Saturday, October 31, 2020

Magick Demystified Week 4 Supplemental Materials

I The Magus

The True Self is the meaning of the True Will
know Thyself through Thy Way.
Calculate well the formula of Thy Way.
Create freely; absorb joyously; divide intently;
consolidate completely.
Work thou, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent,
in and for Eternity.


The Stele of Revealing

All titles by Aleister Crowley unless otherwise noted

Links: 

4. Creating A Spiritual Guide by Oz Fritz - good summary of this course


Books:

1. The Pathworkings of Aleister Crowley - The Treasure House of Images - by A.C and J. F. C. Fuller
2. An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson by Eric Wagner
3. The Game of Life by Timothy Leary with contributions by Robert Anton Wilson

Films:

1. The Ninth Gate starring Johnny Depp directed by Roman Polanski
2. The Fifth Element starring Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich
3. The Wizard of Oz - original version.

Music:

1. Mind Games by John Lennon
2. The Song Remains the Same by Led Zeppelin - excellent description of Horus
3. My Sweet Lord by George Harrison
4. While My Guitar Gently Weeps by The Beatles
5. Like A Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan
6. A Love Supreme by John Coltrane
7. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony




III The Empress

This is the Harmony of the Universe, that Love
unites the Will to create with the Understanding 
of that Creation: understand thou thine own 
Will
Love and let love.  Rejoice in every shape of love,
and get thy rapture and thy nourishment thereof.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Magick Demystified Week 3 Supplemental Material

 XIII 

The Universe is Change; every Change is the 
effect of an act of Love: all Acts of Love contain
Pure Joy. Die daily.
Death is the apex of one curve of the snake of Life:
behold all opposites as necessary complements,
and rejoice.





Links:

All titles by Crowley unless otherwise noted.

1. Where To Start - Oz Fritz
2. Gematria - Oz Fritz
5. The Wake World - A Qabalistic  Fairy Tale

Books:

1. Chicken Qabalah by Lon Milo Duquette (theory)
2. Son of Chicken Qabalah by Lon Milo Duquette (practical)
3. The Mystic Qabalah by Dion Fortune
4. 777 and Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley
5. The Book of Thoth
6. Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot - Lon Milo Duquette

Fiction:

1. Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert Henlein
2. Masks of the Illuminatti - Robert Anton Wilson
3. Illuminatus! - Robert Anton Wilson (advanced)

Rituals:


Films:

1. The In-Laws (1979 version with Peter Falk and Alan Arkin)
2. Real Men (with Jim Belushi and John Ritter)
3. The Blues Brothers (with John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd)










Saturday, October 17, 2020

Magick Demystified Week 2 Supplemental Material

The Four Elements - visualizations from Initiation into Hermetics by Franz Bardon

Fire: Imagine yourself to be to be in the center of the Fire element, which in the shape of a sphere, encompasses the whole universe.  Imagine that everything around you is fiery.  Now begin to inhale the fire element through your nose and also simultaneously inhale through your whole body.  Inhale deeply with regularity, without compressing the air or straining the lungs.  

The physical and astral bodies must be like empty containers into which the element is inhaled or drawn in with every breath.  The heat of the element must be increased with every breath.  The heat and also the expansive force must continue to increase as must the fiery pressure until you feel fiery-hot.  

Start with seven inhalations of the Fire element, and with every successive exercise increase it by one inhalation.  As a rule, 20 - 30 inhalations should suffice.  Only those students who are physically strong and who possess a great deal of will-power should exceed that number of inhalations in accordance with their ability.  A string of beads can be used if counting interferes.

The next step is the elimination of the Fire element.  Inhale normally through the mouth, and exhale the Fiery element into the whole universe through the mouth and the entire body. The exhalation of the element has to occur as many times as the inhalation.  This is very important because after this exercise has been completed the student must have the feeling that not even the minutest particle of the element has remained within her.  Also, the feeling of heat that was produced must dissipate completely.  Eyes may be open or closed when doing this whole practice.

Air: Same as Fire only we have to imagine a different feeling. Imagine that you are in the center of an air space, one which occupies the entire universe; nothing exists for you other than that the space encompassing the whole universe is filled with air.  Inhale as before.  Every breath adds to the amount of air and with more air you fill the whole body. to such a degree that it resembles an air balloon.  At the same time you must imagine that your body is getting lighter, as light as the air itself.  The feeling of lightness must be so intense that eventually, because of its lightness, you no longer feel your body.  When finished, exhale all the Air element same as you did with Fire.

Water: Imagine that the whole universe is an infinite ocean and you are positioned exactly in the center.  With each total body breath, your body is filled with this element.  You must feel the coldness of the water in your whole body.  The more often you practice this exercise, the more distinctly you will sense the Water element. with its coldness attributes.  You must virtually feel like a lump pf ice.  Each exercise should not exceed 20 minutes.  In time you should be able to cause your body to become ice-cold even on the hottest summer day.  Exhale and banish the element as before.

Earth: Imagine that the entire universe consists only of earth and you are sitting in its center.  Do not imagine the earth to be a lump of clay but instead imagine it to be a dense earthy substance.  The specific attribute of the earth substance is density and gravity (heaviness).  As before, inhale this element.  You must be able, through concentration, to accumulate so much of this earth substance within your body that it feels as heavy as lead and, because of this heaviness, you feel almost paralyzed.  As always, exhale and banish this element when finished.  As with the others, the duration shouldn't exceed 20 minutes.  

You can make use of colors to assist the visualization:
Fire = red
Air = yellow
Water = blue, greenish blue or turquoise
Earth = green


Links:

All essays by Aleister Crowley unless otherwise noted.

1. Liber III Jugorum - training of the Will.
 - contains vibration of God names and the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram signs of the grades among other things.
3. Book 4 Part 2 Magick - essays on magickal weapons
4. The Training of the Mind Liber 913 - Ananda Metteya (Alan Bennett)
5. That Old Black Magick - Robert Anton Wilson




Books:

1. The Book of Lies (falsely so-called)
2. The Magick of Aleister Crowley - Lon Milo Duquette
3. Darkside Dreamwalker - E. J. Gold

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Magick Demystified Week 1 Supplemental Material

Be every Act an Act of Love and Worship
Be every Act the Fiat of a God
Be every Act a Source of radiant Glory

"Magick is getting into communication with individuals who exist on a higher plane than ours.  Mysticism is the raising of oneself to their level." - Aleister Crowley

Personal Transformation and the Work


Five minute and twenty-three second video by E.J. Gold

Links:



The Tree of Life


Recommended Books:

1. Cosmic Trigger Vol. 1, The Final Secret of the Illuminati - Robert Anton Wilson
2. Magick Book 4 Liber ABA - Aleister Crowley
3. Allow Me To Introduce, An Insider's Guide to the Occult - Lon Milo Duquette
4. The American Book of the Dead - E.J. Gold



Like every other science, both the subject and the object of the work increase as the work proceeds.

 - Crowley, Magick Without Tears, p. 501


Monday, October 5, 2020

Suzanne K. Fritz In Memoriam

July 29, 1936 - September 6, 2020

Survived by her three children, Oswald George, Mark Kendel, and Peter Eric Fritz

My Mom's best friend Elaine said that they would jump into Sue's silver Porsche two seat convertible at the beginning of a long weekend with the motto "Destination Unknown" and just drive.  Leaving Vancouver, Canada they might end up in Baja California or take a left somewhere along the line and do a little gambling in Reno.  She was doing this well into her seventies and eighties., sometimes going on camping trips by herself. Last year, at 83, she drove 1400 km from Vancouver to Nevada City, California to help celebrate my 60th birthday.  

It appears she had a similar sense of daring adventure about leaving her body, going on one final, from the earthly perspective, Destination Unknown journey only this time she won't return.  

Suzanne Fritz at age 29

Sue was born in Cleveland, Ohio to Charles and Germaine Kendel.  She was their only child.  Her maternal grandfather made a lot of money at something.  I was told it came from inventing the first smoke detector, but I can't find anything on the internet to support that assertion.  Her grandparents split up in the middle of the Great Depression with a million dollar settlement awarded to the wife.  My mother said she grew up in a socially privileged mileau attending Hathaweay Brown all-girls private school in Shaker Heights and later, Vassar liberal arts college in upstate New York.  She told the story that her mother, Gerry and Gerry's brother Ralph anticipated receiving a large inheritance when their father died, but he tricked them by leaving his fortune to charity.  Sue said she never saw that money so she never missed it.

Sue met her future husband, George Fritz at a physics class they both enrolled in at Case Western Reserve University.  George's working class family and background met with strong disapproval from her socially sensitive, domineering mother who did all she could to break up their union.  That conflict resulted in Sue not inviting her mother to their wedding held on January 31, 1959.  Gerry showed up anyway quite inebriated on booze and pills and made a big scene.  The following week, with Sue and George honeymooning in Quebec City, Canada, Gerry called up her friend, the Archbishop of Cleveland and attempted to get him to annul her daughter's marriage.  That went nowhere after either the Archbishop or someone from his office contacted my parents (I was already in her womb at that point having been conceived in late November, 1958) and learned that my grandmother was out of her effin' mind with the whole annulment thing.  Upon discovering my parents planned to name me after my father, he was OGF Jr., I would be the IIIrd, Jerry announced her refusal to call me by any variation of that name.  My parents compromised by giving me the nickname Mickey, a name I used until High School.  Sue's father, Charles, had the demeanor of a Taoist monk, his low-key demeanor keeping him above the fray.  I don't know what resolved things, but Gerry came to accept Sue's married life.  Her parents even helped out Sue and George by purchasing a modest home for them while my dad pursued his doctorate.  Sue put her own education on hold for about six years, resuming it in 1967 following the birth of her youngest child Peter in June of 1966.  She graduated with Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology in November, 1967.

In the early '60s, Sue had the good fortune to work in the office of famed pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock author of Baby and Child Care, one of the best-selling books in history.  Spock was working at Case Western Reserve University at the time.  My mother said that he would often tell her what I was going to do next as a growing toddler and he was always right.

Both my mother and father loved the outdoors and getting out of the big city.  They camped across the United States on their way to California in the summer of 1967 then again the following summer in 1968 this time taking their kids and as much of their belongings that they could stuff into the family Dodge relocating our home to Palo Alto for a year where George did post-graduate research at Stanford.  We moved to Calgary, Alberta, Canada in the summer of 1969.  Except for a couple years living back in Cleveland in the mid 70's, Sue never resided outside of Canada again, eventually becoming a citizen.

Sue split from my dad and left the family in late 1970 or early '71 largely over a dispute over her wishes for a career in social work.  George retained custody of the children, but Sue visited them frequently and took them on outings.  From my perspective, she changed overnight into a much more liberal parent.  It seems in retrospect that moving from out of my father's shadow allowed her to express and be herself more fully.  Social workers had very bohemian attitudes that influenced Sue.  Through her, I was exposed to the artistic, creative side of hippie culture at the ripe old age of 12.  She would let me listen to her albums - Goats Head Soup by The Rolling Stones, Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen and Hot Buttered Soul by Isaac Hayes are ones I remember.  She took us to see the film Easy Rider, that stellar soundtrack was one of the three eight-track tapes on endless loop for long car rides.  She once told me about going to and enjoying an Alice Cooper concert.

In the mid to late '70's she relocated to Vernon, B.C. in the Okanagan Valley, an extremely beautiful and fertile part of the world.  My brother Mark went to live with her there.  She continued her education along with her social work.  Sometime in the mid-seventies, she took a Neurolinguistic Programming seminar with Richard Bandler  for a few weeks that made a strong impression.  She showed me how she used techniques learned there with her clients and how it made a big difference in nonverbally  and quickly gaining their trust.  I believe she got a Masters degree in Psychology somewhere along the way, her Facebook page says she went to UBC.  Maybe I'll learn more about her life when they let me into Canada to retrieve her personal effects. 

Sue was delighted when some of the boys in the band I did sound for, Sargent, and I stayed at her house high in the hills just outside Vernon when gigging there in the early '80s.  We'd stay there for a week at a time on a couple of different occasions; she often brought up that time and asked about the band members later in life. 

That's the first instance of her supporting my audio engineering career. In 1984 I sold all my gear and moved to New York to attend the Institute of Audio Research and get a degree in Recording Arts.  I ran out of money about halfway through and began supporting myself with a job as a foot messenger when not in class.  Mom came through big time covering my living expenses for the remaining 4 or 5 months allowing for a more relaxed school term.  She always came out when I was working in her area, for instance driving down to Seattle to hear Meridiem (Percy Howard, Bill Laswell, Fred Frith, Charles Hayward) perform and meet them backstage.  In the fall of 2017 and 2018 she came out to the Vancouver shows when I toured with Simrit.  She loved the music and let everyone know with articulate, detailed comments to them personally after the 2017 concert.  In 2018, she volunteered to make the pre-show food run proving most helpful as we scrambled to work with some borrowed equipment following a break-in and theft the previous night.  

During the early 90's she began running a government funded center for mentally handicapped adults.  As the Chief Administrator, she got that running smoothly giving her time to invest in and operate a coffee shop in a Vernon mall.  Her friend Elaine said that she gave a lot of dubiously employable young kids a chance to work there, some she would have to fire, but that didn't stop Sue from giving others a chance, a throwback to her beginning social work days.  Her first job, in the early '70's, was at a place called Hull Home in Calgary, a residence for emotionally disturbed adolescents.  

I believe her center got defunded at some point in the 90's leading to a decision to retire to Vancouver, Richmond to be precise.  The coffee shop went out of business when Starbucks became all the rage.  She continued to stay active and socially involved, volunteering for political campaigns she supported as well as for the Operation Rednose program the government ran every New Year's Eve where people too drunk to drive could call and get a free ride from a volunteer like Sue.  She had an exercise regimen of swimming every day which terminated with the covid lockdown.  I suspect that played a major contribution to her body breaking down.

Sue and I in front of John Lennon's psychedelic Cadillac at Vancouver's World Fair in 1986.
We had just enjoyed a set of music by the phenomenal blind guitarist Jeff Healy.

The circumstances around her death seem quite revealing, I learned much by the elegant way she wrapped up her life and journeyed into the unknown.  The wrap-up began when she called in June to let me know that she'd been treated for blood clots in her arms and legs.  To my knowledge, this was the first medical issue she had to deal with in something like 15 - 20 years.  She stressed to me the minor importance of this condition, not to worry, she just wanted to let me know.  I accepted her report at face value and didn't worry.  I had been concerned about her after the first 4 to 6 weeks in lockdown after she mentioned being generally bored.  I've noticed from past experience that some elderly people who feel bored most of the time tend to enter the beginning of the end of their current human incarnation.  A natural inclination to move on to something else, why stick around if bored all the time stuck inside a declining body.  I asked if I should send her books to read and suggested watching films but she said she was all right feeling bored.  

In July she called with a diagnosis of cancer, but they didn't know what kind, possibly breast cancer.  From that point until about a week before she passed, the full extent of her medical condition remained largely unknown because not until then did I get a briefing from the last ICU doctor treating her.  Her regular doctor seemed to be on vacation for much of July and August which brought stress to her as she didn't like the substitute doctor.  About a week later she sent an email with the single sentence: "I have stage four long cancer" (sic).  I googled "stage 4 lung cancer" to see exactly what that meant and found out that this type of cancer rarely, if ever, gets diagnosed before reaching stage 4. Also, that patients can live up to 5 years with successful treatment.  Then I called and asked how she felt about that.  I expected an emotional reaction of some sort, but she went into an accelerated spiel of all the preparations she had started making for her demise - her and a kind neighbor, Linda, wise in the ways of service, had begun packing up all her belongings, and rented a storage place  to put everything. I was supposed to drive up within 3 months and get it all, her bank account would be signed over to me at some point etc. etc., all these plans.  I interrupted her at some point rather alarmed that she had jumped from receiving a  fatal, at some point, diagnosis to complete endgame and said, no that's not what I'm asking, how do you feel about the situation, how do you feel about death?  The question seemed to calm her down and she answered dispassionately, "I'm curious about it, why, are you going to convert me to something?"  It seemed quite remarkable to me that she expressed not the slightest trace of fear.  She told me that she was 84 years old, had done and seen a lot, was sick of seeing Trump on tv, there's rioting in the streets, she saw no reason to stick around.  That message stayed consistent, she repeated it again from her hospital bed and when my sister's sister Kirsty, a practicing MD in Vancouver visited Sue and had a heart to heart conversation with her about medical options, she indicated that she didn't want aggressive treatments like chemotherapy to prolong her life, she only wanted the remaining time she had left to be made as comfortable as possible.  Her last words to me were "I love you, I gotta go."

I've wondered how she was able to handle death so well, she wasn't religious and didn't have any meditation practices I knew about.  It was just the opposite for my father who appeared terrified the day before his final surgery, though he was much younger, 58.   Her psychological background and social work with adults and adolescents needing help probably gave her great training in dealing with high stress situations; how to stay calm when everything breaks down.

She told Linda that she wouldn't be alive past August, but she didn't communicate anything like that to me or my brothers always staying upbeat, she delayed communicating her condition to them until I insisted.  She seemed concerned that her death not be an inconvenience to anyone, that consideration always makes me sad when I think about it. 

Around August 9th I had the urge to hear a song called Sunday Morning originally performed by Nico and the Velvet Underground.  I knew it well, from the inside out having mixed a cover of it by HuDost about six years ago.  I listened to their version then got the V.U. version and had both versions on regular rotation; no idea why, at the time, that song came up.  Sue permanently left her body on a Sunday morning.  I felt ripped wide open but kept it together to get into my floatation tank to send her prayers and love.  At times I went into moments of intense weeping and grief before remembering that I was there to help her with the transition and that sadness didn't help at all.  I did feel moments of contact, at one point I thought I received a communication from her that she was doing all right.  Clearly, that could have been imaginary wishful thinking though it does seems consistent with how she approached death and other subsequent indications.  I've been doing the practice of attempting contact and reading every night from the American Book of the Dead which maps out the 49 Chamber bardo voyage.  I suspect the readings help me more than they do her, it feels good to do that for her, the least I could do for the blessed one who brought me into the world.







Saturday, September 26, 2020

Thoughts on Reading Proust Part 2

Singing to the ocean, I can hear the ocean's roar
Play for me, I play for free, I play the whole night long
Sing about the good things and the sun that lights the day
I used to sing for the ocean, has the ocean lost its way? (I don't think so)

- Led Zeppelin, The Ocean, Madison Square Garden, 1973

The expressed world is made of differential relations and of contiguous singularities.

- Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense

A philosopher who was not sufficiently modern for her, Leibniz, has said that the journey from the intellect to the heart is a long one.  - Marcel Proust, Sodom and Gomorrah, In Search of Lost Time Vol. 4

As far as I can tell, the last quote appears a fabrication by Proust, therefore making it interesting to speculate why he chose one of the inventors of calculus to deliver that information, a philosopher also known for his theory of the monad.  "Leibniz held the famous thesis that each individual monad expresses the world" (Deleuze, LoS).  Leibnez may have been chosen simply for his intellectual brilliance, to become that luminous and expressive with the intelligence of the heart makes for a long journey, takes a long time, then again, traveling through In Search of Lost Time also constitutes a long bardo journey.  Or maybe Leibnez did say it, and no one noticed but Proust?

On one level, In Search of Lost Time provides an education for what G. I. Gurdjieff called the Emotional Centrum.  Contemporary mainstream culture, for the most part, doesn't acknowledge the complexity and power of this centrum to act as a brain as equally, if not more, complex, nuanced, and motive than the Intellectual Centrum.  "And later when my "I," that is, this "something unknown" which in ancient times a certain eccentric — called by those around him a "learned (wo)man," as we still call such persons — defined as a "relatively mobile arising, depending on the quality of functioning of the thought, feeling and organic automatism." (Gurdjieff, Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, translation modified).

Many tools, resources, programs and facilities - libraries, colleges, universities, Think Tanks etc. exist to educate the mind, the intellect, however we desire.  Now, you can type in any subject to google and receive knowledge at your fingertips.  It also seems relatively easy to educate and improve the physical mechanism, the organic automatism, i. e. the body which also has a unique intelligence, it has its own brain, the nervous system.

Education of the heart can happen with an effort to engage with Art.  Repeat as necessary; difference and repetition.  Music, literature, paintings, etc. generate aesthetics that open up tracks into new territories reaching far beyond the semantic symbol systems and rationalism of the thinking centrum.  So does learning to play an instrument, writing a story or making a drawing.  Most people appear unaware of this vast unknown territory and the power it may enable.  The power to create.  Just like you can study, research and experiment with a science until becoming an expert, or like achieving exceptional physical fitness, discipline and mastery over the body at a gym, dojo, or ashram, the same intensity of applied effort can yield equally dramatic results for opening the feeling centrum.  And it all  seems cumulative, even with setbacks, it all comes back with persistence.

Gurdjieff designated the expanded, mostly undiscovered and unrealized territory and intelligence of the heart as the Higher Emotional Centrum.  Timothy Leary, his heir apparent in the taxonomy of consciousness, called it the neuro-electric circuit (C6) acknowledging it as a "brain" that received and transmitted electrically.  

Reminiscing on the women he has loved, the narrator, Proust, says:

"Yet my one joy was to see them, my one anxiety to wait for them.  It was as if a virtue having no connection with them had been adjoined to them incidentally by nature, and that this virtue, this electricity-like power, had the effect on me of exciting my love, that is to say of directing all my actions and causing all my sufferings.  But from this, the beauty, or the intelligence, or the the goodness of these women was wholly distinct.  As though by an electric current that moves you, I have been shaken by my love affairs, I have lived them, I have felt them; never have I succeeded in seeing them or thinking them. 

- The Guermantes Way, Vol. 3

If we take the word "heart" in the Leibnez quote to mean the Higher Emotional centrum, then it certainly makes for a long journey for the intellect to get there.  Once there, you then need to learn to stay and how to function there, to not get completely stunned or frightened by the experience, the increased intensities and hyper sensitivities.  Much of what I've read of Proust reveals a sense of that territory and how to manage there.    

"Then my grandmother came in , and to the expansion of my ebbing heart there opened at once an infinity of space.

... I knew, when I was with my grandmother, that however great the misery that there was in me, it would be received by her with a pity still more vast; that everything that was mine, my cares, my wishes, would be, in my grandmother, supported upon a desire to save and prolong my life that was stronger than mine own; and my thoughts were continued in her without having to undergo any deflection, since they passed from my mind into hers without change of atmosphere or of personality.

I threw myself into the arms of my grandmother and clung with my lips to her face as though I had access thus to that immense heart which she opened to me. And when I felt my mouth glued to her cheeks, to her brow, I drew from them something so beneficial, so nourishing that I lay in her arms as motionless, as solemn as calmly gluttonous as a babe at the breast." 
- Within A Budding Grove, Vol. 2

Gurdjieff would say, it's definitely not all "roses, roses" we find many thorns there too.  Increased sensitivity applies to both pain and joy with whole range of emotions and mixture in between.  Proust has an incredible ability to explore all the degrees and various intensities of emotional flows.  Just as, if not more, important he shows how emotions of all kinds non-verbally communicate, through signs.

Deciphering signs shows one major way the intellect journeys to the heart.  Gilles Deleuze writes:

Learning is essentially concerned with signs.  Signs are the object of a temporal apprenticeship, not of an abstract knowledge. To learn is first of all to consider a substance, an object, a being as if it emitted signs to be deciphered, interpreted.  There is no apprentice who is not 'the Egyptologist' of something. One becomes a carpenter only by becoming sensitive to the signs of wood, a physician by becoming sensitive to the signs of disease. Vocation is always predestination with regard to signs.  Everything that teaches us something emits signs; every act of learning is an interpretation of signs or hieroglyphs.  Proust's work is not based on the exposition of memory, but on the apprenticeship to signs.
...
Everything exists in those obscure zones we penetrate as into crypts, in order to decipher hieroglyphs and secret languages.  The Egyptologist, in all things, is the (wo)man who undergoes initiation — the apprentice.
- Proust and Signs, p. 4 

His comment about the apprentice connects with this quote from the Overture in Swann's Way which talks about degrees of emotion around love:

"— to him that anguish came through Love, to which in a sense it is predestined, by which it must be equipped and adapted; but when, as had befallen me, such an anguish possesses one's soul before Love has entered one's life, then it must drift, awaiting Love's coming, vague and free, without precise attachment, at the disposal of one sentiment to-day, of another to-morrow, of filial pity or affection for a comrade.  And the joy with which I first bound myself apprentice ..."

"Alas! in the freshest flower it is possible to discern those just perceptible signs which to the instructed mind indicate already what will be, by the dessication or fructification of the flesh that is to-day in bloom, the ultimate form, immutable and already predestinate of the autumnal seed." 
 - Within A Budding Grove




* * * * * * 

Of all the arts, perhaps good music provides the optimum way to access higher states of consciousness; to educate the heart, the higher emotional centrum that serves as Grand Central Station for tracks into unknown new territories.  I may be biased, though Deleuze said he wrote philosophy only because he couldn't play the music that would express his ideas.  Most, if not all, great literary writers have some musical component in their writing and/or write about music.  We find a great deal of music in Proust.  

In this passage, from Sodom and Gomorrah, ISoLT Vol. 4, the narrator grieves for his grandmother, not long dead, at Balbec, a summer resort town they stayed at some years past.  At the time, he felt very anxious about staying in a strange place so his grandmother told him to knock on the partition separating their quarters and she would be right over.  It shows the connection between music and the subtleties of emotion as well as how emotions communicate through signs.

I turned toward the wall, but, alas, against me was the partition that had served of old between us as a morning messenger, that partition which, docile as a violin in rendering all the nuances of a feeling, spoke so exactly to my grandmother of my fear both of waking her up, or if she was already awake, of not being heard by her, and of her not daring to move, then at once, like a second instrument taking it up, announcing her coming and exhorting me to stay calm.  I no more dared to approach that partition than a piano on which my grandmother had been playing and that was vibrating still from her touch.  

The last line use a musical analogy to illustrate the emotional reaction triggered by the partition and the depth of the narrator's grief.  

The Guermantes Way, Volume 3 of our saga, has a scene towards the end that shocks the younger narrator when he receives the  full wrath of a prominent society figure, M. de Charlus, whom he barely knows, for an imagined wrong.  The whole confrontation gets compared by both characters at different moments to aspects of symphonic music.  For instance, we feel the emotional intensity, the fear in the air, when hearing:

(His normally forceful voice, which tended to make people turn in the street, was a hundred times more forceful as a forte is when played by an orchestra rather than on the piano, and changed to a fortissimo at the same time.  M. de Charlus roared.)

This violent outburst takes the narrator completely by surprise and thrusts him into unknown, chaotic territory.  Will he be able to keep it together?  Not really.

Almost everything else was the result of a feeling yet unknown to me, and which I could not therefore be blamed for underestimating.  In the absence of my familiarity with this feeling, I could at least, had I remembered Mme de Guermante's words, assumed an element of madness in this pride of his.  But at the time, the element of madness did not cross my mind. As I saw it, he was filled merely with pride, I merely with fury.

Violent actions ensue, the narrator in his fury destroys his accuser's top hat.  They argue for a few pages then de Charlus starts to calm down though still lecturing condescendingly to the narrator.  First we see him directing the narrator's attention to paintings to shift the mood, then Proust blatantly and synchronisticly brings  music into the scene to start resolving the dischord; de Charlus speaking to the narrator:

"If this sort of beauty appeals to you more, here is a rainbow by Turner beginning to shine out between these two Rembrandts, as a sign of our reconciliation.  Can you hear?  Beethoven has come to join him." And indeed, the first chords of the third movement of the Pastoral Symphony, "Joy After the Storm," could be heard, performed somewhere close by, on the first floor perhaps by a group of musicians.  "There you are, one never knows.  One really never knows.  Invisible music."

Proust gives music a central role early in the novel when he makes a musical passage, the Vinteuil Sonata, a mnemonic device with for the love Charles Swann has for his paramour Odette, later to be his wife.  This piece of music and the feeling it conjures recurs both literally and figuratively a few times in Swann's Way.






Monday, August 24, 2020

Some Preliminary Thoughts on Reading Marcel Proust

Dancing days are here again
As the summer evenings grow
I got my flower, I got my power
I got a woman who knows.

I said it's alright, you know it's alright
I guess it's all in my heart
You'll be my only, my one and only
Is that the way it should start?
- Led Zeppelin's Proust inspired lyrics

To be honest, I can't be certain that Proust had anything to do with these lyrics. Yet the fact remains that Zeppelin did name their music label Swan Song and the first volume in Proust's magnum opus, In Search of Lost Time is called Swann's Way.  Further, a swan song comes from an Ancient Greek phrase to indicate the last gesture, effort or performance before death.  Charles Swann, the character who provides the Way in the title is one of only two protagonists who die in the first four volumes of ISoLT – as far I've reached in my reading.  Swann's death doesn't get considered much, unlike the narrator's Grandmother, but we do get one poignant scene  in the third volume where Swann tells his friends the Guermantes about his poor health and limited time, the narrator grasps the gravity of the moment, but the Duc seems to not care and prioritizes rushing off to a party.  His wife, the Duchess, seems torn between the two positions, wishing to stay and talk to Swann, but being dragged away by her husband.  This turned out to be Swann's swan song in the novel.   Zeppelin's Swan Song began life as an unrealized epic instrumental piece by Jimmy Page before lending its name to their fledgling music label.  The irony of using a phrase indicating imminent death for a new record label may relate to Mr. Page's "reading and research" into the Golden Dawn and Aleister Crowley's Thelema which confront death full on with material from The Egyptian Book of the Dead among other sources.  

I'm not aware of Proust using Kaballah in his writing, it seems coincidental that he uses a variant of the name Swann that includes an extra n, a letter that corresponds with Death in the Tarot.   The bird swan corresponds with the path of Daleth - Venus, the Goddess of love.  The mystically inclined, Qabalistically informed Jimmy Page likely enjoyed that pun for his bands record label.  Swan also corresponds to "Success in Bhakti yoga."  This line of reasoning may appear fanciful, however I'll demonstrate the relevance to ISoLT in due time, as we search for it

Still, 12 pages in to the 4,215 page epic journey,  Proust makes death explicit and it involves Swann's father.  The narrator's grandfather tells the story of "the behavior of Swann the elder upon the death of his wife, by whose bedside he had watched day and night."  The grandfather went to visit the widower and "managed to entice him for a moment, weeping profusely, out of the death-chamber, so that he should not be present when the body was laid in its coffin.  They took a turn or two in the park where there was a little sunshine.  Suddenly M. Swann seized my grandfather by the arm and cried, Oh my dear old friend, how fortunate we are here to be walking together on such a charming day! Don't you see how pretty they all are, all these trees — my hawthorns ..."  The last line sounds plain, yet it actually telegraphs a major theme in the novel - don't you see how pretty all the trees and vegetation, the flowers and fauna, the foliage, the sky, the clouds, the way the drapes hang, and eventually everything animate or inanimate: Don't you see how pretty they all are? Wake up to the beauty all around.  Interesting that this affirmation of life comes in an interlude from death.  Indeed,  M. Swann goes on to say that it's good to be alive before suddenly remembering his wife and retreating back into grief.  The narrator expresses the inclination to negatively judge M. Swann until hearing his grandfather "exclaim, 'But after all, he had a heart of gold.'"

I had made my way through about  3/4s of Swann's Way before hunkering down for the pandemic lockdown. Preparations for the hermitage included picking up the next three volumes, Within A Budding Grove, The Guermantes Way and Sodom and Gomorrah.  A couple of weeks later, making my way through that Budding Grove, a band on Facebook offered to take requests to play a feel-good cover.  Dancing Days came to mind, I listened to Zeppelin's live version and experienced a strong resonance to the Proust of the moment.

Swan Song label


The conflation of girls and flowers and the power this brings receives much attention in the second volume, titled, in the new Penguin Classics translation,  In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower. The stage has already been set in Swann's Way with the walks he takes in the Combray section; the narrator gives extremely lucid, illuminated and detailed descriptions of nature scenes and flowers to the point of deifying them:

"But farther on the current slackened, where the stream ran through a property thrown open to the public by it's owner, who had made a hobby of aquatic gardening, so that the little ponds in which the Vivonne was here diverted were aflower with water-lilies.  As the banks at this point were thickly wooded, the heavy shade of the trees gave the water a background which was ordinarily dark green, although sometimes when we were coming home on a calm evening after a stormy afternoon, I have seen in it's color a clear, crude blue that was almost violet, suggesting a floor of Japanese cloisonné.  Here and there,  on the surface, floated, blushing like a strawberry, the scarlet heart of a lily set in a ring of white petals."

A common comment by people speaking of the effects they get reading Proust: it will change your life.  It can certainly change how you look at the world.  Flora and nature make a good example.  To see the plant life with the detail, depth and lucidity Proust gives them, to see them with enlightened vision becomes a spiritual exercise.  They used to say, take a psychedelic to see a vision that you then can learn to reach naturally.  With a close, attentive reading of Proust, no need for the psychedelic.

To give one example amongst several available, in Volume 2, the adolescent narrator has his attention captured by a group of young girls in the coastal resort town, Balbec. "Never among actresses,  nor among peasants,  nor among girls from a convent school had I beheld anything so beautiful, impregnated with so much that was unknown, so inestimably precious, so apparently inaccessible. 
 ... But in that case I could only blame the compulsion of a law of nature — which if it applied to these girls would apply to all — and not the imperfection of the object.  For it was that which I should have chosen above all others, feeling quite certain with a botanists satisfaction, that it was not possible to find collected anywhere rarer specimens than these young flowers ..."  he goes on to describe the girls as blocking his view of the sea while watching a steamer slowly pass through them "like an idle butterfly dawlding in the cup of a flower."  If looking at this archetypally, which he invites the reader to do, the fire of the obvious sexual attraction combines with the water of the sea and the receptivity of the flower cups slowly produces the alchemically motive power of steam, like a butterfly - transformation.  Flower power indeed!

Two contemporary writers and researchers of the occult, Robert Anton Wilson and Kenneth Grant advertised this line of flight.  In hist first novel, Illuminatus! written with Robert Shea they use the slogan Ewige Blumenkraft, German for "flower power forever" as a password for the Illuminati.  In trying to decipher why they used this phrase, the Wikipedia Intelligence suggests it seems likely a joke, a poke at the hippies, but they also say: "Another possibility is that the rose and lotus flower are an important symbol of spiritual development in both the western and eastern mystery schools."


Kenneth Grant takes it further with his ideas about kalas, sacred emanationsa strong presence in his books Aleister Crowley & The Hidden God and The Magical Revival.  In chapter 7 of the latter, titled Star Fire,  Grant writes about zones of energy on the body:  They are symbolized generally by the lotus which is the typical flower or flow-er; the flowing that one gathers together all the mystical essences, "stars" or kalas, of the human body... The Lotus comprising all these currents, all these essences, flowers in the  emanations that flow from the priestess.  It is with these subtle emanations, magnetized by appropriate manual passes as they travel along the occult arteries of the invisible anatomy, that the rites are performed and the magical talismans consecrated.  ... kala also means time.  Time and periodicity are associated with the lunar cycle of the female."  Bringing us back to In Search of Lost Time

In 1918 C. S. Jones,  aka Frater Achad composed a document known as Liber 31 that purported to show the Key to The Book of the Law, then known as Liber Legis and sent it to Aleister Crowley.  Crowley accepted this as the key, changing the name of Liber Legis to Liber AL vel Legis to reflect the new information.  AL = 31.  Crowley's response to Achad said, "Your key opens Palace.  CCXX (The Book of the Law) has unfolded like a flower."  Achad later became known for declaring that the feminine Aeon of Maat arrived shortly after Crowley died.  You could call that wishful thinking, I think it hasn't arrived yet.  The point being that Proust, busy writing ISoLT at the time, may have tapped into an occult current that may have helped inform his work.  

My love she laughs like the flowers, Valentines can't buy her.
 - Bob Dylan, Love Minus Zero/No Limit

Salvador Dali, Surrealist Flower Girl
To be continued ...