Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The War Machine and Magick

3. Now let it be first understood that I am a God of War and of Vengeance.  I shall deal hardly with them.
4.  Choose ye an island!
5. Fortify it!
6. Dung it about with enginery of war!
7. I will give you a war engine.

- The Book of the Law chapter 3

Aleister Crowley, or whoever wrote these words, advises building a war machine in no uncertain terms.  The war machine, a concept from post-structuralist, guerilla ontologists Deluze and Guttari describes (among many other things) a strategic course of action useful for alchemical transformation.

The first theoretical element of importance is the fact that the war machine has many varied meanings, and this is precisely because the war machine has an extremely variable relation to war itself.  The war machine is not uniformly defined, and comprises something other than increasing quantities of force.  We have tried to define two poles of the war machine: at one pole, it takes war for its object ... war represents not at all the supposed essence of the war machine but only, whatever the machine's power, either the set of conditions of which the States appropriate the machine ... or the dominant order of which the States themselves are now only parts.  The other pole seems to be the essence; it is when the war machine, with infinitely lower "quantities," has as its object not war but the drawing of a creative line of flight, the composition of smooth space and of the movement of people in that space.  At this other pole, the machine does indeed encounter war, but as its supplementary or synthetic object, now directed against the State and against the worldwide axiomatic expressed by the States.

- A Thousand Plateaus, p. 422

When Robert Anton Wilson taught Crowley 101 in 2005 (the 101st anniversary of the reception of the Book of the Law, aka Liber Al) he asked the group how they interpreted the beginning of the third chapter of the Book of the Law, the one that advocates building a war machine.  A consensus of opinion decided it was a metaphor for a war against the inner forces and resistances (i.e. "nature") that block efforts to work on self.  These resistances can be very strong, hence the need for a war machine; not to make literal war on anything, especially yourself, but to draw a creative line of flight from the old set pattern of things to something new.  The old patterns won't give up without a fight.  The war machine, in this context, requires strategy, subtlety, cunning and panache among other things.  To use the war machine effectively we dissociate it from the common, brute practices and violence of literal war.  Only a few pages before the introduction of the war machine in the second chapter of Liber Al we see the instructions:

Be not animal; refine thy rapture!  If thou drink, drink by the eight and ninety rules of art: if thou love, exceed by delicacy; and if thou do aught joyous, let there be subtlety therein!

 - Liber Al 2:70

Apply that to the war machine!

A war machine appears a necessary mechanism whenever something wishes to break out of an established mileau or assemblage of any kind, or in other words, deterritorialize from a particular set, the current assemblage, establish a line of flight, make new connections, form new assemblages and reterritorialize into a different order.  The similarity to ritual magick appears evident.  The candidate for Initiation enters a specially created space, the ritual chamber, mentally and emotionally deterritorializes from consensual reality then establishes a creative line of flight into the magickal domain through the actions of the ritual, makes new connections and hopefully  a new assemblage of some kind takes shape according to the ritual's intention.  This type of activity, along with behavior reinforcement and the formation of different habits can reprogram and/or metaprogram the human biological machine.  It takes a war machine approach along with time and perseverance to make any real, permanent change.

Deleuze and Guttari speak in terms of the State versus Nomads to differentiate between that which is sedentary and seeks to maintain the inertia of the status quo ( the State), and that which is in motion, those aiming to deterritorialze from the State's strictures, overcodings, and mechanisms of control to explore different territorities and expand into new domains (Nomads).   They say it's the difference between striated space - the State's overcodings (laws, rules and regulations) and smooth space, no longer restricted by external control mechanisms.  Now "the State" can range in meaning from the literal political State, to the mainstream cultural mileau with its taboos and political correctness to any other agency imposing their own order and agenda.  The anti-war, counter-cultural movement of the late '60s and early '70s was nomadic by these definitions and used war machine tactics to fight to change State policy.  Looking back to the beginnings of modern civilization, D & G say that the war machine began with Nomads wishing to break free from the State.  The first axiom in their Treatise on Nomadology - The War Machine says:  The war machine is exterior to the State apparatus.  Later they say  the State can and does appropriate the war machine for its own ends, but it originally and continues to be used by maverick artists, explorers, free-thinkers, outsiders, radicals - nomads of all kinds to break free of established political and social order and create their own autonomous zones, their own ways of being - never at rest, always becoming anew.

The concept of the war machine lies deeply embedded all over the ideology of Thelema.  Somewhere early on in Confessions Crowley says (paraphrasing) that as soon as an aspirant sets foot on the path of Initiation they get beset by a host of complexes and resistances as if the denizens of the astral world recognize a new presence and go about rejecting it.  Similarly, Ouspensky says that as soon as the student begins to observe their sleep and begin the initial process of waking up, they will catch themselves falling into deeper sleep and unconsciousness.  The human machine seems fine cruising along on remote control but as soon as efforts get made to observe and change then it puts up a fight, a fight for what it considers its own survival.  Even doing the beginning yoga exercises Crowley suggests will make the body put up a strong fight.  The discipline to hold the posture and endure the pain and discomfort of the body shows  the war machine in action creating a line of flight. 

Horus, the deity or cosmic force that guides this age in the Thelemic pantheon, basically describes a war machine.  Horus = a war machine.  In the qabalistic table of Egyptian deities Horus is attributed to Geburah, a sephira corresponding to Mars ( Roman God of war) and the other war gods.  Horus is also attributed to Pe, another Mars correspondence, and the Tower, a tarot key that shows a clear picture of the war machine.  Again I stress that the war machine, most of the time, and in the context of alchemy, has nothing to do with the violence and bloodshed of literal war.  Rather, it has to do with a vigorously activated and applied force to overcome past programming, obstacles, challenges, laziness etc that impedes us from whatever we wish to do or become.

It's been said and observed, that the quality we consider the worst about ourselves will eventually become our greatest strength.  Perhaps this results from the necessity of a powerful war machine to transform or harness our worst qualities?  You need something to fight against.  Teachers like Gurdjieff and Crowley would sometimes deliberately place obstacles and challenges before their students to create the necessary friction that eventually produces a pearl, a crystallized formation of something new and precious.

In the Invocation of Horus Crowley and his wife Rose composed ( Magick 1st edition p. 413) which lead to the reception of  the Book of the Law, sections I,II,IV begin with, and they include in section III:
Strike, strike the master chord!
Draw, draw the Flaming Sword!
Crowned Child and Conquering Lord,
Horus, Avenger!

The war machine appears evident in this couplet.  The flaming sword refers to the synergy of high kinetic energy and highly concentrated and focused attention used as a weapon.  The master chord suggests music which gets confirmed in part E of section III: Mine are the dark blue waves of music in the song that I made of old to invoke Thee - then they give the couplet.  Here we see music attached to, or a part of the war machine.  

 Punk rock operated as a war machine briefly.  The U.S. Army used loud rock music as a weapon against Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega to get him to surrender.  A lot of the music and concerts of the 50's, 60's, 70's and still in the '80's made creative lines of flight outside social and cultural norms and expectations. 

The war machine turns up in the Four of Disks from the Thoth tarot.  It's titled POWER and suggests protection and defence. "... the suggestion of the card is that of a fortress."  Compare that with Crowley's Book of the Law advice quoted at the top of this post.  The Four of Disks is attributed to 125 in Sepher Sephiroth.  125 = 5 x 5 x 5 or 5 cubed.   5 = Geburah = War.  It seems to be saying that creating a fortress of protection and defence becomes a war machine activity.

Though I've emphasized the war machine concept, we remember the necessity of equilibrium and balance in our magickal endeavors.  Geburah, home of the war machine gets balanced on the Tree of Life by Chesed home of compassion and mercy.  The fire of Geburah tempered and cooled by the water of Chesed.  The path that connects them, Teth, corresponds with Horus in the table "Complete Practical Attributions of Egyptian Gods" from 777.  This tells us that Horus appears not only a god of force and fire, but of other multiplicities of characteristics which could include the loving kindness and mercy of Chesed.  Horus is a twin god, with an active, outgoing side ( Ra Hoor Kuit) and a passive, silent side ( Hoor pa Kraat).  Ra Hoor Kuit takes charge of the war machine, but we see this as only one half of the Horus equation.

Not a lot of the Deleuze and Guttari commentators I've read ( actually none so far) go into the spiritual/magickal/bardo implications of their concepts, but it seems obvious from Mark Seem's Introduction to Anti-Oedipus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia Part I (p. xix - xx) that these strata also make up their presentation:

"Like Laing, they [ D & G ] encourage mankind to take a journey, the journey through ego-loss.  They go much further than Laing on this point, however.  They urge mankind to strip itself of all anthropomorphic and anthropological armoring, all myth and tragedy, and all existentialism, in order to perceive what is nonhuman in man, his will and his forces, his transformations and mutations.  The human and social sciences have accustomed us to see the figure of Man behind every social event, just as Christianity taught us the see the Eye of the Lord looking down upon us.  Such forms of knowledge project an image of reality at the expense of reality itself.  They talk figures and icons and signs, but fail to perceive forces and flows.  They blind us to other realities, and especially the reality of power as it subjugates us.  Their function is to tame, and the result is docile and obedient subjects
Though it may look and sound a little dated, The Changeling by The Doors nicely shows a combination of the direction of D & G's musings and some sense of the Horus invocation.  This could be a Nomad manifesto of sorts.

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