Monday, May 27, 2024

Joyce, RAW, Crowley and the Book of the Dead

"Finnegans Wake is similar in structure to the song "Finnegans Wake" and to the four Gospels and to the Egyptian myth of Osiris and to the Book of the Dead and the Tibetan Book of the Dead and 1700 other things at least." – Robert Anton Wilson, Interview on Finnegans Wake and Joseph Campbell, 1988.

Joyce also regarded himself as an alchemist taking all the gross matter of the world and turning it into sublime eternal art. He also compares his work to what the priest does in the Mass only Joyce felt that he was doing it for real and the priests were faking it which is to turn the mortal into the immortal.
– Robert Anton Wilson, ibid.

My style is heavily influenced by Joyce. Everything I do has a Joycean element in it. 
– RAW, ibid.

Reality Is What You Can Get Away With (RIWYCGAW), a film treatment by Robert Anton Wilson, begins with the death of all life on earth via a seemingly relentless montage of atomic explosions – you are dead along with everything else. 

The reader-viewer gets thrown immediately into the Bardo. The story begins in the Land of the Dead which turns out to be a dream (or is it?) and recurs until Ignatz (our protagonist witnessing all this) can't tell if it's real or a dream. A TV turns itself on (a definite bardo indicator) with more atomic blasts then the title "Death of Earth." This soon morphs into "Death Of Ego."

Right off the bat this gives us the two primary reasons to learn about the Bardo: 1. Real, physical death and 2. Psychological death when your entire primate identity: ego, personality, intellect, gets blown to smithereens one way or another, and there you are, once again for the first time ever, in the bardo. 

Back in the film treatment, the "Announcer" who hipped us to "Death Of Ego" has a photo of a Playboy Bunny behind him. The next time we see him or her, a page later in the book, the photo has changed to the iconic one from 1968 showing the imminent execution of a Vietnamese prisoner on the streets of Saigon. Suddenly, death has gone from the death of all humanity to the death of an individual; from the impersonal to the personal or from the macro to the micro.

The Announcer proceeds to deliver the first direct bardo instruction:

"The process of rebirth can be painful and confusing. Many of the dead do not know they are dead. They think they are just wandering from room to room looking for their car keys – or watching a Cisco Kid movie about urine smugglers. Some even think they are watching educational TV." The opposite page shows Ignatz and his wife Betty Boop watching TV in a scene that appears to be from the 1950s or early '60s. They seem completely oblivious to the dead guy (Frankenstein's Monster) sitting beside them.

Being dead and not knowing your dead seems equivalent to being in the bardo and not knowing you're in the bardo, an obvious interpretation of the photo with Igntaz, Betty and the Monster (a dead guy brought back to life) (RIWYCGAW, p. 21). The last sentence in the quote: "Some even think they are watching educational TV, seems like it could directly hit home with a viewer watching this in a film – "are they talking about me, at this moment?" Might I be in the bardo and not know it? Wilson brilliantly provokes the reader-viewer to such a consideration.

Since we heard it straight from the horse's mouth that everything RAW does has a Joycean element, I'll offer the following connection. The heroic Cisco Kid character originally derives from an O. Henry story, "The Caballero's Way", published in a collection called The Heart of the West (1907).  Wilson was certainly well read enough that this reference could be intentional. The weighing of the heart is one of the most well known scenes from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. The candidate's heart was placed on the scale to be weighed against the feather of truth placed on the other side of the scale. If the heart proved lighter than the feather then the candidate was allowed to continue on their journey to the land of immortality, known in some instances, as the Western Lands. 

Smuggling urine forecasts a joke Wilson introduces later, but looking at a possible Joyce influence here: urine = you're in = you're in the bardo now. The Cisco Kid, via RAW's imaginative movie for dead people, smuggles in (gets it past the conscious censors) the notion that you're in the bardo now.

Incredulity trigger warning for the forthcoming anecdote that relates to the experience of being dead and not knowing it. A shaman I once worked with whom I found credible, told me that after the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11/2001, he felt a calling to travel there in his body of light to tell the the spirits of the recently deceased what had happened. He claimed that they didn't know they were dead. They had no idea of what happened. He was providing a public service by telling them.

An obvious Joycean-style connection at the beginning of RIWYCGAW occurs with the riffing on "Death Of Ego . . . Death Of Earth", which to an experienced Joycean detective and a Cabalist gives the initials DOE. Wilson cuts to an animation of a small deer dancing then has Ignatz say "A female deer . . . a  doe . . ." (the two ellipsis – the three dots – are in the original). If we pursue this pun for further connections, like we might for something in Finnegans Wake, we find an allusion to the common mnemonic for remembering the notes of a diatonic musical scale: do, re, mi, fa so, la, ti, do. It became well known in the musical, The Sound of Music with a song that begins: 
"do a deer, a female deer, 
re a drop of golden sun . . ."

G. I. Gurdjieff, another Wilson influence, has his Law of Octaves which represents each step in any process with the notes of the diatonic scale. To sound a do (long "o"), in his lingo, means to begin something or to begin a process. RAW sounds a doe with Death of Earth . . . Death Of Ego at the start of RIWYCGAW.  Re, a drop of golden sun connects with the Egyptian influence. Re is a common alternate spelling for Ra the sun god.  The first step or instruction indicated in many of the spells from the Book of the Dead calls for the soul of the deceased to unite themself with Osiris. Osiris abides in the cabalistic sphere of Tiphareth, the solar territory on the Tree of Life.

Reminders that Reality Is What You Can Get Away With portrays a Bardo trip occur throughout the film treatment. Another one occurs on p. 48 - 50 with the Schrödinger's Cat paradox from quantum physics that concludes with the cat being both dead and alive until someone opens the box to take a measurement. Lest we dismiss this as simply a theoretical exercise from physics, we hear Orson Welles addressing Edward G. Robinson's objection that it's impossible for a cat to be both alive and dead at the same time. "Welles (witty twinkle) Erwin Schrödinger proved it. He's got a Nobel prize in physics. He also proves you're dead and alive at the same time." The Schrodinger's Cat paradox recurs throughout the film.

The concept of a favorable rebirth plays out on p. 28 - 29 starting with a study showing the benefit of an enriched environment upon the cognitive skills of rats. Our beloved Announcer returns on the following page with a death/rebirth procedure that could be likened to the methods of Zen koans or Finnegans Wake to name two.

"Announcer: If enough Alien Signals are thrown into the brain – enough Chaos and Confusion – the third neurological bardo prepares for rebirth on a higher level of networking. A new ego you might say."

The paradoxical bardo cat comes back on p. 158  in the context of a different Orson Welles film leading to a riff on reimprinting (rebirth) against a soundtrack of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." "If you want to change all your imprints at once, sign up now to join the first Space Colony and enter a totally new reality-tunnel." As Beethoven's Ninth Symphony begins rising to its peak, the following visual in the film suggests a glorious rebirth in higher dimensions. 

On p. 160 Betty Boop begins discussing the symbolism behind the Sacred Chao. She addresses the reader-viewer a couple of times as; "O nobly born," the same terminology used to address the Voyager who has left their body in the Tibetan Book of the Dead

Weirdly enough, a few days ago, I received an invitation to join a Betty Boop Facebook group from a complete stranger. The extent of my exposure to the wiles of Ms Boop prior to reading RIWYCGAW comes from multiple viewings of the highly recommended bardoesque film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

For me, just the title Reality Is What You Can Get Away With suggests the bardo. How long can you hang out in the bardo? How much presence can you bring there? How well are you able to use your attention to choose a favorable rebirth? What can you get away with in the Bardo?

* * * * * *

Contemporary so-called Books of the Dead differ from their traditional counterparts with a less direct, more allegorical or metaphorical presentation. For instance, they don't have "Book of the Dead" in their title. No one might know that James Joyce intended Finnegans Wake as a Book of the Dead (on one level) but for the fact that he requested his friend, Frank Budgen, write an article explicitly saying so. Sometimes an afterlife adventure can be deduced from the title – a wake indicates a reception, often a party of sorts following a funeral. Wilson's play, Wilhelm Reich in Hell seems obvious from the title. Another contemporary Book of the Dead, The Western Lands by William S. Burroughs makes it clear with its dust jacket of stylized ancient Egyptian illustrations and hieroglyphics that he intends to signify the Western Lands of Egyptian mythology.

Traditional Books of the Dead seem meant to provide direct assistance to the voyager after biological death, but also appear quite effective for aiding someone going through the death of ego for one reason or another. Many untrained voyagers in the mid 1960s to mid 70s found themselves flung willy nilly into scary bardo spaces after taking a strong psychedelic dosage. John Lilly asked his friend E.J. Gold to make a modern translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead specifically to help people having difficulties with an overwhelming psychotropic drug experience. This resulted in the American Book of the Dead, an instruction manual equally effective for both ego and physical death. Early in his consciousness-altering research Timothy Leary recognized the value of the Tibetan Book of the Dead for mapping out psychedelic spaces as made evident in the book he wrote with Richard Alpert and Ralph Metzner, The Psychedelic Experience – A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead (1964). John Lennon  quotes directly from this book in his song Tomorrow Never Knows: "Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream, it is not dying, it is not dying . . ."

Modern literary Books of the Dead like Finnegans Wake and RIWYCGAW seem geared to ego death, aka raising consciousness. This means they are relevant to us right where we sit now in our current life even if we don't expect to die for years, decades, or millenia (if they figure out how to extend biological life). They provide bardo training both directly and indirectly. The latter through creating the feel or mood of the apres-vie by simulating bardo spaces through dream sequences (Finnegans Wake has its own dream language), surrealistic effects like suddenly shifting environments (sudden transitions), non-sequitur events, drug episodes, etc.; anything that disorients the habitual perception of how we make sense of reality. RAW, at times, employed the cut-up technique popularized by William Burroughs to come up with bardo sequences.

Publicly, RAW appeared more interested in what occurs after the death of the ego than in surviving the demise of his biological form. He seemed more invested in scientific advances to provide biological life extension than what might happen in the afterlife sans corps. His focus writing about bardo exploration concerned itself with mapping out and establishing a domain in territories of higher consciousness while learning how to function and even work there. In other words, bardo awareness and personal functionality after ego death rather than the individual's journey after physical death. Of course, the former also prepares you for the latter.

* * * * * *

Always assume you're in the bardo whether it seems like it or not. This axiom seems akin to advice from the Gurdjieff and Castenada schools to maintain the awareness that one could die at any moment. Castenada's Don Juan said that death is always behind you just over your left shoulder. If you turn around fast enough, you can see it. 

All this talk of staying aware of death can sound morbid until you realize that it's really about waking up to life. Anyone who has had a near death experience or even an encounter where the real possibility of imminent death stared you in the face can testify that you become incredibly alive and fully present when you think you're about to die. Bardo training is as much about life, maybe moreso that it is about death. Life outside the well worn grooves of a mechanical existence programmed by primate social and cultural imperatives. Navigating through life in the extraterrestrial brain circuits also seems like running through a maze or labyrinth. 

E.J. Gold is an acknowledged researcher and expert in Bardo training. He's the author of multiple books, videos, plays and computer video games on the subject. His most straightforward book on the Unknown realms shamans and other intrepid adventurers explore is Life in the Labyrinth, not death in the labyrinth. With enough experience, one come to the realization that death as an absolute finality does not exist; death becomes an indicator of profound change that always brings about a rebirth or resurrection of some kind, a becoming. RAW writes about the realization of his own immortality in Cosmic Trigger I

Always assume you're in the bardo. Why? Most of the time it feels like I'm going about my business doing the things of ordinary life. Most of the time I feel identified with my ego. There seem to be gradations of ego death. You can temporarily blow out your self identity for several hours with a psychedelic. If strong enough, you no longer assume you're in the bardo, you have the undeniable perception of being there. More gentle ego deaths result from any kind of meditation or magick ritual. It can happen when listening closely to or when playing music. We find even subtler deaths than those.

Always assume you're in the bardo seems the opposite of what we normally assume, that we are this static, unified persona that has predictable reactions to any given situation. A little self observation reveals the static ego to be a fiction, a construct in our mind that's constantly reinforced by others who have the same assumption. If we pay attention to our inner states and outer behavior it will become noticed that we subtly change identities and manifest ourselves differently as the environment changes. We're different with our parents than when hanging out with our buddies; different when in a church or temple (even if we're not religious) than in a bar or nightclub, etc.

* * * * * * 

The bardo is the territory where magick takes place. It's the space where reprogramming or metaprogramming can occur; also known as the choice-point space. Die to our old self, choose a preferred rebirth. For example, suppose I want to eat healthier food. Formulate a ritual where the "self" that loves junk food undergoes a metaphorical death. Introduce a set of instructions encouraging the bardo voyager to take rebirth as a "self" that eats healthier. Repeat as necessary – a complete transformation of one's eating habits seems highly unlikely after one experiment, yet there will usually be incremental progress . . .  and the progress accrues. I estimate that it took a good ten years, maybe more, to morph from someone who ate mostly fast food to someone who rarely eats junk food. One of the keys to reprogramming involves forsaking moral self-judgement. I'm not a "better" person because I no longer consume Big Macs, I just feel better. Conversely, I'm not prone to emotionally beating myself up for ingesting empty calories. I enjoy it at the time. 

Wilson devised a reprogramming formula; it's found in Cosmic Trigger I (p. 120 Hilaritas edition): 

"Bn = Bo + Pn + MS

where Bn is new behavior, Bo is old behavior, Pn is a deliberate new program for self-change and MS is a metaprogramming substance such as LSD." He showed his formula to the good Dr. Leary who commented that B could be switched out for C (Consciousness) or I (Intelligence). 

The "new program" and "metaprogramming substance" parts of the formula takes place in the Bardo, in the transition between the old and new behavior. Of course, psychedelic substances are not absolutely required. Crowley gives a drug free death/rebirth exercise in section "AAA" of "Liber HHH" found in Appendix VII of Magick Book 4 Liber ABA (p. 589 1st Edition). 

Cosmic Trigger I returns to the "pattern of death-rebirth" saying that it still appears symbolically in the Roman Catholic Mass and in the Masonic "raising" ceremony. He continues: "the candidate is often brought to a state of terror similar to the emergency condition of the nervous system in near-death crises. What occurs then, and is experienced as rebirth, is a quantum jump in neurological awareness. In Leary's terminology, new circuits are formed and imprinted."

Everything seems connected in the bardo. John Lennon expressed it perfectly in I Am The Walrus: "I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together." RAW identifies it as the non-local circuit in Finnegans Wake.

* * * * * * 

The great advantage of encountering the Bardo gently through literature, film, music, theater, or any artistic medium is that you can take it at your own pace or choose to not take it at all. Timothy Leary famously said that reading Ulysses and Finnegans Wake served as preparation for psychedelic spaces. Bardo preparation or training for fully entering it later. 

An allusion to both rebirth and to death appears on the first page of Finnegans Wake. The reference of the rainbow ("regginbrow") can be interpreted as God's covenant for Life, as a promise of rebirth on a macrocosmic scale following the death of all animals outside of Noah's Ark after the Great Flood (except for ducks and fish, according to Eddie Izzard).  

                                                         Eddie Izzard – Ducks & the Flood

Immediately after this sign of hope and rebirth, this covenant for Life, is when we plunge into the Bardo with: "The fall", followed by the hundred letter thunder word. The sound of thunder signals the entrance to the underworld. Thunder is a not uncommon sound in the bardo. When you hear thunder, especially if close by, it can key in a bardo space which means it can wake you up a little. I was once doing sound design, adding sound effects behind spoken word readings from the American Book of the Dead. I was laying in the sound of thunder. E.J. Gold heard what I was doing, came into the studio and said there's lots of thunder in the Bardo. 

The next sentence following the thunder word describes the death of Tim Finnegan whose wake gives the book its title.

"The great fall of the offwall entailed at such short notice the pftjschute of Finnegan, erse solid man, that the humptyhillhead of humself prumptly sends an unquiring one well to the west in quest of his tumptytumtoes: . . ."

In a 19th Century Irish-American ballad, also called Finnegans Wake, Tim Finnegan, all liquored up, falls off a a ladder and apparently dies.  At his wake, the corpse get splashed with whiskey which revives him – an early allusion to the death and resurrection theme that runs throughout the book. It also refers to Finn McCool, the legendary Irish giant said to lie in trance beneath the Dublin landscape. McCool was beheaded in one version of the legend. Perhaps this helps explain why his head sends someone to the west looking for his toes.

I've not seen an adequate explanation of "pftjschute." It reminds me of a sound a cartoon character might make upon suddenly disappearing and thus appears an appropriate sound for death. Dissecting this word, we see that "chute" in its standard definition of "a sloping channel or slide for conveying something to a lower level" sounds like going into the Bardo or the Land of the Dead. Chute is also the French word for fall; "pftjs" adds to 165. In Sepher Sephiroth, the dictionary of Gematria originally published in 1912 by Aleister Crowley with contributions from Allan Bennett and MacGregor Mathers, 165 = "To make them know;" also "NEMO." Nemo represents a high grade in the Thelemic hierarchy, the Master of the Temple. It means "no man" and connects with death. 

It's explained in the "Cry of the "13th Aethyr" from The Vision and the Voice by Crowley, Victor Neuburg, and Mary Desti: "And he saith: No man beheld the face of my Father. Therefore he that hath beheld it is called NEMO. And know thou that every man that is called NEMO hath a garden that he tendeth. And every garden that is and flourisheth hath been prepared from the desert by NEMO, watered from the waters that were called death.  We have an allusion to a garden with Eve and Adam in the first sentence of the Wake.

In the commentary to Chapter 65 "Sic Transeat —" from Crowley's The Book of Lies, :
"The chapter title means, 'So may he pass away', the blank obviously referring to NEMO.

I have no idea if Joyce knew the gematria meaning of 165 and intentionally placed it with the otherwise incomprehensible "pftjs ..." or if it's just one of those synchronicities that he loved. It certainly fits.

"Erse", the name of a language, is a synonym for Gaelic. It may also pun with "else;"  as in "the pftjschute (no man) of Finnegan – else (otherwise a) solid man.  Finnegan then gets conflated with Humpty Dumpty, the living giant egg and master of language in Lewis Carroll's Wonderland tales who had a great fall "offwall".  Humpty suggests the alchemical egg where transmutation occurs (see Paracelsus or Carl Jung).

Then we get to the (possibly) Egyptian part: "sends an unquiring one well to the west in quest of his tumptytumtoes: . . ."; "unquiring" breaks down as the prefix "un" = not and "quiring": a quire is the area in a church or cathedral set aside for the clergy and choir; this suggests a "not Christian" one; "well to the west" recalls the Western Lands, the land of immortality. The journey through the bardo to immortality; "tumptytumtoes" has the Egyptian god of the setting sun, Tum, in the middle of it. The adoration of Tum occurs at dusk in the Thelemic "Liber Resh" ritual. Tum is a derivation of Atum. In very early Egyptian pre-history, Atum was the chief god, the primordial living being who created the cosmos as personified by other gods. 

Tum as the sun god at dusk fits in well with a book beginning to dive into the night. Atum as a creator sun god whose toes are creations of a material world (Malkuth on the Tree of Life) also seems appropriate for the emerging "chaosmos" (chaos + cosmos) of Finnegans Wake.

* * * * * *

Bardo episodes appear in all of RAW's fiction in various forms: dreams, drug experiences, magick, meditation visions, etc. The very first sentence of The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles Volume I says it all: Sigismundo Celine was lost in a dark forest with a Red Indian, seeking the supreme wakan. (The Earth Will Shake p. 3 Hilaritas edition). Sigismundo is having a dream or reverie in church on Easter Sunday.
Right off the top, we find parallels with Dante's The Divine Comedy which begins on Good Friday with Dante lost in a dark forest. I have written extensively on the S + C letter semiotic (Sigismundo Celine), most recently toward the end in the first post of this series, Folds and Overlaps Between Aleister Crowley and Finnegans Wake. Before that, in my post on Rabelais. "Red Indian" also appears a deliberate use of initials with R + I = 210, a significant qabalistic calculation for multiple reasons.

Wakan is a Native American term that translates roughly as Great Spirit or life force. Considering a Joycean influence, wakan sounds similar to waking. "Waking up" is a Sufi expression of enlightenment borrowed and used extensively in Gurdjieff's 4th Way movement and other contemporary spiritual guides. In the 4th stanza of The Divine Comedy, Dante describes himself as "so full of sleep just at that point where I abandoned the true path." (Knopf, 1995 translated by Allen Mandelbaum). Death soon becomes direct and explicit in the story with Sigismundo witnessing the murder of his Uncle in the church by 4 assassins.

Illuminatus! (co-written with Robert Shea) also begins in the Bardo and quite clearly connects with the start of The Historical Illuminatus – "The earth quakes . . ." being the most obvious sign,

The Bardo, magickal, non-local circuit aspect of RAW's fiction comprises just one level or layer of complex, multi-leveled presentations. They're also simply great adventure and detective romances. His most direct and sustained journey through the Bardo occurs in his two film treatments, Reality Is What You Can Get Away With and The Walls Came Tumbling Down (the latter links to a post on its bardoesque aspects) and to his play Wilhelm Reich In Hell which will be discussed in the future.

Stay tuned for a discussion on the 23 enigma, the Bardo, and a Book of the Dead by William S. Burroughs.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Joyce, Crowley, and The Book of the Dead.

"Of the sleep of Ulro! and of the passage through 
Eternal Death! and of the awaking to Eternal Life

This theme calls me in sleep night after night & ev'ry morn
Awakes me at sun-rise, then I see the Saviour over me
Spreading his beams of love, & dictating the words of this mild song.

Awake! awake O sleeper of the land of shadows, wake! expand!
I am in you and you in me, mutual in love divine: . . ."

- Opening lines to Jerusalem by William Blake

"William Blake's Jerusalem should be added to the list of major sources for James Joyce's Finnegans Wake" – Karl Kiralis

In the previous episode, I postulated that Joyce used Finnegans Wake to show HOW to construct something. It began with the premise that Howth Castle and Environs (HCE) signified an alchemical pun. That something = the construction of stable and permanent structures of higher consciousness; higher bodies in a largely unknown new territory. Put another way: awakening and accessing, at will, higher brain circuits.  Why would anyone even bother? Of what use is it to explore and map out unknown territory? Why would Joyce encode instructions for a metaphysical construction in his monumental undertaking to explore the Night?

In Plato's dialogue, Phaedo, an account occurring on Socrates' last day alive, Socrates says that "true philosophers ... are always occupied in the practice of dying." In The Consciousness of Joyce, Richard Ellman notes that Joyce possessed a copy of Phaedo. The practice of death concerns the separation and release of the soul from the body. According to Socrates, true philosophers are "ever seeking to release the soul," it is their "especial study." Therefore philosophers are "ever studying to live as nearly as they can in a state of death." 

Let's update the terminology with Timothy Leary's 8 Circuit model of consciousness: the four lower "terrestrial" circuits represent the "body" and the four higher "extraterrestrial" circuits represent the "soul." The practice of dying, or as Sufis put it, dying before you die, consists of temporarily moving (separating) one's primary attention and awareness from the terrestrial circuits to the extraterrestrial circuits, from the body to the soul. We'll call the source of awareness and attention concerned with the physical body, emotions and intellect of the terrestrial circuits, the ego or personality. The terrestrial circuits and their operation are also known as the human biological machine since they function largely mechanically. The source of attention still remaining after the ego temporarily disappears, i.e. the "soul," we'll call  the "voyager" as the environment (territory) it passes through constantly changes and shifts as if on a journey or voyage.  

In this reading,  Howth Castle = how to construct a stable structure; Environs designates the territory of the higher dimensions – the territory of death from the point of view of the ego; commodius vicus of recirculation might indicate the practice of philosophy as Socrates saw it, the constant practice of dying.  

The construction of a stable, crystalized body of consciousness able to hang out in the higher dimensions not only serves to enable the practice of dying, (separating the soul from the body) it also desires to survive the death of the biological form, the physical body. The territory and environs of the higher brain circuits appears largely, if not completely, unknown to the ego and personality that directs the activities and functioning of the body. If one doesn't practice death before dying, by raising consciousness, this territory can come as an overwhelming, even terrifying shock to the voyager when the ego disappears at discorporation. It's my premise here that Joyce incorporates within the Wake various strategies for surviving Death.

Many Joycean scholars and enthusiasts see  Finnegans Wake as a journey through the Night. This book speaks a specialized and very complex dream language causing some to interpret the whole thing as the dream of Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, the central character. Mythologically, it can also represent the dream of Finn MacCool, the legendary Irish hero whose giant form rests across the landscape of Ireland  lying in a perpetual trance (bardo) in lieu of death.

Finnegans Wake and the territory of Death share a labyrinthine quality in common; a maze-like complexity often baffling and disorientating. It's easy to get lost in either. Multiple cultures have devised various strategies, spells, disciplines, codes and instructions for navigating the Land of the Dead. The two most well known examples being the Bardo Thodol, more commonly known as the Tibetan Book of the Dead,  and the collection of spells entombed with the deceased in ancient Egypt called the Papyrus of Ani, aka The Egyptian Book of the Dead. The latter appears explicitly multiple times in the Wake

The journey the soul embarks upon following the dissolution of the physical body is said to be fraught with great peril and danger; with overwhelming lights, sounds, sensations and radiations. It could be compared with a robust psychedelic trip encountering intensely strange and disorientating territory following the temporary death of the ego. The instructions, spells and advice found in Books of the Dead intends to help guide the voyager through the daunting labyrinth between death and rebirth. In its role as a Book of the Dead, Finnegans Wake guides the reader through this unnerving landscape. One way it does this is by presenting a very difficult, but solvable maze to unravel. Learning to solve one maze – to become maze bright – strengthens skills for solving other mazes like that of the afterlife.

All the mythologies concerned with the technology of Death include rebirth or resurrection. The instructions found in such Books are also meant to help the voyager select a either a favorable rebirth or transcend to a level beyond the human cycle of death and rebirth. We don't have a word in the English language to signify the territory between death and rebirth so we'll appropriate the Tibetan word for it, the Bardo.

Every night when we go to sleep our waking consciousness experiences a little death then gets reborn in the morning to a new day. The world of dreams appears conterminous with the Bardo; the unraveling of the conscious mind is common to both situations. Joyce's Book of the Night therefore becomes a Book of the Dead. "James Joyce once suggested to his friend Frank Budgen that he should compose an article on Finnegans Wake and title it James Joyce's Book of the Dead." *


*quoted from Joseph Campbell, Mythic Worlds, Modern Words. His source is an article by Frank Budgen,  "Joyce's Chapters of Going Forth by Day," in Horizon, 1941


On Wake pages 30 and 31 Joyce writes of the genesis of his protagonist's name, Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker. In Mythic Worlds, Modern Words, Campbell interprets this passage as deriving Earwicker from "earwig ("ear-beetle"). He continues: "This 'dangerous' insect is Joyce's Irish counterpart and parody of the scarabareus (the Mediterranean 'dung beetle') which in Egyptian iconography represents Kephra, the sun-god, and is a primary symbol of resurrection and immortality.  . . . Earwicker ('Awaker'): he is the earwig in the sleeper's (i.e. reader's) ear. And Finnegans Wake itself is the accompanying papyrus, The Book of the Dead."  (Mythic Worlds footnote p. 299).

Campbell made this point earlier in his book: 

"Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker: An earwig is a bug that gets in your ear and keeps buzzing. This can be compared to the Egyptian scarab, which is put on the heart of a person being buried in a sarcophagus and represents the reawakened. 'Earwicker' can be read as the awaker and the word Buddah means 'the one who is awake.'" (p. 242)

Waking up in the Buddhist, Hindu, or Sufi sense - waking up from the world illusion or the life dream – seems exactly what happens to the voyager when the body dies. Learning how to "wake up" appears another practice of dying before you die.

In Joyce's Book of the Dark, John Bishop writes:

"There are several good reasons for approaching Finnegans Wake, and it's treatment of the wake, through a reading of the Book of the Dead. Joyce actively sought to have someone write an essay exploring the Wake's affinities with this text; as he explained in a letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver, one of the '4 long essays ' in his testamentary collection which he planned to have follow "Our Exagmination" was to examine specifically the Wake's reconstruction of the night in reference to the Book of the Dead."

Joseph Campbell sees Khephra as one identity of Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker (HCE). Khephra is a big deal in the Thelemic pantheon. He is the ancient Egyptian God associated with the scarab who represents the Sun at midnight. Kephera carries the Sun through night to its rebirth in the morning just as HCE carries the reader of Finnegans Wake through the Night to rebirth in a new day. Another name for the Egyptian Book of the Dead is the Book of Coming Forth by Day. The name Khephra means to "come into being" or "becoming." 

In the Thelemic rituals of "The Mass of the Phoenix" (Chapter 44 in the Book of Lies) and "The Great Invocation" (Magick Book 4 p. 672  Weiser, 1994 first edition) Khephra is identified as an aspect of Horus, the crowned and conquering child who presides over the new Aeon; it's implied in the former and explicit in the latter.  Both those rituals serve to invoke Horus, meaning that the practitioner completely identifies themself with the god for the duration of the ritual. For example we have from the latter:

Hail, O An-Kert (goddess of fertility), who hidest thy companion in the womb!
Hail, Khephra, self-created!
Grant that the dead man Ankh-f-n-khonsu may come forth with victory to behold the Disk, and that he may journey forth to see the Great and Inscrutable God, who dwelleth in the Infinite.  . . .

Yet my form is the form of Khephra: my locks flow down as the locks of the earth before Tum, the locks of earth before Tum! (Magick, p. 674 - 675)

Tum represents the Sun at dusk making this Khephra entering into the Night.

Both Crowley and Joyce draw heavily and directly from the Egyptian Book of the Dead and both found at least some of this Egyptian inspiration from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. However, Finnegans Wake functions as a Book of the Dead far beyond its specific allusions to the Papyrus of Ani; in the Wake's dream language, the Papyrus of Anna – Anna Livia Plurabelle.

Scene of the weighing of the heart from the Egyptian Book of the Dead

* * * * * * 

The touchstone tale for descent and journey through the Underworld is Dante's The Divine Comedy consisting of three books: InfernoPurgatorio, and Paradiso.  In Mythic Worlds, Modern Words Joseph Campbell presents the theory that Joyce modeled his oeuvre, beginning with The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, after the literary works of Dante Alighieri. Portrait, he says, parallels Dante's first work, a collection of poems and commentary dedicated to his muse, Beatrice Portinari. Campbell explains that Ulysses corresponds with Inferno and Finnegans Wake with Purgatorio – Purgatory. Paradiso was to be Joyce's next book. He didn't have the opportunity to write it before exiting his mortal coil. Joe doesn't fully explain the Purgatorio – Wake correspondence, but we find evidence for it beginning with18 references in Finnegans Wake to a small cave called St. Patrick's Purgatory on an Irish island where legend has it that St. Patrick found the entrance to Purgatory. These begin on page 80: "her filthdump near Serpentine in Phoenix Park (at her time called Finewell's Keepsacre but later tautaubapptossed Pat's Purge)" . . .

The word Purgatory means "cleansing" – purging; "her filthdump." These references recur until nearly the end of the book:  "Reparatrices for a good allround sympowdhericks purge, full view . . . " (p. 618).
Purgatory describes a Bardo space as it's in between Hell and Heaven just as the Bardo lies in between Death and Rebirth. One definition of the Bardo: any space that's in between or in transition.  Campbell says that Joyce makes an analogy between purgatory and reincarnation. "What is being reincarnated is not only the individual, but also the universe." (MWMW p. 20). 

Purgatory may have its genesis in Egyptian mythology. In The Gods of the Egyptians (Vol. I p. 171), E.A. Wallis Budge surmises that Purgatory has its roots in their notion of the Tuat, a valley which separated this world from heaven. Like the purgatory of Finnegans Wake, a river runs through the Tuat said to be a counterpart of the earthly and the celestial Nile. Cleansing appears a big part of what occurs in the Bardo with the voyager confronting all their subconscious "monsters and demons" (impurities and regrets) in order to recognize them as aspects of their own consciousness and let them go; purge them.

* * * * * * 

Let's examine a paragraph from p. 593 that has multiple sources with Bardo imagery: an Egyptian Book of Coming Forth by Day influence, a Biblical reference, an alchemical allusion, and a cabalistic communication. It's the 4th paragraph in the fourth and final section. In this part of our beloved story, night has ended and a new day is dawning by calling Array! Surrection! – a ray of sunlight coming through and a resurrection. A half page later:

The eversower seeds of light to the cowld owld sowls that are in the domnatory of Defmut after the night of the carrying of the word of Nuahs and the night of making Mehs to cuddle up in a coddlepot, Pu Nuseht, lord of risings in the yonderworld of Ntamplin, toph triumphant, speakth. 

Much to unravel here. Buckle up your seat belts, folks!  Nuahs and Mehs are Shaun and Shem reversed, these are the names of the twin sons of HCE. Shaun is a postman, carrying the word – communicating. Shem is a penman, a writer who creates with words. Coddlepot suggests a cobblepot, a hastily assembled pot, container, or vessel. To "cuddle up in a cobblepot" could indicate embracing "up" (up = higher consciousness) through cobbling up a vessel – a higher body of consciousness. 

Joyce reverses names to multiply linguistic sense. For instance, Nuahs appears a conflation of the Egyptian goddess Nu and Noah of Biblical fame. Carrying the word of Nuahs = the mission of Noah's Ark.  The "cowld owld sowls" (cold old souls) represent the animals a cow, owl and sow.  The "domnatory of Defmut" reminds me of  purgatory if you take it as damnatory of silence; Defmut = deaf mute = silence. These souls/animals are in the domnatory, the ark, with the night symbolizing the Great Flood. The story of Noah's Ark is another tale of traveling through death (of all life on Earth except for those in the Ark) to the resurrection of a new beginning.

It's been established by multiple scholars that James Joyce was a master of Cabala. The aspect of Cabala called Notarikon considers the significance of the initials of words. The letter N, as in Nuahs, corresponds with the card of Death in the Tarot. Thus, "the night of the carrying of the word of Nuahs" cabalisticly gives us "carrying the word of Death," i.e. a Book of the Dead.

The M of Mehs corresponds with the Hanged Man card. Consulting the description of it in Crowley's The Book of Thoth shows its relevance to themes here. I advise reading the whole description but here are some relevant quotes: "This card, attributed to the letter Mem, represents the element of Water. It would perhaps be better to say that it represents the spiritual function of water in the economy of initiation; it is a baptism which is also a death." A serpent appears around the left foot of the Hanged Man.  "In this inferior darkness of death, the serpent of new life begins to stir. " If we interpret "domnatory" as a portmanteau of dominant and territory then "domnatory of Defmut" becomes the dominant territory of silence. Returning to The Book of Thoth: "and the sound M (is) the return to Eternal Silence, as in the word AUM.  . . . Through his Work a Child is begotten, ("cuddle up in a coddlepot" displays child-like language) as shown by the Serpent stirring in the Darkness of the Abyss below him. . . . Moreover, Water is peculiarly the Mother Letter . . . in Nature, Homo Sapiens is a marine mammal, and our intra-uterine existence is passed in the Amniotic Fluid. The legend of Noah, the Ark and the Flood, is no more than a hieratic presentation of the facts of life,"

The Wake quote from p. 593 certainly has an Egyptian Book of the Dead feel to it. Some say that Defmut alludes to the Egyptian goddess Tefnut which fits the Noah's Ark narrative as she is the goddess of rain. Defmut could also allude to Duatmutef, one of the sons of Horus who also corresponds to Mem (Water; Hanged Man) in a table found in Magick, p. 540.  

"Pu Nuseht" though it sounds Egyptian, seems nothing more than "The sun up" reversed. However, the reversed "up,"a separate word here, could serve to qualify and link to the "up" of "cuddle up", i.e. cuddle up to the sun. I learned from Peter Quadrino's excellent blog, Finnegans, Wake! that "Ntamplin" is a quasi Greek way of spelling Dublin (he explicates the whole passage in greater detail here.) Since the Bardo, in one sense, seems an unraveling of the subconscious mind, Dublin undeniably factors into the Bardo ("the yonderworld" – underworld) of James Joyce; "toph (top) triumphant" connects with the direction of "up". Quadrino and others point out that "toph" gets close to an anagram for "photo " the Greek word for light, but it's also close to an anagram for Ptah, an older solar god from Memphis, Egypt who is considered the personification of the rising sun – fitting in with the new day theme here. 

The "eversower seeds of light" (the Sun?) speaks. An excellent analysis of what it says is given in the Finnegans, Wake! blog here. For our purposes, I'll note the sentence: "Verb umprincipiant through the trancitive spaces." Transit is another term for being in the Bardo (transitioning); trancitive spaces suggests bardo spaces. Being in a trance describes another kind of bardo space. Principiant comes from the Latin principiare - to begin. The "Um" is a mostly obsolete prefix for "about" therefore umprincipiant could mean "about to begin. "Verb" = voyager cf. Buckminster Fuller's famous quote, "I seem to be a verb" which he also used as a title for a book.  We end up with the Voyager going through bardo spaces awaiting rebirth or resurrection – about to begin.

Before we move on, it should be noted that the Noah's Ark reference appears more than simply another resurrection story. The notion of an Ark, a fortified vessel carrying pressure cargo through the "dark and stormy night" or whatever metaphor you choose for difficult times, appears an important, recurring theme in the Wake as a Book of the Dead. In this dream language,, a homonym for Ark, "arc", as in a shaft of life arcing through the darkness, communicates the same theme of carrying light through the night; this also describes Kephra's (HCE) function. 

The last sentence of the second paragraph in the Wake (p. 3) connects with the quote we've been looking at from p. 593:

"Rot a peck of pa's malt had Jhem or Shen brewed by arclight and rory end to the regginbrow ringsome on the aquaface."

HCE's sons, Shem (Jhem) and Shaun (Shen) appear in both quotes, their names spelled forward here. We find an explicit allusion to the arc (arclight) – Ark homonyms. Then, "regginbrow ringsome on the aquaface" obviously refers to the rainbow, God's promise to Noah, that appeared after the rains had subsided and the world was covered in water ("aquaface").

* * * * * *

I am more interested in parallels between the material presented in Finnegans Wake with the philosophy of Thelema than to any mention or allusion to the human being Aleister Crowley. The "eversower seeds of light" phrase from p. 593, though metaphorically consonant with the rising of the sun, suggests some kind of personification of the sun. We find such a personification in the form of the Egyptian god Khem.

"Khem (is) an ithyphallic deity . . . generally represented as standing upright, with his arm extended in the act of scattering seed. . . Khem represented the idea of divinity in its double character of father and son. As father he was called the husband of his mother, while as a son he was assimilated to the god Horus. He symbolized generative power surviving death." (Rawlinson, History of Ancient Egypt)

The central altar piece in Thelema is known as The Stele of Revealing. It was the funerary stele (tablet) of the priest Ankh af na Khonsu who lived circa 6th Century B.C. Khonsu was a priest of Menthu, a local Sun-god, in Thebes. Crowley considers Menthu an iteration of Horus for having the head of a hawk. In the Thelemic cosmogony, Horus represents the deity reigning over the new Aeon which began in 1904 with the reception of The Book of the Law. In at least three important Thelemic rituals, "The Mass of the Phoenix", "The Great Invocation" and "Liber Samekh", the aspirant identifies themself with the dead man Ankh af na Khonsu traveling through the underworld to get reborn as Horus. "The Great Invocation", in particular, borrows heavily from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. This is where Khem, the "eversower seeds of light" comes in.

In Section Aa of "Liber Samekh", a ritual for invoking the Holy Guardian Angel – in one sense, a person's deepest and most true Self, the True Will – we see:

I am ANKH-F-N-KHONSU Thy prophet, unto whom Thou didst commit Thy Mysteries, the Ceremonies of KHEM . . .

Hear Thou Me, for I am the Angel of PTAH-APOPHRASZ-RA: this is Thy True Name, handed down to the Prophets of KHEM. 

Crowley identified himself with Ankh-af-na-khonsu. He wrote the so-called short "Comment" to The Book of the Law using that identity. In the original ritual that Crowley turned in to "Liber Samekh", the first quoted line read: "I am Moses Thy Prophet, unto whom Thou didst commit Thy Mysteries, the Ceremonies of Israel." The ritual instructions say to substitute Moses with the aspirant's own magical motto and Israel for their own Magical Race.  Earlier in the ritual, Apophrasz was described as "the Truth in Motion" i.e. the Voyager.

 The Great Invocation" has:

"By the mysterious spell of the dead Lord of Khem: by its miracle revelation unto the Beast, The Prophet of the Sun." 

The parallels with the Wake passage from p. 593 appear undeniable though I stop short of asserting Joyce knew Thelema that well to make the parallels intentional. Joyce does have a Prophet of the Sun speak and he does describe this Prophet as an "eversower seeds of light" which alludes to Khem.  Aleister Crowley, in his altruistic activities, also perfectly fits the description of an "eversower  seeds of light."

Stay tuned for the next episode which will go into some of the Bardo/Book of the Dead influences found in the work of Robert Anton Wilson who was deeply influenced by both Joyce and Crowley.

Finn MacCool, the giant sleeping in the Irish landscape

Monday, February 12, 2024

The Golden Thread

 A Mystical Puppet Rock Opera
Dalrymple and the Wild Daimons 

Dalrymple MacAlpin

Rotes Erdherz Kupferkatze enters the darkened stage from the back wearing a deerstalker hat, the kind made famous by Sherlock Holmes, and strikes a few notes on the vibraphone to start the show and begin the Invocation. Yes indeed, the game is afoot – the game being magic, or if you like, magick. The first visible non-human character, Rumpelstilzchen, enters the back of the theater introducing himself and setting the stage for the night's adventure. In the darkness behind the puppet, lit only with a flashlight by an apprentice light technician, Dalrymple pulls the puppet's strings and channels his voice as they walk through the aisle directly in front of where I'm sitting; I can feel the timelessness of Rumpel's character; he's been at this a long time: weaving golden threads which he says are stories. 

The immediacy of the opera coming to to life in the middle of the audience recalls for me a performance of Back to Methuselah by the Living Theater in New York led by Julian Beck and Judith Molina where imp-like performers ran through the audience chanting: "in the future, all is poetry." It also recalled the way Tom Waits began his Mule Variations tour, coming through the back of the theater in Oakland giving a carny-style rap while walking through the theater to the stage. Rumpel is clearly in good company with dramatic stage entrances. It seems kind of a genius way to start a show because it captures the audiences attention immediately and lets them know they are part of the adventure and invocation. The fourth wall, the division between performers and attendees, is broken before it was even built. An intimate rapport with the audience gets established from the get go.

The humans in the Wild Daimons are: Chuckling Crow playing bass, upright and electric, and the occasional conga; Ouroborous playing all things drum and percussion-like; and Rotes Erdherz Kupferkatze on tenor sax, vibraphone and theremin. Dalrymple MacAlpin's instruments include guitar, piano, synthesizer, gut-stringed medieval harp and counter-tenor vocals. The Wild Daimons also consists of four marionette puppets: Rumpelstilzchen, Dortchen Wild, DJ Tele-Grimm-Gram and Ceridwen. The puppets are one form of the non-human life this production calls forth – each of them manifest and project themselves as a distinct entity, a non-homo sapien life-form able to cross over into the human dimension. The musicians play textural sound effects creating an evocative soundscape for the narration then transform into a band playing full on rock songs with lyrics advancing the story as operas do. Opera comes from the Latin and means work.

Live video projections bring an electronic kind of non-human life through a screen hanging above the center of the stage, a square-shaped box angled to resemble a diamond. The first band song is "Three Sisters and Their Thread" and we see their visages on the screen spinning and weaving the threads of Fate and Destiny. They are the three fates from Greek Mythology: Clotho spins the thread of human fate, Lachesis dispenses it and Atropos cuts the thread determining the moment of death. In the lyrics they tell the assembled: "we expect you to remember for what it is you yearn."

This gives the first explicit reference of a central theme here: waking up and remembering the divinity within, the empowered soul. Synchronistically as I write this, the song Power of Soul by Jimi Hendrix is playing on the radio: 

"With the power of soul anything is possible, 
   with the power of you, anything that you wanna do."

The program guide given to the audience on the way into the theater helps explain. Multiple descriptions of the Wild Daimons appear in their Mission Statement, one of them being: "Alter-ego comic book superheroes waging war against the soulless eradication of personal godhood."

It also informs us that "daimon" comes from the Greek word meaning provider of destiny. No less than Carl Jung attests that: "There was a daimon in me and in the end its presence proved decisive." Later in the show, we hear that the Golden Thread is to help make contact with your daimon. "Tune in to the Golden Thread." In the Author's Statement, Dalrymple expresses the wish for the receivers of this gnosis "[t]o transform your reality by remembering your destiny." Appropriately enough, the song after the three Fates is: "We Are Gods."

I can strongly relate as this all seems cognate with my personal religion, Thelema and Magick, which instructs the student to aspire to the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel also known as the individual's True Will. The qabalistic Tree of Life provides the structure for Magick to hang its hat on. The journey to the daimon there, the HGA, begins in the central sphere on the Tree corresponding with the color gold – a golden thread leads you there. Perhaps the connecting link is Irish poet William Butler Yeats who is cited as an inspiration. Yeats was a prominent member of the late 19th Century occult society, The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn which formed the foundation of Magick.

Daimons and entities coming through puppets aren't the only kinds of praeter-human Intelligences encountered on this journey. Extraterrestrial aliens break through in one song along with appropriate imagery lighting up the screen. One image reminded me of a classic moment in the film ET by Steven Spielberg where the finger of the friendly ET touches and electrifies the finger of the little boy.

This image itself seems to have been inspired by Michelangelo's famous painting that adorns the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel called The Creation of Adam.

The music informs us that these alien intelligences appear interdimensionally rather than from other planets or star systems in our Universe. This aligns with my understanding of those that have registered on my radar, but who can really tell for sure? 

Not all of the nonorganic Intelligences come from the serious, occult, mystical, supernatural, or UFO side of things. We also get a healthy dose of whimsy through children's make-believe. Does anyone still remember being a child and seeing things outside the ordinary before the grown-ups told us it wasn't real? The children in the audience may have had some of the deepest experiences of the night being so closely in touch with their imagination. 

The dream realm gets paid a visit in the piece "A Re-occurring Childhood Dream." Another song concerns the spelling controversy surrounding the Berenstein Bears children's books that some think is correctly spelled Berenstain. By an extraordinary bit of luck and good fortune the Berenstein Bears themselves are reached and asked their opinion on the matter. Mama Bear says it's always been Berenstein and doesn't know what all the fuss is about. The song presenting this matter has the title  Ambiguity and uncertainty even surrounds beloved children's literature. Some imaginative types hold that both spellings are correct in different universes, parallel universes that have somehow become known to each other. This phenomena even has a name - the Mandela effect named after Nelson Mandela whom some have sworn died in prison, contrary to the alternate view that he was released from prison and lead the reform in South Africa. Parallel universes is given serious consideration by some theoretical physicists, but it's not known whether they've looked into the Berenstain/Berenstein brouhaha.

Act One concludes with a guided meditation lead by Dortchen Wild, a distinguished crone whom Rumpel calls his meditation teacher. Once again, the whole audience is invited to participate in "The Golden Thread Meditation Class" which begins with Dortchen instructing the class to "shake it out" – shake the body out to wake up and release any tension from sitting through the first act. Production assistants armed with straw baskets containing strands of gold fabric roam through the public giving each member their own physical golden thread. Another sign of magic at play.

This trailer gives a little taste of The Golden Thread:

In Act Two we collectively cross over into the Land of the Dead. It's the spirit of DJ Tele-Grimm-Gram coming across the video screen who serves as our guide to the Afterlife through his Dead-Time radio program. In an earlier iteration of The Golden Thread I attended a few months back, Tele-Grimm-Gram enthused wildly about the artistic collaboration between Mr. Rodgers (yes, that Mr. Rodgers) and James Brown which resulted in the soon-to-be hit song, "It's a Beautiful Day in This Funky Neighborhood," a funky uptempo jam sure to get any skeleton swaying to the beat and rattling their bones.  They played it again for this evening's performance. 

In his former incarnation, Mr. Rodgers posed as the innocuous host of a children's TV program, but in reality served as the vessel for his own angelic Daimon. His raison d'être (Fred Rodgers spoke fluent French) appears closely aligned with The Golden Thread's central theme: "The world needs a sense of worth, and it will achieve it only by its people feeling worthwhile. Anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me. It's our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression." 

Some of his other life lessons include:
  • Embrace your inner child
  • Don't talk down to children
  • Don't be afraid to feel things
  • To love is a choice, a process, and a struggle
  • Be a good neighbor
  • Look for the helpers
  • Accept and love everyone, no matter their differences
The Wild Daimons' self-description as comic book superheroes finds literal expression in a comic book created and written by Dalrymple with help from: Grey Cat (illustrations), Annie Kendall (coloring and lettering), P.M. Hodges (layout and editing) and Daniel Agulilar (cover colorist). The first issue, Issue O called Children of the Void, released last November was available at their merch table. Its style resembles the graphic novels of Grant Morrison (The Invisibles) or Alan Moore (Watchmen). My companion picked one up and discovered this first edition signed and numbered (she got #74 out of 500) and came with a fully charged Key to the universe (a real physical key, small but potent) designed "[t]o aid in the process of making things happen." My friend Paula put the key on her meditation altar.

It reminded me of the Greenwich Village folk singer Melanie who had a hit song called Brand New Key. Melanie enjoyed her Greater Feast, leaving her biological form and crossing over to the Other Side about ten days before this performance. She could still have been in her 49 day bardo cycle before taking rebirth or moving on. The comic book story continues the theme of communication from the Land of the Dead. The first page following the opening quotes welcomes the reader to DEAD Time and instructs us to "have a pleasant death." It maintains a strong bardoesque mood and presence throughout with both evocative illustrations and the aprés vie storyline.

The theme of moving through the bardos, aka voyaging in the macrodimensions of the Labyrinth, has a Golden Thread connection to the well-known Tibetan Buddhist exhortation to "maintain the thread of consciousness" as one goes through sudden disorientating reality shifts and experiences intense sensations, lights, sounds, and radiations while getting instantly stripped  of all ego and personality and having your mind taken apart; try not to blackout and lose the thread of consciousness.

"It's a Beautiful Day In This Funky Neighborhood" seems a slightly coded metaphor for the Egyptian Book of the Dead aka the Book of Going Forth by Day. The territory of the bardo could certainly appear a funky neighborhood. The main instruction in said book tells the departing soul to unite with Osiris; that's the prime aim. Osiris is one of the death and resurrection gods that corresponds with Tiphareth on the Tree of Life making him consonant or interchangeable with Christ, Buddha or Krishna, etc. The English word for Tiphareth is Beauty. If you regard "this funky neighborhood" as the afterlife, then declaring it "a beautiful day" suggests the contact or union of the soul with Tiphareth.

One way to prepare for death is to attempt this contact with Tiphareth before you die and make it a habit. It seems cognate with contacting your daimon or establishing the knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. Discovering your truest self and aligning to it has the bonus effect of preparing for biological death. Paradoxically, the practice and aim of being ready for death, however far in the future that may be, has the effect of making Life come alive. Getting ready for death as a daily meditation practice affirms Life.

The rock opera changes gears out of the bardo and enters into more science fiction types of alternate realities with "Kozmar's Portal Transformation" and "Projection Outer Space Transender." It concludes with Rumpel bestowing various blessings upon the audience in his inimitable poetic style in "Initiation of the Spirit." This title sums it up perfectly for me as the night's performance did feel like an interactive initiatory journey. I saw my friend Camen Hodges, a professional in the film industry, memorializing the production on videotape so one can only hope a recording of it will be available in the not too distant future for those unable to be there in person. A full length album with much of the music is scheduled to go into production this Spring.

Along with Camen, The Golden Thread had a dedicated team helping it come to life that included: Angela Holm, Rowan Holm, Benjamin Milner, Pamela Hodges, Mistress Nimble Thimble, Michael West, Casey Burke and Stephanie Moellman. Special thanks is also due to Paul Emery who promoted the event. More information on Dalrymple and the Wild Daimons can be found on their website.

Every page of your story reflects the potential inner light of transcendence. The Golden Thread connects us to the world of the unconscious where shines the source of this light, i.e. the daimons.
- Dalrymple MacAlpin

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Folds and Overlaps between Aleister Crowley and Finnegans Wake

 “Smiting his breast, he reproached his heart with word. 
Endure, heart, endure you have endured worse before.” 

 - Odyssey, XX, 17 -18 by Homer as quoted in Allan Bloom’s translation of The Republic, p. 68. 

It’s interesting to see how different books in a writer’s oeuvre connect together. Each episode in Ulysses, except for the first three, corresponds with an organ in the human body. For instance, the 6th episode, Hades, connects with the heart. This scene in the book takes place at Paddy Dignam’s funeral in a graveyard causing Bloom, by association, to reflect upon his dead son Rudy as well as his late father. Reaching the end of the book, these organs collectively and metaphorically construct a transcendental, new “man,” actually a WoMan. This new WoMan, Eve and Adam, continues her riverun in the first sentence of Finnegans Wake signified by the initials HCE found in Howth Castle and Environs.

 “riverun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodious vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.” 

This describes a real place in space/time. The river, the Anna Liffey, flows through Dublin, Ireland past the Church of the Immaculate Conception aka Adam and Eve’s and out into the ocean overlooked by Howth Castle. We’ll call this real place, a Microcosm. Joyce likes to use puns to suggest or convey multiple meanings. I postulate that Joyce intends to communicate HOW to construct an edifice, a castle, in the Higher Dimensions, or, if you will, the higher, “extraterrestrial” brain circuits as given in Timothy Leary’s 8 Circuits of Consciousness model. This edifice, if successful, will connect with everything. We call that the Macrocosm. Uniting the Microcosm with the Macrocosm describes a basic goal of Magick.

Constructing such a structure, or a “higher body” if you will, seems a different kind of immaculate conception. It’s signified by the initials HCE (Howth Castle and Environs) which appears frequently throughout the book in many guises. These are the initials of the primary protagonist, Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker but they also stand for Here Comes Everybody; these two significations allude to uniting the Microcosm with the Macrocosm. This theme gets suggested again at the beginning of the 4th section: “Array! Surrection! Eireweeker to the wohld bludyn world” (p. 593). I read this as: A resurrection! Earwicker to the whole bloody world. The “how” part gets suggested later on the same page: A hand from the cloud emerges, holding a chart expanded. Joyce gives us a map; HCE shows up twice in that sentence. An allusion to “how” turns up in the last complete sentence in the book and the sentence preceding: “The keys to. Given!” The trope, “keys” turns up elsewhere in Finnegans Wake including a few pages before the end. The same trope turns up in Ulysses

Incidentally, Joyce used Cabala, a fundamental technology for the construction of higher bodies or brains. By Gematria, the Cabalistic transposition of letters into numbers, HCE adds to 18; Ulysses has 18 episodes. 

Aleister Crowley also endeavored to provide everyone with such edifice building keys through Magick and his system or quasi-religion called Thelema. This essay intends to point out some of the parallels between Finnegans Wake, Magick and Thelema alongside references to Mr. Crowley, himself. Due to time constraints and the vastness of the subject, this piece merely provides an outline for a more detailed expanded account in the future. You could call this a work in progress, if you will. 

Thelema and Finnegans Wake appear completely isomorphic and resonant with each other right from the get go. Thelema means Will in ancient Greek and adds to 93 by Greek Cabala. Agape, spiritual Love – the highest kind, also adds to 93 indicating a connection and strong resonance between Love and Will. It’s called love under will because on the surface Thelema directly means Will and under that, qabalistically, it also means Love. Love under will also indicates intentional or directed love. 

Speaking of the Greeks, the word “swerve” from “swerve of shore” in the first sentence dates back to Epicurus when he used it to describe the unpredictable and indeterminate swerve atoms take which he attributes to the creation of life and order out of chaos. This swerving (of shore) “provides the free will which all living things throughout the world have.” Gilles Deleuze calls it the production of sense. Swerve = Will. 

The next sentence, physically under the first one as you look at the page, has:

“Sir Tristram, violer-d’amores, fr’over the short sea, had passencore rearrived from North Amorica on this side the scraggy isthmus of Europe Minor to wielderfight his penisolate war.” 

“Violer” could mean violater; it also suggests what Joyce had in his first draft, “viola-d’amore,” a six or seven stringed musical instrument with an equal number of sympathetic strings below the played ones to create additional harmonics. It’s similar to a regular viola; played in the baroque period. Stringed instruments at that time often had intricately carved heads at the top of the neck. Most common on a viola d’amore was a carved head of Cupid blindfolded to show the blindness of love. As a bonus, the “d” before “amore” qabalistically connects with Venus, the Goddess of Love. The first two sentences in Finnegans Wake clearly show “love under will – Thelema.” 

Still on page 1, Joyce not only indicates great potentialities he also confronts those possibilities with obstacles and challenges anyone attempting to realize those potentials might face such as “wielderfight the penisolate war”, “the great fall” and the fragility and volatility of the metaphysical surface (higher brain circuits) represented by Humpty Dumpty, the giant, sentient egg. 

The appearance of Sir Tristram alludes to the story of Tristram and Iseult, a frequently recurring theme in the Wake, where Tristram is a knight escorting the Irish princess Iseult back to Ireland to marry King Marc. They fall in love along the way. Joyce has him coming back from North Armorica, Armorica being an ancient name for Brittany. It also suggests North America, where Joyce is about to go in this same second sentence. 

Sound plays a huge role and provides an entrance to Joyce’s language and meanings. Armorica sounds like amour – love; it also has the word “armor,” the American spelling for armour. The message: protect your love. Very soon we see the fragility of this construction of higher consciousness. The image of the Thoth Tarot card The Chariot illustrates this story – escorting and protecting the Grail. 

Iseult connects with all the Goddess archetypes in the Wake and with Babalon in the Thelemic cosmology. In the Hebrew tradition both of these, Babalon and Iseult is called the Shekinah. 

 * * * * * * 

Nothing mentioned thus far connects directly with the man Crowley. We first find this link on page 105, the only time in the book he’s mentioned this clearly and unambiguously. Joyce connects him with Rabelais, a major influence on both Crowley and Joyce, by alluding to the Abbey of Thélème: 

 From Abbeygate to Crowalley 
 Through a Lift in the Lude, Smocks for Their Graces and 
 Me Aunt for them Clodshopper, How to Pull a Good Horuscoup 
 even when Oldsire is Dead to the World, ...

 "Abbeygate" seems a clear reference to Rabelais connecting with Gargantua chapter 52, "The Inscription set above the main Gate of Thélème." The first line obviously alludes to the trajectory of the Abbey of Thelema; the word "all" appears in the Crowley allusion consonant with the theme of Pan. "Lude" suggests the lewd humor Rabelais was known for, it also translates as 'play" from Latin; this one word indicates playful lewdness or lewd playfulness. "Lift in the Lude" implies wisdom in the folly; "Smocks for Their Graces" = mocking their Graces - satirizing Papal and Church establishment authority. "Horuscoup" brings us back to Crowley who was an expert astrologer (horoscope - he was the ghostwriter for popular American astrologer Evangeline Adams). More pertinent is the inclusion of the Egyptian god Horus in the portmanteau word. Crowley defined his mission as announcing and helping make manifest the new aeon of Horus, a central tenet of Thelema. 

Both Joyce and Crowley drew upon Nietzsche. “ … even when Oldsire is Dead to the World” suggests the famous “God is dead” pronouncement which, according to Deleuze, has at least 12 different interpretations. Horuscoup also = a coup by Horus as in a coup d’etat; a take-over from the old, authoritarian rendition of God to one that affirms life and the joy within it. Affirmation of life was also championed by Nietzsche. The first page of the Wake ends: “where oranges have been laid to rest upon the green since devlinfirst loved livvy.” Joyce announces an affirmation of life here: “livvy” = the river Liffy = Anna Livia Plurabelle = LIFE. 

Anna Livia Plurabelle is the main female protagonist, wife of Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker and mother to their children. Her initials, ALP appear the second most frequently found in phrases throughout the book. She represents the Goddess archetype and, in this sense, is the first character in the Wake entering with the 3rd word “Eve.” Just as Crowley or Aiwass begins The Book of the Law with Nuit, Joyce begins Finnegans Wake with Eve. 

Attentive readers will notice that nearly everything – themes, people, places, etc. - repeats or recurs in the Wake albeit a little differently each time. This seems along the lines of Nietzsche’s concept of Eternal Recurrence as well as Vico’s cyclic theory of History. The first sentence illustrates this structural aspect with the phrase: “commodious vicus of recirculation.” Pattern recognition seems a crucial key for unlocking the secrets and keys herein. Thus we can expect a return to Crowley by name even if obscurely. 

The first mention of Crowley, quoted above, comes on the second page of the first Anna Livia Plurabelle chapter as part of a list of names of [h]er untitled mamafesta memorializing the Mosthighest. The second time, more of an obscure allusion, comes on the second page of the second Anna Livia Plurabelle chapter, p. 197, with the name “Garda Growley.” It’s preceded by a description that bears some resemblance to Uncle Al as portrayed in the tabloid press in the early to mid 1920s: “And the cut of him! And the strut of him! How he used to hold his head as high as a howeth, the famous eld duke alien, with a hump of grandeur on him like a walking weasel rat. And his derry’s own drawl and his corksown blather and his doubling stutter and his gullaway swank.” The last sentence references various Irish locales. Crowley is an Irish name though Aleister was an Englishman, alien to Ireland. “Garda Growley” suggests the nursery rhyme: “Mary, Mary quite contrary how does your garden grow? With silverbells and cockle shells and pretty maids all in a row.” Crowley’s lifestyle certainly seemed contrary to convention. The feminization of the male principle appears an important concept in both the Wake and Thelema and connects with the concept “becoming-woman” as presented by Deleuze and Guatarri in A Thousand Plateaus. More on that later. 

 The next possible mention occurs on page 229: 

“Go in for scribenery with the satiety of arthurs in S.P.Q.R. ish and inform to the old sniggering publicking press and its nation of sheepcopers about the whole plighty troth between them, malady of milady made melodi of malodi, she, the lalage of lyon-esses, and him, her knave arrant. To Wildrose La Gilligan from Croppy Crowhore. For all within crystal range. 

Crowhore could be a portmanteau allusion to Crowley and Horus. Joyce plays around a lot with the name Horus elsewhere in the Wake. Horus, of chorus, represents the reigning deity of the new aeon in Thelema. Wildrose La Gilligan might represent Rose Crowley, AC’s first wife who was quite wild. Their marrriage lead to the reception of The Book of the Law. There was a “plighty troth between them” – they got married to rescue Rose from a planned marriage to someone else whom she didn’t love – her malady? Gilligan comes from an Irish name meaning lad or boy. La adds to 31 = Not or Nothing and corresponds with Nuit. Wildrose not a boy? La also = the feminine form of “the” in French; “the” is the last word in Finnegans Wake and etymologically means God. Croppy was a name for Irish rebels in the late 19th Century. Crowley, along with Nietzsche and Joyce strongly rebelled against the Roman Catholic Church. S.P.Q.R. stands for the “Senate and the People of Rome.” Crowhore could also indicate Crowley plus whore. Wildrose is described as the lalage of lyon-esses. Lalage was an old common name for courtesans = high class prostitutes. It’s also the name of the genus of triller birds – song birds, thus a connection with “milady made melodi.” And with enough imagination one can suggest the reception of The Book of the Law. Making a melody out of a malady connects with the alchemical transformation of gold out of lead or out of shit. Lyon-esses recalls the French city Lyon, also female lions. Lion has great symbolic importance in Thelema, it corresponds with Tiphareth. Crowley has been called a lion of light. The beginning of the quote could again refer to the yellow journalism that befell the Beast. La = 31 also = “How?” according to the Sepher Sephiroth

I found an aside with Gilligan that Joyce couldn’t possibly have known, a fun coincidence. Most readers will remember the TV sitcom, Gilligan’s Island. The very last episode was called "Gilligan, the Goddess." It concerns the Chief of a neighboring island in search of a “White Goddess.” The characters think that this might get them off the island but the three women bow out after finding out this Goddess is meant to be sacrificed to a volcano. So the men put on dresses and pretend to be this White Goddess recalling the “becoming-woman” concept mentioned earlier. 

Moving on to page 234 we find another possible Crowley reference: he had his tristiest cabaleer on; and looked like bruddy Hal. Hal = Al? “bruddy” = either brother or bloody or both (blood brother) all of which could apply to A.C.. Cabaleer = someone who practices Cabala. Hal adds to 36 = 6 x 6. 36 also = “How?” A few lines down on the same page: “a haggiography in duotrigesumy, son soptimost of sire sixtusks.” A hagiography is the biography of a Saint. Crowley famously called his autobiography, The Confessions of Aleister Crowley a hagiography or the “hag” for short. Joyce could have seen that – the first volumes of the hag were published in the 1920s. Duotrigesumy breaks down as duo (2) + tri (3) + gesu (Italian for Jesus = key 6 Tiphareth ) + my (possessive pronoun). I could go on, and there’s more of a similar nature on the same page. I considered that this may be Joyce calling Crowley his brother, maybe? 

Sixtusks could refer to 6 + the tusks of an elephant, a large beast. Page 234 also alludes to Buddha, another key 6 correspondence; there’s a well-known parable about Buddha calming an angry elephant with loving kindness. Tusks also sounds like a homonym for “tasks” as in 6 tasks; especially when we look ahead to p. 263 to find: “The tasks above are as the flasks below, saith the emerald canticle of Hermes [HCE] and all’s loth and pleasestir [ALP], we are told on excellent inkbottle authority, solarsystemised, seriol-cosmically, in a more and more almightily expanding universe under one, there is rhyme-less reason to believe, original sun. 

 Next on page 276: “But bless his cowly head and press his crankly hat, what a world’s woe is each’s other’s weariness waiting to beadroll his own proper mistakes, …” Head and hat qabalistically connect with Tiphareth and Kether respectively. The two adjectives in the first phrase are “cowly” and “crankly” and when you switch their first letters you get “crowly” and “cankly”; it seems the kind of wordplay Joyce employs.

 This one on p. 328 – 329 seems less visible except for the obvious Thelemic symbols: “our fiery quean, upon the night of the things of the night of the making to stand up the double tet of the oversear of the sieze who cometh from the mighty deep and on the night of making Horuse to criumph over his enemy, be the help of me cope as to pluse the riches of the roed-shields, with Elizabeliza blessing the bedpain, at the willbedone of Yinko Jinko Randy, come Bastabasco and hippychip eggs, she will make a suomease pair and singlette…” 

The first part of “Bastabasco” sounds close to “Beast.” Beast gets mentions elsewhere, but doesn’t seem to connect much with Crowley as far as I can tell – except for this one and the next one below with its proximity to Horus. Crowley + Horus becomes a recurring motif. It also has the Egyptian cat-headed goddess Bast who sometimes manifested as a black jaguar or a humanoid jaguar, a unique beast. Bast is a protector goddess and the daughter of Ra. She was sometimes called the Goddess of the Rising Sun. The second half, basco, suggests the fiery tobasco sauce used in some egg recipes. The “willbedone of Yinko Jinko and Randy” provides a qabalistic synch: Y+J+R = 220 = the number of verses in The Book of the Law. 

The next beast linked to Crowley and Horus appears on page 347. We see “a white horsday” . . . “how the krow flees end in deed. . . “ (Crowley’s name Perdurabo means “I will endure until the end”.) and “when we sight the beasts.” All in the same sentence. This last mention from page 473 occurs at the end of the second chapter of Book 3 or chapter 14 overall. In the story it speaks of the ending of night and the coming of the morning: “Brave footsore Haun! Work your progress! Hold to! Now! Win out, ye divil ye! The silent cock shall crow at last. The west shall shake the east awake.” Haun refers to Shaun, one of the twin sons of HCE and ALP. The last line quoted here resonates with a line in The Book of the Law: “There cometh a rich man from the West who shall pour his gold upon thee” (III:31). “The silent cock shall crow at last” looks very straightforward on the surface, but also pregnant with Thelemic meaning. Silence seems a big deal in Magick. Horus represents a twin God with one aspect, Ra Hoor Khuit, very outgoing and connected with yang/male energy. The feminine aspect, Hoor Pa Kraat, is withdrawn and connected with silence. In the Star Ruby, the Thelemic version of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, one assumes the classic posture of silence, forefinger to the lips, no less than four times in the short ritual. It occurs immediately after assuming the posture of sign of The Enterer aka the sign of Horus for the outgoing aspect. Cock being slang for penis, silent cock combines the female (silence) and male energies. Silent cock represents a feminization of male energies, a subject I haven’t been able to expand upon much with this short piece, but which recurs throughout the Wake. This feminization has absolutely nothing to do with either biological gender identities or emasculation. It represents the sublimation of sexual energies. Sexual energy = spiritual energy when sublimated. We find this “becoming-woman” trajectory in the name of the male protagonist, HCE. Both the letters H and E correspond with the Hebrew letter “Heh” which occurs twice in the four-fold name of God called Tetragrammaton: YHVH (Jehovah). These letters symbolize: Y = Father, King or Knight in the Tarot court cards depending on the deck; the first H = Mother or Queen; V = the Son/Prince; the final H = the Daughter/Princess (Thoth Tarot). The final two words of the sentence under discussion, “at last” have the initials a + l, which holds much significance Thelemically. The Book of the Law seems more commonly known by its Latin title: Liber AL vel Legis often abbreviated as Liber Al. This a +l letter combo occurs four times in the last sentence of Finnegans Wake: A way a lone a last a loved a long the 

Joyce tips off the alert reader to look through the lens of Cabala in the third word of the Wake, “Eve”, which corresponds with the third sephira, Binah, key # 3. In Coincidance, Robert Anton Wilson writes of the Cabalistic significance of Anna Livia Plurabelle = ALP = 111. He also seems very aware of the SC code as I’ve commented upon numerous times often in discussion groups about one or another of his books. Joyce employs this code. Joyce scholars appear pretty hip to the cryptography and letter play of HCE and ALP. They may want to also turn their attention to SC. This code appears quite connected to Crowley’s system stemming from an often overlooked important text of his called The Paris Working which revealed the identification of Christ (Tiphareth – 6) with Mercury ( Hod – 8). SC adds to 68 when corresponding C with Cheth as non-traditional Qabalists often do. Tiphareth = the heart chakra; Hod = communication. Communicate the heart. The Book of the Law affirms this in the 6th verse of the first chapter: “Be thou Hadit, my secret center, my heart & my tongue!” “The silent cock shall crow at last.” shows two instances of S+C in this short sentence. 

I traced this SC coding back to Rabelais in a section about Saint Chapelle found in the third book of Gargantua and Pantagruel in chapter 15 called “The Excuse of Panurge; and an exegesis of a monastical cabbala concerning salted beef.” It also connects with divine food – see Chapter 68 in The Book of Lies called “Manna.” On page 68 of Finnegans Wake in one sentence near the top we find: "sweet churchyard"; "soft coal"; "same hot coney" and "son of a Coole." The next sentence begins with a phrase carrying the initials HCE followed by one with ALP. On page 132 amidst much Cabalistic reference we find: “cabalstone”, “sleepy children”, “storen clothes”, “snake charmer”, “calm sagacity”, and “the clearness of his spotless honour.” This penultimate phrase on this page reads: “and as for the salmon he was coming up in him all life long.” From A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake by Campbell and Robinson: “The strong play on the salmon theme throughout Finnegans Wake corresponds to the importance of salmon in Irish myth and folklore. It was from the taste of the flesh of the great, wise, salmon that Finn MacCool, according to the ancient tale, acquired his ‘Tooth of Knowledge.’” There’s the food connection. Incidentally, the first word in Ulysses begins with S; the last word of the first sentence begins with C. 

So many subjects, so little time. The Egyptian Book of the Dead gets lots of airplay in the Wake and serves as a major component in Golden Dawn magic, the basis of Crowley’s Magick. Phoenix Park in the Wake and the “Mass of the Phoenix” in Thelema illustrates another overlap between the two, both concerning the theme of resurrection. It was either Campbell, Robinson or Tindall who opined that resurrection serves as the main theme in Finnegans Wake. Resurrection follows death; in between is the territory known as the Bardo. This territory gets addressed by the Egyptian and other books of the dead. One of the two major ordeals in Thelema is known as “Crossing the Abyss” which appears a similar territory as the Bardo and relates with Chapel Perilous. Finnegans Wake can be looked at as how to successfully navigate the Bardo to realize a good resurrection, or how to cross the Abyss; how to get through the Night or Chapel Perilous. John Lilly called it meta-programming. All this and more lies ahead in the riverun.