Friday, December 30, 2016

Philosophy and Magick: Deleuze and Crowley with Special Guest Robert Anton Wilson

Magick could be called applied philosophy.  Philosophy can provide blueprints and start the ignis for affirmative action and intentional change. The two disciplines have been entwined dating back to antiquity.  The pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles introduced the division of matter into the four elements: Air, Water, Fire, Earth that continues as one fundamental principle of ritual magick to this day.  According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Empedocles: "has been regarded variously as a materialist physicist, a shamanic magician, a mystical theologian, a healer, a democratic politician, a living god, and a fraud."  Except for the democratic politician, that could pass for a description of Aleister Crowley.  The IEP goes on to say: "Empedocles did not make a clear separation between his philosophy of nature and the more mystical, theological aspects of his philosophy, and so may well have seen no great difference in kind between healing ills through empirical understanding of human physiognomy and healing by means of sacred incantations and ritual purifications."

An essential work of contemporary magical literature, The Tree of Life, A Study in Magic, by Israel Regardie, presents a clear and comprehensive overview of Golden Dawn-style magic.  The beginning of Chapter 3 starts with the section: "Necessity for philosophic training prior to undertaking practical work." Regardie makes the point quite clear:

Insisted upon by all the eminent Theurgists of past time of being of equal importance with practical work, and as a radical necessity giving precedence to that work, the august Philosophy which underlies the theory and technique of Magic is a prerequisite to any further discussion.  Indeed there can hardly be a real understanding of the rationale of Magic, and certainly no realization of the complexities taking place within and without the constitution of the Magician, if the corner stone of philosophy is not firmly laid in hir mind."

Couple of things about this quote: the subject "Theurgists" identifies the kind of Magic under discussion - magic to raise consciousness not magic to directly change something in the environment such as casting a love spell or winning the lottery.  Philosophy "as a radical necessity" squarely aligns with the approach of Gilles Deleuze - philosophy as a response to problematics.


Robert Anton Wilson, Aleister Crowley, and Gilles Deleuze share a common philosophical lineage in Friedrich Nietzsche.  I would add G.I. Gurdjieff  and P.D. Ouspensky to that list though in Gurdjieff's case it seems less verifiable.  We find much mythology over the sources of Gurdjieff's teaching and not much documented fact, to my knowledge.  Yet blatantly Nietzschean concepts find their way into his program to become elaborated and expanded upon.  We know from Ouspensky that Nietzsche was all the philosophical rage in Russian intellectual circles in the years immediate prior to Gurdjieff emerging upon the world stage in Russia.  Aleister Crowley candidly details his philosophic explorations in Confessions and elsewhere.  Several of Nietzsche's concepts get expanded into key points in Crowley's system: the crossing of the Abyss, the creation of the Overman, the revaluation of all values, etc. Crowley recognized Frederich Nietzsche's genius by anointing him a Saint in his Gnostic Mass. Nietzsche, in turn, was influenced by Baruch Spinoza.  Deleuze calls Spinoza the Christ of philosophers, "and we (i.e. other philosophers) are his disciples." Spinoza has been referred to as the first modern pantheist.  He was called an atheist in his time for rejecting the Judeo-Christian God in favor of an impersonal God of Nature - Nature's God.  This may have inspired the title for  third volume in Robert Anton Wilson's Historical Illuminatus series, Nature's God.  Wilson quotes Spinoza in Schrodinger's Cat at the beginning of the chapter Dancing Photons: "The intellectual love of things consists in understanding their perfections."

Nietzsche may have influenced Deleuze even more than Crowley or Gurdjieff.  Deleuze began his literary oeuvre with a series of historical portraits of, at the time, outsider philosophers like Hume, Nietzsche, Spinoza and Bergson.  He became known for using the history of philosophy for his own purposes, drawing out conclusions and interpretations to present a Deleuzean vision. Deleuze's Nietzsche appears quite different in significant ways then other interpretations.  Nietzsche has an image of great thinkers shooting the arrow of their work as far as possible with that arrow to be picked up by the next philosopher where it lands and flung further; building upon the work of your predecessors.  Both Deleuze and Crowley responded quite literally to this metaphor in different, but resonant ways. Deleuze wrote a significant and unique interpretation, Nietzsche and Philosophy, that revived interest in his philosophy in France just in time for the 1960's cultural revolution.  One of the last essays of his life beautifully summarized Nietzsche's philosophy.  In it, Deleuze claims to have found at least 12 different interpretations of the famous, " God is dead" proposition in Nietzsche's literary corpus. One of Deleuze's overall projects was to complete the concept of the Eternal Return which he said Nietzsche didn't have time to fully develop.  Deleuze notably does so at the conclusion of Difference and Repetition.  His interpretation disavows the common one, that everything repeats exactly the same, instead making the theory stand on its head to affirm difference as that which repeats.  The Eternal Return = repetition AND difference.  The film Groundhog Day provides an oversimplified example: it's always the same day, but there's always something different. The Eternal Return, as it appears in Finnegans Wake by James Joyce, became an early topic of discussion in the Tales of the Tribe course that Robert Anton Wilson gave. Finnegans Wake perfectly illustrates the difference and repetition of the Eternal Return.  Various cycles repeat themselves, sometimes frequently, yet they reveal something different every time.  Deleuze, for his part, borrowed the portmanteau term "chaosmos" - chaos + cosmos - from Finnegans Wake to describe the mixture of randomity and chance (chaos) with the ancient Greek philosophers who attempted to overlay order upon the world (cosmos).

 The Will to Power and Do What Thou Wilt.

It's said of some early 20th Century philosophers that one of their projects was to provide a
metaphysics for science.  We will offer a suggestion that Gilles Deleuze  provides a metaphysics for Thelema, the name of Aleister Crowley's agnostic religion.  It seems useful to look at Deleuze's interpretation of "the will to power, " a concept Nietzsche introduced, but didn't have time to fully explicate, in light of Crowley's "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" formulation. According to Ronald Bogue in Deleuze and Guattari, Deleuze defines the will to power as:

the genealogical element of force, both differential and genetic.  The will to power is the element from which derive both the quantitative difference of related forces and the quality that devolves into each force in this relation.  The will to power here reveals its nature as the principle of the synthesis of forces. (Nietzsche & Philosophy, p. 50, 56.)

Bogue gives an interpretation of Deleuze's interpretation:

It seems that Deleuze is here positing the will to power as a kind of inner center of force, a general orientation of becoming that only manifests itself in specific forces but goes beyond individual forces to link them in a line of development.

These two quotes are just an example of how the will to power can inform an approach to do what thou wilt.  The will to power, in this context, seems never about acquiring power over others, but rather getting power over yourself.  It seems you can acquire power over yourself through constant intentional change, or in other words, magick.  Through magick, you can gain self-mastery by making the self disappear.  Magick doesn't necessarily have to be exclusively improvised or directly followed from Crowley's rituals.  "Every intentional act is a Magical Act." (Magick, p.129). In the book Dialogues with Claire Parnet, Deleuze equates the will to power with the libido: "... an unbounded, free-floating energy which Freud called libido and which Nietzsche called will to power."  Crowley understood this same connection with his Do what thou wilt formula as evidenced by the sex magick instructions given in The Book of the Law, The Book of Lies and elsewhere in his writings.

Perhaps the core gist of Crowley's theurgic magick can be seen by how he composed his letters.  His correspondence to all and sundry always began, "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law."  This magically consecrates the letter with the collected forces and intentionality of this writing event (the letter) according to "the law."  After the body of the letter he tell us what law when signing off with, "love is the law, love under will."  In other words, no matter what they say, all of Crowley's correspondence used this magick formula to make them an intentional act of love under will; higher emotional, mental and somatic forces collected and given a specific direction; the preferred weapon of healers everywhere. At the start of Robert Anton Wilson's Crowley's 101 online course in 2005 ( the 101st anniversary of the reception of  The Book of the Law), Wilson began and ended his posts in the same way making them all acts of love under will.  He appeared quite fastidious about that for a time.

One of the biggest misunderstandings in Crowley's work to new friends and old foes alike is misinterpreting do what thou wilt for do what you want.  This seems completely wrong by the fact that it appears to inject the personality of the ordinary self into the equation.  "Thou" and "you" can't be exchanged without changing the entire sense of the statement.  A big mystery in the formula: who or what does "thou" represent?  What is meant by "thou?" If I recall correctly, it's somewhere in Illuminatus! where Wilson suggests that thou indicates the union of the personal will with God's will. Thou gets commonly interpreted as the source of the True Will  - the will of the deep self or true self as opposed to the human animal's will.  This still renders the meaning of "thou" as something mysterious, abstract, and difficult to grasp in a concrete way.

Deleuze's philosophy demonstrates the illusory nature of the subject - any subject, the idea of the subject as a real thing, a static entity transcendent and separate from its actions.  He takes this up from Nietzsche and other philosophers who say the common view of unchanging sedentary subjects who do things or have properties appears ultimately a consensual illusion programmed into us by the subject/predicate nature of language.  Loosening and getting more flexible with the programming of self, the world and God and of the ordinary way of seeing things seems an initial step in any mystery school. On page 3 of The Logic of Sense, Deleuze uses the "contesting of Alice's personal identity" in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass stories as an example of language and identity.  Deleuze writes:

"But when substantives and adjectives begin to dissolve, when the names of pause and rest are carried away by the verbs of pure becoming and slide into the language of events, all identity disappears from the self, the world and God.'

Although it sounds like the subject due to the requirements of language, "thou" in do what thou wilt can't be a set subject because we have no set subject. (In Egyptian mythology the god Set, of course, becomes the enemy of Horus, the "crowned and conquering child" of Thelemic chaosmology). Crowley affirms this with a comment in The Book of Lies: "Man is only himself when lost to himself in the charioteering;" i.e. the subject gets lost in the process or what Deleuze calls the event.

The reason that Nietzsche and Deleuze and others don't like a static subject is because it implies something, a metaphysical critter of some sort, continuously and permanently transcendent (outside) the conditions of its existence; a ghost in the machine.  Gilles and Friedrich prefer immanence to transcendence on the grand scale.  Although I suspect he didn't pick the title, Deleuze's last slim collection of essays released posthumously was called Pure Immanence to reflect the nature of his passion.

Nietzsche vehemently opposed the Christianity of his time because it subjugated its victims to the oppressive rules of a transcendent philosophy.  It is said that God made man in his image, but it seems more likely that man ended up making God in man's image with the help of the transcendent philosophies propounded by Plato, Aristotle and their followers.  The Christian God became an abstract, anthropomorphic ideal outside and beyond human experience.  You could only get to God by transcending human life when you died, but only if you behaved in the proscribed way.  All life, to the true believers, became beholden and regulated to a set of abstract transcendental ideals.

The philosophy of immanence, on the other hand, supposes that nothing happens outside of natural life - no abstract ideals serving as models for how to live life.  With his historical profiles, Deleuze championed philosophers of Immanence, in particular Spinoza and Nietzsche and updated the concept in ways particularly productive for the theurgic practitioner.  Aleister Crowley's extravagant claim that his school can produce "Christs," (Postcards to Probationers) could only be realized if that circuit (C6 in Leary's model) has an immanent relationship to the student's process.  To have any effect at all, magick require a philosophy of Immanence.  Crowley's 12th Thereom clearly reflects the immanent nature of magick:

WoMan appears ignorant of the nature of hir own being and powers.  Even hir ideas of hir limitations appears based on experience of the past, and every step in hir progress extends hir empire. There seems therefore no reason to assign theoretical limits to what she may be, or to what she may do.

 - Magick, p. 130, (translation modified).

One of the most significant books in Aleister Crowley's secondary literature is Illuminatus! by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson.  On one level, the book presents a guide to qabala (or cabala as they quaintly spell it), the ten chapters are named after the sephiroth on the Tree of Life.  The first chapter, the first sephira is Kether which refers to God in a general way without indicating or advocating any specific theist belief system though later on it seems pantheism becomes resonant with Kether.  The first sentence in Illuminatus! reads: 

It was the year when they finally immanentized the Eschaton. 

Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge, says that the phrase originated in 1952 as a political theory in Eric Voegelin’s. The New Science of Politics.  It means: “trying to make that which belongs to the afterlife happen here and now on Earth” or “trying to create heaven here on Earth.”  Wilson and Shea immediately align themselves to a philosophy of Immanence in alignment with the Thelemic current for which they contribute an unique exegesis.  Incidentally, the first narrator in Illuminatus! sounds remarkably like Lewis Carroll’s Alice when she’s unsure about who she is.  Illuminatus! begins right off with uncertainty about personal identity while, as mentioned, Deleuze confronts this point almost immediately in The Logic of Sense.  Uncertain personal identity challenges the reality and validity of the subject getting replaced by the dynamic process, or the event.  “I seem to be a verb, “ as Buckminster Fuller used to say.

For further research: this first sentence, "It was the year when they finally immanentized the Eschaton."  adds to 80.

Repetition and Love Under Will

In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze radically redefines the regular meaning of repetition.  He divides repetition into two kinds, bare and clothed.  A bare repetition is something that repeats in exactly the same way with no change.  A clothed repetition repeats something, but always in a different way which can include bringing in something  a little bit new, something different, or at the other end of the spectrum, a complete transformation.  Deleuze deals almost exclusively with clothed repetitions.  Whenever Deleuze uses the word repetition he means a clothed repetition unless indicated otherwise.  For him, repetition is how change occurs.  It occurs due to the difference each repetition can potentially bring.  When you add intention to the mix it becomes magick - causing change to occur under will.  You repeat the same ritual over and over and each time it's different in some way, different results, different affects and sensations.  Mix engineers naturally and instinctively know this.  Setting up an audio mix requires listening to the same piece of music repetitively for hours at a time.  Every playback has something different about it, something different gets perceived even if no changes were made to the mix. In general, over a lifetime you can listen to a song or a piece of music many, many, many times and hear it, feel it, sense it, and dance to it differently each time.  Never just repetition, always difference and repetition.

Repetition + Difference + Intention = Magick.

Difference and Repetition was Gilles Deleuze's first book devoted to his own philosophy. Up until that time, 1968, all his publications were historical sketches of other philosophers.  Difference and Repetition was his doctoral thesis.  On page 2 he writes:

The head is the organ of exchange, but the heart is the amorous organ of repetition.  (It is true that repetition also concerns the head, but precisely because it is its terror or paradox)."

The definition of amorous: "inclined or disposed to love, especially sexual love.  Practitioners of tantra, sex magick, and kundalini yoga maintain that sexual energy and spiritual energy refer to different uses of the same energy.  Calling the heart an amorous organ, giving it a sexual force obviously not a physical one, aligns with the efforts of the yogis to draw the kundalini energy up the spine  opening the heart chakra among all the others. The head as repetition's terror or paradox will get examined in a subsequent post that compares the use of paradox by Deleuze and Crowley.  It will be seen that creative repetition for Deleuze requires the cooperation of the head, the heart, and the somatic or sexual forces.  This appears to link repetition with difference to the will to power.  Combining repetition, as Deleuze describes it, with his interpretation of will to power seems an awful lot like love under will.

The way I see it, Deleuze beginning his doctoral thesis by identifying the heart as the organ of repetition (remember, he means clothed repetition, repetition with something different, repetition that brings change) seems cognate with Aleister Crowley insisting to students of the A.'. A.'. that all initial magical efforts should get directed to or focused upon attaining the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.  This operation represents one of the two main tasks in Thelema and takes place in the sphere of Tiphareth, the central Sephiroth on the Tree of Life, the Sephiroth connected to the heart chakra.  Illuminatus! begins in New York's Central Park, an obvious representation for Tiphareth.  Where else could you start if you're writing a guide to qabalah as one of Crowley's brightest students?  I suspect Wilson wrote most or all of the Crowley material in Illuminatus! unless it was Shea.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Crowley/Deleuze show featuring the use of paradox.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Neuromancer, Leary's S.M.I L.E. and the 23 Enigma

"Technology invariably trumps ideology.  We develop ideologies as a way of coping with technologies; technology as drivers, ideologies as attempts to steer."

 - Mass Consensual Hallucinations with William Gibson  

The previous post gave information on the technology of Orb Running; more generally, it gave information on a technology for transformative brain change.  S.M.I.2L.E., an acronym devised by Timothy Leary, formulates an open-ended, endlessly ramifying ideology for the future: Space Migration + Intelligence Increase + Life Extension. It serves as a practical formula for individuals on any kind of evolutionary trajectory as well as providing a conceptual basis for the advancement of collective human endeavor; a reach for the stars.

Neuromancer, by William Gibson, gives a compelling and visceral literary expression of the S.M.I.2L.E. paradigm.  For example, the book populates the L4 and L5 orbital belts, where Gerard K. O'Neil and Timothy Leary wanted to establish space colonies, with worlds that resemble Leary's High Orbital Mini Earths (H.O.M.E.s), but with a realistic, gritty, human portrayal as opposed to Leary's more utopian vision.  That covers Space Migration in the conventional exterior sense. Space Migration also gets implied in the interior sense through the characters adventures in cyberspace.  Life Extension turns up in two prominent ways. The power-elite clan, the Tessier-Ashpools, keep their own meat carcasses frozen in cryogenic suspension with timed intervals of reanimation in order to extend their physical life span.  Online immortality gets a play through the character of Dixie Flatline whose mind and personality managed to get downloaded onto a storage device before his meat carcass died in a cyberspace misadventure.  Dixie seems mentally as sharp as ever when the personality/mind  recording  (a soul recording?) from his deceased body gets uploaded back into the matrix.  He frequently becomes Case's (main protagonist) guide and informant in the cyberspace realm whenever Case jacks into the matrix. Both of these forms of Life Extension get a dystopian treatment in Neuromancer, a radical departure from Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson's hyperbolic optimism on the subject.  The Tessier-Ashpools complain of the cryogenic cold they can feel, the patriarch ends up committing suicide to get away from it.  They are the richest, most powerful family and they are also the coldest.  They're almost all cold.  No social/political/economic metaphor there! Dixie Flatline hints at some dark existential suffering and asks Case to delete him after his duties have been discharged.

The central part of the S.M.I.2L.E. formula, Intelligence Increase, seems the least obvious, the most occult and hidden in the book, yet also the most optimistic.  Most of the events in Neuromancer get put into motion by a huge Artificial Intelligence named Wintermute, a veritable V.A.L.I.S. - a Vast Active Living Intelligence System.  In this regard, it's interesting to hear Gibson in a 2010 interview with Steve Paikin suggest that Google is an Artificial Intelligence; "[it's a] vast hive mind that consists of us."  Wintermute was designed and put into existence by one of the Tessier-Ashpools (3Jane if I remember correctly) to mute the winter, the incessant coldness that seeps into the bones of the cryogenically frozen.  This coldness seems more than physical discomfort and pain, a sense gets conveyed of emotional and existential coldness as well.  That the AI Wintermute becomes a solution to this problem implies that whoever designed it can transfer their awareness and cognitive abilities out of their frozen meat carcasses and into its vast active living intelligence system.  I would call that an increase in intelligence to have that ability.

Gibson borrows the idea of I.C.E., which stands for Intrusion Countermeasure Electronics, from fellow science fiction writer, Tom Maddox, to protect the architectonic structures of propietary corporate data.  To penetrate any large system of data in cyberspace you first have to cut through the ICE.  Qabalistically speaking, ice is frozen water and water always relates to emotions.  In this light, ICE becomes a metaphor for Wilhelm Reich's concept of emotional armor.  The name Wintermute suggests a shedding of this ice, this emotional armor, on a vast scale. Intrusion Countermeasures Electronics seems one of those puns with two completely opposite meanings.  The intelligence increase communicated in Neuromancer primarily concerns emotional intelligence of the higher kind; what Leary and Wilson refer to as circuit 6 in their model.  This emotional intelligence appears refreshingly free of sentimentality; sentimentality = sense the mental, not real emotional intelligence at all.

Gibson seems so tuned in and turned on to Leary's vision that I attempted to find out what kind of influence Leary had on him before he wrote the book.  I couldn't find any evidence that he'd ever read Leary or Wilson, but also didn't have much time to research it. Leary and Gibson certainly bonded after Neuromancer published.  Leary developed the video game Neuromancer based on the book.  He also included the two obvious life extension methods Gibson put in the novel in a 1991 essay for Magical Blend magazine: 22 Alternatives to Involuntary Death.  This got expanded and is currently available as the book Alternatives To Involuntary Death.

In an interview Leary did with Gibson, the good doctor mentioned that the only book he'd ever annotated besides Neuromancer was Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon.  He went on to relate how he'd received Gravity's Rainbow in prison after a long spell of no books in solitary confinement; like eating an incredible meal when starving.  No wonder he took a strong imprint with that book.  Gibson related that when he got Gravity's Rainbow he retired from all other activity for several days to read and reread it; voluntary solitary confinement.  Neuromancer and Gravity's Rainbow are two very different books, but what they both have in common is the frequent and visceral portrayal of death, so much so that you could say it becomes a character or an underlying omnipresent condition.  Neuromancer (the name of the book, but also the name of an AI character in the book, Wintermute's twin, thus revealing the book as a form of AI) gives it away in the first sentence, "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."  Leading with, "The sky," ending with "dead channel" suggests viewing death as a transcendent change as opposed to an absolute nihilistic end or some other terrible thing.  The title Gravity's Rainbow commonly gets explained as indicating the rainbow-like trajectory of the V-2 rocket as gravity pulls it to Earth.  Pynchon, known for his multiple meanings and levels of writing as well as his expertise in qabalah (see Against the Day), could just as well have named it Gravity's Rainbow to indicate the trajectory of a person's life as it's brought back down to the ground through gravity of death.  In popular mythology, rainbow means God's promise or just hope, so if we see it as the gravity of death, then the rainbow indicates some kind of transcendent promise or hope.  Again, death appearing as as transcendent change.

In turn, Neuromancer appears to have influenced Pynchon, particularly in his last book, Bleeding Edge, in which the internet and the deep web play as strong a role in the plot's landscape as the matrix did in Neuromancer.  The powerful antagonist putting up great obstacles in Bleeding Edge is named Gabriel Ice. Pynchon would know that Archangel Gabriel represents the element Water in qabalah; Gabriel Ice reinforces the notion of water (emotions) that is frozen.  Pynchon seems to have to same intent as Gibson did with ICE though connecting it more with the everyday human world by making it a main character. 

There are 24 chapters in Neuromancer and there are 24 stages in Leary's 8 Circuit model of consciousness as given in his book The Game of Life.  I remember Leary prefacing a lot of the stages and circuits with neuro: neurosomatic, neuroelectric, neurogenetic, neuroatomic etc. then a few years later out comes Neuromancer which seems like a doctoral thesis on S.M.I.2L.E.

I believe this illustration is by Bobby Campbell, but I'm not certain.

We see more I2 information in the names Gibson gives his characters.  One of them, Finn, is a surrogate used by Wintermute to deliver messages and help out Case.  He seems to pop up at random times throughout such that when he reappears you could say, "There's Finn again." I made the connection to Finnegans Wake in the first post, but there's more.  The initials of the main male character in Finnegans Wake is HCE, in Neuromancer it's HDC (Henry Dorsett Case). The H in Finnegans Wake stands for Humphrey.  We have Humphrey and Henry as the protagonists in the two books. We are told  HCE also stands for Here Comes Everybody in Finnegans Wake suggesting that James Joyce wrote the character to represent everyone or anyone.  Except for one instance, Case is always referred to by his last name.  The pun in his name seems obvious, Case could potentially be anyone, a test subject for the next step.  His middle name, Dorsett = door + set; that appears an obvious qabalistic reference to higher emotional intelligence; door = daleth = the letter "d" = Venus.  The difference between HCE and HDC is the letter D in the latter.  The main female character, Molly Millions, suggests Tiphareth because of the 6 zeroes in the numerical form of her last name.  Except for one mention, her last name is hidden throughout, she's only known as Molly.

At some point toward the end of my most recent voyage through Neuromancer I began to wonder if Gibson had ever read Robert Anton Wilson.  I knew he was very influenced by William Burroughs, it becomes quite obvious at times. The 23 Enigma represents one clear point of conjunction between Wilson and Burroughs.  Burroughs first noticed the coincidence of the number 23 in relation to two disasters, a ferry boat sinking and a plane crash he heard about on the radio.  No record of that plane crash has been found so it's possible he made the whole thing up or was implanted with a false memory to get the information out.  It certainly didn't stop synchronicities with 23 from wreaking ontological havoc with many otherwise skeptical minds.  Not long after I began this wondering, actually almost instantly, I came across the following passage on p. 189:

She smiled, but it was gone too quickly, and she gritted her teeth at the stabbing pain in her leg as she began to climb.  The ladder continued up through a metal tube, barely wide enough for her shoulders. She was climbing up out of gravity toward the weightless axis
Her chip pulsed the time.

The character climbing up is Molly, with Case there virtually.  He has a device that lets him switch from the matrix to jack into her nervous system and experience everything she does. This is the first instance we see a time readout, it recurs about 4 or 5 more times though never again with a 23. I couldn't tell if Gibson was hip to the 23 phenomena until I read the first sentence of chapter 23. Most people, after they get afflicted by this condition, ask, "what does it mean, all these 23s?" Wilson writes in Cosmic Trigger, " I accepted the 23 engima as something I should attempt to decipher."  If we consider that this is one of those 23s and that it relates to her climbing out of gravity then a meaning is suggested that connects 23 with some kind of greater or lesser transcendent experience, climbing up the ladder one rung at a time.  I consider it a good sign when I encounter synchs with 23.

The opening sentence of Chapter 23 reads:

Molly fished the key out on its loop of nylon.

I could compose a whole 'nother blog about the qabalistic correspondences in this densely informational innocent looking sentence, but I'll try to restrain this tendency.
fish = Nun = death
both "out" and "on" represent different magick formulas in Crowley's language.
the key = death  ("fished the key") ???
the key = "out" ( the formula of OUT gets explained in Chapter 23 of The Book of Lies) ???
the key = "on" ( see the listing for 120 in 777) ???
the key = out on ???
All of the above, some or none of the above???
Robert Anton Wilson states unequivocally that 23 became an important key for him.

The single name Case always goes by reminded me of Neo from the Matrix trilogy. Case as a prototype, Neo as a prototype.  Molly and Trinity could be twins.  The blatant connection, besides the name, is a Rastafari one: the last human city in the Matrix is Zion, the name of Jah's promised land.  Zion is a small Rasta space colony in Neuromancer.  It's head operator, Maelcum, gives Case much help, eventually rescuing him.  Case has a death/rebirth experience at the end of Chapter 23:

And he woke again thinking he dreamed, to a wide white smile framed with gold incisors, Aerol strapping him into a g-web in Babylon Rocker.
And then the long pulse of Zion dub.

Again, some amazing qabalah.  For instance, "strapping him into a g-web" indicates the path of Gimel which connects Tiphareth and Kether; the heart with Zion.  The High Priestess becomes the guide for that path, in Thelema she is called Babalon and she does become a rock of stability through the nebulous, treacherous terrain of the desert Gimel passes through.  Molly Millions plays  the role of Babalon, the High Priestess, in Neuromancer.  Her last name gives it away. 

Interestingly, Gibson has said that he doesn't care for didactic science fiction stories.  In a 2012 interview with UNCUT posted on YouTube he discusses his writing process:

My job when I write a book is to access a lot of parts of myself that are magical, and they're not particularly remarkable, but they're not available to me ordinarily, they became available to me through the process of writing the book. So I sometimes get the strange sense of sitting there and watching it happening, which is great!  It's good work when you can get it.  I don't get it that often.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Orb Runners: Metaprogramming, Magick and Neuromancer

The metaprogramming world appears mostly blue and very watery.  To activate a different metaprogramming module in this world, to enter a new set of instructions into the Deep Self, one has to swim through a channel of cool clear water; the modules are connected through canals of water. Metaprogramming code doesn't get written on the surface, it gets written in the depths to be played out on the surface.  One has to dive deep into the depths,  a potentially hazardous activity, or bring the depths to the surface in order to reprogram the code; to make a significant change.  Metaprogramming - a computer programming term adapted by Dr. John Lilly for the purposes of self-induced, voluntary evolution.  It means  programming our programming, changing our habits and  ways of functioning, our automatic, reflexive responses, how we habitually see the world.  This is a post about a technology making possible conscious change in the depths and on the surface.

Orb Runners jack into the Virtual Reality (VR) of the Prosperity Path Orbs like Case jacking into the  cyberspace matrix in William Gibson's dystopian Sci-Fi thriller, Neuromancer.  The graphics in these orbs look primitive beside contemporary World of Warcraft-type computer video games, yet they're good enough to provide a doppleganger, a cybernetic body double, a vessel to place conscious attention into that allows the game runner to enter another world: jack into cyberspace.  Cyber originates from an ancient Greek word that means "to steer."  What does that mean, 'to steer space?' Who is driving?  This digs up a memory of the hilarious Abbott and Costello comedy sketch, "Who's on First?" We call it voyaging the Macrodimensions of the Labyrinth, in bardo terminology.  Ariadne's thread becomes the thread of consciousness; maintain the thread of consciousness.

We model orb running after Neuromancer for several obvious reasons.  Just read from the title to the first line in this pdf here  remembering that the metaprogramming world renders blue.  The first line of the book reads:  "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."  Tell your vision Mr. Gibson.  Or check out these initial descriptions of getting jacked in to cyberspace.  They correspond point for point with orb running:

"... jacked in to a custom cyberspace deck that projected his disembodied consciousness into the consensual hallucination of the matrix. A thief, he'd worked for other, wealthier thieves, employers who provided the exotic software required to penetrate the bright walls of corporate systems, opening windows into rich fields of data."  (p. 5)

"Corporate systems" = body.

Compare this to when Case (the protagonist) has his Fall (which happens right near the beginning just as in Finnegans Wake, another Book of the Dead):

"For Case, who lived for the bodiless exultation of cyberspace, it was the Fall.  In the bars he frequented as a cowboy hotshot, the elite stance involved a certain relaxed contempt for the flesh.  The body was meat.  Case fell into the prison of his own flesh." (p. 6)

Gibson also has a character named Finn in Neuromancer; Another bardo writer, William Burroughs is another obvious influence as is, I suspect, Thomas Pynchon. On page 49 Case is asked if he's ever worked with the dead.  Then on p. 51 we get another direct connection to orb running:

"The matrix has its roots in primitive arcade games," said the voice-over, "in early graphics programs and military experimentation with cranial jacks."

In the audio world, a jack plug is a 1/4" connector.  A jack cable, as they call them in Europe, is a common guitar cable used to plug an electric guitar into an amplifier.  To jack in is to connect.  You jack into an orb with your attention. One thing it shares in common with Magick.

Gibson's brilliant writing and superb descriptive use of language communicates a palpable sense of alternate worlds and virtual realities.  The reader uses their imagination to enter the VR of the story and receives a taste of dimensions outside the consensual human one. In the same way, Orb Runners uses their various attentions - sight, sound, visualization of tactile and aromatic sensations etc. -  to get a full immersion into the Orb; to get an experience of that Virtual Reality and effect change in the process.

The virtual and the actual both seem real; virtual reality, actual reality, both real  The virtual in between the events of the actual = the bardo, the place of choice-points where metaprogramming can occur.  The virtual worlds of the Orbs are not only real and alive in their own way, practical application has shown they can influence and affect the actual world both implicitly and explicitly. Orb running = one kind of magick, ritual magick.  Don't take my word for it, experimentation will verify or refute these propositions.

Most of the orbs are intended to either increase the intensity of a quality that's lacking (eg. the Courage orb) or remove/reduce an excess of an undesireable quality (eg. the Worry, Obsession, Anger Detox orbs.), or perform a specific function (Chakra Cleanse, Karma Burn, Get Well Soon, Clear Light, etc) Some orbs are designed to impart or help strengthen a skill (eg. Astral Trainer) Running orbs becomes a service when the orb is run on behalf of someone or something else. To do this you press the "P" key on the keyboard upon opening the program which brings up a prompt to enter the name of the entity or entities you wish to run.  The benefits of the run still accrue to the proxy runner in the same way as a bardo reading benefits the reader along with the voyager who receives it.

The Orb Selection Portal divides the orbs into 8 categories.  The majority of orbs I run are in the Remedies or Cleansing categories.  The Get Well Soon orb, found in the Power category, has an obvious use for Healers.  One runner I know has recently been running this orb for the United States.  Other frequent fliers are found in the Specialty category: Peace, 6 Worlds, Metaprogramming and Stress Relief are some of those.  Many of the orbs have a similar structural form and/or shared aspects that cut across categories.  For instance the Panic and Find It worlds appear very similar with the main difference being that there are things to find in one of them.  I won't tell you which one.  The titles of the orbs don't necessarily determine the reason for running it.  You don't have to be in a panic to benefit from the Panic orb.  I run this one frequently not because of often getting subject to panic or anxiety attacks, but because it has a nice representation of the 4 Elements, Air, Water, Fire, Earth - good to use for balance.

Common features in the orbs may indicate how this brand of magick works.  Remember that all of the orbs were designed by E.J. Gold aided by his team of programmers.  E.J. Gold demonstrates expert familiarity with qabalah in his books so it behooves us to at least glance in that direction to help grok the orbs.

As soon as you - in the embodiment of your cyberspace avatar brought to life with your attentions - step into many of the orbs, a voice, sometimes female, sometimes male, says:

You are presently Out of Body. Proceed ahead for full HUD boost.

Just as Case "jacked in to a custom cyberspace deck that projected his disembodied consciousness into the consensual hallucination of the matrix." HUD stands for Heads Up Display. More explanation on these game details is found in an earlier post.  That post also fleshes out the transformational potential, the magick, of these orbs.

Several orbs have a black Cube with 9 discs on each of the 6 faces.  When you pick it up, the voice of a Guide says:

Your Matrix Attunement was successful, COUPLING FACTOR is in.

Matrix connects with Neuromancer while also suggesting the Matrix trilogy of films which also has much valuable information pertinent to voyaging in computer simulated worlds.   There appear several points of contact and overlap between Neuromancer and the Matrix trilogy.  The electronics definition of coupling factor is given in the earlier post linked to above.  Coupling factor can have several meanings.  I look at it as resonance that communicates energy.  Also see it as a coupling between the virtual reality of the video game and the actual reality of the human playing it.  This makes it possible for events in the game to affect the player playing it. Step into the white fountain spraying blue streams of water with its circular troughs collecting pools of water in the Stress Relief, Pain, Panic, Amy's Beauty Boost, or Find It orbs and experience the sensation of cooling off in the human operator.

We also see a coupling going on between the Sun and the Moon.  The six sides of the Cube indicate Tiphareth, the Sun, while the nine discs correspond with Yesod, The Moon.  In the Thoth tarot, the Nine of Wands portrays this solar/lunar connection; "this brings the Energy back into balance." (The Book of Thoth p.193).  Acquiring the Cube in the orb occultly activates the quality of balance.  The very first book in Aleister Crowley's school found at the beginning of the Equinox Volume I Number I is Liber Librae.  Librae = Libra = the scales of Justice = balance.  The first book Lon Milo Duquette assigned us to read in his online magick course was Liber Librae.  This Cube, found one way or another at the start of almost all the orbs, resonates the note of "balance" with the beginning of the Hermetic path as presented by Crowley and Duquette.  It's worth quoting the opening three verses of Liber Librae:
0. Learn first — Oh thou who aspirest unto our ancient Order! — that Equilibrium is the basis of the Work. If thou thyself hast not a sure foundation, whereon wilt thou stand to direct the forces of Nature 

1. Know then, that as man is born into this world amidst the Darkness of Matter, and the strife of contending forces; so must his first endeavor be to seek the Light through their reconciliation.   

2. Thou then, who hast trials and troubles, rejoice because of them, for in them is Strength, and by their means is a pathway opened unto that Light.

"Thou then, who has trials and troubles, rejoice because of them ..." - seems encouraging under almost any circumstances. "... a pathway opened unto that Light." literally describes many of the end runs in the Orbs - what I called the "light wash corridor" in the earlier post in the Color Radiation section. I recommend Orb Runners read the entire short text of Liber Librae.

We find a similar image in Neuromancer:

Lines of faint light began to form, verticals and horizontals sketching an open cube around the stage.  The restaurant's lights had come back up slightly, but the framework surrounding the stage might have been constructed by frozen moonbeams.  Head bowed, eyes closed, arms rigid at his sides, Riviera seemed to quiver with concentration."(p.139)

We identify two essential keys for effective magick running the Orbs.  Jacking in and endurance.  Jacking in means immersing as much as possible all of one's sensory and extra sensory attentions into the Orb environment.  You are not looking at graphics on a screen, rather you are in another world teeming with life just as much as the one you came from.  Feel the weather of the orb, the humidity or dryness of the air on the skin.  Get a sense of the texture of the walls.  Feel the cool stones on the feet in some orbs or the soft grass in others; the fog rising from the cobblestones when starting the Courage or Hero orbs  Scale down visual perceptions to the size of the avatar so that when you encounter huge Buddha or Star Goddess (Nuit) statues, etc. you get a sense of the awesomeness of their size; that same sense of an unexpected vista and grandiose feeling you might get the first time being inside the skyscraper canyons of New York City, seeing the Grand Canyon or a Redwood tree, possibly Niagara Falls; maybe boarding a gigantic ocean liner?  It's the sense of suddenly encountering something infinitely larger.

Just as ritual magick stimulates all the senses to align with the invocation or evocation, we use our imagination in all our senses to immerse our collected presence into the gaming orb.  Smell the sweet pea and vanilla fragrance of Wisteria or tangy lemony smell of Daphnes, or however you picture the flora and fauna in the Peace Orb or any of the other orbs with lush, verdant landscapes.

The music and sounds in these monads contribute a great deal to the magick.  E.J. Gold's flute playing turns up in several orbs especially the cleansing ones.  I wrote elsewhere of West African flautists who played their flutes over our bodies to psychically cleanse our energy fields. This kind of psychic cleansing gets highly recommended on a daily basis to any sensitive who regularly comes into contact with humans.

We get some help from Neuromancer for jacking into an Orb avatar.  This describes Case's awareness when it goes into another body:

The abrupt jolt into the other flesh.  Matrix gone, a wave of sound and color.....She was moving through a crowded street, past stalls vending discount software, prices feltpenned on sheets of plastic, fragments of music from countless speakers.  Smells of urine, free monomers, perfume, patties of frying krill.  For a few frightened seconds he fought hopelessly to control her body.  Then he willed himself into passivity, became the passenger behind her eyes. (p.56)

In the Remedy and Power orbs the player gets a selection of different avatars to choose from between various male, female or animal characters.  Trying on different bodies to run the orbs results in different perceptions and sensations.  It appears a practical way to get the sense of the shamanic practice called shapeshifting.  Ever wonder what it would feel like to travel as a fish?

The second key is endurance.  It seems that the longer a player is able to stay in the Prosperity Path Orbs, the stronger the effect becomes, the greater the magick.  This doesn't mean grimly holding on fighting back tears of boredom just to stay in one world.  Some of the orbs have things to do that encourage a longer stay.  The key to endurance is repetition; run the orbs on a frequent basis.  Repetition in the Deluezian sense where whatever repeats is different.  In other words, run the orbs frequently, but always slightly different.  One can stay interested, and thus attentive, after several thousand runs of any particular orb by noticing what is different about it, or running it in a different way; paying attention to and affirming difference.  For instance, notice the size difference of the Cube in the Anger, Guilt and Energy orbs as compared to others orbs like Stress Relief, Peace or Karma Wash.

Different orb runs can get stacked, played one after the other, to form a series.  I've had success combining the Courage and Hero orbs when preparing for excursions out of the country or even travel outside my zip code.

There exists a class of orbs that require only 1 - 3 minutes to run.  These all end with the colored light wash corridor leading into the Clear Light.  Before this corridor is an area I refer to as the middle antechamber as it denotes a space dividing the outer courtyard from the light wash end run.  Often, you'll see three Buddhas on either side, six in total to suggest Tiphareth.  The two sides appear symmetrical, but often it's possible to discern a subtle difference.  For instance, in Amy's Beauty Boost, the middle antechamber has two "lightfalls" - like waterfalls, but with light - on either side.  If you bring yourself (in the avatar) close to the lightfalls on the left side, she is able to sit at the edge whereas she has to stand when close on the right side.  If the middle antechamber = Tiphareth then the left side would be the Pillar of Mercy and the right side, the Pillar of Severity.  It's more severe to have to stand, merciful to sit.  Subtleties such as this, qabalistic or otherwise, abound through the orbs.

Another way to notice differences in orb run repetitions is to pay attention to the juxtaposition of spoken word statements ("You are now carrying a copy of the American Book of the Dead" etc.) with the musical and environmental soundtrack.  Sometimes you'll pick up something with its statement at the same time a flourish on the flute occurs as if accenting or affirming that event.  Through observation, the various series of sounds can form a disjunctive synthesis between each other determined, in part, by the chance operation of the run trajectory.  The whole soundfield then becomes perceived as a musical event. 

Metaprogramming - one of my favorite runs.  The Metaprogramming orb has seven modules, in common with the Law of Octaves, with the octave note appearing as the Clear Light at the finish.  Each module has qabalistic references - module 2 feels very much like Chokmah, module 3 like Binah, etc.  There are subtle lessons in qabalah in each of them.  Try running through module 6 with diffused vision and see what happens.  Some quite interesting visual effects can be created by going very close and into any of the crystals found in each module. It can encompass the whole screen and look like a completely different world. Or recall the passages in Neuromancer when Case is jacked into the matrix trying to navigate through the ice, the protective software of large cyberspace entities.

Metaprogramming requires death.  The Sufis say, die before you die. Ordinary programming, the so-called personality or ego, has to get temporarily suspended, in effect, die, before the new code can be imprinted.  Ego death seems necessary to reach the depths where metaprogramming becomes effective.  A gentler approach is to bring the depths closer to the surface where the attentive player can meet them halfway.  If this has the side effect of making the transition through physical death easier, then you'll just have to live with that.


Friday, October 21, 2016

Recording Diary: Riley Pinkerton and Signs

 And life was black and white; the Technicolor was just around the corner, but it wasn't there yet in 1959.  People really do want to touch each other, to the heart.  That's why you have music.  if you can't say it, sing it. - Keith Richards, Life, p.56 

Every time I tried the lock on the glass door at night, the key wouldn't turn the deadbolt over.  It was like trying to pull Excalibur out of the stone, it wouldn't budge.  There were other doors and other locks guarding the studio so it wasn't a problem until I got back late Saturday night from a dinner in the City and realized the glass door would likely be locked Sunday morning when we were planning to work.  Passing by the studio that night, the door was locked so I thought to try it to see ... and it worked, the sword was pulled from the stone.  It even continued to open the door the next morning allowing us to use the studio.  That's a good sign.

The experiment is to find the most musical (magical) person or group available and allow an assemblage between musicians and recording studio to form over a period of time with the intention of drawing down a musical current, a living presence of higher, non-human intelligence; i.e.  a cool song or 11!  The artist, in this case, Riley Pinkerton, armed with her songs and their performance expression, plays the role of the chief invocant, the magnetic center to which the assemblage assembles.  It's an intuitive leap of faith to travel across the country into an unknown laboratory situation.  You hope Fate isn't rehearsing for a Marx Brothers film at your expense and that the experiment is worth the while, worth the travel.  How do you tell if something that's basically invisible, i.e. the spiritual implications and explications of the event called "recording an album" is bonafide or bogus? Or perhaps a mixture of both?  Maybe by reading the signs?

 Riley Pinkerton
 photo by Bryan Thunderheart Spitzer

When you hear all the details, it appears obvious that something extraordinary was going on, something in the realm that William Burroughs called The Magical Universe.  Last spring, Riley sent me her EP, Do You Have A Car, hoping I'd write a few paragraphs about it. I did a review and told her she should get me to help her with the production on her next recording.  I was a fan of her previous band, The DeCamp Sisters, and told her I'd help out however I could, not really expecting she would take me up on the offer.  There is a lot to organize with recording a record, not to mention all the expenses involved.  Circumstances and human generosity worked out such that I was able to bring the project into Bill Laswell's Orange Music sound studio (OM) for virtually nothing.  Riley organized everything else and made it happen.

I had never known anyone named Riley before.  Within a month of signing on to the project a college student named Riley took an internship at Ancient Wave, the local studio where I mix and master.  I was reading Henry Miller's, Time of the Assassins and came across the expression: "living the life of Reilly" so I asked intern Riley if she was really living the life of Reilly?  She said that her parents seem to think so.  There were a couple of other  strange synchronicities with Riley's name.  I got into the habit of randomly putting on acoustic Dylan from my laptop while getting ready in the morning and got a little startled when choosing Bootleg #2 to hear Dylan bellowing the opening words, "O'Reilly, stole a stallion ..."  Began telling this coincidence in the studio, but only got as far as saying, "first song on Bootleg #2" when Henry, the guitar player broke out into: "O'Reilly stole a stallion...;" it seemed amazing that someone would have instant recall of Dylan lyrics just by hearing the song position or perhaps the energy of the synchronicity with Riley's name invoked the lyrics out of his mouth.  Riley Pinkerton is someone who quite possibly might have stolen a stallion in a former life as you can see from the above photo and the fact that she loves horses in this life.  She is also an artist not unlike a very young Bob Dylan, but different, with her own singular style.

Everything looked fine getting on the flight at the start of the journey to the East until the plane remained motionless on the tarmac waiting for some mechanical indicator to be reset.  The connecting flight in Denver became questionable; the flight arrived at one end of the B gates (B4) with the connecting gate on the opposite side of the airport (B666 or something like that). Traversing that long corridor of B gates felt akin to a subatomic particle crossing the central horizontal path on the Tree of Life from Chesed (Glory) to Geburah (Power).  I made it to the gate just as they called for my boarding group (5); another good sign. 

I stayed in the beautiful, lush,verdant suburbs of West Orange, New Jersey off of Eagle Rock Road at an Air bnb, the first time for me.  Took a nightime jet lagged walk to the Whole Foods to stock up; the air smells sweet and it's quiet, no traffic, human or auto until the mall.  Later I record the silence of of this soundscape on my portable recorder framing it against the balance of crickets and distant traffic to mark its depths.

A morning train into the City to meet Riley for the first time at a small cafe/bar in the East Village.  I get to Penn Station with enough time to make the nostalgic walk there through my old neighborhood, Chelsea, and follow the route I took many times to Platinum Island, the studio where it all began.  Even had time to indulge in a visit to the Strand, one of the best bookstores on Earth.  I found a book I had been looking for, Friedrich Nietzsche's, Twilight of the Idols for $6.

 Riley texted me her location. I arrived right on time; the Virgo in me couldn't help it.  Riley was reserved at first, I was reserved, the table wasn't reserved, but they let us sit there anyway.  We talked some procedural details, options for mixing and I inflicted upon her some of my theories regarding music changing the world. Forget about politics.  Of course, the real communication occurred nonverbally in the spaces and silences in between the conversation, in between the words and phrases of the conversation, just as in music; music occurs in the spaces or the intervals between the notes; it's the relationship of the notes.  I told Riley I was glad we had the time to meet before recording to establish and get to know better the musical connection, the musical relationship.

The East Village remains a music hotspot on this planet.  We ate within a few blocks of where Bill Graham ran his legendary Fillmore East concert venue.  After our days diverged following the meal, I followed my ear up the street to the live music coming from the center of Tompkins Square Park; another trip down bardo memory lane - at the age of 12 in 1972 listening to this new (for me) thing called Underground FM radio; the show was Tom Tompkins from Tompkins Square Park and he would do things like play the entire cut of Inna Gadda Da Vida.  I first heard Stairway to Heaven on that show and remember feeling that it sounded like the music of angels.  Another time, listening live to some great funk band in Tompkins Square Park when living in New York, I saw a middle aged gentleman who strongly resembled G.I. Gurdjieff with the bald cranium and bushy mustache.  It shocked me into a waking state.  The music now, along with the atmosphere of the park, was as good as ever.  I didn't want to leave.

Rimbaud called.  I decided to try to get The Time of the Assassins for Riley.  The subtitle is: a study of Rimbaud by Henry Miller; a concise, easy-to-read book that nicely summarises  much of the artist's misson, a subject I brought up in conversation with Riley.  Rimbaud, the French symbolist poet whose most famous works are A Season In Hell and Illuminations, of course, became a major influence on Bob Dylan, Patti Smith and others. I had forgotten my copy or I would have given it to her.  I did notice a well-used edition on the shelf at the Air bnb room where I was staying.  Some highlights:

We must go through a collective death in order to emerge as genuine individuals.  If it is true, as Lautreamont said, that "poetry must be made by all" then we must find a new language in which one heart speaks to another without intermediation.  Our appeal to one another must be as direct and instantaneous as is the WoMan of God's to God.

Miller rants about his current (1940's and '50's yet still relevant) state of Art:

The cult of art reaches its end when it exists only for a precious handful of men and women.  Then it is no longer art but the cipher language of a secret society for the propagation of meaningless individuality.  Art is something which stirs WoMan's passions, which gives vision, lucidity, courage and faith.  Has any artist of recent years stirred the world as did Hitler? Has any poem shocked the world as did the atomic bomb recently?  Not since the coming of Christ have we seen such vistas unfolding, multiplying dailey.  What weapons has the poet compared to these?  Or what dreams? ... Is there a poet of  even the fifth magnitude visible?  I see none.  I do not call poets those who make verses, rhymed or unrhymed.  I call that woman poet who is capable of profoundly altering the world.  If there be such a poet living in our midst, let hir declare hirself. Let hir raise hir voice.  But it will have to be a voice which can drown the roar of the bomb.  SHe will have to use a language which melt's men's hearts, which makes the blood bubble.

If the mission of poetry is to awaken, we ought to have been awakened long ago.  Some have been awakened, there is no denying that.  But now all WoMan have to be awakened - and immediately - or we perish.

'Ol Henry probably would have been delighted to see Bob Dylan win a Nobel prize for Literature.

I stopped in at the Barnes and Noble off of Union Square.  The music department grabbed my attention first.  Prominently displayed on a magazine rack at the entrance to the music section was a cover photo of an old friend, Tom Waits, tipping his hat in greeting.  The photo appeared to have been taken in the era when I worked with him; the byline read: The bizarre secrets of his greatest albums.  Well, that was something I could fact check so I picked up a copy along with cds of The Ramones first album and David Bowie's Station to Station.  It proved an interesting article but the "secrets" on the albums I recorded with him appear exaggerated, inaccurate, and sometimes completely wrong.  The magazine came with a compilation cd called Ones From The Heart.  One of the artists on it is Ryley Walker.  The store had a good Henry Miller selection that didn't include The Time of the Assassins.  I've never read anything else by Miller, have never been interested in his popular titles, but I did pick up a slim volume by him that looked intriguing called The Smile at the Foot of the Ladder.

The first day of recording was with Riley and drummer Dylan Sevey.  We met in the parking lot outside the Orange studio.  On the way up to the third floor I told Dylan that a famous jazz drummer, Joe Morelleo, used to give lessons on the second floor.  Morello played on Dave Brubek's jazz hit, Take 5 that appeared on the 1959 album Time Out,written to showcase Morello's mastery of the 5/4 time signature; drummer's resonance, connect with the morphogenetic field of great drumming.  It can't hurt to invoke the masters.  Dylan told me a dream he's had a couple of times relating to a song I recorded for Tom Waits called Filipino Box Spring Hog.  In the dream he gets a call from his 5 year old son's kindergarten teacher telling him that his son is disturbing the other children by singing Filipino Box Spring Hog.  This sounded a little farfetched to me, but Dylan swore it was true and recounted the dream again.  The drum sound on that track is one of the secrets from recording Mule Variations, another coincidence.

We met staff engineer and old friend James Dellatacoma in the studio and started setting up mics and the foam baffling I would use to shape the acoustic space to isolate Riley's vocal and acoustic guitar mics from the drums. Riley:  "My guitar is a 1962 Gibson LG-1 that I grabbed for a steal from a weird pawn shop in Michigan."  They would be tracking live together in the same room.  Before starting, James gave us a brief history of the studio prior to Bill Laswell moving in.  Built for Frankie Vali and the Four Seasons, recordings for Jethro Tull, Carole King, The Kinks and Aerosmith had been done there.

Dylan Sevey at Orange Music
photo by Riley Pinkerton

Everything sounded good almost right away as soon as I brought up the mics.  There were a few mic placement adjustments to make, but technically everything was quick and easy.  Dylan played on a drum kit belonging to Steve Jordan.  The drums sounded great, the room sounded great, I was incredibly happy to be back in the driver's seat in the Orange Music studio, a totally professional studio with great gear that all works.  I had forgotten how good that room sounded.  I last recorded there in 2009 with John Hammond Jr. the son of the legendary Columbia A & R man who had first signed Bob Dylan to a record contract.  Hammond Sr. had been alerted to Bob Dylan through his son who was friends with Dylan.  Now I was recording a drummer named Dylan, who was well aware, and took inspiration from his namesake.  

Riley and Dylan had great chemistry in the studio.  I don't think they had much of a history playing together, yet Dylan perfectly complemented Riley's musical sensibility like they were siblings.  She brings a strong Beatles influence to her songwriting  while Dylan rates Ringo Starr as one of his favorite drummers.  I remember us working on one of his drum fills to get it sounding more Ringoesque.  We got four master takes that first day, a good count as we had also spent a few hours setting up.  James and I catching up had probably taken at least a half hour before we even started.  Riley seemed relaxed, collected and focused throughout despite having stayed up late to bake lemon cookies which made for incredible studio snacks.  She dressed elegantly as if performing on stage.  A total professional, so it came as a complete surprise to me that this occasioned her first time in a real recording studio.

 Riley checking out a take
photo by Bryan Thunderheart Spitzer 

On Day 2 of the recording we were joined by a bass player, Bryan Spitzer, and cut 5 more master takes.  Bryan is a music professional who mostly works on a computer these days so he mildly lamented about being out of practice with the physicality of playing a bass guitar.  I'd heard this refrain once before when recording Stewart Copeland for Oysterhead.  Stewart hadn't played drums for 10 years prior to making that record, but still sounded amazing to me, I certainly never would have known.  I once caught him over-editing his drums to change the timing of some snare notes and had to remind him, "Don't you know that you're Stewart Copeland?!" Spitzer was the same; a very solid bass player who came up with great bass lines; melodic, fluid, foundational.  You would never know, although he did, that he didn't play the instrument every day. You can tell by a musician's tone, how they touch their strings to make the notes, whether they're legit or not.  Bryan had a great tone, warm and well-defined.  He had a Fender Musicmaster bass which we ran direct and paralleled into the studio's Ampeg B15 bass amp combo reissue.  These are the old flip-top amps, if anybody remembers.  Recording through Neve 1073 mic preamps directly into Pro Tools, no compression, no muss, no fuss.  Bryan was another total pro - had practiced the songs, made chord charts for himself and played with a critical ear, not letting any mistakes get by.  He knew what he was doing.  In the world of D.I.Y. indie music, a musician like Bryan Thunderheart Spitzer is a godsend.  I didn't know his middle name when we worked, but it certainly fits. This project was becoming more fun every day to record due to the excellent songs, great performances, and the collective high level of expertise from everyone including the recording studio itself.  It felt like a canvass was being painted, a collage of songs, though I didn't know who or what was holding the brush.

Bryan gave us a strong warning on the neighborhood, concerned for our safety after dark.  I wasn't that concerned about the area in the immediate vicinity of the studio figuring that James would have mentioned something.  It being Jersey, we took ubers everywhere, no wandering around questionable neighborhoods.  As we were clearing out on the last night, we ended up on the street at about 2am waiting for our cars.  Within seconds a police cruiser drove into the gas station across the street and parked directly facing us, then turned off its lights.  The anarchist in me had an instinctive paranoid reflex, but, remembering Spitzer's warning, I decided to take the opposing view that the cops were positioned there to protect us until the uber cars arrived and we departed safely; and that's what happened.  I regarded this as a particularly good sign.  The quasi-cause of the giver of signs in the Thelemic system goes by the name, Holy Guardian Angel, the knowledge and conversation of which communicates with signs.  The bardo guards (the cops) protecting our transition to going mobile seems the kind of business a guardian angel would be up to if such a thing exists.

On break, the conversation drifted around to the American and Tibetan Books of the Dead.  That's where the word "bardo" originates, it's the space between lives.  I gave my standard rap to Riley about singing as if she was delivering bardo instructions to the dead.  The point being that there is a certain kind of intensity of emotive force needed to make being to being contact through the veil of death.  Bryan expressed interest in this area which he hadn't heard of before and knew nothing about. I promised to send more information at a later point - I promise I still have to keep!  Even with time dilation, the subject was too vast for our short break.

Day 3 saw the arrival at different times of musicians Riley called her posse - musicians she had met at "open mics" and other performances since moving to New York a year ago.  Her posse all lived in Harlem.  First to arrive was Henry Black who added some very tasty electric guitar rhythms and  atmospheric slide guitar embellishments.  He played a G&L ASAT Classic guitar and we alternated between a Fender Princeton and an old Beatles era Vox amp and cabinet.  We also took full advantage of the studio's beautiful tremolo pedal called a "Tremvelope." Henry played in the control with a tie line feeding his signal to the amp in the studio - the better for us to distract him with direction!  All his parts were made up/improvised/invoked on the spot with encouragement/interference from the production team (aka "the peanut gallery").  He did a great job!

Arriving with Henry in the morning.was the infamous "Reggie" aka Ryan Servis a friend and musical collaborator of Rileys from Michigan.  He had been dispatched by Riley to stay with her people in Harlem after getting into LaGuardia on a late flight from Denver. I had spent time with Reggie a few years back in the recording trenches of Prairie Sun working on a Jack and the Bear production which came out exceptionally well.  Reggie had composed string arrangements for at least five of the songs and would also contribute keyboards - Orange's Hammond C3 organ with Leslie cabinet, and a Rhodes electric piano.  He has a great ear, I was happy to have him as a co-conspirator on the production team.  Of course, Reggie's name figured into the synchronicities.  I had thought Reggie was Ryan's given name, but it turned out to be a nom de guerre he had acquired when the band played at a club called Reggies in Chicago.  There were two Ryans in the band so he became Reggie, a persona born at that club so to speak.   Riley always knew him as Reggie too.  Coincidentally, there was a small show poster from that same club by the door at Bill's studio.  Without knowing any of this or meeting Reggie, Bill Laswell told a story about John Zorn playing that same venue, Reggies, at dinner a few nights later.

The rest of Riley's posse that would record on this album, Jesse Flammond and Jeremy Rompala, got there in the late afternoon to add a variety of background vocal harmony parts both individually and with a group that included Henry and Reggie.  Henry added a harmony on his own for one song in a very distinctive, americana sounding voice.  These kids all had great ears for pitch and timing and just had to be coached a little on how near or far from the mic to stand for an optimal blend.  I recorded the group vocals with two ADK mics (U87 clones) facing each other about ten feet apart set to a cardiod proximity pattern.  The parts were arranged and practiced a bit beforehand so it all flowed smoothly with no mystery about what to do - a very good use of studio time.  Their warmth and presence with obvious love and respect for Riley's songs translated into the music.  They were indeed her crew, her assemblage, her family.

Florence Wallis arrived a couple of days later on a train from Providence, Road Island. Armed with a violin and bow, through the magic of multitrack recording she became our string section, overdubbing all the parts of the 3 -  5 voice string arrangements Reggie had composed, layering one on top of another.   Florence is in the group, The Low Anthem who just began an English and European tour to support their theatrical concept album Eyeland.  Riley had met her through a mutual friend somewhere on the road.  Some of the violin parts seemed like they would be hard to play, but Florence mastered everything skillfully.  She was of the same professional caliber, and had as strong a connection with Riley's music as everyone else.  Rimbaud was mentioned again.  Florence confessed to having run through the English woods when she lived there reciting Arthur's words in French to the trees. No word on the reaction from the trees.

 Control room view of Florence Wallis recording underneath a Neumann U47
photo by Riley Pinkerton

Riley set Florence up to stay the night at a Jersey Air bnb, there were more parts to record the following day.  She asked Riley for a book to read, hers was almost done.  Riley loaned her The Smile at the Foot of the Ladder which lead down a rabbit hole of synchronicity to some small degree.  I had picked up Miller's book because it reminded me of Timothy Leary's S.M.I.2L.E. formula: Space Migration + Intelligence Increase + Life Extension.  On the surface, this formula usually gets interpreted as outer space exploration as for example Obama's recent call for a manned mission to Mars + getting smarter, unlocking latent potentials, concsciousness studying itself + prolonging the human life span.  We see alternate interpretations that dive into the depths of this formula, such as this one.  But, also, in my opinion: Music = Space Migration (changing moods, going into different interior spaces) + Intelligence Increase (gnostic experiences, etc) + Life Extension (time dilation; temporal effects).  Music = S.M.I.2L.E.

The book begins with:

Nothing could diminish the lustre of that extraordinary smile which was engraved on Auguste's sad countenance. In the ring this smile took on a quality of it's own, detached, magnified, expressing the ineffable.

The synchronicity of The Smile at the Foot of the Ladder, first published in 1959, beginning with a smile on a character named Auguste with the event of my birth in August of 1959 was another reason for the purchase.  Florence and I took the bus into the city after the next day's session swapping music industry stories for the 50 minute ride.  I was going to meet Bill Laswell, Yoko Yamabe and Mike Sopko for dinner.  Florence was on her way back to Rhode Island.  She told me she was a literary writer as well.  Later, when I saw an example on her wordpress blog, the phrase: smiling, smiling, smiling, near the top stood out to me.  The last synchronicity came about a week after the session when Florence told me the engineer at the pre-tour rehearsal studio her band was using in England had pasted a copy of my sound engineering manifesto on the wall.

We met for dinner at a sushi restaurant on 23rd Street and 8th Avenue.  Meeting up with Bill was one of the reasons I had taken this job out east.  Mike Sopko drove in from Cleveland and managed to get Bill to tell the story of how the classic electro funk song Rockit by Herbie Hancock came about.  Bill said of the restaurant ambience that it felt like being in a time machine.  The neon pastel lights and Japanese atmosphere had me flashing on Tokyo in the late 80's.

Mike Sopko, Bill Laswell and myself on 23rd Street.
photo by Yoko Yamabe

The last day of recording at Orange Music was spent mainly with Riley nailing four or five lead vocal overdubs.  She also played a part on an electric guitar going through a pedal that emulated a mellotron.  We finished in time to catch a train into the City to meet up with Riley's father, John McCurry at another sushi restaurant in Alphabet City.  Riley's nonstage name is Riley Pinkerton-McCurry.  John McCurry is a longtime New York resident and worked as a top session guitar player for many years including a 6 year tenure in Cyndy Lauper's band.  We had mutual close friends in the business including Jason Corsaro and Jeff Bova, both old time Laswell cohorts.  He had worked at Platinum Island studios where I had started out.  McCurry had that paradoxical Irish quality of genuine sincerity mixed in with a bit 'o the blarney to much good humor.  He treated Riley, Reggie and myself to dinner along with an uber ride back to Jersey.  It was a dinner of celebration.

Gilles Deleuze constructs  a taxonomy of signs in Proust & Signs, his study of Marcel Proust's magnum opus, In Search of Lost Time.  Signs, nonverbal communications, can run from the mundane to the extraordinary.  Odors can be signs - it smells like rain becomes a sign that it could rain.  The cheese smells funky is a sign that it's not good to eat.  According to Deleuze, the intelligence of the heart communicates in signs.  He connects it with the path of Initiation:

The scent of a flower, when it constitutes a sign, transcends at once the laws of matter and the categories of mind.  We are not physicists or metaphysicians; we must be Egyptologists ... Everything exists in those obscure zones that we penetrate as into crypts, in order to decipher hieroglyphs and secret languages.  The Egyptologist, in all things, is the person who undergoes an initiation - the apprentice."

Interpreting the language of signs from the environment hardly seems new.  In The History of Magic, Eliphas Levi tells us that Oswald Crollius, an alchemist in the 14th Century wrote The Book of Signatures, or True and Vital Anatomy of the Greater and Lesser World.  Levi writes:

Crollius seeks to demonstrate that God and Nature have, so to speak, signed all their works, that every product of a given natural force bears the stamp of that force printed in indelible characters so that she who is initiated n the occult writings can read, as in an open book, the sympathies and antipathies of things, the properties of substance and all other secrets of creation. ... an attempt to discover the fundamental principles obtaining in the universal language of the creative Word.

Levi expresses skepticism with Crollius' conclusion and indeed one is advised to be armed with a healthy but balanced amount of skepticism when interpreting signs.  It's very easy and tempting to read too much into things, on the other hand, it's just as easy to reject any form of this type of communication.  The adepts at reading signs that I have studied, Aleister Crowley, Robert Anton Wilson and Gilles Deleuze all acquired strong influence from the 18th Century Scottish philosopher David Hume, one of the main proponents of stringent philospohical skepticism. Deleuze's first book was on David Hume.

I've said nothing about the actual music because it's still in process awaiting final overdubs and a mix.  Why saddle it with representation (i.e. a classification or even a description) before it has been born?

I  had very little idea of who Riley was before agreeing to the project and certainly wasn't doing it for a big payday; just going on intuition.  By the end of the recording I was having dinner with her father who was a good friend of Jason Corsaro, the engineer, more than any other, who showed me to how to mix and put me on track as a professional mixer.  There was almost like a family connection going on way before I knew about it.  Yet another good sign.  Watching this whole process unfold made me realize how much independent MUSICIANS TAKE CARE OF THEIR OWN!!

ps  On the train ride into New York for our last supper Reggie asked me to recommend some books to read.  The ones I can remember suggesting are:

1. Cosmic Trigger, The Final Secret of the Illuminati by Robert Anton Wilson
2. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
3. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
4.  A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.

Florence, Oz, Riley, Reggie