Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Servants of the Star & Snake

I've held a deep fascination for Kenneth Grant since first hearing about him in Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger, The Final Secret of the Illuminatti.  Wilson invoked Grant's researches into his story to support the hypothesis that Beings from Sirius were transmitting preternatural Intelligence to certain individuals on Earth.  Wilson, appropriately enough, cites Grant 11 times in Cosmic Trigger, the first one being a quote from The Magical Revival stating that Crowley identified the heart of his magical current with Sirius.  As well as being adepts at Qabalah, Grant and Wilson also shared an appreciation and a practical use for the works of H.P. Lovecraft.  They both experimented extensively with theurgic magick.

I have strong affinities with many of the subjects and disciplines found in Cosmic Trigger particularly Sirius, Magick, Qabalah, Lovecraft and synchronicities.  If Wilson acts as a spiritual progenitor of sorts for me, then Kenneth Grant seems like an Uncle from the same lineage.

Servants of the Star and Snake published this year by Starfire and edited by Henrik Bogdan beautifully illuminates the salient points in the legacy of Kenneth Grant's often controversial and iconoclastic career.  The chief influence on his path was undoubtedly his wife, Steffi as evident by the subtitle: essays in honour of Kenneth and Steffi Grant; the cover photo is of a painting of the couple by Osman Spare and across from the title page is a photo of them on their wedding day, February 14, 1946.  One of Grant's great acts of service was helping Austin Osman Spare continue researching and publishing his magical system and art.  Grant is responsible for bringing a great deal of recognition to Spare's work.  Without him, most of us would never have heard of Austin Osman Spare.  It was Steffi Grant who first brought Spare to Kenneth's attention.  I don't know who turned him on to Lovecraft.

Many of the essays appear to have been written by people who had a close relationship with the Grants.  The love and respect they have for his work comes through quite clearly in the writing.  All of the main bases in Grant's legacy seem covered: the fruitful relationship with Spare, Advaita Vedanta, Gerald Massey, Lam, Sexual Magick and Tantra, etc.  There is the excellent essay, Foundations of the Typhonian Trilogies that provides valuable background on how Kenneth Grant's unique expression and continuance of the magical tradition came into existence.  It was the first two volumes of the Typhonian Trilogies that Robert Anton Wilson cited from in Cosmic Trigger.

Some of the controversies Grant was severely criticized for get addressed in this compendium.  His creative incorporation and use of fiction by H.P. Lovecraft, Sax Rohmer and others receives some exegesis and clarity here.  His view, following the lead of Frater Achad, that the aeon of Maat had shown up early to supersede the aeon of Horus receives an inside perspective in the essay by Nema, Kenneth Grant and Maat.  Nema had visions of her own in that regard and relates an interesting synchronicity when she sent a record of them to Grant.

Two interesting points made in her vision: the presiding deity of the aeon appears a matter of human perspective and that aeons are eternal.  To me, the boundaries between aeons become fuzzy - elements of the aeon of Isis and Osiris as well as Maat appear in the current aeon of Horus.  How they can exist eternally gets explained by Deleuze with his paradox of pure becoming in The Logic of Sense.   Whenever an event occurs, and this applies also to macro-events such as the advent of aeons, we can distinguish two dimensions of time.  He called the ordinary sequential flow of time which is limited and measured, Chronos.  The second dimension of time he called Aion.   Viewed in the time frame of the Aion, when an event occurs it splits off simultaneously into the infinite past and the infinite future.  This indicates the flow of pure becoming.  The causes and origins of the Maat event go infinitely into the past of its occurrence, therefore can get tuned into now.   I hold the opinion that Horus best describes this aeon in the Chronos time reference.  The becoming of the aeon Horus = the aeon of Maat.  The DNA of the Maat aeon seems encoded in the one of Horus.  Tapping into it may explain why some occultists feel it  has arrived.  I don't see a sharp dividing line between the two, but suspect that we still have a ways to go.  The current president of the United States seems a strong throwback to the male dominated Age of Osiris.

One of my favorite lines in the book is a quote from a letter Grant wrote to Nema: "You do not appear to be able to let go of the idea that the 'self' is some kind of entity ..." She selects a few additional excellent exchanges in their letters then states the hope that this correspondence appear in print.  We second that motion.

Servants of the Star &Snake.  I no longer consider the Star to exclusively represent Sirius.  I see it in its sense as described in the previous episode of this blog flow, Beethoven and Simrit, itself based on the description of the Star card in Crowley's The Book of Thoth.  Or as Liber Al 2:62 gives it: "I am uplifted in thine heart; the kisses of the stars rain hard upon thy body." The Snake gets a shout out in Liber Al 1:61 toward the end: "Put on the wings and arouse the coiled splendour within you: come unto me!" Hindus and yogis call it kundalini, sexual energy which = spiritual energy.  Seen with this perspective, the title Servants of the Star & Snake becomes synonymous in one sense with the service of love under will.

The valuable contributions, connections, and expansions Kenneth Grant brought to Thelemic sex magick are clearly expressed more than once in the book.  Dialectically contrasting his work in sex magick with Crowley's seems shortsighted.  I would avoid conflating Crowley's experiments in that area with the extensive practical information found in Liber AlThe Book of LiesThe Book of Wisdom and Folly to name just a few sources in Crowley's oeuvre.  To focus on his possible experimental mistakes or wrong approaches against what Grant got right occludes a great deal of useful data on the subject found elsewhere in Crowley's writings, data potentially supplemented quite well with Grant's modifications.

My favorite essay is Shakti in Chinatown by Michael Bertiaux.  The literary, "fictional,"  (I would call it magick realism) nature of it seems well-suited for getting to the heart of the Grants' legacy. It is the only chapter, in my recollection, that directly exposes the theurgic character of their work.

In another excellent essay on Babalon in the Typhonian tradition, Manon Hedenborg-White states that Grant has a propensity "to play with and destabilize meaning," (p. 137) when he or she writes of the controversial claim Grant makes by identifying Babalon with Choronozon (Chaos).  This further aligns Grant with Robert Anton Wilson and other writers (including Crowley) who employ what Wilson called guerilla ontology - making provocative statements that might not literally be true, but that serve to help dissolve the readers preconceived views.  Hedonborg-White goes on to articulate Grant's use of this technique.  Christopher Hyatt refers to it as "breaking set" in the Preface to the Eye in the Triangle.  Another example of Grant's literary tricksterness is the title Against the Light.  Subtitled, A Nightside Narrative the undiscerning reader might conclude this is about dark things fighting the light and never crack open he cover.  If they do make it to the Contents page, they'll discover opposite it a quote from Finnegans Wake by James Joyce about holding up a verse against the light to read it better.  In other words, the assumed meaning of the title gets reversed.

Like the writings of Crowley, Wilson and others in this lineage, learning to understand, use, and flow with reversals of sense and paradox appears key to deeply penetrating into the alchemical/transformational percepts and affects found in the Typhonian Triliogies and Kenneth Grant's writings in general.  It goes without saying that any understanding of Qabalah aids the endeavor logarithmically.  "Paradox is initially that which destroys good sense as the only direction, but it is also that which destroys common sense as the assignation of fixed identities." (Deleuze, Logic of Sense p. 3)  I elaborate on the esoteric use of paradox here.

 In her essay, Nema quotes from Outside The Circles of Time another common theme:

It is not my purpose to try to prove anything; my aim is to construct a magical mirror capable of reflecting some of the less elusive images seen as shadows of a future aeon.  This I do by means of suggestion, evocation, and by those oblique and 'in-betweeness' concepts that Austin Spare defined as 'Neither-Neither' ..." (p.180)

The quote goes on to explain the benefits of such a practice.  The state of 'in-betweeness' is what Tibetan Buddhists know as the Bardo.  'Neither-Neither' also describes the Bardo.  The term comes from the Tibetan Book of the Dead.  Kenneth Grant appeared a very intrepid and experienced bardo explorer.  The term 'magical mirror' also becomes a clue for the realm or area of exploration we're talking about.  The bardo sometimes gets considered an unravelling of consciousness.  Chapel Perilous seems an extreme sector of the bardo that can seep into and disrupt normal social stability.  Knowing that Grant practices bardo exploration may make it easier, or you braver, to navigate the stranger areas of his writings and benefit from them.  By reading his writings, you will explore the bardo, it comes through in his books.

This may (or may not) explain why Bertiaux put Shakti in ChinatownChinatown is a favorite of Robert Anton Wilson. Chinatown in that film gets portrayed as a bardo-like area of mystery and unpredictable danger; dark and scary.  Bardo exploration has also been referred to as Darkside Dreamwalking, another appropriate description for some of Kenneth Grant's adventures.

Servants of the Star and Snake is a beautifully conceived and executed book with a high aesthetic on par with it's content and subject matter.  Praise Thoth!  Every article is worth the price of admission though the entrance may not be for everyone.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Beethoven and SIMRIT

Two separate uplifting musical currents crossed my wires in October with the biannual SIMRIT tour coinciding with a World Wide Web study of Beethoven's String Quartets.  Here's an experiment to document this musical disjunctive synthesis.

At first glance these musical entities appear to have little in common. One, a solitary composer, dead for nearly 200 years, under-appreciated in his time, but whose name has since become synonymous with musical greatness; the gold standard.  The other an assemblage, a unit, of 5 musicians vibrantly alive and greatly appreciated right NOW by a small, but growing cognoscenti of world, trance, and yoga music enthusiasts; musical time and space voyagers.

Our entry into the circle of Beethoven's Quartets comes from the book of that title, The Beethoven Quartets, by Joseph Kerman originally published in 1966, and a weekly discussion of that book curated by Eric Wagner over at RAWIlluminationIn that lucid expression of the master's music we find overlaps of aesthetic with SIMRIT, most notably with intention.  These quotes about Ludwig's later Quartets apply equally to the tour I just experienced:

"There is an attendant sense of spiritualization, which has struck all commentators without eliciting from them very much in the way of verbal articulation.  Principally, perhaps, it is the whole matter of musical contrast which is treated most radically, and which as a result opens up whole new unexpected areas of consciousness." ...

Now, with some justice, the various features enumerated here might be considered to be inward, subtle, technical, and even esoteric.  If every impulse of the last style tended in this one direction, there might be a basis for the formidable barrier that the late works used to be said to present - do they still present? - to the common listener.  But an equally strong 'public' impulse accompanies the 'private' one: a striking new directness of emotional appeal, a determination to touch humankind as nakedly as possible.  Never in the past had Beethoven reached so urgently for immediacy.  There is something very moving about the spectacle of this composer, having reached heights of subtlety in the pure manipulation of tonal materials, battering at the communications barrier with every weapon of his knowledge."

We find another connection on the level of qabalistic, Joycean dream language, the associative linguistics of stream of consciousness, this stream emanating from unconscious or subconscious levels; the genetic language of the Deep Self.  One of Beethoven's significant musical teachers was Joseph Hayden.  Holding the post of European classical music doyen in SIMRIT is Shannon Hayden.  The names are spelled and pronounced slightly differently, Shannon's last name has a long "a" sound, yet one of her early music teachers, perhaps in a fit of magical wisdom, regularly and intentionally mispronounced Hayden to sound like Haydn, to connect and resonate the musical current of the classical Viennese master with that of her young student.  Kerman begins his book quoting a similar transfer of musical current from Mozart to Beethoven through Hayden.

SIMRIT truly plays World Music integrating traditions from all over our fair planet.  As mentioned, Shannon's pedigree comes out of  European classical music updated with the modern technologies of electronics, looping and sound sampling tastefully applied.  She also occasionally puts down her cello for the American folk strains of acoustic guitar.  I've known Salif Bamakora as a devoted student of West African griot or jeli music ever since I met him in Bamako, Mali more than 10 years ago.  His mentors on the kora include the renowned brothers and kora masters Madou and Toumani Diabate whose family lineage with the instrument dates back to its invention.  The rhythm section of Devon Ashley and Jared May have absorbed and played a widely eclectic array of music genres and species.  As a drummer for the Lemonheads, Devon experienced firsthand the hybrid world of alt rock.  Growing up in the urban zone of Chicagoland, his musical DNA includes underground rock, soul, rap, blues and anything else that hit the streets of big city midwest America in the last 40 years.  Jared boasts an equal, but different level of versatility in music.  I have recorded him playing Entwhistle meets Jaco progressive rock/jazz fusion riffs jamming with Isaac James and E.J. Gold at one end of his spectrum to solid, melodic tinged lines backing up the gospel/folk sounds of MaMuse.  Lead singer and songwriter Simrit Kaur mixes East India influenced vocal sonorities with  a sound all her own gathered from the culturally diversity of a Greek heritage growing up in the American South.  More than one of them began their musical journeys playing or singing in church.  They all like the Grateful Dead.

The fall tour this year with SIMRIT began for me with a summer preview of a significantly revamped set list at the Beloved festival held near the Oregon coast in early August. The band emerged from rehearsals with at least two new songs and some rearrangements of other ones incorporating extended improvised sections.  To these ears it seemed they had crystallized an aesthetic shift from a collective of musicians who played their memorized parts properly to a cohesive soul, a single unit responding musically to the moment.  I took advantage of the highly professional stage crew at Beloved to properly mic Devon's entire drum kit.  Usually, the drums get four mics: kick, snare, and stereo overheads due to input limitations with our stage box (snake) and in most venues this works well with a little dynamic mixing.  Having microphones on the drums everywhere I desired highlighted Ashley's subtle and soulful playing.  Devon joins the ranks of amazing drummers/percussionists that I've had the opportunity to work alongside.

That day at Beloved was a long one.  SIMRIT played first on the bill on the main stage around noon then had another set at 9 pm in the small meditation dome atop a hill looking over the site.  After our well-received debut I headed up to the dome to check out the sound system and get a lay of the land.  I was pleasantly surprised to find my friends in the group HuDost leading a dynamic, musical workshop.  Jemal was providing psychedelic/ambient electric guitar soundscapings while Moksha pumped a harmonium and lead the small group in mind/body awareness exercises using intentional breath and visualization techniques.  She employed a framework around the four elements of the ancients: Water, Air, Fire and Earth even incorporating a variation of what has elsewhere been called the Sufi heart chakra exercise, itself a form of what Crowley calls "love under will."

The attendees of the Beloved festival appeared to me a classic snapshot of the diversity found in Tim Leary's fifth circuit intelligence: larval humanity attempting to break free from the prison of robotic, societal programming and expectations.  Abundant bliss ninnies reveling in newly discovered hedonic gratification cavorted freely alongside the yogis, health food adepts and artists demonstrating how to put to use these liberated energies for maximum pleasure, humor and intelligence; hedonic engineering  in practice.  I viewed the proceedings with cautious hope.

The start of SIMRIT's evening set in the small, white geodesic dome atop the hill looked to be heading for technical disaster.  Inside the dome one found a beautifully fung shuied facismile of a sacred space that held about 40  people seating or laying down on the grass.  If only they had put the same kind of attention towards the sound system.  Setting up the band was a nightmare.  The house tech didn't know how to use the brand new board someone else had brought in.  I hadn't seen it before either; didn't even know they made mixing desks that small and cheap - about the size of 1.5 laptop computers, but with a postage stamp monitor.  Once we thought the stage was connected, about the same time we were scheduled to start, Simrit tested her mic.  It sounded like a sock had been put over it, dull and faraway.  Some time was spent troubleshooting the problem in front of the packed audience patiently waiting.  I intensely urged the technicians to get it together until I noticed the dude beside me on the mixing board beginning to act strangely to the point where I worried about a breakdown.  I saw him making gestures with his hand over the board like one might draw a sigil in ritual magic as if this would solve the audio issues.  This is called confusion of the planes. Once I observed this fellow's fragile state, I immediately and consciously relaxed letting go of all extraneous tension; instinctively stepping into the role of guiding him through his technical dark night.  I felt him reflexively relax when I chilled; the problem was approached more calmly.  I suggested that the lead vocal channel was broken (on this brand new mini-board) and suggested trying a different channel.  Lo and behold, it worked.  I was then permitted on the board and discovered that all the treble had been rolled off the errant channel.  The tech thought all equalization had been bypassed, but the eq bypass switch strangely didn't apply to the low pass filter, the source of all the anxiety.

This 40 seat geodesic dome decorated like a Hindu temple marked the appearance of the most detailed reviewer/critic of the sound I'd ever encountered.  It seems my  mixing supervisor from the Invisible College beamed themselves into the body of a woman who approached me and began making extensive comments.  She began quite complimentary then quickly shifted into a meticulous analysis; "turn down 250Hz a couple of dB on the bass, try adding a dB of 8k on the vocal, etc. " I listened and declined to implement most of the suggestions.  I did try her idea to put a touch of reverb on the harmonium.  Usually I get annoyed by these kinds of intrusions, but I found it amusing in this environment to encounter this supervision.  Besides, you never know who you're really dealing with.

* * * * * * 

One can easily imagine Beethoven's music playing out into the resounding, reverberant, massive acoustics of San Francisco's Grace Cathedral where SIMRIT began its 2018 tour of the West.

Photo by Corrine Yuen Harrison

Setting up seemed a little like running through a labyrinth.  Where are all the parts, how do you do this again? I had to evoke myself in the past to re-aquaint my current self with the operation of the M32 digital mixer.  We had an outside sound company providing the front end - the  house loudspeakers and amplifiers this time, thank God! The speaker arrays were flown above the stage allowing clarity of sound to reach all the way back to the start of this labyrinth pictured above.

Interfacing with the excellent and professional sound company was part of the labyrinth of setting up.  When Devon hit his snare I could tell something sounded wrong with the right speaker stack.  I told the systems tech who discovered one row of speakers out, but was able to get them back online in a timely fashion.  We had another issue with a bad drum overhead mic cable which I discovered immediately via the board's metering, yet the drums and cymbals sounded extremely clear and articulate with the just a single overhead mic working.  I changed the bad cable only because it seemed better for the recording.

Like any journey, the whole tour became a sort of labyrinth, following Ariadne's thread through highways, streets and alleyways; gas stations, hotels, homes of generous, loving supporters, restaurants, health food emporiums, backstage potluck to these incredible pockets, or chambers, of transcendence and sanctuary - the concerts themselves.

Photo by Vanessa Noelle

The architecture of the building expresses itself in the acoustics of the space.  The musicians, with their voices, resonant devices and electronics, amplification and lighting technology bring the Cathedral to life and allow the building to fully express itself through the musical expression of the human invocants.  This chamber paradoxically becomes both a landing pad and a point of lift off.  The space itself becomes alive in a very non-human way, pregnant with possibility while electromagnetically engendering a collective experience.  In the words of Vanessa Noelle: "It was heavenly. Their sound really resonated in that big cathedral with high ceilings with their music. "

Grace Cathedral was close to home and with 2 days off and a travel day before the next concert, it felt separate from the rest of the tour.  For me, the tour began with the traveling.  It started in Edmonton, Canada and finished in Encinitas, California near San Diego.  There was snow on the ground and winter conditions when we started and it felt like the end of summer 3 weeks later in sunny Southern California when the tour concluded. 

Beginning and ending in cities that start with the letter "E" reminded the Qabalist of a line from Stairway to Heaven: "... when she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed, with a word she can get what she came for." In Erik Davis' superb analysis of Zeppelin's fourth album (published by Continuum in their 33 1/3 series) he notes that Robert Plant sometimes clearly substituted the word "stars" for "stores" and gives an excellent interpretation referencing ancient Egyptian mythology ( i.e. magic) why he might do so. The letter "E" corresponds with the Star card in the tarot.  If the stars are all closed, with a word she can get what she came for.  The "word," in this metaphor, represents the SIMRIT shows.  What "she" gets can be guessed, inferred or understood by perusing The Book of Thoth's description of the Star card, part of which reads:  

Behind the figure of the goddess is the celestial globe. Most prominent among its features is the seven-pointed Star of Venus, as if declaring the principal characteristic of her nature to be Love. (See again the description in Chapter I of the Book of the Law). From the golden cup she pours this ethereal water, which is also milk and oil and blood, upon her own head, indicating the eternal renewal of the categories, the inexhaustible possibilities of existence.

She did get what she came for at every city on the tour even those locales that don't begin with the letter E.

* * * * * * 

Traveling through the Canadian Rockies was the scenic highlight of the tour, for me.  This time around my go-to music was Beethoven's String Quartets as played by The Tokyo String Quartet. 

I posted in the Beethoven group:

On tour driving through the Canadian Rocky Mountains listening to the E minor and C major quartets on headphones. Driving through valleys between Earth reaching up to Sky with pure white snow crowning the peaks. These mountains come in all shapes and sizes, some resembling pyramid-like Egyptian tombs housing long dead giant Queens and Kings. Another one suggests a castle chess piece. These geological expresssions from our fair planet are always a wonder to behold.  Earth creates mountain ranges with the same poise and beauty as Beethoven creating his symphonic music.

The opening Allegra of the E minor sounds like a woman to me with all the infinite depth, drama, sudden change in mood, soft, delicate, questioning, bold, timid, angry, fearful, giving birth, etc. – quite a lot of mood shifts for a 9:30 piece. Perhaps these ears get biased from currently reading Mead’s translation of the Pistis Sophia. The C major quartet also sounds feminine, to me. I like the moments of dissonance. Maybe this dissonance causes Kerman to label the opening movement “strange?”

Ludwig van Beethoven

Rocky Mountains near Banff, Alberta

Flying up to Edmonton to begin the tour I had reason to google Bob Dylan and Beethoven and came across this verse from Tombstone Blues:

“Where Ma Rainey and Beethoven once unwrapped their bedrolls
Tuba players now rehearse around the flagpole
And the National Bank at a profit sells roadmaps to the soul
To the old folks home and the college.”

Including these disparate musical innovators – Rainey was called the “Mother of the Blues” – in the same line shows Dylan’s respect and acknowledgment of Beethoven. Dylan’s avid interest in musical history – whole PBS documentaries have been made from his collection of old film clips – indicates his great respect for Ma Rainey whom he pairs with Beethoven. The remaining lines of this stanza superficially appear as a cynical view of societal programming.

I choose a different interpretation: “Tuba players now rehearse around the flagpole” – music claims new territories like a flag does symbolically. What territory? Tuba or not tuba, that is the question. This kind of phonetic allusion seems very much a part of Dylan’s repertoire. He has read James Joyce.  Selling "roadmaps to the soul” echoes the point I made in last week’s post (regarding alchemical instructions getting encoded in music.) 

The title Tombstone Blues obviously suggests death.  Old folks home suggests death lurking close by.  A college gives education.  The Invisible College educates invisibly. Educate yourself about death; make a roadmap to the soul.  I submit that Beethoven's music contains similar instructions.  A lot of great music seems didactic in a multiplicity of different ways along the lines of a spiritual education, an education into the mysteries of death and the life that follows.  Every SIMRIT concert does, different each time.

* * * * * * 

We got robbed in downtown Vancouver. I went out to smoke and, probably unrelated, noticed several police in SWAT vests hanging in the Lobby so I casually got out of there as quickly as possible.  I stood by our Sprinter and breathed in the night air, surrounded by a very active urban scene, even in the parking lot, I noticed.  I strolled around the neighborhood giving the officers a chance to do their business in the Lobby before going up, and encountered a number of colorful characters space and time tripping, a fashion bricolage from central casting mashing together a number of different eras including the future.

The next day, setting up in a church, we discovered the van had been broken into and a harmonium, drum sampler and stage clothes had been stolen.  Foresightedly and fortunately, it had been parked with its back doors against a fence making them impossible to open, barring the thieves from getting at the majority of the gear in the back hold.  Replacements didn't seem difficult to get and it did teach a relatively harmless lesson: protect your valuables or they will get taken.  As below, so above.  

The hardest place to do the sound was St. John's Episcopal Church in Los Angeles, one of the most challenging venues for acoustics that I've ever heard.  The interior, a large cathedral space with a high arched ceiling, seemed entirely made of stone.  I felt like I was mixing inside a large tomb, a pyramid with a different shape.  Fortunately, the band played exceptionally well, some consider it the best concert of the tour and I don't disagree.  I went a little more radical with the processing to meet the challenge of the acoustics and the sound worked out.  Another interesting bit of luck is that the M32s malfunctioning USB card that had been blocking multitrack recording for the past few concerts decided to do its job that night, the night SIMRIT reached a new height was caught on the cyber equivalent of tape.  We got a recording!  That was the last time this USB card worked and it has since been replaced.

I took a walk after soundcheck to get some air.  Looking back at the tall edifice of the Cathedral I noticed two phrases inscribed in a large banner that read:

I thought this seemed quite a political message for a church, a message however that goes on a backburner whenever there isn't a horrific mass shooting in the news.  The next morning brought news of a deadly, senseless attack at a synagogue in Pittsburgh that left 11 people dead.  It put me in a bad mood.  I don't know why I take these things personally.

We had a different kind of gig this day, providing backing music for a Kundalini workshop hosted by Jai Dev Khalsa.  I enjoy this kind of change of pace.  It takes place in a small yoga studio, a setting more intimate that your average concert space, and is completely improvised on SIMRIT'S part.  

Jai Dev begins these workshops with an introductory, free-ranging discourse.  His talk this afternoon was one of the best public talks I've heard in a long time.  Without being specific, it addressed, for me, the morning tragedy in Pennsylvania.  The question that always comes up in the aftermath of these aberrations is, what kind I do about it?  How can I help?  Waiting for politicians to legislate gun control has proven to not be a solution.  This discourse provided suggestions.

Being a student of the philosopher Crowley and of the magician Deleuze, both spiritual descendants of St. Nietzsche, I subscribe to the notion of evolutionary Immanence. I interpret this idea to say that we have vast potential, right here, right now, to develop powers to help and heal far beyond what common consensual reality tells us is possible.  

Jai Dev brought up the idea of service to others as contrasted with service to self.  This very basic distinction often gets overlooked.  From an enlightened perspective, service to others = service to self, or should I say service to Self.  Also, there are times when service to self seems necessary in order to better serve others.  These are my editorial comments, I don't remember what he said verbatim.  He then proceeded to show the gathered students the active power of (again in my words) "love under will": opening the heart chakra then directing that energy with intention.  I participated as best I could directing my energy toward Pittsburgh.

This energy becomes substantially sensible once it crosses a certain threshold.  Jai Dev brought up the idea of protection saying that the  open heart chakra substance can provide its own protection.  Without the experience of feeling these high energetics then losing or having them taken away, the idea of protection can seem a little paranoid.  The higher neurological circuits - C5 and C6 in Leary's exposition, appear very unstable and transitory to conscious awareness.  You can get there, but how long can you stay?  It takes many repeated efforts over years to crystallize a stable body, a stable awareness with the power to act in these higher circuits of consciousness.  These repeated efforts comprise the activity of establishing new territory in a higher dimension.  Tuba players now rehearse around a flagpole.  The National Bank at a profit (accumulated higher substance) sells roadmaps to the soul.  This gets collectively known as the alchemical process.

The substance radiating from a healthy open heart can provide its own protection, but doesn't do so automatically.  It requires directed intention to make a protective frame of some sort; love under the will to protect will get the job done.  The higher emotional circuitry needs the alignment and participation of the higher mental circuitry.  Visualizing any kind of sacred iconography while under the influence of the higher emotional - a cross, om symbol, etc.  will provide a protective barrier.  Studies in parapsychology have shown the symbol of the 5 pointed star, otherwise known as the pentagram, to be very effective at blocking energies.  Perhaps this explains its prevalent use in both the U.S. and Soviet militaries, and probably others.   The banishing ritual of the pentagram has been claimed by several authorities (Crowley, Regardie, Cornelius etc.) to be one of the primary and most important rituals in ceremonial magic as it banishes extraneous influence and distraction, invokes C6 and protects the invocation.  It was the only external ritual Crowley performed on a daily basis at his Abbey in Sicily.

Another primary Thelemic exercise, Liber Resh, ( I call it the Sun Adoration) illustrates the necessary cooperation between the higher feeling and higher thinking circuits.  The student gets instructed to say a short prayer and identify with the cardinal points of the different phases of the sun in the daily rotation of our planet - dawn, noon, dusk and midnight. The prayers deviate with each phase of the sun though they all conclude on the same note: "Tahuti standeth in his splendour at the prow and Ra-Hoor abideth at the helm.  The nomenclature comes from Ancient Egyptian mythology. Tahuti = Thoth, the god of writing and magic = the higher mental apparatus.  Ra-Hoor = the higher emotional circuit.  The higher self or soul is viewed as a boat traveling across the sky with those two characters powering and steering it.

After the workshop we all went to a place in a quiet part of Hollywood for dinner.  The Sprinter got parked beside a newish, nondescript brown building with nothing but names in memoriam and Hebrew letters adorning its exterior.  There was no sign of business or residence.  I wasn't sure if it was a temple or mausoleum.

My second project after the SIMRIT tour finished was a last minute marathon mixing session with local artist Ludi Hinrichs.  I was astonished to discover his full name: Ludwig van Beethoven Hinrichs, his father named him after Beethoven.  A musical resonance of excellence certainly transferred from the dead master to the living artist due in part, possibly, to the power of a name.  Part of my mixing job involved editing out unwanted noises and sounds.  This lead Ludi to opine that I could advertise myself as a "Disappearing Artist" and put the phrase, "Nothing too visible," on my business cards.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Burning Down the House

This video has no hidden messages - if there are any, they are hidden from me as well.  I just like this music.  It's from the Talking Heads Stop Making Sense tour and features my friend, the late, great Bernie Worrell on keyboards.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Creating A Spiritual Guide

The purpose of this essay is to show how anyone can create a personal Guide to the nonphenomenal side of the evolving human experience.  In the lingo of Leary's model: creating (or discovering - depending on how you view it) a Guide to the post-terrestrial neurological circuits, circuits 5 - 8.  No indoctrination or adaptation of a specific belief system is required except a general one that allows this possibility.  The method involves learning how to read signs.  How one ascertains and signifies the signs opens a potent path of self-discovery.

A sign can be any kind of nonverbal communication from the mundane to the deeply profound.  The milk has a sour smell, an obvious sign not to drink it.  You can get equally blatant signs regarding your spiritual growth.  As you might imagine, most signs regarding the alchemical development of spirit appear much subtler.  Learning to read signs develops the perceptive faculties of the higher circuits/higher bodies.  For instance, the interpretation of a sign that can go in many different, sometimes opposite, directions requires intuition to aid in making a choice of what direction to take or even if it's a valid (useful) sign at all or just noise on the horizon.  Intuition gets stronger with regular and frequent use. Verbal communications also transmit a wealth of signs after the science of Qabalah gets applied to it.  We shall get to that momentarily.

An informative look at the art of reading signs can be found in Proust & Signs by Gilles Deleuze.  It presents a taxonomy and examination of different kinds of signs within the environment of Marcel Proust's epic opus In Search of Lost Time.

"To be sensitive to signs, to consider the world to be an object to be deciphered, is doubtless a gift.  But this gift risks remaining buried in us if we do not make the necessary encounters, and these encounters would remain ineffective if we failed to overcome certain stock notions." (p.26 - 27)

"The persons whom we have loved, have made us suffer, one by one; but the broken chain they form is a joyous spectacle of intelligence.  Then, thanks to intelligence, we discover what we could not know at the start: that we were already apprenticed to signs when we supposed we were wasting our time.  We realize that our idle life was indissociable from our work: 'My whole life ... a vocation'"

(p. 24 - the quote within the quote comes from Proust).

I bring up Deleuze's observations of signs and communication to suggest approaches to this art rather than as a dogmatic model to be slavishly imitated.  That goes for anything written here.

Speaking of Deleuze, it should be stated at the outset that this process of finding a Guide is rhizomatic, not arborescent.  In other words, this process operates as a nonlinear multiplicity with no specific beginning or endpoint other than completely vague metaphysical terms like Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, itself a rhizome and a multiplicity.

A rhizome, a term borrowed from botany, describes the growth patterns in this process of connecting with a Higher Intelligence.  Deleuze and Guattari's essay on the rhizome, the introduction to A Thousand Plateaus is strongly recommended for revealing the nature of spiritual growth.  A rhizome means that you can begin anywhere and go in any direction, we find no specific starting point.  However, there are starting points which can be implemented at any time more than once and not necessarily in the very beginning.

We are going to present the method that worked for us.  We are a multiplicity too!  This method is largely based on our research and experimentation  with the set of teachings Aleister Crowley presented.  It is sympathetic to, but unconnected and independent of any iteration of the O.T.O. or the A .'. A.'.  The philosophical provocations of Gilles Deleuze and the researches of Robert Anton Wilson also play into the mix. 

Crowley launched his School with theories, outlines and instructions in the biannual, occult literary journal he published for five years from 1909 until 1914 known as The Equinox Volume I.  The two  Libers (books) that begin his course are Liber E, Sub Figura IX and Liber O, Sub Figura VILiber E gives a series of yogic exercises and instructions for the training of the body and mind.  The numerical attribution of that text, 9, refers to Yesod, the first sephiroth on the middle pillar of the Tree of Life going up from Malkuth, the sphere of the material world.  Yesod signifies foundation.  The discipline of yoga provides a solid foundation for magick practices.  One of Crowley's esoteric innovations was combining yoga from the East with the Western Hermetic tradition.

Liber O, Sub Figura VI lays out basic instructions of magick.  It begins with a carefully arranged series of ten photographs showing a magician giving various signs; the first six corresponding to the elements and two phases of Spirit with the last four depicting the L. V. X. signs.  Further into the text we are given instructions for the basic rituals of the Pentagram and Hexagram.

The very first lesson in Sub Figura VI, even before the magick, a lesson also vigorously adapted by Robert Anton Wilson is SKEPTICISM. Doubt, not jumping to conclusions or resorting to dogmatic certainty, appears a crucial prerequisite to both Crowley and Wilson's presentations.  The despotic signifier is the term Deleuze uses for what rigidly beholdens one to any particular belief system.  The beliefs, whatever they may be, become a Despot that binds you to thinking and perceiving a certain way.  Much of the work of Crowley and Wilson and some of their other peers like Gurdjieff, consists of showing students how to free themselves from these despotic signifiers.

Another seminal essay, The Soldier and the Hunchback, published in the first issue of The Equinox takes on the question, "what is skepticism?"

One primary reason for adapting a healthy sense of skepticism regarding these matters: it seems extremely easy to deceive yourself.

Another primary reason: like many other areas with commercial potential where someone can make a buck we see numerous con people, charlatans and radical conspiracy theorists of all ilks who will do their utmost to sell you their line.  Some of them even believe their own bs. In common parlance, what is needed is a belief system detector, otherwise known as a bullshit detector, both to guard against self-deception and against other people's unwanted games. "While the rules of the road have been lodged, it's only people's games you've got to dodge, and it's alright Ma, I can make it. (Dylan)

Skepticism as a safeguard against extreme and irrational paranoia: When diving deep into these water, much apparent resistance may be encountered to the point where it can seem like powerful forces are out to mess with you.  Your mind can spin off and fabulate any number of tragic scenarios that would induce stress and adversely affect the nerves up to, and including, a breakdown.

Another related condition that likely occurs at some point concerns entering a zone of the bardo that Robert Anton Wilson called Chapel Perilous.  This can seem subtle or extreme at different times, but often consists of extended periods (weeks, months or years - do you ever leave or do you learn how to handle it?) of intense disorientation and fear.  It can also include uncomfortable hypersensitivity.  One purpose of the the basic rituals of the Pentagram and Hexagram aims toward reducing that sensitivity.

Wilson's, Cosmic Trigger Volume I portrays a classic textbook example of an excursion through Chapel Perilous.  Wilson said that he reached a point where he had to make the choice of either becoming completely paranoid or agnostic about his experiences.  He made the choice to view things as an agnostic, meaning that ultimately he couldn't be certain of what was going on.  His skepticism saved his sanity.  Masks of the Illuminatti (highly valued for its magical instruction), a work of fiction Wilson produced around the same time, also has much good advice and insight on traveling through Chapel Perilous.  For instance, he gives an ad hoc, extemporaneous version of the Rosy Cross ritual as a means of instantly attenuating hypersensitivity. 

The choice between paranoia and agnosticism, between certainty and doubt, can be very useful in mundane matters, as well.  Did that person just give me a dirty look, are they mad with me?  I don't know, maybe they're thinking about something else - or any number of other possible explanations.

Both Crowley and Wilson returned to and emphasized the value of doubt and skepticism throughout their careers.  Wilson quotes Crowley frequently on the subject.  He began his Maybe Logic Academy Crowley 101 course with an examination of The Soldier and the Hunchback.  Crowley, Wilson and Deleuze are grounded in the philosophy of skepticism formulated by David Hume.

Most good teachers advise their students to be skeptical to what they are being taught.  Gurdjieff reportedly said: " don't believe anything I say, verify everything for yourself."  This holds for many like-minded schools.  Wilson publicized Aleister's version of this: "Frater Perdurabo (Crowley) is the most honest of all the religious teachers. Others have said, "Believe me!" He says, "Don't believe me!" ( Book 4 Part 1)

Crowley, Wilson and others used a method Wilson would come to call "guerilla ontology" to keep their readers from automatically believing everything they said.  This method involves including factually inaccurate and misleading bullshit along with bonafide spiritual gems and insights.  A good writer or storyteller can subtly weave in elements of bs along with genuine data so that the recepient has to use their intuition to suss out what is signal and what is noise.  Or more plainly put, a bullshit detector needs some bullshit to detect in order to develop.

Holy Guardian Angel

We will return to Liber O, but first it must be clear that Crowley regarded the first major task or ordeal in his School to be the attainment of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel (HGA).  All of the student's initial efforts are to get directed toward that aim.  Anything else, he said, can be considered black magic - magic for egotistical purposes.

"... the Single Supreme Ritual is the attainment of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.  It is the raising of the complete man in a vertical straight line.

Any deviation of this line tends to become black magic.  Any other operation is black magic. 

... if the Magician needs to perform any other operation than this, it is only lawful insofar as it is a necessary preliminary to that one work."

- Magick in Theory and Practice, ch.21

The HGA represents both an extensive and intensive multiplicity; it doesn't appear as one, unchanging, coherent thing. A multiplicity can have several different, sometimes paradoxical external aspects.  The HGA also seems the type of multiplicity that changes over time.

This explains why you can read or hear several anecdotes and accounts of the HGA by Crowley and others that differ, sometimes radically, from each other.  At one point Crowley says the HGA = the subconscious mind made conscious.  At other times, he refers to the HGA as a completely autonomous and independent external entity that can take a human form.  Both of these dialectically opposing views can seem accurate in a multiplicity.

Crowley says, perhaps whimsically, that he chose to signify it that way because he thought the term Guardian Angel so absurd that it would preclude any metaphysical debate of what it actually "is."  That's what he says, anyway maybe to cover himself from attacks by critics.  One of the characteristics of the HGA is protectiveness.  In that way it behaves like the Roman Catholic Guardian Angel. I'm not alone in irrationally feeling protected at times by an unseen force of some kind.  Crowley gives examples of this kind of protection in his diaries and in the Confessions. Crowley borrowed the term Holy Guardian Angel from Macgregor Mathers' translation of the 15th Century grimoire The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage.  For the beginning process of this effort, or at any stage in our work, we don't need to know what the HGA "is," only that it functions as a spiritual guide ... among other things.

True Will

The HGA often gets described only in its full realization: the uniting of the Microcosm with the Macrocosm.  See chapter 1 in Magick in Theory and Practice for a picture of this ultimate realization.  Another expression of the HGA links it to the realization of True Will.  The HGA is said to be the epitome of your True Will.  That fact alone makes everyone's Angel different.

True Will provides the necessity for overcoming the inertia of organic life and developing a life beyond the organic.  If we maintain that the HGA begins by acting as a Guide and eventually becomes the realization of your highest aims, your True Will, then it appears obvious that formulating a True Will becomes critical to finding a Spiritual Guide; your True Will becomes your Guide in the process called the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.

To begin formulating an overall aim in life seems as easy as considering what you would like to do if free from any constraints - financial, family or otherwise.  What would you really like to do?  What is your deepest desire? True Will doesn't have to be stated in an all inclusive, final form, it will inevitable change anyway as it becomes more clearly defined in your mind.  It also need not look like a grand, altruistic enterprise like saving the world or holding politicians accountable.  A True Will could be as simple and basic as the ferryman I quote below: to bring people and livestock across the river.

In notes to Liber Samekh, a ritual Crowley modified from a more ancient text, the Bornless Ritual, to make contact with the HGA, he writes:

The Adept will be free to concentrate his deepest self, that part of him which unconsciously orders his true Will, upon the realization of his Holy Guardian Angel.  The absence of his bodily, mental, and astral consciousness is indeed cardinal to success, for it is their usurption of his attention which has made him deaf to his Soul, and his preoccupation with their affairs that has prevented him from perceiving that Soul.

To activate its function as a Guide we figure out how to arrive at its Knowledge and Conversation in a completely literal sense.  This essay aims to show how to begin this dialog or to make aware and recognize that this dialog has already begun - how to fine tune the reception.

We don't know any basic general formula for waking up to this Intelligence.  You try things, experiment, and see what works and what doesn't work.  As Crowley writes:

"It is impossible to write down precise rules by which a person may attain to the knowledge and conversation of their Holy Guardian Angel; for that is the particular secret of each one of us; a secret not to be told or even divined by any other, whatever their grade.  It is the Holy of Holies, whereof each person is their own High Priest, and none knoweth the name of his brother's or sister's God, or the Rite that invokes Him." - One Star in Sight

How do we establish knowledge of the HGA? How do we know it's there? This is where the ability to detect belief systems comes in handy.  Having this framework allows us to enter into any belief system and leave at will with no regrets because we can recognize it as a system of beliefs and not a dogmatic or despotic imperative that rigidly binds us.  We experiment with entering in to a belief system where we have the ability to make contact with an Intelligence so vastly beyond ours that it seems omniscient.  We can make experiments 'as if' this Intelligence is real and see what happens, if anything.  Beginning knowledge of this critter seems extremely easy, it then becomes a matter of degree.  Just through the act of reading this essay gives knowledge that this system of beliefs exists.  Now that you have knowledge of the HGA, lets look at communication.

To establish a dialog with the HGA one has to find out how it communicates.  We know it communicates with signs.  We have to find out how to recognize these special signs and a method for interpreting them.  These signs become like seeds for the growth of the Soul.


The next step in Liber O following the call for skepticism concerns gaining  familiarity with and an understanding of Qabalah.  This science of inner exploration acts like a vast rhizome of intelligible symbols and images that potentially turns everything into a sign.

Qabalah introduces all kinds of variations into language, symbol systems, and the interpretation of sensory stimuli.  This may have the effect of producing multiple levels of sense at an astonishingly exponential rate.  This seems like one reason why leading post-modern writers like James Joyce, Thomas Pynchon and Robert Anton Wilson love to play with qabalah in their writings.

"A secret language does not merely have a hidden cipher or code still operating by constants and forming a subsystem; it places the public language's system of variables in a state of variation."

 - Deleuze & Guatarri, A Thousand Plateaus p. 97

Qabalah can seem a daunting system of linguistics to learn due to its complexity.  Crowley recommends memorizing all the Tables of Correspondences in the dictionary he assembled, 777.  I have found this not necessary to effectively make use of this system of signs.  777 works very well as a reference book.  Eventually parts of it get memorized simply through frequent usage.  Qabalah can be learned a little at a time - possibly the only way it can get learned.  It helps immensely if one has a necessity of some kind to learn and apply it.  Beginning the process of formulating your True Will - answering the question: Why am I here? can provide an aim and purpose that may benefit from qabalistic signs.  

How one chooses, selects and interprets a potential sign provides a clear look at the subconscious mind.  This gives one indication of Qabalah as a link to the HGA, your spiritual guide.  This aspect seems not unlike gazing into a crystal ball to see visions.  The crystal ball is a neutral external medium that the psychic aspects of the subconscious mind get projected upon.  

This quality of Qabalah, the projection of the subconscious mind onto the external environment for the purposes of learning from it also reminds me of the Ferryman story in Siddhartha by Herman Hesse.  It's in chapter 9 of that book:

Tenderly, he looked into the rushing water, into the transparent green, into the crystal lines of its drawing, so rich in secrets. Bright pearls he saw rising from the deep, quiet bubbles of air floating on the reflecting surface, the blue of the sky being depicted in it. With a thousand eyes, the river looked at him, with green ones, with white ones, with crystal ones, with sky-blue ones. How did he love this water, how did it delight him, how grateful was he to it! In his heart he heard the voice talking, which was newly awaking, and it told him:
Love this water! Stay near it! Learn from it! Oh yes, he wanted to learn from it, he wanted to listen to it. He who would understand this water and its secrets, so it seemed to him, would also understand many other things, many secrets, all secrets.

The background and context of this story comes from Buddhism, so this approach may be more suited to the Eastern mind and temperament.  Organizing and navigating the filing cabinets of Qabalah, the branches, twigs, leaves and fruit of the Tree of Life may be more suited to the intellect of the Western mind.

A key phrase in the Hesse quote related to the HGA, to the process of creating or discovering a spiritual guide: "In his heart he heard the voice talking, which was newly awaking ..."  For it should not be forgotten that the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel signifies an operation that occurs in Tiphareth

Creating A Lexicon

Everyone makes their own unique individual sets of meaningful correspondences and associations based on their life experience, dreams, visions, and intuition.  Many people use a common frame of reference, the one Crowley recommends, the qabalistic Tree of Life, to file their relations in.   The symbols in this rhizome seem so fluid, variable and interchangeable that radically different lexicons can quite easily co-exist in harmony within the same frame of reference.  It's possible to create a functional lexicon, a personalized language with your budding higher consciousness without the Tree of Life, with a completely different frame of reference.  The advantage of using the Tree of Life and Crowley's Qabalah dictionary, 777,  is that it opens up multiple new levels of communication with anyone else using it.

There are many dimensions to qabalistic thinking beyond transposing letters into numbers (Gematria) or memorizing the Tables of Correspondences in 777.  Anyone who knows how to use a reference book or a dictionary can look them up.

Mirror Imaging

A primary point of education for the new lexicon builder concerns developing a skill in seeing and doing things in reverse order, seeing words backwards, etc. Crowley even advises learning how to write backwards among other things.  The whole practice and rationale behind it is found in Liber ThIShARB, 913.  This liber presents a method for recovering past memories, basically time-traveling in a visionary mode, but there are many other advantages to the practice of seeing things both forward and backward.  One advantage being a great expansion of one's lexicon.  This instruction from Liber 913 probably inspired The Beatles to experiment with backwards masking in their recordings.

In Leary's qabalah of brain circuits, the first path beyond the terrestrial robot set of lower circuits, stage 13 in his lexicon, is represented by The Hanged Man, a tarot card which depicts a man reversed.  The path of the Hanged Man, Mem, corresponds with the element Water.  "... it is only natural that one of this path's 'key words' is Reversal.  The reason for this becomes obvious when you realize that water is the world's first mirror.  It reflects what is projected into it but always in reverse similar in nature to things Above and Below the Abyss." (J. Cornelius, Essays 5).

Cornelius speaks to the doctrine that what we see and experience in the illusory world of appearance (below the Abyss) is the reverse of that perceived in the real world (above the Abyss).  We get an example of this with the physics of color.  When something appears red to us we commonly say that object is red.  Actually, red is the only color it is not.  The red looking object absorbs all the colors of the spectrum except red which it reflects.  We mistake the reflection for the thing itself.

Closely related to developing the skill to think and see backwards is the ability to comprehend, understand and be ok with paradox.  This involves the mental and emotional flexibility of being able to go in two, mutually exclusive and often contradictory directions at once.

I look at how Deleuze uses paradox in this post.  A far better look and analysis of paradox in Deleuze's philosophy is Helen Palmer's Deleuze & Futurism - A Manifesto For Nonsense:

The double-headed paradoxical element is unstable because its halves are not equal, which presupposes an indeterminate third term and gives Deleuze's system momentum.  He describes it as a perpetuum mobile; its dynamism is at the very heart of Deleuze's philosophy of language.

Palmer speaks generally.  For the aspirant looking to develop a spiritual program of growth it means that paradox can become a catalyst and motivator for such growth.  Paradox can provoke thought and action by breaking set; by breaking apart (hexagram 23 in the I Ching) habitual belief systems that keep us complacent.with the status quo.  Spiritual growth often seems a response to a crisis.  Paradox can help provoke that crisis.

Robert Anton Wilson kept Crowley's book of paradoxes, The Book of Lies at his side for years for frequent reference and education.  Paradox seems at play when Crowley says his methods can produce Christs (Postcards for Probationers) while simultaneously billing himself as the Anti-Christ.  Both appear true.

Thinking of opposites comprises a crucial method Crowley came up with to detach from World Illusion; also to avoid or become free of obsessive, fanatical beliefs.  This exercise involves taking an opposite position to any strongly held belief.  To use one clearly absurd example: If you believe the government is not working in your best interests, then enter the opposite belief system - the government is concerned for the benefit of all the citizens above its own interests.  By entering in the opposite belief as strongly as the favored belief, they may not fully cancel each other for very long, but it will definitely give some, perhaps much needed, detachment and relief from the sometimes passionate idea that the government greatly affects our lives.  I call this the phase cancellation game because sound waves, or any kind of waves including quantum, cancel each other when they combine out of phase - when the peaks and troughs occurs at exactly the opposite time to the peaks and troughs of another wave.

Coincidences and Synchronicities

One of the most perniciously puzzling category of signs to afflict the newbie spiritual seeker are (so-called) meaningful coincidences.  For interested parties, these coincidences can seem a kind of portal or doorway to communication with Higher Intelligence.  A well-known and phenomena occurs to many readers of Robert Anton Wilson of receiving many coincidences with the number 23 when they read Cosmic Trigger I and encounter Wilson's own freaky episodes with it.  It can seem like the pages of that book alter or tweak material reality.  You can start to see why we make Skepticism one of our foundational building blocks.  That book, Cosmic Trigger, is the best one I know of for examining synchronicities in the context of human evolution.  It's also where I first learned Qabalah.  Strange things along these lines will start to happen when you dive into these pages while simultaneously paying attention to what is going on around you.  Caveat Emptor.

Synchronicities depend on acasual connections.  Nobody knows what causes these acasual connections, but there are theories.  Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli wrote a paper looking for an adequate model in quantum physics.  Experiencing, and not denying, profoundly mind-blowing synchronicities, something I suspect a lot of people have encountered, can give the feeling of contact with an Intelligence vastly greater than one's own; vastly greater than any (known to science) human intelligence.  When this begins to happen frequently because you made the mistake of going down the rabbit-hole, the suspicion that a nonhuman guiding force communicates to you with signs can grow stronger especially when it reveals practical results.

Jung and Pauli were convinced that synchronistic events reveal an underlying unity of mind and matter, subjective and objective realities.  - Charlene Burns.

This is not to say that there isn't noise, sometimes a great deal, along with the signal.  Learning to discern and tune into the signal, tune out the noise like a radio receiver is a skill that develops with use.

Speaking of signal and noise, coincidences and synchronicities appear to have degrees of significance ranging from none at all, mildly interesting, that got my attention, wtf?, and all the way up to an obvious piece of data being screamed at you whether you decide to listen or not; whether you decide it's nonsense or real.  Some people say there are no "coincidences," meaning that everything has some kind of significance and/or everything is a product of the subconscious mind.  The skeptic in me  disagrees.  I expect that we get co-incidents between events and though some of these may appear odd, curious or interesting, they may ultimately have no significance for us personally as an esoteric communication.  However, when odd coincidences happen especially at an increased rate, I pay close attention to see if anything is there.  Sometimes there is, sometimes not, sometimes it's filed away for future consideration, sometimes it seems like the trickster spirit of Groucho Marx messing with your mind - breaking set.

A classic example of skepticism relating to receiving esoteric signs can be found in The Equinox of the Gods by Aleister Crowley when he relates what led up to the reception of the Book of the Law.  Wilson suspects that Crowley may have been pulling our leg about that.  I suspect they are both half-right.

One of the more advanced exercises in Crowley's A .'. A.'. is to consider all phenomena as a particular dealing of God with your soul.  That can be easily modified to considering all phenomena as a particular communication of the School with your soul.  Obviously, this requires a great deal of common sense and skepticism not to take it too far.  Apophenia describes the disease and obsession of taking it too far.

A couple of recent examples of synchronicities communicating:  A few weeks ago we looked at The Blues Brothers movie.  Jake and Elwood Blues are on a self-described "mission from God" to raise money for the orphanage/school they grew up in.  Their vehicle, the Bluesmobile is a 1974 black and white ex-police car, a Dodge Monaco.  Among other things, the film illustrates the extreme obstacles and resistance they faced fulfilling their mission.  At the end this resistance is caricatured to absurd lengths when tanks and troops from the Army are brought out to stop them.  Their determination and perseverance win out in the end.  How they deal with all the adversity is educational.

Two days later I drove to Prairie Sun to begin a mix project.  Parked right by the studio door was the Bluesmobile, or rather a black and white ex-cop car of the same vintage that looked exactly like it.  Although the Army and police weren't brought out to stop us, we did encounter several technical obstacles  mixing the album, but we navigated all of them and had a successful outcome.

The second example startled me a bit, it seems a second order synchronicity.  I was composing a blog about the Nabokov novel Pale Fire writing about the synchronicity of discovering references to the number 68 in that book just after posting a blog on Deleuze and the occult use of. 68.  Driving away after finishing I happened to be behind a slow moving Chevrolet Impala.  The license plate read "60EIGHT" It must have been a '68 Chevy on its way to the car show at the Fairgrounds right around the corner.


Any interested party can receive insight and guidance into their spiritual evolution, their expansion of consciousness simply by paying attention to what goes on around them, no specific ideological system necessary.  The key and one of the initial steps for tuning into this wisdom involves formulating a True Will, a life aim or goal of some kind.  Opening up to and receiving esoteric communication is not without its pitfalls and dangers.  A healthy and balanced attitude of flexibility of belief and skepticism is highly advised.  The enlightening, self-realized higher conscious appears immanent to where we are at right now.  As Wilson quotes Nietzsche in Cosmic Trigger, "we are all greater artists than we think."

"I had a dream, crazy dream,
Any thing I wanted to know,
Any place I need to go ..."

- Led Zeppelin, The Song Remains the Same.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Method of Defiance with Laurie Anderson

 In the deep subcellar of the human heart the dolorous twang of the iron harp rings out.

Build your cities proud and high. Lay your sewers. Span your rivers. Work feverishly. Sleep dreamlessly. Sing madly like the bulbul. Underneath, below the deepest foundations, there lives another race of men. They are dark, somber, passionate. They muscle into the bowels of the earth. They wait with a patience which is terrifying. They are the scavengers, the devourers, the avengers. They emerge when everything topples into dust.

- Henry Miller

The program liner notes for the  Al'arme Festival Vol. VI titled this event : LAURIE ANDERSON & BILL LASWELL'S METHOD OF DEFIANCE: COLLISION & SHORT CIRCUITS.  This event landed on the first of August at the Radial System V in Berlin.

The method of this defiance consists of Guy Licata on drums, Doctor Israel on beats, dub effects, M.C. and vocals, D.J. Logic on turntables, loops and samples, Graham Haynes on coronet and efx, Bill Laswell on bass guitar and efx, and Laurie Anderson on electric violin, synth efx, and vocals; tech support and organization provided by James Dellatacoma, Yoko Yamabe and myself.

Bill and Laurie go back a long way.  He produced some tracks for her Mr. Heartbreak album in 1984 featuring William S. Burroughs.  It was Anderson that initially introduced Laswell to Burroughs.  Five years later Laswell would create the soundscape for one of Burroughs' most significant spoken word recordings, Seven Souls.  Burroughs read text Laswell had selected from his recent book The Western Lands, his uniquely vibrant  and colorful rendering of The Egyptian Book of the Dead.  Seven Souls is an extremely evocative guided trip through the bardo, the land of the dead.  It rates as a classic in the field of after-life technology.

Laurie Anderson has been on my radar a long time as well, listening to her albums since the mid 80's, seeing her exhibits at MOMA in New York and catching a performance at the Beacon Theater. I was fortunate to assist on one session for her Strange Angels album in the late '80s.  Strange Angels is a great title, there are other things called that, but the one that interests me the most and somehow seems obliquely connected to this concert is Strange Angel in the singular, the biography of Jack Parsons.  Parsons was one of the founders of the Jet Propulsion Labratory.  He discovered the formula for the first effective liquid jet and rocket fuel which made jet planes possible.  He was also a major Science Fiction fan as well as a devout and very enthusiastic student of Aleister Crowley.  Crowley's magick, of course, has a firm foundation in the Egyptian Book of the Dead.  Hopefully Parsons was able to quickly up his after-life technology points because he tragically died at age 37 when he accidentally blew himself up.

The opening artist for Method of Defiance was a Norwegian avant garde angel, Maja S.K. Ratkje who created a very powerful and densely layered sonic environment with only her voice and electronics.  It definitely created a whole other world that, for me, recalled a quote from Dante's Inferno I had recently seen in Crowley's Konx Om Pax.  It occurs in the 6th Canto when Virgil and Dante enter the 3rd Circle of Hell:
“ ____________Look to your science
Where it is written: the more a thing is perfect
The more it feels of pleasure and of pain."

I enjoyed what I heard very much.

The Method of Defiance set was framed by two stories Anderson told, the first as an introduction and the second near the end.  Her first story incorporated one of the most ingenious uses of crowd participation I've ever witnessed.  In the event that she does it again, I won't write a spoiler and say exactly what it was, only that it effectively evoked the feeling of frustration nearly anyone of sane mind experiences when tuning into the Trump political reality TV show.  It created a powerful cathartic sensation that segued into an equally powerful music blast from the M.O.D. emergency broadcast system here at the Al'arme Festival.  Anderson's second story was about the stars.  From Trumpian angst to the stars suggests to me that the music, while it went in many directions from ambient soundscaping and melodic delicacy to furious drum & bass, hip hop beats and turntable scratching with rap dissent and poetics, overall it became a transformative voyage through a figurative and temporary death of ordinary identity. A realm of the dead, a realm which is another kind of very affective life.  This is the realm where real change can occur.

There were two sets to different audiences and they were unlike any other Method of Defiance or Material concert that I've mixed.  Laurie Anderson brought a unique sensibility that blended seamlessly with the drum & bass, dub & ambience, revolution rap of M.O.D. and guided it into uncharted territory.  I saw Graham after the second show and he was shaking his head with a big smile saying something like, "... she takes you to places you never expect to go." It was clearly an exceptional new musical adventure for him.  Bill also played differently, mixing in lots of melodic phrases and ambient environments with the heavy dub lines and the intense crescendos.

Laurie Anderson and Guy Licata
This, and the other MOD photo posted here is from Guy's Facebook page.  I don't know who to credit the photos too.

This was a challenging configuration to mix.  There was a lot of sound and it wasn't always easy to distinguish who was playing what.  I was soloing channels and checking them with headphones a little more than usual to determine the source of different sounds in order to know what faders to mix.  Beats could come from either Logic or Dr. Israel and, of course from Guy though it was easy to distinguish the acoustic drums from the sampled drums except in one instance when Guy completely locked in to a beat Logic looped.  In that case it was one powerful blend of sampled and live drums, you couldn't hear any flams at all between the two.  Laurie Anderson sometimes triggered lush and elaborate synthesized landscapes of sound that in itself could feel as big as a symphonic orchestra.  Bill also could create massive worlds and microworlds of sound with his pedals morphing his bass into timbres foreign to any conventional instrumentation.  Maybe mark it down to our location on the former divide between East and West Germany that some of sounds coming out of Bill's bass rig recalled scenes out of Burroughs' Interzone.

Gilt and red plush. Rococo bar backed by pink shell.  The air is cloyed with a sweet evil substance like decayed honey. Men and women in evening dress sip pousse-caf├ęs through alabaster tubes. A Near East Mugwump sits  naked on a bar stool covered in pink silk. He licks warm honey from a crystal goblet with a long black tongue.

This wealth of sound generation could easily have become out of control, turning into a dense mass of sonic assault.  It never did even at its most intense.  You always had a sense of depth and articulation to the mix.  The dynamics were always moving and had a broad range.  The triple forte moments only lasted as long as necessary to get that aesthetic across.  The pianissimo sections became so soft that I had to gain up the mic pres on Laurie's channels to hear the delicate pizzaccato playing as well as the drum overhead mics when Guy lightly tapped ambient accents on the cymbals.  This assemblage of musicians seemed highly attuned to playing as one coherent unit rather than a collection of individual expressions.  That's why it worked so amazingly well.  Everyone listened, acted and reacted to each other, there was always give and take.  Playing a whole concert of improvised music with no pre-planned stucture and with a coherent high sense of aesthetic requires a kind of nonverbal communication that seems like a form of telepathy.  I could feel and was participating in this communication from the mixing desk.

A crucial part of any musical assemblage is the environment it plays in: the concert hall.  This hall is called Radial System V and has an interesting history.  In the 1880s the city planners in Berlin determined that they needed a new sewage system.  They came up with a circular design and built 12 pumphouses that they called Radial Systems.  This was the fifth one - Radial System V.  In 1905 an extension was added to it to handle the rapidly expanding city.  The main structure was destroyed in WWII leaving only the extension. Upon German reunification in 1998, the pumphouse was taken out and extensive remodelling took place.  In 2006 it was repurposed as a cultural exhibition and performance space while retaining its original name, Radial System V.  It's interesting to reflect upon this site's alchemical-like transformation: from pumping out crap and waste to pumping out high aesthetic art, music and culture.

This hall had a unique atmosphere that recalled the mood you get from reading Thomas Pynchon describe the insides of a WW II era missile silo in Gravity's Rainbow. It was very industrial with grey stone walls and red bricks.  Fortunately for the sound, thick black curtains lined the walls giving the perfect absorption/reflection index for the acoustics; just the right amount of liveness and reverb decay to the room.  The drums sounded huge, the room worked to their advantage.  The seating was on carpeted tiered levels, just on the floor, there weren't any chairs.  The tiers made for a very powerful, but tight bass response.  It also made it significantly louder near the front of the stage.  While I saw a tech's smart phone app registering peaks at 103 -104 dB spl back at the board where I was - on the top tier at the back of the house, I was told that it was ;peaking at 110 dB spl near the front.  Later, I was delighted to hear that Doc's partner, Melissa, was supplied with lots of earplugs which she was giving out freely to anyone who requested them. 

This group of musicians had never played together in this particular configuration. There was a rehearsal day at the venue to musically get to know one another and for the assemblage to take shape.  It gave me the chance to have an extended soundcheck and to get to know the acoustics of the space.  The sound of the room becomes a musical instrument.

Remarkable coincidences can be an indicator that one is in or around the bardo. At the airport on the way to Berlin I started reading Sexus, Part 1 of The Rosy Crucifixion trilogy by Henry Miller because of a recommendation by Gilles Deleuze.  Indeed, there are a number of illustrations of Deleuzian notions in this book, it probably helped inspire his philosophy.  The book also has several  bardo tips and sequences -  passages and anecdotes that give the sensation or feeling of being between bodies or provides useful information for that state.  A lot of the writing is very profound and has a feeling akin to Beat literature.  I strongly suspect that Burroughs and Miller read and were influenced by one another.

The first night in Berlin I googled Henry Miller and read his Wikipedia biography.  I was delighted to see that Laurie Anderson had supplied the music for the 1996 documentary Henry Miller Is Not Dead, a brilliant, impressionistic, first-hand account of his life, told from the end of it looking back, along with his philosophies on life and death. This documentary seems very bardoesque with Miller's stream of consciousness unraveling back through the years.  Anderson's music complements it perfectly.

I'm not interested in everyday reality, I want to penetrate that,
but that is a sort of inexpressible thing

Sometimes one thinks about death, about approaching death
One thinks of it as a very, very interesting part of life.
It should not always be shunned, frowned upon and put away,
it should be welcomed, don't you understand ...,
and maybe it has treasures unknown for us.
 - Henry Miller, Henry Miller Is Not Dead

Speaking of Egypt and death, I had heard that one of the best collections of Ancient Egyptian artifacts outside of Egypt resided in Berlin. so I woke up early and spent a couple of hours there before soundcheck.  Indeed, the Egyptian exhibit was more extensive than ether the British Museum or New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art which also have good collections.  

The priestly practices and culture of Ancient Egypt underpins Golden Dawn magick.  It's also one of the more advanced civilizations concerning the technology of life surviving after death.  This technology gets expressed in a series of ancient manuscripts collectively known as The Egyptian Book of the Dead also known as The Book of Going Forth by Day.  This image of "day" representing a transcendental new life influenced Friedrich Nietzsche to title one of his seminal works, The Dawn of Day while also influencing the title of Pynchon's classic modernist novel, Against the Day.  When similar, but different life after death technologies in Tibetan Buddhism became known to the Western world through the efforts of Walter Evans-Wentz and translated into English, he called it The Tibetan Book of the Dead after the Egyptian.

An occult hypothesis states that ancient priests and wise people were able to record teachings and impressions into artifacts of all kinds including those made of stone.  They did this to pass on their knowledge because they knew that books and written information were subject to attack and destruction.  The torching of the Library of Alexandria by the Roman army in 48 BC shows one well-known example.  

Retrieving information out of reading artifacts is the science of psychometry, a subject covered well in Visions in the Stone by E.J. Gold.  This information, as well as not, can be a mood, an emotion, or a unique sensation of some kind.  It doesn't always appear as intellectual data, though it can, and often does, manifest in that way.  

I have tried, and don't feel particularly adept at conscious psychometry, but I also suspect that you can get influenced and receive things that you don't realize until later.  So I embarked upon my voyage into the Egyptian Museum of Berlin with an open mind and heart, prepared to be as receptive as possible to any signs of reading artifacts or ancient knowledge lurking about in the unearthed carved stones that became their temple walls and statuary.

The highlight of the museum is an excellently preserved bust of Neffertiti, probably a main source for the legend of her incomparable beauty.  I thought this image below might have something to say.  I wonder what kind of music it heard in its day.

Of course, my favorite area of the museum was what they called the Underworld of the Egyptians.  Naturally, it was located in the basement.  The lighting of the funerary exhibits was mostly dark and moody.  They did an excellent job of making you feel you were dead and in the bardo with the architecture which featured multiple small rooms or chambers with arched ceilings.

I also saw some ancient papyrus fragments attributed to Homer, Hesiod and others.  There were  many artifacts uncovered by Heinrich Schliemann, the controversial discoverer of the historical site of the Trojan War.  I felt that all this exposure was excellent preparation for mixing Method of Defiance.  These artifacts defied time and survived.  I felt very alive back out on the daylight streets of Berlin.

I'll leave this report with a quote from Henry Miller that illustrates the value Gilles Deleuze places on nonsense to communicate sense.  We see obvious parallels to music from such groups as Method of Defiance.

The term "nonsense" is one of the most baffling words in our vocabulary.  It has a negative quality only, like death.  Nobody can explain nonsense: it can only be demonstrated.  To add, moreover, that sense and nonsense are interchangeable is only to labor the point.  Nonsense belongs to other worlds, other dimensions and the  gesture with which we put it from us at times, the finality with which we dismiss it, testifies to its disturbing nature.  Whatever we cannot include within our narrow framework of comprehension we reject.  Thus profundity and nonsense may be seen to have certain unsuspecting affinities.

In the realm of music, it seems that boundary between nonsense and sense becomes obscure and more fuzzy with an assemblage like Method of Defiance, all of whom have their feet planted in both worlds - conventional musical structure and free-form sound experimentation.  Nonsense can easily crossover and create a new kind of sense.  To paraphrase Miller: "Nobody can explain this kind of music, it can only be demonstrated."  You could hear it in this concert in the ambient passages of interstellar space excursions when the violin was calling and answering itself, hard panned to make an immense field, against a texture of electrically organic and atmospheric liquid noises and the clear tone of the trumpet harmonically guiding the rudder.  There is a recording of these mind-blowing, progressive modernist concerts and hopefully, at some point, they too will go forth by day.

The AL'ARME! FESTIVAL VOL. 6 held at RADIALSYSTEM V, as the program cover reads, placed a great value on the production of noise, i.e. musical nonsense. "Noise and feedback are the central principles of the AL'ARME! model." (program notes).  It appears obvious to me that whomever wrote of the concept behind the festival and the artists was either into qabalistic wordplay and/or  was visited by inspiration from Coincidence Control.  The first giveaway is their fondness for puns and dialectic opposites.  For instance, they begin the program book with a brief description of the communication model of a political scientist named Harold Dwight Lasswell, partly, it seems,  because it's obviously a play on Bill's name.  In the next paragraph they write: "In short, the Lasswell model is everything that this festival is not."  Their festival has the opposite Laswell, a nonpolitical artist.

One aspect of the festival I regret missing, only because I wasn't aware of it at the time, was a sound installation by Mark Fell called THE TRUTH AT ALL COSTS.  The description of it reads like a qabalistic process:

In this piece 23 speakers are arranged
in the form of a lattice structure, each
of which has a separate sound source.
The sound is made using three different
pattern generating systems that are
connected in various ways so that each
system permutes the behaviors of
the other two.  At this level of the work's
structure, a series of triangular rela-
tionships are defined that progressively
disrupt the musical content of the piece.