's followed by an audio, then visual crossfade to Richard Nixon orating a Bicentennial speech, pointing out America's importance in the world, while also implicitly endorsing immigration.  It's hard not to compare his righteous rhetoric, Nixon of all people! with the farce currently going down in Washington, D.C. This marks the first temporal anomaly in the film, another postmodern trait. Nixon resigned in the summer of 1974, a year and a half before the Bicentennial, yet the way this is edited makes you think he's giving the speech, as President, in 1976. "We act not just for ourselves but for all mankind."

This misdirection should come as no surprise.  The film begins with old footage of a stage illusionist making a woman disappear then bringing her back.  It seems part of the film's mission to ontologically shake-up assumptions about exactly what is going on.  Editing and using sound and visuals in this way to create new contexts and factual illusions reminds me strongly of Orson Welle's F is for Fake "documentary" that looked at art forgery through using the techniques of film forgery. Robert Anton Wilson wrote an excellent account of the sleight-of-hand in that film that could give some insight into how Scorsese constructed this Bob Dylan story

Like other postmodern historical documents, the Rolling Thunder story appears as much a comment on the current state of affairs as it does the period it covers.  This seems an incredibly beautiful, hopeful and elegant protest against the current presidential administration; a pièce de résistance.  The President of the United States becomes a subtextual theme without ever mentioning the current pretender.  We are told that Stefan van Dorp, the original film maker of the tour, made a film called The American Presidents, by shooting Madame Tussaud's wax effigies of Presidents; we get creepy footage of the wax presidential figures to accompany the story  Much is made, documented with old recordings, about Dylan's influence on Jimmy Carter.  We see Carter giving a speech where he says, "in Bob Dylan's words, America is busy being born, not busy dying," in what appears a direct rebuke to the current political climate.  At one concert someone yells out: "Bob Dylan for President." Dylan responds, "President of what?"

Paradox appears part and parcel of a postmodern piece and we encounter a great deal here.  On the question of wearing masks onstage, Dylan opines that there should have been more masks in the production because wearing a mask lets you tell the truth.  He's not wearing any visible mask when he says this, is he telling the truth?  More sage advice from Mr. Tambourine Man comes early in the film when he says Life isn't about finding yourself or finding anything, it's about creating yourself."  Near the end, in response to Hurricane Carter always asking what he's searching for, Dylan tells him he's "searching for the Holy Grail, like Sir Galahad."

I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met one woman whose body was burning 
I met a young girl she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man wounded in hatred.
- A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall


After a long segment showing how close President Jimmy Carter is to Bob —he calls up Dylan to get his buddy into a show (another time anomaly)— it cuts to Dylan asking from the stage, "If anyone knows someone with political pull to get this man out of jail."  You have the paradoxical irony of Dylan saying there's absolutely nothing left of the Rolling Thunder Revue,"it's ashes!" in a film that uses a large stock of recorded remnants and personal reminiscences of the tour to create a brilliant political and artistic statement.  The film's promoters bill it as "alchemic," and I fervently agree.  A careful blending of substances to encourage the transformational process.  Thank the Gods of Music and Magic that it didn't literally become ashes.

Confronting paradoxes forces the viewer to think in different ways as opposed to passively accepting everything on a superficial level.  It challenges and provokes interested participants to dig deeper.   Paradox helps to wake up out of conditioned, associative thinking; it forms the basis of a Zen koan. The digging deeper of a working mystic has a musical expression in the song Dark As A Dungeon played at most Rolling Thunder performances. 

Postmodern works demand that the audience engage actively to co-create the experience.  Jaques Levy: "I get asked so many times what is the significance of the 5th day of May (first line of Isis)? I say, make up your own significance." "It's a swirling circus of provocations that illuminates and obfuscates like a Dylan song." - Peter Travers, Rolling Stone magazine.

Another level this film operates on is that of the Bardo and Magick. The very first image shows a sailing schooner in New York Harbor to symbolically indicate embarking upon a voyage;  every scene presenting a different chamber along the way.  Scorsese cuts in a recurring image of Dylan in otherwordly, diffuse sunlight leading a single file of people up a hill while blowing on a bugle; the Hierophant, pied piper, or psychopomp leading the way.  Violinist Scarlet Rivera has a small picture of the Grateful Dead violinist from the cover of the album Blues for Allah taped on her violin. "This is my friend, he keeps me company.  He's playing the dance beyond his limits ... something that most people would say is impossible, but artists like to challenge the impossible."


Dylan and Allen Ginsberg, the tour's poet laureate and resident Holyman, visit Jack Kerouac's grave. "He wrote a lot about being dead," Ginsberg on Kerouac, then they read a poem about Life and Death from Kerouac's Mexico City Blues.  Early in the film Patti Smith delivers a passionate, surrealistic poem touching upon esoteric themes vis-a-vis Dylan's work and their relationship:  "I move in another dimension, I move in another dimension ..."

Playwright Sam Shephard served as the tour's screenwriter.  Dylan:  "Sam, how did you write all those plays? He said, 'man, it's like I commune with the dead.'
Yeah, you'd have to to write plays like that.  So I asked him if he would write the screenplay to the film van Dorp was making." (i.e. this film)

Was that the thunder that I heard?
My head is vibrating I feel a sharp pain
Come sit by me, don't say word
Can it be that I am slain?
                                           - Romance in Durango

When he died I was hoping that it wasn't contagious
But I made up my mind that I had to get on.
                                                                              - Isis

* * * * * * 

Like at least three great masterpieces of postmodern literature, Finnegans Wake, Gravity's Rainbow, and Nabokov's Pale Fire, The Rolling Thunder Revue symbolically references the archetypal Fall from Grace almost immediately in its narrative.  The first scene pans up to show one of the World Trade Center towers from ground level almost right below it, where it would collapse a little more than 35 years later after getting attacked by terrorists.  "Saigon had fallen, people had seemed to have lost their sense of conviction for ... for just about anything." A contemporary Bob Dylan's first interview words about three minutes in.  All of these great works of art have some kind of thread that goes through a labyrinthian journey toward a path of Redemption.  A way out of the pit or prison.  "Maintain the thread of consciousness," the Tibetan Lamas instruct the voyaging souls on their trips through the Underworld.

This symbolism speaks on a macrocosmic scale: the fall of America and hope for recovery on a socio/political level; the fall from Paradise and return to the Garden on a spiritual level. We recognize and apply the Hermetic formula: As above, so below.  On a microcosmic scale, the fall from Grace and hope for Redemption plays out in a song that expressed a prime mission of Dylan's at the time — Hurricane,  a song about freeing the boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter who got framed and unjustly imprisoned for murder.  The fall:

Pistol shots ring out in the barroom night
Enter Patty Valentine from the upper hall
She sees the bartender in a pool of blood
Cries out, "My God, they've killed them all

The hope for redemption:

Now all the criminals in their coats and ties
Are free to drink martinis and watch the sun rise
While Rubin sits like Buddha in a 10 foot cell
An innocent man in a living hell.

That's the story of the Hurricane
But it won't be over until they clear his name
And give him back the time he's done
Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a-been
The champion of the world.

                                                         - Hurricane, words by Jacques Levy

This dynamic gets foreshadowed in the title, Rolling Thunder.  At least three different explanations are given in the film concerning the significance of this name and how it came to represent the tour.

I heard the sound of thunder, it roared out a warning
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
                                                                            - A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall

We see a segment in the film narrated by Chief Rolling Thunder talking about the injustices done to the American indigenous people: "the worst of all ... they took our way of life."  Dylan says the tour was named after him though former Rolling Stone journalist Ratso Sloman testifies that Dylan chose the name after hearing rolling thunder while ruminating on what to call the tour.  Sloman also points out that Rolling Thunder was the U.S. Army's mission name for the bombing operation of Cambodia, the planes took off from Guam — coincidentally, the name of Dylan's backing band for this tour.

Dylan admits to reading James Joyce.  For the significance I bring to this party, I wish to connect Rolling Thunder with the thunderwords from Finnegans Wake:

"There are ten thunders in the Wake. Each is a cryptogram or codified explanation of the thundering and reverberating consequences of the major technological changes in all human history. When a tribal man hears thunder, he says, 'What did he say that time?', as automatically as we say 'Gesundheit.'" -- Marshall McLuhan

A great John Carpenter film from the mid '80s, Big Trouble in Little China uses the imagery of thunder to roar out warnings.  It's used throughout with great effect - one of the evil sorcerer's sidekicks, known as the Storms, is named Thunder, the other two being Lightening and Rain.  The last lines of the film sum up this imagery:

You just listen to the ole pork chop express here now and take his advice on a dark and stormy night when the lightning is crashing and the thunder is rolling and the rain coming down in sheets as thick as lead.  Just remember what old Jack Burton does when the earth quakes and the poison arrows fall from the sky and the pillars of Heaven shake, yeah Jack Burton just looks at the big ole storm square in the eye and says, "give me your best shot, I can take it." 

Trump America seem one such storm.  The Rolling Thunder Revue appears crucially relevant to the current political and social situation in America and the World. It portrays a history pointing at the present story.  It presents a problem and offers a solution.

* * * * * * 

One scene in particular expresses authentic magical realism: the intro to I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine plays under Richard Nixon's resignation speech, the verse starts immediately after Nixon resigns — making a very powerful wish and intention.  Though only a fragment of the song is used, the expertly editing film sequence presents a montage of President-in-crisis footage; the music fading in and out strikes a resonant gravity's rainbow effect, tragedy juxtaposed against the direction of redemption, the problem thrown in your face against the occult background of a solution.  Listen to the whole song or even just read the lyrics to amp up the effect. If you've ever read William Burroughs on using sound and image to magically project a different reality, a line of flight, then you may appreciate the magical expertise Scorsese puts into play.

Pay attention and follow the sequence of scenes as if they comprise a series communicating a coherent sense of something; a path toward transcending current conditions.  Joni Mitchell teaches her newly recorded song Coyote to Roger McGuinn, Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot in Lightfoot's Toronto apartment: " ...  a prisoner of the white lines on the freeway ..." cut to the band bus driving between two thick lines of snow on a frozen Canadian highway; an impromptu sing-a-long of Love Potion Number 9 by The Searchers breaks out - extremely profound if you listen to the lyrics.  Much earlier in the drama, Patti Smith gives a poetic, impressionistic account of the Great Work to an attentive and receptive Bob Dylan, clearly enraptured in this intimate scene.  More confirmation that this film rightfully gets billed as Alchemic.

After much prompting by Hurricane Carter, Dylan states directly that he's searching for the Holy Grail.  For those who know this subject and Dylan's work, this sounds blatantly obvious, a monumental understatement, yet it's nice to hear him say it.  This search becomes clear listening to his songs repeatedly, but also gets artistically underscored and illustrated by Sharon Stone's part in the film, particularly in the story of the song he says he wrote for her.  Scarlet Rivera gives other examples that reinforce the point.  The Grail comprises the central feature in the Tarot card The Chariot, beautifully illustrated in the Thoth deck.  In a series of short YouTube interviews with Scarlet Rivera by Prism Archive in 2017, in the 4th one, Scarlet talks about how protective Dylan acted toward her and how it seemed like he deliberately lifted her up.  It's worth seeing for an excellent example of the Chariot archetype put into action.

Diving deep, we find a short subtextual thread addressing the Timothy Leary issue.  Leary had a complicated, adversarial attitude toward Dylan in the 70's.  Jesse Walker writes of how Leary directed "pages of bile" against Bob in William F. Buckley's National Review (reprinted in Neuropolitics) going so far as to blame him for Squeaky Fromme's assassination attempt against President Gerald Ford.  That assassination attempt and a close-up of Fromme are in The Rolling Thunder Revue:  A Bob Dylan Story. Leary also made Dylan the protagonist of his book, What Does WoMan Want? and later publicly apologized for his harsh comments.

In one of the more artistic narratives, film maker Stefan van Dorp talks about how important L.S.D. became to him.  We then see an artistic rendition of a profile that looks like Leary at the time.  I thought of him immediately.  Then we get a montage of how psychedelics influenced van Dorp's work beginning with a video of Venus by Shocking Blue.  I consider it a great pop song, but it has nothing to do with Bob Dylan and the Rolling Thunder Revue.  This whole segment seems non sequitur, like taking an unexpected turn in the bardo, until you realize that it provides a context for Bob to dish on his feelings toward Leary.  Not that everything Dylan says about van Dorp necessarily applies to Leary, the viewer gets to exercise their discernment about that.  The van Dorp character shouldn't been seen as only representing Leary, just that it overlaps.  The lyrics for Venus do conceptually resonate with Dylan's search.


Scorsese closes the film with Knockin' On Heavens Door concert footage.  This became the penultimate song in their concerts.  Dylan often improvised with the opening verse:

Mama wash the blood from my face
I can't see through it anymore
I need someone to talk to and a new hiding place
Feel like I'm knockin' on Heaven's door

I suspect McGuinn wrote the second verse, because it's new, not in the original, and he always sings it:

Mama I can hear that thunder roll
Echoing down from God's distant shore
I can hear him calling out for my Soul
I feel I'm knockin' on Heaven's door.

The intensity of the invocation upon the two singers at this point has to be seen to be believed. Where the third verse would go, Scorsese cuts to Allan Ginsberg offering a final prayer that sounds like his version of 'Do what thou wilt' — very inspiring.


Monday, July 1, 2019

Gravity's Rainbow, Timothy Leary and the Occult Part 5

In our last episode, we examined the linguistic coding in the name of GR's primary protagonist, Tyrone Slothrop.  We found two anagrams by arranging his name appearing to go in opposite directions. 1) Sloth Entropy - sounds like something with much gravity. 2. Try One Porthol(e)s - that signals hope, like a rainbow.  We called Sloth Entropy, the signifier and Try One Porthol(e)s the signified.   This arises from invoking Deleuze to analyze these two anagrams as two simultaneous series related to one another.  According to Gilles, and demonstrated by Pynchon, the signifying has an excess of sense, in the case of Sloth Entropy, the extra letter o that doesn't belong in the anagram while the signified has a lack of sense - the missing letter e in Try One Porthols.  Deleuze says that the excess always refers to its own lack.

The signifier series has an extremely mobile empty place - the extra o, in this case; the signified series has an occupant without a place, always displaced - the missing e.  Last time I suggested looking at Chapter 57 in The Book of Lies for an insight into PLACE.  Since then, I came across this passage appearing to reinforce the suggestion:

"But oh, Egg the flying Rocket hatched from, navel of the 50-meter radio sky, all proper ghosts of place—forgive him his numbness, his glozing neutrality. Forgive the fist that doesn't tighten in his chest, the heart that can't stiffen in any greeting. . . . Forgive him as you forgave Tchitcherine at the Kirghiz Light. . . . . Better days are coming."  - GR, p. 518

The rainbow anagram derives from rearranging the letters of Tyrone to get "try one," while Slothrop gives us "porthols."  We can come up with another anagram arranging Tyrone Slothrop using the letters of both names interchangeably.  Try One Porthols can shift the e to become Try On Portholes.  This still sounds pretty abstract unless we consider Crowley's ON formula.  Earlier I gave my intuitive feeling that Pynchon knows this formula; either that, or the formula came through him despite not having conscious awareness of it.

They stood on the roof of one of the assembly buildings, the Oie across the water six miles away clearly visible, which meant a change in the weather tomorrow.  Steel was being hammered somewhere out in the sunlight, hammered in cadences, purified as the song of some bird.  Blue Peenemünde shivered around them in all directions, a dream of concrete and steel masses reflecting the noon heat.  The air rippled like camouflage.  Behind it something else seemed to carry on in secret.  GR p. 415

On seeing the light jangling this way, you begin to wait for something terrible — not exactly an air raid but something close to that.  You look quickly over at a clock.  It's six on the dot, hands perfectly straight up and down, and you understand that six is the hour of the appearance of the light.  GR p. 139

I came across other examples more convincing, but didn't note them.  The first example has an obvious, alchemical subtext.  The "Oie" refers to a rocket launching site;  it clearly fits in with this linguistic drama.

Looking at ON with basic Tarot attributions

O = The Devil
N= Death

Crowley extends this formula by adding the letter X to get NOX.  He presents this formula for the first time in The Book of Lies, Chapter 1, The Sabbath of the Goat.  The Goat = Capricorn = The Devil.  The Sabbath of the Goat = Death.  In the Commentary he writes: N is the Tarot symbol, Death; and the X or Cross is the sign of the Phallus.  For a fuller commentary on Nox, see Liber VII, Chapter 1.  Recall the symbolic resonance of the Rocket with the Arrow of aspiration:

37.  I shoot up vertically like an arrow, and become that Above.
38. But it is death, and the flame of the pyre
39. Ascend in the flame of the pyre, O my soul! Thy God is like the cold emptiness of the utmost heaven, into which thou radiatest thy little light.
40. When Thou shall know me, O empty God, my flame shall utterly expire in Thy great N.O.X. 
...
44. I have thrown a million flowers from the Basket of the Beyond at Thy feet, I have anointed Thee and Thy Staff with oil and blood and kisses.
45. I have kindled Thy marble into life — ay! into death.
46. I have been smitten by the reek of Thy mouth, that drinketh never wine but life.
47. How the dew of the Universe whitens the lips!
48. Ah! trickling flow of the stars of the mother Supernal, begone!
49. I Am She that should come, the Virgin of all men.
...
54. Now!
           It is done! Death.
55. I cried aloud the word — and it was a mighty spell to bind the Invisible, an enchantment to unbind the bound, to unbind the bound.
- Liber VII, Chapter 1

Netzach, the seventh sephira on the Tree of Life, corresponds with emotions. Thus, Liber VII dramatizes a passionate, poetic, and emotional exposition of theurgic Magick.  As we read it, Gravity's Rainbow aligns closely with this passage - the first two verses could describe what happens to Gottfried at the end of the book; the last verse above, 55, describes a function of the book as a whole.



After a slight detour through the Night of Pan (NOX) we return to our endlessly fascinating cryptogram.  Deleuze would call Tyrone Slothrop a "paradoxical entity," as other GR commentators probably have.  This entity has two series represented by the anagrams, Sloth Entropy with an excess O = the signifying series; The signified series =  Try One Porthols and Try On Portholes.  Speaking of this paradoxical entity (Tyrone Slothrop), Deleuze writes:

"It is a two sided entity, equally present in the signifying and the signified series.  It is the mirror. Thus, it is at once word and thing, name and object, sense and denotatum, expression and designation, etc. It guarantees, therefore, the convergence of the two series which it traverses, but precisely on the condition that it makes them endlessly diverge.  It has the property of always being displaced in relation to itself. - Logic of Sense, p. 40

Paradoxical indeed, and a fitting characterization of Slothrop.  Deleuze uses a literary example: In Finnegans Wake, once again a letter causes an entire world of series to communicate in a chaos-cosmos.  In Tyrone Slothrop's world of series, Sloth Entropy = chaos; Try On Portholes = cosmos.  They co-exist in the paradoxical entity, in an ever shifting chiaroscuro blend both converging and endlessly diverging; Joyce's chaosmos.

I depart from this topic with one last observation, the subject far from fully exhausted.

O(70) + N(50) = 120 = the Mystic Number of the path of Heh, the English letter E.  Pynchon creates a linguistic demonstration of a magick operation.  Applying the formula of ON in Slothrop's rainbow anagram shifts the letter e to now correctly spelling Portholes, aka wormholes.  He shows this magick operation accessing the quantum world where different kinds of change can occur outside the determinations or Laws of Newtonian physics.  Crowley devotes significant portions of The Book of Lies and The Book of Wisdom and Folly (Liber Aleph) to showing how to apply ON.  Grady McMurtry and Jerry Cornelius continued the effort  to explicate and understand it further.

The title of Pynchon's book just prior to GR, The Crying of Lot 49, resonates with this discussion.  See Chapter 49 in The Book of Lies.

* * * * * * 

The characteristics and measurement of Time changes drastically in the worlds of Relativistic and Quantum physics.  Pynchon plays around with time anomalies in several of his novels including GR—more common ground with Timothy Leary.  In his biography of the good Doctor, Robert Greenfield revealed Leary's fascination with time and his observation of time dilation effects in some of his consciousness research.  Greenfield points out that Leary ended his autobiography, Flashbacks, with the phrase, "it's about time."

Gravity's Rainbow occurs in at least two orders of time, depending on how you interpret it.  The events of the novel could occur in a linear sequence taking place from December 1944 until September 1945, approximately 9 months, the gestation period for a human baby.  They could also have all taken place on a single night as events described in a movie.

Related to the ON formula, the last section of the book takes place in a movie theater:

"The rhythmic clapping resonates inside these walls, which are hard and glossy as coal: Come-on! Start-the-show! Come-on! Start-the-show! The screen is a dim page spread before us, white and silent. The film has broken, or a projector bulb has burned out.  It was difficult even for us, old fans, who've always been at the movies (haven't we?) to tell which before the darkness swept in."
- GR, p.775

Herein lies the temporal ambiguity; have we, the readers, been at the movies the whole time watching the narrative unfold on the screen in the 2 - 3 hours it takes to look at a film?  Quite possibly, the book ends after the projector stops; or have we been following our heroes and anti-heroes in linear, sequential, planetary time?

"And in the darkening expanse of screen something has kept on, a film we have not learned to see . . . it is now the close-up of a face, a face we all know—"
- GR p. 775

Recall that 2001: A Space Odyssey ends with a close-up of a baby's face appearing inside a cosmic Egg over the music of Richard Strauss's Thus Sprach Zarathustra, and that Gravity's Rainbow takes place over a period of approximately nine months.  2001: A Space Odyssey gets an explicit shout-out in Vineland.

Star-child from 2001: A Space Odyssey

The symbol Δt - delta t,  recurs throughout Gravity's Rainbow and Pynchon gives it some unique interpretations.  The t stands for time.  The Pynchon Wiki gives the definition: "An increment of time represented spacially, as on a graph."  Weisenburger says: "In calculus, Δt represents the time interval separating instantaneous values in the range of a function." (GRC, p. 109). Deleuze uses Δt as a measurement unit for the minimal amount of time necessary for a change to produce difference.

Pynchon applies Δt  to consciousness, talking about Δt  reaching zero as you penetrate the moment becoming fully present in the here and now:

"She even tried, from what little calculus she'd picked up, to explain it to Franz as Δt  approaching zero, eternally approaching, the slices of time growing thinner and thinner, a succession of rooms each with walls more silver, transparent, as the pure light of the zero comes nearer ..." - GR, p.161

This also sounds very much like death; a succession of rooms conveys a classic bardo description, the rooms usually called chambers in bardo terminology.  Pynchon more explicitly connects Δt  with death in the penultimate paragraph of the book as he writes of the rocket descending and about to hit the movie theater:

"And it is just here in this dark and silent frame, that the pointed tip of the Rocket, falling nearly a mile per second, absolutely and forever without sound, reaches its last unmeasurable gap above the roof of this old theatre, the last delta-t."  - GR, p. 775

A materialistic explanation of the bardo experience following physical death holds that it occurs as the unraveling of consciousness in the last few moments before brain death.  These moments get perceived in a vastly dilated sense of time, time slowed down so that lifetimes come and go in a few seconds of ordinary time, the last delta-t.  The film Jacob's Ladder gives a good portrayal of this though it runs a bit on the gritty, horror-show side of things, not for the faint of heart.  The traditional length of time for the voyager in the bardo = 49 days.  Applied to the materialist model, this means that 49 days, each day a different room or chamber, goes by in the few seconds or minutes before brain death.  Many examples of alternate rates of time exist in folklore, mythology, philosophy and personal accounts by intrepid explorers.  See, for instance, Robert Anton Wilson's voyage into fairyland in Cosmic Trigger I.  Time dilation gained some legitimacy when Einstein put it in his theory of Relativity.

Pynchon slips in the idea of a "new kind of time" using the example of jazz music; creative music often makes its own kind of time:

"... off the jukebox a quick twinkle in the bleat of a trombone, a reed section, planting swing notes precisely into the groove between silent midpoint and next beat, jumping it pah (hm) pah (hm) pah so exactly in the groove that you knew it was ahead but felt it was behind, both of you at both ends of the counter, could feel it, feel your age delivered into a new kind of time that may have allowed you to miss the rest, the graceless expectations of old men who watched, in bifocal and mucus indifference, watched you lindy-hop into the pit by millions, as many millions as necessary ... "
- GR, p. 479

This passage connects the stopping of time with the acceleration of consciousness using the metaphor of the double integral, the symbol that appears like two elongated Ss discussed in Part 2:

"... But in the dynamic space of the living rocket, the double integral has a different meaning.  To integrate here is to operate on a rate of change so that time falls away: change is stilled ... "Meters per second" will integrate to "meters."  The moving vehicle is frozen, in space, to become architecture, and timeless.  It was never launched.  It will never fall." - GR, p. 305

The final passage in Gravity's Rainbow is a hymn by Slothrop's ancestor, William Slothrop (with the obvious anagram, Will I am) that begins by alluding to a much bigger sense of time than the ordinary:

There is a Hand to turn the time,
Though thy glass today be run, ...
Till the light that hath brought the Towers low
Find the last poor Pret'rite one . . .
Till the Riders sleep by ev'ry road,
All through our crippl'd Zone,
With a face on ev'ry mountainside,
And a Soul in ev'ry stone. . . . 

Now everybody—
- GR, p. 776

Qabalistically, the Hand in the first line refers to the letter Yod, "the foundation of all the other letters of the Hebrew alphabet, which are merely combinations of it in various ways.
    The letter Yod is the first letter of the name Tetragrammaton, and this symbolizes the Father, who is Wisdom; he is the highest form of Mercury, and the Logos, the Creator of all worlds."
 - Crowley, Book of Thoth, p. 88

Other attributions of Yod include: the Intelligence of Will; Heru-pa-kraat, the silent aspect of the twin god Horus; Isis (as Virgin); Virgo; and the Hermit from the Tarot.  In The Song Remains the Same, when Jimmy Page climbs the mountain in his fantasy sequence, he encounters the Hermit who gives the vision of an accelerated passage of time.  Page and Led Zeppelin get at least a couple of shout outs in GR and Vineland.  The mystical number of Yod = 210, also the number of NOX.

Note that the last fine lines in the closing song each contain a word with an apostrophe substituting for a missing letter e.  The same word "ev'ry" occurs in 3 of those lines.  This will reward qabalistic analysis.

To be continued ...




Saturday, June 22, 2019

Gravity's Rainbow, Gilles Deleuze and the Occult Part 4

Interviewer: "Can you tell us briefly how you broke out of prison?"

Timothy Leary: "I'd like to say telepathy, teleportation, magick — that was part of it."

- YouTube Folsom Prison interview

A SCREAMING COMES ACROSS THE SKY. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.  - Gravity's Rainbow, p. 3

These are the first two lines as they appear in the text with the first sentence all in caps.  One critic called it one of the most famous first lines ever.  Indeed, these six words communicate a multiplicity of sense; they can be profitably studied and decoded like a magick rune. This one line accurately characterizes the literary impact of the entire book.  It screamed so loud that it got rejected for the 1974 Pulitzer Prize despite being unanimously recommended by the jurors.  It also screams a multiplicity on a psychic level, confronting the worst aspects of humanity with a Counterforce.  And, this line resonates with the album I recorded with Bill Laswell and The Master Musicians of Jajouka in 1990, Apocalypse Across the Sky. I don't know if Pynchon was an influence on the album title or not? The music of Jajouka definitely fits in with the atmosphere of Gravity's Rainbow in many regards and is a counterforce of its own.

The second sentence encapsulates core concepts in the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze appearing in his Master's Thesis, Difference and Repetition.  Everything repeats, but turns up something different each time;  it demonstrates Deleuze's unique take on Nietzsche's Eternal Return - what returns = difference. It seems a genius second line, especially if you just finished reading the book and immediately start again as did Timothy Leary when he first got hands on it.  

Deleuze, Friedrich Nietzsche, Thomas Pynchon, Timothy Leary, and Aleister Crowley share the common ground of wanting to change the world, to reimagine and reinterpret it along more creative lines that gives power to individual expression and freedom from any form of tyranny and fascism — what William Burroughs called Control; Deleuze through his philosophy of difference, Leary via the raising of consciousness and his S.M.I2.L.E. formula, Crowley through Magick and Thelema, Nietzsche with the transvaluation of values and the creation of the Übermensch, and Pynchon through an arcane literary mixture of all of the above and more.

In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze attempts a monumental shift in how we see the world by attacking what he calls the dogmatic image of thought.  We get programmed and conditioned, probably beginning in our DNA, to interpret everything we perceive according to conventions and categories first established by Plato, and reinforced by Aristotle, Descartes and Kant.  This is the philosophy of the Same, of Recognition, of Essences and Identities.  We see a chair and know it "is" a chair because we recognize that it looks the same as other chairs.  We immediately and unconsciously attach a label and identity to the object as a "chair." It shares some essence of "chairness" found in Plato's Ideal or Archetypal chair.  Any difference between two chairs or two objects gets determined by what is not the same about them.  Difference gets subordinated to the Same in conventional philosophy.  Deleuze joins Nietzsche's project to overturn Platonism, to usurp the dominance of Representation which habitually and commonly takes the map for the territory to use Korzybski's metaphor.  Deleuze aims to create of philosophy of "difference in itself," a philosophy of difference not subordinated to the same or to recognition.

The valorisation of the same and subordination of difference to it for the past 2500 years has real world, sociological consequences.  It appears the root of racism, sexism, nationalism and any kind of identity politics.  Them that's the same as us = good; those that be different = bad.  Hitler attempted to off all the Jews because they were different than the Aryans.  This difference meant they were inferior according to his perverse and distorted beliefs, yet beliefs based on a longstanding algorithm of the Same.  Of course, we find far more complexity in the cause of the Holocaust than this reductionist view, but it does exemplify the potential danger of unconscious assumptions.

Difference in itself finds its ontology between identities.  Difference = in between; the in between = the Bardo.  Paying attention to difference = a way into the Bardo while alive.  Learning to handle the Bardo = a way to survive death as discussed in Part 2.  Gravity's Rainbow, to me, appears the best example of difference in itself realized in literature; a multiplicity of portholes into the Bardo; an excellent training ground to ride the explosion and expulsion of death and come out something different on the other side.  Thou knowest! And the sign shall be my ecstasy, the consciousness of the continuity of existence, the omnipresence of my body. Liber Al I:26 - Nuit in her starring role as the univocity of Being.

Beyond memory, the evident paradox of the death instinct lay in the fact that, despite its name, it seemed to us from the outset to be endowed with a double role: to include all the force of the different in repetition, and at the same time to provide the most positive and most excessive account of repetition.  Difference and Repetition, p. 289

Pynchon presents a coded plan for reimagining the world along creative lines.  We can learn much about it by examining the name of his main character, Tyrone Slothrop.

Notice that the first and last letters = Pynchon's initials.  I suspect Tyrone Slothrop's name derives somewhat from Cervantes's Don Quixote.  This book has long been seen as a metaphor for realizing a high ideal, some kind of vision of a different world, or a different way of dealing with this world.  Gravity's Rainbow shares this metaphor in a more occult way.  Much like Quixote, Slothrop comes to imagine himself as a super-hero, he goes around in a Rocketman costume complete with cape, much like Quixote dons the uniform of a medieval knight errant and imagines himself a member of the highest Order of Chivalry.

"Who can doubt that in future times, when the true history of my famous deeds sees the light, the sage who chronicles them will, when he recounts this my first sally, so early in the morning, write in this manner: "Scarce had ruddy Apollo spread over the face of the wide and spacious earth the golden tresses of his beauteous hair, and scarce had the speckled little birds with their harmonious tongues hailed in musical and mellifluous melody the approach of rosy Aurora who, rising from her jealous husband's soft couch, disclosed herself to mortals in the portals and balconies of La Mancha's horizon, when the famous knight Don Quixote de la Mancha, quitting the slothful feathers of his bed, mounted his famous steed Rocinante and begin to ride over the ancient and far-famed Plain of Montiel?" - Don Quixote, p. 30 -31, Penguin Books 2001

This scene describes a golden dawn.  We see the sloth of Slothrop in this quote while we get "porthols" (portals) reading Slothrop backwards and changing the position's of the letters t and h.  "...mortals in the portals and balconies of La Mancha's horizon" suggests entering the Bardo.

We have said before that two anagrams of opposite sense can be made from Tyrone Slothrop:
(1) Sloth Entropy leaves an extra letter "o"
(2) Try One Porthol(e)s except it misses the letter "e" for a correct spelling.

O = The Devil in the Tarot
E = The Star

The extra o from Sloth Entropy = the problem; the missing e from Try One Porthols also = the problem but at least indicates a direction for a solution.  The Devil, when poorly signified as it is here, indicates aggressive and out of control male energy gone amok; unbalanced energy that starts wars like WW II, the literal setting in GR, but with a subtext that this problem along with potential solutions remains current.  As I write this, the U.S. appears on the brink of a war with Iran, a war likely far more deadly and severe than either Iraq or Afghanistan if allowed to go the full course.  On a psychic level, I see this deriving from rampant male egos pushing their aggressive, phallic, territorial disease on the world.  Iran nearly experienced
A SCREAMING COMES ACROSS THE SKY last night.

Tyrone Slothrop = every WoMan.  He portrays the Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker (Finnegans Wake protagonist) in GR.  James Joyces sprinkles Earwicker's initials, HCE, throughout Finnegans Wake, at one point saying: Here Comes Everybody.  Slothrop = you, me,  and everyone with a spiritual bone in their body.  His two anagrams, Entropy Sloth and Try One Portholes (TOP) = the internal dynamic between the animal and the Being; the primate and the Star.  Follow his adventures as he becomes Rocketman for a time then narrowly escapes castration by fortuitously changing costumes (masks) in the nick of time, so to speak.

We can take a different look at the two anagrams as indicating two different series of themes coursing through Gravity's Rainbow and run it through Deleuze.

The law governing two simultaneous series is that they are never equal. One represents the signifier, the other the signified.
 - Logic of Sense, p. 37

These are linguistic terms. The signifier = how we represent something - an object, a person, a world, etc.; the signified = the thing itself.  Plato called it intelligibility (signifier) and sensibility (signified). Korzybski used the metaphor of the map = signifier and the territory = signified.

As I see it, Entropy Sloth = the signifier; Try One Portholes = the signified.

We will not say, therefore, of the two series it (Tyrone Slothrop in this case) animates, that the one is originary and the other derived, though they certainly may be originary or derived in relation to one another.  They can also be successive in relation to one another. But they are strictly simultaneous in relation to the entity by means of which they communicate.  They are simultaneous without ever being equal, since the entity has two sides, one of which is always absent from the other.  It behooves it, therefore, to be in excess in the one series in which it constitutes it as signifying, and lacking in the other which it constitutes it as signified; split apart, incomplete by nature or in relation to itself.  It's excess always refers to its own lack.  But even these determinations are still relative.  For that which is in excess in one case is nothing but an extremely mobile empty place; and that which is lacking in another case is a rapidly moving object, an occupant without a place, always supernumary and displaced.                             
- Logic of Sense, p.41

The "extremely mobile empty place" occurs in the series Entropy Sloth.  The "occupant without a place" in Try One Portholes.  

I have composed several essays comparing the philosophy of Deleuze with Crowley's magick and the above quote provides another excellent example of their synergy.  The word "place" in the description of both series appears a key.  See The Book of Lies chapter 57.  Therein lies a methodology. Thomas Pynchon appears intuitively and intimately familiar with both Crowley and Deleuze.  His ability to animate their concepts in his literature really seems quite astounding!

To restate the problem qabalistically, we have an excess of O (The Devil) and a lack of E (The Star).  Where can we find some of the missing E in Pynchon's convoluted cryptogram?  Let's take a look at the name of the Timothy Leary character in GR, Steve Edelman.  An anagram of that name gives us:

"Lsd tv man" with "eee" left over. 

Why three Es?  Because of a well-known occult axiom that states anything repeated three times automatically becomes a folk song. LSD gives the common association with Tim Leary, his media signature; three Es — to discover the meaning of this, read up on The Star in The Book of Thoth by Crowley.  TV MAN because Leary loved publicity and tv = television = tell a vision, something he never failed to attempt.  In Steve Edelman's case, the three e's become the telling vision. 

The extra O misses his E. O(70) + E(5) = 75
75 = NUIT, THE STAR GODDESS - as it appears in Crowley's gematria dictionary.

To restate: Vineland  = Gravity's Rainbow part 2 concerning these esoteric themes. A direct, alchemical continuation, update, and refinement seventeen years later. This is how Vineland ends.  The context is the character Prairie waking up after sleeping in the woods:

" ... before settling down into sleep, sleeping then unvisited till around dawn, with fog still in the hollows, deer and cows grazing together in the meadow, sun blinding in the cobwebs on the wet grass, a redtail hawk in an updraft soaring above the ridgeline, Sunday morning about to unfold, when Prairie woke to a warm and persistent tongue all over her face.  It was Desmond, none other, the spit and image of his grandmother Chloe, roughened by the miles, face full of blue-jay feathers, smiling out of his eyes, wagging his tail, thinking he must be home."  p. 385

Desmond is Prairie's dog who has been missing.  We have here rich qabalistic imagery.  Tim Leary introduced the S.M.I2.L.E. around the time Gravity's Rainbow came out, not too long after the Starseed Transmissions — I don't know what came first?  I don't know if Pynchon knew about this formula at that time, but it seems highly probable he knew of it when writing Vineland.  The phrase, "smiling out of his eyes" connects with Leary.  His character in Pynchon's world, Steve Edelman, has extra E's in his anagram.  Eye corresponds with O.  smiling out of his eyes = E out of O = The Star out of The Devil.  See chapter 23 in The Book of Lies for the OUT formula. 

"grandmother Chloe" seems another rich image when analyzed, which I won't do here, only to note that when you say Chloe you actually pronounce the letters o and e. Two of the main female characters,  mother and daughter Frenesi and Prairie, have names that end with an e sound.  One of the main plotlines concerns the fact that Frenesi has been completely missing from 14 year old Prairie's life.  Prairie sets out to find out about her mother's life and to meet her.

If you find all this interesting, then check out the opening quote to Vineland by blues musician Johnny Copeland.  It gives the novel a circular aspect.


Another chiaroscuro book cover from Pynchon

To be continued ...

Friday, June 7, 2019

Gravity's Rainbow, Timothy Leary and the Occult Part 3


"... it is not often Death is told so clearly to fuck off."

- Gravity's Rainbow, p. 10

Thomas Pynchon's unwavering attention on Death in Gravity's Rainbow has strong emotional motivation. The book is dedicated to Richard Fariña, his close friend who tragically died at the age of 29 in a motorcycle accident near Carmel California. It happened on the day of a party jointly celebrating the release of his book, Been Down So Long, It Looks Like Up To Me and the 21st birthday of his wife Mimi Baez, sister of Joan.  Pynchon served as Best Man at Fariña's wedding to Baez.

At the time of his death, Richard Fariña seemed on his way to becoming a significant cultural figure of his times.  He performed as a folksinger, released two albums before he died and another posthumously.  At the time of his death he was producing an album for Joan Baez. A music critic once said he would have given his friend Bob Dylan a run for his money had he lived.  He was a well-known character in hipster circles. The splash his short life made is excellently documented in Positively 4th Street, The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez  Fariña, and Richard Fariña, by David Hajdu, a book I highly recommend to anyone interested in the nascent history of the 1960s.

Fariña's death has least two direct references in Pynchon's next novel Vineland published 17 years after GRVineland continues the revolt against the finality of Death.  It appears very much a continuation of Gravity's Rainbow in terms of esoteric communication.  I consider Vineland even more of a masterpiece in that regard and would suggest those new to Pynchon tackle Vineland first.  It's an easier read and less scatalogical. Other themes connect the two novels such as authoritarian persecution and extreme, hyperbolized, paranoia.

Fariña died when the bike he was a passenger on failed to negotiate a curve on Carmel Valley Road.  As Pynchon writes in the Foreward to a later edition of Been Down So Long ..., they were going about 90 mph when it should have been no faster than 35 mph.

"The band played up and down in valleys still in those days unknown except to a few real-estate visionaries, little crossroads places where one day houses'd sprawl and the rates of human affliction in all categories zoom.  After work, unable to sleep, the Corvairs liked to go out and play motorhead valley roulette in the tule fogs.  These white presences, full of blindness and sudden highway death, moved, as if conscious, unpredictably over the landscape.  There were fewer satellite photos back then, so people had only the ground-level view. No clear bounded shape - all at once, there in the road, a critter in a movie, to quick to be true, there it'd be.  The idea was to enter the pale wall at a speed meaningfully over the limit, to bet that the white passage held no other vehicles, no curves, no construction, only smooth, level, empty roadway to an indefinite distance - a motorhead variation on a surfer's dream." - Vineland p. 37 1997 Penguin edition

56 pages later finds a chapter dedicated to a wedding scene set in the same area as Fariña's wedding, in the hills just south of San Francisco.  Fog connects this scene to the previous one quoted.  We find the father of the bride Ralph Wayvone:

"Emerging from a pool the size of a small reservoir in plaid swim trunks from Brooks Brothers, unable even at first glance to be mistaken for the white marble statues surrounding it, Ralph Wayvone Sr., caped himself with a towel stolen not that long ago from the Fairmont, ascending a short flight of steps, and stood looking out over a retaining wall that seemed in the morning fog to mark the edge of a precipice, or of the world.  With only a few tree silhouettes, and both freeways and the El Camino Real miraculously silent ...." p. 92

Pynchon attacks the finality of biological death through strong and consistent doses of Kether among other things.  How?

Wayvone = way v one = "way of one"  in the abbreviated, phonetic style Pynchon uses throughout Vineland to express his more rustic characters' speech patterns; also v = The Hierophant as discussed earlier.  Compare "way of one" with "try one," Tyrone Slothrop's first name anagram.  Wayvone also sounds like "wavy one" which suggests the ubiquity of physical energy transmissions in waves.  Note the allusion to the Hero in the quote.

The interpretation that one refers to Kether in this instance gets reinforced by reading the last 3 paragraphs of the chapter previous to the wedding scene in which Frensei Gates speculates on the nature of God and the World.  On page 97, still at the wedding, we find a sentence that might also serve as a mission statement of sorts for Pynchon's writing or of a working mystic: "I'm a percussion person, my job is to take hard knocks and rude surprises, line 'em up in a row in some way folks can dance to ..."  Vineland has two major Wayvone characters, Ralph Sr. and Ralph Jr., and three more minors one, Senior's wife, another son, and the daughter who is getting married.

 Apart from the direct allusions to Richard Fariña's roadway accident mentioned, we find a few more references to driving too fast around curves sprinkled throughout the book.  Perhaps the most revealing to Pynchon's state of mind at the time occurs on page 374 near the end:

"Out on those runs, speeding after moonset through the smell of the redwoods, with all the lights out, trying to sense among the different patches of darkness where the curves were, and what gear to be in for grades that were nearly impossible to see, bouncing along in a vintage Power Wagon, Zoyd from among somebody's collection of beat-up old 8-track tapes usually found himself listening to the Eagles' Greatest Hits, in particular "Take It to the Limit," basically his whole story these days, singing mournfully along, though obliged from time to time to interrupt himself as some new set of headlights appeared ..."

Vineland concludes on a very upbeat note, very life affirming.  For me, it recalls the ending of Joyce's Ulysses with more subtle encoding.  We have a "foreign magician and his blond tomato assistant" whose Act imitates a defiance of gravity and death.  How Pynchon imitates this defiance in his writing is coded in the "Power Wagon" Zoyd drives in the last excerpt.  Decoding this message requires reading the book and paying close attention.  Here's a clue: check the behavior of the Thanatoid dogs and compare that to the last sentence in the book.  Know that Pynchon was influenced by James Joyce and Vladimir Nabokov (also strongly influenced by Joyce), and remain open to the possibility that Pynchon knows, or could invoke, some of Crowley's magick formulas as I've previously suggested. 

William S. Burroughs famously said that he wrote himself out of the tragic black hole created by the accidental shooting death of his wife by his own hand.  Could Pynchon, clearly influenced by Burroughs, intend his writing to do the same regarding the death of Fariña on a personal level and the suffering and death of War victims on a global scale?

In Lines of Flight, an abstruse commentary on Pynchon's oeuvre through the lens of Deleuze, Guattari, Derrida and other philosophers, Stefan Mattessich suggests that The Rocket can also be a metaphor for the writer's pen.  This matches the correspondence of The Rocket with the Roman deity Mercury in the previous post.  Mercury = the god of communication.  The writer's pen adds and constructs the influence of Kether into Death's domain.  Close examination will make this quite evident in the Vineland scenes quoted above.


The white rocket as a pen adding whiteness into the blackness of War, Death and human suffering to create a chiaroscuro effect.

The idea of the writer's pen becoming a magical implement creating new realities has precedence in Aleister Crowley's Magick in Theory and Practice.  In the introduction to that book Crowley endeavors to systematize Magick in a similar way that Euclid did with Geometry, and Spinoza did with his philosophy in The Ethics.  We find a definition of Magick in the first section of this Introduction, a postulate in the second section, and a series of theorems in the third.  Nearly every one of these comes with a practical illustration.

I. Definition

MAGICK
is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.
     (Illustration: It is my Will to inform the World of certain facts within my knowledge.  I therefor take "magical weapons," pen, ink, and paper; I write incantations — these sentences — in the "magical language" i.e. that which is understood by the people I wish to instruct; I call forth "spirits," such as printers, publishers, booksellers, and so forth, and constrain them to convey my message to those people.

In this example, the Author makes explicit the magick inherent to the construction and dissemination of a book and stays silent regarding any effects the writing may have.  My favorite anecdote of change brought about through writing occurred at the height of WWII when it appeared England would soon get overwhelmed by the forces of fascism.  Aleister Crowley wrote a one page tract known today as the Rights of WoMan as an antifascist support of Liberty.  After publishing and magically consecrating it, he sent it to every well-known person he knew well or had the address for.  Ten days after publication, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor causing the U.S. to declare to war on  Japan, Italy, and Nazi Germany, a pivotal point in the turning of the War.  Admittedly, this event reads as circumstantial, we'll never know for sure if Crowley's literary ritual had anything to do with it, yet it does encourage similar experimentation in dire situations.

Some models in quantum physics may provide a material basis and explanation for how writing can help change the World.  It appears easy to view Gravity's Rainbow as a kind of subatomic particle accelerator juxtaposed into an historical time and place.  The characters serve as the subatomic particles while their connections and entanglements illustrate behavior in the quantum universe.  The last time I heard Timothy Leary speak, at the Wetlands in New York in 1993, he urged everyone to "think of yourself as a quark," the fundamental unit of matter.  He fleshes this position out in the article, Willam Gibson: Quark of the Decade originally published in Mondo 2000, now included in the book Chaos and Cyber Culture.  To give you an idea:

Q. Who can explain these mysterious digital programs? Who can read us young, wanna-be quarks nice bedtime stories to make us feel secure about loosening up? Who can make us feel comfortable with the chaotic science of our wild times? Who can make us laugh at the structures crumbling before our eyes in Einstein smiles because relativity and the fractal natures of the running programs are always funny? (Why? Because they surprise us.) Who will get us giggling like shocked schoolkids at the facts of life? Who will tickle us with accurate disorder? 

A. The artists-poets-musicians-storytellers. The popularizers of quantum linguistics.

Anyone who has read GR will likely recognize it in this question.   It certainly appears full of surprises with tons of humor including slapstick.  Leary goes on to call Thomas Pynchon the greatest and last of the "quantum linguists." (We do not use the nervous term "science fiction" to describe the quantum-science writers.) Murray Gell-Mann, the physicist who first postulated the existence of quarks, found the word in Finnegans Wake; another example of how writing changes the world we live in and how we see it.  Finnegans Wake had a significant influence on Gravity's Rainbow.



Pynchon may have found the title to his book in science literature:

Gravity's rainbow is a theory that arose from attempts by physicists to generate a "theory of everything," or a theory of the universe that unites quantum mechanics and general relativity.

This theory holds that different wavelengths of light have different measures of gravity and are separated in the same way a prism splits white light into the different frequencies of the rainbow.  It doesn't require much imagination to see how this applies to the book of the same name.

A talking head in A Journey into the Mind of P likens the In the Zone section to a "quantum subatomic smasher" with Slothrop "wormholing his way around it.

Wormholes are solutions to the Einstein field equations for gravity that act as "tunnels," connecting points in space-time in such a way that the trip between the points through the wormhole could take much less time than the trip through normal space - Richard F. Holman


We find multiple anomalies and insinuations of alternate rates of time in GR.  More on that next time.  Slothrop reversed = porthol(e)s - a synonym for wormholes.  

"He entered a brick labyrinth that had been a harmonica factory.  Splashes of bell-metal lay forever unrung in the factory dirt.  Against a high wall that had recently been painted white, the shadows of horses and their riders drummed.  Sitting, watching, from workbenches and crates, were a dozen individuals Squalidozzi recognized right away as gangsters.  Cigar-ends glowed, and molls whispered back and forth in German.  The men ate sausages, ripping away the casings with white teeth, well cared for, that flashed in the light of the movie. ... Crowned window frames gave out on the brick courtyard where summer air moved softly.  The filmlight flickered blue across empty windows as if it were breath trying to produce a note.  The images grew blunt with vengeance.  "Yay!" screamed all the zoosters, white gloves bouncing up and down.  Their mouths and eyes were as wide as children's.

... For days, as it turned out, the gangsters had known Squalidozzi was in the neighborhood; they could infer to his path, though he himself was invisible to them, by the movements of the police which were not.  Blodgett Waxwing —for it was he—used the analogy of a cloud chamber, and the vapor trail a high-speed particle leaves ...
    "I don't understand."
    "Not sure I do either, pal.  But we have to keep our eye on everything, and right now all the hepcats are going goofy over something called 'nuclear physics.'"
 - Gravity's Rainbow, p. 391

Much photon movement in the first paragraph.

To be continued ...