Saturday, November 13, 2021

Ishtar Rising (slight return)

 For myself, I always write of Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal. 
- James Joyce to a young writer, quoted from James Joyce by Richard Ellman

"Don't you think you need a Woman ... to make it come alive?"
Live With Me, sung by Sheryl Crow and the 
Rolling Stones, November 25, 1995 Miami, FL

Though a little delayed, this reprises and extends the Ishtar Rising discussion group from the Jechidah site that finished in September. I recommend anyone interested in this subject to read all eleven blogs and the comments posted there.

Robert Anton Wilson tells the story of how Ishtar Rising (IR) came into being toward the end of his 1989 Introduction to the book.  Playboy Press asked him to write a book about the female breast, surprise surprise, and he gladly accepted the mission while adding a great deal of depth to the subject by connecting it to the worship of the Goddess.  He says he composed it "in the Hermetic style," essentially a style intended to expand the mind and raise consciousness or as Wilson puts it: "show what Blake claimed to see, 'infinity in a grain of sand.'"  He says the disguised multiple meanings in every paragraph will only get deciphered by people who write commentaries of Finnegans Wake.  This indicates a book meant for reading multiple times if one wishes to penetrate and unlock, one could say psychometrize, the information contained therein.  Wilson frames the esoteric content of Ishtar Rising while suggesting further research in the penultimate paragraph of this intro:

"In conclusion, those who want to read a bit more about the relationship of the Return of the Goddess to the neurological revolution of our time — the biochemical basis of my Hermetic remarks on the crown and heart chakras — should certainly consult Dr. Christopher Hyatt's Secrets of Western Tantra (Falcon Books, 1989)"

Presented with the basic physical subject matter of the sexuality of the female breast, RAW, without downplaying, denying, or sensationalizing this sexuality (like Playboy magazine did, for instance)  connects it to the goddess, what Carl Jung called the Great Mother archetype.  He repeats the breast/goddess correspondence in the sentence just quoted by mentioning the biochemical basis regarding the crown and heart chakras.  This sacred linking and directing of physical sexuality follows the instruction given in Crowley's Book of the Law I:61 where it says to direct the Serpent flame to Nuit and warns that all will get lost should a particle of dust interfere.  Dust appears in the Bible and here as a metaphor for the brute animal nature. 

Another view on this linkage involves the way the Ancient Greeks classified three forms of Love: 
1. Eros - romantic/sexual love. 
2. Philos - brotherly/sisterly love. 
3. Agape - Divine love.  

The Hermetic (i.e. coded in a particular way) indicators in the book may suggest a course of expanding Eros into Agape.  Perhaps this helps Ishtar rise?  Of course, Philos can undergo a similar expansion.   In BoL(I:53) Nuit says that "[t]his shall regenerate the world, the little world my sister, my heart & my tongue unto whom I send this kiss." With these words we see a connection from the other direction between the expansive abstract archetype to the physical.  The "little world" means the physical world of space/time we live in, which Nuit calls her sister.  The goddess makes an intimate connection to our planet.  We may postulate — and confirm or refute with experimentation — that helping Ishtar rise helps heal, sustain, and grow the Earth, which appears to be in big trouble right about now in regards to sustaining human life.

The evolutionary movement to raise the goddess has multiple aspects - individual, social, global, from the mundane to the mystical and all levels in between.  Everyone, regardless of gender, has a combination of male and female energies.  Male energy usually dominates in men, female in women, in other words, it commonly goes along lines of biological gender.  The questioning of gender identity which has garnered much attention and consideration in the past few years seems proof and acknowledgement that some mixture of male and female energies exists in everyone regardless of biology.  However, what we mean here has more to do attitude, behavior and expression than gender.  A man can display gentle and receptive qualities, feminine traits, without giving up masculinity, you find a balance. Likewise, a woman can be aggressive and controlling, male qualities, while appearing feminine in appearance and other areas.

Wilson said he put disguised Taoist philosophy in Ishtar Rising.  We utilize their dual representations Yin and Yang to help differentiate female and male energies and separate these energies from consideration of organic bodies. Yang = male. Yin = female. From the I Ching, Book of Changes on the second hexagram K'un / The Receptive:

This hexagram is made up of broken lines only.  The broken line represents the dark, yielding receptive power of yin.  The attribute of the hexagram is devotion; its image is the earth. It is the perfect complement of The Creative — the complement, not the opposite, for the Receptive does not combat the Creative but completes it.

The analog for this in the West exists in the Thelemic viewpoint of Horus as the reigning deity of the age.  Horus comprises a twin god made up of a yang-like outgoing aspect called Ra Hoor Khuit and a silent, yin identity known as Hoor Pa Kraat.  The practitioner alternates between the postures associated with these twin deities in the Star Ruby ritual, Crowley's iteration of the Golden Dawn's Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.  Practicing these postures in the ritual educates the body and emotions along with the intellect to the differentiating and balancing of the yin and yang energies.

How can goddess washup affect the real world?  Wilson provides the basis on page 135 - 136 of the Hilaritas edition of Ishtar Rising:

"Poetry and magic, then, are based on a belief that thought can create its own reality — which Sir James Frazer in The Golden Bough called the theory of 'the omnipotence of thought' and which Freud, in his comment on Frazer's anthropological investigations in Totem and Taboo, traced back to the child's power, with an outcry of desire, to make the missing mother mysteriously appear again and offer the all providing breast.  It is no accident, then, that so many poems from the Odyssey right up to Joyce's great prose-poem, Finnegans Wake, contain magical 'invocations' summoning the goddess to appear at once."

This seems a good paragraph to examine the multiple levels and puzzles woven in Ishtar Rising.  For instance, RAW makes a connection between literature and magic, the power of the word to affect thought and thus help fabricate reality.  In the beginning was the Word.  He invokes two scientists, an anthropologist, and a pioneering psychologist to support his point.  Also the foremost prose stylist of this or any other time, James Joyce, who said he used a mathematical and scientific approach (along with several other styles) to write his books.  In other words, RAW applies rational methodology to an area considered irrational.  The mention of Joyce clues the reader/detective to look for puns such as "the all providing breast" that could signify many things beyond the literal.  

The intention to raise the Great Mother and Female Intelligence in general faces an uphill battle against long established tradition despite enthusiastic and ecstatic efforts toward changing myopic patriarchal values.  How humans see the world gets strongly influenced from a mixture of very old religious and philosophical beliefs.  The Bible tells us that Woman got made from the rib of a Man to provide him a companion.  Some time later she gets him kicked out of paradise.  The archetypal "Fall of Man" came from a woman leading him astray according to the popular version of this pervading myth. The ideas of Plato and Aristotle dominated how people in the West were trained to see the world.  In Timaeus, the book of Plato's Creation myth, "[a]mong those (animals) who were born men, all that were cowardly and lived an unjust life were, according to the likely account, transplanted in in their second birth as women."  You got demoted to being a woman if you didn't make the grade as a man according to the philosopher who most influenced Western thought.  Yet Plato believed in the equality of men and women.  Aristotle, on the other hand, held that, without question, women were inferior to men.  

The modern initiative to changing these sexist attitudes and prejudices begins, perhaps, with Friedrich Nietzsche known for his efforts toward breaking the stranglehold of the Church's influence in telling people how to think and live.  He began a project to overturn Plato which goes along with his calling for a "transvaluation of all values."  This definitely includes the value of female intelligence.  In Human, All Too Human he wrote: "the perfect women is a higher type of human than the perfect man, and also something much more rare."  

Some of Nietzsche's later writings about women have been interpreted as misogynist.  In her thesis, Nietzsche's "woman": a metaphor without brakes Kathleen Merrow writes:

"Nietzsche's metaphor of "woman" — far from being misogynist — reveal a positive, affirmative "woman." His use of this metaphor radically dislocates traditional conceptions of the relation masculine/feminine as it dislocates the "truth" of metaphysics.  I argue that the metaphor "woman" is central to Nietzsche's attack on traditional philosophy and notions of truth. ..." About the last chapter of the thesis: "[m]y concern here is with the extension of Nietzsche's strategy of "women" to radical feminist theory in the valorization of "women" as difference and otherness and the use of this valorization to attack the patriarchal structure and history of language and thought."
The last sentence appears academic speak for Ishtar rising.

* * * * * *

Next up in the literary lineage behind IR comes the grandly dramatic, epoch shaking attempt by Aleister Crowley to switch the course from the male dominated Roman Catholic Church to a new religion, Thelema, guided by female intelligence in the guise of Nuit, Babalon, and Hoor Pa Kraat - the intelligence at the heart of Horus, the reigning god of this age.   The reception of The Book of the Law over 3 days in early April, 1904 inaugurated this battle for a new direction, a new rising.  It wasn't until The Beatles released Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967 featuring Aleister Crowley on the cover alongside large cast of people who influenced the band that a significant number of people outside of occult circles began hearing about this shift in consciousness.

Nuit is the first guide in this new sensibility, she begins The Book of the Law, first by introducing Herself then by announcing "The unveiling of the company of heaven" followed by the proclamation that "Every man and every woman is a star."  Since Nuit = the starry goddess of Infinite Space, we find the beginnings, in the first 3 lines, of a shift toward the valorization of Woman as Higher Intelligence.

The first chapter in TBotL starring Nuit seems the most beautiful, poetic, and easy to receive.  In contrast, the last chapter led by Ra Hoor Khuit, the charging, outgoing, yang part of Horus, gets harsh at times as it involves the war machine against traditional entrenched attitudes and forces resistant to change, and their, at times, oppressive, hostile reactions - both from inside oneself and from society.  Think of the 60's again, or right now.

In verse 62 Nuit connects the physical with the archetypal, the microcosm with the macrocosm in her mission statement and call to rise:

"At all my meetings with you shall the priestess say — and her eyes shall burn with desire as she stands bare and rejoicing in my secret temple — To me! To me! calling forth the flame of the hearts of all in her love-chant."

The Holy Grail of medieval legend symbolically represents the sacred feminine principle, the energy that brings forth life according to Hermeticists.  The Chariot card, in Crowley's iteration of the Tarot, shows a charioteer transporting this precious source. "His only function is to bear the Holy Grail. ... In the center is radiant blood; the spiritual life is inferred; light in the darkness."  Crowley provides qabalistic proof and maintains that the formula of the new aeon we entered in 1904 = The Chariot, the activity of which seems very close to Ishtar Rising.

* * * * * * 
It was always women publishing Joyce.

- Sylvia Beach, Sylvia Beach interview on James Joyce and 
Shakespeare and Company (1962) available on You Tube.

The writings of James Joyce comes up next in our look into the background of Ishtar Rising.  No question that Joyce strongly influenced RAW.  Though referenced little in the main text of IR, Wilson makes sure to mention Joyce's affinity with the archetypal material in the 1989 Introduction.

Arguably, Joyce did as much in the field of literature as Crowley did with the mystic arts to facilitate the conscious return of the goddess.  Sixty-seven days after the final day of the reception of the Book of the Law in 1904,  Joyce wrote about one day of life in Dublin, Ireland in his epic magnum opus est Ulysses.  67 = "the womb of the mother containing the twins."  Joyce chose that day, June 16, 1904, forever after known as "Bloomsday," because his first date with Nora Barnacle, his future wife, occurred then. Some five years later he wrote Nora saying the best part of his writing comes from her and that if she fully accepted him he would indeed become the poet of his race.  Apparently she took him up on it, they remained together, raising a family, for life.

Joyce has been described as a "womanly man" and he made the main character in Ulysses, Leopold Bloom, a womanly man.  Not meaning an effeminate or gay man, rather a male who has learned one way or another how to be more like a woman in attitude and behavior. Ulysses seems worth reading on this point alone.  Believe it or not, in many of the Marx Brothers films, Groucho Marx gives an excellent illustration of the womanly man balance in action.    

Wilson quotes Finnegans Wake at the top of chapter 2 in Ishtar Rising:

"... but we grisly old Sykos who have done our unsmiling bit on alices, when they were yung and easily freudened ... " appearing critical of psychoanalysis as does the chapter.  Using Freud's terminology, Wilson classifies Leopold Bloom as a purely oral type.  Reading Ulysses will confirm that, and then some. Joyce really goes to town in places with the oral allusions.  We encounter copious consuming of food, for instance, in the book.  

Joyce teaches and encourages the reader to look for puns in Ulysses including puns on the sound of a word. For example, the story occurs in Dublin which sounds like doubling hinting at multiple meanings.  On the surface, everything takes place in Ireland yet the plot loosely parallels in structure and allusion the Greek myth, the Odyssey. On the one hand we read about mundane events of a day in the life of the characters Leopold and Molly Bloom, and Stephen Dedalus, on the other hand, these mundane events take on mythic significance as they follow the ancient Greek story - double meanings (at the very least) to everything that happens.  It seems natural to take this one step further and consider that every event doubles as both a local and universal significance, or, as the Hermeticists say, uniting the microcosm with the macrocosm.  Joyce's opening quote above illustrates this concept.

Among his literary intentions, James Joyce sought to valorize and sanctify the ordinary. Like RAW,  he took a strong influence from William Blake who could see a whole world in a grain of sand.  From this perspective, everything around you including the events of your daily life, mundane as they may seem at times,  can appear as holy and sacred as any cosmic truth or great myth anywhere if we have or get the eyes to see.  Ulysses seeks to raise consciousness to this level.  Odysseus's goal in the Greek myth is to return home to his wife Penelope.  It can be said that we return home, metaphorically, when we raise our consciousness to recognize the Beauty all around us. By affirming feminine wisdom, Joyce and Wilson affirm Life.  

In his Magnum Opus Duo, Finnegans Wake, Joyce quantum jumped to new levels of goddess communication and explication with one of the central characters, Anna Livia Plurabelle (ALP).  She doubles as the wife of the protagonist, HCE, and as the expression of all things goddess.  In one sense, like Ariadne, she symbolizes a thread running through the novel helping to navigate and solve Joyce's labyrinth.  His art imitates occult forces in life while making them stronger, like a signal booster. 

Without the ALP section, Work In Progress, the working title for what became Finnegans Wake, might never have been completed.  She made it possible. Joyce created a new, experimental dream language, very dense and hard to follow, safe to call it incomprehensible upon its initial encounter, that perplexed eveyone.  It seems no one, including his patrons, potential publishers and literary friends saw any value in this experiment, at first.  His response to this opposition was to write and send them the Anna Livia Plurabelle chapter.  That turned the tide, people started to get it or at least allow him some latitude to carry on.  Before the entire Wake came out, he arranged for the ALP chapter to get published under its own cover as a selling point, an introductory way into the literary maze of Finnegans Wake when it got published in full not so long after.  Again, art imitating life, or art demonstrating what can happen in life.  He wrote about the Divine Feminine to seduce people into undertaking the great work of reading and hearing Finnegans Wake.  Similarly, some occultists believe that the goddess seduces the aspirant into the Great Work of transformation.

To help determine the authenticity of these evolutionary forces as opposed to a fantastical set of beliefs and ideas (wishful thinking) we observe and pay close attention to parallel indicators from disparate, superficially unconnected sources.  We have no direct evidence Joyce ever read Crowley, yet coincidentally, the last, one word sentence, of the Anna Livia Plurabelle chapter is "Night!"  When translated into French, it becomes Nuit.

* * * * * *

  Writing of humans circa 30,000 B.C. RAW says:

"... it seems that the starry cosmos, in those days, was conceived as a great mother who had given birth to the life of the earth.  Wise old women (the wiccas, wise ones, from whom we get the word witches) were thought to have a special affinity with her.  Above all, this goddess was not a metaphor or idea; she was a living presence, just as the American Indians to this day refer to the earth as a living mother and still fondly expect that she will throw off the maniacal whites whose technology seems largely to be an attack on her." - Ishtar Rising p. 97

The use of the adjective "maniacal" appears a double meaning suggesting the root cause "man."  The subtextual context of this quote, near the beginning of Chapter 4 Mammary Metaphysics, suggests that we can return to the attitude they had then — the goddess as a living presence.  How to go about realizing this seems a never ending, multifaceted, joyous, lifetime education.

I've listened to and been educated by a wide spectrum of female singers and artists over the past 30 years.  In no particular order: Nina Simone, Linda Ronstadt, Laura Nyro, Sister Rosetta Tharp, Emmylou Harris, Hildegard of Bingen, Rickie Lee Jones, Ma Rainey, Janis Joplin, Judy Collins, Laurie Anderson, St. Vincent (Annie Clark), Joan Baez, Chrissie Hynde, Billie Holiday, Mavis Staples, Aretha Franklin, Norah Jones, Patti Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, Ariana Grande, Stevie Nicks, Big Mama Thornton, Alicia Keys, Joni Mitchell, Grace Slick, Nico with  the Velvet Underground, The Runaways, The Go-Gos, The B-52s, Heart, Joan Jett, Blondie (Deborah Harry), Lene Lovich, Tina Turner, Lana Del Ray, Carole King, Jewel, Mahalia Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Allison Krause, Chaka Khan, Angelique Kidjo, Erykah Badu, Odetta, Natalie Merchant, Ruth Brown, Annie Lennox, Sheryl Crow, Bessie Smith, Koko Taylor, Etta James, Ronnie Spector, Dylan's background singers during his gospel period and others less well known.

Except for  Chaka Khan, Laurie Anderson, and Joan Baez, I've not engineered for any of these musicians.  Yet, I have been fortunate to work with an amazing array of extremely talented women in the recording studio and on the concert stage.  Just in the last 18 months:

1. An intimate singer/songwriter compilation album, Annihilation Party with Mariee Sioux, Aaron Ross, Angelica Rockne, and Davia.

2. A wonderful solo cello album, Emergeby classical musician and music educator Rebecca Hood-Sava.

3. Mastering for my dear friend Raphaële Lannadére, a French chanteuse-style singer with haunting, moody melodies and arrangements. She performs as L and the album is Paysages.

4. Different projects with Simrit, her world music band SIMRIT, and a new artistic exploration into roots reggae with Zion Collective, soon to release their debut album.  One of the new songs closely aligns with this post, its working title was Woman, that changed to Become.  A snippet of it can be heard on the clip linked to.  One very special afternoon we recorded Simrit and Salif improvising on vocals and kora which became the EP Salok.

5. A couple of mixes for Berlin based Phoebe Kildeer and her collaborator Ole Wulfers, Life Goes Through You and All Is Well for their forthcoming album. These avant garde forays sound like they came from Berlin with very interesting arrangements and sound design creating a darkened and deep, spacial atmosphere. One song has a strong Bertolt Brecht influence and I know Phoebe has some Tom Waits musical DNA in her artistic core.

6. At least 2 releases and various other audio post production projects with Moksha Sommer, who, with her partner Jemal Wade Hines form the driving force and core of HuDost.  Their new album, to be released in a matter of days on Nov. 19 is Anthems of Home.  They call it Folk/Americana, it's also dynamic and varied with lush vocal and string arrangements, pop and rock elements and occasional psychedelic flavorings.

7. This summer I got to do a live recording of Eric McFadden and Kate Vargas.  Eric I know and love from past projects, he's up there with my favorite guitarists, and is a great songwriter. Vargas was a wonderful new discovery.  This took place at the raucous and noisy Crazy Horse Saloon in Nevada City, Ca in the first hopeful let up of the plague.  The spirited gusto of her bluesy, raspy vocal delivery driven by her acoustic and Eric's amplified acoustic guitars really cut through and established a strong presence in the room.  Their songs also had some of the Waits musical DNA thrown into the mix and several of the grooves felt akin to something you might have heard once in a New Orleans area juke joint.  This release is still pending but you can hear some of the studio versionsChurch of The Misdirection, in particular, seems very topical with what's going on with social media and various tribal cults in politics.

8. A very strong new country/folk song called Jackie written and performed by Cassidy Joy, another shining local talent.  It evokes very strong emotions as it's sung from the perspective of Jaqueline Kennedy on the day of her husband, John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963.  It comes from such an archetypal place of dealing with and living through tragedy that anyone anywhere can strongly connect with this.  Both Robert Anton Wilson and Bob Dylan symbolically connect the JFK assassination with the sacrificial killing of the Divine King that anthropologist J. G. Frazer observed in various indigenous cultures and wrote about in The Golden Bough.  Dylan released a song last year, Murder Most Foul, a 17 minute epic, that used this event as a jumping off point to riff on art, culture and life, both then and now. To my knowledge, Jackie is the first time her perspective has ever been taken in song; her emotions and her grief.  It will be released in less than two weeks on November 22.

9. I currently have a work in progress with Angelica Rockne, a sensitive and beautiful singer/songwriter also listed above.  I won't comment on it now only to say it will be well worth the wait.

10. An upcoming experimental sound voyage collaboration with Paula Galindo and Vlad Moskovski called Excursion into Deep Waters which will get its premiere broadcast November 23rd at about 9:30 pm  on The Other Side on station KVMR from Nevada City.

11. Honey of the Heart is a beautifully engaging and wide ranging folk/acoustic/soul/world/roots collective spearheaded by Justin Ancheta and Maren Metke with a little help from their friends.  I also got to mix an awesome track called Oxygen by Heather Normandale, one of their collaborators.

When Will I Be Loved - Tribute to Linda Ronstadt

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Bleeding Edge, Pynchon & Robert Anton Wilson

On now. Dare it. Let there be life. 
- James Joyce, Ulysses, p. 145        

Egging raw youths on to get in the know.  
All the time drawing secret service pay from the castle.
- ibid. p. 163                                   

Like Aleister Crowley when he wrote the 
Book of Thoth, Thomas Pynchon put everything he had into Bleeding Edge, possibly his last major novel, with the desire to pass on a lifetime accumulated knowledge of the Hermetic transmission.  The opacity of the esoteric levels of reference, surfacing occasionally to draw the attentive and willing reader into the TP multiverse of significance, means that you can read this novel and enjoy it solely as fast-paced and intriguing detective story and barely notice the esoteric rhizome network behind the scenes.  I read it eight years ago when it came out and posted what I noticed then.  A second run through revealed more.

We can look at the penetration of the deeper levels of association and meaning in Bleeding Edge as a form of spiritual gaming.  The game: decode the behind-the-scenes kabbalistic cryptography that provides clues for spiritual development.  This kind of gaming can show possibilities you wouldn't ordinarily see.  It can open doors leading to higher planes of existence, help you become enlightened and advance to higher grades of consciousness.

Kabbalah provides the structure, the architectural girders that build this game engine.  Kabbalah = multiple vision, the word itself means "to receive." To receive multiple visions.  This kind of game, this form of communication, turns up in all of Thomas Pynchon's novels seeming to become more refined and advanced with each succeeding book.  In a discussion group going through Against the Day that took place a couple of years prior to the publication of Bleeding Edge, I noted how the author explicitly introduces and writes about Kabbalah as if letting the reader know to look through that lens for further signs.  He illuminates one way for readers to read his books.   

The hint to the attentive reader that "the game is afoot," as Sherlock Holmes would say, repeats in Bleeding Edge.  On page 87 a character named Axel provides the name of Phipps Epperdew, 'better known as Vip" as a suspect in an investigation by the main protagonist Maxine Tarnow.  When I came across Phipps Epperdew, my kabbalah training immediately suggested the Hebrew letter "Pe" yet I had no context or clue to think this intentional.  Until I read the next paragraph:

"... Features written into the software that you don't find in the manual are meant instead to be passed on in person, orally, from cash-register vendor to user.  The way certain kinds of magical lore go from rogue rabbis to apprentices in kabbalah.  If the manual is scripture, phantomware tutorials are the secret knowledge.  And the geeks who promote it—except for one or two little details, like the righteousness, the higher spiritual powers—they're the rabbis.  All strictly personal and in a warped way even romantic." (p. 88)

Strictly personal because each individual in the game builds their own kabbalistic lexicon and correspondences.  Everyone will interpret the code differently, everyone constructs a spirtitual path, a road to higher consciousness unique to their journey.  My interpretations, the way I play the game, may have little or no relevance to anyone else, yet the game exists for everyone to play as thou wilt.  I offer my interpretations to those interested to show how one individual plays it. More on Phipps Epperdew, Vip, and the romantic aspect in a bit.  

Pynchon hardly seems alone as a postmodern writer transmitting didactic Hermetic information.  Robert Anton Wilson experiments extensively with similar, but different techniques.  Other such novelists include James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov, Malcolm Lowry, and William S. Burroughs.  The reference dictionary, 777 and Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley can provide much help with unlocking these doors.  A post modern literature reader seems required to actively put effort into understanding and deciphering these books in the same way a spiritual seeker needs to make efforts and apply themselves to their path in order to advance.   

Pynchon and Wilson appear to base their literary occult structure on the system of Magick presented by Crowley called Thelema while expanding their lexicon to include contemporary cultural references.  Thelema endeavors to apply the method of Science to the aim of Religion.  Both Crowley and Wilson teach and strongly advocate the practice of balanced Skepticism.  Maxine Tarnow works as a fraud examiner, she's in the business of being skeptical.  In many instances, Tarnow appears a model or metaphor for the student of Initiation.  A fraud examiner = a bullshit detector, a critically necessary attribute for following the thread through the labyrinth.  Pattern recognition provides entrance into Kabbalistic worlds:

"By which point—part of the Certified Fraud Examiner skill set being a tendency to look for hidden patterns—Maxine began to wonder" (p. 22).

The student learns to look for signs that can give suggestions, hints, instructions and advice for the construction of their royal road.  In Thelema this falls under the rubric of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, a model for contacting Higher Intelligence.  

"... there are places we should be looking, not in newspapers or television but at the margins, graffiti, uncontrolled utterances, bad dreamers who sleep in public and scream in their sleep" (p.322)

Speaking of graffiti, much earlier, we humorously learn that Maxine relies on her bladder to sense useful information.  When it's in range, she will have to pee: "... when phone numbers, koans, and stock tips from which she's likely to profit are close by, the gotta-go alarm has reliably steered her to enough significant restroom walls that she's learned to pay attention" (p. 84)

Developing this kind of intuitive sensing through practice and experience seems part and parcel of Maxine's work as a fraud examiner.  For instance, she can receive indications through intuitively reading beats of silence in conversations.  She pays attention not only to the words being spoken, but to the tone of voice, inflections of speech, etc. to read an overall mood; to sense and receive what isn't being said.

This next quote from page 78 - 79 speaks well to both the esoteric aspect of BE and to the construction of a spiritual path.  The conversation concerns virtual reality software in the "Deep Web" hosted by the mysterious DeepArcher:

 "'Kind of like a Markov chain, where the transition matrix keeps resetting itself'
  'At random.'
  'At pseudorandom.'
   To which the guys have also added designer linkrot to camouflage healthy pathways nobody wants revealed. 'It's really just another maze, only invisible.  You're dowsing for transparent links, each measuring one pixel by one, each link vanishing and relocating as soon as it's clicked on ... an invisible self-recoding pathway, no chance of retracing it.'
    'But if the route in is erased behind you, how do you get back out?'
    'Click your heels three times,' Lucas sez, 'and . . . no wait, that's something else . . . '"

Preview of what's ahead: Robert Anton Wilson alludes to the Markov chain in both of his major fictional works, Illuminatus! and Schrodinger's Cat.  The trickster character Markoff Chaney appears in both doing his own subtle, mischievous path recoding.  In the early days of the public internet, Wilson used the alias Mark Chaney to anonymously join chat rooms.  

Even if the reader shows absolutely no interest in Kabbalah and spiritual gaming, it seems incumbent on them to actively participate by researching the references the author alludes to.  Pynchon frequently uses contemporary songs and films to invoke mood and to advance the narrative. Without knowing those songs and films, those references will fail to communicate.  For example, Maxine's friend Heidi in describing the situation with her new boyfriend, Conkling Speedwell, asks if there's an issue there.  Maxine replies, "as in Bird Dog by the Everly Brothers?  Without knowing that song, easily found on You Tube or Spotify, etc, one may not infer the issue in mind.

*  *  *  *  *  *

The epiphanal moment for me occurred in Chapter 23 when it's revealed that Maxine's Prime Directive as a fraud examiner = "You Never Know." Reading this sparked a strong intuitive flash that Pynchon intended to bring Robert Anton Wilson into the mix.  "You never know" seems synonymous  with RAW's brand of agnosticism, Maybe Logic and rejection of belief with absolute certainty. At the bottom of the next page he injects the word "maybe" six times in three sentences.  In the previous online group before BE came out, a short discussion speculated on the influence of RAW and Pynchon upon each other.  By no means did that appear clear and evident to me at the time.  I remember reading about telephone telepathy in Against the Day – when the phone rings you flash on who is calling – that RAW wrote of in Cosmic Trigger I, but that could have been a coincidence, or a sampled idea, it didn't necessarily indicate a strong affinity.  True, they both write about Kabbalah overtly and use it subtly, they both appear to use a Thelemic lexicon, RAW quite blatantly and unabashedly extending it out like Ra Hoor Khuit; Pynchon only via subtle code and allusion, almost silently like Hoor Pa Kraat; these two Egyptian deities unite in the twin god Horus.  Both writers are extremely funny.  Both appear to experiment with magical realism through their literature.

Continuing to read with the working postulate that RAW's tags in BE – what conjures him to mind – are 23 and "maybe" we encounter more indications for the high, fraternal regard Pynchon holds for him, acknowledgement and regret for his death, and perhaps some criticism – maybe, you never know.  In other words, Pynchon doesn't simply allude to or name check Wilson, we find a short, occult/opaque series of communications about him.  Timothy Leary turns up in an obvious, explicit reference just once; I  don't see any other references, coded or otherwise, to him.

I have seen what I thought could be allusions to Pynchon's books by RAW and commented about that in the online group going through the Historical Illuminatus series archived over at  Often these came through the letter "V," an obvious tag for Pynchon being the title of his first novel.

Also discussed re Against the Day: the Thelemic ordeal Crossing the Abyss.  Sure enough, similar imagery turns up in Bleeding Edge whose very title relates to that terrain.  A little demonstration of  Thelemic cosmology shows how.  The guide helping the traveler cross the Abyss is Babalon a representative of Binah the home destination for a successful crossing.  The first three verses of Liber Cheth vel Vallum Abiegni Sub Figura CLVI:

"1. This is the secret of the Holy Graal, that is the sacred vessel of our Lady the Scarlet Woman, Babalon the Mother of Abominations, the bride of Chaos, that rideth upon our Lord the Beast.
2. Thou shalt drain out thy blood that is thy life into the golden cup of her fornication.
3. Thou shalt mingle thy life with the universal life.  Thou shalt keep not back one drop."

The initials of Maxine Tarnow add to 49.  The commentary for Chapter 49 in The Book of Lies says "the subject of this chapter is OUR LADY BABALON."  At the end of the book Maxine searches for a red dress to go out in at the request of her husband Horst further connecting her with the Scarlet Woman.  We find her earlier in the novel also looking for something red to wear.

That's just the title.  A building in Maxine's New York Upper West Side neighborhood called the Deseret, scene of some of the action, gets quite a spooky description and starts to haunt her a little after the novel's first murder occurs there.  It also serves as the setting for a surrealistic Halloween scene when Maxine's kids, Ziggy and Otis go there to party.  The Deseret suggests the desert, symbolic of the Abyss territory.  The name comes from the entrance to the desert around the Great Salt Lake in Utah.  It's also in the Book of Mormon and means "honeybee" and signifies industry.

We also encounter the Abyss online in Pynchon's Deep Web: "Onto the screen, accordingly, leaps a desert, correction, the desert ..."  p. 403. It continues  for a few paragraphs with an extremely excellent description of what that crossing might feel like: "... dowsing a desert which is not only a desert, for links invisible and undefined."

 Two different sides of Maxine: a mother raising her children and a fraud examiner pursuing crooks and scoundrels.  At one point the two overlap when she gets a clear and terrifying message that the kids are in danger, probably the scariest it gets for her. Maxine and family live on the 6th floor of her building.  Her "Tail 'Em and Nail 'Em" business office resides on the 3rd floor in its building downtown.  The voyage across the Abyss starts at Tiphareth (6) and finishes at Binah (3).  BE begins with Maxine walking her kids, Ziggy and Otis, to school (metaphorically, this book) and ends about a year later with her in the doorway (Daleth) seeing them get into the elevator to go to school.  Symbolically, Babalon arches across the Abyss from Tiphareth to Binah providing shelter from the storm whenever possible; whenever the voyager can completely drain the blood of their ego/personality/self-identity in Her cup.  Maxine in her role as mother arches across this book.  

This could be the only book in Pynchon's oeuvre that stays with the same character the entire time.  Written in the first person, Maxine and her collection of selves remains a constant thread throughout the chaotic and sometimes dangerous adventure.  She crosses an Abyss as did the whole of New York City  at the time it takes place – Spring 2001 to Spring 2002 through the transition of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  Pynchon acknowledges New York City as a prominent character in the book.

Maxine has a feminized iteration of a typically male name. She usually carries a gun, a Beretta, an obvious yang symbol.  It doesn't seem a stretch to connect her with the instructions found in The Book of Lies regarding the feminization of male energy (the N.O.X. formula).  In fact we see a clear example: "Maxine drops for a minute into one of Shawn's visualizing exercises in which her Beretta, within easy reach, has been transformed to a colorful California butterfly dedicated, like Mothra, to purposes of peace. (p.228). Shawn is Maxine's meditation teacher.  Mothra is a giant moth/butterfly goddess, a recurring character in the Godzilla series.  Godzilla makes an appearance in Against the Day.

Maxine's business name: Tail 'Em and Nail 'Em.  Nail corresponds with the Hierophant who communicates the secrets of the Temple.  Yes, Bleeding Edge seems surely a Temple of arcana, and Shirley Temple gets mentioned twice that I saw, the second amongst a series of "maybes." (p. 416)

It profits us to consider Joycean phonetic puns in our detective work.  The 'Em part of her business name suggests Mem which = WATER, and appears one way Babalon aids and comforts the trekkers across the desert.  Coincidentally, water is exactly what my neighborhood needs right now with a forest fire burning 10 - 15 miles away and slowly moving in this direction.  

Pattern recognition reveals certain, recurring special letters and letter combinations. If you read my earlier BE blog, linked to above, you would see the special use of the letter "t".  I'll repeat it again here a little differently.  We have the characters:

Maxine Tarnow - Tarnow = T + are + now.  In the current context we could reckon T = Tau = cross as in we are now crossing the Abyss.  This cipher appears to have multiple meanings for each element so we stay open to other interpretations.
Horst Loeffler, Maxine's husband. Horst = Horus + t
Otis Tarnow, Maxine's youngest child. Otis = O + t + is
Ziggurat Tarnow aka Ziggy, Maxine's eldest.  Ziggurat = Zigg (23) + u + r + a + t (23, you are a t). Of course, it could also mean 23, you are at.
Tallis Ice, wife of the primary antagonist Gabriel Ice. Tallis = T + all + is

Page 227 has the sentence: "'You put everything on T&E, Maxine' ..."

This use of T could indicate the path of Teth = Lust in the Thoth tarot as conceived by Crowley which depicts Babalon riding upon her consort the Beast.  Teth represents the middle cross path on the Tree of Life connecting Chesed-4 with Geburah-5 and lies at the entrance to the Abyss.  Studying the imagery on the Lust card will reveal a prominent attribute/challenge adepts face going north on the Tree.  Teth corresponds with Horus.  I suspect much more to be found with Pynchon's crypto use of t.

I have a personal project rereading all of Pynchon to see what themes or memes run throughout his entire oeuvre, a project that got delayed for over a year.  My plan was to read them in order of publication, next up on the list would have been Mason & Dixon until my favorite You Tube reviewer, The Book Chemist, a big TP fan, called Bleeding Edge his personal favorite.  A blatant reference to Mason & Dixon containing Kabbalistic correspondences turns up at the bottom of page 15 in BE. 

Obviously, the letter V plays a leading role in the Pynchon lexicon.  It sees vigorous use in his ultimate work. For example: Maxine's best friend's name = Vyrva.  Her brother-in-law is Avi (a V); the Everly Brothers were already mentioned.  Chapter 11 begins with Maxine at the Vontz Auditorium.  The last sentence in Chapter 23: Repeated messages from her Vertex, or does she mean Vortex, of Femininity are piling up unanswered." A google search explains "[i]n Geometry, a vertex, often denoted by such letters as P, Q, R, S is a point where two curves, lines, or edges meet."  We can find many more instances using V as for instance Otis dressing up as Vegeta for Halloween.   Vegeta is a character from the Japanese series of graphic novels and animes called Dragon Ball.

The two highlighted letters T and V, when combined, denote television.  Television and references to TV shows, real and imagined, abound in BE, moreso than any of TP's previous novels.  We often find characters watching it in the course of the novel.    begins the TV proceedings on page 2.  Law & Order, publicly known as one of RAW's favorite shows (and mine too!) also uses New York City prominently as a character in its own right.  In the first paragraph on page 6 we find a client of Maxine's known for his "Uncle Dizzy TV commercials" where he sells gizmos which include "audible alarms that attach to your TV remote."  The paragraph concludes saying these gizmos aren't for sale in stores "but they can be seen in action any late night on TV."  At the end of chapter 2 Maxine, perhaps facetiously, says she's written a script for a TV pilot called Bad Accountant.

The Brady Bunch joke from Vinland continues here on page 31; Pynchon's response to rumors of his TV viewing habits.  This seems apparent in Bleeding Edge when Maxine's spiritual coach Shawn requests to end the session early: "'Hope you don't mind if we run a little short today, Brady Bunch marathon, you understand . . .?' Shawn's devotion to the well-known seventies sitcom have drawn comment all up and down his client list. It continues, getting even funnier with Vincent Price mentioned at the end.

For me, the most significant, game changing use of V came with the introduction of Phipps Epperdew better known as Vip mentioned above.  I see here a correlation of V with the path Peh.  When pronounced as an abbreviation for "Very Important Person" it reads as V  I (am) P(Peh); V I am Peh.  Startling as I've always correlated V, U, F, and W with Vau in qabalistic reckoning.  However, I've been told of a variation in the Hebrew character Peh that puts a dot inside it to make the variation Fey, for words starting with ph that have an f sound.  Since V and F appear interchangeable in Vau, then perhaps V can follow F  as Fey to correspond with Peh?  Maybe, maybe not, regardless, it helped me immensely by corresponding V with Peh.  

Peh and the letter P produce a significant portion of the Hermetics of this novel.  It makes an important crossbeam in the construction of TP's Plane of Immanence.  Not only the letters p or v, we find multiple instances throughout of the pun with "pay" and Peh. For instance, the Haloween candy Maxine and Horst get to give out includes Swedish Fish, PayDays, and Goldenberg's Peanut Chews.

The path of Peh corresponds with The Blasted Tower in the Tarot.  Bleeding Edge takes place just before and after the demise of the twin World Trade Center towers on 9/11/2001.  Horst has an office on a top floor of one of the towers.  Peh seems a very important path, particularly to beginning students; it has multiple aspects both deconstructive and constructive.  It connects the Sephira of ordinary emotions, Netzach, with that of the ordinary intellect Hod; when those become aligned, it seems easier for Will to develop, to ferment and grow.  Crowley connects the lightening flash in the card with the Opening of the Eye of Horus, which on a basic level, indicates the opening up of consciousness to that cosmology.  Cue up the first verse of Led Zeppelin's The Song Remains the Same for a sense of that.  In Gematria, Peh = 80.  The word Peh itself = 85, both numbers correspond to it.

The full quote that flashed RAW before my eyes:

Though unenthusiastic about touching anything that's been in contact with Windust's intimate apparel, she's also a fraud investigator whose prime directive is You Never Know, so she takes the folder gingerly and stashes it in her Kate Spade satchel.
  'On the clear understanding,' Maxine quickly adding, 'as Deborah Kerr, or Marni Nixon, might say or actually sing—that this is none of my —'" (p. 253)

Deborah Kerr's first big success came in the film version of the musical The King and I in 1956.  Marnie Nixon dubbed in her singing voice.  This appears an obvious allusion speaking for the esteem Pynchon held for RAW.  The Notarikon or initials of both You Never Know and Kate Spade = 80 = Peh.  The Notarikon for "On the clear understanding" = 93 = Horus.  Remember the word "On." RAW certainly seems a "King" in the esoteric sense, introducing and opening up people to the possibilities, transformations, functions and expanded reality tunnels found both inside and outside Thelema.

C + S  = another frequent letter combination found throughout the book.  This combination, featuring in Gravity's Rainbow and Vineland also, appears crucial to the transmission of the how to produce theurgic Magick, aka Higher Consciousness, aka flying lasagna.  I briefly mentioned this in my first Gravity's Rainbow blog in the last paragraph, and provided a link there to a full explanation.   
C + S = 68.

Incidentally, if we take V as Vau = 6 and add it to Peh = 80 we get 86. the flip side of 68.  
86 = "A name of GOD asserting the identity of Kether and Malkuth." The realization of this identity seems vital to theurgy and thus to the didactic hints given in BE.  
86 = "Hallelu-Jah" or a cry of God
    = "A rustling of wings." Again, indicating theurgic activity.  
Interestingly, in the Commentary to Chapter 86 in the Book of Lies we find a note that says: "The reader should consult La Messe et ses Mystéres, par Jean Marie de V . . . . (Paris et Nancy, 1844)." No full last name given for the author, just the letter V.  On one level, The Book of Lies functions as a sort of manual for crossing the Abyss.
* * * * * * 
In my blogs on Gravity's Rainbow I expressed a sense that Thomas Pynchon knew about and alluded to the ON Formula so very important to Aleister Crowley's teaching. The ON Formula assumes a leading role in Bleeding Edge .

Before showing how ON gets referred to and symbolically built into the structure of BE, I'll attempt a brief description. Looking at the Tree of Life, ON refers to the combining of the paths represented by Aiyn (O) and Nun (N).  The formula comprises a complex multiplicity that will gradually get realized with study, time and practice.  We can start with the correspondences. O = Aiyn = The Devil (Tarot) which represents raw male energy or Yang energy as the Taoists say.  N = Nun + Death (Tarot) which corresponds with female, Yin energy. The formula, in part, concerns the balanced mixture, the balanced synergy of these two types of energy TO PRODUCE SOMETHING.  It concerns an alchemical process that appeared very important for Aleister Crowley himself to pass on.  He wrote a whole book for his magical son called Liber Aleph, The Book of Wisdom and Folly in which the word ON, referring to the Formula, begins the title of nearly every one of the short chapters .  

A good concise description of this formula appears in 93 The Aleister Crowley Primer by J. Edward and Erica M Cornelius under the heading What does the word 'ON' signify?  The whole thing should be read, here are the alpha and omega sentences of the explanation:

"The word ON is the Arcanum of Arcana; its significance is taught, gradually, in the O.T.O. ..."

". . . it could take a lifetime to understand this formula on a practical level, but when you do, and if you are able to cross the threshold of the Abyss and enter the Inner Sanctuary of the Order known as the S.S. (Silver Star), remember that the latter's initials add to 120, the same value as the word ON."

ON forms part of the structure of BE through Maxine's kids, Ziggy and Otis. Otis obviously represents the O.  Ziggy's full name, Ziggurat = 239 = Azrael, the Angel of Death to conjure the N of ON.  The path of Aiyn - O - connects Hod-8 with Tifareth-6.  The path of Nun - N - connects Netzach-7 with Tifareth-6.  Peh connects Hod with Netzach to form a triangle with Tiphareth at the apex. Tiphareth, among a million other things, marks the beginning of the adventure of the Abyss.  The Tarnow family lives on the 6th floor of their Upper West Side building.  At the beginning of Chapter 11 "Maxine's in Vontz Auditorium." Taking V = Peh then Vontz = 216 = 6 cubed.

This drawing shows the triad made by the paths of Peh, Aiyn and Nun.  The latter two represent ON.  The path of Samekh is shown because that corresponds to The Archer and the arrows of Aspiration.  DeepArcher plays a mysterious denizen and Guide in Pynchon's Deep Web.  We meet her or him on page 75: The Archer has journeyed to the edge of a great abyss.  This suggests Samekh going from Yesod to Tifereth, the edge of the Abyss.  Yesod = Foundation appears crucial to this tale.  The whole book endeavors to construct a foundation for theurgic practice.

Page 369 has a reference to the Steely Dan song, The Fez, only Pynchon retitles it after one of the lines in the chorus, Ain't Never  Going To Do It Without the Fez On. Interpreting the F in Fez = Fey/Peh, along with On indicates the triad of Hod, Netzah and Tifareth.

Sleuthing a bit more into ON: O + N = 120
120 = the mystical number of the path of He = The Star (Tarot). This should give a hint as to what gets produced through ON

120 = Master
       = Foundation, basis
       = Strengthening
       = Prophetic sayings, or decrees
       = Prop; the letter Samekh

Looking at prophetic sayings for a second, remembering Bleeding Edge came out in 2013.  Page 264 introduces the Civil Hackers' School in Moscow set up by the KGB with the intention of destroying America through cyberwarfare.  Pynchon has phantomware that functions like ransomware, a big problem in 2021.  He has a device for theft that hacks point of purchase debit or credit card information.  I know two people this has happened to in the past few months and had their bank accounts compromised.  Gabriel Ice, the novel's shadowy antagonist, gets compared to Donald Trump on page 188 with an interesting line: "As if at some point having had a fateful encounter with tabloid figure Donald Trump's cost accountants."  Trump's chief accountant Alan Weisselberg recently had his own fateful encounter with NY law enforcement.  Page 343 has a money pipeline to the UAE echoing some of the monkey business going in the previous administration.

Coincidentally, when the top General of the US Army appeared in the news recently describing one of the incidents of Trump trying to overturn the election as "the Reichstag fire  moment"  I read these prescient lines on page 317:

"'It's the Reichstag fire', she greets Maxine,
 'The what?'
  'Those fucking Nazis in Washington needed a pretext for a coup, now they got it."

The 1933 Reichstag fire in Berlin, of course, became the pretext for Hitler becoming a total dictator.

A humorous riff at the beginning of the book has a group called the "American Borderline Personality Disorder Association" who, every year take a cruise to a literal geographic border. "This year the destination borderline is between Haiti and the Dominican Republic ..." The recent assassination of Haiti's President occurred a day before I read this, they said the killers drove across land from the Dominican Republic crossing the same border.

Over at the Bleeding Edge Wiki they posted an analysis of the book cover; we have more to say.

Considering what's been said above, the layout of the author's name interests me.  Ten of the letters appear in a two character vertical column starting with H over P,  H + P = 85 = Peh.  Next we have O over Y, O + Y = 80 = Peh.  I'll leave the next three columns to the reader's ingenuity.  The letters that don't appear in a column include the T dangling all by itself like those described above in different character's names; at the end we find the key word ON.

* * * * * * 

In conclusion, Bleeding Edge tells an exciting, fast paced, easily comprehensible story of multiple transitions.  The plot arcs over the transition New York and its inhabitants made before and after the twin tower terrorist attacks.  On the personal level, near the beginning we hear the story of Maxine transitioning out of her marriage to Horst.  Through the course of the rest of the novel, she transitions back into marriage and love with him.  On the behind-the-scenes virtual plane, the ordeal of Crossing the Abyss describes a profound and prolonged transition.  Sooner or later, like it or not, until the Immortality Pill gets invented, everyone will the cross the ultimate abyss of Death.  This appears the most significant transition we will all likely go through, and I suspect we've done it before.

The depth of this novel is profound.   I've only given a tip of the iceberg glimpse of what can be found there.  I have to read it again myself for further research to fulfill my ambition of writing a book about the magical worlds of Thomas Pynchon and Robert Anton Wilson.  

I intuitively feel that James Joyce influenced BE, another avenue for future research.  I saw one sentence where Pynchon used the adjective "stately" and it reminded me of the first word in Ulysses.  I read the first page of Ulysses and couldn't see any correlation other than the word, though Ulysses does begin in a tower.  Reading that first page got me rereading the whole thing, I've seen a couple of other congruencies with the two novels: Pynchon has the character March Kelleher, mother of Tallis Ice, who eventually has to go on the run after 9/11 due to conspiracy theory broadcasts with evidence.  Joyce has Corny Kelleher, an undertaker's assistance who has some other role in parts I haven't gotten to yet.  The names March and Corny have the same amount of letters, both with a central "r."  Joyce, also well-known for employing Kabballah, uses the c + s letter combination very frequently in parts of Ulysses.  I now wonder if that's where Pynchon and RAW picked it up from?  Both writers put a great deal of music in their writing including breaking into song in the narrative.  Both will use one or two word phrases to suggest a rapid train of thought - stream of consciousness.  Both write hermetically.  As I said, this requires further research.

The last three sentences in Bleeding Edge: "But she waits in the doorway as they go on down the hall.  Neither looks back. She can watch them into the elevator at least."  

Hallways appear a common element in bardo spaces, spaces of transition like crossing the abyss.  "Neither looks back," recalls a passage in Against the Day also covering the ordeal of the Abyss in which it's advised to not look back i.e. don't dwell upon some of the more traumatic or upsetting encounters that may befall one, persevere and move forward.  The last sentence, Maxine's thought, suggests Binah watching the adepts/growing children going to the edge of the Abyss, then it becomes up to them.  The last two words have the same initials "a" and "l" that Joyces uses four times to end Finnegans Wake.  Scholars have pointed out Joyce's awareness of his imminent death, his final crossing of the abyss, embedded in his last work.  Of course, a + l = Al, the Key to the Book of the Law.   

The initials of the last sentence: s+c+w+t+i+t+e+a+l.
s+c = 68 + w = 74 (Lamed = Truth & balance) + t = 83 ("Consecration: love in it's highest form, energy, freedom, aspiration") + i = 93(Horus current) + t = 102 ( "a white goose") + e = 107 ("An egg") + a = 108 ("The fruit of a deep valley") + l = 138 ((To leaven, ferment").

138, the Notarikon of BE's last sentence, also corresponds with Song of Solomon Chapter 4 verses 11 - 15:

11. Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.
12. A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed. 
13. Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard,
14. Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices:
15. A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.

In verse 11, along with The Rolling Stones logo, lips and tongue suggest a mouth = Peh. These fragrant verses also recall the character of Conkling Speedwell and his exploits in Bleeding Edge.  Speedwell works as a nose detective whose heightened sense of smell sniffs out some clues for Maxine.  These five verses from SoS signal theurgic magick.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Crossroads of the Soul by Worlds Within Worlds

Thanks to art, instead of seeing one world only, our own, we see that world multiply itself and we have at our disposal as many worlds as there are original artists, worlds more different, one from the other than those which revolve in infinite space, worlds which, centuries after the extinction of the fire from which their light first emanated, whether it is called Rembrandt or Vermeer, send us still each one its own special radiance. 
- Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

Art is a veritable transmutation of substance.  By it, substance is spiritualized and physical surroundings dematerialized in order to refract essence, that is, the quality of an original world.  This treatment of substance is indissociable from "style."  
- Gilles Deleuze, Proust and Signs.

Crossroads of the Soul was our quarantine album project. Worlds Within Worlds comprises six individuals, Tito Rios, Niralee Kamdar, Nishit Gajjar, Sebastian Pulido Vela, Paula Galindo and myself.  The group name reflects the diversity of musical influences contributing to the sound as well as the connecting theme linking the songs: voyaging through space and time, the exploration of higher consciousness.  The music ranges from electronic, ambient, ambient dub, Andean folk, all variously enhanced with Brazilian percussion and samples from around the world.  It is released on the Cloister Recordings label.

1. Before Creation
2. Floating In Space
3. Bardo State
4. Crossroads of the Soul
5. Tiny Speck of Dust
6. Prasad
7. Kaleidoscope
8. The Burden of Illumination
9. Crown of Creation

Produced by Worlds Within Worlds.  Mixed and Mastered by Oz Fritz except Prasad mixed by Tito Rios

Special guests: Laylah Hali lead vocals on Crown of Creation.
                        EJ Gold - vocals on Floating In Space and temple bells on Bardo State
                        Anonymous Mullah - prayer call on Bardo State
                        Crows - on Bardo State
                        Mother whale with calves - on Kaleidoscope

Sample Material: International Free-Zone by Bill Laswell used in Bardo State

You can download the digital album in your favorite format for $7 here on Bandcamp.

All proceeds benefit the Institute for the Development of the Harmonious Human Being (IDHHB)

Crossroads of the Soul is a straight-up, old-school album in the sense that these songs indicate a sequential series that goes somewhere, from Before Creation to the Crown of Creation.  These tracks can be enjoyed individually, in any order; as a whole, it signals an intentional journey outside the boundaries of human experience, an exploration of the bardo space between where we've been and the direction we may be heading.  We even receive a little food along the way, some nourishment in the form of Prasad.

The title track has interesting symbolism and connotations with the archetypal cross at the core.  Legend has it that Robert Johnson went down to the crossroads and made a pact with the Devil to exchange his soul for fame and fortune as a bluesman.  This crossroads was Highway 61 and 49 in Clarksdale, Mississippi.  Johnson did find posthumous fame, but not so much fortune as he was poisoned the following year by the jealous husband of one of his mistresses.

Bob Dylan has also found himself a subject of this legend.  Minnesota friends of his at the time say he left Minneapolis as an average Woody Guthrie imitator and came back from New York a mere 6 months later with the talent just starting to unfold that would drive him to become the songwriter of a generation who would eventually receive a Nobel Prize in Literature and get compared to Shakespeare.  What happened, what changed, what transformed?  Dylan jokingly comments in the No Direction Home documentary about speculation that he followed in Robert Johnson's footsteps and made a midnight trip down to the crossroads.

The crossroads indicates a choice-point, a decision that can influence or determine the course of the rest of your life according to those legends.  According to Tibetan Buddhist legend, when the soul voyages in the Bardo following the body's biological demise, it comes across entrances to wombs which can lead to rebirth into another biological lifetime, a reincarnation.  It encounters crossroads between continuing through the Bardo to wherever it may lead, or ending the journey by taking rebirth.

In a completely different respect, yet still relevant to Crossroads of the Soul, we consider the cross as a model for the whole of Creation with the four legs extending infinitely in each of the cardinal directions and, perhaps, a rose at the center.  

The science fiction writer, Phil K Dick, gave an interesting interpretation of the cross:

"The blood and the cross are the highest point of this world (2-3-74).  The tears – 'of the repentant sinner' – turn to agape, as in Tears; the tears has to do with sin and atonement and Christ and the cross.  But all this (sorrow) is a gate to: love (v.Tears!) and love (agape) equals ecstasy; so tears of sorrow – the cross – are converted into the opposite; joy. Through agape, this is the goal and mystery of Christianity, this conversion; utter sorrow (Mitleid) to bliss (agape)."

2-3-74 refers to February and March of 1974, the period when Dick had a series of gnostic mystical visions and experiences. Tears capitalized and in italics refers to his 1974 book Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, set in a future dystopia where the U.S. has become a police state after a Second Civil War.

Gurdjieff begins his epic science fiction opus, Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, with an elaborate, ornate rendition of the sign of the cross. The Qabalistic Cross begins an essential rite in Golden Dawn based magic, the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.  Aleister Crowley and his group performed this ritual everyday at their Abbey of Thelema in Sicily.

The song, Crossroads of the Soul, begins with a distant rhythmic and melodic guide track that sounds like it might be coming from a broken radio.  You hear the sound of the door to the Crypt at the Basilica du Sacre Couer in Paris opening into the main body of the song, changing the space, the road, led by the warm tone and melody of an Andean flute.  After the first chorus, the distant melodic guide track crosses the path, indicating a choice-point before the solar melody of the flute and accompaniment re-enters to guide the journey on. 

The palette of sounds comes from all over the world, the mix defined an overall architecture of these sonic worlds within worlds.  The shehnaie samples in Bardo State originated from recordings Bill Laswell and I made in Madras, (as it was known at the time) India.  Part of the chorus in Kaleidoscope is sung by Niralee and Nishit in a dialect from India I don't know the name of.  Indian instruments such as tablas and tanpura drones are used in Nishit's compositions.  Brazillian-style latin percussion and trap set gives the beat, rhythm and movement in some songs.  Tito Rios uses some traditional instruments from his Bolivian heritage in his pieces opening another mood and dimension of sound.  Different chambers of world sounds and sensibilities line the hallway of this journey through the album.

Kaleidoscope starts with a primitive beat, something you might imagine hearing at a Santeria ritual - a beat intended to take consciousness somewhere else.  It speaks of the Univocity that Gilles Deleuze promotes and attributes to Spinoza and others.  The vocals are chants; the electronics greatly contribute to an otherworldly atmosphere that feels like being in any number of Phil Dick novels or other science fiction constructs.  The chorus: All is one, only one is sequentially sung in English, Spanish and an Indian dialect to celebrate in song the richness of difference that speaks from the same voice.

The final track, Crown of Creation, suggests magick and mysticism:

Worlds within worlds infinitely expand
And contract themselves in nothingness
Let's find ourselves in nothingness

Let's ride the stars, it's all crystal clear
Every dusk has its dawn
As above so below, as below so above


Monday, April 5, 2021

The Starseed Signals by Robert Anton Wilson

 Magick keeps opening me and opening me and opening me ...

 - Starseed Signals p. 428 

The Starseed Signals 
A RAW perspective on Timothy Leary PHD
by Robert Anton Wilson 

This new 470 page plus book published by Hilaritas Press out of Grand Junction, Colorodo lifts the veil a little bit more on two of the most remarkable philosophers and experimental adventurers of the XXth Century.  Robert Anton Wilson and Timothy Leary explored, navigated and transmitted cutting edge, brain-change technologies and applications beginning in the 1950s going until the very end of their respective lives.   They both used their biological deaths to communicate very potent final messages. This book emerged out of one of the most prolific and creative periods in Wilson's writing career, the early 1970s, when he also wrote Cosmic Trigger I, Prometheus Rising and began work on Schrodinger's Cat.

The Starseed Signals arose out of necessity, the necessity to rationally and intelligently explain Timothy Leary, his ideas and research findings, at perhaps the most difficult time in Leary's life.  Behind the scenes in this book, Leary desperately negotiated for his freedom and life with the fascist Nixon regime under extreme duress in harsh prison conditions while simultaneously getting prematurely judged and condemned as a sell-out informant by the Left.  Misinformation and disinformation about Leary's situation abounded and part of Wilson's intention, it seems, was to set the record straight.  

Herein we find a story of real philosopher/adventurers like they had in Ancient Greece:  philos = brotherly love; sophia = wisdom; the story of two friends who truly loved wisdom to the point of endangering their own welfare in its service.  We find out that Wilson presciently compared Leary's position as a State target to Wilhelm Reich's earlier persecution and basically warned him in person that a similar fate might await (it did).  Leary brushed aside these dire concerns with his typical care-free optimistic good cheer mixed perhaps with too much denial for his own good.   

In these pages, Wilson presents Leary's case, his work and consequences, as objectively as possible beginning with the groundbreaking publication of The Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality, "a study of comparative realities, the power politics of perception and emotion.  Its thesis, in colloquial terms, is that "ego" is a social conspiracy for which one person at a time gets blamed."  You will find no better explanation of Leary's groundbreaking pre-psychedelic scientific contributions to Psychology.  That alone makes this book a treasured historical document.  

The Starseed Signals was a lost work. RAW set it aside and moved on and the manuscript disappeared.  The story of how it got found and emerged to see the publishing light of day is told on page XI.  Some of this material found its way into Cosmic Trigger, The Final Secret of the Illuminati.  In some regards, this seems like the Bootleg edition, or the expanded out takes reel for Cosmic Trigger.  It gives a lot more background and context to what went on around the time of the creation of Cosmic Trigger, a book that changed my life.   It seems that because it never went through the final process of getting published, RAW's own editing seems less rigorous, more wide open i.e. a lot more left in, than in finished works like Cosmic Trigger.  

This seems an essential read for anyone interested in Dr. Leary's 8 Circuit model of Consciousness, this likely being the first of Wilson's ongoing lifelong exegetical presentations of this model.  I've found that RAW has a unique ability to take complex information and present it an understandable way to average people like myself.  He does that in this book not only with Leary's latest research and taxonomy of consciousness but, to greater or lesser degrees, with a variety of subjects: Aleister Crowley's Magick, LSD, Gurdjieff's system ( less so than Crowley's), longevity and immortality research, Wilhelm Reich, William Burroughs, Space Migration, and the consciousness of plants, among others.  The first two short paragraphs in the book alone references Aldous Huxley, Carl Jung, John Lilly and the value of skepticism. The 8 Circuit model gets the highest percentage of explanation with multiple iterations of it throughout the book.  

The Starseed Signals derives its title from a series of telepathic experiments that Leary and a few others did where they felt they received communication from  an extraterrestrial source of Higher Intelligence.  Independently, and coincidentally, RAW experienced similar contact phenomena around the same period of time.  Starseed also refers to the theory of Panspermia, that life originated in Outer Space, that the chemical "seeds" for life arrived on earth via meteorites.  Leary aligns himself with this hypothesis.

  Sirius, the Dog Star

The subtitle of this book, Link Between Worlds, ostensibly indicates the link between Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson yet this subtitle covers broad territory.  As a student of Magick, I took great interest in the presentation of Wilson's research into Aleister Crowley and how that connects with the Starseed subject matter.  

Naturally, The Starseed Signals transmits multiple signals.  One could consider it a frequently modulating carrier wave like a radio or television (tell a vision) station. The root of signals = signs.  Cabala describes a complex lexicon of signs (semiotics) and we know that RAW availed himself of this method.  I agree with Eric Wagner when he states in his Insider's Guide that one can find Cabala in all of RAW's books, this new find doesn't make an exception.  The praxis of Cabala also opens links between worlds.   

We discover that RAW had begun a book project about Crowley titled Lion of Light.  RAW leads off Chapter 8 (Hod = Mercury = communication)  with a quote from a poem called One Star in Sight showing where he got the title for the Crowley book project:

To man I come, the number of
    A man my number, Lion of Light; 
I am The Beast whose law is love
    Love under will, his royal right –
Behold within, and not above,
    One star in sight!
                                         - Aleister Crowley

The number in question = 666 which, under oath in a Court of Law, Crowley explained as the solar number 6 given three times.

One premise of magick and this book maintains that humans can make contact with Intelligence far beyond the human domain.  The proof of the pudding is in the eating of it; we can carefully and attentively observe the Starseed semiotics and infer whether such contact may have occurred with the invocation of this book much like a physicist might study the residual effects in a Wilson Cloud Chamber after bombarding it with energetic, sub-atomic particles.  Cabalistic semiotics that he wouldn't have consciously known about appears the same rationale Crowley uses to "prove" The Book of the Law came from a Higher Intelligence outside his own.

For instance, the very first word put down by RAW in Chapter One = "This;" the very last word in the book = "service" – the entire text lies between the words, "This service."  The Starseed Signals not only provides a service, in my opinion, it illustrates how to be of service both to self and to others.  Perhaps just a coincidence, yet I find it notable that "this service" = 69 by the Cabalistic method of Notarikon (transposing the initial letters into numbers and adding them).  69 can suggest mutual reciprocation, like the yin/yang symbol of the Tao, or connection, like the edges of a book – Finnegans Wake being a prime example.  The gematria of 69 = " a manger, stable; an enclosure;"  as in the edges that enclose this book.

On page 174 RAW makes a startling admission I've not seen elsewhere, he gives himself away a little more than usual:

"I also developed what occultists call 'inner certainty;' that is, I knew when this sixth circuit faculty was operating and could be trusted. ...

I have now developed a system, based on Crowley combined with Dr. Leary and Dr. John Lilly, in which any ordinary person can be trained to obtain similar results within six weeks, at least on a sporadic and occasional basis.  Further development of the sixth circuit, of course, requires further training."

Later, in a letter to Greg Hill published in the closing pages, RAW mentions that a collection of essays called Prometheus Rising is scheduled for publication.  Perhaps this contains the system he was referring to?  Although he recommends the first exercize  in PR be practiced for 6 months, not 6 weeks.

The Starseed Signals begins with an invocation of Nuit in the form of a poem by Arlen Wilson called Our Lady of Outer Space.  The Notarikon of the book's first phrase, "[t]his is a journey inward and outward..." = 111 which connects with the initials of Anna Livia Plurabelle, the name of the Goddess archetype in Finnegans Wake. A journey inward and outward also alludes to the Thelemic cosmology of Nuit as the infinitely large (outward) mating with Hadit, the infinitely small (inward).  And so on...  

Also of interest to me is the brief description of the group magick workshops RAW gave in Berkeley, the first I've ever heard about that specific activity.

This book begins with a quote from Leary that asks, "[w]hat will be the next step in biological and social evolution?"  One could say that the rest of the book attempts to answer that question along with much insight into researchers who consider it and their methods.  Shortly after, following the introduction and emphasis on skepticism, RAW states the intention of this book:

"But we do not ask the reader to accept anything here as dogma.
If this book encourages further investigation and original thinking, it will have served its purpose; if it leads only to blind faith in the hypotheses it puts forth, it will have failed entirely."