Saturday, September 30, 2017


My friend Phoebe asked me to write on this topic for research into her next album project.

The subject of "home" has always been one close to my heart, there are multiple ways to see it.  The old saying, "home is where the heart is," rings true for me.  I have a nomadic nature - wherever I go, there I am, so home for me is wherever I'm currently residing; in bardo terms, whatever Chamber currently being passed through.  At the moment, I'm on tour - home for me, as I wrote this, is room 47 in the Banfield Motel in Portland, Oregon, but only for another hour.  I'm about to upscale to a better hotel downtown, my home is packed and ready to move.

At the same time, I see home as a permanent sanctuary space that I have a vague cellular or memetic memory of having once known but can't consciously recall ever having been there.  Perhaps this partially explains the nomadic tendencies, a journey through a lifetime to return home, wherever that is.  This image evokes the archetypal journey of the Odyssey in Greek mythology, Odysseus's long, perilous journey home after the Trojan war; also the protracted wandering of the Israelites in the wilderness before reaching the Promised Land.  Dylan's paradoxical koan-like lyrics: "... no direction home, a complete unknown, like a rolling stone," speak to this feeling as do the lyrics to the Crowley-inspired Led Zeppelin song, Rock-n-Roll.

Like many adolescents, I felt alienated and disconnected from current social expectations and the conventional cultural milieu; any sense of a real kind of home becoming distant, especially after moving out of the parental pod immediately upon turning 16.  Whenever I listened to Led Zeppelin back then, and still to this day, I felt closer to being at home.  A lot of good music in general invokes the home space, the place of sanctuary.

The passage that first turned me on to Deleuze and Guattari nicely articulates the relationship between music and home.  It's the beginning of the 11th chapter in A Thousand Plateaus:

"I. A child in the dark, gripped with fear, comforts himself by singing under his breath. He walks and halts to his song. Lost, he takes shelter, or orients himself with his little song as best he can. The song is like a rough sketch of a calming and stabilizing, calm and stable, center in the heart of chaos. Perhaps the child skips as he sings, hastens or slows his pace. But the song itself is already a skip: it jumps from chaos to the beginnings of order in chaos and is in danger of breaking apart at any moment. There is always sonority in Ariadne's thread. Or the song of Orpheus.

II. Now we are at home.But home does not preexist:it was necessary to draw a circle around that uncertain and fragile center, to organize a limited space...."

It seems an interesting paradox that home doesn't pre-exist, but the sense of it does. Most of us have an idea of how to create a home for ourselves; there usually seems an instinctive direction for going home.

Drawing a circle around an uncertain and fragile center is also a prime instruction in ritual magick.  In ritual magick you learn to create an inner space, a particular mood, of your choosing.  This space can be the home space.  With ritual magick you learn how to go home by creating a home. It is where? "Ritual is to the inner sciences what experiment is to the outer sciences." ( Robert Anton Wilson from 1986 internet chat recently posted by  Building a home, going home appears an endeavor of multiple and prolonged experimentation with perhaps many restarts. The fragile and uncertain center can get wiped out like a sand castle on the beach when the tide rolls in, but there's always lots of sand to construct another;  memory, the collection of data through personal experimentation, makes it easier and stronger next time around.

Hospitality, so important to Sufis, is the art of making the guest feel at home.

I hear the communication in the video below coming more from the guitar playing than the lyrics.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Jason Corsaro - High Fidelity Sound Engineer

A Poet makes himself a visionary through a long, boundless, and systematized disorganization of all the senses. All forms of love, of suffering, of madness; he searches himself, he exhausts within himself all poisons and preserves their quintessence's. Unspeakable torment, where he will need the greatest faith, a superhuman strength, where he becomes among all men the great invalid, the great criminal, the great accursed--and the Supreme Scientist!
-  Arthur Rimbaud

The Starlight Lounge, that plane of existence where the best musicians and comedians hang out après-vie, finally got their recording and mix engineer of equal calibre.  Jason Corsaro left his planetary body two weeks ago at the criminally young age of 58, and he is sorely missed.  Jason was to the recording studio what Hendrix was to the guitar, or what Coltrane, Coleman and Davis were to the horn, an innovator of the instrument.  In Jason's case, he used the recording studio to produce and invent new means of musical expression.  This may sound like hyperbole, but it's not, you can check other testimonials around the web where he's getting similar acclaim (" best engineer ever," says one).  The honorific, High Fidelity, doesn't refer to its conventional sense.  Jason created his own fidelity, that of an extremely original, high musical aesthetic that evolved and sometimes devolved, but was always different.  He had a unique sound that always changed.

Jason was larger than life.  Whenever he entered a room, life expanded to accommodate his presence.  That was the first thing I learned from him when we met.  Jason had the natural, unassuming aura of a star. I didn't spend all that much time with him during a short apprenticeship, but I came away from it loving him like a brother.  The longer projects we worked together on, each about a week to ten days, included: The Swans, The Ramones, Ginger Baker, Ronald Shannon Jackson and Stevie Salas.  There were some one-offs: a song by L.A. Guns that never saw the light of day, and a few songs by the French group FFF.  For FFF, he mixed the most important tracks and I took over the rest.  The torch was finally passed on that project and it did very well for the band in France. I also had the great fortune to assist him recording Tony Williams and a group of jazz luminaries.that included Elvin Jones, Sonny Sharrock, Pharoah Saunders and Charnette Moffat.  Each and every of these brief tenures is at the top of my list of most intense life experiences.

In a beautiful tribute to his friend and former collaborator, Nile Rodgers writes to Jason: "In some way you changed the world."  Yes he did.  For instance, it was Jason's mixing skills that temporarily promoted drummer Tony Thompson to a job with Led Zeppelin.

Mixing live sound for bar bands in the early and mid 1980s, every drummer, without exception, would ask me to make the drums sound like Led Zeppelin's John Bonham's kit.  Until, one day in late 1985, the drummer for the bar band Blade Runner requested that his drums sound like the Corsaro engineered Power Station record.  This became my first encounter with Jason's influence and ability to change the music industry.  With Bonham, you could hang one mic in a stairwell (When the Levee Breaks) and get a huge, powerful, drum sound.  The drum sound on the Power Station album started with a powerful hitting drummer but was reached through studio manipulation with Corsaro reportedly punching in and out every reverb move on the drums.  After Bonham died, Zeppelin hired Tony Thompson for their Live Aid reunion.  You can get a good idea of Jason's drum sound on Robert Palmer's hit Addicted to Love, another Thompson/Corsaro sonic collaboration:

 Thompson on that recording experience:

The engineer, Jason Corsaro, took a tube the size of my bass drum and built this tunnel from my bass drum all the way out into the hall and up the stairs. It was this weird thing he hooked up. And it worked.

Another major contribution Jason made towards changing the world, for better or for worse depending upon your perspective, was recording and mixing Madonna's Like A Virgin album, the record that made her a star.  He never once mentioned that to me. 

My second encounter with Jason was also virtual occurring when Bill Laswell played Cold Metal, the first track off of Iggy Pop's Instinct album, in Platinum Island's Studio East control room.  Half of this Laswell produced record was mixed by Corsaro at the Power Station while the other half was mixed by Robert Musso at Platinum Island with yours truly assisting.  From the opening chord the mix of Cold Metal jumped out of the speakers with its energy, intensity, and excitement and made Musso visibly nervous about reaching that standard.  After Bill and company left, as Bob and I began working on the song Easy Rider, Musso lamented that the Power Station studio had beautiful sounding live chambers, how could he match that?  I pointed out that we could set up the recording room in our studio as a live chamber and proceeded to do so.  A live chamber is any acoustic space configured with amplified speakers fed by an auxiliary send from the mixing desk.  This space is miced, often with the mics in a cardiod pattern aimed away from the speakers.  These microphones are routed to return channels on the board to make for a natural reverberation chamber that sounds significantly better than even the most expensive digital reverb devices.

This was the first time Platinum Island's studio was utilized in this way and the room sounded great as a live chamber. I continue to use this mixing technique to this day.  In fact, first on the agenda today when I start mixing the MaMuse record in a couple of hours, is to set up and process tracks through the live chamber at Prairie Sun known as the Waits Room, named for its discoverer as a recording space.  It makes for one of the best small live chambers in the world. This room is another studio on the property that's booked up beginning tomorrow so I'll go through all the songs to send the tracks I want processed through the chamber and record them back into the Pro Tools session.  I inadvertently rediscovered this "old school" method in response to Musso's concern over matching the intensity of Jason's Iggy Pop's mixes.  When Jason started mixing at Platinum Island he used that live chamber all the time.

Bob Musso rose to the occasion and produced comparably powerful mixes on his half of Instinct.  Corsaro's work motivated Musso to reach a higher level in a similar way that Hendrix's guitar virtuosity spurred Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell to play beyond their capacity in the early Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Jason didn't seem particularly keen about sharing his engineering techniques with anyone outside of the sessions yet, as others have also observed, he was very generous about passing on his knowledge and taking proteges under his wing.  The last day of the first project we worked together, The Swans -  The Burning World,  Jason turned me loose to mix the two alternate acoustic tracks giving a short mixing lesson in the process.  I feel it's historically important to the recording community to share some of his techniques and approaches to sound engineering in the same way as it is examining the methodology of any great musician.  No one can take his place and achieve the same results, you would have to be Jason to do that, however, his mixing style can inspire creative, outside-the-box sonic artistry.

Here's a few things I learned from him.  In retrospect, some of these appear quite obvious, but they were revelations to me at the time, and in this day and age where a high percentage of musicians are also amateur engineers, I expect these tips will be useful.

1.  Remember who you are and what you can do.  Bring your full presence of attention and confidence in your ability into the space.  Radiate this confidence like a star.  If you don't feel confident, fake it.

2. Process effects.  Most, nearly all, engineers I assisted prior to Jason would return their reverbs, delays etc. straight back into the board.  On a regular basis, Corsaro would  EQ, compress, gate and route effects into other effects sometimes daisy chaining four or five different processors together to come up with something previously unheard of in this space/time continuum; detune the live drum chamber, add a dash of chorus, flange or phase shifting to a reverb, etc.  Something as simple as low passing a reverb return (i.e. rolling off the high frequencies) can make a big difference.  Darker reverbs sound more natural.  I wish I had saved all the recall notes for Jason's sessions to give specific examples.

3.  Be fully present in the moment.  The moment that the mix is being printed is when the invocation is landing into a corporeal form; when it assumes a morphology taking a material shape.  As much as possible, Jason would make the creation of the mix a live event.  After getting all the sounds and setting up a balance of the tracks, he would assign all the major food groups (drums, bass, keys guitars, vocals etc.) to the eight subgroup faders in the middle of the SSL console.  Then he'd mix the song in one pass as a live performance.  He might do a few or several passes, like a guitar player trying to nail the perfect solo, but, in my experience with him, it was always the whole song in one go.  He wasn't the type of mixer to work on tweaking a section one fader at a time before moving to the next section. Not to say that he wouldn't embellish and tweak this first basic pass, but the idea was to do the whole thing at once, to create a live mix performance in the studio.

A great example to hear that is the aforementioned Iggy Pop song, Cold Metal.  Jason told me that just when that track was going to print, the SSL computer automation broke down and wouldn't work.  All the sounds were set, everything was routed to the central subgroup faders so Jason mixed it live to the two track mixdown recorder.  When working in this fashion, you are mixing from the heart and soul - intuitively and on  the fly.  There isn't time to mentally think about getting everything in its "proper" place.  Any great artistic creation bypasses the rational mind and its worries, concerns and editorial censorship.  The guitar solo in Cold Metal is slightly inside the track, a little lower in volume level than where you'd commonly place a solo, but the energy and excitement of the track is undeniable.  It's the only song from Instinct that made it onto an Iggy Pop Greatest Hits compilation.  Contrast that with the guitar solo level in another Corsaro mixed song from Instinct, Strong Girl which sounds a little louder than your average solo.  There's a couple of syncrhonicities going on here.  First of all, the album is called Instinct; Jason mixed from instinct and intuition - heart and soul, not from his rational mind.  The first line in Cold Metal is: "I play tag in the auto graveyard..." - the SSL computer automation was in the graveyard when Jason materialized that mix into the world.

4. Mix as if it's life or death. This seems the difference between an artist attempting to create something that's never been seen or heard before and a craftsperson producing a socially and culturally accepted artifact according to a standard formula.  Quoting from a much earlier post: "One thing I really picked up from Jason was his intensity, focus and commitment to the work. He aimed for mixes that broke barriers and reached for new levels of sonic expression. It's hard to get across just how intense the space was when he was working. You had to be at your highest degree of presence and attention, more so than you ever thought possible because that's where he was at. He was going for sounds, especially in the low end, that would present ground-breaking music, such as the Ginger Baker album, Middle Passage, more powerfully than ever before; to strike a Universal Chord, create a vibrational pattern that could and would, perhaps, resonate throughout the planet. At times it would seem that Jason would mix as if the fate of the World hung in the balance. He intensely loved what he was doing which probably contributed significantly to the success his work enjoyed."

Suggested listening:  I haven't had the chance to listen Jason's to entire oeuvre, but I do intend to catch up with some of his classic mixes as points of study.  Here is a selection of tracks that I know about with a few comments:

1. Public Image Limited, the entire generic Album.  Jason once relayed a story of recording Ginger Baker's drums for this album.  One Sunday at the Power Station recording studio, when most of the staff wasn't around, he somehow managed to stop the elevator, place a sheet of thick plywood for a platform on top of the elevator and set up the drums in the elevator shaft.  Later on he got in a lot of trouble from the Power Station management.  If anyone got hurt, insurance wouldn't have covered it and they would have been liable for any potential lawsuits.

2.  Swans - The Burning World.  In particular, the tracks The River That Runs with Love Won't Run Dry, Let It Come Down, Can't Find My Way Home,(She's A) Universal Emptiness, and Saved. From the earlier post:

"For the first two sessions (of this project) I did the standard assistant's job of patching, keeping notes, etc while also hanging back, staying out of Jason's way and not saying much, which was the politically correct way of working as an assistant - not offering any input or opinion unless asked or if something drastically wrong was occurring.

At the end of the second night, Corsaro had, a 'let's get real' talk with me that was kind of a kick in the ass. I don't remember exactly what he said, but something to the effect that I could either continue working as any other stay-in-the-lines assistant engineer jerk or I could seriously help him mix the record as a co-pilot. From then on I was right beside him at the board watching his every move like a hawk, making suggestions when appropriate, even helping with automation moves when his hands were full."

From another post about this recording:

"One example of how strong the mood became for me was during the mix of the Swans cover of Can't Find My Way Home written by Steve Winwood and originally performed by Blind Faith, the 'super-group' with Winwood, Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Ric Grech.

Come down off your throne and leave your body alone
Somebody must change

You are the reason I've been waiting so long

Somebody holds the key

Well I'm near the end and I just ain't got the time

And I'm wasted and I can't find my way home...

Somehow, the combination of the way Jarboe sang it, the music, and the fact of living the song from the inside out by helping Jason set-up the mix and hearing it over and over again, put me in a mood where, within the confines of the control room, it really felt like a life or death situation. I was mindful of the song's context and history, and the self-destructive excesses it was obviously addressing. I really felt it could go either way, toward life or to death. Trilok's pitch bending, slower tabla rhythm helped produce this effect. Karl Berger, founder of the influential Woodstock based Creative Music Studio, had added a nice bell like counter line on a xylophone that seemed to draw in an angelic presence to guard the vulnerability of balancing on the edge that came through Jarboe's vocal delivery. Even as the lyrics look hopeless, the music, the performance, and the haunting dreamy nature of the audio space Jason created, gave the effect of seeing a distant light at the end of a long dark tunnel suggesting the possibility of transformation, redemption and change."

3.  Ginger Baker - Middle Passage.  This remains one of the most sonically powerful  recording expressions I've ever been a part of.  Quoting about the drum solo:

"The peak of watching Jason work occurred during the mix of the 5th track, Basil, a 4:21 drum solo by Baker. Through extreme, but parallel processing, he created radically different textures in the drum sound which he then, using the SSL automation, brought in and out to create different dynamic sections. I'm hesitant to be more specific about the effects used but I can say that when Jason worked the automation to create or emphasize the different sections, it was like watching a virtuoso musical performance. Both Bill Laswell and I were sitting with Jason at the SSL while he made multiple passes to get the automation just right. I had the feeling that Bill was equally aware that we were watching a master at the top of his game. It's a memory that I'll never forget. I highly recommend checking out Basil, it's some of the most powerful drumming you'll ever hear. It's about the only drum recording I know of that musically and sonically compares with John Bonham's Moby Dick for a powerfully melodic drum composition, brought to the forefront through Jason's mix."

I do remember one of the effects he used for it - a triggered flanged autopan program from the Eventide H3000 SE which he ran the tom toms through.

Bill Laswell and Yoko Yamabe put this together to honor his memory:

To the being of Jason Corsaro: bon voyage, mon ami, you changed my life. Your work and legacy live on.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Butterfly Language, Sumer, and the Plane of Immanence, (Slight Return)

Butterfly Language is an excellent blog that readers of the Oz Mix will likely want to check out on a regular basis.  It's written, constructed and published by Valerie D’Orazio frequently.  It came across my radar when posted a link to the first installment in a series about Jack Parsons, one of Aleister Crowley's magical sons and the inventor of solid rocket fuel, titled: An Alternate History of Jack Parsons, Part I: Warrior Lord of the Forties.  Ms. D'Orazio uses a technique called Imaginative Cognition (IC), she learned writer Walter Stein, to intuitively embellish the narrative and offer insights.  The writing is entertaining, engaging, and thought provoking.  I'm reminded of one the more enjoyable Crowley biographies: Magician of the Golden Dawn: the story of Aleister Crowley, by Susan Roberts which took great liberties imagining the Magus' interior states, thoughts and emotions.  D'Orazio is more transparent about her process and that honesty makes for a stronger invocation.  Another interesting and novel feature are the links to popular culture images and tropes to illustrate this alternate history.  I would like to see more writing like this in Thelemic literature because it seems a creative and valid way to effectively explore, expand and communicate the 93 current.  After all, I suspect much of Crowley's artistic output could accurately be described as Imaginative Cognition.

* * * * * *
Well, I stand up next to a mountain, chop it down with the edge of my hand.

 - Jimmi Hendrix, Voodoo Child (Slight Return)

Earlier we spoke of the plane of immanence as an open-ended environment, a framework where concepts arise, live and proliferate; meet up, connect, and give birth to experimental offspring; mutatis mutandis  Every major thinker posits their own plane of immanence for ideas and thought experiments to flourish and find means of expression. The introductory linguistics of Crowley's and Gurdjieff's systems were presented as examples.  Deleuze conceives of a plane of immanence of the age.  We will observe what that looks like from here: the plane of immanence as it encompasses systems of Initiation; the transformation into the all-worlds sympathetic, post-human condition.

Some Deleuzian commentators make note that the French word plan means both plane - as in a geometrical plane, and plan - forming a strategy, and suggest that Deleuze intends the pun.  We see Deleuze's pun and raise him a gravity defying vehicle, to wit: the plane of immanence = an airplane for traveling through the macrodimensions of the labyrinth, the hidden recesses of the soul, the parts of the brain we don't use because they are mostly dormant, however, they appear immanent, always there, if unseen and unnoticed.  This reads like what they say about bardo spaces - we are always there, always in the bardo, in a between-lives state moving from one relative point of stability to another; like being on a subway train or an airplane flying over the ocean.  We acknowledge at least 3 meanings of the phrase "plane of immanence:" 1) the abstract geometrical plane where concepts are born, grow up and procreate, 2) a plan, a strategy for evoking and invoking the limitless possibilities of our future becomings, 3) an airplane of immanence, a vehicle for traveling anywhere and everywhere the mind can conceive and beyond. " A vehicle for Deleuze's " lines of flight."  I had a dream, crazy dream ... anything I wanted to know, any place I needed to go." (Led Zeppelin, The Song Remains the Same, a musical expression of the plane of immanence)  We note the magical pun with the element Air = intellect; the airplane of immanence = a linguistic plane- we get there with language.

What follows is a quick sketch, albeit a very incomplete fragment, of the plane of immanence as it regards Initiation, from this biased reporter.  In modern times, this plane begins to assume its current reach with the emergence of works by Friedrich Nietzsche and Arthur Rimbaud in the latter half of the Nineteenth Century.

As I attempt to thumbnail on paper this plane of initiatory immanence, a young women walks into the coffee shop sporting a large hawk with outspread wings tattooed across her upper back and shoulders.  The hawk being a foremost iconic symbol of Thelema: "I am the Hawk-Headed Lord of Silence & of Strength; my nemyss shrouds the night-blue sky." Liber Al 3:70.

Synchronicity as affirmation.

Nietzsche conceived a new form of humanity, perhaps a life beyond the human.  He suggested that a vast gulf, or abyss exists between what we are now and what we can become.  He also suggested a revaluation of all values.  Contemporaneously, Arthur Rimbaud, steeped with knowledge of the Hermetic Arts, poetically fleshes out and describes this abyss in A Season in Hell with glimpses and snapshots of the life beyond in Illuminations. Rimbaud recognized the power of linguistics: "Rimbaud had outlined his fantastic self-ordained mission to 'change life itself' by means of a totally new kind of language, by means of magic." (Bertrand Mathieu).  Bob Dylan and Patti Smith are two contemporary artists profoundly influenced by Rimbaud and his mission.

Crowley made "Crossing the Abyss" the second and final attainment in his magical system of making the immanent actual. This follows upon the "Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel", magickspeak for learning how to communicate with a highly intelligent, non-human guide.  Scientific materialists might call it learning to active different parts of the brain or unlocking hidden strands in the DNA code, and they could be right.

Apart from Crowley, this abyss has been explored in literature by Robert Anton Wilson, Thomas Pynchon, Phillip K. Dick, Kenneth Patchen, James Joyce, Kenneth Grant, Flann O'Brien and probably others that I'm leaving out.

Nietzsche also referred to the revaluation of values as transvaluation because they are values that go far beyond the current ones.  Crowley made the transvaluation of values a primary theme in his Book of Lies.  Looking for that quote, I became startled with another hawk synch:

Zoroaster describes God as having the head of the Hawk, and a spiral force. It will be difficult to understand this chapter without some experience in the transvaluation of values, which occur throughout the whole of this book, in nearly every other sentence. Transvaluation of values is only the moral aspect of the method

- Book of Lies, commentary on chapter 42

Slight return to the plane of immanence timeline: Madame Blavatsky formed the Theosophical Society in 1875, the same year Aleister Crowley was born. This began the process of making the spiritual path more democratic and self-reliant; advocating an eclectic approach to esoteric practices and strategies for the genesis of the post human animal condition.  Crowley first published his system in the Equinox beginning in in 1909.  In it, right near the beginning in Postcards To Probationers, he claimed to be able to produce "Christs" (Leary's C6) with his methods.  If you entertain the notion that this is possible, then you're open to the plane of immanence.

Right around the same time, or shortly after, G.I. Gurdjieff emerged upon the scene in St. Petersburg and Moscow, introduced to the intelligentsia by P.D. Ouspensky.  Both men absorbed Nietzsche. Using and expanding upon many of the philosopher's ideas, Gurdjieff takes up the production and development of a new kind of human in a completely different, but complementary fashion than Crowley.  Cross-referencing the two radically different systems can prove very useful to understanding both of them.  Once, in a monastery, I saw a drawing of the Enneagram superimposed upon the Tree of Life.

Lady of Largest Heart

The slight return of the plane of immanence refers to the fact that both Crowley and Gurdjieff said that they were presenting a revival of an ancient tradition.  Both these teachers crossed paths with the Yezidi, an extremely ancient culture that archeologists have dated back to at least 12,000 B.C.  Crowley was very specific about the ancient influence: "Aiwaz is not (as I had supposed) a mere formula like many angelic names, but it is the true most ancient name of the God of the Yezidis, and thus returns to the highest Antiquity. Our work is therefore historically authentic, the rediscovery of the Sumerian Tradition."  Aiwaz or Aiwass was the name of the non-human entity that dictated the Book of the Law to Crowley.  He referred to this entity as his Holy Guardian Angel.

Lady of Largest Heart is the name of second oldest known poem in the world.  It was composed by Enheduanna, a High Priestess of Sumer and daughter of the first ruler in that land, Sargon, in homage to the Goddess, Inanna.  I recently discovered this in a wonderful book called: Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart: Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess Enheduanna by Betty De Shong Meador.  Enheduanna was passionately devoted to Inanna her whole life and was responsible for elevating her  to the position of supreme deity.  The first poem ever recorded, also by Enheduanna, Inanna and Ebih, tells how Inanna put down an uppity male god challenging her domain who manifested as a mountain. The Hendrix quote above encapsulates what Inanna does in the poem.  I am fascinated by the coincidence that the first verse of Voodoo Child (Slight Return) channels the world's oldest poem.  The poem was translated well after his death so he couldn't possibly have been consciously influenced by it.

The first lines that Meador quotes from Enheduanna greatly resembles Crowley's image of Babalon as she appears in the Thoth Tarot XI called Lust or Strength:

child of the Moon God
a soft bud swelling
her queen's robe cloaks the slender stem

             * * *

 steps, yes she steps her narrow foot
on the furred back 
of a wild lapis lazuli bull

and she goes out
white-sparked, radiant
in the dark vault of evening's sky
star-steps in the street
through the Gate of Wonder

In her poems and hymns, Enheduanna reveals Inanna as a complex goddess with multiple natures. Describing how Inanna was understood by the Sumerians, Meador writes:

"In these poems we see that the very being of this goddess infuses and vivifies all nature and natural processes.  She is the divine in matter,  As such, she sustains the ebb and flow, the relentless paradoxical reality of the natural world.  She exists between blessing and curse, light and dark, plenty and want, goodness and malevolence, life and death.  Harsh is her reality may seem, it is the Real every living being must encounter."

Cosmic Trigger, the book where I first encountered the dynamic duo, Crowley and Gurdjieff, begins with parables from traditions that strongly influenced author Robert Anton Wilson. The first anecdote comes from the Sufis.  The second story tells of the goddess Ishtar's descent into the Underworld.  Ishtar is the Babylonian version of Inanna.

On page 156 of Betty Meador's book, she traces the Tree of Life to the second poem, Lady of Largest Heart:

Inanna in this poem 'spans the tree of heaven / trunk to crown.' Likewise the central symbol of the Assyrian Ishtar is the tree that Parpola says 'contained the secret key to the psychic structure of the perfect man and thus to eternal life.'  The tree appears in medieval Judaism as the Tree of Life of Kabbalah, a primary symbol of Jewish mysticism.

Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart is a must read for anyone interested in studying the roots of Thelema or for anyone interested in seeing how the power of the active feminine can change the world.  "Well I stand up next to a mountain, chop it down with the edge of my hand.  Pick up all the pieces and make an island, might even raise a little sand."

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Deleuze Qabalah Proof

We must learn anew in order that at last, perhaps very late in the day,
 we may be able to do something more: feel anew. 
-  Friedrich Nietzsche, The Dawn of Day

Slept all night in a cedar grove, 
I was born to ramble, born to roll.
Some men are searching for the Holy Grail, 
but there ain't nothing sweeter than riding the rail
- Tom Waits, Cold Water

Writers who employ qabalistic and other literary devices to transmit multi-layered meanings of imagery and information will sometimes dangle blatant clues encouraging the code-breaking reader to look in that direction.  They start with basic and obvious correspondences to draw attention' then increase the complexity of the associations. Decoding this multi-level writing encourages the reader to develop puzzle solving skills and to eventually become maze-bright.  Learning to negotiate and solve puzzles and mazes of any kind helps develop the skill set for solving more difficult mazes.... such as life ... and death.

Qabalistic subtext, among other things, involves the transposition of letters into numbers.  Each number carries a variety of different avenues of interpretation, different meanings, conrespondences and connections as listed in the standard qabalistic dictionary, 777 and other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley.  This essay presents the argument that Gilles Delueze, at times, communicates qabalistically, a discovery I first made in The Logic of Sense.  Qabalah actually serves as a logic of sense, but by no means the only one.

The experimental nature of Deleuze's masterpiece, The Logic of Sense, becomes immediately apparent upon seeing the Table of Contents where the sections get structured as numbered sets of Series rather than Chapters.  This transposition from Chapters to Series befits both the nonlinear and dynamic nature of the subject material.  Any given subject doesn't necessarily begin with its designated Series, nor does it conclude at the chapter's end.  Each Series comprises a discrete block of subject material, a line of thought, that overlaps, interconnects and runs parallel to all the other series. We envision an analogy with electronics - the two basic electrical circuits being series and parallel.

The first number/letter correlation that caught my attention and tipped me off to the code was the  Twenty-Sixth Series of Language.  There are 26 letters in both the English and French alphabets.  That's what I mean by a blatantly obvious correspondence between number and subject.  Anyone remotely literate in either of these languages knows they have 26 letters in their alphabetr, you don't have to be a certified qabalist to see that.  There seems a reason that Deleuze made language the subject of the 26th series.  I suggest this widely known, simple correspondence, to be a hint to look for more complex relations.  The next rung on the ladder comes right away: Twenty-Seventh Series of Orality plugs in directly to the qabalistic grid.

The framework for this grid is known as the Tree of Life.  It contains 10 Sephiroth (spheres of influence) and 22 paths connecting these spheres.  They get arrayed on three vertical pillars, The Pillar of Mercy, the Middle Pillar, and the Pillar of Severity.  Each path gets assigned a Hebrew letter.  Also, each path and each Sephiroth has a key number, 1 to 10 for the Sephiroth and 11 - 32 for the paths.  I'm giving this very basic outline for the beginning qabalist to demonstrate the significance of 27 and orality.  In the spirit of increasing complexity, more info on this esoteric language will be given in due course.  Each letter of the Hebrew alphabet is given a name that suggests a "pictorial glyph suggested by  the shape of the letter."  For example, the first letter Aleph "means an Ox, principally because the shape of the letter suggests the shape of a yoke." The 27th key corresponds to the Hebrew letter, פּ, - Pe (pronounced "pay') -  "a Mouth, is explained by the shape of the letter.  The Yod represents the tongue." (quotes from 777 ).  The Twenty-Seventh Series of Orality presents an explicit association with Qabalah.

The Tree of Life

Key 27 is the exact place to start if one considers Deleuze a philosophical beacon for Thelema.  This key corresponds with the tarot trump The Tower also called War.  "The picture shows the destruction of the existing material by fire." (The Book of Thoth).  Relate that to Deleuze taking up and continuing Nietzsche's project of overturning Platonism, his criticism and rejection of Hegel's dialectic or of Descarte's cogito (i.e "I think therefore, I am").  Deleuze has been at war with and sought to destroy conventional assumptions in mainstream philosophy right from the start of his career.  One of his key concepts for breaking with past convention of any kind is the War Machine which he developed and wrote about with Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus.  More on the War Machine and Magick here.

Crowley's Tower card has a large eye at the top which he implies is the opening of the Eye of Horus - the gnostic, experiential introduction of Thelemic cosmology.  The popular introduction to Thelema masked as one of the best Science Fiction books ever, Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land contains much symbolism of the path of Pe.  This may be the best path to introduce Thelema because it is the first path that crosses the vertical pillars to connect the Sephira Hod on the Pillar of Mercy with Netzach  on the Pillar of Severity - the intellect (Hod) with ordinary emotions (Netzach).  It also connects the element Water (Hod) with Fire (Netzach).  More on that later.  The balance and uniting of the three lower centrums, the physical, emotional, and intellectual in a common direction produces real Will, according to Gurdjieff.

The Tower Thoth Tarot card

Immediately north of the path of Pe on the Tree is what's called the Veil of Paroketh.  The Book of the Law indicates three grades in Thelema: the Hermit, the Lover, and the man of Earth. Coming just below Tiphareth and above Pe, the Veil of Paroketh separates the grade of the man of Earth from the Lover. The man of Earth begins the process 'know thyself" - self-observation, self-study etc. and begins formulating their True Will.  The Lover grade gets attained when passing through the Veil of Paroketh to reach the solar emanation Tiphareth.  The veil represents the obstacles to that.  This veil is symbolized in Biblical scripture in Mark 15:38: "And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom."  This occurs at the moment of JC's death on the cross, or as they say, when he "gave up his ghost."  This death/rebirth motif appears a basic tool in the Thelemic war machine of Initiation and represents a major apsect of the symbolism of the path of Pe.

Back to The Logic of Sense: the series/parallel nature of the book already becomes apparent with the increasing  numerological complexity between Series 26 and 27.  They follow each other in the Table of Contents in serial fashion while the occult series of qabalistic subtext runs parallel to the literal text.

The next series demonstrating increasing qabalistic subtlety to this eye is: the Fourteenth Series of Double Causality.  Key 14 signifies the path of Daleth and connects the sephira of Chokmah with Binah, the archetypal Father with the archetypal Mother - double causality.  This represents the third and topmost crosspath on the Tree of Life.  It also connects the root of Fire (Chokmah) with the root of Water (Binah).  Series 27 and 14, the lower and higher crosspaths in the Tree of Life, appear the only two that show an obvious qabalistic link between its number and title.

That it happens to be these two paths so indicated has much personal significance for me because I got an instruction very early, as a student of this Art, to examine the relationship between these two paths. I thus associate these two paths with beginning studies of this kind, so find it synchronistic that Deleuze also begins here.

Still with the Table of Contents: other Series titles have no obvious correlation with Qabalah in its universal form, however, every unorthodox practitioner of the Art devises their own lexicon based on personal experience and individual associations.  For moi, the Sixth Series on Serialization indicates an advanced look at Tiphareth (key 6).  The first sentence in this Series: "The paradox of indefinite regress is the one from which all the other paradoxes are derived." strongly resonates with the function of Tiphareth along with the prime directive that to go anywhere in the macrodimensions one must first pass through the heart of the Labyrinth. (Labyrinth terminology originates from Nietzsche: "If we had to venture upon an architecture after the style of our own souls, a labyrinth would have to be our model.  That music which is peculiar to us, and which really expresses us, lets this be clearly seen." - The Dawn of Day).

As mentioned, The Logic of Sense comprises a collection of Series. The Sixth Series on Serialization beginning as it does with "indefinite (not infinite) regress" suggests that the whole book embraces an indefinite solar invocation.  An indefinite regress seems far more experientially accurate than an infinite regress in the multiplicities of experimental solar invocation. Every Series starts its title with a number followed by the word "of;"  for example, First Series of Paradoxes of Pure Becoming etc., except the Sixth and Twentieth Series which has the Series number followed by the word "on."  Long time readers of this blog, as well as adepts with Crowley's linguistics, will recognize the word "on" as one of Crowley's magical formulas.  I suggest that Deleuze was aware of this; this formula relates to Tiphareth, one could say that it's solar powered.  The Twentieth Series on the Moral Problem In Stoic Philosophy concludes its synopsis in the Table of Contents with: "To understand, to will, and to represent the event;" a phrase that speaks as equally well to the ON formula.

The Twenty-Third Series of the Aion has a synchronistic association for me.  23 will be forever connected with Robert Anton Wilson who wrote about the 23 Conspiracy in Cosmic Trigger Volume I.  Readers who followed Wilson down that particular rabbit hole report experiencing many unusual coincidences with that number which has been my experience as well.  Wilson wrote that it was 23 which cracked the Cabalistic (as he spells it) DNA code for him.  It was also an entry point for me.  The Twenty-Third Series is about time.  It begins: "From the start, we have seen how two readings of time - time as Chronos and time as Aion - were opposed."  Wilson reports in Cosmic Trigger that his Holy Guardian Angel communicated mostly through synchronicities and that a lot of the messages had to do with the paradoxes of time.  During the period of July 1973 to October 1974 he says that he was frequently in contact with a nonhuman entity or entities unknown:"But the entity always intently urged that I should try to understand time better." (italics in the original).  Timothy Leary's story and work also feature prominently in Cosmic Trigger and he wrote the Forewards.  He also had great interest in the paradoxes of time.  The Forewords end with: "We thank-you, Robert Anton Wilson, for this timely and time-full treasure." Timely sounds like Chronos as Deleuze describes it, while time-full accurately describes Aion.

Let it roll, roll, roll, let it fill my soul, all right ...  

Let it roll baby roll, let it roll baby roll, 
Let it roll,..... all night long.
                                        -  The Doors/Roadhouse Blues

We finally arrive at the Preface.  Deleuze lets on his qabalistic intent by hiding it right out in the open like Edgar Allen Poe's, The Purloined Letter, which Deleuze specifically references elsewhere in his oeuvre. The first sentence of LoS reads: "The work of Lewis Carroll has everything required to please the modern reader: children's books, or rather books for little girls; splendidly bizarre and esoteric words; grids; codes and decodings; drawings and photographs; a profound psychoanalytic content; and an exemplary logical and linguistic formalism."  Aleister Crowley includes Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, Alice Through the Looking Glass, and The Hunting of the Snark on his reading list with an identical comment for each piece: "Valuable for those who understand the Qabalah."  Even as he lists this recommendation, Crowley simultaneously communicates qabalistically ... for those who understand the Qabalah, -  a lot easier than people imagine.

 A frequent metaphor given to a student entering an esoteric school is that of going down the rabbit hole to the topsy turvey world of Wonderland.  This was illustratrated on the big screen in The Matrix which borrowed heavily from various esoteric school sources.  Neo literally gets told to follow the rabbit, and he does, leading him completely underground and out of the computer simulated world illusion he's accustom to living in.  We find The Matrix one of the best contemporary qabalistic allegories for the genesis of the Ubermensch right from the first scene, which literally spells out its beginning from the Heart of the Labyrinth; hidden right out in the open like The Purloined Letter.  Another excellent genesis film is Mel Brook's Young Frankenstein.  The genesis allegory in Young Frankenstein was used to great effect in the recent documentary series Long Strange Trip about the Grateful Dead. 

Along with the just mentioned Labyrinth clue in this two minute scene, we see a quick graphic representation of the Veil of Paroketh (or any bardo space, for that matter) at the end of the numerical display.  There's also a possible oblique reference to Alice in Wonderland if we can imagine that the writers read the opening words from LoS posted above.

Deleuze began his studies of nonverbal communication systems at least as early as his 1964 book Proust and Signs in which he creates a taxonomy of symbolic communication, i.e. signs, based on the magnum opus In Search of Lost Time.  As one description puts it: "Deleuze reads Marcel Proust's work as a narrative of an apprenticeship of a man of letters.  Considering the search to be one directed by an experience of signs, in which the protagonist learns to interpret and decode the kinds and types of symbols that surround him."  This, of course, perfectly describes the qabalistic method.  It shouldn't be surprising that after classifying Proust's use of signs, Deleuze plants coded linguistics into his own works.

Another fairly straightforward clue that Deleuze utilizes Qabalah for the basis of some of his coding comes when he examines the linguistic process of schizophrenic writer Louis Wolfson.  Wolfson had a pathological aversion to his native language, English, so he invented a process of immediately translating every English word into a foreign word with a similar sound and sense.

Deleuze begins this section with a solar invocation (i.e. reference to Tiphareth) which could simply seem coincidental until we dig a little deeper.  He starts: "... let us examine another text whose beauty and density remain clinical."  (beauty = Tiphareth).  He then provides some analysis before choosing a word to examine Wolfson's process, that word being: "'Tree," for example, is converted as a result of the R which recurs in the French word "arbre," and again as a result of the T which recurs in the Hebrew term; ..." (LoS p. 85)  In this one sentence fragment we get the clues "Tree," "R" (= Resh = The Sun) and Hebrew (Qabalah is based on the Hebrew alphabet).

This could still be a circumstantial coincidence until we get an even more definitive link to Qabalah a few pages later.  Deleuze returns to examining the permutations of "tree:" "With respect to the Russian word "derevo" ("tree") the student of language is overjoyed at the existence of a plural form derev'ya whose internal apostrophe seems to assure the fusion of consonants (the linguist's soft sign)." In a footnote he writes further about the effect of the apostrophe upon the consonants; "... or as if fused by a yod." Crowley writes about the importance of yod in the esoteric alphabet: "The letter Yod is the foundation of all the other letters in the Hebrew alphabet, which are merely combinations of it in various ways"  (The Book of Thoth) - Crowley continues with more relevant Yod symbolism). Bringing up a foreign word that's a plural form of "tree" as being "fused with a yod," makes for a blatant Qabalistic indicator; a sure sign.

Now that it's been shown that Deleuze uses Qabalah, at least some of the time in his communication, we will examine and decode more complex messages presented through this Art in a subsequent post.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Magick, Linguistics and the Plane of Immanence

The title suggests, "the airplane of immanence," or in Deleuze/Guattarian terms: "lines of flight;"  Magick = lines of flight.

This is the fifth post in the Deleuze/Crowley series with various other of the Usual Suspects (conceptual persona?) showing up from time to time to pitch in.  To honor the Discordian Law of Fives we are going to preface this post with a big I DON'T KNOW! This formulation of model agonsticism was inspired by a quote from D&G's What Is Philosophy (WIP, p.128):

"But on both sides, philosophy and science (like art itself with its third side) include an I do not know that has become positive and creative, the condition of creation itself, and that consists in determining by what one does not know ..."

This resonates with  a subject title Robert Anton Wilson presented in the Crowley 101 course: A Gnostic Approach to Agnosticism.  The 'I do not know' of model agonsticism defines a starting point for experimentation and the search for knowledge, not an ending point of resignation to the unknowable unknown.   Agonstics have received criticism for being indecisive and wishy-washy for not choosing a theism or atheism.  They get accused of hiding behind 'I do not know' as a form of spiritual and intellectual laziness.  That may accurately describe some agonstics, those who don't take the gnostic approach or make 'I do not know' "the condition of creation itself."  Gnosis proceeds through experimentation whether in science, art, philosophy or in some synthetic mixture of the three.  For instance, Magick, which calls itself the Art and Science of causing change to occur in conformaty with Will,  and has a philosophical basis.

Gnosis likes to communicate after its been received though it's not always easily translated.  Robert Anton Wilson was a prolific writer who also regularly toured  North America and Europe giving lectures and workshops.  He had a desire to communicate.  I recall once in an online course: he corrected something I wrote by saying, "magick IS communication" Both Wilson and Timothy Leary described themselves at different times as stand-up philosophers.

Timothy Leary once compared his success rate as a philosopher with a baseball player's batting average pointing out that a player who hits one third of the pitches thrown his way for a batting average of .333 is considered very successful, at the top of the game.  If at least one third of his postulates/hypotheses/theories proved accurate and/or useful, he was a success and that, to him, vindicated the 2/3rds he might get wrong. I don't know if Deleuze would agree with that metric.

This return to the subject of Skepticism should have been included in an earlier post of this series if I wasn't making it up as I go.  This particlular magick/philosophy flow is closer to a musical improvisation, expressing and changing direction on the spot -than a well-rehearsed symphony playing off a musical score.  You constantly make up a lot of songs then one day Like A Rolling Stone (Dylan) comes through, and it changes people's lives.  You experiment frequently with classical modes of music and opera in contemporary electronic form - so-called "Art Rock,"  and get The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (Genesis).  All of these folks, Leary, Deleuze, Dylan, the members of Genesis, Crowley, and Robert Anton Wilson, who put out acknowledged masterpieces, were extremely prolific.  What they also all have in common is the affinity with, and healthy application of skepticism.  Skepticism doesn't have to slow down extreme and prolific experimentation.  It's ok to get it wrong sometimes. 

The Plane of Immanence

The plane of immanence is not a concept that is or can be thought but rather the image of thought, the image thought gives itself of what it means to think, to make use of thought, to find one's bearings in thought. (WIP p.37)

D&G devote a whole chapter in What Is Philosophy to describing the plane of immanence. It seems, to oversimplify, like a philosophical tool for framing a set of related concepts or ideas.  They answer the question that the book poses by saying that philosophy is the creation of concepts.  These concepts reside on the plane of immanence.  Every school of philosophy creates their own plane of immanence which may include elements borrowed or appropriated from earlier philosophers.  Following the plane of immanence, D&G introduce the notion of conceptual personae - anthropomorphic fabulations used by the philosopher to introduce and demonstrate their concepts. 

The rejection of signified transcendentals such as Plato's archetypal Ideas or the Judeo-Christian God as ultimate causes of things does not diminish the importance of transcendence itself.  Deleuze talks about transcendental empiricism, which appears cognate, if not identical with, gnosis.  From one point of view, perhaps an ethical one, his whole philosophy could be described as transcending fascist, reactive programming to a place of freedom to create and serve what thou wilt within the immanent world.  It requires immanence to make it possible and transcendence to actually get you there.  Without any kind of transcendental empiricism or gnosis, it's easy to reject the idea that extraordinary capabilities are possible or that magick works.

Deleuze and Guattari define the plane of immanence in terms of movement and chaos:

"The image of thought retains only what thought can claim by right.  Thought demands "only" movement that can be carried to infinity.  What thought claims by right, what it selects, is infinite movement or the movement of the infinite.  It is this that constitutes the image of thought." (WIP p. 37)

"The plane of immanence is like a section of chaos and acts like a sieve. In fact, chaos is characterized less by the absence of determination than by the infinite speed by which they take shape and vanish."  (WIP p. 42)

The authors provide a warning that could apply just as easy to magick:

"Thinking provokes general indifference.  It is a dangerous exercise nevertheless.  Indeed it is only when the dangers become obvious that indifference ceases, but they remain hidden and barely perceptible, inherent in the enterprise.  Precisely because the plane of immanence is prephilosophical and does not immediately take effect with concepts, it implies a groping experimentation and its layout resorts to measures that are not very respectable, rational or reasonable.  These measures belong to the order of dreams, of pathological processes, esoteric experiences, drunkenness, and excess. We head for the horizon, on the plane of immanence, and we return with bloodshot eyes, yet they are the eyes of the mind." (WIP p. 41)

The warning continues with words that mirror Crowley's fate:

But then "danger" takes on another meaning: it becomes a case of obvious consequences when pure immanence provokes a strong, instinctive disapproval in public opinion, and the nature of the created concepts strengthens this disapproval.

Later, they warn about and discuss the "negative of thought:" ignorance, superstition, delusion, delirium, illusion, etc. 

The plane of immanence can be seen as an experiment in linguistics. - the notion that words, propositions, concepts, and literature in general, though metaphysical in nature, can change material bodies and states of affairs.  Language, in conjunction with the physical universe, creates reality as we know and experience it.   Deleuze explores this duality between language and physical things extensively in Logic of Sense.  Sense, he says, is what connects language with physical objects.  He could definitely be described as a linguistic philosopher, albeit an unusual one.

Aleister Crowley's Plane of Immanence

The special use of words to alter reality partially describes the method of ritual, or any other kind, of magick. In a lecture titled, Life of Aleister Crowley, Robert Anton Wilson says that one book, Portable Darkness,  a compendium of Crowley pieces put together by Scott Michaelsen, "interprets Alesiter Crowley as a linguistic philosopher with everything else subordinate to that. A linguistic philosopher in the vein of Wittgenstein only further."

Magick in Theory and Practice begins with establishing a plane of immanence in Chapter 0 The Magical Theory of the Universe.  Crowley advises the student, in the first paragraph, to study the history of philosophy.  Yes, magick has philosophy as its base, a unique philosophy that Crowley proceeds to unfurl in this chapter.  In the second paragraph, regarding theories of philosophy:

 "All are reconciled and unified in the theory which we shall now set forth.  The basis of this Harmony is given in Crowley's Berashith - to which reference should be made." (emphasis in the original). 

 Berashith is the first Hebrew word in The Book of Genesis.  Crowley writes of the genesis of his plane of immanence, his new image of thought, thought that can get creatively used to change the world; genesis of a new world.  Berashith represents Crowley's plane of immanence prior to the reception of The Book of the Law (Liber Al) dictated to him by his Holy Guardian Angel. The third paragraph updates his plane of immanence to include the cosmology and understanding he arrived at  through Liber Al:

Infinite space is called the goddess NUIT, while the infinitely small is called HADIT.  These are unmanifest.  One conjunction of these infinites is called RA-HOOR-KHUIT, a Unity which both includes and heads all things. 

He goes on to say in the third paragraph that this theory is based on experience, but then suggests that these ideas can be reached by a particular application of reason.  The last sentence advises the reader to consult a couple of his previous works, the first one being The Soldier and the Hunchback, an essay on Skepticism.  It's almost as if he's telling the reader, don't believe me, find out for yourself.

Another point of interest about these opening statements is that Crowley alludes to Tiphareth twice: "The basis of this Harmony..." (AC's capitalization) in the 2nd paragraph and "... a Unity which includes and heads all things."  Harmony = Tiphareth and head = the Sun = Tiphareth.  I refer to these as solar invocations and note that similar solar invocations or references to Tiphareth occur at the start of Illuminatus!, Schrodinger's Cat, Masks of the Illuminati, and Email to the Universe by Robert Anton Wilson, and in both volumes of  Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus by Deleuze and Guattari.  The cover of The Book of Lies shows an illustration of the sun and nothing else.  Gurdjieff begins his magnum opus, Bellezebub Tales to his Grandson, with a direct invocation of both Kether, Tiphareth and the omniscient divine spirit with the traditionally Christian, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."  He calls it an invocation but makes it more universal saying that " (it) has been formulated in different ways, in different epochs."  When you begin reading Beelzeub you enter a Church.  The difference with Gurdjieff's Church is that he's an extremely funny writer. Apparently he used to do stand-up comedy during the war. Groucho Marx apparently inspired his famous mustache.  On the second page, the fifth paragraph in the book, Gurdjieff makes a direct solar invocation:

First and foremost, I shall place my hand, moreover the right one - although at the moment it is slightly injured due to an accident that recently befell me - is nevertheless really my own, and has never once failed me in all my life, on my heart, of course also my own - but on the constancy or inconstancy of this part of my whole I see no need to expatiate here - and frankly confess that I myself have not the slightest wish to write, but am constrained by circumstances quite independent of me, though whether these circumstances arose accidentally or were created intentionally by extraneous forces I do not yet know.

As if to confirm, the second chapter in Beelzebub is: "Why Beelzebub Was In Our Solar System" which he calls the Prologue.  All of these solar invocations that begin some of the most magically powerful books of the last century indicate a very basic bardo instruction:  before traveling anywhere in the Macrodimensions of the Labyrinth, one must first pass through the Heart of the Labyrinth.  This form of linguistic expression derives from a plane of immanence given by E. J. Gold.

Crowley continues presenting his plane of immanence, his new image of thought, throughout this first chapter mostly talking about qabala while also referring the student to other articles he's written.  He includes a few other key statements to further diagram this plane, for example:

The Microcosm is an exact image of the Macrocosm; the Great Work is the raising of the whole (wo)man in perfect balance to the power of Infinity.

The apologia for this System is that our purest conceptions are symbolized in Mathematics.  "God is the Great Arithmetician."  God is the Grand Geometer."  It is best, therefore to prepare to apprehend Him by formulating our minds according to these measures.

Deleuze and Guattari introduce the notion of conceptual personae in the third chapter of What Is Philosophy? " ...conceptual persona carry out the movements that describe the author's plane of immanence, and they play a part in the very creation of the author's concepts."

Crowley borrowed heavily from Egyptian mythology to populate and express his plane of immanence, appropriating those gods for his own purposes, making them into conceptual personae. Perhaps more than any other modern philosopher, Crowley went to great lengths to present his plane of immanence as a revealed religion. In other words, he ascribes the authority of Thelema, his "new image of thought" to an entity far beyond himself and human life in general.  He maintains that it was divine revelation; his account of the circumstances surrounding the reception of Liber Al has never been conclusively refuted, nor has it been conclusively proved.  Crowley's diaries around that time are suspiciously vague or missing.  His account of how Liber Al went down seems to have been written some years after the event.  He claims to have rejected the significance of it for about five years having allegedly lost the original manuscript.  I'm not saying it was a hoax, I remain agonstic on the subject, however I do know that much praxis with Crowley's techniques - including advances made by his next generation:  Robert Anton Wilson, Kenneth Grant, Lon Milo Duquette , Christopher Hyatt etc.  - and his brother, George, will render contact experiences of equal intensity such that the way Crowley received his mission appears a real possibility.  My opinion is that indeed Liber Al is a communication from an exterior Intelligence far beyond the human though I suspect Crowley of somewhat altering and/or creatively enhancing the narrative to play better for the masses.

 Chapter O introduces another crucial point immediately after Crowley introduces the Thelemic triad of conceptual persona: "This profoundly mystical conception is based upon actual spiritual experience, but the trained reason can reach a reflection of this idea by the method of logical contradiction which ends in reasoning transcending itself."  Crowley demonstrates this by beginning The Magical Theory of the Universe with a hidden logical contradiction.  A German phrase is quoted right below the chapter title "Nur Nicht ist,"  which translates as Only Nothing is and is attributed to a Frenchman - Compte de Chevallerie.  Compte = count - what is there to count if only nothing is?  The editor's footnote says that no such Compte de Chevallierie can be found in their philosophical reference books, but that the phrase is also in an earlier work by Crowley, Clouds Without Water, p.93: "This is our truth, that only Nothing is and Nothing is an universe of Bliss.  Later, in the same book, Crowley calls this "metaphysical nonsense culled from German atheistic philosophy.  You have the introduction of nonsense, paradox and logical contradiction with the opening quote.  A French noble quoting a German reminds me of Deleuze quoting Nietzsche.

The chapter finishes off emphasizing the importance of Qabalah:  "The whole basis of our theory is the Qabalah which corresponds to the truths of mathematics and geometry.  The method of operation in Magick is based on this, in very much the same way that the laws of mechanics are based on mathematics."  Some knowledge and recognition of Qabala seems invaluable to any contemporary system or presentation, across the board, of the science of transformation whether it be Magick, the Fourth Way, Deleuze and Guattari, E. J. Gold, Robert Anton Wilson, Thomas Pynchon, James Joyce, Artrhur Rimbaud etc. etc. etc.  It becomes especially useful in Magick because that is how the knowledge and communication with the Holy Guardian Angel begins and gets established.  The Holy Guardian Angel represents the heart's intelligence, or solar intelligence externalized as a Guide.  There is no greater guide.  Contact with the guide increases with use, prompting one of the great hermetic truths: use it or lose it.  Qabalah serves as the laws of mechanics on Magick's plane of immanence.  Crowley closes with a directive followed by a joke: Every Magician, therefore, should study the Holy Qabalah. Once she has mastered the main principles, she will find her work grow easy. Solivtur ambulando: which does not mean "Call the Ambulance!" (translation modified).  The editor's footnotes gives the Latin translation: "it is solved by walking," i.e. practice.

Time for a related entertainment break.  Join Jimi Hendrix for a short bardo voyage:


 Gurdjieff's Plane of Immanence

The first chapter of Gurdjieff's magnum opus, Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson is titled The Arousal of Thought.  This is the arousal of a new image of thought, a plane of immanence, the beginning of Gurdjieff's unique presentation of esoteric development and transformation.  Unlike his evil twin brother, Aleister Crowley, Gurdjieff doesn't attempt to diagram his whole system in the first chapter, almost just the opposite. He begins from ground zero by stating up front that he's not a writer and wondering what language he should write in.  By realizing his own nothingness as a writer, he's able to make apparent very basic linguistic functions and applications.  For instance, he out and out tells the reader that he's going to use puns:

"I decided to make use of one of the oddities of that freshly baked fashionable language called English and each time the occasion requires it, to swear by my "English soul."

The point is that in this fashionable language the word for "soul" and the word for the bottom of the foot, also "sole," are pronounced and written almost alike."

He goes on to lament the similarity of these two words for the highest and the lowest in a way that echoes the qabalistic statement: Kether is in Malkuth and Malkuth in Kether.  A few pages later, p. 17 - 19,  Gurdjieff tells a story that, to me, clearly suggest a qabalistic basis to his writing:

"I have already decided to make the "salt"  or, as contemporary pure-blooded Jewish businessmen would say, the "tzmmies" (a traditional Jewish sweet stew)  of this story one of the basic principles of that new literary form which I intend to use for attaining the aim I am now pursuing in this new profession of mine." (i.e. as a writer)

The story begins with a certain Transcaucasion Kurd going to a market and being impressed with the display of fruit, in particular, one fruit "very beautiful in both color and form."  He buys a pound of that fruit, which turn out to be red peppers, for 6 coppers.  The story goes on in Gurdjieff''s inimitable roundabout fashion to describe the tribulations of this Kurd when he eats the fruit and finds it makes his innards on fire.  He encounters another fellow from his village who sees his distress and tells him quite bluntly to stop eating the peppers: 

"But our Kurd replied: Not for nothing on Earth will I stop.  Didn't I pay my last six coppers for them? Even if my soul departs from my body, I will go on eating." 

Whereupon our resolute Kurd - it must of course be assumed that he was of such - did not stop, but went on eating the red peppers."

On page 11 Gurdjieff states his intent: " ... to express the so to say niceties of philosophical questions, which I intend to touch upon in my writings rather fully."  As with Magick, his system appears one of applied philosophy.  In the very next paragraph, he mentions becoming deeply absorbed by "philological questions" at a young age.  This seems to me a tip of the hat to Friedrich Nietzsche, whose day job was as a Professor of Philology before he became a full time philosopher, as well as an acknowledgment of linguistics in formulating his new image of thought,  Nietzsche profoundly influenced both Gurdjieff and Crowley.  They also both dissected and used language for purposes.of service to their mission.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Music and The Resistance: The SIMRIT Tour

 The fingers paused at a page of ideographs that evoked shapes of distant galaxies. Austin Spare had delineated the architecture of cosmic dimensions in the picture I had found in the attic, and the wizard Crowley had left marginal indications in  one of his writings concerning sonic notations which acted as keys to other spaces. - Kenneth Grant, Against the Light, p. 84

Grant tricks the reader with the title of the book, Against the Light, playing on assumptions, when he reveals its source from Finnegans Wake:

Yet on holding the verso against a lit
rush this new book of Morses responded
most remarkably to the silent query of
our world's oldest light - James Joyce

Taking a break from the Crowley/Deleuze series for an update on the current situation as seen by this traveling reporter.  Pragmatic philosophy aims to bring about social change.  The practical application of philosophy changes the world we live in.   Intelligent social activism becomes a significant application of philosophy and magick.  Music seems an ideal vehicle for that kind of activism.

I'm Oz Fritz and this is The Resistance.  I stand solidly with Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes and other investigative journalists, brothers and sisters in arms, who form the social memory complex called The Resistance as a response against the destructive anti-humanitarian policies and sociopathic, schizophrenic behavior of the current political administration. The deception and corruption  appears so obvious that I get completely bewildered why it's taking so long for the safeguards of the political system to root it out and shut it down.  Unless, heaven help us, the political system itself has corrupt elements, or doesn't remember that denial is not a river in Egypt. The process proceeds at a ridiculously slow pace.  Impeachment proceedings should begin now for the Russian collusion that helped get Trump elected.  We include in The Resistance the insightful comic observations of Seth Myers, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, and Trevor Noah who point out and document the absurdities, inconsistencies, and contradictions of the situation. Oliver's strategy is particularly noteworthy - buying ad time in the morning Fox news shows as a way to communicate his incisive comic points to the Television-Viewer-In-Chief.  We leave the politicians to their political games and hope that the corruption has not completely taken over.  In the philosophy/magick game we play music as a method of defiance.

Music wears down and removes barriers, sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently, that prevent empathic connections from being made.  Music works to break down what Wilhelm Reich called character armor - obstacles and blockages of energetic flows to and from the properly, therefore powerfully, functioning emotional centrum. In The Mass Psychology of Fascism, Reich attributes the rise of fascism to sexual repression.  Fascism is very much on the rise again, to a dangerous degree.  We stand by the notion that sexual energy and spiritual energy represent different ways of measuring and/or applying the same energy.  Sexual repression = spiritual repression.  Music lifts the spirits.  In other, very simple words, music tries to enlighten people by making them feel better.

I was fortunate to join a musical assemblage known as SIMRIT for part of their Songs of Resilience, Global Unity TourThe band is based around singer/songwriter Simrit Kaur whose music evolved out of a multiplicity of diverse influences starting at an early age with the dark, heavy, mystical chanting of the Greek Orthodox Byzantine church choir she joined.  Strong contemporary influences include reggae and the music of Led Zeppelin, both of which include dark, heavy, and mystical attributes.  Her long time studies and experimentation with Kundalini Yoga exposed Simrit to the culture of yoga mantra chanting which became another influence.  These and other music lineages get blended into an eclectic mix to encompass the broad genre of World Music.  Her singing contains the devotional, sacred, bhakti aspect of cyclic chanting transplanting it into a framework that includes the sounds, beats and melodies of World Music.  A visit to her website reveals outstanding endorsements from her peers both in the music business and the mantra singing culture.  I first met Simrit about three years ago to discuss a possible recording project.  It soon became clear that we both were interested in producing music of a healing and transformative nature; music that reached deep into the listener's soul.  That project didn't happen, the circumstances weren't right, but a musical connection had been made that apparently planted the seed for this future collaboration. In retrospect, looking back, as we sat in a metal box traveling 600 plus mph some 30,000 feet in the air, our divergent paths from three years ago until now resulted in connections being made crucial to making the band SIMRIT what it is today.  The web of synchronicity and Angelic, or Bardo guidance became very strong on this tour as you will soon read.

SIMRIT consists of percussion, bass/background vocal, kora, electrified cello/acoustic guitar and Simrit plays harmonium as well as singing.  I knew Salif, the kora player, the longest, though I hadn't really heard him play that much until this tour.  We spent time together as part of a recording crew in Mali, West Africa for Aja Salvatore's KSK Records.  Salif was also in Mali to study with his kora teacher, Mamadou Diabate, and plug into his long lineage, dating back centuries, of kora playing.

I met Jared May, the bass player, when a mutual friend, Isaac James, brought him to a studio I work at to record improvised music with E.J. Gold.  We must have recorded two or three hours of material straight off without looking back.  I was very impressed with his sound and musicianship.  Frankly, being a New York bred elitist snob, I was surprised that someone of his caliber was around and about these here country parts. I recently had the pleasure of recording Jared again for Sarah Nutting's (MaMuse) recently released solo outing, Wild Belonging.  He played a crucial role in that project.

I met Tripp Dudley, our percussionist, and Shannon Hayden, mademoiselle cellist, when we assembled in Miami for the first rehearsal.  Hayden is an extremely creative solo artist in her own right.  She would open the concerts with a 15 - 20 minute solo set of classically inspired songs combined with loops, samples and her whispery ambient singing.  She had a "looper," a pedal that repeats sound cycles, allowing her to create multiple symphonic layers.  Shannon knew she wanted to be a cellist from the age of three.  It took a few more years for her parents to realize it wasn't just a phase she was going through before they set her up with the instrument.  Her post-secondary education included studying with two of the top cello teachers in the country, who, incidentally, had radically different styles and approaches to the instrument..  This may partly explain her ability for improvisation, rare in classically trained musicians, and her ease with crossing over into the world of electronics, sampling and looping.

Tripp was the most technically-minded amongst the musicians regarding issues of sound reinforcement which helped considerably as I was definitely an old dog learning new tricks.  On our first day, he gave me a wi-fi receiver to plug into Soundcraft Impact digital desk with an ethernet cable.  This enabled him, or anyone on stage, to remotely control their monitor mixes with an e-tablet.  I was fine with that, you can't really mix the stage monitors from the Front of House mixing position except to do what the musicians request.  If the musicians themselves can remotely control their own mixes, then that's one less thing I have to lose hair over.  I was only mildly concerned that Russian hackers would interfere with the monitor mixes to subvert our aesthetic subversion.  Tripp and I had a few other things in common - a knowledge and love for New York City - he lives in Brooklyn; we are both one-eighth Irish and both our surnames end with the suffix: III - "the third," as it's pronounced.  Most importantly, he was stalwart at keeping time, driving the band when they were revving up and keeping a steady thread of metrical consciousness during the slower, ecstatic trance pieces; he set the foundation.  Everyone in SIMRIT is a master of their craft, and as masters they are dedicated, life-long apprentices.  Even more critical than individual skill is the fact that their collective chemistry - a term used in attempt to describe the unknown and unpredictable synergies within the assemblage - is undeniable.  Their whole is substantially greater than the sum of its parts.

We were joined in this enterprise by Matt Hagan (the Pagan) who administered the front of house ticket and merchandise sales as well as helping with the set-up and load-out.  Matt is an accomplished musician also and seemed well-experienced with road life, battle-hardened, as it were. He became an indispensable part of the team helping me out numerous times in small and large ways.  I poetically visualized his role for the concerts as the "strong force" in subatomic physics, responsible for binding together the quarks and gluons to become protons and neutrons in the atomic nucleus.  He philosophically endeared me when I overheard him pun Matt with Maat, the ancient Egyption Goddess of Truth, and then correctly ascribe its attribution on The Tree of Life.

The Voyage Begins 

With a lyric from a Beatles' song: "there's a fog upon LA..." delaying our flight and causing a missed connection that resulted in getting rerouted through Dallas, Texas.  Salif and I traveled together. The rest of the lyrics from Blue Jay Way, could have aptly applied to our multiple departure delays in Dallas. When your intention is to use music to resist the law of the jungle, there's bound to be push-back.  As I see it, the forces of political chaos stuck out their tongue at us and laughed when we saw the bizarre sight of former Republican candidate Ted Cruz walking around the Dallas airport by himself!  This sounds like I'm making it up, but I have Salif for a corroborating witness.  He was the one who first spotted Cruz, dressed casually in jeans and a sports coat.  I had my back turned when Cruz first strolled by, Ted responded to Salif's look of recognition with a look of his own which seemed to say, "Yep, it's me."  We pulled up a photo of Cruz from the internet ... yep, that was him.  He passed by a few minutes later, still by himself, going the opposite direction and I caught a glimpse of this infamous politician whom I'm told is slightly to the right of Mussolini.  Other travelers began recognizing him and having him pose for "selfies."  This occurred only a couple of days after he'd had dinner with Trump.  Maybe he need to boost his self-esteem with some "spontaneous" public recognition?  

The wait in Dallas began to play out like a bardo sequence especially when they switched our gate at 10 pm to one on the other side of this Texan-sized airport because they changed our plane for one considered mechanically fit to fly - quite decent of them, I thought!  We got to our Miami air bnb house at about 2:30 am.  The house had very little furniture apart from beds, a kitchen table and a washer/dryer.  The house was all completely white, all the walls and the bedding, no paintings or wall hangings to splash a dash of color.  It reminded me of John and Yoko Lennon's famous "white room" they had at the Dakota building minus the white grand piano.  I also became cognizant of the poetic congruence that this was a Southern White House which is what Donald Trump calls his Mar-a-Lago resort located a mere 69 miles north of Miami.  Proximity does have a stronger effect when employing the affective qualities of music to good cause. Our white house and DT's White House are maybe only a casual coincidence, yet one that lends itself to sympathetic magic through resonance.  After the rehearsals and into the night, Tripp and Salif would stay up until early in the morning improvising music with kora and tabla. It reminded me of being back in Africa.

The First Concert

We had two rehearsal days followed by the first concert in a new age center called the Sacred Space located in the Wynwood Arts district of Miami. It was an unusual venue.  On the first day there, we entered a large, completely empty, L-shaped room, with, again, all white walls.  There was no stage or seats.  It had a very expensive oak floor recently installed which meant maintaining a cool temperature in the room (slightly above a meat freezer) to keep out the humidity.  To help keep the floor from getting dinged or nicked, I tried slightly levitating when moving about by telling lots of jokes.  This rectangular, paralleled-walled, parallel ceiling and floor space was very reverberant; somewhere between a church and a gymnasium.  I got a pleasant surprise the day of the concert when entering the space to immediately hear the acoustics being less echoey.  John, their audio/visual technician, had installed sound diffusors along the length of the walls which were hard to detect as they had the same creamy white shade of the walls. He had also taped down our ethernet snake cable that ran from the FOH mix postion to the stage area with white gaffer tape.

I began by learning to program and use the Soundcraft Impact digital mixing desk and getting to know the QSC PA and stage monitor systems before dialing in the sound of the band with a nice, lengthy soundcheck.  At that point, the music was largely unknown to me.  In a recent article in the New York Times Style Magazine, Tom Waits discusses songwriting: "If you want to catch songs, you gotta start thinking like one and making yourself an interesting place for them to land like birds or insects." That guided my approach to invocationally connecting with SIMRIT before I heard their music.

The first concert was a success on every level, and I mean every level; we were off and running.  I inferred its success on the metaphysical/spiritual level by the fact that Coincidence Control significantly entered the picture after that concert.  It first came to my attention the following morning when I read the story of Brian Jones going to Morocco and recording The Master Musicians of Jajouka in The Sun &The Moon, & The Rolling Stones by Rich Cohen.  I had just told Simrit the same story, with a little more detail, the day before.  Though not knowing so at the time, the story was told before the concert, it became apparent afterwards that The Master Musicians of Jajouka and SIMRIT, though differing radically in sound and content, had a similar intensity for reaching into the unknown and bringing something useful back; they both use music to cast a wide butterfly net through the intensity of ecstatic trance-like percepts and affects.  Shortly after I returned home, an announcement was posted on social media of an upcoming release of the Material/Master Musicians of Jajouka show I recorded in Gent, Belgium in 2015.  A live SIMRIT concert album from this tour is currently in the planning stages.  All of the shows on this tour were recorded multitrack into Pro Tools via a MADI usb output from the Soundcraft. 

The day after the first concert was a watershed day in other ways and I blame it all on the music.  SIMRIT played their first concert and the next day I felt hardwired into contact with the friendly nonhuman guide I vaguely call the HGA - Holy Guardian Angel - as some attempt to explain the extremely bizarre series of synchronicities and coincidences that blew my mind and woke me up to the recognition of transiting through the bardo. That kind of direct contact rarely happens to me outside of a special environment like a floatation tank or an invocational chamber ... and just when you least expect it; the music opened a portal.

At breakfast, I read Simrit the short paragraph about Brian Jones recording the Master Musicians.  Some music history commentators reckoned that this was the beginning of "World Music," and it very well could have been in the sense of that genre becoming a marketable brand to expose Westerners to different cultures of music.  I heard that story from Bill Laswell in Jajouka.  SIMRIT is a devotional world music group with strong Indian, African, and European influences along with ties to hip hop and dub reggae.  Storytelling to pass along the Jajouka baraka, all completely unplanned and unexpected.

I continued to read the Rolling Stones book while everyone got ready to get on the road to St. Petersburg and was startled to read a line directly lifted from E..J. God's Clear Light Prayer: "Nothing is happening, nothing ever has happened or ever will happen." This is the prayer from The American Book of the Dead to be read to the voyager immediately upon physical death, and that is the second line.  Cohen changed it by making it three separate sentences.  It was in a chapter that went into Gram Parson's last days and death.  It told the story of how his manager drove a hearse into the airport and hijacked Parson's body so he could burn it at Joshua Tree based on a pact they had made.  Joshua Tree, in the desert outside of Los Angeles, was the location of SIMRIT's first concert after I finished this tour.

As I continued to devour The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones over the next few days it became apparent that this was no ordinary rock star biography.  Without being morbid or sensationalistic, Rich Cohen writes about death far more that you see in a book of this kind, as if he's a covert bardo agent sugar-coating death with popular culture.  Chapter titles include, The Death of Brian Jones  Part 1, The Death of Brian Jones Part 2, Death Fugue, Thanatos in Steel. The first chapter title really gives away it as a bardo guide book: Rock Stars Telling Jokes.

Also included are close encounters with death seldom reported before. For instance, the time Sonny Barger stuck a gun into Keith Richards' gut at Altamont and told him to play or he would kill him.  Barger reports that Keith proceeded to play his heart out.  Another time, during a Stones concert in Paris, Richards received the tragic news that his infant son had just died from crib death.  It was immediately before he had to sing the lead vocal for the song Happy.  Cohen wonders about the emotions going through him as he sings.  It seems to me that through circumstance, intentional or not, that the song became a way to deliver bardo instructions to his son.  The song Happy became his Clear Light Prayer for that moment

Cohen makes himself a character in the book relating childhood memories, his experiences as a reporter covering the Stones, and his journeys to significant locations in their history.  I realized that this book was his bardo journey.  Coming of age as a live sound technician with the former Stones cover band, The Tickets, I could strongly relate ... and resonate, one bardo sequence keys in another, or as Deleuze puts it, a resonance across different series (of events and states of affairs ) to create a disjunctive synthesis.

Through The South

Finally on the road to St. Petersburg. Simrit mentioned that she read my review of Led Zeppelin's Celebration Day that I had sent to her yesterday after she described them as a strong influence.  She also mentioned having read up somewhat on Aleister Crowley hoping to gain more insight into Jimmy Page.  Being uncharacteristically unfiltered in the mouth that morning, I attempted to distill the essence of the initial stage of Crowley's teaching in a few sentences: Thelema = an ancient Greek word that means Will.  It qabalistically adds to 93, the same enumeration as Agape - divine love; therefore Thelema = love under will - love as a material force that can be concentrated, placed and directed, often in some type of healing modality like a traveling group of musicians.  This is The Resistance.  Crowley strongly advised that all initial experiments in magick be directed toward the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, an absurd philosophical term he appropriated to avoid speculation and debate about what it actually "is."  As Deleuze and Guatarri emphasize in Anti-Oedipus regarding the contents of the unconscious mind, it's not a question of what it means, but rather, how does it work, how does it function, what can it do?  At its most accessible point of contact, the HGA functions as a spiritual guide.  The HGA operation occurs in Tiphareth - I used the chakra attribution to characterize it that day.  The realization of the HGA = the discovery of one's True Will, the dynamic process that becomes an answering to the question, why are we here?  Carlos Casteneda put it plainly when he had Don Juan say: "follow the path with heart."  Crowley's genius was to realize and present a framework for the intelligence of the heart to act as an (apparently) external guide.  This is The Resistance.

At that point I told Simrit that Thelema  had to do with surviving death.  To skeptics of this notion, I suggest reading the quote from Pythagoras that begins the Introduction to Magick in Theory and Practice (Aleister Crowley). Simrit mentioned that her husband, Jai Dev, had just finished teaching a workshop on death.  Within about a minute of saying that, he called.

The conversation ended, to be continued, and I resumed my perch watching the highway traffic, signs and scenery flow by like a river.  I was sitting in the last row in the Mercedes van sharing it with guitars, tablas and other more delicate band equipment.  That became my spot for the entire tour.  I greatly enjoyed the view of the road from there, it felt like being in the crow's nest of a sailing ship. Approximately ten to twelve minutes after our conversation, a semi-truck with large, white, stenciled letters that read CROWLEY drove by.  All of these incredible synchronicities made me realize that we were in the bardo in this journey through Southeast America.  The Miami edition of SIMRIT had died, shed that particular skin, and were transiting toward rebirth as a new iteration of SIMRIT in the next town.

St. Petersburg was our next stop.  I kept imagining P.D. Ouspensky introducing G.I. Gurdjieff to the local Intelligentsia there just before the Russian Revolution, but it was nothing like that at all.  The venue was a small theater with nice acoustics though a little on the dead side (no pun intended)   I opted to plug our mixing desk into their sound system gambling, but with a high probability, that it was better than our portable QSC front end.  Their speakers did sound good, but were completely unbalanced between left and right.  The liason for the venue knew nothing about the sound system, their technician was on vacation, but he was able to show me where the amp room was and between the two of us, we got the P. A. balanced for all practical purposes.  Also ran into a logic problem with the Soundcraft, I'm still not convinced it wasn't Russian hackers; either that, or a ghost in the machine.  These issues kept me scrambling to finish the soundcheck before the doors opened and I made it by five minutes.  The show went well though I did get get a complaint from an elderly gentlemen who said he was leaving due to the level of bass in the house.  That comment got emotionally cancelled out for me when Simrit introduced the Sound Engineer. Someone turned around and locked eyes with such a deep look that the world disappeared for a second or two.

Heading north on Highway Three Oh One enroute to Asheville, North Carolina.  Led Zeppelin's How The West Was Won live soundtrack blasts through the van's stereo at about 110 dB for about an hour followed by Creedence Clearwater Revival.  The signs along the highway tell ten thousand stories: many of the billboards are hand drawn:


Reminds me of magick. A while up the river/road we see:


We pass a roadside tombstone business with its wares on display, conveniently located a quarter mile from a funeral home where I'm told the clients are just dying to get in.  Location, location, location is the key to sales.  The van's soundtrack has changed to Shannon practicing guitar along with Electric Howling Wolf.  Germination of another strange coincidence:  Tripp and I are talking at one of the pit stops.  I ask him if he needs any catfish bait - a bottle of such substance reposes on a shelf nearby.  He mentions that Catfish was one of his childhood nicknames bestowed on him by a friend.  I told him of Dylan's song Catfish about the famous Oakland A's/New York Yankee's pitcher who was the first baseball player to make a million dollars a year and was from North Carolina.   Two days later, I received a FB friend request from a woman named Cathe' Fish.

The venue in Asheville was a small theater in an historic Masonic Hall that held about 400 people including the balcony.  The ceiling was domed, resulting in some interesting acoustics that made it feel like surround sound in certain spots.  The stage was very deep with a dark multi-layered forest set that looked like it had been there for years.  I kept wondering if something like a creature from a Lovecraft novel might jump out of the shadows.

Another unusual occurrence took place that goes in the category of contact with the HGA.  Our local promoter and producer, Joshua, offered to run some errands.  My small flashlight that I rely heavily upon was on the fritz and I asked for a replacement.  He came back saying that he'd looked for one in the store, but they had nothing.  When he came out, there was a guy there asking if anyone wanted a small pocket flashlight, and gave it to Joshua.  It was exactly what I'd requested, didn't cost a cent, and served well for the rest of the tour; thank-you, Coincidence Control!

The next concert landed in Washington, D.C, the heart of the insurrection.  This venue was a nondenominational church of some kind or maybe a church that had been deterritorialized from its native religion; no pews or altar props yet still the form and acoustics of a church.  It did have some beautiful stained glass windows filtering the light and the overall ambience of a Benedictine monastery.  The music from the show went another step up; the synergy of the musicians becoming greater each time.

 New England

The theater we played in Westbury, Connecticut is one of the oldest in America.  It had been saved, restored and its history kept alive by Paul Newman and his family some years before.  The walls in the hallway between the Green room and the dressing rooms were lined with publicity shots of performers who had worked there over the years - many, many stars.  I was most proud to be setting up on the same stage that Gene Wilder and Groucho Marx had graced.  The ghosts of actors past seemed to positively condition the present with the gravitas of serious theatrical tradition . The transcendental empiricism of this night's music altering moods and banishing all sorts of worries and concerns for a 2 1/2 hour timeless moment of presence.  I mixed this show from above, in the balcony.

The Boston concert was in a church that looked less secular.  The band played extremely well.  Simrit sounded very strong and expansive, reaching all dimensions. It's considered one of the best shows of the tour. During the concert, I walked upstairs to the balcony-like area to check the sound and was surprised to see a pair of women stretching out in yoga asanas, one of them in the Lion's Pose.

Return Home

We decamped from our hotel and drove down to New York City the day after playing Boston, going straight to Norfolk Street in the Lower East Side.  The venue was to be one of the best of the tour, the Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts located less than a block south of Houston Street (pronounced "house-ton," unlike the city in Texas).  It had a very heavy (meaning extremely light) vibe in the space.  It had been the oldest synagog in New York prior to reterritorializing as an Arts center for Special Events.  I had mixed this room before for the 1997 release party of Material's Seven Souls cd that included additional remixes.  Off the top of my head, the musicians that played that night included Bill Laswell, Laariji (electric zither),  Bill Buchen (tablas) and Nicky Skopelitis.  Russell Mills constructed a Light Sound Installation while the music played, and, befitting the bardo nature of Seven Souls, there was a good supply of the Moroccan delicacy, majoun on hand.  It had been a memorable evening, and for me in this space, a good omen for tonight's concert.

SIMRIT at Angel Orensanz, NY
photo by Theresa Banks

It often seems that performances in music centers like New York or Los Angeles become showcases for your peers in the business and tonight was no exception.  The stakes always seem a little higher.  I heard that the incredible singer, India Arie was in attendance.  A highly regarded vocal teacher was there.  My friend, percussionist Daniel Moreno took a break from producing Awa Sangho's next album to catch the show.  He had been invited by Salif.  Up and coming musicians will also drop in to check you out.  Riley Pinkerton and Henry Black, both of whom have new recordings being prepared for release, made it out.  The band delivered a moving and powerful concert.

The sound system was perhaps the most powerful on the tour as befitting a New York venue.  Again, I plugged in our desk to the venue's front end.  We also used our own stage monitors.  The house sound tech, Maidson, wanted me to set up the mix position by the side of the stage, he actually had a board for me there, but I easily persuaded him to let me set up in the room so that I could hear what I was mixing.

It felt great to be back in New York again! We had rooms at the same hotel in Chelsea where I had stayed for the Exploring the Hidden Music performance put together by Christopher Janney and Bill Laswell a year and a half before.  My top floor window had a great view of midtown Manhattan including the looming presence of the Empire State building (a bardo marker, for me) a mere eight blocks away, its crown illuminated by white spotlights.  The next morning, the top of that building disappeared from view due to a thick fog rolling in.  I walked about lower Manhattan, enjoying the sights, sounds, and vigorous energy of New York, making my way to St. Mark's Place to rendezvous with Riley for a visit.  She wasn't able to make it, but I was able to indulge in my latest favorite drug, matcha green tea latte, in a specialist tea shop called Physical Graffiti.  It got its name because it was in the center of a row of buildings photographed and graphically designed for the front cover of Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti.  I stepped outside and took a look.  Sure enough, there was the foundation of the Led Zeppelin cover still recognizable after all these years.  Another bardo trigger: Physical Graffiti had been a gift from my stepmother on my fifteenth birthday.  It was wonderful coincidence that the matcha latte there remains the best one I've had to date.

The next big city performance would be in Toronto, but first a show in Ithaca, NY (not the long sought home of Odysseus in Ancient Greece) on the way north.  We dropped the equipment off at the theater then went out to find some lunch in the downtown outdoor mall area.  Maybe it was the contrast from the City that made the streets of Ithaca seem almost deserted.  The older, faded, colonial-style buildings and the ghostown-like ambience provided a very strong, bardoesque quality to the proceedings.  It felt like being on the set of a Twilight Zone episode, or Lost In Space when they encounter a simulated earth environment.  Another strange coincidence tipped me off: on the ride into downtown I read an anecdote about Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and the film Easy Rider from the book, Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll's Legendary Neighborhood, and as soon as I stepped out of the van, I spied a film theater down the road with Easy Rider on the marquee.  This timing made it seem that the book was projecting itself out of its pages in 3D.  Or maybe I had projected myself into the book and was partially living in that reality, that parallel Universe, as Robert Anton Wilson might speculate.  Even the lunch spot felt like a bardo chamber.  Part of it was under construction.  Construction areas almost always feel like bardo zones to me, buildings in transition, but that might be partially explained by my past history as an apprentice millwright.  After lunch we watched a street magician doing tricks and illusions on the mall.  Apart from the magician, we were the only people on the street

The theater felt like television studios I've been in without the big cameras.  The show felt quite intimate.  The rows of seats were tiered like a Roman or Greek amphitheater, so that even at the back, you felt like you were close, hovering over the band.  I tied into their speakers and the sound was quite good.  The intimacy of the space meant that the mix position was close to the mains for a change.  The sound system did give some push back to the invocation in the last half hour of the show with the loud distorted cry of an ailing speaker or amplifier.  It happened only about a half dozen times on certain transients, but it was loud in one area of the theater; an uninvited, random audio guest had joined us.  Both the theater's tech and I backed off on the volume which may have mitigated the problem. It didn't appear to interfere with the enjoyment of the concert.  I was a little frustrated and silently questioned why certain theaters couldn't get their sound together.  Then I remembered where I was and put it in perspective: there had been a lot less obstacles and we got to the home-space in Ithaca much quicker and easier than Odysseus had in the Illiad. 


Toronto is another city I love, though this was only my third time visiting.  Growing up in Calgary, Toronto became a kind of Promised Land where young bands could travel, put on a showcase in a local club, like the El Mocambo where the Stones played, and hopefully get signed by a major record label.  My first visit to T.O. was with such a band.  This time it was a sold-out concert in a small church just north of the Kensington Market area.  During one transition between songs, Simrit explained the origins of her elaborate head dress from the Minoan civilization of Ancient Crete.  She said that their remarkably advanced culture was guided by women who wore these head dresses when they met in council.  This is part of Simrit's biological lineage.  She connects and resonates with this ancient matriarchal wisdom communicating it through her being in the music. 

Whenever possible, I like to step out of the venue after soundcheck and go for a short exploratory walk to get a lay of the land; find out where we our situated in space/time, scope out the local environment.  R.U. Sirius recounts in Timothy Leary's Trip Through Time that Leary stressed the importance of being aware of your geographical coordinates at all times.  Where are you on the body of the Earth at this moment?  This seems especially important when constantly traveling, and also seems like good bardo voyaging advice.  I soon found myself in the Kensington Market district with its wide range of ethnic diversity reflected in the restaurants, food bars and shops.  I noticed a large white building prominently advertising itself as a medical marijuania dispensary which I thought a little bold, but then reflected that the mother of the current Prime Minister used to party with the Rolling Stones in Toronto.  I found a good hot matcha drink on the way back to the church to clear the mind  and invoke presence in preparation for the night's music.  

Our nomadic troop checked into a hotel late at night following the concert and loadout. We had the next day off.  I went out mid-morning for a long walk up Yonge Street, a walk I'd taken on my initial visit to this town.  The temperature was brisk, but not too cold if one kept to a vigorous pace.  A lot had changed in the 35 years since walking this way before.  It had an air of faded glory, like it had seen it's time, but the real action was now somewhere else.  I ended up walking over to the famed Maple Leaf Gardens which is like the Vatican, the holy shrine, to young Canadian kids growing up in the culture of ice hockey in the '60's, '70's and 80's.  Maple Leaf Gardens is to Toronto what Madison Square Garden is to New York, iconic spaces for special events - not only sports, they've both held their fair share of rock concerts.  Why "Gardens?" Maybe it suggests a space or a perception of primal paradise, perhaps the natural state after the ego programming gets temporarily dismantled and removed due to a powerful music event.  Back at the hotel, I noticed some construction zones where they were renovating some of the floors..

In Gurdjieff's scheme of things, to keep the intention of on ongoing process from going off course, one requires, at certain critical moments, an influx of energy or stimulus from something outside that process, or what he called a "shock."  These shocks, when they work, allow the process to pass through the critical final interval and reach the next octave.  I was fortunate to get this influx of energy in a big way when meeting up with my friends Terry, Lisa and Jody Tompkins, first at the SIMRIT concert, then again the next night over a delicious Japanese dinner.  Terry and Lisa are songwriters and musicians who have been in and around the Canadian music industry for many years.  Jody is a rising sound engineer star.  Their review of the concert was very positive.  They gave me some excellent feedback, particularly Lisa, who explained the importance of the reverb effects on Simrit's voice, something Simrit and I had spent time fine tuning.  Terry described a sense of blissfulness that the music guided him toward.  It was great to get this kind of educated viewpoint from people who know, and really appreciate diverse types of music and who are players themselves.

A large, Universalist Church was the site of our next concert in Ottawa.  A massive, working pipe organ took up the whole back wall behind the stage/altar area.  Most of the pipes were vertical except for a small row in the middle set on a horizontal plane.  I imagined them as small trumpets for the cherubim when they got really cooking.  The acoustics were amazing, quite possibly the best on the tour.  I took some moments to quietly sit in the space about an hour before the doors opened after almost everyone left for dinner.  Salif was playing his kora in an antechamber to the church we had reterritorialized as a concert space.  The door was open between the two rooms.  The kora has a soft, delicate sound when not amplified like a mezzo-piano African harp.  Yet the reverberations in the large room from the kora's indirect sound filled it with a distant, guiding refrain.  A sound promising a distant road home.

These glorious acoustics inspired me to relay a memory to Simrit of seeing a Canadian hippie folksinger named Valdy play the Jubilee Auditorium many years ago.  Valdy had departed from the form of his first song to vocally improvise like scat singing, almost yodeling at times.  He apologized to the audience afterwards saying it was a rare treat to have golden acoustics like these to bounce his voice off of.  It seemed like Simrit really stretched out that night taking full advantage of the room's natural sound.  To my perception, SIMRIT, the collective assemblage, went to a whole new level, breaking out of a certain stasis to try different things, taking more musical risks. A moderate snow storm didn't keep the hardy souls of Ottawa away.  It did make loading out a little trickier especially when it became apparent that this was the perfect weather for a snowball fight.

A club called Lion d'Ors in Montreal was our next and last stop on the tour.  It was unique for being the only venue that wasn't a church, theater or an amorphous performance space.  It was a cabaret.   I experienced one more incident of Coincidence Control providing extraordinary help.  The power supply for Simrit's  "in ear" monitor system had gone missing. It would be much more difficult for Simrit to hear herself without it, the whole band would have to adjust.  It seemed that musically the shows had climbed another notch each time.  I was concerned that this issue would throw that evolution off course.  We tried another power supply, but it was the wrong voltage and didn't work.  It was a Sunday and the music stores weren't open yet.  I mentioned this to the house sound tech.  He took a look through the flotsam and jetsam of spare cables, turn-arounds, and adaptors, and found a power supply that worked.  Another band had left it behind, he had no use for it so he gave it to us. A crisis and major inconvenience averted.

This was our only afternoon show though the nightclub ambience and shuttered windows made it seem like it could have been any time after the show began.  I took a quick walk around the neighborhood and discovered the Sacre Coeur church just down the street.  Across from that, a little further down, was the modest Sacre Coeur medical clinic.  This was another bardo marker for me.  I had begun my experiments recording the ambience of sacred spaces at the Basilica du Sacre Coeur in Paris in 1990 as a way of investigating the use of sound for bardo navigation.  At the time, I didn't know enough French to translate "sacre coeur" and had only chosen it because its prominence in the Parisian skyline showed it to be an interesting piece of architecture.

It was yet another stellar concert by SIMRIT.  I perceived it as a continuation of the level of quality they reached in Ottawa.  After the show, an attractive woman, one of the volunteers, approached and asked if she could help me in any way.  I said, " no, I was good," whereupon she excxlaimed, "this was the best sound I ever heard.  She qualified this extravagant statement by saying that she had worked in the music biz for twenty years with artists like Led Zeppelin (the L.Z. refrain again) and Jethro Tull, and had a close friendship with Robert Plant.  I was grateful to hear this comment and attributed it to the ecstatic place the music had brought her to - you know, that place where everything is the best you've ever experienced.

I don't know the effect SIMRIT's music had on the current American political regime, it's not measurable.  I did have direct personal experience on several occasions of people being profoundly moved such as Robert Plant's friend.  For a brief period of time, during these eleven concerts, a portal had been opened into another dimension, i.e. another way to measure space and time, taking them out of the world-illusion of egos, countries, and the grinding capitalist machine  (the Trump regime) to connect with something real.  This is The Resistance.  Peace.