Saturday, April 8, 2017

Finnegans Wake and Music

Waywords and Meaningsigns is an ongoing project run by Derek Pyle that invites musicians and sound artists to construct a piece of music or create an audio environment of some kind set to a passage from Finnegans Wake.  The deadline for the 20017 edition is looming, it's May 4th -  I am late in getting this posted - but there's still time for a submission.  As those familiar with this epic work know, Finnegans Wake, apart from including actual songs with musical notation, has many passages that sound like music when read aloud.  At times, it seems that James Joyce places more value in the rhythm, sounds and implied melodies the words make, relegating their meaning to a secondary role.  James Joyce was an accomplished singer who had the literary ability to sing through his text.

This amazing project follows the hallowed footsteps of no less a musical icon than John Cage who composed Roarotorio, an Irish circus on Finngeans Wake.  I intend to participate though my submission will be for next year's edition.

I plugged in the word "music" to a Finnegans Wake concordance and this was the first entry, from page 48:

a choir of the O'Daley O'Doyles doublesixing
the chorus in Fenn Mac Call and the Seven Feeries of Loch Neach
Galloper Troller and Hurleyquinn the zitherer of the past with his
merrymen all, zimzim, zimzim.  Of the persins sin this Eyrawyg-
gla saga (which thorough readable to int from and, is from tubb 
to bottom all falsetissues, antilibellous and nonactionable and this
apllies to its whole wholume) of poor Osti-Fosti, described as 
quite a musical genius in a small way and the owner of an
exceedingly niced ear, with tenorist voice to match, not alone,
but a very major poet of the poorly meritary order (he began
Tuonisonian but worked his passage up as far as the we-all-
hang-together Animandovites) no end is known.

Text like this almost begs for musical accompaniment to frame and enhance the music already there.

Here is the official press release about the project:

A diverse cast of musicians, readers, and artists are creating what may be the year's most innovative musical-literary project: James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake set to music. 

An ongoing project with over 100 contributors from 15 different countries, Waywords and Meansigns features original music and readings from punk rock icon Mike Watt, Mercury Rev veterans Jason Sebastian Russo and Paul Dillon, Joe Cassidy of Butterfly Child, psych-rockers Kinski, vocalist Phil Minton, poet S.A. Griffin, Martyn Bates of Eyeless in Gaza, Little Sparta with Sally Timms (Mekons) and Martin Billheimer, composer Seán Mac Erlaine, Schneider TM, and many more.

“James Joyce basically invented his own language when writing Finnegans Wake,” explains project director Derek Pyle. “It's the kind of thing that demands creative approaches — from jazz and punk musicians to sound artists and modern composers, each person hears and performs the text in a way that’s totally unique and endlessly exciting.”

With the 2017 release debuting on May 4, Waywords and Meansigns utilizes their independent digital platform to make Joyce’s text more accessible to 21st century audiences. Waywords and Meansigns also aims to release future musical recordings of Finnegans Wake on an ongoing basis — interested individuals are encouraged to contact project director Derek Pyle. All audio from the project is distributed freely under Creative Commons licensing at

Waywords and Meansigns: Recreating Finnegans Wake in its whole wholume. James Joyce's Finnegans Wake set to music unabridged. Musical adaptation audiobook.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Deleuze and Qabalah

One cannot help wondering, given passages like this in his later writings, whether or not there is throughout Deleuze's work a kind of secret priority or silent perogative given to esoteric knowledge and practice as a clue to the multiple meanings of immanence, such that to completely comprehend the significance of Deleuze's philosophy one would have to delve more deeply into previous esoteric traditions. 
 - Joshua Ramey, The Hermetic Deleuze, Philosophy and Spiritual Ordeal p.102 -103

Indeed!  The Hermetic Deleuze is an excellent book about this subject matter, I highly recommend reading it.  It provides much background material to support the theory that Gilles Deleuze provides a metaphysics for Thelema.  By that I mean that he fleshes out the mechanics of how Thelema works to make practical sense.  Much of the philosophy or metaphysics may seem abstract, but it always links with actual events and states of affairs.  Deleuze reveals how to make Thelema work.

 If you are just joining the conversation, Thelema is a Greek word chosen by Aleister Crowley to represent his line of work.  It literally translates as Will, and with the Greek spelling, qabalistically transposes to 93.  The word agape, which means divine love, also transposes to 93.  This makes the two words qabalistically equivalent.  Thelema = love under will (not to say that it doesn't carry multiple alternate interpretations as equally valid).  The various descriptions Deleuze gives to "sense" seem closely related to Thelema.  The way I see it, The Logic of Sense = the logic of Thelema.  I alluded to one such connection between Thelema and sense in the first post of this series when stating that Deleuze (in LS) considered Lewis Carroll's fairyland story, Sylvie and Bruno, a masterpiece.  Of course, you have to read both parts of that story to get the connection (something else I highly recommend) so I will continue showing how Thelema and sense are related in different ways as we proceed through this ontological and theurgic labyrinth.

The Hermetic Deleuze (HD) doesn't mention Crowley or Thelema,  There are a couple of quick citations of kabbalah that are quite good. Written from a perspective of academic philosophy, Ramey is extremely articulate with both the philosophical and esoteric themes and how they mesh.  I don't necessarily agree with all the conclusions or premises, but he provides a great deal of valuable information on the direction of the early Deleuze, particularly in the third chapter, Deleuze and the Esoteric Sign, worth the price of admission alone. We find out that one of Deleuze's earliest publications titled Mathesis, Science and Philosophy is a Preface for a book by Johann Malfatti called Mathesis.   Malfatti was a doctor and healer for Beethoven as well as being a speculative esoteric writer.  Mathesis, as I understand it, is short for mathesis universalis - a universal math that can do or solve anything, perhaps a TOE - theory of everything.  " Malfatti's work envisions a medicine that would be effective not through technical proficiency, but as a lived embodiment of knowledge' a practical path to healing through the elaboration of sympathies, symbioses and vibrational patterns." (HD p.90).  Anyone with knowledge of Crowley's approach to arcane wisdom will see how closely Deleuze's Mathesis, Science and Philosophy resonates from its title alone.  Crowley would have it as Magick, Science and Philosophy.  Crowley vitalizes the notion of mathesis by associating his version with the Egyptian god Horus and gives instructions on how to make contact with this omniscient force.  Jimmy Page and Robert Plant also vitalize mathesis and provide an alternate contact point/entrance with the song The Song Remains the Same.  Qabalah seems yet another entry point into mathesis.

Though there isn't any discussion of qabala in HD  the sense of it clearly surfaces at times through quotes Ramey chose to use.  They sound exactly like how qabala functions without explicitly making the connection " ... the development of symbolic systems is as much a matter of creative encounter as it is a deciphering of signs. ... in poeticizing the world by a multilayered reading of it, always both new and traditional, we risk forgetting that poiein (etymology of poet -ed.) means first of all to create.' HD (p. 204).  These quotes are from the esoteric scholar Antoine Faivre.

According to Ramey, Deleuze betrays a close affinity and familiarity with occult theory in Mathesis, Science and Philosophy (MSP). Deleuze begins the essay by asking what the word "initiated" signifies. I just had an interesting coincidence searching for MSP online.  Found it here at, scrolled down to see how long it goes, and then read the first comment by someone named Squee: "So is this any different than Crowley's work "The Book of Thoth" - or many other numerological texts on the meaning of base 10 numbers?" Ramey points out that Deleuze asked that this article, along with five other early pieces, be removed from his official corpus.  Is this because he had a change of heart and repudiated his early interest in the magical arts, or was he choosing to go more underground, more occult with this interest.  I suggest the latter.  Talking about the occult seems paradoxical or oxymoronic in itself; as soon as you talk about the occult it becomes no longer hidden ... unless, of course, what you're saying intends to hide it further.  Ramey mentions in more than one place the strong prejudice Academic Philosophy has against anything to do with the paranormal or what inaccurately gets called, "the supernatural;" inaccurately by those overly challenged with the thought of immanence.  Deleuze was an actor par excellence in the drama of philosophy.  MSP seems out of character for that role.

The conclusion Ramey reaches here resonates with the practical side of Thelema: "But if traced carefully, a line clearly runs from Deleuze's early interest in the dream of mathesis unversalis to his attention to the cosmic dimension of art, to increasing attention, with Guattari, to the contours of specific forms of experimental practice. (HD p. 207).  Unsurprisingly, there is much material in this book that could apply to Thelema.  To this biased observer, Thelema marks the pinnacle of current hermetic thought and practice.

Rhizome and the Tree of Life

We will begin our investigation of Deleuze and Guattari's use of qabalah with the concept of the rhizome which they introduced approximately in the middle of their respective careers.  The Rhizome serves as the introduction to A Thousand Plateaus (ATP).  I am going to get a little ahead of myself and perhaps stretch your credulity a tad to describe how the book opens with some qabalistic indicators.  Then I'll resume building the argument from the ground up.  It starts on page 3 with this diagram of a music composition:

1. Introduction: Rhizome

It's reproduced more clearly in the book; there are dates one can see with a magnifying glass open to qabalistic interpretation, check it out.  Later in this essay, we'll see how various authors let the readers on to their use of qabalistic correspondences by presenting a very obvious link as a way to key in the input and initiate a search for subtler revelations.  The obvious (to a qabalist) connection in this diagram is the title of the music score: XIV piano piece for David Tudor 4.  

XIV = the path of Daleth = Door (as in David Tu-dor); The Hebrew letter called daleth = the English letter d and has the value of 4 by Gematria. The use of phonetic puns, like Tudor = two door, shows frequent usage in qabala communiques largely due to the pioneering linguistic efforts of James Joyce who gets invoked as early as page 6 in ATP.  Rhizome seems another phonetic pun; home is where, again?  The first sentence of the Introduction reads: "The two of us wrote Anti-Oedipus together."  To an imaginative interpreter like myself, the two of Tu-dor connects with the second word, two, thus implying that the two of them make a door.  Experience with ATP reveals that it indeed becomes a door into alternate models of abstraction and experience.  Further knowledge of the correspondences with daleth, as for instance The Empress tarot card, really shows where they are coming from, as well as making a direct connection with The Logic of Sense as it relates with the definition of Thelema delineated above. Tu-dor also suggests the dormouse from Alice in Wonderland which then links to the Jefferson Airplane lyric, "Remember what the dormouse said: feed your head, feed your head."  The trite hippie interpretation says that it means to take drugs; the qabalistic interpretation (Head = Resh = The Sun) indicates an instruction to feed your solar nature, an instruction explicitly alluded to in the first paragraph.
Again, if you're just joining the conversation, all these correspondences derive from the qabalistic dictionary put together by Crowley with some help from Allan Bennett, after inheriting it from MacGregor Mathers, one of the founders of the Golden Dawn.  It's published as 777 and other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley.  There is much supplemental material in The Book of Lies.  This is the dictionary of reference for the qabala used by writers such as James, Joyce, Ezra Pound, Robert Anton Wilson, Thomas Pynchon, to list the ones where I've seen it frequently deployed, and, as I've very recently discovered, Deleuze and Guattri. Robert Heinlein uses it a little bit in Stranger in a Strange Land as does Milan Kundera in The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

The first plateau in A Thousand Plateaus, the Introduction lifts the qabalistically aware reader up to a solar plateau immediately, or at least one where the sun is shining.  Deleuze and Guattari have an interesting way of transmitting esoteric data by baldly and blatantly stating it in a context where it seems offhand, not to be taken seriously; the fine art of misdirection.  For those who read the blog on paradox and nonsense, remember what it said about how qabalists love to play with opposite meanings.  Speaking of why they use their own names as authors, the eighth and ninth sentences in the book say: "To render imperceptible not ourselves, but what makes us act, feel and think.  Also because its nice to talk like everybody else, to say the sun rises, when everybody knows its only a manner of speaking."  I see this as important not only for the solar invocation which aligns with and reinforces the correspondences at the top of the intro, but because it also gently states an outdated conception that colors, or programs, our common experience of the world.  ATP appears to suggest war machines against that particular kind of sleep; assumptions about how things are we unquestioningly take for granted.  The solar invocation also resonates with the smiling sun face found on the cover of every copy of:

Buckminster Fuller used to point out that for a few hundred years at least we've known the world  is not flat, yet most people do not have the experience or awareness of living on a sphere.  We usually experience this planet as variations of flatness extended in the four cardinal directions.  The language of "sunrise" and "sunset" reinforce this unconscious and conventional way of perceiving the world.  The sun does not move around the earth, it does not rise, the earth spins on its axis to meet it or leave it depending upon where you are on the globe at any particular time.  Deleuze and Guattari say, 'it's nice to talk like everybody else,' - probably one of the most hilarious understatements in the book, as this book is written like no other and nowhere else does it remotely sound like how anyone else would talk.  Perhaps we can infer that ATP can change our experience of life as radically as learning the earth isn't flat?

I will also point out obvious references to the work of  another occultist, G.I. Gurdjieff, and his particular series (body of work), or school.  The "act, feel, and think" in the above quote reflects the three brains of man in Fourth Way (i.e. Gurdjieffian) terminology - the physical, emotional and intellectual.  Starting the book by saying it's nice to talk like everybody else is the exact opposite of how Gurdjieff begins Beelzebub Tales To His Grandson (his magnum opus) when he tells the story  of how his Grandmother told him on her deathbed never to do as others do.  I see this as a deliberate resonance.  The introduction to Beelzebub is titled, The Arousing of Thought, also strongly resonant with Deleuze's project both with and without Guattari, to create a new image of thought.  Gurdjieff clearly states the intention of Beelzebub, an intention that sounds like a prime motive for A Thousand Plateaus: "To destroy mercilessly and without any compromise whatever, in the mentation and feelings of the reader, the beliefs and views, by centuries rooted in him, about everything existing in the world.  To make you see and understand on one level, the literal level of astronomical bodies in Space, that the sun does not rise, the earth spins to greet it.

Now we go rhizomatically back to the rhizome.  The rhizome concept is one D&G borrowed from botany to describe a nonunified, nonhierarchical, nonlinear proliferation of connections and flows. "In botany and dendrology, a rhizome (/ˈrzm/, from Ancient Greek: rhízōma "mass of roots",[1] from rhizóō "cause to strike root" (wikipedia).  The etymology, 'cause to strike root' connects with qabalistic considerations already mentioned, as well as the notion of ATP mapping out one strata as a manual of practical Alchemy for the formation of higher, subtler, nonorganic bodies; stated plainly on page 4: All we talk about are multiplicities, lines, strata, and segmentarities, lines of flight and intensities, machinic assemblages and their various types, bodies without organs and their construction and selection, the plane of consistency, and in each case the units of measure; bodies without organs = nonorganic bodies.

The polar opposite to the rhizome model is the tree, the arborescent model.  The tree has a determined unity of form, it becomes a particular set thing.  It could be said that the aborescent model of growth attempts to copy a transcendental unity of some kind, it is set in its ways and follows a linear predictable growth.  They say that arborescence has a hierarchical structure.  This brings us to the Tree of Life, the basic model used in Qabalah.   It represents as a tree and has distinct arborescent features which would seem to make it not a rhizome, but we shall see that it is not that cut and dry.  D&G begin mention of arborescence with words about the nature of "the book" that  also resembles qabalistic genealogy  on the Tree of Life: A first type of book is the root book.  The tree is already the image of the world, or the root the image of the world-tree. ... But the book as a spiritual reality, the Tree or Root as an image, endlessly develops the law of the One becomes two, then of the two that becomes four (ATP p.5)..."

Here they bring up tree structures within rhizomes and vice versa:  There exist tree or root structures in rhizomes; conversely, a tree branch or root division may begin to burgeon within a rhizome.  The coordinates are determined not by theoretical analyses implying universals but by a pragmatics composing multiplicities or aggregates of intensities.  A new rhizome may form in the heart of a tree, the hollow of a root, the crook of a branch. (ATP p. 15)  The second sentence of this quote gives a good instruction for magick and qabalah users.  This next quote about music applies as well to the formation of correspondences upon the Tree of Life: "Music has always sent out lines of flight, like so many "transformational multiplicities" even overturning the very codes that structure or arborify it; that is why musical form, right down to it's ruptures and proliferations, is comparable to a weed, a rhizome.  (ATP p. 11-12)

More great advice and indicative of how numbers work in qabalah: The number is no longer a universal concept measuring elements according to their emplacement in a given dimension, but has itself become a multiplicity that varies according to the dimensions considered. (ATP p.8)  Compare that with "Every number is infinite; there is no difference," the paradoxical fourth line in Crowley's The Book of the Law.

Next up: Qabalah and The Plane of Immanence

Monday, February 13, 2017

Subjectivity and Do What Thou Wilt

 This is part 3 of the Crowley/Deleuze series with special guest Robert Anton Wilson.

Earlier, we suggested that a prime reason for misunderstanding Aleister Crowley's formula for personal liberation, "Do what thou wilt," had to do with confusion about what "thou" meant.  "Thou" is the subject of this formula; the question then becomes, who or what is the subject?  This essentially raises the question, "who are you?."  What is the subject? = Who are you?  Applying the formula 'do what thou wilt' means constantly asking and seeking to answer the question 'who are you?' This aligns with Gurdjieff's primary formula: to "remember yourself;" it also resonates with the Sufi's Zikr.

"What is a subject?" seems one of the juicier issues in philosophy.   Descartes', "I think therefore I am," known as "the cogito" seems the most conventional and common answer in mainstream philosophy; the model we get automatically and unconsciously programmed with in modern culture.  Who are you = I am that which thinks I am, according to this program.   The cogito appears almost a conceptual antithesis for Gilles Deleuze, the enemy, as it were, though he would likely hate that comparison as he's not down with dialectic method of thesis, antithesis, synthesis usually attributed to Hegel, but originating from Fichte.   Deleuze radically reconceptualizes subjectivity with conclusions that abolish the subject as we commonly know it.  Crowley takes a critical look at the logic of the cogito in his essay on Skepticism, The Soldier and the Hunchback: ? and !. (Equinox I Vol. I).  They were both strongly influenced by 18th Century philosopher, David Hume, as was Robert Anton Wilson.

For Deleuze, the subject is not a static representation of something, which is what your name is, or what you think you are,  but rather a dynamic mixture of forces and actions in flux and flow.  The constantly changing liquid nature of the subject (We are HERE TO GO cries this new subjectivity) makes it existentially inaccurate to pin a static label or identity to it.  Robert Anton Wilson relates a story where Timothy Leary was asked what he thought about a particular rock star. "Oh that guy is a real (expletive deleted), but wait, that was two years ago, maybe he's changed?"

We easily find a reason why "Do what thou wilt," was put into third person form; thou, as the subject, always changes - thou becomes a mixture of tendencies, forces, passions and actions in flux, flow and feedback; series of voyages abstractly bound by memory into a single voyage - your life.  You wouldn't be able to give this subject a unity of an unchanging fixed identity, so call it "thou."  It can't be, "Do what you wilt," because "you" automatically evokes one's personal identity of who we think we are, your "set," which inevitably seems permanent and limiting despite the clear evidence that it constantly changes.  One reason Crowley constantly emphasized the keeping of a magical diary, a lab report of all experiments, was so to see how radically we change over time.  It often feels like we've always been as we are now, but this seems part of the illusion of the fixed identity we can get locked into, but can also get out of.  See Chapter 23 of The Book of Lies for Crowley's O.U.T. formula to get out from ordinary identity.

Deleuze tackled the question of the subject in his first book, Empiricism and Subjectivity, subtitled An Essay on Hume's Theory of Human Nature.  He established many themes in that book that would continue to develop throughout his lifelong voyage in philosophy. It should be noted that Crowley set up Thelema as an empirical system, a system valuing the gnosis of one's own experiences over unexamined belief and blind faith.  His motto, "the method of science, the aim of religion," and his insistence at scrupulously keeping records of every experiment make plain the empiricism of this school.  The invocation of Horus, or any invocation for that matter seeks to extend the experimenter's experience into other domains.  Deleuze later came to call this Transcendental Empricism. 

For many years, I searched in vain for the philosophical Rosetta stone that would put everything in place so that it all made sense.  Making a grand tour of all the great thinkers of human history seemingly lead nowhere - to a desolate, dry, god-forsaken mental landscape of despair and collapse. I was in mortal agony.  After coming across the intuitive voice of Hoor pa Kraat in the Thelemic material, a voice that is not a voice, rather a silencing of internal chatter, I realized that the source of my mental confusion had stemmed from the classic error of putting Descarte before the Horus. ...  (drum shot, please); putting the rational before the empirical.

The beginning of Deleuze's career as a published philosopher with Empiricism and Subjectivity (ES).  resonates with the Leary, Wilson, Crowley crowd as we shall see. The Preface begins listing Hume's major contributions to philosophy: "He established the concept of  belief and put it in the place of knowledge.  He laicized belief, turning knowledge into legitimate belief, and on the basis of this investigation sketched out a theory of probabilities.  (ES p. ix).  This connects with the concept of 'belief systems" used by Leary and Wilson to explain the processes by which people interpret reality. The convergence of belief systems that conditions how an individual sees things, they called "tunnel realities". The concept of belief also does away with the implied certainty of knowledge for a more cautious gamble of belief.  Hume introduces a healthy measure of skepticism into the mix making it not the absolute certainty of the true believer, but rather belief invested through a set pf probabilities.  Reality is what you can get away with.   According to James Fieser writing in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy Hume liked to attack his own best theories to expose any inherent contradictions.  He kept up a balancing act of coming up with positive theories then tearing them down to expose any fallacies.  One method of his skepticism goes like this:

Our judgments based on past experience all contain elements of doubt; we are then impelled to make a judgment about that doubt, and since this judgment is also based on past experience it will in turn produce a new doubt. Once again, though, we are impelled to make a judgment about this second doubt, and the cycle continues.

Anyone who has ever read Aleister Crowley's keystone essay on doubt and certainty, The Soldier and the Hunchback: ? and ! will immediately recognize the inspiration from Hume's method.  Doubt = the Hunchback (?) while the Soldier (!) is what Hume called Judgement. Crowley frames the entire essay on the question "What is skepticism?"

I called it a keystone essay because the skeptical method so brilliantly described there seems essential for a successful practice of ritual magick or any kind of shamanic activity.  The first major publication for Aleister Crowley's school, the Argenteum Astrum (A.'. A.'.) was a ten volume series called the The Equinox published every six months on the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes from 1909 to 1913.  The Soldier and the Hunchback appeared in the very first volume of The Equinox.  To emphasize this procedure of checks and balances for any serious aspirant, Crowley begins The Book of Lies with a Hunchback, ?, followed by a Soldier, ! on the following page.  If someone only ever wanted to get one book by Crowley, I would recommend that be The Book of Lies.  It contains instruction on the entire system of alchemy presented by Crowley.  It's ideal for anyone who likes puns and riddles and doesn't mind having their beliefs challenged.  No blame if you don't like it because it's all lies anyway.

As mentioned before, Robert Anton Wilson began the Crowley 101 class with an examination of The Soldier and the Hunchback.  Wilson might be known more for his skeptical approach than anything else as this gave rise to his formulations of Maybe Logic and  Model Agnosticism, two of his signature concepts.  Out of skepticism comes a technique he calls Guerilla Ontology intended to stimulate the reader's skeptical filter, otherwise known as a bullshit detector.  This technique, as applied in his fiction, consists of presenting outright bullshit and lies about something, then presenting facts that obviously appear true, followed by the middle ground where information is given that could be true, but could also be another put-on.  "But what's puzzling you is just the nature of my game ..."  This literary device seeks to constantly introduce hunchbacks into the mix.  The effect of the perplexed state and the inevitable search for the soldier to assist the hunchback to his upright position, forces the reader by reflex to develop intuitive and deductive abilities; i.e. forces the reader to get smarter by reflex.  Guerilla Ontology slyly sets up a problem or series of problems for the reader to solve.  There doesn't seem a right or wrong way to solve these problems, rather making the effort to confront them sparks a particular kind of growth in the reader and actively engages them.  Anyone who has read a lot of Crowley will recognize the use of this technique from time to time.  Guerilla Ontology sparks skepticism by occasionally presenting a possible lie or absurdity as fact.  Most often there is an element of humor involved, sometimes quite subtle, sometimes outrageous  Recently E.J. Gold introduced a method of Fart Casting at a distance as part of the resistance against Mr. Trump.  I believe the idea was to cast farts into the Oval Office as a way to communicate public opinion about his policies. In the previous post we heard how Guerilla Ontology uses nonsense and humor to communicate a sense of something.  Guerilla Ontology produces sense.  Another of the usual suspects, William Burroughs became fond of saying, "We are here to GO).

Skepticism appears closely related to subjectivity and the question, "Who are you?" Social and cultural conditioning from nearly the time we are born assigns us various roles to play and expects us to comply.  We are given a name which evolves into a personal identity, or what Freud called the ego.  We are basically told who we are from early on.  A network of beliefs forms around our personal identity - a tunnel reality.  These beliefs can contain unnecessary, illusory and self-defeating limitations about what we can or cannot do. Skepticism effectively comes into play when one starts examining and questioning these ingrained beliefs.  Alice becomes skeptical and starts to question her identity when the Caterpillar asks her "Who are you?"  A Tibetan Buddhist technique called "neti neti," or "not that, not that" shows a way for someone to release beliefs about static personal identities when trying to reach the Deep Self by doing an inventory of them and rejecting them one by one: I am not a sound engineer, not a writer, not a philosophy student, not a fart caster etc. etc.  Those are things I do, functions performed and each one has its own micro-identity that can be put on or taken off like a mask; but they are not who I am.  The question, "Who are you? always introduces a hunchback - doubt, a question - into the equation.  The quest for the soldier, an answer to feed the hunchbacked question, Who am I?  becomes the event of who we are.  Soldiers are found: conclusions and formulations get reached, yet further questions inevitably arise in a spiraling process that will take the student far beyond where they started.  This becomes one function of "Do what thou wilt."

In the Translator's Introduction to Empiricism and Subjectivity, Constantin V. Bound states that an important theory of subjectivity runs through Deleuze's entire body of work.  He continues: "What is remarkable, first of all, about this contribution to a theory of subjectivity is that it combines a radical critique of interiority with a stubborn search for an "inside that lies deeper than any internal world.'  In this sense, the search for the fold - "the inside as the operation of the outside" is his own lifelong search."
 - ES p.11

In ES, Deleuze calls subjectivity, ".. a governing principle, a schema, a rule of construction." (p. 64).  Later, he defines the subject: "The subject is defined through the movement through which it is developed. Subject is that which develops itself.  The only content we can give to the idea of subjectivity is that of mediation and transcendence.  But we note that the movement of self-development and of becoming-other is double: the subject transcends itself, but it is also reflected upon (ES p. 85).  What Deleuze translates as  mediation Hume calls inference or belief with transcendence being called invention or artifice in Hume's terms.  "In short, believing and inventing is what makes the subject a subject.." (ES p.85)  We are what we believe ourselves to be combined with all actions and efforts to grow, change, and reinvent ourselves into something new.  The tunnel reality of the active subject always looks for lines of flight intended to break through or out of the tunnel.

An excellent metaprogramming praxis that directly confronts the subject's beliefs and stimulates invention is John Lilly's Beliefs Unlimited: In the province of the mind what one believes to be true either is true or becomes true within certain limits to be found experientially and experimentally.  These limits are further beliefs to be transcended.  This is only the first two sentences, it continues from there, but the empirical approach of this method is obvious: empiricism and subjectivity.  Robert Anton Wilson documents his use of this exercise in Cosmic Trigger I.  I've made numerous recordings patterned after RAW's description with my own variations.  It will definitely expand your tunnel reality.

Here is a clip where you can hear the entire text.  It's only about 4 minutes, you don't have to watch the  whole video:

Deleuze speaks of the subject in relation to time:

"To speak of the subject now is to speak of duration, custom, habit and anticipation. Anticipation is habit, and habit is anticipation: these two determinations - the thrust of the past and the elan toward the future - are at the center of Hume's philosophy, the two aspects of the same fundamental dynamism. ... Habit is the constitutive root of the subject, and the subject, at root, is the synthesis of time - the synthesis of the present and the past in light of the future." (ES p.92)

Deleuze speaks of the subject as a process in this next quote which also shows resonance with Leary and Wilson's ideas of consciousness imprinting:

To the extent which principles sink their effects into the depths of the mind [i.e. our programming the ed.], the subject, which is this very effect, becomes more and more active and less and less passive.  It was passive in the beginning, it is active in the end.  This confirms the idea that subjectivity is in fact a process, and that an inventory must be made of the diverse moments of this process (or as Crowley advises, keep a magical record).  To speak like Bergson, let us say that the subject is an imprint, or an impression left by principles, that it progressively turns into a machine capable of using this impression. (ES p. 112-113).

The last words of Gilles Deleuze's first book, Empiricism and Subjectivity, strike up a strong resonance between Do what thou wilt and his concept of subjectivity:

Philosophy must constitute itself as the theory of what we are doing, not as a theory of what there is.  What we do has its principles; and being can only be grasped as the object of a synthetic relation with the very principles of what we do. (ES p. 133)

This is Deleuze very early in his career writing in the early to mid '50s.  To me, it doesn't seem like he's familiar with Crowley, at that point, but rather, to use his terminology, the series that makes up Thelema and the series that makes up his philosophy maintain a disjunctive synthesis with one another through resonance.  That is, the two series, Deleuze and Crowley, have a relationship, but  also affirm their difference and go separate ways to get to the same place, more or less.  In Logic of Sense, a more seasoned Deleuze seems to address 'Do what thou wilt' quite directly, as I see it.   My guess is that Deleuze has read Crowley by now (1969). He refers to the subject as the event, to reflect its dynamic nature.  The first part of this next quote is referring to Joe Bousquet who philosophically wrote of a wound he sustained as a pure event:

"He apprehends the wound that he bears deep within his body in its eternal truth as a pure event.  To the extent that events are actualized in us, they wait for us and invite us in.  They signal is: "My wound existed before me, I was born to embody it."  It is a question of attaining this will that the event creates in us; of becoming the quasi-cause of what is produced within us, the Operator; of producing surfaces and linings in which the event is reflected, finds itself again as incorporeal and manifests in us the neutral splendor which it possesses in itself in its impersonal an pre-individual nature, beyond the general and the particular, the collective and the private.  It is a question of becoming a citizen of the world." (LS p. 148)

"What does it mean then to will the event? [ i.e. what does it mean to do what thou wilt? - ed.].  Is it to accept war, wounds, and death when they occur? It is highly probable that resignation is only one more figure of ressentiment, since ressentiment has many figures. [ ed. note: ressentiment is concept out of Nietzsche's philosophy that directly translates as resentment, but encompasses more in the direction of being pissed off or apathetic about life; reactive as opposed to active].  If willing the event is, primarily, to release its eternal truth, like the fire on which it is fed, this will would reach the point at which war is waged against war, the wound would be the living trace and the scar of all wounds, and death turned on itself would be willed against all deaths.  We are faced with a volitional intuition and a transmutation." (LS p. 149)

This idea of "death turned on itself" also appears as one of the core ideas at the heart of Thelema: to use a continuous series of simulated deaths to defeat death and reach a place of immortalitiy.

It may be because The Logic of Sense is a book of paradoxes written paradoxically that Deleuze correlates the individual with the event after he writes of willing the event.  The first part of this next quote links to  Crowley's formula getting for getting O.U.T., going beyond our self identity:

"The problem, therefore, is one of knowing how the individual would be able to transcend his form and his syntactical link with a world, in order to attain the universal communication of events, that is, to the affirmation of a disjunctive synthesis beyond logical contradictions, and even beyond alogical incompatibilities.  It would be necessary for the individual to grasp herself as event; and that she grasp the event actualized within her as another individual grafted onto her." (LS p. 178)

Deleuze gives an answer while stating the problem - the individual transcending his form becomes the individual grasping herself as event - i. e. the concept of "becoming-woman" that Deleuze and Guattari give in A Thousand Plateaus, a concept also at the heart of Crowley's Book of Lies, as discussed in the previous post.

He goes on to describe the individual not as an isolated discrete unit separate from the environment, but as one connected to everything else.  Our identity gets determined by the assemblages (to use another concept from ATP; what Buckminster Fuller might call "whole systems") we partcipate in; we are a different person, we have a different identity when we are with our parents than when we are with our lovers.  The event of our lives, who we are, constantly changes as we proceed through a series of different assemblages in different environments.  This introduces the element of chance into who we are because we can't predict the situations we'll end up in.  It's worth reading Deleuze on this point, LS p. 178 though it might require several readings and pondering upon it for comprehension.  He then quotes Klossowski to support the point which I found much more clear:

"the vehement oscillations which upset the individual as long as he seeks only his own center and does not see the circle of which he himself is a part; for if these oscillations upset him, it is because each corresponds to an individuality other than that which he takes as his own from the point of view of the undiscoverable center.  Hence, an identity is essentially fortuitous and a series of individualities must be traversed by each, in order that the fortuity make them completely necessary."

The last sentence is a bit of a puzzler, but I'll leave it for something to ponder.  Next up is Deleuze and qabalah.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Paradox and Nonsense: Crowley and Deleuze # 2

This continues the previous post.  Once again, the virtual anamesis of Robert Anton Wilson  has agreed to join us. Caveat emptor: it can get paradoxical and nonsensical explicating the function of nonsense and paradox; just the nature of the beast.

Gilles Deleuze supplies a metaphysics for Thelema, thank-you Gilles!  Aleister Crowley presented an orientation and methodology for the voluntary evolution and continuous transformation of the human animal.  They both emphasized the use of paradox and nonsense to introduce an element of disequilibrium for the purpose of breaking set; to shatter and destroy our habitual ways of seeing things in order to introduce something new.  Another way to put it, they use paradox in an attempt to blow apart commonly held belief systems in order to move around in bigger, better, more beautiful, humorous and creative reality tunnels.  (for an excellent essay that covers "breaking set," see Christopher Hyatt's Introduction to the Eye in the Triangle, by Israel Regardie.)  Robert Anton Wilson and his early associates took it further and developed a religion out of paradox and nonsense called Discordianism with its motto, "we stick apart."  Wilson's later development of the literary technique Guerilla Ontology shows a direct formative relationship to paradox and nonsense.

The books in which Deleuze and Crowley dive deepest into paradox are both considered tour de forces in their respective literary careers.  For Gilles Deleuze, this is The Logic of Sense, a title that appears paradoxical in itself.  Logic indicates a formal reasoning of some sort. How does reasoning formalize sense?  It might help if we knew what he meant by sense? (The sense of sense?  I'll try not to introduce additional paradoxes and confusion) He clearly indicates that sense represents more than the limited definition of sense as "meaning."  In the second paragraph in the Preface: From Lewis Carroll to the Stoics Deleuze tells us what sense "is": "We present here a series of paradoxes which form the theory of sense.  It is easy to explain why this theory is inseparable from paradoxes: sense is a nonexisting entity, and in fact,maintains very special relations with nonsense."

Every chapter in The Logic of Sense is called a Series with the first one being: First Series of Paradoxes of Pure Becoming.  They are series, not chapters, to convey a more dynamic, kinetic and nonlinear approach to both the writing and reading of it, as we shall see in a moment.

"Sense is a nonexisting entity" obviously sounds paradoxical.  It might even seem like nonsense making it even more of a paradox. How can something nonexistent have relations, special or otherwise?  Later in the book he tells us that sense is very fragile.  How can something nonexistent have a fragile quality?  So he doesn't really tell us what sense is, only that it has life, an entity is alive, and that it doesn't exist; two completely opposite meanings.  This could be the ultimate agnostic statement.  If you follow the meaning in both directions, it cancels.  That  proposition may appear like  nonsense paradoxically intended to convey what sense is.  Deleuze uses examples from Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass to show how Carroll uses nonsense to communicate a sense of something. In the Deleuzean formulation, nonsense can donate sense to a proposition. Also, the title of the Preface, From Lewis Carroll to the Stoics appears paradoxically out of time as the Stoics wrote nearly 2000 years before Carroll.

In the third paragraph of this short Preface Deleuze points out the nonlinear nature of the book:

 "Thus to each series there correspond figures which are not only historical but topological and logical as well.  As on a pure surface, certain points in one figure of a series refer to the points of another figure: an entire galaxy of problems with their corresponding dice-throws, stories and places, a complex place; a "convoluted story."  This book is an attempt to develop a logical and psychological novel." 

Later on, in a remarkably magical passage from The Logic of Sense (LS) I will demonstrate that Deleuze uses puns to communicate on multiple levels, as would any self-respecting fan of James Joyce.  I will also demonstrate that Deleuze uses qabala from time to time. If you were to substitute the word "series" in the above quote with either "sephiroth" or "path on the Tree of Life" then you get an excellently poetic and concise description of how qabala works.  The last sentence in the quote appears paradoxical in its common meaning, the book has no obvious resemblance to any kind of novel, postmodern or otherwise, and it's not presented as fiction.  Looking at it as a magical pun, it appears Deleuze presents the aim of transformation into something new: "...a logical and psychological novel;" logic referring to the logic of sense - the logic of "pure becoming" (known in its static representation, a state it never reaches, as being; the logic of being); novel = new; esoterically dramatized in film as the character "Neo" from the Matrix trilogy.  Deleuze puts "convoluted story" in quotes for some reason.  That the "c" and "s" initials add to 68 looks very significant to me.  The number 68 appears on the first page of both Illuminatus! and Masks of the Illuminati, by Robert Anton Wilson.  I've written about its importance before (Tiphareth + Hod, Christ + Mercury, The Sun + communication; see Crowley's, The Paris Working for the magical genesis of that concept). Taking this interpretation here in LS may appear like confirmation bias on my part, but in the subsequent post Deleuze and Qabalah  I will confirm that bias even further with examples.

Robert Anton Wilson reports keeping a copy of The Book of Lies by Aleister Crowley on his nightstand for years referring to it frequently.  It encouraged me to take up this practice, too. Wilson loved all the puns, literary and logical puzzles and the qabalistic riddles. He illustrates a few of the paradoxes therein in Cosmic Trigger I.  The full name of the book is: THE BOOK OF LIES WHICH IS ALSO FALSELY CALLED BREAKS, THE WANDERINGS OR FALSIFICATION OF THE THOUGHT OF FRATER PERDURABO.  A contraction of the full title sprang up:  The Book of Lies (Falsely So-Called).  This rendering highlights the title's paradoxical character.  A book of lies falsely so-called is a book of truth.  Why would a book of truth start with a falsehood?  Crowley has a commentary for the Title Page and jumps right in with what sounds like either nonsense, paradox or both, following it up with a statement he appears to contradict later.

"...However, the "one thought is itself untrue," and therefore its falsifications are relatively true.
This book therefore consists of statements as nearly true as is possible to human language."

A different view gets expressed in the Commentary to Chapter 45 Chinese Music:

"The Master (in technical language the Magus);does not concern himself with facts;  he does not care whether a thing is true or not: she uses truth and falsehood indiscriminately, to serve his own ends. Slaves consider hir immoral and preach against hir in Hyde Park."

This disregard for "truth" may seem wild and anarchistic, but as Deleuze points out in LS, the production of sense ("pure becoming; the event) has nothing to do with truth or falsehood.  A proposition can be factually wrong yet still give a strong sense of something.  Absolute truth requires an omniscient, transcendental agency of some kind to arbitrate and judge what is true.  Deleuze in his antipathy to omniscient transcendental agencies grabs ahold of Antonin Artaud's fiercely cathartic radio play title, To Have Done With The Judgement of God for a rallying cry.

The first page in The Book of Lies (BL) consists of a sole, centrally located question mark.  In the first book he ever wrote, Empiricism and Subjectivity, An Essay On Hume's Theory of Human Nature published in 1953, (ES) Deleuze says:

"... a philosophical theory is an elaborately developed question, and nothing else; by itself and in itself, it is not the resolution to a problem, but the elaboration, to the very end, of the necessary implications of a formulated question. " 

"To the very end," which Deleuze italicizes in the text recalls Aleister Crowley's motto, his subject for BL, Perdurabo, that translates as "I will endure unto the end."  After the question mark is a page with a central exclamation point - symbolizing the question taken to its limit?  These two pages also refer to Crowley's seminal essay, The Soldier and the Hunchback on the subject of skepticism and certainty. The commentary on the question mark and exclamation point calls it "The Chapter that is not a Chapter."  It begins with a paradox.

Alice in Wonderland

Is not Humpty Dumpty himself the Stoic master? Is not the disciple's adventure Alice's adventure?

- Logic of Sense p.142
Crowley called his feminine persona Alice.

Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass appears highly regarded by many of the best contemporary esoteric writers.  Aleister Crowley included both books in the curriculum of the A.'. A.'. with the note "Valuable to those who understand Qabala."  Along with the Stoic philosophers, Gilles Deleuze makes analysis of the Alice books the basis for his study of sense and paradox in The Logic of Sense.  He also includes Carroll's adventure's of fairyland characters Sylvie and Bruno as part of the study calling it a masterpiece.  A complete reading of both parts of Sylvie and Bruno will show Deleuze's bias to what Crowley called The Great Work.  Crowley calls the Alice stories "Valuable to those who understand Qabala."  They were certainly quite valuable to Deleuze. I will assert that Deleuze understood and communicated using Qabalah in a subsequent post.  

The Stoic master Humpty Dumpty turns up in a clear reference on the first page of Finnegans Wake (FW), " .. that humptyhillhead of humself ..." right after "the fall" and Joyce's first hundred-letter thunderword that he then connects with a fall off a wall.   In the analysis of nursery rhymes in Magick, Book 4, Crowley says that Humpty Dumpty's fall symbolizes the descent of spirit into matter. This seems a good way to start an epic work like FW.  James Joyce has a line that renders a similar interpretation through the lens of Qabalah: "... sends an enquiring one well to the west in quest of his tumptytumtoes.." one = kether, the most refined spirit; toes = the material world by qabalistic reckoning that superimposes a human body over the Tree of Life for one of its rhizomatic tendrils of correspondence and association. "Humptyhillhead" suggests, to me, the climb up to the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, to use Crowley's nomenclature; "tumptytumtoes" suggests tummy, thus food and the sense of nourishment from spirit (we return to that theme in the next post); "humself" followed by the rhythm and rhyme of what follows suggests the flow of music.  The influence of music in the form of FW, as well as JJ's use of qabala seems well established in both academic and nonacademic circles.  Humself lets us know that he's not giving us a static subject, but rather one that changes and flows like the river that starts the book. It might also suggest the subject bringing itself into musical being/becoming, but perhaps I'm getting carried away.

Crowley quotes from Jabberwocky for the title of Chapter 48 BL: Mome Raths.  The whole chapter outlines a glyph for working hard.  In the note under the Commentary for this chapter, he quotes the whole line, " The mome raths outgrabe" and remarks that mome is also Parisian slang for "young girl" while rath = Old English for "early."  He then quotes a line from Milton that uses rath and communicates more information about what the early work hopes to produce.  It's a short, but important chapter worth studying.  When students of HGA conversation encounter the number 48 in unusual or coincidental ways, they will tend to attempt 'kicking it up a notch or two."  The "young girl" refers to the aspirant, an association that becomes more obvious when discovering that the BL explicates and implicates, using paradox and nonsense among several other techniques, a process that Delueze calls "becoming-woman."  This, of course, has nothing to do with human gender, but rather describes a necessary shamanic step for working beyond the normal body.

One quick way to demonstrate this claim to resonance with "becoming-woman," is to look at the very beginning of BL and the very end.  The first chapter title is O!, meaning chapter zero.  In the next chapter, 1, he begins with the exact same figure, O!, only this time indicating it as the letter O.  The full first line reads: O!, the heart of N.O.X., the night of Pan.  Right away, Crowley tells us to pay attention to puns, that the same exact image can have multiple meanings. O corresponds with The Devil in the tarot, the "medieval blind"  for archetypal male energy. The final chapter 91 only has one word, presented as an unanalyzed formula.  This word asymmetrically ends BL with A.M.E.N.; definitely seems a pun there, one that presents a view of the book as a journey of becoming-woman.

For a Crowlean interpretation of "outgrabe" (that's what the mome raths are doing) see Chapter 23 BL wherein he gives the O.U.T. formula.

Another interesting thing with that first line of Chapter 1 is that Deleuze maintains that the investigation into any process or cycle begins most productively in the middle and that's exactly what Crowley does with, N.O.X., the prime formula of BL.

So far we have established that three major artists at the top of their fields, the Occult, Philosophy, and Literature i.e. Aleister Crowley, Gilles Deleuze, and James Joyce, were profoundly influenced by Lewis Carroll's Alice stories.  I'm sure we could find dozens or hundreds references to \Wonderland in contemporary culture - I once saw an Alice play that put a strongly affective Gurdjieffian spin on the drama. I'll limit myself to a few more references of interest.  

The Matrix trilogy of films contains a great deal of esoteric knowledge.  This includes blatant qabala - for example, the female protagonist is Trinity; also next time watching, as a student of Magick or proactive Philosophy, pay attention to the beginning location, you'll see a sign that clearly labels the building.  A little later, as we get into the story, Neo begins getting obscure signs and coincidences directing him to some kind of hidden point of contact, as one might with the HGA.  His computer tells him to "follow the white rabbit," not long before he notices a white rabbit tatooed on girl inviting him to join their group on the way to a night club.  He first turned the invitation down, then saw the tatoo and changed his mind in order to follow the instruction.  Neo meets Trinity for the first time at the club and she gives him a piece of the puzzle.  The white rabbit is, of course, straight out of Alice In Wonderland; following the rabbit is how she got into Wonderland; following the white rabbit eventually puts Neo into a completely different world, it totally changes his life.

There's a great reference to Wonderland right off in Shea and Wilson's Illuminatus!: . " For instance, I am not even sure who I am, and my embarrassment on that matter makes me wonder if you will believe anything I reveal." (p.7)
 The phrase, "I am not even sure who I am" is a mirror reflection of  "I am that I am," Yahweh's answer to Moses when asked for his name.  This corresponds to Kether, the title of the chapter.  That phrase is also the gist of what Alice tells the hookah-smoking caterpillar when she is asked, "Who are you?"  It seems very helpful to read the first few paragraphs from the chapter in Alice, Advice from a Caterpillar to catch the transformational theme inherent to Illuminatus! In the very next sentence following the one quoted above, the Alice-like character describes being aware of a squirrel in Central Park "leaping from one tree to another."  That squirrel appears cognate with the white rabbit, and if this is true, then perhaps the authors are suggesting following this avatar from one Tree of Life to another; in other words, paying attention to Qabalah.  This interpretation may appear farfetched until one realizes that the alchemical motherlode strata of  Illuminatus! serves as a guide to Qabalah. 

About ten years ago, E.J. Gold asked if I knew Alice in Wonderland.  I did as a familiar story, but had never put much study into it.  He suggested I reread it and said I should revisit it every five years as a sort of barometer. About five years before that I recorded and mixed the album Alice for Tom Waits.  It comprised songs he'd composed for Robert Wilson's play of the same name about the relationship between Carroll and the real Alice the stories were told to.  It's an extremely evocative, mood-drenched album with slight echoes of the Wonderland otherworldliness in between the grooves.  It was mixed at lightening speed by high velocity; rushed through the bardo.

Paradox and Mirror Reflection

 In First Series of Paradoxes of Pure Becoming (the Kether chapter of LS, if you will), Deleuze starts by invoking Alice and Through the Looking Glass using her growing and shrinking to explain the nature of paradox.  "Good sense affirms that in all things there is a determinable sense and direction; but paradox is the affirmation of of both senses or directions at the same time." p. 1
 In this case, he means the two opposite directions of Alice growing and shrinking - to affirm them both at once.  "Good sense," in Wilson/Leary nomenclature = the societal/cultural belief systems programmed into us, i.e. our ordinary way of seeing the world; that which we try to peek past from time to time to go out.

Learning to affirm two opposite meanings as possible and true as well as looking at things backwards to FIND the opposite meaning, reversing directions, contemplating both directions at once becomes fundamental practices to students of Qabalah.  One of AC's exercises involves thinking and believing  the exact opposite to some strong opinion, or position you hold as a kind of waveform cancellation; another way to break set, to temporarily knock through belief systems and reality tunnels.  Affirming both senses or directions at the same time shines a lot of light on Crowley's mystique - the self-annointed Anti-Christ who said his school could produce Christs - as well as the Great Work in general.

We find a qabalistic lesson of reversed direction in The Book of the Law II 19: "Is a God to live in a dog?" An excellent example of looking in a reversed direction to unlock the sense of something occurs in the Marx Brothers film Animal Crackers when Groucho remarks that there is a dog missing in the fake painting put up to replace the one that's been stolen.  The plot of the film then revolves around the stolen painting.    The whole film appears a masterpiece of qabalistic transmission; highly recommended for regular study.   One can see Animal Crackers as a very literal title related to the BL/ becoming woman project of Deleuze and Crowley.

Schrodinger's Cat, RAW's continuation of Illuminatus! in its aspect of a guide to Qabalah, or, as it's literally put in the book, A Shamanic Manual, has the character Blake Williams - an obvious reversal of illuminated poet William Blake.  Wilson includes a subtler reversal between Williams' party dialog and the qabala implied.  The qabala sounds more like William Blake. 

More Nonsense

At the end of the Nineteenth Series of Humor, a chapter which nearly begins with a crack of the Zen Masters staff, with the word "staff" seeming like a pun on a musical staff, Deleuze describes a different relationship between sense and nonsense: "Becoming-mad changes shape on its way to the surface ... and the same thing happens to the dissolved self, the cracked I, the lost identity, when they cease being buried and begin, on the contrary, to liberate the singularities of the surface.  Nonsense and sense have done away with their dynamic opposition in order to enter into the co-presence of a static genesis - as the nonsense of the surface and the sense which hovers over it.  The tragic and the ironic give way to a new value, that of humor. ... humor is the co-extensiveness of sense with nonsense." LS p. 141
He goes on to say more about what humor does, basically saying that it leads to an enlightening state.

The use of nonsense and humor to produce sense appears to aptly describe the best works of two prominent occult writers, Robert Anton Wilson and James Joyce, but it also describes the writing style of Aleister Crowley and sometimes of Deleuze and Guattari.

In some of his works of fiction Wilson explored the cut-up technique which he picked up from Burroughs and Gysin.  This technique of cutting up any writing, from Shakespeare to the daily newspaper, then randomly rearranging it to see what new combinations get made by chance, becomes a way to generate sense out of nonsense.  This technique has been successfully used to come up with great song lyrics by both David Bowie and the Rolling Stones. 

Robert Anton Wilson quite brilliantly uses humor and nonsense, with a dash of paradox for flavor in his Introduction to the play Wilhelm Reich in Hell to communicate a particular kind of sense.  Our old friends the Mome Raths show up in this introduction - that's the only contribution from Alice which seems to echo Crowley's use of Mome Raths in BL 48

To be continued ...

Friday, December 30, 2016

Philosophy and Magick: Deleuze and Crowley with Special Guest Robert Anton Wilson

Magick could be called applied philosophy.  Philosophy can provide blueprints and start the ignis for affirmative action and intentional change. The two disciplines have been entwined dating back to antiquity.  The pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles introduced the division of matter into the four elements: Air, Water, Fire, Earth that continues as one fundamental principle of ritual magick to this day.  According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Empedocles: "has been regarded variously as a materialist physicist, a shamanic magician, a mystical theologian, a healer, a democratic politician, a living god, and a fraud."  Except for the democratic politician, that could pass for a description of Aleister Crowley.  The IEP goes on to say: "Empedocles did not make a clear separation between his philosophy of nature and the more mystical, theological aspects of his philosophy, and so may well have seen no great difference in kind between healing ills through empirical understanding of human physiognomy and healing by means of sacred incantations and ritual purifications."

An essential work of contemporary magical literature, The Tree of Life, A Study in Magic, by Israel Regardie, presents a clear and comprehensive overview of Golden Dawn-style magic.  The beginning of Chapter 3 starts with the section: "Necessity for philosophic training prior to undertaking practical work." Regardie makes the point quite clear:

Insisted upon by all the eminent Theurgists of past time of being of equal importance with practical work, and as a radical necessity giving precedence to that work, the august Philosophy which underlies the theory and technique of Magic is a prerequisite to any further discussion.  Indeed there can hardly be a real understanding of the rationale of Magic, and certainly no realization of the complexities taking place within and without the constitution of the Magician, if the corner stone of philosophy is not firmly laid in hir mind."

Couple of things about this quote: the subject "Theurgists" identifies the kind of Magic under discussion - magic to raise consciousness not magic to directly change something in the environment such as casting a love spell or winning the lottery.  Philosophy "as a radical necessity" squarely aligns with the approach of Gilles Deleuze - philosophy as a response to problematics.


Robert Anton Wilson, Aleister Crowley, and Gilles Deleuze share a common philosophical lineage in Friedrich Nietzsche.  I would add G.I. Gurdjieff  and P.D. Ouspensky to that list though in Gurdjieff's case it seems less verifiable.  We find much mythology over the sources of Gurdjieff's teaching and not much documented fact, to my knowledge.  Yet blatantly Nietzschean concepts find their way into his program to become elaborated and expanded upon.  We know from Ouspensky that Nietzsche was all the philosophical rage in Russian intellectual circles in the years immediate prior to Gurdjieff emerging upon the world stage in Russia.  Aleister Crowley candidly details his philosophic explorations in Confessions and elsewhere.  Several of Nietzsche's concepts get expanded into key points in Crowley's system: the crossing of the Abyss, the creation of the Overman, the revaluation of all values, etc. Crowley recognized Frederich Nietzsche's genius by anointing him a Saint in his Gnostic Mass. Nietzsche, in turn, was influenced by Baruch Spinoza.  Deleuze calls Spinoza the Christ of philosophers, "and we (i.e. other philosophers) are his disciples." Spinoza has been referred to as the first modern pantheist.  He was called an atheist in his time for rejecting the Judeo-Christian God in favor of an impersonal God of Nature - Nature's God.  This may have inspired the title for  third volume in Robert Anton Wilson's Historical Illuminatus series, Nature's God.  Wilson quotes Spinoza in Schrodinger's Cat at the beginning of the chapter Dancing Photons: "The intellectual love of things consists in understanding their perfections."

Nietzsche may have influenced Deleuze even more than Crowley or Gurdjieff.  Deleuze began his literary oeuvre with a series of historical portraits of, at the time, outsider philosophers like Hume, Nietzsche, Spinoza and Bergson.  He became known for using the history of philosophy for his own purposes, drawing out conclusions and interpretations to present a Deleuzean vision. Deleuze's Nietzsche appears quite different in significant ways then other interpretations.  Nietzsche has an image of great thinkers shooting the arrow of their work as far as possible with that arrow to be picked up by the next philosopher where it lands and flung further; building upon the work of your predecessors.  Both Deleuze and Crowley responded quite literally to this metaphor in different, but resonant ways. Deleuze wrote a significant and unique interpretation, Nietzsche and Philosophy, that revived interest in his philosophy in France just in time for the 1960's cultural revolution.  One of the last essays of his life beautifully summarized Nietzsche's philosophy.  In it, Deleuze claims to have found at least 12 different interpretations of the famous, " God is dead" proposition in Nietzsche's literary corpus. One of Deleuze's overall projects was to complete the concept of the Eternal Return which he said Nietzsche didn't have time to fully develop.  Deleuze notably does so at the conclusion of Difference and Repetition.  His interpretation disavows the common one, that everything repeats exactly the same, instead making the theory stand on its head to affirm difference as that which repeats.  The Eternal Return = repetition AND difference.  The film Groundhog Day provides an oversimplified example: it's always the same day, but there's always something different. The Eternal Return, as it appears in Finnegans Wake by James Joyce, became an early topic of discussion in the Tales of the Tribe course that Robert Anton Wilson gave. Finnegans Wake perfectly illustrates the difference and repetition of the Eternal Return.  Various cycles repeat themselves, sometimes frequently, yet they reveal something different every time.  Deleuze, for his part, borrowed the portmanteau term "chaosmos" - chaos + cosmos - from Finnegans Wake to describe the mixture of randomity and chance (chaos) with the ancient Greek philosophers who attempted to overlay order upon the world (cosmos).

 The Will to Power and Do What Thou Wilt.

It's said of some early 20th Century philosophers that one of their projects was to provide a
metaphysics for science.  We will offer a suggestion that Gilles Deleuze  provides a metaphysics for Thelema, the name of Aleister Crowley's agnostic religion.  It seems useful to look at Deleuze's interpretation of "the will to power, " a concept Nietzsche introduced, but didn't have time to fully explicate, in light of Crowley's "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" formulation. According to Ronald Bogue in Deleuze and Guattari, Deleuze defines the will to power as:

the genealogical element of force, both differential and genetic.  The will to power is the element from which derive both the quantitative difference of related forces and the quality that devolves into each force in this relation.  The will to power here reveals its nature as the principle of the synthesis of forces. (Nietzsche & Philosophy, p. 50, 56.)

Bogue gives an interpretation of Deleuze's interpretation:

It seems that Deleuze is here positing the will to power as a kind of inner center of force, a general orientation of becoming that only manifests itself in specific forces but goes beyond individual forces to link them in a line of development.

These two quotes are just an example of how the will to power can inform an approach to do what thou wilt.  The will to power, in this context, seems never about acquiring power over others, but rather getting power over yourself.  It seems you can acquire power over yourself through constant intentional change, or in other words, magick.  Through magick, you can gain self-mastery by making the self disappear.  Magick doesn't necessarily have to be exclusively improvised or directly followed from Crowley's rituals.  "Every intentional act is a Magical Act." (Magick, p.129). In the book Dialogues with Claire Parnet, Deleuze equates the will to power with the libido: "... an unbounded, free-floating energy which Freud called libido and which Nietzsche called will to power."  Crowley understood this same connection with his Do what thou wilt formula as evidenced by the sex magick instructions given in The Book of the Law, The Book of Lies and elsewhere in his writings.

Perhaps the core gist of Crowley's theurgic magick can be seen by how he composed his letters.  His correspondence to all and sundry always began, "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law."  This magically consecrates the letter with the collected forces and intentionality of this writing event (the letter) according to "the law."  After the body of the letter he tell us what law when signing off with, "love is the law, love under will."  In other words, no matter what they say, all of Crowley's correspondence used this magick formula to make them an intentional act of love under will; higher emotional, mental and somatic forces collected and given a specific direction; the preferred weapon of healers everywhere. At the start of Robert Anton Wilson's Crowley's 101 online course in 2005 ( the 101st anniversary of the reception of  The Book of the Law), Wilson began and ended his posts in the same way making them all acts of love under will.  He appeared quite fastidious about that for a time.

One of the biggest misunderstandings in Crowley's work to new friends and old foes alike is misinterpreting do what thou wilt for do what you want.  This seems completely wrong by the fact that it appears to inject the personality of the ordinary self into the equation.  "Thou" and "you" can't be exchanged without changing the entire sense of the statement.  A big mystery in the formula: who or what does "thou" represent?  What is meant by "thou?" If I recall correctly, it's somewhere in Illuminatus! where Wilson suggests that thou indicates the union of the personal will with God's will. Thou gets commonly interpreted as the source of the True Will  - the will of the deep self or true self as opposed to the human animal's will.  This still renders the meaning of "thou" as something mysterious, abstract, and difficult to grasp in a concrete way.

Deleuze's philosophy demonstrates the illusory nature of the subject - any subject, the idea of the subject as a real thing, a static entity transcendent and separate from its actions.  He takes this up from Nietzsche and other philosophers who say the common view of unchanging sedentary subjects who do things or have properties appears ultimately a consensual illusion programmed into us by the subject/predicate nature of language.  Loosening and getting more flexible with the programming of self, the world and God and of the ordinary way of seeing things seems an initial step in any mystery school. On page 3 of The Logic of Sense, Deleuze uses the "contesting of Alice's personal identity" in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass stories as an example of language and identity.  Deleuze writes:

"But when substantives and adjectives begin to dissolve, when the names of pause and rest are carried away by the verbs of pure becoming and slide into the language of events, all identity disappears from the self, the world and God.'

Although it sounds like the subject due to the requirements of language, "thou" in do what thou wilt can't be a set subject because we have no set subject. (In Egyptian mythology the god Set, of course, becomes the enemy of Horus, the "crowned and conquering child" of Thelemic chaosmology). Crowley affirms this with a comment in The Book of Lies: "Man is only himself when lost to himself in the charioteering;" i.e. the subject gets lost in the process or what Deleuze calls the event.

The reason that Nietzsche and Deleuze and others don't like a static subject is because it implies something, a metaphysical critter of some sort, continuously and permanently transcendent (outside) the conditions of its existence; a ghost in the machine.  Gilles and Friedrich prefer immanence to transcendence on the grand scale.  Although I suspect he didn't pick the title, Deleuze's last slim collection of essays released posthumously was called Pure Immanence to reflect the nature of his passion.

Nietzsche vehemently opposed the Christianity of his time because it subjugated its victims to the oppressive rules of a transcendent philosophy.  It is said that God made man in his image, but it seems more likely that man ended up making God in man's image with the help of the transcendent philosophies propounded by Plato, Aristotle and their followers.  The Christian God became an abstract, anthropomorphic ideal outside and beyond human experience.  You could only get to God by transcending human life when you died, but only if you behaved in the proscribed way.  All life, to the true believers, became beholden and regulated to a set of abstract transcendental ideals.

The philosophy of immanence, on the other hand, supposes that nothing happens outside of natural life - no abstract ideals serving as models for how to live life.  With his historical profiles, Deleuze championed philosophers of Immanence, in particular Spinoza and Nietzsche and updated the concept in ways particularly productive for the theurgic practitioner.  Aleister Crowley's extravagant claim that his school can produce "Christs," (Postcards to Probationers) could only be realized if that circuit (C6 in Leary's model) has an immanent relationship to the student's process.  To have any effect at all, magick require a philosophy of Immanence.  Crowley's 12th Thereom clearly reflects the immanent nature of magick:

WoMan appears ignorant of the nature of hir own being and powers.  Even hir ideas of hir limitations appears based on experience of the past, and every step in hir progress extends hir empire. There seems therefore no reason to assign theoretical limits to what she may be, or to what she may do.

 - Magick, p. 130, (translation modified).

One of the most significant books in Aleister Crowley's secondary literature is Illuminatus! by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson.  On one level, the book presents a guide to qabala (or cabala as they quaintly spell it), the ten chapters are named after the sephiroth on the Tree of Life.  The first chapter, the first sephira is Kether which refers to God in a general way without indicating or advocating any specific theist belief system though later on it seems pantheism becomes resonant with Kether.  The first sentence in Illuminatus! reads: 

It was the year when they finally immanentized the Eschaton. 

Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge, says that the phrase originated in 1952 as a political theory in Eric Voegelin’s. The New Science of Politics.  It means: “trying to make that which belongs to the afterlife happen here and now on Earth” or “trying to create heaven here on Earth.”  Wilson and Shea immediately align themselves to a philosophy of Immanence in alignment with the Thelemic current for which they contribute an unique exegesis.  Incidentally, the first narrator in Illuminatus! sounds remarkably like Lewis Carroll’s Alice when she’s unsure about who she is.  Illuminatus! begins right off with uncertainty about personal identity while, as mentioned, Deleuze confronts this point almost immediately in The Logic of Sense.  Uncertain personal identity challenges the reality and validity of the subject getting replaced by the dynamic process, or the event.  “I seem to be a verb, “ as Buckminster Fuller used to say.

For further research: this first sentence, "It was the year when they finally immanentized the Eschaton."  adds to 80.

Repetition and Love Under Will

In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze radically redefines the regular meaning of repetition.  He divides repetition into two kinds, bare and clothed.  A bare repetition is something that repeats in exactly the same way with no change.  A clothed repetition repeats something, but always in a different way which can include bringing in something  a little bit new, something different, or at the other end of the spectrum, a complete transformation.  Deleuze deals almost exclusively with clothed repetitions.  Whenever Deleuze uses the word repetition he means a clothed repetition unless indicated otherwise.  For him, repetition is how change occurs.  It occurs due to the difference each repetition can potentially bring.  When you add intention to the mix it becomes magick - causing change to occur under will.  You repeat the same ritual over and over and each time it's different in some way, different results, different affects and sensations.  Mix engineers naturally and instinctively know this.  Setting up an audio mix requires listening to the same piece of music repetitively for hours at a time.  Every playback has something different about it, something different gets perceived even if no changes were made to the mix. In general, over a lifetime you can listen to a song or a piece of music many, many, many times and hear it, feel it, sense it, and dance to it differently each time.  Never just repetition, always difference and repetition.

Repetition + Difference + Intention = Magick.

Difference and Repetition was Gilles Deleuze's first book devoted to his own philosophy. Up until that time, 1968, all his publications were historical sketches of other philosophers.  Difference and Repetition was his doctoral thesis.  On page 2 he writes:

The head is the organ of exchange, but the heart is the amorous organ of repetition.  (It is true that repetition also concerns the head, but precisely because it is its terror or paradox)."

The definition of amorous: "inclined or disposed to love, especially sexual love.  Practitioners of tantra, sex magick, and kundalini yoga maintain that sexual energy and spiritual energy refer to different uses of the same energy.  Calling the heart an amorous organ, giving it a sexual force obviously not a physical one, aligns with the efforts of the yogis to draw the kundalini energy up the spine  opening the heart chakra among all the others. The head as repetition's terror or paradox will get examined in a subsequent post that compares the use of paradox by Deleuze and Crowley.  It will be seen that creative repetition for Deleuze requires the cooperation of the head, the heart, and the somatic or sexual forces.  This appears to link repetition with difference to the will to power.  Combining repetition, as Deleuze describes it, with his interpretation of will to power seems an awful lot like love under will.

The way I see it, Deleuze beginning his doctoral thesis by identifying the heart as the organ of repetition (remember, he means clothed repetition, repetition with something different, repetition that brings change) seems cognate with Aleister Crowley insisting to students of the A.'. A.'. that all initial magical efforts should get directed to or focused upon attaining the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.  This operation represents one of the two main tasks in Thelema and takes place in the sphere of Tiphareth, the central Sephiroth on the Tree of Life, the Sephiroth connected to the heart chakra.  Illuminatus! begins in New York's Central Park, an obvious representation for Tiphareth.  Where else could you start if you're writing a guide to qabalah as one of Crowley's brightest students?  I suspect Wilson wrote most or all of the Crowley material in Illuminatus! unless it was Shea.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Crowley/Deleuze show featuring the use of paradox.