Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Dylan and Magick

Bob Dylan has had most every aspect of his life scrutinized, analyzed, categorized and symbolized but I don't know if anyone has looked at the startling number of connections between his music career and magick.  I find his songs an ongoing education in that regard.  Imagery he uses uncannily describes certain stages along the esoteric path.

 I seriously doubt that Bob Dylan has pursued magick in the same way that Jimmy Page has, for instance.  However, the nature of his songwriting process allows him to tap into the same kinds of energetic fields that theurgic magickians work with resulting in communications from the same data base.  Dylan's extremely intuitive and experimental approach to songwriting puts him in touch with the non-local field, the realm of magick.  Success is his proof.

I call this writing  process "invocational" which conventionally gets defined as ' to draw down from above,' however I find the whole down/above orientation archaic and therefore redefine as: 'to draw in from without."  Dylan speaks candidly in many places about his process.  The booklet that accompanies his first offical "bootleg" releases goes through it song by song.  Here's an excerpt from an interview with Karen Hughes, April 1, 1978:

"KH:   Do you find that as a composer, you're more like a medium, tuning into something greater happening?

Dylan: I think that every composer does that.  No one in his right mind would think that it's coming from him, that he has invented it.  It's just coming though him.

KH: What kind of force compels you to write?

Dylan:  Well, any departure, like from my traditional self, will kick it off.

KH: How do you go about composing these songs, working them out?

Dylan: I usually get a melody. A melody just happens to appear as I'm playing and after that the words come in and out.  Sometimes the words come first."

What's In A Name?

Names were very important in ancient Egypt, considered nearly identical with a person's soul. C.G. Jung observed that many people take after the meaning of their name.  To my knowledge, Bob Dylan has never clearly stated where he got his last name from, what inspired it.  I saw him directly asked once. He gave a vague answer, couldn't really remember, it just came to him. 

Three theories on where it came from:

1) The poet, Dylan Thomas - probably the  most popular belief.
2) Marshal Matt Dillon from the TV show Gunsmoke.
3) The White Goddess by Robert Graves wherein he offers up Dylan as the name of an ancient sun god.

Not long after he changed his name, posters or handbills used the Dillon spelling, so I'm inclined to go with Marshal Matt Dillon as the original motivation.  Also he told Robert Shelton, the New York Times reporter who wrote his first bio, to make sure and tell them that it wasn't Dylan Thomas.  Something made him change the spelling.   Later on Dylan doesn't dispute that explanation, and at times appears to agree.  At some point or maybe all points, he's misdirecting the audience like a magician does.  

I say it doesn't matter because his multifaceted personas include all three of those characters.  He's been considered a poet by many people for a long time.  He was introduced as a poet by Peter Yarrow at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival whereupon he proceeded to systematically derange the audience's senses with a new electric sound.

Dylan has shown a distinct affinity for the Old West.  He acted in and wrote the soundtrack for the film Pat Garret and Billy the Kid.   Matt Dillon embodies the hero archetype which turns up in Dylan's songs such as Chimes of Freedom, All Along the Watchtower, or Quinn the Eskimo.

The White Goddess theme turns up in a lot of Dylan's music.  He has written many songs about the sublime art of bringing the woman to life.  Coincidentally, Bob Dylan's mother's name is Beatrice, the same name as the female guide and archetype of true love who showed Dante the way into Paradiso in The Divine Comedy.

The sun god aspect appears quite evident in the line from Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat:
If you wanna see the sun rise, honey I know where.; Another interesting coincidence with that: something compelled him to record a cover of House of the Rising Sun on his first album.  He got in trouble for it too because he stole the arrangement from his friend Dave Von Ronk who had been planning to record it on his album. 

The Dylan Thomas connection puts Bob Dylan into a direct literary lineage with Aleister Crowley via Victor Neuberg.  Neuberg had been one of Crowley's most prominent students having assisted him in at least two major invocations - The Paris Working, and the skrying of the Enochian Aethyrs across the North African desert which got documented as The Vision and the Voice.  Neuberg, also a recognized poet of some stature, lead a weekly poetry circle for young writers some time after his break with Crowley.  Dylan Thomas was Neuberg's protege.  Upon hearing of Victor's death Thomas said:

 Vicky encouraged me as no one else has done ...He possessed many kinds of genius, and not the least was his genius for drawing to himself, by his wisdom, graveness, great humour and innocence, a feeling of trust and love, that won’t ever be forgotten.

The Paris Working revealed data consonant with much of Bob Dylan's artistic output.  In those series of experiments the similar identities of Christ and Mercury revealed itself - a sun god and a god of communication.  Crowley also identified strongly with solar deities.  Both Dylan and Crowley were major influences on the cultural phenomena of the 1960s.  They also both turned up on the famous  album cover for The Beatles Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.


"The highway is for gamblers better use your sense,
take what you have gathered from coincidence.

- one of my favorite lines from It's All Over Now, Baby Blue, a song title with a great pun. 

Instances of Dylan's timing provides evidence to suggest that he intuitively tunes into a non-local field of information.  He wrote The Times They Are A Changing a few weeks before the Kennedy assassination and said he knew he had to play it that night.  An alternate version of The Times They Are A Changing was released on Sept. 11, 2001 as part of a bonus package with the new album, Love and Theft which has the chilling lines, Skies full of fire, pain falling down.

 Love and Theft also has a song called High-Water (for Charley Patton) about flood waters rising and causing havoc.  Water, one of the four basic elements of the ancient Greeks, represents the emotions, among other things.  The emotions set off by 9/11 ( high waters rising)  took over and rose so high that American popular opinion was manipulated into supporting a new war with Iraq.

Not long after 9/11, Dylan had an interview published in Rolling Stone.  When asked to comment on the events of 9/11 he replied, ' for any real change to occur, people have to change their hearts.'   In another Rolling Stone interview published last year replying to a similar, how can we make the world a better place type of question, he gave the exact same answer, people have to start by changing their hearts.

Dylan's answer appear isomorphic with Aleister Crowley's prime directive to his students that all beginning magick should get directed toward attaining the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel (HGA), an operation which takes place in the qabalistic sphere of Tiphareth, also the domain of the heart chakra.  Although an arcane sounding title, this Knowledge and Conversation, to begin with, merely consists of making contact and starting a dialog with that Higher Intelligence which represents your true nature.

The chorus to Dylan's signature song, Like A Rolling Stone plays into this conspiracy.  You might need to hear it to understand this interpretation I have that the first line of the chorus, 
How does it feel  makes a great corollary question to Shakespeare's famous existential line, To be or not to be, that is the question, from Hamlet.

The whole chorus:

 How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone

also reminds me of Gurdjieff's insistence that people have to realize what he called 'their own nothingness' before the real work of waking up can start.

Michael Bloomfield played guitar on Like A Rolling Stone and a few other tracks from Highway 61 Revisited.  Dylan stated not long ago that Bloomfield was his favorite of all the guitar players he has worked with.  The name Michael, as regular readers will remember, recalls the Archangel of Fire in the magickal hierarchy of the Golden Dawn.  This brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs; continuing our comparison with the HGA we can realistically compare the image of Michael Bloomfield playing guitar over that chorus with Aleister Crowley's primary instruction for contacting the HGA:

Invoke often.  Enflame thyself with prayer.

The Songs

It's beyond the scope of this blog post to examine the vast amount of hermetic data in Dylan's songs; that would require a book devoted to the subject.  I'll mention  a few song titles I've found relevant and leave you to your own devices.   

Hard Rain:  a visionary quest type of song:

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son ?
And where have you been my darling young one ?

Lots of imagery that communicates well through the lens of qabalah in this song.  The first time Alan Ginsberg heard Hard Rain he said tears came to his eyes because he realized that the torch had been passed on.  The literary lineage of that torch includes William Blake, Walt Whitman, and William Burroughs/Jack Kerouac/& Ginsberg.

Every song on Bringing It All Back Home has a piece of the puzzle particularly Subterranean Homesick Blues and Love Minus Zero/No Limit (this title should be read like a fraction, Love Minus Zero over No Limit.)

Also, every track on Highway 61 Revisited rewards examination.  Ballad of a Thin Man and Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues sound straight out of the Bardo.  Desolation Row does too, and also yields much useful info with qabalah.

The songs that stand out for me from Blonde On Blonde include: Visions of Johanna, Stuck Inside of Memphis with the Mobile Blues Again ( the beginning of this resonates with Crowley's Star Ruby ritual), Absolutely Sweet Marie, and Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.

Everything from John Wesley Harding and most of Planet Waves.

When I Paint My Masterpiece from Greatest Hits Volume II

From Blood on the Tracks (great title!): Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts.

The album Desire has the song Isis which reminds me of perhaps the best interview comment I've seen, given by Jonathan Cott in the January 26, 1978 issue of Rolling Stone:

ROLLING STONE: Under a statue of Isis in the city of Sais is the following inscription:  I am everything that was, that is, that shall be ... Nor has any mortal ever been able to discover what lies under my veil."

DYLAN: That's a fantastic quotation.  That's true, exactly.  Once you see what's under the veil, what happens to you?   You die, don't you, or go blind?

The album cover for Desire has the tarot card The Empress on the back side.  Tarot imagery also appears in Changing of the Guards from Street Legal.

Romance in Durango (Desire) suggests a trial by fire.  It starts:

Hot chilli peppers in the blistering sun
Dust on my face and my cape
Me and Magdalena on the run
I think this time we shall escape.

Pressing On from Saved.

Of his more recent work: Highlands from Time Out of Mind, Misssissippi off of Love and Theft, and Thunder on the Mountain, the opening track of Modern Times.

Mastery of Breath

In the documentary, No Direction Home, produced by Martin Scorsese, Alan Ginsberg makes the point that Bob Dylan has complete control over his breath when he performs.  Scorsese then cuts to a perfect illustration of Dylan doing just that with his vocal delivery.

 According to Eastern mystics, air contains a substance called "prana" which means vital life.  Pranayama is the practice of taking in this substance through controlled breathing.  Performers who use their breath do a natural, instinctive kind of pranayama.  Gurdjieff considered this substance food for the emotional centrum. 

The sound of the harmonica playing also reveals Dylan's prana.  I saw him in concert in the early '90's, and when he picked up the harmonica for the first time that evening and started playing a long note, the crowd went crazy with appreciation.  No technique was involved beyond getting the sound of one note to sustain.  I suspect the feeling he put into it drew the response.  I know I felt it pretty strongly, the feeling seemed amplified by the group reaction like a number of tuning forks amplifying the fundamental frequency after the first one has sounded.

The harmonica has an interesting magickal background.  The virtue of beginning with the letter "h" places it in the realm of the Hebrew letter "heh."  This puts it in the mighty fine company of Tetragrammaton, the four-fold name of God spelt YHVH.  Tetragrammaton can get modeled after a family unit: Yod = Father, first Heh = Mother, Vau = Son, second Heh = daughter.  Crowley uses Tetragrammaton to articulate a formula of spiritual rejuvenation which goes: the Son places the Daughter on the throne of the Mother who then "awakens the eld of the All-Father."

This elevation of the female archetype to a royal platform appears cognate with the function symbolized by the tarot card The Chariot.  Crowley called The Chariot the formula of the new aeon.  The elevation of the female archetype appears throughout Dylan's music.  The breath and sound of the harmonica  passionately takes this theme further and magickally affirms it.

Heh corresponds with The Star from the tarot providing another potent image to add to the harmonica meditation.  In the Book of Thoth ( p.109) Crowley writes:

This picture represents Nuith, our Lady of the Stars.  For the full meaning of this sentence it is necessary to understand the first chapter of the Book of the Law.

It's worth reading the whole description of this card from the Book of Thoth as well as the first chapter of the Book of the Law  (only 66 verses) for a full taste of the richness of imagery and energetics that can get keyed into via Dylan's harmonica solos. 

BotL I:26 gives a good example:

Then saith the prophet and slave of the beauteous one: Who am I, and what shall be the sign? So she answered him, bending down, a lambent flame of blue, all-touching, all penetrant, her lovely hands upon the black earth, & her lithe body arched for love, and her soft feet not hurting the little flowers: Thou knowest! And the sign shall be my ecstasy, the consciousness of the continuity of existence, the omnipresence of my body.

Vau, the son in the Tetragrammaton formula, connects with The Hierophant of the tarot whose function communicates "secrets from the temple."  Seems quite easy to see Dylan's music playing this role.

The abstract dramatization of Dylan's life in the 2007 film I'm Not There
has an ensemble cast of actors playing various personas he adopted at different stages in his carrer. Appropriately for the film's title, Bob Dylan himself doesn't make an appearance until the very last scene when director Todd Haynes shows him playing an extended harmonica solo originally filmed by D.A. Pennebaker for a project called Eat the Document.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

"This is a Buddhist film.  I didn't know I was a Buddhist but I guess I'm turning into one."
 - Julian Schnabel

Quoted from an excellent interview of Schnabel by Charlie Rose included in the extras of this dvd. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly presents a film that looks looks at the preciousness of life in quite a tactile and intimate way from someone who seems to have verry little of it left to live. This film won the Golden Globe for best film in 2007, and Schnabel won the best director at the Cannes Film Festival that year.  

 Based on the true story of Jean-Dominque Bauby who at the age of 42 had a massive stroke that left him completely paralyzed except for his eyes.  One of his eyes wasn't irrigating properly so it had to be sewn up leaving him with only one eye.  A therapist devised a way to communicate with him that involved Jean-Do ( as his friends knew him) blinking when a certain letter was read off a list of the alphabet sequenced in frequency of use.  Though long and tedious, this system eventually worked to the point where he was able to dictate a memoir, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life In Death, published two days before he died.  Prior to his accident, Bauby had been the Director of Elle Magazine in France and seemed to have everything going for him. 

I haven't read the book yet, just heard about this from a friend a few days ago.  A book from this perspective of someone completely trapped in their body barely able to communicate seems without precedent.  A transmission from an unique outpost of consciousness.  For Jean-Do, the diving bell symbolizes the immobility and stuckness of his body.  In the film, we see images of a diver in a massive, metallic, rigid, diving suit anchored underneath murky water.  The butterfly emerges when he's able to leave the body-space and take off on flights of imagination. 

 Schnabel and crew do an absolutely brilliant job telling this story.  He, and the film, certainly deserve all the accolades.  David Denby of the New Yorker called The Diving Bell and the Butterfly "nothing less than the rebirth of the cinema."  Part of the reason why can be discerned in the Rose interview which I'll get back to momentarily.

The first 1/3rd or so of this film and much of the rest gets told in the first person, from Bauby's perspective starting as he wakes out of a coma.  The camera work mirrors his vision - blurring, focusing, blurring, focusing as he struggles to regain consciousness.  The sensation of Jean-Do blinking was created by a camera operator manually flicking his fingers over the lens.  You experience what he experiences when a Doctor says that one of his eyes has to get sewn up and then immediately does it putting him (and the audience's shared perspective) in more darkness.

As suggested, a lot gets revealed in the Charlie Rose interview with Schnabel.  Rose begins questioning about the film by stating, "This is a film about death ... in part, and that intrigued you... why?"  Schnabel talks about his own fear of death (it was a big problem), and the great fear his father faced when dying.  He talks about making this film as way to decrease the fear others might have about dying.  He calls the film a self-help device.
 Rose says, " a self-help device?"
"To help me deal with my own death, and I think it worked.  I'm a lot less afraid to die now."

Right before the quote that opens this piece, Julian says that he felt Jean-Do transgressed and transcended death. The Rose interview gives a lot of insight into the art of making this film.  Julian talks openly about his processes and motivations.  He speaks movingly of his father who inspired a great scene in the film with Max von Sydow.  I was fortunate to meet his father when I worked with Julian in the early '90s which I wrote about here.

Schnabel also gets credited as Music Supervisor.  He did a great job with that too.  My favorites are the Tom Waits pieces especially All the World Is Green.

I'm really glad for the success of this film.  It was on many critics' top ten list for 2007 and several had it at number one.  When I recorded Julian Schnabel, he was just beginning to cast his first film, Basquiat, about the artist Jean-Michael Basquiat, as we were mastering his album.  It's great to see him now at the top of the film making game creating cinematic art that's substantial, inspiring, and healing.  Ya done good Julian!!! ... but you still owe me an art appreciation lesson.

Here's the trailer:

Friday, January 18, 2013

Led Zeppelin - Celebration Day

Led Zeppelin flies again in style, class, and with energized elegance befitting their status as rock star royalty.  Celebration Day, the 2 cd, 1 dvd release of their reunion concert at the Ahmet Ertegun tribute in 2007 delivers the goods, and then some.  I admit to initial surprise of enjoying it so much.  Now it's a favorite, ranking up there with any other Zeppelin release.

It's a slightly different band with a different sound than classic live Zeppelin.  Plant's voice sounds very strong and clean, not raspy, but he doesn't go for the high screaming notes like he used to.  Page still very much drives the show.  His playing and distinctive sound leads the band throughout, but his playing has changed over the years.  Not worse, just different.  His guitar playing is as  brilliant, idiosyncratic and evocative as ever.  He still favors feel over technique but sometimes rips out clusters of notes with ridiculous speed.    Page's unique rhythmic timing at times pushes and pulls the beat giving a particular tension to the music.  John Paul Jones plays as incredibly as ever, a virtuoso providing support and glue to the sound.  Jason Bonham does a spectacular job filling in for his father, the late John Bonham whom many consider one of the great rock drummers of all time.  The younger Bonham has his own style and sound, to his credit he doesn't imitate his father, but definitely holds his own with the other three.  The more I listen to him, the more I appreciate his drumming.

The dvd begins with shots of the audience in London's 02 Arena being shown old news clips of Led Zeppelin breaking the world record for concert attendance.  Then the band kicks it off with Good Times Bad Times. My first impression was that they sounded a little loose but they quickly gelled and found their groove.  It sounded fresh and real.  Just a 3 piece rock band with a singer even if they are the mighty Zeppelin.  You can hear the individual musicians looking for the pocket, as we sometimes call the groove - the musical gestalt that synergizes and transcends the separate instruments, and find it.

Ramble On, the mysterious, dynamic song from Led Zeppelin II, immediately follows.  It does have quite a dark, almost apocalyptic feeling: "Now I smell the rain, and with it pain, and it's heading my way..."  The narrator's solution involves traveling, to ramble on.  At one point Page makes a gesture that suggests the radiant theurgic magick that Aleister Crowley taught.  In later songs such as Dazed and Confused and Whole Lotta Love he appears more obvious.

This doesn't sound so far-fetched when you realize that Page has been studying Crowley since the age of 15.  He has been described as one of the foremost collectors of Crowley artifacts even going so far as to purchase his old estate, known as Boleskine Manor, located on the banks of Loch Ness in Scotland.  This is the house Crowley purchased with the intention of performing a 6 month ritual called the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage.  This ritual promised to engender something called the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.  Unfortunately for Crowley, wordly affairs intervened and he had to terminate the operation in order to go help break up the Golden Dawn.  Still, he did a lot of magick in Boleskine.  It was at Boleskine that Jimmy Page filmed his astral sequence from the film The Song Remains the Same where he turns into the Hermit.  Page also owned an occult bookstore and publishing house called The Equinox in the 1970s.

After a short pause Plant goes into the opening lines of Black Dog, the red hot opening track from Led Zeppelin IV named after a stray dog that was around when they were recording. The band sounds incredibly tight now.  The 6 weeks of rehearsal for this one concert pays off.

In my gloriously humble opinion, Led Zeppelin IV, the album with a title of four occult sigils, contains the most Crowley related gnosis of all their releases.  Every song relates to some aspect of the hermetic path.  It can be interesting to listen to this album after making some headway with Crowley's experiments.  Things get revealed as understanding grows.  You can learn as much about Crowley's system by grokking this album as you can by reading some of his texts, perhaps more.  Black Dog accurately evokes the feeling of the ordeal described in the Book of the Law (I:50): The gross must pass through fire.

The fourth song, In My Time of Dying, highlights Page on the bottleneck-like slide guitar in this old classic blues about death.

In my time of dying, don't want nobody to moan.
All I want for you to do
Is bring my body home

Keep your eyes out for a revealing bit of stage lighting toward the end of this track.

The fifth song, For Your Life, just rocks.  This performance marks the one and only time they played it live and they certainly do it justice.  Great lighting design behind it which the director features.

Trampled Under Foot, which Plant calls Zeppelin's version of Robert Johnson's Terrapin Blues (1936) has a familiar lyrical theme with an unusual subject.  It sounds like a love song for a vehicle of some kind.

Nobody's Fault But Mine, another old blues song, covered on the Presence album has an incredibly haunting opening guitar riff, doubled by Plant.  It opens a portal into the macrodimensions (alternate worlds), for me, and thematically recalls Crowley's famous maxim from Liber 77 which should read: "There is no god but WoMan."  Plant wails bluesfully on a distorted harp on this one.

No Quarter - an extremely dark song musically and lyrically; a persevering against impossible, life or death odds kind of story.  From Led Zeppelin V, Houses of the Holy this definitely sounds like a descent into a perilous world of death and destruction: the dogs of doom they howl and moan ... for a specific purpose; the classic hero's journeyJohn Paul Jones plays superbly on this, and Bonham's kettle drum helps create the atmosphere of a Dante-flavored underworld.

The visuals of this film are very well done.   Never boring, at the same time never gimmicky or too manic with quick edits. One technique I like is when they make a smaller frame with a border, and process the image grainy so it looks like a vintage photograph.  Some concert footage cuts too fast with mostly close-ups so that you don't really see the band interacting.  Director Dick Carruthers captures a lot of interaction between the band members and thus brings an intimacy to this huge powerful spectacle.  I guess it helps if you have 16 cameras of footage to choose from.

Page has a lot of fun with Since I've Been Loving You ( Led Zeppelin III) and does an excellent job with it.  Check the great shot of him and Plant right after this song, Page is clearly having a blast.  That comes across quite a bit all throughout the concert - what a great time they're having, and also how comfortable they are up there doing what they do.  The chemistry between them clearly shows.

Near the beginning of  Since I've Been Loving You you get a good shot of Jason Bonham and the drums from his perspective.  The way the snare drum is miced is also how I usually mic them, with the same mic, the SM 57.  I also use a mic underneath the drum - couldn't see if they had one here.  The live sound mixer for the show was a guy named Big Mick who is and has been Metallica's live engineer forever.  He has mixed every concert they've ever played.

The soundtrack mix gets credited to Alan Moulder and John Catlin under Jimmy Page's supervision.
They did a good job with this especially with Plant's vocal effects which are dynamic but not overbearing or too obvious.  The audio thankfully doesn't have the over-compressed, overly bright sound that some commercial releases engaged in "loudness wars" have.  It sounds good at a low volume and rocks when turned up without becoming fatiguing to the ears.

Dazed and Confused - another descent into the underworld kind of song

(lots of people talking, 
pretty few of them know,
 soul of a woman was created below)

showcases Jimmy Page's guitar pyrotechnics and otherworldly soundscaping.  He employs what looks like a violin or cello bow to give unearthly voicings to his guitar, producing sounds like you might expect to hear in an H.P. Lovecraft story or something of that eldritch nature.  It looks at times like he's using the bow as a wand.

The eleventh song, Stairway to Heaven sounds fresh and alive in this rendition.  Good shot of Page playing his double-neck guitar as he switches from the 6 string neck to the 12 string neck, just before the first time Plant sings, "It makes me wonder." 

Watching them play, I was reminded of my encounter with Jimmy Page's mother in about 1980 and her saying that he felt Stairway to Heaven was the most important thing he'd ever done.  This happened the same night I saw a UFO.  The only reason I got to meet Mrs. Page was because the lounge singer played Stairway to Heaven the day before.  She thanked him for playing it and introduced herself.  He told us the story and we told him bring her to our set if she came back, and she did.
... a stairway lies on a whispering wind ...

The Song Remains the Same looks exceptionally good besides sounding fantastic.  Some great camera shots here.  This provides a way to connect with the energy and non-local potential of the 93 Current. Success is thy proof. (BotL)

California sunlight, sweet Calcutta rain
Honolulu Starbright - the song remains the same

After this song Plant introduces "Jason Bonham on drums;" camera cuts to Bonham standing up acknowledging; he pulls up his shirt to reveal a tattoo of the sigil his father used for the Zeppelin IV title.  A beautiful gesture, and revealing a magical link for invoking the spirit of the elder Bonham.
Misty Mountain Hop gets a trippy psychedelic treatment visually as befits the theme.  Plant introduces it with an old John Bonham story saying that he used to be in a band where he would sing Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary 400 times."

Kashmir gets epic visuals and lighting.  It does look and sound transcendent.  Lyrics worth learning.

Whole Lotta Love has a really great bardo section, or descent into the underworld spacey section.  Page plays the theremin dramatically looking like a modern hierophant transmitting signals across the Universe.

Rock and Roll - a perfect way to close it - it has been a long time but somehow hearing this song brings it right back.

This day, December 10, 2007 certainly became one of celebration.  We have Ahmet Ertegun, co-founder of Atlantic Records, to thank for all the music he brought to the world to such an extent as to get this tribute.

Found out about another version of this package that includes a second dvd with extras.  Didn't know about it when I got this one, but I'm curious to see the extras which includes rehearsals.  Some of the best musical moments happen in rehearsals when everyone is a little looser about playing.

I read that the three members of Led Zeppelin "were coy" about a reunion when they attended the opening of Celebration Day in London last fall.  I still find them a powerful force, relevant, and musically electrifying.  I believe it would do a world of good if Led Zeppelin performed one last tour.  There's still time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Musical Gnosis: Bill Laswell - Means of Deliverance

 Bass is the Place

Science tells us an individual's growth receives evolutionary instructions through the activation of different stages of the DNA code found in each cell.  It's been suggested that higher modalities of consciousness result from uncovering and activating further into the DNA code.  Another, maybe less scientific theory, states that all of one's experiences affect and modifies that person's DNA code so that their children will have those experiences passed on to them even if at a subtle and deep level.  If the World Body of Music has a DNA code of some sort, then Bill Laswell's new solo acoustic bass album, Means of Deliverance, represents the latest transmission of instructions from that code. The title gives it away.

Means of Deliverance presents the musical spaces of a seasoned traveler.   Laswell travels both in the sense of going to and becoming immersed in various global cultures, and as a musical explorer of the intrepidly eclectic persuasion.  When we worked with Yothu Yindi in Australia, leader/shamen Mandawuy Yunupingu called him " the Man from Nowhere. "   I would call him one of the Invisibles.

The weapon of choice for this audio equivalent of an illuminated scroll is a Warwick Alien 4-string fretless acoustic bass.  It's not a stand-up bass but is played and held the same as an acoustic guitar.  An excellent article on the recording and musical genesis of Means of Deliverance appears here.  The title of the article calls it a "Groundbreaking Solo Bass Record" which I agree with but, contrariwise, would also call it Spacecreating.  The ground breaks when the space creates.  Bass is the place of this space (cf Crowley's Book of Lies ch. 57)

The sound of Means of Deliverance certainly lives up to the Laswell standard.  Rich, deep and very clean.  Also very clear and open.  The nuanced touch of the fingers on the strings gives an almost tactile sensation at times.  I'm guessing that this resulted from using minimal compression in the recording process, a wise decision in my opinion.

 The first composition, Against the Upper House has a mood that recalls for me the mysterious Sarmoung Monastery: ( the site of a Sufi Brotherhood - a legendary source of Gurdjieff's teachings) contemplative at first then slowly spiraling into a faster tempo suggestive of the sacred movements and dances native to that Monastery; its esoteric language communicating in posture.  The musical themes and figures suggest postures of sound communicating information below or above the bandwidth range of mental apprehension.  These sonic postures shift and move in the same gracefully intentional way as Gurdjieff's movements, with a great deal of presence and awareness.

This quote from J.G. Bennett about the meaning of Sarmoung helps describe this mood I heard in the track:

 "The word can be interpreted in three ways. It is the word for bee, which has always been a symbol of those who collect the precious 'honey' of traditional wisdom and preserve it for further generations. A collection of legends, well known in Armenian and Syrian circles with the title of The Bees, was revised by Mar Salamon, a Nestorian Archimandrite in the thirteenth century. The Bees refers to a mysterious power transmitted from the time of Zoroaster and made manifest in the time of Christ.... Man is Persian meaning as the quality transmitted by heredity and hence a distinguished family or race. It can be the repository of an heirloom or tradition. The word sar means head, both literally and in the sense of principal or chief. The combination sarman would thus mean the chief repository of the tradition." Yet another possibility was "those whose heads have been purified."

Lately I've been listening to a fair amount of the Armenian composer and sacred music collector Komitas.  Komitas was kind of an Alan Lomax of Armenia, traveling extensively in search of traditional music handed down for generationsHe also wrote and arranged a lot of chorale and Church music. Komitas and his music was another source of Gurdjieff's knowledge.   Against the Upper House has a strong affinity with his music, that same kind of meditative, prayerful space but dynamic and active.

A Dangerous Road  reminds me of the Material album Seven Souls or Laswell's earlier solo album, Hear No Evil - slightly otherwordly, slightly Sufi, slightly backwoods of Kentucky or Mississippi and a dash of Jaco Pastorius virtuosity.
Ouroboros  - arpeggiated lines weave in and out of one another creating a circular feeling that matches the title image, the ancient symbol of a snake eating its own tail.  An ebow sustains a distant hint of melody imparting a sense of mystery and depth to this track.

The fifth track, Bagana Sub Figura X, features Bill's wife Ejigayehu Shibabaw aka Gigi singing delicate phrases in her original, Ethiopian-based language.  To me, it sounds like a duet - one voice being Bill's Warwick bass, the other Gigi's.  A dyadic dance treading the razor's edge between the Void and the Manifest. Shiva and Shakti creating, destroying, and preserving Universes while you wait.

Every song on Means of Deliverance can be approached like a puzzle box that contains a great jewel or pearl of wisdom, to be unlocked and opened by the attentive listener.  Often the song, this living artifact, gets unlocked just by repeated playbacks.  This one time you put it on something clicks. Emotional resonance with the music starts to pick up maybe going into an amplified circular oscillation cycle, or "feedback" mode, then the gnosis floods in.  Maybe there was something different about the lighting in the room, or maybe the sum total of the days' events prior to listening created a receptive mood resonant with the music allowing a coupling factor to be made between the artistic vision of the piece and the listener who can then use the energy received from this experience in a variety of ways.

In a few reviews I've read, it's been reported that Means of Deliverance sounds different every time you hear it.  I made the same observation.  Obviously the information on the cd or the file doesn't change, what changes is the listener's perception.  In this way, ie by playing repeatedly, we observe that the music changes us slightly long before the breakthrough into the full musical gnosis.

Means of Deliverance offers a rare opportunity to make direct contact with Bill Laswell's vast aggregate of experience.  Most people aren't going to have much of an idea what this means, ie what that experience contains, so they may not appreciate the opportunity - one reason why I call him an Invisible.  Someone should write a book. 

This release is progressive, on the cutting edge.  I don't mean technique or form, I mean in force of presence; in music that communicates vital information in the language of being.  It can be studied, grokked, psychometrized and metabolized or casually listened to, played softly in the environment, barely noticed like Eno's Ambient music.  Subtly, subconsciously, aesthetically lifting the space.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Response to Sandy Hook

"The whole of occultism is based on the supposition that there is nothing supernatural."
- Madame Blavatsky

On December 12, 2012 - 12/12/12 - I was given the news that I would have to get out of the house I was occupying, and that was now being sold, in two weeks.  It put me into a light state of shock as I'd been expecting more notice and wasn't really prepared.  Two days later, Dec. 14, the shooting at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut occurred and it affected me much more than previous tragedies of a similar nature.  It seemed like a line had been crossed that had to get a response.  It's only now that I'm getting caught up from the move enough to get my thoughts down.

The overwhelming feeling I had was not sorrow, grief or depression.  Just a sense that something has to be done, it cannot continue.  The public response in the media mainly called for gun control as a solution.  There was some talk about better help caring for mentally ill children.  I'm all for better gun control, whether that will happen or not in any effective way remains questionable.  Even if it does, it's not going far enough.  The morning of 12/14 I heard on the BBC News about an out of control maniac in China who went on a rampage and killed 20 victims with a knife.

People attempting to solve this problem will offer up suggestions based on their reality tunnels and belief systems.  For instance, the NRA's solution is to put more guns in every school which seems a really dumb idea to me.  The politicians will debate and try to legislate because that's what they know to do.  So it shouldn't be much of a surprise that a lover of poetry, magick, and music such as myself would come up with esoterically derived suggestions to the solution of random violence.

To start, a basic metaphysical theorem not  accepted or acted upon by the general public:
everything appears connected.  Whether it's Bells Theorem in Quantum Physics, the mysticism of Eastern religions, the Hermeticism of the Golden Dawn, or the literature of James Joyce as exclaimed by  writer Robert Anton Wilson in his book Coincidance, this idea turns up in a wide array of contexts and cultures.  It allows what Albert Einstein called 'spooky action at a distance.'

Before going too much further I'm going to give the short form of this position paper:
Grokking Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love with proactive empathy and sympathy as they sing and play to the Shekinah covers the extent of what I wish to catalyze/communicate. 

Shekinah, Shechinah, Shechina, or Schechinah, (Hebrew: שכינה) is the English spelling of a grammatically feminine Hebrew ancient blessing. The original word means the dwelling or settling, and denotes the dwelling or settling of the divine presence.
 - from Wikipedia

It helps if you know Jimmy Page's background.

 Spooky Action At A Distance

Bell's Theorem introduces the rationale for the the existence of non-local behavior.  It says that particles once in contact can always affect each other at faster than light speeds over great distances of space.  This provides a material basis for the Law of Contagion in magic which states that objects that have been in contact continue to share a magical link after they've been separated, no matter how great the distance.  A magical link means that producing a change of some kind upon one object can result in  a similar change on a target object that it was once in contact with.  Spooky action at a distance.  If the Big Bang theory is true, then at one time all the particles of the Universe were in contact with each other in a very compressed fashion just before the Universe, as we know it, popped into existence.

This provides a scientific basis for the notion that an individual or group of individuals can positively influence events at a great distance from themselves.  Don't believe me, and don't believe Bell, try it for yourself.  By the end of this essay I hope to give ideas on how to make these experiments. A good example of Spooky Action At A Distance finds itself in Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger I when he "sees" his son Graham in danger, creates a cone of light around him, and later finds out that  cops on the way to bust or harass Graham and his friends  mysteriously turned away and left them alone.

Anyone can, potentially, learn how can cause positive change at a distance.  Most people can not, to start with, because they've been told/programmed/conditioned - you can't do that!   Beliefs Unlimited, by Dr. John Lilly makes an effective remedy for coming unstuck from a constricting belief or set of beliefs.  It starts out:

In the province of the mind what one believes to be true is true or becomes within certain limits.  These limits are further beliefs to be transcended.

Morphogenetic Fields and Morphic Resonance

In his books A New Science of Life and The Presence of the Past Rupert Sheldrake presents an explanation for spooky action at a distance with the idea that similar phenomena have a connective field, " an invisible region of influence like the magnetic field around a magnet."  He calls them morphogenetic fields. 

"Morphic resonance is the process whereby similar things in the past influence similar things today"
Morphic resonance may have something to do with the Law of Similarity found in magic.
Sheldrake writes: "Since these past organisms are similar to each other rather than identical, when a subsequent organism comes under their collective influence, its morphogenetic fields are not sharply defined, but consist of a composite of previous similar forms. This process is analogous to composite photography, in which 'average' pictures are produced by superimposing a number of similar images. Morphogenetic fields are 'probability structures,' in which the influence of the most common past types combines to increase the probability that such types will occur again."

In other words, once a school shooting occurs, the probability increases that it will happen again.  The so-called Arab Spring, spontaneous revolutions in several countries around the same time last year, may exemplify this kind of field and resonance.  Already noted above is the killing rampage a maniac went on in China earlier the same day as the Sandy Hook tragedy with very similar results.  

A good summary of Sheldrake's ideas:

Possibly related to  morphogenetic fields exists phenomena known to shamen and other sensitives as "atmospherics." If you take out the word "audible" in the radio definition, you get a pretty clear picture:

"audible disturbances produced in radio receiving apparatus by atmospheric electrical phenomena (as lightning); also : the electrical phenomena causing these disturbances "

These atmospherics could also manifest as obsessive thought forms that, in extremity, could lead to psychopathological behavior.  Later, we'll examine how these atmospherics can get safely handled and sometimes cancelled out or rendered insignificant. 

The Three Basic Centrums of Human Activity

The intellectual, the emotional, the physical.  The thinking, feeling, movement centers, as given by G.I. Gurdjieff and expanded upon by Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson, Antero Alli and probably others.  Gurdjieff said that in order to really do anything of consequence effectively the three centers need to function harmoniously together and go in the same direction.  

I'm currently reading a book called Beelzebub and the Beast by David Hall that presents and sometimes compares the ideas of Gurdjieff and Aleister Crowley.  In both their systems, the idea of Will seems paramount. 

We have numerous great systems of training for the intellect, wonderful Universities and centers of learning to enrich and develop the rational mind.  We can drop into any library and freely partake of a wide variety of stimulating intellectual ideas.  We can also drop into a gym in nearly any city and exercise our physical body for a nominal cost.  All kinds of books  and videos about how to develop and strengthen the body; competitive athletics to see how far it will go.  As for the emotional centrum, mainstream culture, especially Western culture, leaves us pretty much on our own.

The story goes that Gurdjieff was asked why little talk of love appeared in his system.  He replied something to the effect that humans don't know the experience of real love or even that of a real emotion of any kind.  Talking about love would only confuse things with false notions of love.  E.J. Gold states in his book Practical Work on Self: Chapter 1 that the feeling centrum, under ordinary conditions, does not function voluntarily as a result of the thinking and moving centrums being reversed.  You can get the details in the book but for all practical purposes it means that the feeling centrum functions very weakly compared to its capability.

Gurdjieff maintained that people didn't know real love but that they could begin to discover it by practicing with pets or small children.  In my mind this obliquely connects to Crowley through his musical progeny, Led Zeppelin, who in their song that conjures Horus, The Song Remains the Same, has the line "everything that's small has to grow, and it always grows..."  In the live versions of this song that I've seen from the film of the same name and from the recently released Celebration Day Plant does a great ad lib after that line.

While writing this I just got an automated telemarketing call that started out:  It's time to listen to solar energy... then I hung up ...and thought , 'alright, alright I'm getting there... geez, give me a chance.'

To summarize so far:  Multiple solutions need to get applied to the problem of random violence in schools.  Gun control would help slow it down but you see a lot of opposition to it, and the process by which anything really gets done moves painfully slow in America.  Apparently every day something like 30 people die from guns.  In my opinion, gun control isn't enough.  We must have a collective raising of consciousness.  This has started but needs help.  Morphogenetic fields explain how the raising of consciousness from wherever you are can have a positive influence on something far away.

Aleister Crowley's most basic idea for collectively raising consciousness was to encourage people to find out what they liked doing the most, from the deepest level, and then do that as much as possible.  He put it as: Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law which is synonymous with being true to yourself, or Joseph Campbell's, follow your bliss.

The second part of Crowley's  formula goes: Love is the law, love under will.  One interpretation, certainly not the only one, is that whatever you're calling "love" can be directed or placed by will much like you would direct or place your attention on something.

A Poetic Approach

Arthur Rimbaud was a French symbolist poet who probably has more of a contemporary influence than generally realized because of his influence on other popular poets.  In his essay Systematic Derangement of the Senses he writes:

The first task of the man who wants to be a poet is to study his own awareness of himself, in its entirety; he seeks out his soul, he inspects it, he tests it, he learns it. As soon as he knows it, he must cultivate it! . . .

I say you have to be a visionary, make yourself a visionary.
A Poet makes himself a visionary through a long, boundless, and systematized disorganization of all the senses. All forms of love, of suffering, of madness; he searches himself, he exhausts within himself all poisons and preserves their quintessence's.

The word "systematic" ties the derangement of the senses to a function of some kind.  It's not random derangement or chaotic derangement but systematized.  The system can be very basic.  For instance Leary's formula of set, setting, and dosage provides a systematic approach to the derangement of the senses.  Adding intention  systemetizes it more. It can get even simpler than that and still show great effect.  Smoke a joint ( becoming increasingly legal) and listen to Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, or Beethoven, Led Zeppelin, Coltrane (or whatever) and spread the joy the music gives over the world, or your girlfriend or boyfriend, or your cat, etc. etc.

Derangement of the senses doesn't have to involve drugs or alcohol.  Any kind of meditation results in a systematic derangement of the senses.  My favorite, of course, is the floatation tank.  Music performances, particularly full scale rock shows have proven very effective in the past.  Obviously, not any old way of deranging the senses is good for you or useful for the whole.


You could call it a special case way of deranging the senses, but humor remains an extremely effective method for transforming malaise into good cheer.  Laughter causes an extremely beneficial chemical reaction in the body.  It also radiates out and can change the mood of the immediate environment significantly.  They say that laughter is contagious, another way of saying that the field of energy it produces has influence.  So just think, you too can help change the world simply by smoking a joint, if that be your fancy, and watching a stand-up comedian you love or a funny movie.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

How To Conquer Death on the Internet Part III

Finally got a copy of Kenneth Grant's masterpiece, Outside the Circles of Time, a modern occult classic that I should have read long ago. It begins with two quotes, one from The Necronomicon:

That is not dead which can eternal lie,

And with strange aeons even death may die.

Here begins the conclusion of Conquering Death on the Internet.

The Road to the Western Lands

Now, to pass on some great advice.  It came from the late (no, no, no, he's outside. . . looking in . . .)  Dr. Timothy Leary:  The best way to learn something consists of hanging out with people who are smarter than you on that subject.  For instance, if you want to learn how to golf then hang out with golf pros.

I wished to penetrate and utilize the mystery of Death so I found the one person who knows more Death than anybody I know, E.J. Gold.

My first memory of considering life after death happened when I was a child of about 7 or 8.  I was in church in Cleveland listening to a priest deliver a sermon about getting a job after death. He said that we put a lot of time into preparing a career for our children in life but how often do we consider what work we will do after death?  Even at the time this seemed a radical idea coming from one of society's Bastions of Authority.  My answer popped up right away, 'Oh that's easy,' I thought, 'I'll be a Guardian Angel.'  I was a little more naive in those days, maybe.

The next dramatic contact with a strong mood of death occurred at the age of 11.  A friend recorded The Beatles avant garde soundscape, Revolution #9 from The White Album, onto a cassette tape then took it apart and flipped the tape over so we could hear anything encoded backwards.    Backwards masking they used to call it.  Playing this piece backwards caused a very eerie and spooky effect especially because it sounded as coherent as when played forward.  The phrase 'number 9' sounds like 'turn me on dead man' when played backwards.  I had no idea what it meant at the time only the distinct feeling of another world beyond ordinary life.  Hearing this from The Beatles had a profound influence coming from a personal Bastion of Authority.

In my early '20's I began to make diligent efforts to 'Wake Up' in a natural and voluntary way.  One afternoon in a state of despair at apparent lack of progress, I picked up a copy of C.G. Jung's Collected Works and randomly opened it while asking for guidance.  My eye was immediately drawn to the phrase: "Many primitive cultures work with death in a ritualistic and metaphorical way to bring about change.  This is distinctly apart from the literal death of the body."  He was describing the conscious use of the Death/Rebirth archetype as a programming tool for change.  The form of the ritual usually consisted of an acting out of the subject's death followed by a guided tour through the Bardo, then a favorable rebirth.  Solve et Coagula.  The theatrical nature of the ritual could get extreme and intense as it proved most effective when the subject fully believed they would die.

I began to work with death as a technique to foster evolutionary change and growth.  I checked out all of the usual suspects in the field: Gurdjieff, Crowley, Leary, Castaneda, Patanjali, Burroughs, Robert Anton Wilson, John Lilly, etc.  Though I learned a great deal from these sources, after awhile it felt like I had knowledge but didn't know how to apply it in a consistent and efficacious fashion.  The problem was at the bardo stage.  I had many questions of what to do in this realm.

At some point a specific direction started to make itself known.  I read an essay by Timothy Leary, 22 Alternatives to Involuntary Death in which he recommended two books by E. J. Gold, The American Book of the Dead, and Creation Story Verbatim.

At a workshop with Robert Anton Wilson I asked him where I could get the kind of training that I was looking for?  His answer: E. J. Gold's School in Northern California.

As part of my ongoing research into consciousness and death, I began using a Samadhi floatation tank on a regular basis.  I heard about floating from books by John Lilly and took to it like a fish to water.  It seemed, by far, the most effective aid for meditating, and  for simulating death I had run across.  One day upon emerging from the tank at Sam Zeiger's Blue Light Floatation Center in New York, ( on 23rd Street as a matter of fact) I spied a copy of Floating Magazine with a full cover illustration by none other than E. J. Gold.  I took this to indicate that Gold endorsed floating, a good sign!  Later, I discovered that he and John Lilly were close friends, and that Glen and Lee Perry, designers of the first commercially available floatation tank, had moved their base of operations from Los Angeles to Northern California in order to work more closely with Gold.  I resolved to make his acquaintance.

Who Is E. J. Gold? 

... cause, remember, no matter where you go, there you are.

 -Buckeroo Banzai

E.J. Gold is an artist, sculptor, writer, ranconteur, musician and composer, computer game devloper, stand-up comedian, bio-feedback pioneer, prankster, huckster, music, video, and theatrical producer, and many other things too numerous to mention.  His bio is here.  

More Color, Less Soul is an interesting and thick photobiography of Gold put together by Linda Corriveau.  Previously, Corriveau served as Director of the pavilion Man and His World at the 1967 Montreal EXPO,noted for its exhibit STRANGE, STRANGE WORLD.  The title phrase came from Heather Edelmann, his New York art dealer, as feedback for how to sell more art.

Gold is an acclaimed authority in the field of voluntary evolution.  He has been called a teacher's teacher by his colleague Dr. Claudio Naranjo.  Communicating his vision of the Bardo is the common thread that links all of Gold's activities.

Before long I discovered that it's E,J, Gold's intention to make the Bardo User-Friendly.  How?  In a variety of ways, but they have something to do with gradually exposing you to Bardo spaces and the mood they carry in order to learn to recognize and function in these spaces through experience.  This returns us to conquering Death on the Internet.  

Gold, known as Gorebagg when he plays Quake, is an enthusiastic advocate of online computer gaming as a serious method of training for the Bardo.  He recommends playing up to 16 hours a day, if possible.  Recently (ie back in the mid '90s when this was written) he had this to say about online gaming marathons: "( When someone says) 'get a life' (it) could mean a lot of things but in gaming it could only mean, 'this world is really here; we really exist, live our lives here, work, fight, rest, and play here . . . so come on console operator, get here and be here now.  This is zen; this is really happening.'  It's a way of inducing you to make a psychic transition into the other world in which this is really happening right now.  Immerse yourself; at the same time, don't lose your professional stance - remember that you are also at the mouse/keyboard/controller/whatever and that even behind that console operator there's yet another layer of onion to peel."  This is analogous to the Bardo.

G.O.D.D. which stands for Gamemaker of Diabolical Distinction is the name of the computer gaming engine Gold and his associates developed to present his own games.  He has also referred to G.O.D.D. as the AB3D because one of its goals is to present the teaching of the American Book of the Dead (ABD) in a three dimensional virtual reality format when the technology becomes available.  With G.O.D.D., Gold recreates Bardo spaces from experience and makes them available to the public for viewing.  By getting exposed to these spaces we may become acclimatized to them in a gradual, easy way, learning at our own pace in the comfort of our living room.  When things get too strange, we just exit the game and return when better able to confront what makes us uncomfortable.  We certainly don't have this luxury when the biological body dies.

G.O.D.D. hasn't publicly released a multi-player online game though some prototypes have seen use in classes.  As of now, 2013, the Prosperity Path Orbs show the latest public offerings from the G.O.D.D. engine.  They cost a dollar to download, and new ones with ever increasing complexity are going up all the time.

One G.O.D.D. level in the form of a game called Paparazi was released as a social commentary on the death of Princess Diana.  It was quite popular getting a few million downloads. 

Some levels were recorded and put out as videos: General Nunan's Cyberspace Demo, Darkside Dreamwalker, Angel's Healing Journey, and Past Lives Healing Journey.   These can be useful especially to those without regular access to a computer ( if such exist in this day and age).

Online video teleconferencing is another avenue to communicate practical methods for conquering death.  What I speculated would happen when I originally wrote this has come to pass.  A few years ago we set-up a home-spun T.V. station out of Gold's recording studio that runs 24/7.  This has enabled the broadcasting of workshops, classes and demonstrations given by E.J. and cohorts.  Every weekend from 6:30 - 8:30 am PST Gold meets with a group online.  I don't believe he's missed one of these meetings in the 3 or 4 years he's been having them.  Every Monday at 4pm PST the house band FAXL broadcasts their rehearsals.  You can find out more and access this T.V. station here.

In a meeting to discuss Internet business Gold was quoted as saying: "You must learn to have a life without a body . . . The reason for playing Quake is to experience a different world, a different world entirely, and to start having a life in that other world; actually having a life there . . . in a different world, a spirit world, a world of electronics."

Why Work With Death?

At this point you may be saying to yourself, why bother preparing for death now?  I'm young, I've got lots of time before I die.  Why get concerned with morbid thoughts of death?  Two answers spring to mind.  One I call the deathbed perspective.  There seems a strong probability that one will reach a point in life when they know their body will die soon.  This usually leads to a review of one's life and summing up of it.  You definitely don't want to be on your deathbed regretting the life you've led.  Looking at things now from a deathbed perspective can help with deciding a particular course of action to take, or help to keep one's life vows.  This view can also deflect you from doing something that might cause regret in the long run.  Ponder this:  when I die, will I be satisfied with the life I have led/  Seeing from the deathbed perspective takes consciousness out of the ordinary perceived flow of time and gives an expanded view of the lifetime.

Another way to use the deathbed perspective is to always remember the very real possibility that death may come at any moment.  Ask yourself:  If this truly is the last day or last hour of life, how would I live it?

The second answer is that by working to become familiar with the Bardo and the après-vie one awakens to a much fuller and richer appreciation of life.  This can be demonstrated in a very short time.  Just as a person released from any restrictive environment savours all the ordinary details of freedom formerly taken for granted, so we too may come to know a sense of wonderment and awe of the most routine, commonplace events when we fully grasp and remember the impermanence of this life.

Orthodox Buddhists tell us in their First Noble Truth that ordinary existence is fraught with sorrow and suffering.  They are referring to the world of flesh, the biological world where organisms endure endless struggle against the unremitting, merciless conditions of  entropy for a relatively brief period of time before succumbing to the inevitability of death.  In the energetic world of deep consciousness which coexists with the everyday world, you can come to experience indescribable bliss in every moment.  To see, like William Blake, infinity in a grain of sand.  To realize the vision of harmony and the dynamic life force that permeates every molecule of matter, every erg of energy.  That's when your work can really begin. 

Science tells us that there exists no permanent stability in anything except for change.  Change is stability if one has fluidity and flexibility.  We call this shapeshifting.  Elegant shapeshifting is one of our aims.  What is death but a profound change of some kind.  

Folklore and mythology tell us that the way to immortality has danger and peril at every step.  This may have some truth, but it's equally true that every step is a Great Adventure full of learning and discovery.  Wonder and awe.  Knowing that there are others on this path can be a source of help and encouragement.  It's definitely way outside the norm of social conduct in our culture.  Not only are there others more experienced and knowledgeable, but we are literally surrounded by a network of like-minded individuals invisible as it may seem.  This network is beginning to take a more visible presence thanks to computer technology and the Internet.

 So ends this essay originally written near the dawn of internet popularity with a few editorial updates.  

Happy Voyaging, see you Online.