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.


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