Thursday, March 31, 2016

Die Jim Crow

Evidence that we still live on a very backwards planet shows up in how we treat people who have broken society's rules such that they have been incarcerated in prison.  If we can't figure out a better way for convicts to pay their debt to society than by locking them up we can at least compassionately offer aesthetic lines of escape from the barbarity of the prison mentality and lifestyle.  One such line, music, is being given to prisoners by an assemblage that includes my friend Doctor Israel (Method of Defiance, Heavyweight Dub Champion).  Doc wrote me recently about their current project, Die Jim Crow:'s a record about racism and prejudice in the U.S. Prison Industrial Complex. We've been recording inside of U.S. prisons and with formerly incarcerated individuals on the “outside.” Currently we are releasing an EP based on 4 days of recording that we did atWarren Correctional Institution, a close security state prison in Ohio. The EP is designed to build awareness for the project and to be used as a calling card to gain access to more prisons.

Doc is co-producing and engineering this.  From their website:

The album title is inspired by Michelle Alexander's book"The New Jim Crow" which equates the U.S. prison system to a modern day racial caste system similar to the old form of Jim Crow segregation in America

The album addresses this human rights crisis through song

Inspired by Pink Floyd's 1979 concept album "The Wall," Die Jim Crow explores the journey of the contributing artist through intimate first-person narrative, overarching political themes, and haunting musical through-lines.  Fusing several genres of traditionally African-American music, the album features rock n roll, jazz, blues, r & b, hip-hop, and more.

EP release: 5/1/16
LP release 2018

There is still a few days left in what looks to be a successful Kickstarter campaign to support the project which you can check out and contribute to HERE. That link will take you to a video that shows the Die Jim Crow project in action, explains it more fully and introduces you to the Producer of the project, Fury Young and to Doctor Israel.  It's very worthwhile to take 5 minutes and listen to what they have to say.

Here's a 39 second teaser, but the real meat of the message is in the 5 minute video.

There is a history of philosopher/activists advocating for prisoner's rights one way or another.  In the early '70s  Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault were guiding lights of the GIP (Group for Information on Prisons) that held sit-ins and demonstrations in France on behalf of prisoner's rights where they were joined by Jean Paul Sartre and other prominent French intellectuals.  Before that, in the early '60's, Timothy Leary led a group experimenting with psychedelic mushroom therapy with prisoners that showed successful results.  And of course, we can't forget Johnny Cash.  Fury Young and Doctor Israel are moving this tradition forward.  They are already making a difference as can be seen in the two videos mentioned above.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Greenpoint Part 3

Layng Martine III was the main assistant engineer at Greenpoint for a number of years in the latter part of the studio's existence.   He lived in the basement; maybe why I sometimes sensed a subterranean, troll-like quality about him from time to time like he didn't get out enough.  He was very good at what he did, on the world professional level like anyone else at Greenpoint; efficient, and pleasant to work with; very dry humor.  When he moved out following his tenure, he left behind a complete facsimile collection of Aleister Crowley's original Equinox, the thick, hardbound periodicals Crowley put out every 6 months in the early 1900s presenting the magical instruction he was hawking, i.e. his School in the guise of a literary journal. Clearly, those books, a University course of magick, belonged more to the space at Greenpoint than they did to Layng.

Imad Mansour was the full time assistant engineer before Layng.  I remember him as always distinguished and well-dressed, formal and intellectual like he was attending a college lecture by a respected professor.  Kind of opposite to Layng in that regard, but also extremely good at his job, always present and on top of it.  Imad got the gig through his uncle Simon Shaheen whose album, Turath, I recorded and mixed at Greenpoint shortly before Gulf War I. Simon is from Palestine and the music is folk music from that area of the world. I experienced a strong bittersweet moment when listening to the rich, acoustic story-telling nature of the music from this region in my apartment shortly after the country I lived in began bombing and invading the land over there.

After  the first Praxis record Buckethead became a regular fixture in the Greenpoint orbit.  He might have been the most recorded guitar player there next to Nicky Skopelitis.  He also communicated frequently with Bill about life, the Universe and everything including the music biz. The record company corporate dinosaurs, still freely roaming the Earth back in the early '90s, predictably wanted to market Bucket as another rock jock guitar hero ala Yngwie Malmsteen, but he had his own vision to follow a direction less traveled.  Bill suggested making outrageous demands to the label heads as a strategy to avoid contractual economic capture.  At a meeting with Polygram, they offered Buckethead a seven album deal.  The story I heard is that he stipulated a $5,000,000 recording budget for the first album saying that he needed $4,000,000 to build the Bucketheadland amusement park for thematic inspiration then another $1,000,000 to actually make the album.  Polygram withdrew the offer

He was serious about the amusement park.  I accompanied Bucket, Bernie Worrell, and our interpreter, Mari Kono to Tokyo Disneyland for ten hours of Japanese Disneyfied alternate realities, wombs, tombs, funhouses, fireworks and marching bands, an experience I will never forget.  At one point Bernie disappeared into another dimension for awhile.  We had to go around asking if anyone had seen a wiry black funkster wearing a purple cowboy hat.  As we were about to go into "It's A Small World," with its elaborate exterior showing people and cultures from all over the world getting along, Bucket told me that is what he wanted for a set design when he had the tour support; world healer vision.

The night before, sitting at a low table in a dark, candlelit, Japanese restaurant with Buckethead and Ginger Baker, Bucket told me he was fascinated by the subject of death and thought about it, but not in a morbid or self-destructive way.  Some months earlier, I had gifted him with The Handbook for the Recently Deceased by Claude Needham.  The title is derived from the handbook in Tim Burton's Beetlejuice film.  Needham's version came wrapped in cellophane with a warning sticker reading "Only Break Wrapper If You Are Dead."  Bucket took the warning very seriously.  It took some time before he felt dead enough to break the seal and even then he did it very cautiously - good voyaging habits.  Disneyland felt like a massive bardo rebirth terminal, a transit station.

Bill eventually negotiated a record deal for Buckethead with Sony for the release that became Giant Robot.  It has the amusement park theme running throughout.  The second track is Welcome to Bucketheadland and it closes with Last Train to Bucketheadland.  Bucketheadland - a metaphor construct/bardo domain of visions transmitting through the artist called Buckethead; that's the land of Buckethead.  The songs invite listeners to dive in and traverse about the virtual reality of Bucketheadland; what Deleuze and Gutarri call a "smooth space;"  what I call a bardo space.  Amusement parks and carnivals have a strong bardoesque quality to them, the revolving feeling of life, death and rebirth.  All kinds of choicepoints, wombs to take rebirth in - each ride is a different lifetime, you take on a temporary micro-identity when the ride starts which dies when it's over and you go back out on the midway between lives looking to find the next womb to take rebirth in; funhouse mirrors, dark tunnels, haunted houses, sudden surprises of death looking at you in the face.

Chop Top (actor Bill Mosely from Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) was flown in from L.A. to do some narration. Mosely was mellow and great to work with.  On break he told a spooky story about a play in L.A. he'd just been in where he played Timothy Leary incarcerated in Soledad Prison's solitary confinement next to Charles Manson.  The play was based on an essay Leary wrote about the harrowing encounter with Manson published in his book Neuropolitique.  Mosely said Leary saw the play a few times and was upbeat and supportive.  He said it got quite freaky and eerie when a few Manson family members turned up occasionally, sometimes heckling and creating a scene.

Iggy Pop came by Greenpoint one day for a few hours to lay down some narration for Giant Robot.  He seemed a little reserved at first, but then got completely into character as the proprietor of Buckethead's Toy Store starting with the intro premise that the Universe is doomed "unless the force of cruelty can be conquered by an influx of fun" via a special delivery of toys from Japan to Buckethead's Toy Store, " a true wonderland of joy..."  Interesting theurgic chaos magick, more to it in the song.  Iggy got so into character that he doesn't sound like Iggy, he sounds like a Bucketheadland character.  Later on in the album he plays the Post Office Buddy frustrated in love leaving increasingly desperate, forlorn messages on an answering machine.  There's an interesting twist at the end, of that song both in the story and for me personally.  The final voice, which is supposed to be a different male character from Iggy's, sounds like I made a vocal appearance though I don't remember recording it.

Giant Robot was completely recorded at Greenpoint then brought to Platinum Island's Studio East to mix on the SSL along with their copious outboard gear.  The mixing went smoothly and on schedule.  I would set up a mix then Bill and Bucket would give input from there.  Everything was recorded well, big, full and deep through the vintage Neve at Greenpoint so the starting point was already high fidelity.  I added in Platinum Island's secret weapon, the live room with all panels removed used as a reverb chamber to get the big drum sound.  I really like the way Giant Robot turned out, an amalgamation and varying mixture of righteous funk (Bootsy Collins, Jerome Brailey), rock riffs (Bucket, Ted Parsons), the absurd (Pinchface, Throatrake), along with instances of child-like innocence and sweet melodies all in the various chambers that make up Bucketheadland. A track I had much fun mixing is the very beautiful I Love My Parents.  Karl Berger came up with a gorgeous string arrangement based on a melody Bucket wrote.  We only tracked a quartet, but doubled and tripled the parts to virtually create an actual sounding string orchestra.  I would hazard a guess that the Angel in charge of marshaling parental emotions would requisition I Love My Parents as a theme song such is the powerful affects and percepts the song emits.

Buckethead and Bill used to leave the studio in the early evening and I would spend a few more hours setting up the next track usually leaving between 10 and 11pm.  On my way out one night getting into the elevator I joined a trio coming from a party above, a couple and a tall, honey-haired woman who began looking at me like an apparatus of capture.  There was a strong floral scent like expensive soap.  They were mildly, playfully inebriated, bantering and joking with me.  As we exited the building onto Broadway, the single lady looked at me and announced, "you're coming home with me."  I quickly said, "no, I'm not," and began walking uptown toward Spanish Harlem where I lived at the time.  In bardo terms that's called closing the entrance to a womb door which in that case is a pun.  You don't want to jump into any old rebirth that happens by especially the immediately seductive ones, or at least that's what my Grandmother used to say.  The next morning I told the guys the story, Bucket's jaw literally dropped in astonishment, he looked at me like I was crazy.  I told him, "I have an album to mix," by way of explanation.  They exchanged a look.

Giant Robot in front of Bucketheadland

I have many pleasant memories of working with Bucket. I did a lot of live mixing with him, both with Laswell and with a trio he had with Brain and House, ex-drummer and bassist from the Limbomaniacs.  My first time seeing anything by film maker Alejandro Jodorowsky occurred at Bucket's house in Sonoma, CA.  We'd been recording all day with Les Claypool at his Rancho Relaxo studio in the hills near Occidental and he invited me back to stay the night at his house before returning to the studio in the morning.  His house interior reminded me of Bucketheadland.  He got me a sleeping bag for the couch and set me up to watch Holy Mountain, Jodorosky's classic surrealist take on alchemy which looked extremely interesting though a bit of a blur at that late hour.  I fell asleep watching it and had strange dreams about monsters and heroes subconsciously programmed by Holy Mountain.  I awoke in the morning a different person.

In 1989 I started working with a group lead by Jimmi Accardi based on the books and ideas of E.J. Gold.  Jimmi ran it in a quasi-underground fashion as if it were a secret society.  I was "tested" at a couple of public events before the existence of the group was made known to me. An invitation to join was extended at my own considerable risk.  The meeting place was a long subway ride out to Jackson Heights, Queens and if you were one minute late the door was barred and you would be turned away.  It very much appealed to my sense of theater and drama and met my expectations of how an arcane secret conspiracy might work. You could say that the general focus of this group was the observation and study of the inner workings of the human machine.  Exercises were given to this end.

This eventually lead to meeting and working with E.J. Gold out in California as described elsewhere.  At one point he asked for help in getting his art exposed.  He said it would help a lot if I could get 10 recognized celebrities in a room with his art.  I agreed to help him with this.  Doing a brief survey of the art gallery scene in New York I quickly concluded that the quickest way to get this into action was to find my own room to display his paintings i.e. set up an art gallery.  The first possible space I thought of was the third floor at Greenpoint which was rented by Bill with the building, but unused as it wasn't completely finished.  It almost seemed like a foregone conclusion.  Bill agreed to allow me the use of the space rent free for six months in exchange for finishing the construction work. That was a generous deal as there wasn't a whole lot to do.  Plumbing was already installed to a bathroom in the back and the framework was already in place that divided the floor into one large front space with six bedroom sized spaces in the back half.  We only had to install some electrical wiring, track lighting for the gallery, do some dry walling and painting. Shortly after this arrangement  was made Nicky approached me and asked what I thought about giving up one of the back rooms for Anton Fier to move into?  I thought it was a great idea, one less room to finish and the advantage of having someone there full time.  He took the back room on the right which was the size of a large master bedroom.

The circle of dedicated New Yorkers interested in publicizing Gold's art rallied to help to make the Greenpoint gallery a reality in a very short amount of time, about 2 months.   That included not only finishing the construction and getting the space up to code, but also mounting a major show which became The Moonbeam Show, E.J. Gold's monumental paintings inspired by the lyrics of Harry Nilsson.  The two were close friends from the '60's beginning when Gold took photos for one of his albums.  I named the space The Troov Gallery after Hadji Asvatz Troov, a character from Gurdjieff's Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson, an old science fiction classic.  Asvatz Troov ( Hadji is an honorific indicating he made the pilgrimmage to Mecca) was a dervish who had an underground laboratory where he designed unusual musical contraptions to experiment with the effect of sound vibrations on the human body, psyche and nervous system, and other organic life.  Gurdjieff in his Pythogorean, Harry Partch phase.  Troov's lab reminded me of Greenpoint's recording studio.  I felt the art gallery would have the same kind of Troovian experimental slant only with light waves instead of sound waves.  Many of the works were based on music, the songs of Harry Nilsson who definitely drank deep from the dionysiac well. This strengthened the connection between light and sound experimentation.

The Moonbeam Show occupied the front room upstairs at Greenpoint.  Much of the art was monumental sized - 36" x 72", 6 foot high paintings, some hung on the walls, many of them were set-up in triads on small 18" high black pedestals.  With several of these positioned about the room it made the art seem more 3D enhancing the sense of immersion into the mood and atmosphere of the space; virtual reality - the holodeck tuned to a Nilsson/Gold artistic frequency.   Song lyrics were displayed besides paintings of the same name to aid crossover.

Typical of the artwork in the show

 Four of the other five rooms also displayed Gold's art.  The fifth held a Samadhi floatation tank.  Jnanes, my wife at the time, had arranged to get a brand new loaner tank from Samadhi sent to the gallery as a demonstration model.  An ad was placed in a Brooklyn publication and float sessions were rented out by the hour.  It attracted regular, but not overwhelming use.  I floated in it a few times (had another one in my apartment), once right before the show's opening.

The first room on the right as you walked down the hallway was painted completely black and it had no windows.  This room was used to display the Dark Hours series of lithographics by E.J. Gold - a voyage through heavy moods and darkside spaces, what Nietszche calls tragedy in The Birth of Tragedy, the archetypal journey through the Underworld that seems necessary to see the whole picture complete.

"Bare Bulb" from the Dark Hours series.

Later on, I found this space excellent for ritual practice.

The opening for the Moonbeam show was attended by about 300 people including a handful of music industry professionals and at least one other iconoclastic performance artist - the infamous Rammellzee.  John Zorn turned up to give support as well as Evan Lurie, formerly of the Lounge Lizards, also a musical collaborator with E.J.Gold.  Bill Laswell and Anton Fier swung through for a minute then hung out in Anton's room.  Engineer Robert Musso made it along with the San Francisco based band The Bomb who he had been recording downstairs.  Also in attendance was former Celluloid Records A&R man Robert Soares who had co-produced the Brazillian band Kaoma which brought the lambada dance craze to the world.  Years later when looking through the Guest Book I discovered that the infamous punk rocker Cheetah Chrome form the Deadboys had signed the book and checked it out.  Quite an eclectic crowd.

A few days before the opening, with the show all set-up and ready to go, Ornette Coleman paid a visit to Bill in the studio and Bill brought Ornette upstairs for a private viewing of the art and to see the completed space.  Ornette walked slowly through the front room upstairs casually scanning the paintings.  He took a look down the hallway then turned around and came back through the big room taking a different path through a different row of paintings.  He was expressionless and completely silent the whole time making not the slightest indication of appreciation or criticism.  In one sense it seemed like he wasn't even there - no ego, no personality, not the slightest trace of the "Ornette Coleman" cultural icon identity.  In another sense he was there far more than most - pure presence, in a state of what John Lilly and Franklin Merrell-Wolff call 'High Indifference' mingling with the otherworldy presence and radiations of the paintings made even stronger in a room empty of people.  There were a lot of large paintings with bright colors on black canvas in a small space so anyone with the least sensitivity would feel the same kind of clarity and altered awareness as meditating or one hour in a floatation tank when walking through the space.  The feeling I had when Ornette walked through, though mostly indescribable, the word reverence comes closest; at home in another world.  As they were leaving Bill commented to Ornette about how quickly it had come together saying it was an example of what could be accomplished in a short amount of time with intention and will.

After 6 months The Moonbeam Show moved to Los Angeles and the Troov Gallery changed forms becoming curators of shows at the Cedar Tavern and at the H. Heather Edelmann gallery in Soho.  The latter was a collaboration between E.J. Gold and John Cage called A Lecture On Nothing from Silence.  The Edelmann gallery contact came as a result of Jnanes hitting the streets canvassing art establishments for a suitable venue.  Gold and his staff arranged the show from California, Cage was an old family friend.  I was extremely excited for the opportunity to meet and work directly with John Cage, one of my biggest influences, but alas, he died about a week after the show was announced.  I remember the paintings in that space being incredibly intense, the room was much smaller than Greenpoint, but it's just now that I wonder if Cage's recent death contributed to that atmosphere at all?  One afternoon Menlo McFarlane performed a reading of A Lecture On Nothing from Silence while I accompanied him on the Roland 201 Space Echo (borrowed from Greenpoint) with tape delay multiplicities echoplexing feedback loops reverberating; tonal and atonal; M.C. Escher-like sound drawings all from 1/4" magnetic tape and several record and playback heads in series with feedback circuitry; nothing from silence.

The upstairs at Greenpoint became became a combination storage area and a place to crash for any friend of Bill's who needed somewhere inexpensive to stay in New York like myself later on.  I kept a room after the gallery closed which stored a lot of the art that hadn't been shipped out.  I also set up a table for a desk and made a place to work.  Not long after I moved out of my apartment on 26th street and 2nd Avenue and established a dual residence taking a room in Spanish Harlem and another one in Northern California as part of the I.D.H.H.B. community.  I was on each coast about 50% of the time depending upon my schedule.  I would go to Greenpoint when in New York even when not booked on sessions and work in my room upstairs.  As noted earlier, Greenpoint was a geographical hotspot for creative endeavor.  I did a lot of research into magick there.

For awhile, Bernard Fowler had a whole recording studio boxed up and stored upstairs at Greenpoint.  In 1989 he began touring with the Rolling Stones as their main male background vocalist, a job he still holds to this day.  The steady gig afforded the recording gear, but didn't give him enough time to set it up and use it at that time.  I did some recording at Greenpoint for a project Bernard had with Stevie Salas on a rare break from the Stones tour.  When cleaning up toward the end of Greenpoint I found two large duffel bags completely full of hundreds of cassette tapes, apparently demos of music sent to Bill.

Anton Fier lived there quite awhile, I don't know exactly how long.  He became the ipso facto Guardian of Greenpoint, but also took advantage of the facility working on Golden Palominos projects or producing Lori Carson.  I engineered for him there from time to time.  He also brought in a Power Station engineer.  Sometimes, when not recording, I'd hear him practicing on the drum kit for hours on end.  Last Poet Umar Bin Hassan also took up residence for some months at Greenpoint.  He's one of the most unabashedly passionate people I've ever known.  I recall watching the Yankees play in the World Series with him in Anton's room feeling almost a religious experience from the intense enthusiasm he was expressing for the game.  I had stopped paying attention to sports a few years back, but seeing that game with Umar gave a whole new viewpoint as if seeing its Buddha nature, if that makes any sense?

At one point the residents at Greenpoint included Anton, Umar, D.J. Spooky, and myself.  I didn't see Spooky there very much and never had a direct conversation with him. It seems he only lived there a few weeks.  We met when he came to the mastering session at Masterdisk for the Julian Schnabel record that Bill produced.  He was there to meet Schnabel about possibly playing the lead in the film Basquiat Julian was beginning to work on.  Another time Spooky popped into the studio when Bill and I and a few others were hanging out.  He started giving his rap and I realized I couldn't follow him at all, it was like a different language harder than Jamaican patois to understand yet all the words were in English.  I thought that I must be getting too isolated, that a whole development of street jargon had passed me by.  As soon as he left Bill said, "does anyone know what he was talking about?"  I felt relieved to hear that. Spooky was on a whole different level.

It seems I engineered the last project at Greenpoint - mixing Chakra: Seven Centers for Meta Records.  This is a spoken word record, produced by Bill Laswell and Janet Rienstra, telling the story of  the rise of kundalini through the seven energetic centrums called chakras.  Each track represents one of the chakras.  Some of the background music is outstanding as well, hardly surprising with the likes of Pharoah Saunders, Graham Haynes, and Trilok Gurtu in the mix along with some of the usual suspects - Laswell, Skopelitis, Jah Wobble and Jeff Bova contributing sonic atmospherics and their indomitable spirits to this assemblage.

The first record I worked on at Greenpoint was The Third Power by Material, the last one was Chakra: Seven Centers.  Coincidentally, in Gurdjieff's cosmology the two biggest concepts are the "Law of Three" and the "Law of Seven."  One alleges to explain how phenomena gets manifested, the other to describe patterns of change and is also known as the "Law of Octaves."

At the end of it all there were three artifacts left: an Eye of Horus design atop a small bell, a Zen Buddha, and a Dreamachine.  Bill said, "Janet you take the Buddha, Oz, the Eye of Horus, and I'll keep the Dreamachine. That Eye of Horus currently lives in Studio B at Ancient Wave studios in Nevada City, a little piece of the Greenpoint lineage and a contact point to that current.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Guest Post On Sigils

 This guest post on Sigils is an excerpt from Klaas Pieter van der Tempel's "Pause, Play: A Higher Consciousness Handbook." It's very good.  Readers interested in seeing more can purchase the book here for under $3.
What: Impregnating reality with your artistically rendered will and imagination. Why: You decide. How: Find your will, express it artistically, then release it and let the unconscious manifest it for you.
Ancient Hindu intellectuals were not all blindly religious, nor were they carving images of weird gods and goddesses for shits and giggles. Instead, they realized that the gods they imagined and the symbols they made to represent them were projections of psychological powers. As Joseph Campbell says, “They [the Gods] are in you, not out there.”
Sigils, like the gods, or any other outer symbols like logos, statues, coins, flags, etc, are projections of what is inside of you onto the outside world. A sigil, in its basic form, is a doodle drawn during class that expresses your boredom and the desire to do something other than what you are doing. It is a symbol drawn to express some desire or identity.
If you draw or write something with a specific intent, whatever you have just created is like a magical letter delivered to the unconscious. This is a sigil.
Sigils are effective. Just look at the faces on coins or the statues of kings, pharaohs, and gods. Or the logos of our corporate culture. They all evoke certain feelings, certain reactions and associations, and they succeed in reproducing the reality that they represent. McDonald’s is recognizable anywhere in the world, and people know exactly what it means when they see the big M appear at the side of the highway. When you wear the shirt of some well known brand, you are representing them and their vision of reality, and you are helping to spread it for them.
When you make your own sigils, it may help to be crazy, weird, and esoteric about it. Whether random or meticulously designed, sigils shouldn’t remind you of your original desire or intent. If they do, they will remind you of your expectations and will thus conflict with the ego.
Also, the sigil is not a command but a request. Use natural or synchronistic things, because the sigil is a living message, a living gateway. Empty yourself; contact the deep; create and then embrace the sigil; allow it to submerge; close the gap; then forget about it. Drop your expectations of your desire being fulfilled. This emptying may take effort, but the transmission none. Care for the form, nothing else. Don’t think about the results while transmitting. Success is determined by factors largely beyond your individual control.
Personally, I like to ‘keep it symbol.’ Write something on your hand, or your arm, or your belly or wherever, draw a doodle that means something to you, and glance upon it during the day to be reminded of whatever meaning you imbued the symbol with. Ozzy Osbourne, for example, has smiley faces tattooed on his knees, so that every time he takes a dump he reminds himself to be happy.*
For serious sigilizing I recommend the book Visual Magick by Jan Fries.

* Technically, a symbol isn’t a sigil because it clearly represents something recognizable. So a smiley face is bending the rules. In a good way. Smiling face (black and white)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Thousand Plateaus - A Contemporary Grimoire Part 2

"Spiritual life is not dream or fantasy, but the realm of clear-headed decision making, a kind of absolute stubbornness, the choice of existence."

"Real abstraction is non-organic life.  This idea of non-organic life is everywhere in A Thousand Plateaus, and this is precisely the life of the concept."

                                              - Gilles Deleuze, Two Regimes of Madness, p. 288 & p. 178

"Of course, there is no reason to think that all matter is confined to the physicochemical strata: there exists a submolecular unformed Matter.  Similarly, not all life is contained to the organic strata: rather, the organism is that which life sets against itself in order to limit itself, and there is a life all the more intense, all the more powerful for being anorganic.  There are also nonhuman Becomings of human beings that overspill the anthropomorphic strata in all directions.  But how can we reach this "plane," or rather, how can we construct it, and how can we draw the "line" leading us there?"
                                             - Deleuze & Guttari, A Thousand Plateaus, p.503

If following along with your copy of ATP at home, continue reading and hear their extremely bardoesque description of attempting life outside the organic strata followed by a severe warning: "...must therefore observe concrete rules of extreme caution ..." then some dire consequences of what could go wrong; caveat emptor.

Spiritual Engineering: methods of creating the kind of non-organic life they call "nonhuman Becomings of human beings," or what alchemists call "higher bodies."  These bodies survive the death of the organism.  D&G write about the  "body without organs" (BwO) a term borrowed from Antonin Artaud; BwO = a non-organic body. ATP as a manual for spiritual engineering resonates with the role they give to machines in the creation process with their concept of "abstract machines" that give genesis to mechanical creative processes.  The last sentence and the last word of ATP: "Mechanosphere."  Engineer your mechanosphere.

Spiritual engineering appears foreshadowed and anticipated in Anti-Oedipus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia Part I when D & G presented the factory model of the Unconscious Mind as opposed to the Freudian conception of the Unconscious as a theater where the contents of this mind represent and symbolize something else usually having to do either literally or metaphorically with family.  The unconscious "factory" is motivated by desire and this desire can become actualized or produced externally in the conscious world hence the D&G term: "desiring-production" as a term to describe the inner workings and function of the Unconscious or Deep Self. Discovering and bringing to light one's deepest desires then finding out how to produce them, how to make one's dreams come true, appears what Aleister Crowley means when he beseeches humankind to "Do what thou wilt."  Desiring-production = Do what thou wilt.  Of course, the complete formula Crowley gives is: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.  Love is the law, love under will." How does this relate with desiring-production?  If it seems D&G don't have an obvious connection to the second half of the formula consider that Deleuze cites Lewis Carroll as one primary source for "The Logic of Sense" particularly the Alice stories and Sylvie & Bruno.  The latter seems an overlooked masterpiece.

Modeling and mapping out the unconscious or subconscious mind with the intention of making it known and thus more functional, examining the inner mechanisms of the human biological machine, puts D&G squarely in the company G.I. Gurdjieff and Aleister Crowley who both stated at different times that a primary intention of their methods was to render the subconscious mind conscious.  This is also one effect of bardo voyaging; bardo training shares the intention to make the subconscious conscious through various exercises including past life recalls, certain ways of video gaming etc. etc.  Another way to say it - the systems or approaches Gurdjieff, Crowley, and D&G present include different forms of bardo training.  Deleuze, Gurdjieff and Crowley also have in common extremely obscure, idiosyncratic and singular language that makes much of their core writings nearly impenetrable when encountered for the first time.  A safety net to winnow out the unwary before it gets too real may provide one, but certainly not the only explanation for their particular writing styles.  All three also share a penchant for creating/reinterpreting various concepts relating to spiritual work.  They are all fond of introducing neologisms, coining words and phrases creating nomenclature to further their communications and to make and sustain a self-referential lexicon of terms and aesthetics for practical use.   Upon experimentation, many congruencies between the three systems will be noticed, overlapping, helping to explain and filling in blanks in each other. The underlying operational similarities between the three appear so close at times that it seems they comprise radically different ways of communicating the same information.  It's the Sufi story of the 5 blind men and the elephant where each one describes a different aspect of the elephant then they put the information together to grasp the whole.  Since some of their concepts and language appear obscure even after years of praxis and study it can prove quite helpful to cross-pollinate the systems for more complete understanding.  They all contribute to a rhizomatic Tree of Life; the eclectic method of bardo training which, of course, can expand out to include any system or practice with the intention of making the subconscious conscious.  Despite appearing less flamboyant and relatively scandal free, I strongly contend that Deleuze worked as an avatar of this era just as much as those other two rascals.

D&G practiced what they preached. They experimented with their work and their lives with the philosophy they wrote about.  One key concept in ATP is the assemblage; the usefulness of looking at the larger picture of how systems and groups get formed between individual things; the connections between things, how they interact and affect each other.  They use the example of the orchid/wasp relationship, the wasp carrying pollen to the orchid as an example of one kind of assemblage.  Deleuze and Guttari each had strong individual voices, were innovators and forces to contend with in their respective fields before joining forces to write four books that quite effectively proves and validates the power of the assemblage to create.

The first time I attended a workshop and convention at I.D.H.H.B. in 1990 there was an emphasis placed throughout on forming small groups for more effectively carrying out whatever it is you want to do.  I attended a lecture by Timothy Leary shortly after returning and was shocked by the coincidence when he delivered the exact same message: a strong recommendation to form small, independent, autonomous, groups of like-minded individuals.  The suggestion to form assemblages seemed so uncannily similar that I imagined they could be in cahoots with each other somehow, either that or  Coincidence Control was having its way with me again.  This same notion found a radical and anarchistic expression in Hakim Bey's Temporary Autonomous Zone published around this time.

Assemblages relate to Buckminster Fuller's approach of viewing the behavior and aesthetics of whole systems as opposed to only looking at the parts.  His recognition of the synergy made apparent through the formation of assemblages may help explain its importance to D&G.  Assemblages form whenever musicians get together to make music.  If you consider these assemblages to have a non-organic life of their own able to communicate through music then it appears easy to see music as a group invocation, a drawing down from above.  Every magical act results from an assemblage of some kind even if it's an assemblage of a solo magician, his temple, robe and weapons.  Crowley's assemblage for the reception of The Book of the Law included his wife Rose, Egyptian mythology, stele 666 at the Boulak museum and his apartment in Cairo among other things.  All of Crowley's major works resulted from collaborations with other people; he was constantly forming and changing assemblages to further his research and experiments.

I've read ATP twice now and have noticed no deliberate use or mention of qabala, although one of Deleuze's revered sources, Antonin Artaud, studied and practiced it.  However, one clear allusion to Crowley and the aeon of Horus in the form of a pun on birds does appear.  The assemblage of Deleuze and Guttari clearly resembles the archetype of "twins," in particular the twin forms of Horus, a god comprised of an active aspect, Ra Hoor Kuit, and a passive or silent aspect, Hoor pa Kraat.  These twins get recapitulated in posture every time the student practices a Star Ruby, Crowley's adaptation of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.  Thrusting out the fiery pentagram from the forehead with arms extended making the Sign of Horus (The Enterer) puts one in the position of Ra Hoor Khuit, the active.  This gets immediately followed by the Sign of Hoor pa Kraat with the forefinger to the lips in the traditional sign of silence, also a sign of defence.  This twins motif also relates to the concept given in ATP Ch.3 that morphogenesis, the creation of forms, always has a double articulation with, as they basically say, one side facing out, the other side facing in.  It can also prove interesting to compare the twins refrain with Deleuze's discussion of crystal-images in Cinema 2 The Time-Image.  These crystal-images are one half actual, one half virtual, reflect each other and change places.

Besides being a highly innovative experimental psychoanalyst and theorist, Guttari was also an extremely energetic political activist constantly forming groups and organizing meetings for social change.  At one point he was described as a militant Trotskyite - militant in the sense of being hard core and active, he never advocated violence as a solution and distanced himself from those elements though he did get beat up for his activism in the early days.  He was also directly involved with the widespread protests, general strikes and university occupations across France that occurred in May of '68 which basically took over the country and brought the economy to a temporary halt.  Guttari traveled frequently and was actively involved with one cause or another for social, political, or ecological change until the end of his life.  Deleuze, on the other hand, stayed more in the background, more often then not expressing social activism by publicly voicing support as for example his essays on the Palestinian situation.  Health reasons may have contributed to his largely staying off the front lines, but he wasn't completely retiring getting involved in demonstrations against repression in prisons with Michel Foucault and J.P. Sartre in the early '70's that sometimes resulted in violent clashes.  Deleuze's main gig apart from writing was as a teacher of philosophy.  His classes at the University of Paris at Vincennes/St. Denis became renowned. He prepared rigorously for them, attracted students from around the world and regularly lectured to overflowing crowds.  One devoted student attended every seminar he gave from 1970 - 1987.  Deleuze hated to travel and was married to the same woman from 1956 until his death in 1995.  Guttari, on the other hand, had a succession of female partners throughout his life.  Intersecting Lives by Francois Dosse provides excellent biographical portraits of these two iconoclasts.

Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guttari

ATP  Chapter 10. 1730: Becoming-Intense, Becoming-Animal, Becoming-Imperceptible ... seems very shamanic in the sense of describing states of consciousness, modes and "becomings" beyond the ordinary; mapping out and modeling areas beyond common human existence.  Becoming-imperceptible seems a recommended way to go though the authors appear extremely circumspect about favoring one course of action over another.  Again, the authors live up to their words by becoming-imperceptible with their bias, presenting their visions without apparent moral or ethical judgement.  It should be noted that becoming-imperceptible is not the same as being completely imperceptible.  Their bias can be deduced and also shows a little more when the language gets more transparent.  Still, in my novitiate experience, it's impossible to tell who is speaking, Deleuze or Guttari.  Their individual opinions become imperceptible from one another.  The D&G assemblage has formed what another assemblage, Burroughs and Gysin, called the Third Mind.

Becoming-imperceptible directly relates to the importance of silence in Crowley's mysticism as well as the extensive experimentation he did with invisibility in Mexico City.  Crowley's invisibility or becoming-imperceptible practice served him well years later when he discharged his pistol in an attempted mugging in Calcutta and had to disappear into the night to get away.  More on silence here.

Deleuze seems a magicien d'excellence because his magick appears mostly imperceptible.  It's not immediately obvious that his philosophy can activate several different approaches or lines of work to spiritual growth - to the 'nonhuman Becomings of humans.'