Thursday, September 20, 2018

Burning Down the House

This video has no hidden messages - if there are any, they are hidden from me as well.  I just like this music.  It's from the Talking Heads Stop Making Sense tour and features my friend, the late, great Bernie Worrell on keyboards.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Creating A Spiritual Guide

The purpose of this essay is to show how anyone can create a personal Guide to the nonphenomenal side of the evolving human experience.  In the lingo of Leary's model: creating (or discovering - depending on how you view it) a Guide to the post-terrestrial neurological circuits, circuits 5 - 8.  No indoctrination or adaptation of a specific belief system is required except a general one that allows this possibility.  The method involves learning how to read signs.  How one ascertains and signifies the signs opens a potent path of self-discovery.

A sign can be any kind of nonverbal communication from the mundane to the deeply profound.  The milk has a sour smell, an obvious sign not to drink it.  You can get equally blatant signs regarding your spiritual growth.  As you might imagine, most signs regarding the alchemical development of spirit appear much subtler.  Learning to read signs develops the perceptive faculties of the higher circuits/higher bodies.  For instance, the interpretation of a sign that can go in many different, sometimes opposite, directions requires intuition to aid in making a choice of what direction to take or even if it's a valid (useful) sign at all or just noise on the horizon.  Intuition gets stronger with regular and frequent use. Verbal communications also transmit a wealth of signs after the science of Qabalah gets applied to it.  We shall get to that momentarily.

An informative look at the art of reading signs can be found in Proust & Signs by Gilles Deleuze.  It presents a taxonomy and examination of different kinds of signs within the environment of Marcel Proust's epic opus In Search of Lost Time.

"To be sensitive to signs, to consider the world to be an object to be deciphered, is doubtless a gift.  But this gift risks remaining buried in us if we do not make the necessary encounters, and these encounters would remain ineffective if we failed to overcome certain stock notions." (p.26 - 27)

"The persons whom we have loved, have made us suffer, one by one; but the broken chain they form is a joyous spectacle of intelligence.  Then, thanks to intelligence, we discover what we could not know at the start: that we were already apprenticed to signs when we supposed we were wasting our time.  We realize that our idle life was indissociable from our work: 'My whole life ... a vocation'"
(p. 24 - the quote within the quote comes from Proust).

I bring up Deleuze's observations of signs and communication to suggest approaches to this art rather than as a dogmatic model to be slavishly imitated.  That goes for anything written here.

Speaking of Deleuze, it should be stated at the outset that this process of finding a Guide is rhizomatic, not arborescent.  In other words, this process operates as a nonlinear multiplicity with no specific beginning or endpoint other than completely vague metaphysical terms like Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, itself a rhizome and a multiplicity.

A rhizome, a term borrowed from botany, describes the growth patterns in this process of connecting with a Higher Intelligence.  Deleuze and Guattari's essay on the rhizome, the introduction to A Thousand Plateaus is strongly recommended for revealing the nature of spiritual growth.  A rhizome means that you can begin anywhere and go in any direction, we find no specific starting point.  However, there are starting points which can be implemented at any time more than once and not necessarily in the very beginning.

We are going to present the method that worked for us.  We are a multiplicity too!  This method is largely based on our research and experimentation  with the set of teachings Aleister Crowley presented.  It is sympathetic to, but unconnected and independent of any iteration of the O.T.O. or the A .'. A.'.  The philosophical provocations of Gilles Deleuze and the researches of Robert Anton Wilson also play into the mix. 

Crowley launched his School with theories, outlines and instructions in the biannual, occult literary journal he published for five years from 1909 until 1914 known as The Equinox Volume I.  The two  Libers (books) that begin his course are Liber E, Sub Figura IX and Liber O, Sub Figura VILiber E gives a series of yogic exercises and instructions for the training of the body and mind.  The numerical attribution of that text, 9, refers to Yesod, the first sephiroth on the middle pillar of the Tree of Life going up from Malkuth, the sphere of the material world.  Yesod signifies foundation.  The discipline of yoga provides a solid foundation for magick practices.  One of Crowley's esoteric innovations was combining yoga from the East with the Western Hermetic tradition.

Liber O, Sub Figura VI lays out basic instructions of magick.  It begins with a carefully arranged series of ten photographs showing a magician giving various signs; the first six corresponding to the elements and two phases of Spirit with the last four depicting the L. V. X. signs.  Further into the text we are given instructions for the basic rituals of the Pentagram and Hexagram.

The very first lesson in Sub Figura VI, even before the magick, a lesson also vigorously adapted by Robert Anton Wilson is SKEPTICISM. Doubt, not jumping to conclusions or resorting to dogmatic certainty, appears a crucial prerequisite to both Crowley and Wilson's presentations.  The despotic signifier is the term Deleuze uses for what rigidly beholdens one to any particular belief system.  The beliefs, whatever they may be, become a Despot that binds you to thinking and perceiving a certain way.  Much of the work of Crowley and Wilson and some of their other peers like Gurdjieff, consists of showing students how to free themselves from these despotic signifiers.

Another seminal essay, The Soldier and the Hunchback, published in the first issue of The Equinox takes on the question, "what is skepticism?"

One primary reason for adapting a healthy sense of skepticism regarding these matters: it seems extremely easy to deceive yourself.

Another primary reason: like many other areas with commercial potential where someone can make a buck we see numerous con people, charlatans and radical conspiracy theorists of all ilks who will do their utmost to sell you their line.  Some of them even believe their own bs. In common parlance, what is needed is a belief system detector, otherwise known as a bullshit detector, both to guard against self-deception and against other people's unwanted games. "While the rules of the road have been lodged, it's only people's games you've got to dodge, and it's alright Ma, I can make it. (Dylan)

Skepticism as a safeguard against extreme and irrational paranoia: When diving deep into these water, much apparent resistance may be encountered to the point where it can seem like powerful forces are out to mess with you.  Your mind can spin off and fabulate any number of tragic scenarios that would induce stress and adversely affect the nerves up to, and including, a breakdown.

Another related condition that likely occurs at some point concerns entering a zone of the bardo that Robert Anton Wilson called Chapel Perilous.  This can seem subtle or extreme at different times, but often consists of extended periods (weeks, months or years - do you ever leave or do you learn how to handle it?) of intense disorientation and fear.  It can also include uncomfortable hypersensitivity.  One purpose of the the basic rituals of the Pentagram and Hexagram aims toward reducing that sensitivity.

Wilson's, Cosmic Trigger Volume I portrays a classic textbook example of an excursion through Chapel Perilous.  Wilson said that he reached a point where he had to make the choice of either becoming completely paranoid or agnostic about his experiences.  He made the choice to view things as an agnostic, meaning that ultimately he couldn't be certain of what was going on.  His skepticism saved his sanity.  Masks of the Illuminatti (highly valued for its magical instruction), a work of fiction Wilson produced around the same time, also has much good advice and insight on traveling through Chapel Perilous.  For instance, he gives an ad hoc, extemporaneous version of the Rosy Cross ritual as a means of instantly attenuating hypersensitivity. 

The choice between paranoia and agnosticism, between certainty and doubt, can be very useful in mundane matters, as well.  Did that person just give me a dirty look, are they mad with me?  I don't know, maybe they're thinking about something else - or any number of other possible explanations.

Both Crowley and Wilson returned to and emphasized the value of doubt and skepticism throughout their careers.  Wilson quotes Crowley frequently on the subject.  He began his Maybe Logic Academy Crowley 101 course with an examination of The Soldier and the Hunchback.  Crowley, Wilson and Deleuze are grounded in the philosophy of skepticism formulated by David Hume.

Most good teachers advise their students to be skeptical to what they are being taught.  Gurdjieff reportedly said: " don't believe anything I say, verify everything for yourself."  This holds for many like-minded schools.  Wilson publicized Aleister's version of this: "Frater Perdurabo (Crowley) is the most honest of all the religious teachers. Others have said, "Believe me!" He says, "Don't believe me!" ( Book 4 Part 1)

Crowley, Wilson and others used a method Wilson would come to call "guerilla ontology" to keep their readers from automatically believing everything they said.  This method involves including factually inaccurate and misleading bullshit along with bonafide spiritual gems and insights.  A good writer or storyteller can subtly weave in elements of bs along with genuine data so that the recepient has to use their intuition to suss out what is signal and what is noise.  Or more plainly put, a bullshit detector needs some bullshit to detect in order to develop.

Holy Guardian Angel

We will return to Liber O, but first it must be clear that Crowley regarded the first major task or ordeal in his School to be the attainment of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel (HGA).  All of the student's initial efforts are to get directed toward that aim.  Anything else, he said, can be considered black magic - magic for egotistical purposes.

"... the Single Supreme Ritual is the attainment of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.  It is the raising of the complete man in a vertical straight line.

Any deviation of this line tends to become black magic.  Any other operation is black magic. 

... if the Magician needs to perform any other operation than this, it is only lawful insofar as it is a necessary preliminary to that one work."

- Magick in Theory and Practice, ch.21

The HGA represents both an extensive and intensive multiplicity; it doesn't appear as one, unchanging, coherent thing. A multiplicity can have several different, sometimes paradoxical external aspects.  The HGA also seems the type of multiplicity that changes over time.

This explains why you can read or hear several anecdotes and accounts of the HGA by Crowley and others that differ, sometimes radically, from each other.  At one point Crowley says the HGA = the subconscious mind made conscious.  At other times, he refers to the HGA as a completely autonomous and independent external entity that can take a human form.  Both of these dialectically opposing views can seem accurate in a multiplicity.

Crowley says, perhaps whimsically, that he chose to signify it that way because he thought the term Guardian Angel so absurd that it would preclude any metaphysical debate of what it actually "is."  That's what he says, anyway maybe to cover himself from attacks by critics.  One of the characteristics of the HGA is protectiveness.  In that way it behaves like the Roman Catholic Guardian Angel. I'm not alone in irrationally feeling protected at times by an unseen force of some kind.  Crowley gives examples of this kind of protection in his diaries and in the Confessions. Crowley borrowed the term Holy Guardian Angel from Macgregor Mathers' translation of the 15th Century grimoire The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage.  For the beginning process of this effort, or at any stage in our work, we don't need to know what the HGA "is," only that it functions as a spiritual guide ... among other things.

True Will

The HGA often gets described only in its full realization: the uniting of the Microcosm with the Macrocosm.  See chapter 1 in Magick in Theory and Practice for a picture of this ultimate realization.  Another expression of the HGA links it to the realization of True Will.  The HGA is said to be the epitome of your True Will.  That fact alone makes everyone's Angel different.

True Will provides the necessity for overcoming the inertia of organic life and developing a life beyond the organic.  If we maintain that the HGA begins by acting as a Guide and eventually becomes the realization of your highest aims, your True Will, then it appears obvious that formulating a True Will becomes critical to finding a Spiritual Guide; your True Will becomes your Guide in the process called the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.

To begin formulating an overall aim in life seems as easy as considering what you would like to do if free from any constraints - financial, family or otherwise.  What would you really like to do?  What is your deepest desire? True Will doesn't have to be stated in an all inclusive, final form, it will inevitable change anyway as it becomes more clearly defined in your mind.  It also need not look like a grand, altruistic enterprise like saving the world or holding politicians accountable.  A True Will could be as simple and basic as the ferryman I quote below: to bring people and livestock across the river.

In notes to Liber Samekh, a ritual Crowley modified from a more ancient text, the Bornless Ritual, to make contact with the HGA, he writes:

The Adept will be free to concentrate his deepest self, that part of him which unconsciously orders his true Will, upon the realization of his Holy Guardian Angel.  The absence of his bodily, mental, and astral consciousness is indeed cardinal to success, for it is their usurption of his attention which has made him deaf to his Soul, and his preoccupation with their affairs that has prevented him from perceiving that Soul.

To activate its function as a Guide we figure out how to arrive at its Knowledge and Conversation in a completely literal sense.  This essay aims to show how to begin this dialog or to make aware and recognize that this dialog has already begun - how to fine tune the reception.

We don't know any basic general formula for waking up to this Intelligence.  You try things, experiment, and see what works and what doesn't work.  As Crowley writes:

"It is impossible to write down precise rules by which a person may attain to the knowledge and conversation of their Holy Guardian Angel; for that is the particular secret of each one of us; a secret not to be told or even divined by any other, whatever their grade.  It is the Holy of Holies, whereof each person is their own High Priest, and none knoweth the name of his brother's or sister's God, or the Rite that invokes Him." - One Star in Sight

How do we establish knowledge of the HGA? How do we know it's there? This is where the ability to detect belief systems comes in handy.  Having this framework allows us to enter into any belief system and leave at will with no regrets because we can recognize it as a system of beliefs and not a dogmatic or despotic imperative that rigidly binds us.  We experiment with entering in to a belief system where we have the ability to make contact with an Intelligence so vastly beyond ours that it seems omniscient.  We can make experiments 'as if' this Intelligence is real and see what happens, if anything.  Beginning knowledge of this critter seems extremely easy, it then becomes a matter of degree.  Just through the act of reading this essay gives knowledge that this system of beliefs exists.  Now that you have knowledge of the HGA, lets look at communication.

To establish a dialog with the HGA one has to find out how it communicates.  We know it communicates with signs.  We have to find out how to recognize these special signs and a method for interpreting them.  These signs become like seeds for the growth of the Soul.


The next step in Liber O following the call for skepticism concerns gaining  familiarity with and an understanding of Qabalah.  This science of inner exploration acts like a vast rhizome of intelligible symbols and images that potentially turns everything into a sign.

Qabalah introduces all kinds of variations into language, symbol systems, and the interpretation of sensory stimuli.  This may have the effect of producing multiple levels of sense at an astonishingly exponential rate.  This seems like one reason why leading post-modern writers like James Joyce, Thomas Pynchon and Robert Anton Wilson love to play with qabalah in their writings.

"A secret language does not merely have a hidden cipher or code still operating by constants and forming a subsystem; it places the public language's system of variables in a state of variation."

 - Deleuze & Guatarri, A Thousand Plateaus p. 97

Qabalah can seem a daunting system of linguistics to learn due to its complexity.  Crowley recommends memorizing all the Tables of Correspondences in the dictionary he assembled, 777.  I have found this not necessary to effectively make use of this system of signs.  777 works very well as a reference book.  Eventually parts of it get memorized simply through frequent usage.  Qabalah can be learned a little at a time - possibly the only way it can get learned.  It helps immensely if one has a necessity of some kind to learn and apply it.  Beginning the process of formulating your True Will - answering the question: Why am I here? can provide an aim and purpose that may benefit from qabalistic signs.  

How one chooses, selects and interprets a potential sign provides a clear look at the subconscious mind.  This gives one indication of Qabalah as a link to the HGA, your spiritual guide.  This aspect seems not unlike gazing into a crystal ball to see visions.  The crystal ball is a neutral external medium that the psychic aspects of the subconscious mind get projected upon.  

This quality of Qabalah, the projection of the subconscious mind onto the external environment for the purposes of learning from it also reminds me of the Ferryman story in Siddhartha by Herman Hesse.  It's in chapter 9 of that book:

Tenderly, he looked into the rushing water, into the transparent green, into the crystal lines of its drawing, so rich in secrets. Bright pearls he saw rising from the deep, quiet bubbles of air floating on the reflecting surface, the blue of the sky being depicted in it. With a thousand eyes, the river looked at him, with green ones, with white ones, with crystal ones, with sky-blue ones. How did he love this water, how did it delight him, how grateful was he to it! In his heart he heard the voice talking, which was newly awaking, and it told him:
Love this water! Stay near it! Learn from it! Oh yes, he wanted to learn from it, he wanted to listen to it. He who would understand this water and its secrets, so it seemed to him, would also understand many other things, many secrets, all secrets.

The background and context of this story comes from Buddhism, so this approach may be more suited to the Eastern mind and temperament.  Organizing and navigating the filing cabinets of Qabalah, the branches, twigs, leaves and fruit of the Tree of Life may be more suited to the intellect of the Western mind.

A key phrase in the Hesse quote related to the HGA, to the process of creating or discovering a spiritual guide: "In his heart he heard the voice talking, which was newly awaking ..."  For it should not be forgotten that the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel signifies an operation that occurs in Tiphareth

Creating A Lexicon

Everyone makes their own unique individual sets of meaningful correspondences and associations based on their life experience, dreams, visions, and intuition.  Many people use a common frame of reference, the one Crowley recommends, the qabalistic Tree of Life, to file their relations in.   The symbols in this rhizome seem so fluid, variable and interchangeable that radically different lexicons can quite easily co-exist in harmony within the same frame of reference.  It's possible to create a functional lexicon, a personalized language with your budding higher consciousness without the Tree of Life, with a completely different frame of reference.  The advantage of using the Tree of Life and Crowley's Qabalah dictionary, 777,  is that it opens up multiple new levels of communication with anyone else using it.

There are many dimensions to qabalistic thinking beyond transposing letters into numbers (Gematria) or memorizing the Tables of Correspondences in 777.  Anyone who knows how to use a reference book or a dictionary can look them up.

Mirror Imaging

A primary point of education for the new lexicon builder concerns developing a skill in seeing and doing things in reverse order, seeing words backwards, etc. Crowley even advises learning how to write backwards among other things.  The whole practice and rationale behind it is found in Liber ThIShARB, 913.  This liber presents a method for recovering past memories, basically time-traveling in a visionary mode, but there are many other advantages to the practice of seeing things both forward and backward.  One advantage being a great expansion of one's lexicon.  This instruction from Liber 913 probably inspired The Beatles to experiment with backwards masking in their recordings.

In Leary's qabalah of brain circuits, the first path beyond the terrestrial robot set of lower circuits, stage 13 in his lexicon, is represented by The Hanged Man, a tarot card which depicts a man reversed.  The path of the Hanged Man, Mem, corresponds with the element Water.  "... it is only natural that one of this path's 'key words' is Reversal.  The reason for this becomes obvious when you realize that water is the world's first mirror.  It reflects what is projected into it but always in reverse similar in nature to things Above and Below the Abyss." (J. Cornelius, Essays 5).

Cornelius speaks to the doctrine that what we see and experience in the illusory world of appearance (below the Abyss) is the reverse of that perceived in the real world (above the Abyss).  We get an example of this with the physics of color.  When something appears red to us we commonly say that object is red.  Actually, red is the only color it is not.  The red looking object absorbs all the colors of the spectrum except red which it reflects.  We mistake the reflection for the thing itself.

Closely related to developing the skill to think and see backwards is the ability to comprehend, understand and be ok with paradox.  This involves the mental and emotional flexibility of being able to go in two, mutually exclusive and often contradictory directions at once.

I look at how Deleuze uses paradox in this post.  A far better look and analysis of paradox in Deleuze's philosophy is Helen Palmer's Deleuze & Futurism - A Manifesto For Nonsense:

The double-headed paradoxical element is unstable because its halves are not equal, which presupposes an indeterminate third term and gives Deleuze's system momentum.  He describes it as a perpetuum mobile; its dynamism is at the very heart of Deleuze's philosophy of language.

Palmer speaks generally.  For the aspirant looking to develop a spiritual program of growth it means that paradox can become a catalyst and motivator for such growth.  Paradox can provoke thought and action by breaking set; by breaking apart (hexagram 23 in the I Ching) habitual belief systems that keep us complacent.with the status quo.  Spiritual growth often seems a response to a crisis.  Paradox can help provoke that crisis.

Robert Anton Wilson kept Crowley's book of paradoxes, The Book of Lies at his side for years for frequent reference and education.  Paradox seems at play when Crowley says his methods can produce Christs (Postcards for Probationers) while simultaneously billing himself as the Anti-Christ.  Both appear true.

Thinking of opposites comprises a crucial method Crowley came up with to detach from World Illusion; also to avoid or become free of obsessive, fanatical beliefs.  This exercise involves taking an opposite position to any strongly held belief.  To use one clearly absurd example: If you believe the government is not working in your best interests, then enter the opposite belief system - the government is concerned for the benefit of all the citizens above its own interests.  By entering in the opposite belief as strongly as the favored belief, they may not fully cancel each other for very long, but it will definitely give some, perhaps much needed, detachment and relief from the sometimes passionate idea that the government greatly affects our lives.  I call this the phase cancellation game because sound waves, or any kind of waves including quantum, cancel each other when they combine out of phase - when the peaks and troughs occurs at exactly the opposite time to the peaks and troughs of another wave.

Coincidences and Synchronicities

One of the most perniciously puzzling category of signs to afflict the newbie spiritual seeker are (so-called) meaningful coincidences.  For interested parties, these coincidences can seem a kind of portal or doorway to communication with Higher Intelligence.  A well-known and phenomena occurs to many readers of Robert Anton Wilson of receiving many coincidences with the number 23 when they read Cosmic Trigger I and encounter Wilson's own freaky episodes with it.  It can seem like the pages of that book alter or tweak material reality.  You can start to see why we make Skepticism one of our foundational building blocks.  That book, Cosmic Trigger, is the best one I know of for examining synchronicities in the context of human evolution.  It's also where I first learned Qabalah.  Strange things along these lines will start to happen when you dive into these pages while simultaneously paying attention to what is going on around you.  Caveat Emptor.

Synchronicities depend on acasual connections.  Nobody knows what causes these acasual connections, but there are theories.  Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli wrote a paper looking for an adequate model in quantum physics.  Experiencing, and not denying, profoundly mind-blowing synchronicities, something I suspect a lot of people have encountered, can give the feeling of contact with an Intelligence vastly greater than one's own; vastly greater than any (known to science) human intelligence.  When this begins to happen frequently because you made the mistake of going down the rabbit-hole, the suspicion that a nonhuman guiding force communicates to you with signs can grow stronger especially when it reveals practical results.

Jung and Pauli were convinced that synchronistic events reveal an underlying unity of mind and matter, subjective and objective realities.  - Charlene Burns.

This is not to say that there isn't noise, sometimes a great deal, along with the signal.  Learning to discern and tune into the signal, tune out the noise like a radio receiver is a skill that develops with use.

Speaking of signal and noise, coincidences and synchronicities appear to have degrees of significance ranging from none at all, mildly interesting, that got my attention, wtf?, and all the way up to an obvious piece of data being screamed at you whether you decide to listen or not; whether you decide it's nonsense or real.  Some people say there are no "coincidences," meaning that everything has some kind of significance and/or everything is a product of the subconscious mind.  The skeptic in me  disagrees.  I expect that we get co-incidents between events and though some of these may appear odd, curious or interesting, they may ultimately have no significance for us personally as an esoteric communication.  However, when odd coincidences happen especially at an increased rate, I pay close attention to see if anything is there.  Sometimes there is, sometimes not, sometimes it's filed away for future consideration, sometimes it seems like the trickster spirit of Groucho Marx messing with your mind - breaking set.

A classic example of skepticism relating to receiving esoteric signs can be found in The Equinox of the Gods by Aleister Crowley when he relates what led up to the reception of the Book of the Law.  Wilson suspects that Crowley may have been pulling our leg about that.  I suspect they are both half-right.

One of the more advanced exercises in Crowley's A .'. A.'. is to consider all phenomena as a particular dealing of God with your soul.  That can be easily modified to considering all phenomena as a particular communication of the School with your soul.  Obviously, this requires a great deal of common sense and skepticism not to take it too far.  Apophenia describes the disease and obsession of taking it too far.

A couple of recent examples of synchronicities communicating:  A few weeks ago we looked at The Blues Brothers movie.  Jake and Elwood Blues are on a self-described "mission from God" to raise money for the orphanage/school they grew up in.  Their vehicle, the Bluesmobile is a 1974 black and white ex-police car, a Dodge Monaco.  Among other things, the film illustrates the extreme obstacles and resistance they faced fulfilling their mission.  At the end this resistance is caricatured to absurd lengths when tanks and troops from the Army are brought out to stop them.  Their determination and perseverance win out in the end.  How they deal with all the adversity is educational.

Two days later I drove to Prairie Sun to begin a mix project.  Parked right by the studio door was the Bluesmobile, or rather a black and white ex-cop car of the same vintage that looked exactly like it.  Although the Army and police weren't brought out to stop us, we did encounter several technical obstacles  mixing the album, but we navigated all of them and had a successful outcome.

The second example startled me a bit, it seems a second order synchronicity.  I was composing a blog about the Nabokov novel Pale Fire writing about the synchronicity of discovering references to the number 68 in that book just after posting a blog on Deleuze and the occult use of. 68.  Driving away after finishing I happened to be behind a slow moving Chevrolet Impala.  The license plate read "60EIGHT" It must have been a '68 Chevy on its way to the car show at the Fairgrounds right around the corner.


Any interested party can receive insight and guidance into their spiritual evolution, their expansion of consciousness simply by paying attention to what goes on around them, no specific ideological system necessary.  The key and one of the initial steps for tuning into this wisdom involves formulating a True Will, a life aim or goal of some kind.  Opening up to and receiving esoteric communication is not without its pitfalls and dangers.  A healthy and balanced attitude of flexibility of belief and skepticism is highly advised.  The enlightening, self-realized higher conscious appears immanent to where we are at right now.  As Wilson quotes Nietzsche in Cosmic Trigger, "we are all greater artists than we think."

"I had a dream, crazy dream,
Any thing I wanted to know,
Any place I need to go ..."

- Led Zeppelin, The Song Remains the Same.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Method of Defiance with Laurie Anderson

 In the deep subcellar of the human heart the dolorous twang of the iron harp rings out.

Build your cities proud and high. Lay your sewers. Span your rivers. Work feverishly. Sleep dreamlessly. Sing madly like the bulbul. Underneath, below the deepest foundations, there lives another race of men. They are dark, somber, passionate. They muscle into the bowels of the earth. They wait with a patience which is terrifying. They are the scavengers, the devourers, the avengers. They emerge when everything topples into dust.

- Henry Miller

The program liner notes for the  Al'arme Festival Vol. VI titled this event : LAURIE ANDERSON & BILL LASWELL'S METHOD OF DEFIANCE: COLLISION & SHORT CIRCUITS.  This event landed on the first of August at the Radial System V in Berlin.

The method of this defiance consists of Guy Licata on drums, Doctor Israel on beats, dub effects, M.C. and vocals, D.J. Logic on turntables, loops and samples, Graham Haynes on coronet and efx, Bill Laswell on bass guitar and efx, and Laurie Anderson on electric violin, synth efx, and vocals; tech support and organization provided by James Dellatacoma, Yoko Yamabe and myself.

Bill and Laurie go back a long way.  He produced some tracks for her Mr. Heartbreak album in 1984 featuring William S. Burroughs.  It was Anderson that initially introduced Laswell to Burroughs.  Five years later Laswell would create the soundscape for one of Burroughs' most significant spoken word recordings, Seven Souls.  Burroughs read text Laswell had selected from his recent book The Western Lands, his uniquely vibrant  and colorful rendering of The Egyptian Book of the Dead.  Seven Souls is an extremely evocative guided trip through the bardo, the land of the dead.  It rates as a classic in the field of after-life technology.

Laurie Anderson has been on my radar a long time as well, listening to her albums since the mid 80's, seeing her exhibits at MOMA in New York and catching a performance at the Beacon Theater. I was fortunate to assist on one session for her Strange Angels album in the late '80s.  Strange Angels is a great title, there are other things called that, but the one that interests me the most and somehow seems obliquely connected to this concert is Strange Angel in the singular, the biography of Jack Parsons.  Parsons was one of the founders of the Jet Propulsion Labratory.  He discovered the formula for the first effective liquid jet and rocket fuel which made jet planes possible.  He was also a major Science Fiction fan as well as a devout and very enthusiastic student of Aleister Crowley.  Crowley's magick, of course, has a firm foundation in the Egyptian Book of the Dead.  Hopefully Parsons was able to quickly up his after-life technology points because he tragically died at age 37 when he accidentally blew himself up.

The opening artist for Method of Defiance was a Norwegian avant garde angel, Maja S.K. Ratkje who created a very powerful and densely layered sonic environment with only her voice and electronics.  It definitely created a whole other world that, for me, recalled a quote from Dante's Inferno I had recently seen in Crowley's Konx Om Pax.  It occurs in the 6th Canto when Virgil and Dante enter the 3rd Circle of Hell:
“ ____________Look to your science
Where it is written: the more a thing is perfect
The more it feels of pleasure and of pain."

I enjoyed what I heard very much.

The Method of Defiance set was framed by two stories Anderson told, the first as an introduction and the second near the end.  Her first story incorporated one of the most ingenious uses of crowd participation I've ever witnessed.  In the event that she does it again, I won't write a spoiler and say exactly what it was, only that it effectively evoked the feeling of frustration nearly anyone of sane mind experiences when tuning into the Trump political reality TV show.  It created a powerful cathartic sensation that segued into an equally powerful music blast from the M.O.D. emergency broadcast system here at the Al'arme Festival.  Anderson's second story was about the stars.  From Trumpian angst to the stars suggests to me that the music, while it went in many directions from ambient soundscaping and melodic delicacy to furious drum & bass, hip hop beats and turntable scratching with rap dissent and poetics, overall it became a transformative voyage through a figurative and temporary death of ordinary identity. A realm of the dead, a realm which is another kind of very affective life.  This is the realm where real change can occur.

There were two sets to different audiences and they were unlike any other Method of Defiance or Material concert that I've mixed.  Laurie Anderson brought a unique sensibility that blended seamlessly with the drum & bass, dub & ambience, revolution rap of M.O.D. and guided it into uncharted territory.  I saw Graham after the second show and he was shaking his head with a big smile saying something like, "... she takes you to places you never expect to go." It was clearly an exceptional new musical adventure for him.  Bill also played differently, mixing in lots of melodic phrases and ambient environments with the heavy dub lines and the intense crescendos.

Laurie Anderson and Guy Licata
This, and the other MOD photo posted here is from Guy's Facebook page.  I don't know who to credit the photos too.

This was a challenging configuration to mix.  There was a lot of sound and it wasn't always easy to distinguish who was playing what.  I was soloing channels and checking them with headphones a little more than usual to determine the source of different sounds in order to know what faders to mix.  Beats could come from either Logic or Dr. Israel and, of course from Guy though it was easy to distinguish the acoustic drums from the sampled drums except in one instance when Guy completely locked in to a beat Logic looped.  In that case it was one powerful blend of sampled and live drums, you couldn't hear any flams at all between the two.  Laurie Anderson sometimes triggered lush and elaborate synthesized landscapes of sound that in itself could feel as big as a symphonic orchestra.  Bill also could create massive worlds and microworlds of sound with his pedals morphing his bass into timbres foreign to any conventional instrumentation.  Maybe mark it down to our location on the former divide between East and West Germany that some of sounds coming out of Bill's bass rig recalled scenes out of Burroughs' Interzone.

Gilt and red plush. Rococo bar backed by pink shell.  The air is cloyed with a sweet evil substance like decayed honey. Men and women in evening dress sip pousse-cafés through alabaster tubes. A Near East Mugwump sits  naked on a bar stool covered in pink silk. He licks warm honey from a crystal goblet with a long black tongue.

This wealth of sound generation could easily have become out of control, turning into a dense mass of sonic assault.  It never did even at its most intense.  You always had a sense of depth and articulation to the mix.  The dynamics were always moving and had a broad range.  The triple forte moments only lasted as long as necessary to get that aesthetic across.  The pianissimo sections became so soft that I had to gain up the mic pres on Laurie's channels to hear the delicate pizzaccato playing as well as the drum overhead mics when Guy lightly tapped ambient accents on the cymbals.  This assemblage of musicians seemed highly attuned to playing as one coherent unit rather than a collection of individual expressions.  That's why it worked so amazingly well.  Everyone listened, acted and reacted to each other, there was always give and take.  Playing a whole concert of improvised music with no pre-planned stucture and with a coherent high sense of aesthetic requires a kind of nonverbal communication that seems like a form of telepathy.  I could feel and was participating in this communication from the mixing desk.

A crucial part of any musical assemblage is the environment it plays in: the concert hall.  This hall is called Radial System V and has an interesting history.  In the 1880s the city planners in Berlin determined that they needed a new sewage system.  They came up with a circular design and built 12 pumphouses that they called Radial Systems.  This was the fifth one - Radial System V.  In 1905 an extension was added to it to handle the rapidly expanding city.  The main structure was destroyed in WWII leaving only the extension. Upon German reunification in 1998, the pumphouse was taken out and extensive remodelling took place.  In 2006 it was repurposed as a cultural exhibition and performance space while retaining its original name, Radial System V.  It's interesting to reflect upon this site's alchemical-like transformation: from pumping out crap and waste to pumping out high aesthetic art, music and culture.

This hall had a unique atmosphere that recalled the mood you get from reading Thomas Pynchon describe the insides of a WW II era missile silo in Gravity's Rainbow. It was very industrial with grey stone walls and red bricks.  Fortunately for the sound, thick black curtains lined the walls giving the perfect absorption/reflection index for the acoustics; just the right amount of liveness and reverb decay to the room.  The drums sounded huge, the room worked to their advantage.  The seating was on carpeted tiered levels, just on the floor, there weren't any chairs.  The tiers made for a very powerful, but tight bass response.  It also made it significantly louder near the front of the stage.  While I saw a tech's smart phone app registering peaks at 103 -104 dB spl back at the board where I was - on the top tier at the back of the house, I was told that it was ;peaking at 110 dB spl near the front.  Later, I was delighted to hear that Doc's partner, Melissa, was supplied with lots of earplugs which she was giving out freely to anyone who requested them. 

This group of musicians had never played together in this particular configuration. There was a rehearsal day at the venue to musically get to know one another and for the assemblage to take shape.  It gave me the chance to have an extended soundcheck and to get to know the acoustics of the space.  The sound of the room becomes a musical instrument.

Remarkable coincidences can be an indicator that one is in or around the bardo. At the airport on the way to Berlin I started reading Sexus, Part 1 of The Rosy Crucifixion trilogy by Henry Miller because of a recommendation by Gilles Deleuze.  Indeed, there are a number of illustrations of Deleuzian notions in this book, it probably helped inspire his philosophy.  The book also has several  bardo tips and sequences -  passages and anecdotes that give the sensation or feeling of being between bodies or provides useful information for that state.  A lot of the writing is very profound and has a feeling akin to Beat literature.  I strongly suspect that Burroughs and Miller read and were influenced by one another.

The first night in Berlin I googled Henry Miller and read his Wikipedia biography.  I was delighted to see that Laurie Anderson had supplied the music for the 1996 documentary Henry Miller Is Not Dead, a brilliant, impressionistic, first-hand account of his life, told from the end of it looking back, along with his philosophies on life and death. This documentary seems very bardoesque with Miller's stream of consciousness unraveling back through the years.  Anderson's music complements it perfectly.

I'm not interested in everyday reality, I want to penetrate that,
but that is a sort of inexpressible thing

Sometimes one thinks about death, about approaching death
One thinks of it as a very, very interesting part of life.
It should not always be shunned, frowned upon and put away,
it should be welcomed, don't you understand ...,
and maybe it has treasures unknown for us.
 - Henry Miller, Henry Miller Is Not Dead

Speaking of Egypt and death, I had heard that one of the best collections of Ancient Egyptian artifacts outside of Egypt resided in Berlin. so I woke up early and spent a couple of hours there before soundcheck.  Indeed, the Egyptian exhibit was more extensive than ether the British Museum or New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art which also have good collections.  

The priestly practices and culture of Ancient Egypt underpins Golden Dawn magick.  It's also one of the more advanced civilizations concerning the technology of life surviving after death.  This technology gets expressed in a series of ancient manuscripts collectively known as The Egyptian Book of the Dead also known as The Book of Going Forth by Day.  This image of "day" representing a transcendental new life influenced Friedrich Nietzsche to title one of his seminal works, The Dawn of Day while also influencing the title of Pynchon's classic modernist novel, Against the Day.  When similar, but different life after death technologies in Tibetan Buddhism became known to the Western world through the efforts of Walter Evans-Wentz and translated into English, he called it The Tibetan Book of the Dead after the Egyptian.

An occult hypothesis states that ancient priests and wise people were able to record teachings and impressions into artifacts of all kinds including those made of stone.  They did this to pass on their knowledge because they knew that books and written information were subject to attack and destruction.  The torching of the Library of Alexandria by the Roman army in 48 BC shows one well-known example.  

Retrieving information out of reading artifacts is the science of psychometry, a subject covered well in Visions in the Stone by E.J. Gold.  This information, as well as not, can be a mood, an emotion, or a unique sensation of some kind.  It doesn't always appear as intellectual data, though it can, and often does, manifest in that way.  

I have tried, and don't feel particularly adept at conscious psychometry, but I also suspect that you can get influenced and receive things that you don't realize until later.  So I embarked upon my voyage into the Egyptian Museum of Berlin with an open mind and heart, prepared to be as receptive as possible to any signs of reading artifacts or ancient knowledge lurking about in the unearthed carved stones that became their temple walls and statuary.

The highlight of the museum is an excellently preserved bust of Neffertiti, probably a main source for the legend of her incomparable beauty.  I thought this image below might have something to say.  I wonder what kind of music it heard in its day.

Of course, my favorite area of the museum was what they called the Underworld of the Egyptians.  Naturally, it was located in the basement.  The lighting of the funerary exhibits was mostly dark and moody.  They did an excellent job of making you feel you were dead and in the bardo with the architecture which featured multiple small rooms or chambers with arched ceilings.

I also saw some ancient papyrus fragments attributed to Homer, Hesiod and others.  There were  many artifacts uncovered by Heinrich Schliemann, the controversial discoverer of the historical site of the Trojan War.  I felt that all this exposure was excellent preparation for mixing Method of Defiance.  These artifacts defied time and survived.  I felt very alive back out on the daylight streets of Berlin.

I'll leave this report with a quote from Henry Miller that illustrates the value Gilles Deleuze places on nonsense to communicate sense.  We see obvious parallels to music from such groups as Method of Defiance.

The term "nonsense" is one of the most baffling words in our vocabulary.  It has a negative quality only, like death.  Nobody can explain nonsense: it can only be demonstrated.  To add, moreover, that sense and nonsense are interchangeable is only to labor the point.  Nonsense belongs to other worlds, other dimensions and the  gesture with which we put it from us at times, the finality with which we dismiss it, testifies to its disturbing nature.  Whatever we cannot include within our narrow framework of comprehension we reject.  Thus profundity and nonsense may be seen to have certain unsuspecting affinities.

In the realm of music, it seems that boundary between nonsense and sense becomes obscure and more fuzzy with an assemblage like Method of Defiance, all of whom have their feet planted in both worlds - conventional musical structure and free-form sound experimentation.  Nonsense can easily crossover and create a new kind of sense.  To paraphrase Miller: "Nobody can explain this kind of music, it can only be demonstrated."  You could hear it in this concert in the ambient passages of interstellar space excursions when the violin was calling and answering itself, hard panned to make an immense field, against a texture of electrically organic and atmospheric liquid noises and the clear tone of the trumpet harmonically guiding the rudder.  There is a recording of these mind-blowing, progressive modernist concerts and hopefully, at some point, they too will go forth by day.

The AL'ARME! FESTIVAL VOL. 6 held at RADIALSYSTEM V, as the program cover reads, placed a great value on the production of noise, i.e. musical nonsense. "Noise and feedback are the central principles of the AL'ARME! model." (program notes).  It appears obvious to me that whomever wrote of the concept behind the festival and the artists was either into qabalistic wordplay and/or  was visited by inspiration from Coincidence Control.  The first giveaway is their fondness for puns and dialectic opposites.  For instance, they begin the program book with a brief description of the communication model of a political scientist named Harold Dwight Lasswell, partly, it seems,  because it's obviously a play on Bill's name.  In the next paragraph they write: "In short, the Lasswell model is everything that this festival is not."  Their festival has the opposite Laswell, a nonpolitical artist.

One aspect of the festival I regret missing, only because I wasn't aware of it at the time, was a sound installation by Mark Fell called THE TRUTH AT ALL COSTS.  The description of it reads like a qabalistic process:

In this piece 23 speakers are arranged
in the form of a lattice structure, each
of which has a separate sound source.
The sound is made using three different
pattern generating systems that are
connected in various ways so that each
system permutes the behaviors of
the other two.  At this level of the work's
structure, a series of triangular rela-
tionships are defined that progressively
disrupt the musical content of the piece.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

MaMuse: prayers for freedom

The properly musical content of music is plied by becomings-woman, becomings-child, becomings animal; however, it tends, under all sorts of influences, having to do also with the instruments, to become progressively more molecular in a kind of cosmic lapping through which the inaudible makes itself heard and the imperceptible appears as such; no longer the songbird, but the sound molecule. 

 - Deluze & Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus p. 248

The songbird becomes the sound molecule and retains its songbird life in the process.  Looked at in this way, we see an illustration visually and beautifully demonstrating this aesthetic with the front cover of the new album by MaMuse: prayers for freedom. The sound molecules expressed in their new music react and combine in alchemically significant ways.

Original artwork by Fiona Morehouse, Graphic Design by Lion Touch Design

The human design has three basic components or "bodies," sometimes called neurocircuits: the physical, the emotional and the mental.  I am greatly oversimplifying to make a point.  The physical body grows, develops and gets nurtured through food, water and sunlight. The mental body grows by learning things, taking in information and ideas etc.  Art, in particular music, nurtures, develops and grows the emotional body. Just like the physical body and the mind, the heart grows with good input, exercise and use.

To encourage that organ to grow and become stronger, to become mighty in its application, if music is what moves you, then I highly recommend a sustained cycle of prayers for freedom on an endless loop. To repeat: The sound molecules expressed in this music react and combine in alchemically significant ways.

You can get prayers for freedom HERE 

MaMuse is a folk/gospel duo consisting of Karisha Longaker and Sarah Nutting. Their sound on this new offering is fleshed out by new and old friends that include Mike Wofchuck on drums and percussion, Walter Strauss on guitar and production, and The Thrive Choir. Prayers for freedom is their best album yet.  I was honored to record a lot of it.

The best description of the nature of these sound molecules is in their own words from the MaMuse bandcamp site.  Also quite relevant to the music is their dedications and consecrations given in the cd liner notes.

The Muses have been generous with us in this particular set of songs for this album. We have been inspired to pull through powerful anthems for freedom and justice, soul filled serenades of generosity and kindness, playful explorations of presence and wonder, heartfelt melodies of grief and tenderness, and my goodness!!!  …. Rushing Rivers FULL of songs For the Love of Water!

From Karisha:

Praise for bikes, and Praise for hands in soil
Praise for seeds and seeds of heartfelt reparations,
daring to grow us stronger in our interconnectedness
Praise for poetry and harmony, dance and artfulness in action,
may they continue to unlock the prison of ignorance within us
and illuminate the embodied beauty way.
May this musical offering join the momentous gathering
taking place deep within our rivers and straems,
ready to ride the ways of our painful past right on down to the glorious ocean
of our children's future.

From Sarah:

Prayers for Freedom arrive in dreams, they are the laughter of children, the ripples on
currents sourced from depths unseen.  Let us eddy into kindness with a COURAGE
FIERCE and GRACE FILLED, unravelling all that is here in our collective wounding; and
may LOVE be the swords we yeild.
I need my feet on the Earth, for to be resourced
I need my hands in yours, for the strength to continue forth...
I believe in YOU. I believe in ME
I believe in these SONGS...
a simple and powerful offering.
May they do their parts in the arc of reclaiming the beauty within
in harmony with the reparations that are needed to connect us all as KIN.
And may we tend the fires of our WILD SELVES with
Know that I am here with you.

One aspect of MaMuse that I always appreciate at their concerts is their subtle confrontation with the subject of death and related matters.  This aspect is beautifully captured here with the song, Soul Sister:

Soul sister
I so believe in you
Soul sister
Though this water is wide
Oh sister,
This grief and pain are true
I am here with you
and I will see you through to the other side.

And in conclusion:

Unfold your ranks and waft yourselves apart,
That I may guess what pearl is at the heart,
What dew-drop glistens on the crown gold-wrought
Within the chalice of your coiled cohort!

- Aleister Crowley, The Blind Prophet, Equinox Volume 1 Number V

Enjoy these crystal-like molecules of sound and join in with these prayers for freedom.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Zorn & Laswell: Konx Om Pax


 Look out honey 'cause I'm using technology,
Ain't got time to make no apology.
Soul radiation in the dead of night,
Love in the middle of a fire fight ...

- The Stooges, Search and Destroy, from the album Raw Power

____ tua scienza 
Che vuol, la cosa è più perfetta
Più senta 'la bene, e cosi la doglienza

 - Dante                                                  

This Dante quote was used by Aleister Crowley as one among many to preface his story The Wake World found in the book Konx Om Pax - Essays In Light.  It translates as:

 “ ____________Look to your science
Where it is written: the more a thing is perfect
The more it feels of pleasure and of pain."

The Wake World is a qabalistic allegory disguised as a children's fairy tale that Aleister Crowley wrote for his daughter Lola Zaza.

The origin of the phrase Konx Om Pax remains unknown.  It was said to have been given to candidates who had reached the degree of seer in the Eleusinian Mysteries of Ancient Greece upon their departure back into the world.  MacGregor Mathers, founder of the Golden Dawn, traces it to ancient Egypt with the meaning:  Light in Extension. 

A few thousand years later, Konx Om Pax took on a musical expression with two performances by John Zorn and Bill Laswell at the Chapel in San Francisco's Mission district this past Friday and Saturday.  Their music made audible forces manifesting the science and technology of the Eleusinian Mysteries, the Golden Dawn, and Aleister Crowley's system of theurgic magick to give a few names to this multiplicity.  Zorn and Laswell's saxophone/bass duo tied in directly to this ancient lineage. Some say this lineage derives from Sumer, the oldest civilization known to recorded history.

The Zorn/Laswell musical alliance resumes a dialog that began decades ago and will continue into the forseeable future seemingly touching upon everything under the Sun at one time or another over the years past and future. The shapeshifting moods evoked by the music  the night I was there, ranged from a carefree stroll through a pastoral countryside to the apocalyptic blast of an atom bomb explosion.

The musicians appear a stark contrast contrast both visually and sonically joining forces onstage to form a disjunctive synthesis.

A disjunctive synthesis is a “relation of non-relation”. In Deleuze’s technical vocabulary, a disjunctive synthesis is a synthesis of divergent series that do not converge yet somehow manage to communicate by virtue of a difference that passes between them like a spark.
 - Levi R. Bryant

Deleuze enters the equation because, as I have written in several previous posts, he provides the metaphysics for Crowley's Thelema. Deleuze also applied Paul Klee's famous quote, "Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible," to music writing that music makes audible forces normally not heard. The forces driving Konx Om Pax were given a vehicle to manifest at the concert Friday night.

On the right side of the stage from the audience perspective, Bill Laswell plugs his fretless Fender Precision bass into an array of foot pedals that connect to a classic Ampeg  SVT amplifier wired to 8 x 10 and 1 x 15 speaker cabinets.  The pedals twist, turn, contort, distort, harmonize, metathasize and synthesize the timbre of the soundwaves creating a new landscape, a new space, a new dimension every time a footswitch is engaged or turned off.  A pallette of sonic worlds to choose from. 

The left side of the stage is completely bare of equipment except for a mic stand holding an Electrovoice RE 20 microphone and a chair never used except as a foot rest.  The sole sound generator here is John Zorn and his well-traveled alto saxophone.  Despite the lack of electronics he achieves a great deal of variability with his sound through mic positioning and how he uses the instrument, in particular, the mouthpiece.  For example, a muted sound comes from holding the bell of the sax into his leg.

 photo by Anil Prasad

At times it seems like the sax phrases become the thread  that guides the listener through the sometimes massive, sometimes delicate, labyrinth of landscapes expressed by the bass guitar and electronics.  But like anything having to do with Qabalah, the roles can and do get reversed with the bass melodically threading its way through a labyrinth of saxophone landscapes.  At one point I heard Bill quote the theme from Ornette Coleman's Dancing In Your Head which references a whole line of music.  For me, it conjures the Master Musicians of Jajouka because there is a track of Ornette playing with them on that album.  Coincidentally, I was wearing a Material/Master Muscians of Jajouka shirt.  This musical quote introduces what Gurdjieff called a shock - energy coming in from a different octave, a different series of becoming.

Zorn does these repetitive phrases of short scale runs that demonstrate what Deleuze means by difference and repetition: every cycle repeats the phrase yet it's slightly different each time.  He may sustain the last note slightly longer, the attack may be different, different degrees of intensity etc.  These differences in the repetitions allow something, a force of some kind to grow and develop; the process of creation.  The listener who has the attention and focus to hear these differences  will find themselves drawn deeper into the music and taken further.  It seemed that the audience had this intensity of focus the night I was there.

That was Friday night.  I was in the neighborhood so dropped in and offered to help with the sound reinforcement.  The Front of House mix engineer operates the sound system to bring sound in extension, extending it from the stage to the entire house.  Despite having two of their sub woofers down, the Chapel had a powerful and clean public address system that covered the entire venue well reaching all the way up into the back corners of the balcony.

There are other ways to extend the music.  This is what the science and technology of the opening quotes refer to.  Having the ability of uniting the microcosm with the macrocosm  (or at least having the wherewithal to try) the instigator of theurgic magick can extend the atmosphere of the space much further than the immediate environment the music plays in.  The uniting of the microcosm, in this case Konx Om Pax playing at The Chapel with the macrocosm of the World, starting with San Francisco and expanding out, is one function of what Thelemites call The Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. This is an operation that originates in Tiphareth.

To some degree, every human sensitive to the music resonates in this way.  By the Hermetic formula, "As below, so above," every human becomes a microcosm of the Universe. Anyone who tunes in to the music to such an extent that they temporarily lose most or all vestiges of personal identity carries and extends the music into new domains.  The effects of the music also extended into the financial domain.  Some of the proceeds from these concerts were donated to the immigrant family reunification crisis. Konx Om Pax.

So that all life, animal and vegetable, seems in its essence like an effort to accumulate energy and then to let it flow into flexible channels, changeable in shape, at the end of which it will accomplish infinitely varied kinds of work.  - Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution.

And now for something completely different.

The interior of the Chapel, the walls and ceiling, was entirely a solid bright red. Having the arched roof of a former place of worship, it reminded me of a gothic kind of Hell.  The backdrop was a solid blue curtain and the lights illuminating the stage were mostly blue which visually cooled down the red hall.  There were no logos, grafitti or words of any kind in sight.  No words were spoken by Zorn or Laswell.  Kill the word.  The night was free from standard semantic symbolism allowing the communication of a whole different language, a language expressed in music.

The  above quote from Dante that Crowley uses in Konx Om Pax is from the 6th Canto of Inferno when Dante and Virgil enter the 3rd circle of Hell. Inferno is a guided tour of Hell.  Hell, according to Crowley, is what qabalists call the space/time physical universe which sets up a paradox because it can also get perceived as the Garden.  Why is God in Hell?

The music Zorn and Laswell invoked became a Guide through the Land of the Dead, for those lucky enough to die to their personal story for the duration of the show.. They took us on a journey, one that was very dynamic, it went to different places at varying speeds and intensities, but never completely stopped until the end.  They played about 56 minutes straight through.  I heard someone mention circular breathing which also recalled The Master Musicians of Jajouka for me as they also go on for long stretches of time thanks to circular breathing.

The music this night was not composed or planned in advance.  It appeared as it happened in the moment through intention and necessity entering perceptible existence through a pure gesture of artistic expression. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Pale Fire Part 2: Coincidences and Death

Continuing to look at the crossover of fictional, or virtual, events in a book, in this case Pale Fire by Vladimer Nabokov, and the actual events in a person's life, in this case your humble narrator.

Toward the end of the reading group cycle we discovered that the murder of Nabokov's father, Vladimer Vladimirovich Nabokov was a major inspiration for Pale Fire.  John Shade was murdered by someone who, for most of the book,  resembles a Russian political extremist .  Nabokov's father was murdered by far right Russian monarchists.  Displaying his penchant for reversing things, Nabokov implies a murder attempt AGAINST the monarchy in the story he tells.

Picking up Pale Fire, I was immediately reminded of the death of my father by the amusement park sounds mentioned on the first page.  The death of my father had an incredibly strong impact on me.  The reading of Pale Fire coincided with my body turning the exact age my father was when he died.   This brought the memory of his death into sharper focus to the point where I felt it in my body.  Like Nabokov, my father and I shared the same first and last names.

Nabakov valorizes coincidences in Pale Fire, I am valorizing them here.  The value of coincidences is that they can communicate information and instruction to your evolving self. Synchronicities and coincidences can be considered a pale fire for your spiritual growth.

This is how coincidences get valorized in Pale Fire:

In the commentary for Lines 734 - 735 Nabokov has Kinbote say: "A third burst of contrapuntal pyrotechnics.  The poet's plan is to display in the very texture of his text the inricacies of the "game" in which he seeks the key to life and death (see lines 808 - 829)."

Lines 808 - 829 describes the value of coincidences for John Shade.

"line 806: But all at once it dawned on me that this
               Was the real point, the contrapuntal theme:
               Just this: not text, but texture, not the dream
               But topsy-turvical coincidence,
               Not flimsy nonsense, but a web of sense.

The next 5 lines refer to Qabalah.

line 811:    Yes! It sufficed that I in life could find
                Some kind of link-and-bobo link, some kind
                Of correlated pattern in the game
                Plexed artistry, and something of the same
                Pleasure in it as they who played it found."

Qabalah does give a great deal of pleasure for anyone who likes to solve puzzles and make new connections.

Characterizing this game of coincidences and correlated patterns as "contrapuntal pyrotechnics" also points to qabalah.  One tradition says that the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the basis for qabalah, are letters of fire; fire partly due to the active, energetic nature qabalah brings to language.

Qabalah introduces variability into language.  Many more ways, more paths, more neural connections open up for receiving and/or interpreting a communication with the application of qabalah.  The information of any given communication increases dramatically when put under this lens.

Here is how Pale Fire began to blow my head off.  The numerical value of my first name,
Oz = 77.  I have paid close attention to all kinds of coincidences and synchronicities since discovering the usefulness of such a practice from Wilson's Cosmic Trigger book.  At the top of page 77 in my copy of Pale Fire we see:

Line 17: And then the gradual; Line 29: gray

By an extraordinary coincidence (inherent perhaps in the contrapuntal nature of Shade's art) our poet seems to name here ( gradual, gray) a man for whom he was to see for one fatal moment 3 weeks later ...

This is Kinbote's commentary introducing the reader to John Shade's murderer - he had various pseudonyms two of them being Jakob Gradus and James de Gray -  via an extraordinary coincidence.

John Shade's name itself suggests death.  From Homer to Virgil to Dante classic literature has a long history of referring to dead people as shades. The "contrapuntal nature of  Shade's art" suggests the contrapuntal nature of death's art.  Art usually appears as the creation of something.  Death's art can refer to bardo training, the art of surviving the death of the meat package, the physical body.  Death's art can also refer to the transformation that occurs in a death/rebirth ritual.  In magick rituals the everyday ego undergoes a temporary death to be reborn as something different.

Via an extraordinary coincidence Nabokov introduces John Shades murderer, or the murderer of Death, if we stay with Shade's etymology, by the lines "And then the gradual."  The murder of Death obviously  reverses the superficial meaning given, the murder of John Shade.  Nabokov constantly reverses many things in Pale Fire.  The murder of Death increases life, obviously.  The murder of Death (Shade) is gradual in Vlad's story.  Again, this correlates with bardo training and magick.  Proficiency in each of these arts usually appears gradual.  Obviously this line of pondering gets twisted and convoluted.  Once again, welcome to Pale Fire.

Coincidences have played such a huge role in my spiritual trajectory that I found it interesting that page 77 began with the phrase, "By an extraordinary coincidence..." When I first saw this no extraordinary coincidence appeared on the horizon, it simply reminded me of how much I value and use coincidences. I wasn't expecting any extraordinary coincidences either.  Expectations almost always seem invocationally defeating.

Synchronicities and coincidences, of course, have to do with Time and timing.  A month or two later I  passed through the point where my body was exactly the same age as my father was when he died on the operating table from a bad heart.  I had some strong bardo moments around that time including one night of feeling that I could die that night.  Probably psychosomatic, I'd been ruminating on his death and my age.  And/or it could be an empirical psychic connection to the event of his death through the resonance of my age, a resonance across time.

Right around this time, I got the notion to look up line 77 in John Shade's poem and it definitely startled me.

Such as "bad heart" always to him refer. 

Given my mindset with the consideration of my father's death, that became an extraordinary coincidence for me. 

I was on tour when the Pale Fire reading group finished.  The day of posting my final comment found me staying in a hotel outside a small amusement park just outside of Washington, D.C. It reminded me of the film, Carnival of Souls.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Pale Fire: Books That Blow Your Head Off

Not simply an intellectual intake of ideas and stories, some books contain the power to completely explode and permanently alter a persons empirical existence.  I am not alone with this experience.  Indeed, Robert Anton Wilson thought it prudent to warn potential readers about E.J. Gold's Visions in the Stone with his blurb published on the back cover: 

The book you hold in your hands is as dangerous as a letter-bomb.  It might blow your head off ... Be prepared for a weird journey and a Zen hotfoot at the end."

Wilson uses some of these dangerous letters to encode an Introduction to Visions in his Historical Illuminatus mode of using many footnotes and referencing deSelby. It's one of his best Introductions, in my opinion.

Tobias Churton recalls Aleister Crowley's diary entry about reading Fitzhugh Ludlow's The Hashish Eater: " ... a wonderful book.  Sleeping, I got a mild hashish dream!"  The next day Crowley writes that in his meditation his vision gets "confused with hashish distortion.  This book is clearly bewitched."  (A.C. in America p. 137) Note that he is not taking hashish, but rather observing a contact high from the book.

I recall seeing this subject covered in the Butterfly Language blog not so long ago. 

I have always granted certain books great power.  I would carry them around with me wherever I went believing that I could continue absorbing their contents by osmosis through the proximity of their physical corpus.  I fully resonate with the quote I heard somewhere that "great books are monasteries."I like to live in these monasteries for periods of time, absorbing their program then moving on.

For  about two to three months a year from the ages of 15 - 17 The Lord of the Rings was my constant companion.  This book had the effect of greatly broadening my vision beyond human society's consensual reality, norms and assumptions feeling new neural pathways opening up.

One sign of an exploding book occurs when things written in the book crossover and conflate with current events in external reality.  You can truly get the disquieting feeling of being a character in some large drama, some book that someone else has written that seems a bigger, multidimensional version of the book you're reading - the one that's blowing your head off.  This happened to me when I was reading Schrodinger's Cat by Robert Anton Wilson while working in Paris with Paris Combo.

Nabokov's Pale Fire recently exploded my brain.  I had never heard of this book until Tom Jackson selected it for a weekly group reading at  The only thing I knew about Nabokov was that he wrote Lolita and appeared as a lyric in a Police song.  Beset with a busy schedule, I had no intention of participating in the group until I saw a comment by Eric Wagner that piqued my interest.  It looked like it would be right up my alley.  This became confirmed after reading the first page.

Pale Fire takes the form of an extended commentary by the character Charles Kinbote of an unfinished epic poem.  The poem is by John Shade who was murdered in front of Kinbote.  The book starts with a quote from James Boswell's book the Life of Samuel Johnson, then a Forward by Kinbote followed by the poem, then the last section, Kinbote's quixotic, often digressive, sometimes rambling, commentary on the poem which includes the events that led up to the murder.  It also covers Kinbote's personal relationship with Shade. This  relatively straightforward form disguises a narrative full of twists and turns, tricks and puzzles, deceptions and dead ends. Literary and esoteric references abound along with stylistic writing experiments.  You could call it a labyrinth of sense.

The crossover of events from the written word to events in the world often takes the form of coincidences and synchronicities.  For instance, the first page in Pale Fire has an abrupt non sequitur shift with Kinbote mentioning hearing sounds from an amusement park filtering into his room. I posted this comment after reading about half the Foreward:

Synchronicities dog me. Found it interesting that Shade's death is mentioned on the first page, that he started the poem shortly before he died. The loud amusement park holds significance for me. Amusement parks are considered bardo spaces (i.e. spaces that convey the mood of death or the bardo). A few days after my father died, I was told by a psychic I trust that he had first entered a carnival-like environment in his bardo trip, that he must have been thinking of some such memory when he crossed over. So this amusement park atmosphere mentioned right after Shade's death makes me think this novel will have a bardoesque aspect to it.

This morning I got a voicemail informing me that an old friend, Hassan Heiserman had died. It was an anonymous call from someone who'd seen a blog I wrote about Hassan. Hassan knew Leary and also said he had done something with RAW at one point. I don't have any details or even know if it is true.

 Tom Jackson replied: When Oz reads John Shade's poem, he'll discover that it's all about death.

Tom lives in the Cleveland area which is where I was born and lived for the first 9 years of my life.  Tom then mentioned Cedar Point in his comment, a huge amusement park my parents and grandparents used to take us kids to.  At the time, it seemed the ultimate experience like going to heaven, or for some people going to Disneyland, the ultimate kids paradise.  I hadn't thought of that place for years.  Two nights after the Cedar Point memory folded in, I was mixing with Achilles Wheel and met the drummer's wife.  She had heard I was from Cleveland and asked me if I'd ever heard of Cedar Point?  She was from Sandusky where it's located and informed me that she used to work there.  The amusement park in the book crosses over within two days to an encounter with someone who worked at the actual amusement park of my childhood.

Immediately before starting the Pale Fire adventure, I posted  a blog concerning the esoteric nature of the number 68 and how it frequently expresses itself through the combination of the letters "s" and "c."  These letters transpose to 68 with Gematria.  It seemed "merely coincidental" that the opening quote of the book has this line: "Sir, when I heard of him last, he was running about town shooting cats." Given the ambiguous nature of Pale Fire and Nabokov's fondness for puns, references and multiple meanings, it doesn't seem farfetched to see a association between "shooting cats" and the Schrodinger's Cat quantum physics thought experiment. This experiment puts a cat into a black box in which a quantum process releases a poison pellet at a particular time that kills the cat.  Figuring out the decay time of the quantum process will tell us if the cat is alive or dead at any particular time with the paradox being that there can be more than one solution.  The cat can be both dead or alive and we don't ever really know until we open the box.  Welcome to Pale Fire.

I soon came across other instances that apparently affirmed my c - s / 68 bias:

If on some nameless island Captain Schmidt
Sees a new animal and captures it
And if, a little later, Captain Smith
Brings back a skin, that island is no myth.
Our fountain was a signpost and a mark
Objectively enduring in the dark
Strong as a bone, substantial as a tooth
And almost as vulgar in its robust truth.

These are lines 759 - 766 from Shade's poem (p.61 in my edition) The first four lines look like a metaphor for discovering something in the Unknown then having it confirmed by someone else.  The second four lines beginning with "Our fountain ..." might make more sense after reading this blog and seeing one branch of what 68 signifies.

These lines started stoking a suspicion that Pale Fire functioned as a multi-level didactic experiment of an esoteric/transformational nature; magick and bardo training as the Department of Redundancy Department might put it.  Multiple levels because some points were explicit and obvious and at a neophyte level while others ranged up to very subtle and advanced.  The notion of a fountain as a signpost goes toward the latter end of the scale.

The first line of Shade's poem: I was the shadow of the waxwing slain strongly reminded me of the theme from Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day.  The image of wings that are growing, figuratively speaking, getting cut down and destroyed; obstacles, challenges, setbacks and defeats on the road of alchemical transformation.  Against the Day also contained passages teaching  magick, qabalah and alchemy ranging from straightforward and literal to arcane and occult.

Although it is evident that many of Pynchon’s literary mechanisms were inspired by the seminal works of Vladimir Nabokov, another literary giant of the twentieth century, not many people are aware that Pynchon was Nabokov’s student at the University of Cornell. - Domagoj Valjak

Isn't the internet wonderful?  Just discovered the above quote and an article about Nabokov's influence on Pynchon.  Pynchon was a student of Nabokov's - that direct connection explains a lot to me.  He was a good student.

Then came the Golden Dawn/Crowley connection.  These are comments I posted at the time.

By coincidence, about a week before this reading group commenced I discovered that MacGregor Mathers, the head of the Golden Dawn and Aleister Crowley's teacher, was very active in the Carlist movement which had to do with royal succession in Spain and Britain. He was active to the point of arranging the purchase and shipment of weapons to the cause in Spain. Crowley also considered himself a Carlist at the time according to Churton, in "Aleister Crowley in America."

Second paragraph in the section Line 12 that crystal land: "Alas, he would have said a great deal more if a domestic anti-Karlist had not controlled every line he communicated to her!" Nabakov introduces the Karlist movement with a line against it, again recalling, for me, "Against the Day."

The exclamation: ".... venerable uncle's raucous dying request: "Teach Karlik!" on the following page reminded me of Mathers and the Golden Dawn. He wrote all the rituals.

Immediately following this exclamation to teach, Kinbote, whom Nabokov directs or misdirects the reader into believing could be King Charles, references teaching Finnegans Wake (James Joyce).  Not many pages later, Kinbote gives a very Joycean interpretation to one line from one of Shade's earlier poems, The Sacred Tree.  With this kind of interpretation Nabokov shows one way of reading Joyce.  It's been well established that Joyce uses Qabalah in Finnegans Wake. There is at least one other instance showing the reader an obviously Joycean interpretation.

Enter Sherlock Holmes, a character who exemplifies many of the necessary skills for solving a maze.

Sherlock Holmes gets introduced shortly after the Finnegans Wake reference through what Kinbote calls the "Case of the Reversed Footprints." Sherlock Holmes notices normally unseen clues by being very attentive and observant. 

 Looking at things backwards reveals a fundamental lesson of qabalistic practice.

The theme of reversals and opposites already turns up several times in "Pale Fire." Even in the comments here this week we see Kinbote suggesting reading the book in the reversed order it's presented in; the cat and mouse game in The Sacred Tree poem and the picture: "In the study I found a large picture of their parents with the sexes reversed." Also, "How persistently our poet evokes images of winter in the beginning of a poem which he started composing on a balmy summer night!" - beginning the comment for Lines 34-35.

The picture of the sexes reversed recalls an old gnostic injunction about the male becoming as a female, the female becoming male and the two becoming one. I don't remember how it goes verbatim, but RAW quotes this gnostic phrase at the beginning of one of the Schrodinger's Cat books when they were released as 3 separate books. Not sure if it made it into the single volume edition.

The bardo training aspect first becomes obvious at the start of Canto Two (p. 39) wherein the narrator dedicates himself to becoming a bardo explorer i.e. an explorer of life after death.  At the beginning of Canto 3 the poet introduces the Institute (I) of Preparation (P) For the Hereafter (H), IPH, the big "if."

While snubbing gods including the big G,
Iph borrowed some peripheral debris
From mystic visions; and it offered tips
(The amber spectacles for life's eclipse)
How not to panic when you're made a ghost;

Don't panic is a primary bardo tip.  It's ok and normal to feel fear, but you don't want to panic.

These are just a few examples of the many literary devices, tricks, references and so on Nabokov uses to fufill a Hierophantic task.  The connection with Crowley gets made pretty clear.  I have several more comments to that effect in the Pale Fire reading group which is accessible at the top right of the home page.

This blog also serves as a slight introduction to a post e in the near futurwhich will be about finding or creating a Spiritual Guide - a guide  to owning and operating the higher circuits of the nervous system: the neurosomatic, the neuroelectric, the neurogenetic and the neuroatomic to put it into Learyese.  By introducing these lines of instruction: Sherlock Holmes, James Joyce, the Qabalah, bardo training - and there appear many others, Nabokov reveals and demonstrates how to make contact, how to invoke such a guide.

To Be Continued ...