Friday, November 19, 2010

Robert Anton Wilson:Transmission of Baraka

This post may not seem related to the production of music but maybe it is.

I had an experience working with Robert Anton Wilson in an online class called Tales of the Tribe that lead me to strongly suspect that baraka, ie spiritual grace, can get transmitted over the internet.

Tales of the Tribe had a great deal of intensity mostly in a subtle, below the surface way. I seem to recall that it started out with an enrollment of 30 - 40 active participants but by the end, only a dozen or less of us hardcore students remained. Looking for a good description of the course I found:

The tale of the tribe approximates a tale of humanity, or 'tales',
a new global epic that must capture illuminating details from humanity
and juxtapose them in a special way using special language
(Hologrammic prose, the Hermetic style, Ideogrammic method, Joyce's 'epiphany' etc.)

Dr.Robert Anton Wilson crafted his tale of the tribe to suit,
among other definitions; the architects of post-modem' cyber-culture,
reaching back to the Renaissance and pulling up-tense
to our decentralized--hyper connected--future present.

Which is from visionary DJ and illuminlitterati Fly Agaric's description of his follow-up course email to the tribe

Tales of the Tribe ended up mainly focusing on The Cantos by Ezra Pound and Finnegans Wake by James Joyce both of them epic magnum opi that referred to many iconoclastic thinkers both historical and contemporary including Giordono Bruno, Giambattista Vico, Jonathon Swift, Buckminster Fuller, Marshall Mcluhan, Aleister Crowley, and Timothy Leary among others, and to metaphysical training systems such as Poetry Appreciation, Hermetic Initiation, Qabala, Communications Theory, Alchemy, Shamanism, Bardo Training and Shekinah Courtesy among others.

Studying Finnegans Wake with RAW was eye opening to say the least. I had read it once completely through a few years back and regularly randomly opened it up and read sections of it but it still had seemed largely beyond my meager comprehension. The maze of understanding this book did brighten and appear more solvable the longer I spent on it. The insights Wilson gave on FW, which seemed more like clues and direction pointers than outright explanations, served as a catalyst for a quantum leap in my understanding of the book. Joyce's daunting, ambitiously experimental music-like prose all of a sudden became friendlier, easier to grasp, and much more consistently inspiring.

The Cantos was another story, for me. I did not "get" The Cantos as something interesting, compelling, and vital to read until a few weeks after Tales of the Tribe finished. Only then after a 36 hour stint of work that ended with a remix of something at Prairie Sun's Studio A SSL room. I would pour through The Cantos during my regular listening breaks. Something just clicked - even the majority of the writing that I didn't comprehend seemed to provide valuable input in a sub or supra-conscious way. After that, it was hard for me to put the book down.

Toward the end of the course I wrote a post on a qabalistic examination of the words leave and leaf in Finnegans Wake. I looked up the words in a FW Concordex and got over a hundred listings of quotes with one or more of these words in them. I analyzed 15-20 of these quotes in light of my hypothesis that leave = l (ie Lamed = Truth) + eve ( ie Binah) as one possible meaning Joyce intended. Here's some examples of the quotes from FW:

Soft morning, city! Lsp! I am leafy speafing. Lpf! Folty and
folty all the nights have falled on to long my hair. Not a sound,
falling. Lispn! No wind no word. Only a leaf, just a leaf and
then leaves. The woods are fond always. As were we their babes
in. And robins in crews so. It is for me goolden wending.
Unless? Away! Rise up, man of the hooths, you have slept so
long! Or is it only so mesleems?

Phonetics, sounding the words out, perhaps remains the single most important key to understanding Joyce's use of language. It's useful to remember that James Joyce, a singer himself, had the ears of a musician. I consider him a sound engineer. He could successfully compose a fugue of words that, when read aloud or sounded out, could alter mood or consciousness in the same way that more conventional good music can.

barking their infernal shins over her triliteral roots and his acorns
and pinecorns shooting wide all sides out of him, plantitude
outsends of plenty to thousands, after the truants of the
utmostfear and her downslyder in that snakedst-tu-naughsy whimmering
woman't seeleib such a fashionaping sathinous dress out of that
exquisitive creation and her leaves, my darling dearest,
sinsinsinning since the night of time and each and all of their branches
meeting and shaking twisty hands all over again in their new
world through the germination of its gemination from Ond's
outset till Odd's end. And encircle him circuly. Evovae!
-- Is it so exaltated, eximious, extraoldandairy and
-- Amengst menlike trees walking or trees like angels
weeping nobirdy aviar soar anywing to eagle it! But rocked of agues,
cliffed for aye !
-- Telleth that eke the treeth?
-- Mushe, mushe of a mixness.

This one shows a stronger allusion to Eve. I let the quote go a little longer for the last two lines.

And lastly, this one right at the end of the book:

So. Avelaval. My leaves have drifted from me.
All. But one clings still. I'll bear it on me. To remind me of. Lff!
So soft this morning, ours. Yes. Carry me along, taddy, like you
done through the toy fair! If I seen him bearing down on me now
under whitespread wings like he'd come from Arkangels, I sink
I'd die down over his feet, humbly dumbly, only to washup. Yes,
tid. There's where. First...

At the time, I took leaves as primarily referring to leaves on a tree. Robert Anton Wilson's reply pointed out that leaves also refers to going away. As Joyce was getting to the end of the book, he was also getting to the end of his life and and was strongly aware of this. So, Wilson maintained that leaves refers to not only leaving the writing of The Work in Progress, as Joyce initially called it but also to leaving his physical corpus, ie his death.

Unfortunately, I don't have the verbatim text of Wilson's message to show the mood it conveyed. I suddenly realized that RAW seemed in a very similar situation, almost identical as the one he described for JJ: Getting ready to leave. I had a very strong feeling of the mood of someone confronting their own death and felt kind of awkward about inadvertently bringing the subject up. The mood felt sort of like getting uprooted and facing the Unknown wondering what will happen next. Calmly, if a little nervously, awaiting expansion.

The next morning driving to work early in the morning, I began to feel quite illuminatingly expansive myself. Part of my drive is a brief jog through Empire Mine State Park and it's lush forest scenery. Going through it, a sensation of intimate connection to the inside of every single leaf in the forest overtook me. Leaving the Park at the top of a hill that overlooks the valley, I now experienced that expansive feeling with all the trees and leaves that I could see. The word foilage took on a new, experiential meaning for me. This experience definitely had leaves as a center of gravity. It felt like I lighted them all up.

It seemed that the energy that fueled this new perception must have derived from that exchange with RAW. The peak of it lasted the whole time I drove to work, about 20 minutes, but the energy lingered for several more hours. A door had clearly been opened.

At the end of the course I wrote this in gratitude:

I am, as ever,

deeply indebted to RAW

for sheer clarity of communication

of the ancient and modern

wisdom and understanding

coursing and chorusing

through his illuminated nervous system

like a winding, dancing river

returning home to the sea.


  1. Cool post. I wonder if Bob's "personality" still exists, and/or if it has reincarnated and/or just faded away and/or transmutated.

  2. I like to think some semblance of it exists somewhere.