Friday, September 13, 2019

Gravity's Rainbow, Timothy Leary and the Occult Part 6

"How about letting go," Winsome said after awhile. "Aren't your arms getting tired?"

Pig admitted they were. "Did I ever tell you," Pig said, "the story about the coke sacker, the cork soaker, and the sock tucker."

Winsome started to laugh and with a mighty heave, Pig brought him back over the low rail of the fire escape."

                                                                         - V, by Thomas Pynchon, p. 361

"... of their arrival in Sicily and the difficulty with local bandits on the mountain road (from which Stencil extricated them by telling foul Sicilian jokes ...)" - ibid. p. 444

Undoubtedly, another reason Timothy Leary loved Gravity's Rainbow so much is because it's so damn funny.  From surrealistic absurdity to outright slapstick hi-jinks, Pynchon infuses his horror show with jokes ranging from the ridiculous to the ever more ridiculous (the ridiculously ridiculous) to the sublime.  We get more than a few groaners along the way.

Pynchon communicates qabalistically, the lingua franca of any serious occultist, and qabalists burn the candle at both ends, linguistically speaking.  In other words, they consider the opposite, the reversal, the mirror image of any image, trope, word, or ideogram.  They look at the whole, forwards and backwards. Take, for instance, the character of Frau Gnahb, whose last name in reverse reflects a substantive tenor of the times the book was written; Gnahb with reverse spelling = Bhang, a potent cannabis product from the Indian subcontinent.  Frau, in backwards.qabalese: u = you, a = a, r =  Resh, F =  Hierophant.  Her son's name, Otto, reads the same in either direction.  The opposite of gravity = levity and we get plenty of elevated levitation in Gravity's Rainbow.

Humor not only makes for a fun diversion and light way to pass time, it can and should become a potent weapon in the shaman's arsenal. I once received an assignment to do some research at the Museum of Natural History in New York that required accessing archives not usually available to public eyes.  I got advised: humor will get you past the bardo guards.

A literary classic that greatly influenced GR, a magical precursor if you will, Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes, remains possibly the funniest serious book of all time.  It boasts the most erudite fart joke ever written according to the Guinness Book of World Records.  The central theme in that book, fearlessly living up to seemingly unreachable ideals, to dream the impossible dream, requires much humor to get through the inevitable and constant setbacks and obstacles.  Compare that to Timothy Leary's answer in a jailhouse interview when asked if he was trying to change the world. Spoken in his light, jovial tone, "Yes, sure, we were trying to change the world.  We knew we were outnumbered and the odds were against us, but we had a sense of humor about it."

It seems no coincidence that the most highly intelligent individuals of modern times appear wickedly funny.  Aleister Crowley and one of his most distinguished magickal heirs, Robert Anton Wilson, became masters of the put on.  When I saw Timothy Leary speak at a South Street Pier nightclub in the early '80s, he billed himself as a stand-up philosopher.  Robert Anton Wilson plied the same trade at his speaking engagements.  Humor becomes a major part and parcel of the conspiracy of Intelligence.  At its best, it acts as a carrier wave for the transmission of esoteric data.  One only need watch Marx Brothers films with a receptive mind for conclusive evidence of this.

After a heavy, dark and scary bardo opening in Gravity's Rainbow we meet the first character, Capt. Geoffrey ("Pirate") Prentice who has a passion for bananas, growing them and using them in very creative ways: "tall cruets of pale banana syrup to pour oozing over banana waffles, a giant glazed crock where diced bananas have been fermenting since this summer with wild honey and muscat raisins, up out of which, this winter morning, one now dips foam mugsfill of banana mead . . . banana croissants and banana kreplach, and banana oatmeal and banana jam and banana bread, and bananas flamed in ancient brandy Pirate brought back last year from a cellar in the Pyrnees also containing a clandestine radio transmitter . . ." (p. 11) He grows bananas on a rooftop in England during the height of the Second World War and makes banana breakfasts so famous that people from all over England come to partake. Talk about surrealistic absurdity. Pynchon even throws in the classic slipping-on-a-banana-peel joke.

A good example of the ridiculous co-mingling with the sublime occurs, right after we meet Pirate, as an introduction to the banana fugue:

Bloat is one of the co-tenants of the place, a maisonette erected last century, not far from the Chelsea Embarkment, by Corydon Throsp, an acquaintance of the Rossettis who wore hair smocks and liked to cultivate pharmaceutical plants up on the roof (a tradition young Osbie Feel has lately revived), a few of them hardy enough to survive fogs and frosts, but most returning, as fragments of peculiar alkaloids, to rooftop earth, along with manure from a trio of prize Wessex Saddleback sows quartered there by Throsp's successor, and dead leaves off many decorative trees transplanted to the roof by later tenants, and the odd unstomachable meal thrown or vomited there by this or that sensitive epicurean - all got scrumbled together, eventually by the knives of the seasons to an impasto, feet thick, of  unbelievable black top soil in which anything could grow, not the least being bananas.  Pirate, driven to despair by the wartime banana shortage, decided to build a glass hothouse on the roof, and persuade a friend who flew the Rio-to-Ascension-to-Fort Lamy run to pinch him a banana sapling tree or two, in exchange for a German camera, should Pirate happen across one on his next mission by parachute. (p. 5 - 6)

That roof has seen a lot of action!  I have discovered Pynchon often uses fog as a code word for death.  There was fog on the road when Richard Farina, to whom this book is dedicated, tragically died in a motorcycle accident.  "... a few of them hardy enough to survives fogs and frosts" also translates as surviving death and emotional shutdowns.  The phrase "dead leaves" might possibly be in homage to James Joyce.  In the Tales of the Tribe online course, Robert Anton Wilson wrote of the multiple instances of "leaves" as a metaphor for death in Finnegans Wake pointing out that Joyce knew he was close to death as he completed his opus; death = to leave behind.

Laughter is the best medicine.  It works as a rescue remedy in a variety of tense or dire situations.  Pynchon gives an example in the opening quote to this section of a joke preventing a suicide.  Humor lifts the mood and mood guides us through inner emotional states, for better or worse.  In Gravity's Rainbow Companion, Steven Weisenburger maintains and demonstrates that Pynchon wrote some elaborate narrative subplots for the sole purpose of telling a joke.  Charles Hollander goes further in his short, excellent essay, Jokes and Puns in Gravity's Rainbow, first suggesting a doctoral dissertation on the typology of jokes and puns in the book, then pointing out some of the subtle and elaborate humor, while concluding:

Pynchon (somewhat like Woody Allen) uses most of his narratives as armatures on which to hang jokes, puns, discursions, meditations, allusions, quodlibets, etc., about thematic issues that repeatedly concern him: "power" and "unreason" (Pynchon, WSR 29), the relation of individual and state. The more elaborate the joke, the more likely it is to be thematically important; the more seemingly removed the passage is from the manifest issues of the text, the deeper we may have to look to find the referent. Since text and subtext in Pynchon’s fiction take turns carrying the thematic charge, we have to keep our magic eye peeled to, as the narrator tells us at the end of Gravity’s Rainbow, "Follow the bouncing ball" (760).

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Mass Shootings

An underlying factor, a sickness, responsible for the continuing insanity of  mass shootings of random and innocent people boils down to greed.  Americans have too many guns because the National Rifle Association (who knew rifles could associate?), the influential lobby for the gun industry, wants people to buy guns regardless of what they plan to do with them.  They do not want increased background checks disqualifying potential munitions consumers of any stripe.  They made that very clear, recently warning Trump and the politicians they influence to back off on legislation that would help prevent crazy people from acquiring guns.

Capitalism appears schizophrenic because it will go beyond the limits of its own survival and self-destruct.  In this instance, if unchecked, it will keep producing guns despite an epidemic that kills consumers, the life-blood of the capitalist system.  Dead people can't buy guns, or anything else for that matter.  We see this on a global scale with the weapons industry.  The forces the U.S. fought against in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria had previously been provided with American-made weaponry and military assistance.  In WWII, General Motors sold goods for the war effort to both the Nazi's and the Allies before the U.S. joined the war.  The forces controlling the Trump puppet recently pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia, in place since the Reagan era, which banned a whole class of ground-based nuclear missiles.  It's now once again legal to produce those missiles.  Another victory for weaponry and Capitalism, another defeat for the humane treatment of life.

Capitalistic interests perpetuate the gun violence epidemic by blocking efforts to limit gun and munitions access thus increasing the odds that either they, or a loved one, or a colleague (another capitalist interest) will get killed next.  Early in the current Administration, amidst the frenzy of deregulating stupid corporate behavior, the Trump brood made it easier for people with mental health problems to acquire a gun.  In the wake of the recent public blood-baths, mental health and exposure to violent video games received most of the generalized blame/explanation given by Trump, and the politicians controlled by the gun lobby.  That became their talking points. They loosened the restrictions on shooters with mental health issues then blamed mental health for the gun violence.  That = schizophrenic behavior.

Another critical example: the deregulation of environmental protections to enable some industries to more easily fuck up the environment, affecting the health and well-being of everyone, for the sake of the profit margin and increased flows of capital.  Capitalism will destroy the planet if not given an immediate course correction.  It appears schizophrenic, it doesn't care, a blind force that lives in its own reality bubble.

In A User's Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari, originally published in 1992, Brian Massumi has an excellent section examining the self-destructive insanity of Capitalism run amok.  Presciently, it seems, Donald Trump is the face he gives to rampant Capitalism; making way more money than you could ever possibly use for yourself, solely/soulessly for the sake of making money.  Massumi comes up with a brilliant epitaph: "Capitalism is the ethics of greed."

Although Capitalism keeps the guns on the street, it seems far from bearing the entire responsibility of sociopaths pulling the trigger, except of course, if guns weren't available to them, they wouldn't have a trigger to pull. Stupid mass random violence occurs with other weapons.  This reveals an underlying sickness beyond greed that drives some people over the edge.

I suggest looking in the area of emotional health and the lack thereof, rather than mental health. The civilization (if you can call it that) on this planet appears so backwards that the senseless, ideologically and/or anger based, mass killing of random people isn't automatically considered a mental and/or emotional health problem.

The heart can get exercised and developed like the body and mind, or like any muscle.  Our culture appears relatively ignorant of this fact.  I expanded on this in a post written shortly after the Sandy Hook tragedy.  I'm folding parts of it in here.

The Three Basic Centrums of Human Activity

The intellectual, the emotional, the physical.  The thinking, feeling, moving centers, as given by G.I. Gurdjieff and expanded upon by Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson, Antero Alli and others.  Gurdjieff said that in order to really do anything of consequence effectively the three centers need to function harmoniously together and go in the same direction, known as Will.

People have numerous great systems of training for the intellect, wonderful Universities and centers of learning to enrich and develop the rational mind.  We can drop into any library and freely partake of a wide variety of stimulating intellectual ideas as we wish. We can also drop into a gym in nearly any city to exercise and strengthen our physical body for a nominal cost.  All kinds of books  and videos about how to develop and strengthen the body, nutrition, hatha yoga, maritial arts, etc.; competitive athletics to see how far the body will go; world records broken as the body breaks through limits and extends its abilities.  As for the emotional centrum, mainstream culture, especially Western culture, leaves us pretty much on our own.

The story goes that Gurdjieff was asked why little talk of love appeared in his system.  He replied something to the effect that humans don't know the experience of real love or even that of a real emotion of any kind.  Talking about love would only confuse things with false notions of love.  E.J. Gold states in his book Practical Work on Self: Chapter 1 that the feeling centrum, under ordinary conditions, does not function voluntarily as a result of the thinking and moving centrums being reversed.  You can get the details in the book but for all practical purposes it means that without exercise and development, the feeling centrum functions very weakly compared to its capability.

Gurdjieff maintained that people didn't know real love but that they could begin to discover it by practicing on pets or small children.  In my mind this obliquely connects to Crowley through his musical progeny, Led Zeppelin, who in their work that conjures Horus, The Song Remains the Same, have the line "everything that's small has to grow, and it always grows..."  In live versions  Plant does a great ad lib after that line, an ad lib that appears in other songs: push ... push ... a recurring element in their musical alchemy.

It may not seem like it, but the effort, just the effort to expand the boundaries of the heart, to perpetuate the occult force, the vital life-blood, known as agape or divine love, the univocity of being, just a small effort in this direction can make a difference in the world.  

I present a model that scientifically explains how:

 Spooky Action At A Distance

Bell's Theorem introduces the rationale for the the existence of non-local behavior.  It says that particles once in contact can always affect each other at faster than light speeds over great distances of space.  This provides a material basis for the Law of Contagion in magic which states that objects that have been in contact continue to share a magical link after they've been separated, no matter how great the distance.  A magical link means that producing a change of some kind upon one object can result in a similar change on a target object that it was once in contact with.  Spooky action at a distance.  If the Big Bang theory is true, then at one time all the particles of the Universe were in contact with each other in a very compressed fashion just before the Universe, as we know it, popped into existence.

This provides a scientific basis for the notion that an individual or group of individuals can positively influence events at a great distance from themselves.  Don't believe me, and don't believe Bell, try it for yourself.  By the end of this essay I hope to give ideas on how to make these experiments. A good example of Spooky Action At A Distance finds itself in Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger I when he "sees" his son Graham in danger, creates a cone of light around him, and later finds out that  cops on the way to bust or harass Graham and his friends  mysteriously turned away and left them alone.

Anyone can, potentially, can learn how cause positive change at a distance.  Most people don't consider possible because they've been told/programmed/conditioned - you can't do that!   Beliefs Unlimited, by Dr. John Lilly gives an effective remedy for coming unstuck from a constricting belief or set of beliefs.  It starts out:

In the province of the mind what one believes to be true is true or becomes within certain limits.  These limits are further beliefs to be transcended.

Morphogenetic Fields and Morphic Resonance

In his books A New Science of Life and The Presence of the Past Rupert Sheldrake presents an explanation for spooky action at a distance with the idea that similar phenomena have a connective field, " an invisible region of influence like the magnetic field around a magnet."  He calls them morphogenetic fields. 

"Morphic resonance is the process whereby similar things in the past influence similar things today" Morphic resonance may have something to do with the Law of Similarity found in magic. Sheldrake writes: "Since these past organisms are similar to each other rather than identical, when a subsequent organism comes under their collective influence, its morphogenetic fields are not sharply defined, but consist of a composite of previous similar forms. This process is analogous to composite photography, in which 'average' pictures are produced by superimposing a number of similar images. Morphogenetic fields are 'probability structures,' in which the influence of the most common past types combines to increase the probability that such types will occur again."

In other words, when a shooting occurs, the probability increases that it will happen again unless something gets done to prevent it.  The so-called Arab Spring, spontaneous revolutions in several countries around the same time in 2011 - 2012, may exemplify this kind of field and resonance. A maniac went on a killing rampage in China earlier the same day as the Sandy Hook tragedy.

A good summary of Sheldrake's ideas:

Possibly related to  morphogenetic fields exists phenomena known to shaman and other sensitives as "atmospherics." If you take out the word "audible" in the radio definition, you get a pretty clear picture:

"audible disturbances produced in radio receiving apparatus by atmospheric electrical phenomena (as lightning); also : the electrical phenomena causing these disturbances "

These atmospherics could also manifest as obsessive thought forms that, in extremity, could lead to psychopathological behavior by unbalanced and susceptible individuals.  Later, we'll examine how these atmospherics can get safely handled and sometimes cancelled out or rendered insignificant.

To summarize so far:  Multiple solutions need to get applied to the problem of random violence on the street and in schools.  Gun control would help slow it down but you see a lot of opposition to it, and the process by which anything really gets done moves painfully slow in America.  Apparently every day something like 30 people die from guns.  In my opinion, gun control isn't enough.  We must have a collective raising of consciousness.  This has started but needs help.  Morphogenetic fields explain how the raising of consciousness from wherever you are can have a positive influence on something far away.

Aleister Crowley's most basic idea for collectively raising consciousness was to encourage people to find out what they liked doing the most, from the deepest level, and then do that as much as possible; go and function in that direction.  You will encounter resistance, but that can get transformed into a 'pushing force.'  He put it as: Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law which seems synonymous or congruent with being true to yourself; Joseph Campbell's, follow your bliss.

The second part of Crowley's formula goes: Love is the law, love under will.  One interpretation, certainly not the only one: the force(s) called "love" can be directed or placed by Will much like you would direct or place your attention on something.

Grokking Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love with proactive empathy and sympathy as they sing and play to the Shekinah covers the extent of what I wish to catalyze/communicate. 

Shekinah, Shechinah, Shechina, or Schechinah, (Hebrew: שכינה) is the English spelling of a grammatically feminine Hebrew ancient blessing. The original word means the dwelling or settling, and denotes the dwelling or settling of the divine presence.
 - from Wikipedia


Humor comprises an extremely effective method for transforming malaise into good cheer.  Laughter causes an extremely beneficial chemical reaction in the body.  It also radiates out and can change the mood of the immediate environment significantly.  They say that laughter is contagious, another way of saying that the field of energy it produces has influence.  So just think, you too can help change the world simply by  watching a stand-up comedian you love or a funny movie and seriously laughing your ass off.