Thursday, October 16, 2014

Through the Atlas Mountains

Volubilis, Morocco

As mentioned at the conclusion of the last installment, we began the day in Volubilis reshooting a scene with Bachir Attar and his brother Mustapha that had been rained out in Jajouka.  To while away the time while they set up, Bachir played a pastoral melody on the bamboo flute that his father had taught him.  This melody was said to sooth and calm the goat-god Boujeloud, a folk incarnation of the ancient Greek God Pan.  Pan personifies male energy in its most chaotic form, hence the term panic when unmitigated.  When we participated in the ritual for Boujeloud the first time to Jajouka in 1991, Boujeloud ran about with a grass stalk trying to whip  women with it.  If he succeeded, legend had it that she would get pregnant.  If Pan represents the fullest expression of material creativity.  Pan also means "all."  In his role of Pan Pangenitor he is the "All-Begetter."

Playing this melody on this morning was auspiciously timed.  The day before had been wild and chaotic.  It had almost been a disaster after I stopped a hurried and frantic electrician from plugging in audio equipment running on 110v into a 220v outlet.  Blindly rushing ahead in a panic without consideration for potential damage.  Today marked the beginning of a new phase in the production.

This day would be the closest approximation to a day off on the whole trip.  It was a  travel day, no filming was scheduled, a short 93 km drive south to the town of Azrou located at the crossroads of the Middle Atlas and High Atlas mountain ranges.  Bill headed off in a different direction, due west to Casablanca on the coast where he would catch a flight back home to spend Christmas with his family.  I was pretty sure he'd been up late the night before trying to manage or maybe just observe the chaos behind the scenes which, according to one of the Producers, happens in one form or another on all film productions.  I would certainly miss his running interference for the audio department ( ie myself and now, since the night before, my assistant Mustapha).  However, he was still very much present in spirit for the remainder of the trip periodically sending emails of advice, aphorisms and graphic illustrations relevant to the work.  Jay called Bill his spiritual mentor.

Not long after we hit the road Jay played a recording over the mini bus sound system they had both collaborated on featuring drummer Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the pianist Jon Batiste and Bill Laswell on bass.  Other musicians included Toshinori Kondo, Killah Priest, Garrison Hawk, Dominic James, Peter Apfelbaum and Tunde Adibimpe.  I think it's safe to say that Jay was the catalyst for this project, which they are calling The Process, with Bill doing the bulk of the production.  It was the perfect soundscape against the landscape of the Atlas mountains.  Smith surprised me with the depth, versatility and musicality of his playing, something I wasn't expecting from a Chili Pepper.  He really got to show his chops at times.  Batiste's otherworldly piano stylings fit right in the with the naturally psychedelic Moroccan ambience.  I'm not going to attempt to describe the music, but will include an excerpt from some notes Bill wrote that conveys the atmosphere of The Process which is scheduled for release very soon:

NEW TERRITORY: The dark secrets of production, sound enhancement and psychomagic…
recombinant energy, sound collage, fusion, hybrid sound clash, simulacra and simulation. With the juxtaposition of recorded music / sound…the results are infinity…there is no exact or perfect statement…no absolute, no finished product, no flawless design nor finite creation…It's all version, timeless, endless…experience, evolution, illumination… Nothing is true, everything is permitted.

We stopped at a small roadside hamlet called Boufekrane on the way to Azrou.  The bustle of hawkers milling about selling all kinds of small cheap products and snacks as Adam, Austin and I sat at an outside table right by the road sipping mint tea.  The smell of meat being cooked on open grills, also outside beside the road, permeates the air.  Austin mentioned that his Grandfather had just passed.  I let him know that I could be of assistance if necessary.  He seemed to be making an effort to be stoic about it.

We arrived at the hotel in Azrou in the early afternoon and enjoyed a delicious lunch.  The mountain air was significantly colder here.  The lobby was nice and toasty with a fire blazing as laptops and smart phones came out, people connecting to the World catching up with their communications. The hotel room, however, was ice cold.   When I complained, a janitor came up, determined that the radiator wasn't working then set me up with a space heater.  I set up the Pro Tools rig in the room and did some file management before taking a late afternoon stroll down the hill into town noting landmarks so as to not get lost.  Most of the other Americans went out shopping, picking up beautiful Morrocan rugs, handcrafts and clothes.

Two journalists on assignment from the Smithsonian magazine joined us in Azrou to begin research for a feature article on the documentary.  Sam Jones is a young, freelance photographer, American born, but currently living in East Africa.  He was very interested in the musical aspects of the film as well as music in general.  He was a fan of Bill's music and asked me a lot of questions in the evening as we walked back into town looking for somewhere to eat.  Nothing in the way of food looked good, so we retreated back to the hotel and joined some of the crew for a meal in the dining room - the two Asmas, Yakout, Thomas, Austin, and a new assistant camera man flown in from Germany to help with some technical issues they were having with one of the very expensive cameras.  A little later we were joined by the print journalist from the Smithsonian, an older, respected fellow whose name currently escapes me.

I stayed up until 3:30 am working.  Tried to do some writing. but only managed one line:
"The dogs are howling at midnight in Azrou, Morocco."  And they did howl for several hours.  The whole atmosphere, with the decrepit, freezing, hotel room ( I wrapped myself in blankets from both beds staying close to the space heater), the moonless, pitch black night and the incessantly crying dogs, felt like some umentionable horror out of a H.P. Lovecraft story.

Azrou, Morocco

Got up at 6:30 am and felt great despite only a few hours rest.  Had a very short, very cold shower.  Instantly wide awake.  After breakfast we drove for about 45 minutes out of town stopping at the base of a small mountain where two tents were set up for an afternoon wedding. Started setting up Pro Tools and placing mics while Mustapha took the 2 track recorder and boom mic up near the top of the mountain where a few primitive stone huts established human domain on the mountainside.  They were completely bare inside; I had no idea what they were used for when not celebrating a wedding.  The first day's shooting would be in this area.

This small mountain was more of a large hill, certainly much bigger than a molehill.  It was virtually treeless, carpeted with brownish-green grass amongst bare patches of dirt and stone.  A few goats grazed nearby unfazed by all the human activity.  The temperature was on the cool side made cooler by the wind, but it was a sunny day and felt warm when the wind temporarily died down.  A small stream trickled languidly down near where I was setting up the recording area in the open corridor made by the two large tents facing each other.  I was told the musicians would play in this area, but this turned out to be someone's guess rather than accurate information.  I guess there were about 40 - 50 people in attendance by the end not including the film crew which added another 20 or so. 

I was about one third set up with the multi-track when I heard my name summoned by Adam from the top of the hill.  I misheard urgency in the tone and dashed up the hill as fast as possible feeling winded when I got there.  He asked what the rush was?  I laughed to myself.  I guess it was deemed that I should record the first interview with the father and the groom.  It was another hurry up and wait situation, but I didn't mind.  It was a beautiful day here in the mid Atlas range.  I spied Jay seated in a classic meditation pose looking like Buddha director.  He was in a much mellower frame of mind than on previous days, still intense and focused, but a few degrees more relaxed.  The first thing he said to me was, "I guess I'm stuck with you now, Oz," friendly, half-joking.  I replied, "We're stuck with each other," and laughed.

The only thing I remember about the first interview which was in Arabic, was the father passing a bendir drum to his son.  It was explained that by doing so, he was passing on his musical legacy.  Also a nearby goat started to get in on the action "Maaa -ing" loudly once or twice a minute.  After the interview I left them with Mustapha in audio control and went down the hill to continue setting up.  When that was done, I went back up and recorded about 20 woman packed into one of the stone huts chanting loudly and energetically.

The primary music was a troupe of about 14 bendir drummers who also chanted.   The rhythm and singing cycles were repetitive with little variation.  It wasn't what you normally think of as music, no melody to speak of, more like using the repetition of visceral sound - the loud booming drums to carry the baraka of whatever blessings or invocations were being given by the chants.  Unfortunately, they played about 20 feet away from where I had the mics set-up, but it still got picked up.  Fortunately, the wind co-operated.  After 40 minutes or so, they stopped, moved through the corridor by the tents and played even further out in the field on the far side.  The sound was even more distant on the recording so we set Adam up with the 2 track and he recorded inside the circle they now made as they drummed, chanted, and danced around.  I don't have any background on the music, but guess it was from one or another Sufi tradition.

Azrou, Morocco

Today is a travel day, we have a seven hour drive ahead of us south through the High Atlas mountains to the city of M'gouna.  We are promised that it will be warmer down south.

We ate lunch in what looked like a small castle turned into a hotel and restaurant on the edge of a city called Errachidia famous for its wedding festival in September, a nonstop 30 days of wedding celebrations.  Across the road from the castle were two good sized stores selling precious stones.  I picked up a chondrite meteorite and had the proprietor show me on a map where they collected it from. It was near the town, Missour.  Later, as we're about to get back on the road, a boy comes around hawking stones from the rival store.  I get another, larger chondrite for about half the price.  Meteorites have a stronger effect on me than any other stone.

Errachidia seems like the last outpost before going deep into the High Atlas.  Before too long the scenery became very strange giving a surreal feeling like being on another planet.  It seemed there was a purplish tinge now to the surrounding hills and mountains.  It's nothing like any landscape I've seen before and difficult to describe from memory.  It felt like what I imagined Venus would look like if Venus had mountains.  I suspect the light and the air contributed to the surrealness of it all.  At one point Jay exclaimed into the silent bus, " I am the most powerful man in the world!" which on the surface sounds egotistical, but as he said that  I was having an expansive moment and knew exactly where he was coming from.  That's the feeling the High Atlas gave you, of being on top of the world.  His comment also reminded me of Leonardo Dicaprio shouting, "I'm the king of the world" from the stern of the Titanic which Director Jim Cameron got in trouble for when he quoted it at the Academy awards.  Of course, if you continue the metaphor, the Titanic ran into a massive iceberg because it was too huge and going too fast to turn in time.  Water usually represents emotions in Hermetic symbolism so an icerberg would be frozen emotions, a cold heart.  The iceberg in the film world would be those who control the purse-strings like the whole Hollywood film  establishment who halted Jodorowsky's Dune in it's tracks by not funding it.  Not to be too cynical, but the rare times I feel this way I always expect an iceberg in my future, but knowing that helps you not hit it and sink.  You just turn and go a different direction before getting too close.

Before too long we started descending into a huge canyon, very dramatic dark reddish rock formations stretched out in the distance.  By coincidence, a friend sent me a photo card with a very similar look that I saw when I got back home.  We stopped and did some filming before going down into it.  A vendor was set up on the roadside selling cheap metal trinkets and jewelry.  Seloua picked up what looked like a small Alladin's lamp and said, "This is magic.  You rub it 3 times on your wrist then make a wish and it will come true."  So I picked it up, a small souvenir of Morocco's magic.  I haven't tried it yet.  We also stopped and filmed as the sun was sinking low over a broad flat plain with mountain peaks in the distance.  The temptation was to stop and do a lot more filming on the way.  As it was, Austin captured lots of footage on the C300 as we rolled down the road.

Seloua gives us some brief history of the area when we're pretty far south close to the destination:
The towns of Ouarzazate (pronounced "war za za tay") and Goulmime are the two Moroccan doors to the great Sahara desert, called the gates of the Sahara.  Ouarzazate is a popular film location - Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, The Mummy, Game of Thrones season 3, were some of the projects shot there.  We pass through the town of Goulmima - the female version of Goulmime.  On the outskirts of Goulmime, at dusk four Berber woman sit in a semicircle cross-legged Indian style looking like they are meditating or as if they are Guardians of the World, what Gurdjieff call the  "All-Quarter-Maintainers."

M'gouna, Morocco

The hotel is terrible, no heat, no hot water and the toilet doesn't work.  We were going to stay two nights, but fortunately decide to go back to Ourzazate after today's shoot and stay in a good hotel. Today's location is adjacent to an ancient area of M'gouna called Itrane.  The production trucks park beside Kasbah Itrane.  The old area is down a hill which is where the initial filming takes place.  It's largely abandoned brown clay buildings are replete with strange corridors and passageways. and a sense of timelessness.  A bardo space, for sure.

It was far more dramatic than this photo shows, it's not from our trip, but gives some idea.

Today's music was to celebrate a naming ceremony for an eight day old baby.  Started recording some morning birds when we first arrived then gathered ambience when we descended into the ancient ruins to scout and block the first scenes.  Then left Mustapha with the two track while I set up the multitrack and microphones outdoors right beside the Kasbah.  The performers would be drumming, chanting and dancing on two large carpets.  It would turn out to be eight woman and eight men garbed in traditional costume.  The drums were large resonant tambourines with only a few cymbals.  The chanting was call and response.

At lunch Mustapha told me of his life growing up in a Palestinian refugee camp on the West Bank. He found his creativity in a theater group started by a famous Israeli actor who was half Palestinian and who gave up his lucrative career to start this group for the Palestinians which generated much productive goodwill until it got wiped out when the military undertook a police action, or whatever you want to call it.  He said in Palestine you get three kinds of justice, Israeli, Palestinian,  and street.  He told some other stories and talked about his family, a very poignant eye-witness account of political oppression that you never hear about in the media.  Despite growing up under such harsh circumstances he didn't seem at all bitter or hateful.  His way of protest is creatively through his art ie his film making.  I suspect that actor saved his life by getting him into theater.  Though Mustapha is an up and coming Director with at least one film under his belt, his attitude was that he was here to learn and help out, always professional.

The recording went smoothly.  We captured some extra drum samples after the main performance which had some very vigorous dancing, each member taking a solo in the center of the circle.  While I packed up, Mustapha took the two track to record the last music scene of the day.  It was in one of the rooms in the Kasbah.  After the gear was packed I went to find them.  It was about 8pm and dark now.  A group of 8 women were seated in a semicircle on rugs and embroidered pillows singing a hushed lullabye to the baby being held by the mother in the center.  The baby's name is Asma.  Mustapha was stretched out on the rug holding the recorder as close as possible without getting in the frame.  It was the evening of December 24th, Christmas Eve to many in the West, but just another day to the Muslim world.  Yet, this was the most natural, most real nativity scene I had ever experienced, completely free of religious pretense, just the reality of a new life being welcomed into the world - a very touching moment.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Alchemy of the Heart - To Exercise Will part 2

Continued from here

The alchemist must attempt the impossible.  

The truth is not the end of the road, but is the sum of all the actions we perform to get there.
 - Alejandro Jodorowsky

A little before Dawn, the pupil comes to greet his Master, and begs instruction.

Inspired by his Angel he demands the doctrine of being rapt away into the Knowledge and Conversation of him.

The Master discloses the Doctrine of Passive Attention or Waiting.

This seeming hard to the Pupil, it is explained further and the Method of Resignation, Constancy and Patience inculcated.  The Paradox of Equilibrium.  The necessity of giving oneself wholly up to the new element.  Egoism rebuked.
- AHA, Aleister Crowley

Waiting is.
 - Valentine Michael Smith

We speak of Alchemy metaphorically to indicate the slow, then sudden transformation of base raw materials into something of great value.  This derives from experimentation by alchemists in the medieval and renaissance periods to attempt to literally change lead into gold.  Many of these accounts also include codified instructions for transforming ordinary humans into spiritual beings.  They were codified at that time primarily to avoid persecution by the Church, but also to keep the more dangerous practices hidden until the student was ready and prepared for them.  The coding also served to bypass the ordinary intellect and emotions in order to facilitate communication on an archetypal level with the deeper, nonverbal aspects of consciousness.  Many of these instructions took the form of graphic illustrations.

We are concerned with the alchemy of the heart.  This can be viewed as the accumulation of  very fine substances or salts until they crystallize into a coherent body.  This is what is meant when Gurdjieff and others talk about the formation of Higher Bodies.  Alchemy was the forerunner of modern chemistry.  It can be regarded just as materialistically as chemistry.  This approach is scientific.  Opening the heart or the heart chakra seems about as vague as you can get in terms of actually discovering how to do this on a permanent basis.  Crystallizing  a higher emotional body or activating C6 into permanent operational realization gives us more precise language to the actual process.  In chemistry:

"The crystallization process consists of two major events, nucleation and crystal growth. Nucleation is the step where the solute molecules dispersed in the solvent start to gather into clusters, on the nanometer scale (elevating solute concentration in a small region), that become stable under the current operating conditions. These stable clusters constitute the nuclei. However, when the clusters are not stable, they dissolve. Therefore, the clusters need to reach a critical size in order to become stable nuclei. Such critical size is dictated by the operating conditions (temperature, supersaturation,  etc.). It is at the stage of nucleation that the atoms arrange in a defined and periodic manner that defines the crystal structure — note that "crystal structure" is a special term that refers to the relative arrangement of the atoms, not the macroscopic properties of the crystal (size and shape), although those are a result of the internal crystal structure." - from Wikipedia

I wrote that the transformational process can start slowly, take a long time, then happen suddenly.  Aleister Crowley applied the metaphor of a mountain snow avalanche to illustrate this slow then sudden shift.  The sun shines on the mountain slopes for awhile, nothing visible seems to be happening until a critical point is reached that triggers the avalanche.  (Book of Lies chapter 84).  A similar and more precise metaphor presents itself in the first chapter of Practical Work on Self by E.J. Gold.  The crystallization process gets compared to making popcorn.  Heat is applied to the corn kernel and at first nothing changes with the structure of the kernel until suddenly a critical point is reached and it "pops" and becomes something completely different - tasty food.  The Big Bang model of the creation of Universe resembles this kind of transformation.  Writer Thomas Pynchon in Against the Day, a book that contains a wealth of alchemical information, managed to use both "avalanche" and "popcorn" in the same sentence to indicate his precedents.  Pynchon does codify alchemical data in the book, but also explicitly explains the code giving ample clues about how to go about deciphering it.

Gurdjieff and his interpreters write about accumulating "higher" (ie  rarefied) substances.  This relates to the chemical process of nucleation described above.  They gather into clusters "that become stable under current operating conditions ... However when the clusters are not stable, they dissolve."
That doesn't sound too bad when referring to an external process, but when applied to one's own alchemical development it can be extremely frustrating, at times devastating, and yes, heart shattering.  One day or one moment you got it, then it's suddenly taken away.  The Greek myth about Prometheus seems relevant to those who can get to C6 , but not stay there permanently.  As punishment for giving fire to humans Prometheus was chained to a rock where an eagle would come and eat out his liver.  Being immortal, he would grow a new liver every night only to have it taken away the next day until he was freed by Hercules.

Bob Dylan, whose music has taught me as much as anyone, refers to this changing chemical valence on his album, Love and Theft:  "Last night I knew you, tonight I don't."  You can work for years only to have everything taken away in an instant through no apparent fault of your own.  Like getting mugged in a dark alley though perhaps you shouldn't have been in that alley in the first place. Protect the heart constitutes a primary instruction in this line of endeavor.  All is not lost when you do get robbed.  Skills learned to accumulate and bond substances together stay with you, and like Prometheus' liver, it will grow back through conscious effort if one doesn't give up.  Eventually you become bullet proof.  Nietzsche's aphorism, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger applies here.  It makes you stronger because you have to work harder and reach deeper to build up the muscle again, and also you learn, perhaps painfully - pain is a great if unpleasant teacher -  to avoid dark alleys or if unavoidable, how to protect yourself in one.  Sometimes they can't be avoided.

I'm getting ahead of myself.  We'll go back and start closer to home looking at the process through the model of Crowley's system of magick with a little Gurdjieff thrown in for spice.  Crowley calls the crystallization of the Higher Emotional centrum the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel (KCHGA) He states that all beginning magick for aspirants to the Great Work should concern itself with this realization.  Anything else, he says, is black magick.

In a short missive to beginning students called Postcards To Probationers ( Equinox Vol. I Number 2 p.196) he writes:

I.  The world progresses by virtue of the appearance of Christs (geniuses).

To understand how Crowley communicates it appears essential to at least have some basic knowledge of the higher order language he used called Qabalah and the framework it rests upon known as the Tree of Life.  Many people get put off by its complexity but elsewhere in this blog stream, much earlier, I give a Lazy WoMan's guide to learning it which basically involves starting at the center and working your way out in all directions.  Christ correlates with the central Sephiroth called Tiphareth. What he states there is that the world progresses through people who have fully activated C6, who have crystallized an expanded open heart.  

Examining the etymology of "genius" also provides a clue: "from Latin, ‘attendant spirit present from one's birth, innate ability or inclination,’ from the root of gignere ‘beget.’"  In Shea and Wilson's magick information dense Illuminatus! trilogy they give a definition of genius as  someone with wide general erudition and comprehension ( I'm paraphrasing from memory).   All of this rings consonantly with the HGA metaphor.

To emphasize that he isn't referring to any particular brand of religious mythology, Crowley goes on to say that both Buddha and St. Ignatius as well as Socrates and Mohammed were Christs.  Interesting choice of examples.  Buddha and St. Ignatius have clear correlations with Tiphareth, Ignatius because he started the Society of Jesus though I also suspect he chose Ignatius because ignis in Latin means fire, an alchemical necessity in this process.  Socrates and Mohammed represent two opposite types, a philosopher and an illiterate goat herder showing there aren't any specific intellectual requirements necessary to acquire genius.  Crowley's conceit is that he felt anyone diligently applying his or similar methods could become a genius.  I agree with him.

The knowledge and conversation aspect of the HGA indicates to me that the intelligence of the heart can function as a Guide long before its full realization.  By that I mean the intelligence of the higher aspect of the emotional centrum, what I've been calling C6 referencing Timothy Leary's 8 circuit model of the nervous system.  It could also be called the intelligence of Tiphareth.  This guide seems almost incomprehensibly far beyond ordinary human intelligence in its scope perhaps explaining why early explorers of this domain modeled it as an Angel.  It should be remembered that the personification into a Holy Guardian Angel comprises a peg to hang a set of extraordinary experiences on related to the activation and function of a new circuit in the nervous system, a circuit with apparent superpowers compared to what we've been conditioned and programmed to accept as the limits of our abilities in the four human circuits and the fifth transistional circuit.  Crowley warns us quite clearly not to attribute any philosophical validity to the HGA or any other supernatural critter we may encounter on the way there.  We are working in Unknown territory here, these models are for convenience sake only, nothing to get hung about.

How this Guide begins to communicate, how the conversation gets started, varies from individual to individual.  It begins with somehow gaining the knowledge that Higher Intelligence exists and that it can communicate with us.  We can apply the scientific method to begin on this path.  Postulate "as if" the HGA exists, "as if" there exists a non-human Guide who can somehow communicate information pertinent to our spiritual ( higher circuit) development, then devise experiments and record instances that point to evidence of such a postulate.  I suggest noting coincidences and keeping a dream journal.  Oracular devices such as Tarot cards or the I Ching are other ways for this communication to get through.  Learning even a little bit of qabala seems, if not essential, at least extremely helpful to the process because the Angel tends to communicate symbolically in images.   The qabala is a dictionary and map of archetypes symbolically expressed in the world's mythologies.  You learn to develop your own symbolic language based both on established references and modern cultural images.

 Receiving and interpreting input in this way requires skillful discernment and intuition.  There seems much noise on the line yet genuine communication will get through if one has the need for it.  Intuition is another ability that develops with use.  It  also can get exercised and made strong like a muscle.  Once one has received a genuine communication directly related to your work that couldn't have come from any human or ordinary source one gains enough knowledge to go further on this course and continue the conversation ... a conversation which seems guaranteed, sooner or later, to blow your mind, break your set - the reality tunnel we got programmed and conditioned to accept as the way things are.

The idea that the emotional centrum has its own intelligence apart from the intellect appears mostly foreign to our culture yet does have precedent in ancient cultures such as the Egyptian, Babylonian, Mesopotamian, Indian as well as many Native American tribes.  I met many Africans when I worked there who appeared to have this kind of intelligence operating, much moreso than in Europe or North America.  The C2 human side of this centrum tends to run its input through a like/dislike filter.  By contrast C6 seemingly has an infinite variety of states and modalities.  Crowley poetically writes of this in AHA:

Had I a million songs,
And every song a million words,
And every word a million meanings,
I could not count the choral throngs
Of Beauty's beatific birds,
Or gather up the paltry gleanings
Of this great harvest of delight!
Hadst thou not heard the word aright?
That world is truly infinite.
Even as a cube is to a square
Is that to this.
Royal and rare!
Infinite light of burning wheels.

It's clear that he speaks of Tiphareth (C6): Beauty is the English translation; the 6 sided cube has much more dimension than the flat square; million is used three times because a million has six zeros.  He gives us three sets of six zeros.

Another key to activating the heart is found in what's known as True Will.  What do you really love to do?  How would you spend this life if money and ordinary obligations weren't an issue?  Why have you been give this life under these unique circumstances?    The HGA is said to be the epitome of True Will.  This corresponds with one meaning of genius as innate ability or inclination.  Obviously, if you're doing something that you love to do it's going to expand and exercise the heart.  Doing anything creative exercises the heart.  It is in this way that finer substances begin to accumulate and collect.

It's been said by Crowley in The Confessions that once one begins this work, all kinds of obstacles and resistance arises both internal and external.  If the work is never begun and one is content to stay in the comfort zone of the four lower human circuits then no problems will come up, there's nothing threatening the status quo.  When the aspirant begins to exercise their spiritual muscles, to reach for the cube beyond the flat square then all kinds of obstacles present themselves.  The ego doesn't want the being to take charge because this threatens its existence.  An excellent example of this can be seen in the Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey.  The spaceship, representing the four lower circuits, what Gurdjieff called the human machine, with the astronauts representing the fifth transitional circuit on a mission, an oddyssey, into the Unknown.  The super computer HAL 9000 ( the highly developed intellect) attempts to take over the mission for it's own reasons by killing the astronauts.  Bowman, the surviving astronaut has to disconnect HAL's core circuitry in order to continue the mission.  This correlates with turning off the mind or bypassing the ego to reach the higher neuro-circuits.  The rest of the mission in 2001, particularly after Bowman goes into the monolith has strong resonance with the mission to activate the 6th circuit as does the final scene representing mission accomplished, though, as the image of the newborn implies, it's not an ending, but a beginning.

Gurdjieff  presented a model called the Law of Three to demonstrate the relationship these obstacles present to the aim and how to overcome them.  I understand it to mean that whenever something positive tries to manifest, an equally negative force arises trying to block it.  The third force reconciles the positive and negative.  In our case we could say that activating C6 represents the positive, the obstacles and resistance are the negative force, and our efforts and the education it brings act to reconcile the two.  The three are also known as the affirming, the denying, and the reconciling.  The resistance no matter how strong it gets seems a necessary part of the program.  Solving the problems it presents develops new skill sets for the aspirant as they're forced to solve the problem.  For this reason, the denying has also been called the pushing force.  It can push you into action that you might otherwise not have taken had a particular problem or situation not arisen.  This is evolution brought about by necessity.  

In Regardie's book The Tree of Life he says that the traditional task of the adept after fully apprehending the KCHGA is to confront and subdue the four Princes of Evil, one from each quarter. This terminology appears rather medieval. It seems less gothic to view this in Jungian terms of directly confronting and learning how to live with the Shadow, the dark side of the psyche.  I also view what Jung called individuation as a C6 manifestation.  One can said to truly become an individual with a good understanding of one's purpose in life and the ability to act on it.  It's isomorphic ( ie same organic shape)  with Gurdjieff's real "I."

Jung believed that the exploration and integration of the unconscious part of the psyche with the conscious is key to the process of individuation.  This points to another parallel between individuation and the KCHGA.  Crowley once casually remarked to his student, Frank Bennett something to the effect that communicating with the HGA involves making the subconscious conscious.  Gurdjieff in Beelzebub says that:  "what you call the subconscious, which ought to be in my opinion the real human consciousness."  Elsewhere Crowley says that the HGA can appear as a discrete external intelligence. 

A thorough exploration of the inner self, the so-called subconscious, seems part and parcel for making the alchemy successful, for turning the heart into more than something that only pumps blood, something that pumps a different kind of blood and thereby accumulates the finer substances which will hopefully begin the crystallization process before getting scattered to the wind.  The purpose of this self-exploration/ self-observation is to work out the barriers that get in the way of the True Will thus acting as blockages on the heart.  The purpose is to make the machine more effective.

Crowley said he chose the Holy Guardian Angel appellation because it would be considered too absurd for philosophical debate, but it also seems to suggest the nature of the course.  An Angel that guards, guards against what?  Perhaps just against the vicissitudes of life, but it also seems likely that the intelligence of the heart ( the HGA) can communicate information useful for its own protection.  Classifying it as an Angel provides another strong clue.  Angels are androgenous, in other words, they transcend gender.  For us who work with human biological machines of one gender or another this means balancing the male and female energies each of us possess.  

Robert Anton Wilson gives a concise description of the process:

All epics take the form of a Quest.  Usually the hero undergoes an Underground Journey, or a visit to the realm of Thud where he is afflicted by buzzing and whistling Things from the Pink Dimension, or is somehow violently wrenched from tribal consensus reality.
- Introduction to Visions in the Stone.

Things from the Pink Dimension refers to carnal sexual energy solely directed toward physical bodies rather than spirit.  The energies of the lower chakras that hasn't been raised to the heart level or beyond.  It's considered male in its nature, only concerned with the physical.  In the Bible they symbolize this kind of sexual orientation as "dust."  This quote from the Book of the Law shows how the heart's alchemy can work and also how it can fail.  This is the Egyptian Sky-goddess Nuit speaking:

But to love me is better than all things: if under the night-stars in the desert thou presently burnest mine incense before me, invoking me with a pure heart, and the Serpent flame therein, thou shalt come a little to lie in my bosom.  For one kiss wilt thou willing to give all; but whoso gives one particle of dust shall lose all in that hour.

When she says lose all she's not talking about common earthly possessions, she's referring to the finer substances one accumulates through successful contact with her.  Maybe it sounds a little dramatic, but it does make the point that misapplied sexual energy, raw unspiritualized male energy, unbalanced yang, ( whether from a man or woman)  robs energy from the higher centers. This destructive male energy also manifests as anger, violence, war etc.  Whenever something is figuratively poking something else with a stick, whether that stick be harsh words, gunfire, bombs, rape ( to give extreme examples) or something else, it can be said to be male energy gone amok.

Crowley devotes a whole book, The Book of Lies (falsely so-called), to strategies and techniques for invoking me with a pure heart, and the Serpent flame therein and to cleaning up all the dust.  I would call The Book of Lies a modern alchemical masterpiece.  It's interesting to look at the last chapter, 91 called The Heikle which just has one word written: A.M.E.N.  About the Heikle in the commentary he writes:

But its general nature is of a certain minute whiteness, appearing at the extreme end of a great blackness. 
It is a good title for the last chapter of this book, and it also symbolises the eventual coming out into the light of his that has wandered long in the darkness.
91 is the enumeration of Amen.
The chapter consists of an analysis of this word, but gives no indication as to the result of this analysis, as if to imply this: The final Mystery is always insoluable.

Of course, there is multiple puns and different levels of meaning all throughout the book so it's not a surprise that the last word, insoluble, means both unsolvable, and incapable of dissolving ie crystallized.  It's a very concise and elegant ending to the book.  I interpret this as Crowley's  way of saying that the map is quite a long shot from being the territory - the territory appears far more Unknown and mysterious than our meager maps can cover yet we discover, through much experimentation, that we can learn to live, survive and make our home in that territory.  I see the emergence of pioneer consciousness explorers into C6 as no less difficult a transition as the first amphibians to emerge from water to begin living on land.  It's a completely different life with a different set of conditions.

In an amazing statement made at the close of his documentary, The Untold History of the U.S. Oliver Stone, who seems to have assimilated the same approach says:

A young woman said to me in the 1970s that we need to feminize this planet.  I thought it strange then, but now I realize there is power in love, real power in real love.  There is a way found by remembering the past.  And then we can start, step by step like a baby reaching for the stars.

The alchemy of the heart, the building up of this Higher Body, realizing C6 is another way to look at the ordeal called the Crossing of the Abyss or learning to navigate and survive in the Bardo.  The KCHGA begins in Tiphareth but doesn't end until it goes past Kether into the Veils of Nothingness.

Contemporary books, apart from Crowley and Gurdjieff, that I know which have the Crossing of the Abyss (aka alchemy of the heart) as one of its main themes include: Dune - Frank Herbert, Against the Day - Thomas Pynchon, Visions in the Stone - E.J. Gold, Schrodinger's  Cat - Robert Anton Wilson,  and The Journal of Albion Moonlight - Kenneth Patchen.  Those are the ones I can remember at the moment.

The Prosperity Path computer video game orbs by E.J. Gold can prove helpful in this regard.  A good general description of this ordeal through the Abyss is told in some orbs by an attractively rendered young woman 'bot in one of the antechambers behind the shop.  When approached she tells you: "In this wormhole expedition you will experience transition through several parallel dimensions."   Wormhole is a term from physics to explain instantaneous travel over vast distances.

Alchemy is usually given an etymology that connects it with ancient Egypt.  I prefer to analyze the word as Al + chemy.  Al is a Hebrew word for God but it also means Not; chemy = chemistry  therefore, the chemistry of God or of Not whichever you prefer. Not = the second Veil of Nothingness behind manifest existence on the Tree of Life.  Besides the kabbalists, Nothingness = the final step in both Buddhism and Taoism and it's what theoretical physicists say lies behind it all.  The mystics and scientists agree on this one.  I look at it as no-thingness.  I seem to be a verb, as Bucky Fuller said.

Earlier I used the metaphor of Prometheus to describe the situation of someone who can access C6, but is chained to the earthly rock with his work eaten away every day by a predator until the hero Hercules rescues him, breaks the chains that binds him to the earth.  Hercules, to me, represents the successful crystallization of the Higher Body.  Every time Prometheus is forced to grow back a liver more substance accumulates, he becomes stronger.  The efforts  made every day through the alchemy of the heart slowly eat away and dissolve the chains that bind him to the rock.  Though substance gets stolen every day, the aspirant slowly learns how to protect the heart, how to stop the energy - the rarefied substances - from leaking away every day until the day the hero finally arrives to permanently break the chains.

In this way voluntary evolution appears to progress more like a spiral than a straight linear course.  You see a vision, get a taste of something extraordinary where the feeling centrum functions like it never has before.  You decide that this experience is not some random fluke, but rather the way it should always be, a permanent functioning organ with abilities far beyond the norm.  You find ways to get back there but invariably get thrown back to ordinary consciousness, back into the dream.  Still, every experiment gives some data about what does and does not work for setting up permanent residence in the Higher Dimensions, especially the experiments that don't work, the so-called mistakes.  Sometimes it can seem like everything gets taken away, but it's not, it can't be, the experience can't be taken away.  Some or all of the results of the work might get taken but the experience and the effort that went into it always accrues.  It gets easier and easier to get up, shake off the dust, and get back on the horse.  Crowley guarantees that every aspirant will get there providing they don't quit, they don't give up.  It requires much patience.  This explains one of his more well known magickal mottos: Perdurabo - I will endure unto the end.  One of the merit rewards you get in the Prosperity Path games are points for  "infinite eternal endurance"  Led Zeppelin, who heads up the rock n roll division of the Great Work, puts it this way :

Every little thing that you know, 
everything that's small has to grow
and it always grows ...
 - The Song Remains the Same.

No matter how many times the phoenix gets utterly consumed by the flames, burnt to a crisp, le aspirant du flambe, it always rises from the ashes.  Prometheus rising.