(This piece was written for inclusion in a coming art exhibit by Dennis Koch. The exhibition will open in Los Angeles on 6/23, and will also feature the Crypto-Kubrology research of Alex Fulton.)
It was Blake who prophesied that the senses would once again combine and permeate the entire surface of the body. No longer would seeing, hearing, smelling and tasting be isolated to the head but would, like the sense of touch and synergized with it, be coextensive with the skin.
This would not mean, however, that the skin would be covered with tiny eyes, ears, nostrils and tongues, but that it would be radically transformed into a synesthetic sensory medium in which one blended super-sense would perceive with the whole body -- ubiquitously and omnidirectionally -- all possible sensory data; at once an ever-changing kaleidocosm of blended colours, sounds, smells, tastes, textures and emotions.
This synesthesia of enhanced touch, which Marshall McLuhan may have ultimately meant by the haptic, is not, according to Blake, an exotic and unrealizable fantasy, but is in fact the birthright of our physical form. This is the true nature of the human body: created in the image of God before the Fall.
Nor was the body meant to be isolated -- male and female He created them. The body was made for communication, copulation, procreation, subsequent creation. All-sensing skin in blessed union with all-sensing skin. An unending shower of perceptual grace, in no way confined to what are now called the organs of reproduction or the genitalia, in every way exceeding or transcending the sexual. The same power that fires the Sun is generated by this coupling. And, as taught D.H. Lawrence, it is this power of life which causes the Sun to burn and not the opposite. It is the apotheosis of the making of love.
This urge, this snaking and riverine intensity, flows up from the lower extremities of the body, absorbed by channels of marrow and blood and breath, rising and recombining at various confluences, gathering at the heart -- “the cardiac synthesizer” -- where it is churned alchemically into pure imagination, spiraling up to the brain and beyond and then descending in circuit through contact of skin with skin. Perfected perception of the one in total sensory awareness of the perfected perception of the other. Instant manifestation of all percepts/concepts (there being no distinction between the two) as something indistinguishable from both imagination and love.
McKenna spoke of telepathic cephalopods -- octopuses and other marine animals -- who communicate through the rippling and gyrating of patterned colours and lights on the surface of their bodies. Meaning is not something to be heard in communication with other individuals of one’s own species but beheld. And the same could also be true for our prelapsarian forms; not only perceiving and receiving but also emitting and transmitting dancing lights, colours, sounds and fragrances. Communication as sensual synesthetic simultaneity.
Here, McKenna is less anthropocentric, less biblically oriented, than Blake, although he is much more concerned with being considered “scientific.” Blake could care less about literal and scientific “facts.” A thing is true if it is affirmed by poetic vision. In such a vision, the unified sensorium is reflecting upon itself. But, as in McKenna’s thought, there is no need to limit this to the human and still less to any one particular human story. Nature in each of her ever-transforming aspects consists of a myriad of organs of perception, each perceiving the other in a nearly infinite variety of designs and forms. And as human perception has fallen -- the senses isolated from one another -- one sense, notably sight, dominates the rest.
Yet what is the Fall? What characterizes it? The Bible explains that it was brought about by sin, but that only begs the further question -- what is sin? Nietzsche’s answer is most lucid: sin is separation. Separation of the senses from each other. Separation of human beings from the rest of nature. Separation of reason from desire. Separation of male from female. Separation of Man from God. Separation of subject from object, of self from other, of figure from ground, of mind from bodies, of bodies from their crafted extensions.
And of these extensions language itself is most important, being the scaffolding of all subsequent technology. After the Fall -- and it matters little if this is expressed in mythological, psychological or biological terms, each of these being merely different stories within language -- language became split off from the things that it referred to. In effect, language as we have always known it and can presently conceive of it was born at this point.
But in all of the ancient and archaic stories -- depicting in verse language’s own longing to cross the river Lethe and behold its real nature -- every Fall is followed by an eventual Redemption. Language will be redeemed. History will be redeemed. Nature will be redeemed. The senses will be redeemed. The multiform kaleidoscopic protoplasmic sensorium will be cleansed and become radiant.
Within the Abrahamic religions, as in the progressive and evolutionary ideologies that spun off from these traditions, this moment of return is projected out into the future, into the “to come.” Yet time itself is a product of separation, of the Fall. Prior to the Fall there was no time. As the two terms, Fall and Redemption, are logically linked -- the one necessitating the other -- the existence of the Fall implies the existence of the Redemption. It will come. A timeless state has happened and a timeless state will happen again, and from the perspective of either, these two states are the same. For either, there really was no lapse into time. There was no Fall to begin with. In the timeless state -- sub specie aeternitatis -- nothing has fallen so there is no need for redemption.
The coming of Christ, His Incarnation, has already negated all of history. The Buddha’s awakening under the Bo tree accomplished the same. In fact, this mighty event occurs continually although it only really happens once. At every fraction of a second -- being a meaningless division of an illusory condition, time -- our perception paints a universe onto the void. Nature is perpetually incarnated. There is nothing to wake up to for we were never asleep. The perceived dreams and nightmares, and the cycles and patterns containing both, are all part of the mix.
Hell, purgatory and heaven are equally present, a fluid palimpsest of worlds and dimensions. All stories become true, each a branch or a twig of some living and breathing and breeding Orphic saga of existence. The elves are here, as are angels and demons, as are subatomic particles and wave functions, as are the gandharvas and the duende, plants and animals and fungi, each moving at different rates, each arising and passing, each supplying food and inspiration for the others. And each also non-existent for exactly the same reasons. None are complete in themselves. None are apart or autonomous. All sins have been forgiven long ago.
Already, then, the senses have been perfected and fused. The world of our perception -- the only world that we have access to -- is even now a sublime synesthesia. The psychedelic plants prove this. Consciousness is malleable. And the plants themselves are unnecessary. They, as with other techniques used to induce visionary experience, may tweak the mind into providing glimpses of the eternal, but it is a mistake to say that they, or even more reductively the chemicals contained in them, cause these experiences. They only remind us of what is already there.
Just as the body is not isolated from other bodies, there is no definite boundary to the mind. In his psychological studies, Jung could find no limit to the unconscious. Even to call it a collective unconscious is to mislead. For what is it a collectivity of? Eventually Jung identified it with the classical idea of the World Soul or the Anima Mundi, which both Yeats and Joyce referred to as the Great Memory. The Soul of the World, like each individual soul, is everything between the two impossible poles of pure matter and pure spirit.
The body, alive and sensing and also "collective" -- Albion and Finn and Adam Kadmon are all names of it -- is also synonymous with this. All of matter may make up this body, all of nature certainly. And the composition of the World Soul-Body is also language. The word made flesh, the flesh made of words, of verse. And this is what is seen in every sight, is heard in every sound. It is combined and projected "outwards" with every sensory experience.
The cycle of fall and redemption, a cycle found at every level of existence, is actually a cycle of forgetting and remembering afresh. The ancient art of memory, embedding the archaic systems of connection and correspondence which seethe in the heart of all magic, has for its end a general anamnesis, an awakening to the eternal.
The Muses being the daughters of Memory -- a fact of myth that Blake curiously disputed -- means that the cycle of the imagination itself, of image-making, of secondary creation, of perception as incarnation, is exactly this cycle. And to be more precise there are endless cycles within cycles, occurring at different speeds and seasons, eddies in the World Soul, at different stages of dreaming and waking, each perceiving the others, all perceiving the all. Media extending language extending breath extending wind extending starlight extending love extending the generation of haptic images in the heart.
Sunday, May 13, 2018
Formulating past broken nights of sanguine finabulators. Reckoning fish-weights accepting missives from embassies out past lawless half-breeds. Bleeding noses. Fell down from the beech tree. Ronny Totmann. Runny Titman. Did it to prove that I was lying when I said that it could never happen. It did happen. He made it happen. Sacrificed himself to devalue my word. What a turd. The toady of what’s-his-sneer. And then the even greater malignance of neighbour Adam. A singular event that stunted all growth. Tarnished all memories. Ass-stench and licorice-taste. Yet forgiven, perhaps, in a ceremony at the forest temple. Candy crushed. Howling. Demons devouring. Flies sucking blood. Full chod action. His skull pounded and buried at Golgotha. Washed by the blood...
General doubt. Cosmic Cartesian doubt, but without the rebirth. I think I am what? And that melts, decays, drifts away. Upon reflection no I is found. Yet there is reflection, perception, something flowing, something attempting to get a bead on...what? A flow spiraling around a flow. Poe’s maelstrom, the sudden flushed toilet of civilization. But in fact it is far more personal, more intimate, right under my nose, part of my breath. Breathing walls conjoined with disintegrating emotions, terrifying memories, armpit sweat, bad posture. And then flights of near-ecstasy, almost a calm, almost an eye in the storm, almost a foothold on truth. Then another stumble, another blow to confidence.
Fide. Faith. Fidel. Religion, ideology, science, fact, certainty, balance, reason, strength. All is vanity. And all this time I’m trying to suppress a fart. But then there’s that jasmine vine growing up and out from hell-knows-where among the banana trees with the promise that in May, for a couple of weeks with luck, there will be the fragrance of heaven on the breeze. And that beauty is also me/not-me.
Sartre and Huxley were both on mescaline, but one went to hell and the other went to heaven. Haunting giant crabs versus the corduroy slacks of the gods. The nausea, I think (but not am), is the more interesting of the two states. Seasickness on solid ground. Like the thousands of aftershocks which followed in the wake of 3/11. Another earthquake? Or is my inner-ear balance fucked? Or am I drunk again on this 400 yen Prince de Bao red wine that’s supposed to be a viable bulwark against radioactive strontium poisoning? Who says this? I don’t remember. Watch the street lights. Are they shaking or is that tremble coming from me? All is liquid, undulating. The only effective antidote against universal seasickness is to jump with a whoop into the sea and drown.
Drowning with panic is drowning with the illusion of self still intact. But give up. Observe motion without analysis or struggle. Acceptance. The undertow takes the offering and deposits it smoothly almost peacefully within a few strokes of the shore. Sputtering and hacking on the rocky sand, but senses still aware, still alive. Praising what? Who knows, but there is something to praise. A mysterious thing to rejoice that is beyond all doubt, that escapes doubt, not because it is me, but because doubt itself comes from the same place as the jasmine vines & the beech tree & earthquakes & nausea & tears & memories. When it blooms everything is in question except that its scent, nearly of decay, will also quietly fade into the wind and be lost for a while.
Sunday, April 1, 2018
Jumpstart: invoke OAM, kaggle waggle waggle, flop flop, ice in a plastic cup, baritone moondance piano, finger drumming, smiles, paws, beckoning, boring guitar solo, bus parking lot video, transformation down in your soul, baby, German booms in the stairwell, rusted yellow railing with cubic concret block stands, not German French, corner not stairs, Waits? Nothing that good, red flag whitehawks on a tour, the same chord over and over, canned drums, a side glance from the fruit-slurping neighbour, Chip or Dale on her nails, can’t make sense of the ratrace, now Italian? Feminine voices. A chair now occupied. Beard, shaved sides. A whistle shrills. Sigh and a settle into heavy wooden chairs, flowery maroon boulders, mix of English and Japanese, he’s full, and some other tongue. Fingers tapping a plastic keyboard, like mine, noe, misspelling, different stream of though, smaller in maroon and flowers. Slightly weird. Cream parasol, black dress. Each to hir own screen. LOCKER and the red arrow, taken again, grey fedora of soft cloth, steady stream, always a new scene, white gloves crossed, now on large plastic wheel, red cane, white masks, I’ll be waiting, striped convexes, jazz slapping on the laptop keys, black plastic sun visor, a yawn, a flake of eyebrow dandruff, shuffling, ahh..., tall red wooden gate in the corner of the bus square, the Byrds? Up in the tree next to the goat watering hole, mad on cactus, turn turn turn..., And a red Turkish flag wrapped around the pole one third maybe fluttering, not much wind, nose blowing, pollen, troll snot, roasted mutton, can’t see the future, circles connected by blue lines, a map of time, rent a cycle, the rent cycle, inescapable feudal poverty, sunglasses hanging by an arm on a t-shirt neckline, a fluid natural gesture replicated everywhere, I can’t do it, illiterate, deliberate, isolated, alienated, puffy puke green coat rushing to avoid an omnibus, cheating? Reading what is already written, typos allowed? Corrections? Revisions? Genius never makes a mistake, which genius? Djinn? Let it (her?) speak through the errors, blew an eyebrow hair off R, shake out the shoes, nice E, now i7m behind, i seven am, 7AM, nice also at front, more mucus, love don’t lrt me try, kind of magnet, more canes, only one, black, neighbours leaves, raking? Breaking wind, stifled for now, WE, that is what happens, checking again, n but why not? Next to the goat, a floater in the moat, I’ve got more where that came from, perfectly placed short snort, behind again, or not possible? Behinf what? New assembling, zip, clinkle, noice eavsdrop, snort again now please, snort again now, whoop whoop whoop, wooden legs heavy scrape the foolr, foolscape, any marks? Check, jusasec... Nothing fake stone tile why all of the commas commies, another nondescript with a mask, out the window, hand tired, recovering from fall, release this mess? What mlhu! No nono! Cry cry pidgeons in secerret hideouts between building, 5 dimensional coluor receptors, the five skandhas according to haze, why get upset? Dude, slow waiting pace, plaid scarf, back and forth, buzzer on wooden surface fart, red bull hairy uniform junkie in sunglasses and another fucjing mask,,, another tribe, reading glasses resting on the tip of a pink nose, long white hairs surround a bald dome, another hage, hag on the fence’s edge, tennis racket handle sticking out a the top of a backpack, sucum, succour, find a sytyle, a hair crisis, drandruffy arroyo, quick exit, slurp it back shove it in, another sits, jump a dog, a bundle of flowers, 20 long years since Luang, sleeping tofddler in mother’s(?) arms exit taxi, exueny, the high heel twirly locks set, generic hubcaps, can’t afford to sleep, shoulder ache noew, old people everywhere, a quartert baring int, trombones? No shamisen? Okinawa folk wood cane waiting, a little hop a swaddle-de-daddle, Midnight as genius of course, The Muse, Urania, The Cristian crisisian one, of astrology, no astronomy, the stars, GOod Saturday, now down in Hell stealing the keys, freeing those who wait, almost a glimpse down a..., should not have, hanging from the tree, chocolates?fish tar, internal wandering begin not begin, murmurmurmur, slapslap pittapitta sniff, janai, double sunglasses lipstick, caps, hoods, small green plants clinging to the corners, cough muted by an elbow pit, glasses perched on the patch camera huge lensesss on gut, rs, rest, kekekekek, smirk at ? Point at? Incapable of talk, fuzzy ones, sheepish, if you chose to die, concerning the boundary, comma out right hand out, fuck a comma two crows nearly in pigeon space, bruised spohie comma no why not earl gret egret regret Tet white mouths elastic ears continue retinue; semi colon; half ; comma:]3% kennedy was that? I was... Take your smokes off at the dor DOR dearly and deadly orgone radishes, volume up gregariousness of the tung tree Schtitt fell in love with a tree. So have i. Auto capital correditect but only after perios perros and periods. Of war follwe periods @ piece. Spaces also abritrarrry freedukeyoudrewcineclub teoiouycget two light boxes of each pole, disintegrating, shineforth, 45degreepointing tosidewalklenspointgoatee gutsandsapporosondebenchtwoshare one can crackswhiskersfagreenplaschain ban on backspace temp removed typooo gone muse finds another device taking off coat best timecounting change glance asleep soundly on to p of head cake eater movement of spoon to choco lips, lightsaber orange/red shuffles over the lot just below vanished behind the wall, risk a glimpse, lovely, purring slurps, cats have a rough tounge tree, catch that or not? Snapping pen, now tuft hair has beer wife with rice crackers? Ssss sounds, so nada, nanda, apologies for wiping, arrival, out with the books, many archetypes, first pregnancy negative nancy janai-oh! Yabai! Oh my! Itchy knee scabs, march the dangerous month, over the handle bars just at the exact moment of a thought of home, nemesis, hubris, green onions negi sticking out of mama bike basket, i’m peeing!! The whistle is white. Changes the sound. Over a thousand of nonsense now. Again bless yous. Covered baby head as bizarre chest growth, blue band, crinkle shuffle, cookbook, late night drunk Hamlet convo cat? No slightly goggle-eyed, baby you sacrifice, ankle crack, placed helpless on the bench, confused or patient, directions, routes of many colours, New york, a cane in both hands, more vertical basket negi, private music, bag behind back, no clouds only a kite a bird a hwak hawk i mean, objay still on bench commuter bike walked past the ginkgo, got it! No red line, parents return, same sad slumping pose, clop clop clop always look, the purpose? Small kid running with big slab of circuitry, Honolua, grated manholes slippery when wet, real release this? Old purple hair and slight smile, cup still empty, how can they talk? Why can’t... Glowing 80s green, bobbing 5d p-picker struts under the sign, read the last section, petering out, fuzzhead like S spins the pole read then
Sunday, March 4, 2018
Our dreams are a second life. I have never been able to penetrate without a shudder those ivory or horned gates which separate us from the invisible world. The first moments of sleep are an image of death; a hazy torpor grips our thoughts and it becomes impossible for us to determine the exact instant when the "I," under another form, continues the task of existence. Little by little a vague underground cavern grows lighter... The spirit world opens before us.
-- Aurélia, Gérard de Nerval
Gilles Deleuze, in particular, had his own early but explicit connections with the occult tradition, and this influence, although suppressed by himself and his followers, can be traced throughout the entire trajectory of his work. In an article entitled “The Sonambulist and the Hermaphrodite: Deleuze and Johann de Montereggio and Occultism,” Christian Kerslake tracks down the beginning of this esoteric career. Kerslake’s essay begins:
One of Gilles Deleuze's first articles, published in 1946, was an introduction to a new French edition of an arcane work of philosophy bearing the title Mathesis: or Studies on the Anarchy and Hierarchy of Knowledge, by one Dr Johann Malfatti de Montereggio. Deleuze was twenty-one when he published his introduction to the French edition of Malfatti's Mathesis, which was the first new edition for a hundred years. "Mathesis, Science and Philosophy" is one of a group of five texts he published in the period 1945-7, and which he subsequently repudiated and omitted from French bibliographies of his work.
And the heavily occult nature of Malfatti’s book is absolutely evident:
In Anarchy and Hierarchy it is as if [German Romantic philosopher] Schelling's final theosophy comes to completion in a hallucinatory Tantrism, in which the living body of God, in its most complete self-development, itself appears in hermaphroditic form in human sexuality, where the coming-to-divine-consciousness becomes identical to the psychosexual attainment, along Tantric lines, of spiritual "bisexuality". This "system", uncovered by Malfatti, is said to form the basis for all subsequent Eastern and Western esoteric thought, and now furnishes us with the long-lost key to the ultimate system of medicine.
Not only, according to Joshua Ramey in The Hermetic Deleuze: Philosophy and Spiritual Ordeal, did Deleuze write about the occult. He also attended a salon at the residence of Marie-Madeleine Davy, “a scholar of medieval philosophy and passionate spiritist,” in Paris where esoteric ideas, among other radical subjects, were discussed by certain of the glittering lights of French philosophy.
The salons were the site of encounters between many leading French intellectuals, such as Sartre and Bataille, as well as a very young Gilles Deleuze.
The company also included a number of French esotericists and devotees of occult philosophy, such as Marcel Moré. Deleuze's work from this period reflects a profound fascination with esoteric themes, inspired perhaps by Davy's own conviction that a secret and subversive medieval tradition of Neoplatonic thought contained a revolutionary gnosis waiting to be rediscovered and redeployed in Europe.
Scrambling and Rambling
Kerslake argues, in his later Deleuze and the Unconscious, that well before such topics were quite openly explored by D&G in the “Becoming Animal...” chapter/plateau (which Kerslake aptly calls “a late modern occult treatise”), they were present in Deleuze’s Bergsonism. Kerslake quotes from near the close of this text, which I’ll further condense here:
It could be said that in man, and only in man, the actual becomes adequate to the visual. It could be said that man is capable of rediscovering all the levels, all the degrees of expansion (détente) and contraction that coexist in the virtual Whole... Even in his dreams he rediscovers or prepares matter. And durations that are inferior to him are still internal to him... man is capable of scrambling the planes, of going beyond his own plane as his own condition, in order finally to express naturing Nature.
This power to retreat into the virtual and to "scramble the planes" is potentially active in all humans by apparent virtue of their being human, but in practice it is only available to the sorcerer-shaman, to the artist-poet, to the master dreamer. In short, it is available to those who have passed beyond the first gate.
Here the powers to transform, to become other, to dissolve or shatter the one into the many, to vary the speeds of existence, to travel instantly in time and space, to expand and shrink the boundaries of the self, to superimpose one place and moment upon others, are all at hand.
The Master of Animals is there to freely present them to anyone who possesses the key and who knows the proper rites and intonations. The mystic, or more accurately the sorcerer who is unbound to theology and priestly tradition, is a singularity, a cosmic anarchist:
He or she is an unnatural figure, who no longer conforms to the established laws of nature (that is, the laws of established nature). (Deleuze and the Unconscious)
The controller of dreams, the artist/magician who comes to realize that the portals to the astral extension are present everywhere, who discovers that in fact there is no separation between the astral and the physical for one who holds the silver key, soon realizes that the “laws” of nature do not apply.
The planes can be scrambled, the bounds of the law can be endlessly stretched, forms can be altered, the only imagined can be manifested in the light of day. Terence McKenna made this exact realization in the confused and confusing wake of the experiment at La Chorrera:
I have come to believe that under certain conditions the manipulative power of consciousness moves beyond the body and into the world. The world then obeys the will of consciousness to the degree that the inertia of pre-existing physical laws can be overcome. This inertia is overcome by consciousness determining the outcome of the normally random, micro-physical events. Over time the deflection of micro-events from randomness is cumulative so that eventually the effects of such deflections is to shift the course of events in larger physical systems as well. Apparently, when wanting wishes to come true, patience is everything. (True Hallucinations)
He goes on to explain that just as consciousness (in a way still unknown to science) is able “to direct the electrical flow in the central nervous system” of our bodies, given greater awareness it appears that electrons and atoms beyond our mere physical boundaries can likewise be manipulated.
Within shamanic states of consciousness, in other words, our personal boundaries -- the area within our willed control -- can be enlarged, can encompass more and more of the “outside” environment. And for McKenna, as in many shamanic and mystical traditions, the means by which consciousness can expand in this manner is through language.
The sorcerer is revealed here as the original and ultimate poet. The influence of Lovecraft on McKenna is obvious here, as Terence readily admitted and Dennis concurred by affirming that the McKennas’ Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss, also the name of Dennis’ autobiographical record of life with his brother, was taken directly from Lovecraft.
As in a Lovecraft story, the shaman-sorcerer descends to a space where words fail, where the senses themselves must open and widen in order to comprehend anything at all. In these spaces or states, the sorcerer must discover the words to convey his or her experiences to the community, in song or in writing or in other creative work, or risk insular madness or even physical death.
The sorcerer, as Kerslake reading Deleuze points out, is “the only successful madman.” And there are many, mostly unknown or forgotten or exiled, would-be sorcerers who have not succeeded. The gate is easier to enter than it is to exit. Laws can be stretched but often they do not contract to their usual and comfortable limits.
Lovecraft’s horror stories are often about those who fail to navigate the vast realm between the gates. And there are many fates worse than physical death. Where many fail -- and especially many moderns fail -- is in taking things too literally.
The Dissolving Borders of Self and Time
Hans Peter Duerr explains, in Dreamtime, that whatever the shaman experiences it is a mistake to say that he or she objectively becomes an animal. Instead, it is more accurate to suggest that the dichotomies of objectivity and subjectivity, outer and inner, break down at this point.
What actually takes place is not that the shaman turns into an animal, but rather that he has now experienced his "wild", his "animal aspect". Not until that happens will he be a true shaman. For he cannot know his human side until he also becomes aware of what it is not. To put it differently, he needs to become estranged from it, to have seen it, that is, to have seen it from the outside. After experiencing that, he is no longer what he once was. In pictorial representations, he now appears as a human bird or a human with bird's legs.
The successful animal-becoming, therefore, is a human-becoming. The werewolves and the vampires are those who do not return, the damned. A similar thing happens with the related phenomenon of magical flight. It would not be possible to say that the sorcerer or the witch flies like a bird, at least as we perceive bird-flight with our modern everyday consciousness, but a type of flight does occur.
It not so much that we fly. What happens instead is that our ordinary "ego boundaries" evaporate and so it is entirely possible that we suddenly encounter ourselves at places where our "everyday body", whose boundaries are no longer identical with our person, is not to be found.
The ego-defined boundaries of the self, which are identical to those boundaries defined by our civilized culture, are at least temporarily erased. The individual psyche and the collective psyche, known in the past as the World Soul, temporarily become once again undivided.
And this extension of the Earth, this astral plane, this psychic realm between the material and the spiritual, between the gates, is precisely the World Soul. The sudden erasure of boundaries can be experienced -- can be known -- as magical flight, as animal becoming, as telepathy or telekinesis, as sexual and mystic ecstasy.
...a brujo need not be able to fly like a bird in order to arrive at a different place within seconds, for it seems that a sorcerer can change the boundaries of his person so much that he can be simultaneously within his everyday body and also at another place, where his body is not. Something like that may indeed be happening during divination and telepathy, for the people involved do not seem to overcome distances the way electromagnetic waves do. It does not appear to be a transmission as assumed by most parapsychologists. We are apparently dealing more with a "lifting of boundaries", in which there is a dissolution of barriers developed during the processes of civilization and individuation.
Yet it is not only the boundaries of the self that lift. Throughout history and in many lands, those individuals and groups who have passed beyond the first gate have entered into the timeless. Or, in other words, beyond this point time is no longer experienced as mere duration, measured by clocks or the sun, but is identified with eternity.
Across the world this breach into eternity has been celebrated with processions and parades, with mad dance, with the shattering of taboos, with the overturning of authority and the inversion of social roles, with the expenditure and destruction of property, with inebriation, with unbridled festivity, and with a riot of the senses.
And, very understandably, it is the marginalized, the oppressed, the outcasts and freeks who were mostly likely to jump into the fray, to stomp most wildly in the thick of the hairy ruckus.
It is easy to see how these "good witches", and also the werewolves or the wild women of the Nomkubulwana, are related to those "great throngs of women" who raged through the quiet of the night, the Couroi of Crete, who danced over the meadows in the retinue of the Great Goddess, the enraptured skin-clad maenads of the "Great Transformer", the nocturnal hordes of the spirits of the dead of Artemis-Hecate, and the mad "Bechler" women of the Slovenian Gail valley.
Witches, werewolves, maenads, spirits of the dead, the mad. With these as the denizens of the midnight romps -- as in the cult of Cthulhu itself -- it is easy to see how the existing authorities in the ancient and medieval periods, and in “respectable” society in general, would attempt to suppress or at least contain and rechannel these outbursts of truly subversive energy. Festivals were therefore (mostly) permitted as useful releases of steam, as acceptable (though temporary) penetrations of the eternal.
No matter how great the differences between these groups of people, they were all united by the common theme that "outside of time" they lost their normal everyday aspect and became beings of the "outer" reality, of the beyond, whether they turned into animals or hybrid creatures or whether they reversed their social roles. They might roam bodily through the land or only "in spirit", in ecstasy, with or without hallucinogenic drugs.
Mystery is for the Immature
With the onset of modernity, however, as more and more aspects of life became colonized by the state and its micromanagement of the everyday, the boundaries between time and eternity, between the real and the imaginal, between the civilized and the wild, became thickened and more rigid. The gates became harder and harder to find, and when they were found and passed through there were fewer and fewer guides to point the way home.
With the wilderness being increasingly cleared, with the territory being mapped and over-mapped, with the monitoring and coding and stratification of everything, what was once “outside” retreated to the “inside.” Communal ecstasies and potlatches became something inward and alienated, branded as sickness, antisocial. Psychiatrists became the police of the psyche.
Unfortunately, it happens many times that psychiatrists of this sort are people who equate the boundaries drawn by modern civilization between itself and the wilderness with a dividing line between reality and illusion. As far as they are concerned, the reaches beyond that border are mere "projections", and the dissolution of the boundary indicates mental illness.
The boundaries of the consensus, of the narrow spectrum of thought accepted by civilization, are identical to the boundaries of the real. Everything outside of these bounds/binds is nonsense, insanity, unhealthy, impure. Yet for those still blessed or cursed by dreams and visions of landscapes and beings beyond the borders, nothing within them will ever wholly satisfy.
Randolph Carter -- and likely Lovecraft, too, despite his materialist claims -- was one of these few, and in The Silver Key his melancholic disgust of the consensus is explained:
They had chained him down to things that are, and had then explained the workings of those things till mystery had gone out of the world. When he complained, and longed to escape into twilight realms where magic moulded all the little vivid fragments and prized associations of his mind into vistas of breathless expectancy and unquenchable delight, they turned him instead toward the new-found prodigies of science, bidding him find wonder in the atom’s vortex and mystery in the sky’s dimensions. And when he had failed to find these boons in things whose laws are known and measurable, they told him he lacked imagination, and was immature because he preferred dream-illusions to the illusions of our physical creation.
The illusions of the physical are the only accepted illusions. Fantasy can be explored in art, but only if this art is self-conscious of its separation from the real and confines itself within the authorized mores and tastes of society. All else is dismissed as romantic, foolish and/or destructive escapism. Even children, increasingly, are denied to right to imagine.
The eternal may have burst through in the past, or perhaps will do so in the far distant future (but, the consensus bleats on, such an event is very improbable as “natural laws” would be violated), but it will not arrive today. The laws have been fixed. The gates are closed and the keys have been lost.
No Place In Waking Life
All this indicates, even in the case of normally perceptive scholars like Mircea Eliade, a total misunderstanding of where and when this “dreamtime” is situated. As Duerr explains (quoting Eliade and anthroplogists and psychoanalysts who hold a similar misconception):
The concept of "dreamtime" does not refer to any time in the distant past to which the Australians supposedly think they can be "called up", "repeated" or "emulated", which "endures" or proceeds "parallel" to ordinary time, or which could be "projected" upon the present. The "dreamtime" is not past, present or future time: it has no "location" whatever on the continuum of time.
It, the extension, the astral, the dreamtime, the realm of becoming, the World Soul, does not fall within time. It is both fully absent and, potentially, fully present. It is both underworld and off-world, in the unconscious and in super-consciousness. It “occupies” the space between the rigid categories and typologies of our defined and preassigned reality.
Kenneth Grant, in The Magical Revival, explains that this is also the space of Lovecraft’s writing:
H.P. Lovecraft, in one of his tales of terror, alludes to certain entities which have their being "not in the spaces known to us, but between them. They walk calm and primal, of no dimensions, and to us unseen."
This was also the space that the McKenna brothers, by turning their organic keys, blasted their way into in March of 1971. And in very similar language to that used to describe what Carter beheld after stepping through the first gate (“It is full of those paradoxes, contradictions, and anomalies which have no place in waking life..”), Terence struggles to make sense of what they had witnessed:
Our collective intelligence was not compromised, but what was compromised was the ability of reason to give a coherent account of what was going on, as paradox, coincidence, and general synchronistic strangeness began to increase exponentially. Into the vacuum left by the collapse of reason rushed a staggering array of exotic intuitions about why things were as they were.
Terence McKenna’s thought gets unfortunately pegged to his prediction of the singularity or concrescence that would occur on December 21st of 2012. When this event failed to happen in an obvious and spectacular way (although I think the jury is still out on whether something did begin to ripple into manifestation at that time) his wider perspective has been largely neglected.
The origins of 2012, though, were at La Chorrera. 2012, in a very real sense, already took place then and there, and the date essentially has become a symbol -- much like the Incarnation of Christ -- of a singular event that could potentially happen at any “point” within or between the space-time continuum.
Werewolves Become Vampires When They Die
And there is the feeling, reading these authors, that the space of the extension is really coterminous with the world itself. Borrowing the terms of A Thousand Plateaus, the becomings that characterize the entire plane of consistency also move between the strata of the fixed and ordered. The plane of consistency -- as well as all of the synonyms that D&G suggest for it, including the Mechanosphere -- is yet another expression for the World Soul.
Furthermore, if we consider the plane of consistency we note that the most disparate of things and signs move upon it: a semiotic fragment rubs shoulders with a chemical interaction, an electron crashes into a language, a black hole captures a genetic message, a crystallization produces a passion, the wasp and the orchid cross a letter...
The plane of consistency knows nothing of differences in level, orders of magnitude, or distances. It knows nothing of the difference between the artificial and the natural. It knows nothing of the distinction between contents and expressions, or that between forms and formed substances; these things exist only by means of and in relation to the strata.
All of this at once reflects and is reflected by the various becomings participated in by the sorcerer roaming in the wild:
Thus packs, or multiplicities, continually transform themselves into each other, cross over into each other. Werewolves become vampires when they die. This is not surprising, since becoming and multiplicity are the same thing... the Wolf-Man's pack of wolves also becomes a swarm of bees, and a field of anuses, and a collection of small holes and tiny ulcerations (the theme of contagion): all these heterogeneous elements compose "the" multiplicity of symbiosis and becoming.
The world of the sorcerer, then, is precisely the physical world apprehended through a wider range of perception, perception that has not been blocked or limited by the various strata. The world is not wholly transformed beyond the first gate, but our sense of it is entirely changed. A new, in-between, realm opens up, one that has always been there but has been little noticed. Henri Corbin, the French Islamic scholar, locates this same understanding within esoteric Islam:
We observe immediately that we are no longer reduced to the dilemma of thought and extension, to the schema of a cosmology and a gnoseology limited to the empirical world and the world of abstract understanding. Between the two is placed an intermediate world, which our authors designate as ‘alam al-mithal, the world of the Image, mundus imaginalis: a world as ontologically real as the world of the senses and the world of the intellect, a world that requires a faculty of perception belonging to it, a faculty that is a cognitive function, a noetic value, as fully real as the faculties of sensory perception or intellectual intuition.
This faculty is the imaginative power, the one we must avoid confusing with the imagination that modern man identifies with “fantasy” and that, according to him, produces only the “imaginary.” Here we are, then, simultaneously at the heart of our research and of our problem of terminology.
Yet another synonym is introduced, then, with Corbin: the mundus imaginalis. This, being a “realm” between the empirical and the abstract or spiritual, exactly describes the World Soul and Corbin explicitly makes this identity. Corbin also provides the key to enter this threshold realm: the imagination or the “imaginal.” And with this we are right back at the start. “To think is always to follow the witch’s flight,” as Deleuze put it in What is Philosophy?
Playing the Games of Satan
But words of caution are required. The astral or psychic realm that we’ve entered into past the first gate is not the highest realm of the spirit. Instead, it is a confusing place, a wonderful but often terrifying place, a place full of angels and devils and all sorts of elementals, nymphs, sprites and kobolds. It is very easy to get lost here forever.
The Traditionalist, René Guénon, who like Corbin became enamoured by esoteric Islam, writes of the fatal confusion between the psychic and the spiritual in his masterwork, The Reign of Quantity and the Sign of the Times:
This confusion moreover appears in two contrary forms: in the first, the spiritual is brought down to the level of the psychic, and this is what happens more particularly in the kind of psychological explanations already referred to; in the second, the psychic is on the other hand mistaken for the spiritual; of this the most popular example is spiritualism, but the other more complex forms of “neo-spiritualism” all proceed from the very same error.
And this error is especially evident within shamanism, especially modern interpretations of “shamanism,” and its power-obsessed shadow, sorcery.
The magical part of "shamanism" doubtless has a vitality of quite a different order, and that is why it is something really to be feared in more than one respect; for the practically constant contact with inferior psychic forces is as dangerous as could be, first for the "shaman" himself, as is to be expected, but also from another point of view of a much less narrowly "localized" interest.
Guénon approaches this with the utmost seriousness and warns, almost curses, those who would lead others down this false path:
It is all too easy to see the gravity of the consequences of any such state of affairs: anyone who propagates this confusion, whether intentionally or otherwise and especially under present conditions, is setting beings on the road to getting irremediably lost in the chaos of the "intermediary world", and thereby, though often unconsciously, playing the game of the "satanic" forces that rule over what has been called the "counter-initiation".
The warning is stark and sobering. Nearly all of the figures mentioned in these essays -- Lovecraft, McKenna, Deleuze and Guattari, Grant, Duerr, etc. -- could be accused of propagating confusion according to Guénon’s strict assessment.
All of the above are explorers of the “intermediary world" and several, Grant certainly and possibly Deleuze and Lovecraft, are associated with occult orders such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, etc.
These orders -- groups incidentally that Guénon was also once an initiate of -- would be accused by Guénon and other Traditionalists as being instruments of the “pseudo-initiation” or even the more openly subversive “counter-initiation.” So how would the authors above defend themselves against this damning criticism? Are they really Satanists?
In the case of Deleuze and Guattari, -- despite their fervent talk of the demonic, of animal-becomings, of unnatural participations and nuptials, and of scrambling the planes and flying with the witches -- their own warning echoes throughout A Thousand Plateaus. It is perhaps most clearly expressed in the final plateau:
Every undertaking of destratification (for example, going beyond the organism, plunging into a becoming) must therefore observe concrete rules of extreme caution: a too-sudden destratification may be suicidal, or turn cancerous. In other words, it will sometimes end in chaos, the void and destruction, and sometimes lock us back into the strata, which become more rigid still, losing their degrees of diversity, differentiation, and mobility.
All of this is playing with fire, dancing with chaos. And the other authors above all have their own warnings and cautions. But do these excuse them from Guénon’s curse? Maybe not. Maybe they are all agents of the counter-initiation and/or its more prosaic sub-organizations. This has certainly been suggested widely of Terence McKenna in quite recent years.
But, beyond the first gate, which our whole culture may be stepping through, who does not escape suspicion? We are all transforming, churning, splitting, melding, becoming. The Traditionists vs. the Perennialists vs. the Neo-Traditionalists. Guénon in the 1940s cautioned that there were no authentic and traditional orders of initiation remaining in the West. Could this also be true of the East today? And how would we know one way or the other?
The Traditionalists of the present may be as confused, as implicated, as anyone else. Maybe they are also playing into an agenda that would prevent any rigorous exploration, any unsanctioned expression, of the imagination at all? Or is this my own satanic confusion and paranoia? The mundus imaginalis encompasses all of this.
To the Immediate
But there still is hope of escape that does not lead back to the merely material. The second gate! None of these authors stay anchored in the astral. ‘Umr at-Tawil, the Master of Animals, leads us forward through the shifting confusion and onward towards the ultimate gate beyond which “all dimensions dissolve in the absolute.” We still hold the silver key. Hyper-carbolation marches forth.
“I am indeed that Most Ancient One,” said the Guide, “of whom you know. We have awaited you—the Ancient Ones and I. You are welcome, even though long delayed. You have the Key, and have unlocked the First Gate. Now the Ultimate Gate is ready for your trial. If you fear, you need not advance. You may still go back unharmed the way you came. But if you choose to advance...”
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Now she changed her shape
dared to become someone else.
She took up five scythes
six hoes past their prime:
she fashioned them into claws
fitted them to be her feet;
the shattered part of the craft
she put under her;
the sides she slapped into wings
the rudder to be her tail;
put a hundred men under a wing
a thousand at her tail tip --
the hundred swordsmen
the thousand fellows who shot.
And she spread her wings to fly
as an eagle lifted off...
-- The Kalevala
Swami Chandraputra/Dr. Challenger/znore (a quintessential unreliable narrator) continues to tell his(?) dubious tale:
In the back chamber of the cavern, the “Snake-Den,” Randolph Carter approached the “pylon” gate and commenced the ritual that would open it:
Then he drew forth the Silver Key, and made motions and intonations whose source he could only dimly remember. Was anything forgotten? He knew only that he wished to cross the barrier to the untrammelled land of his dreams and the gulfs where all dimensions dissolve in the absolute.
Four things in particular stand out in this quote, and these four indicate that Carter is explicitly conducting a form of magic that is universally found throughout the cultures and ages of this world. To open the gate Carter requires a key, ritual movement and arcane intonations. These three elements are extremely important, but the fourth is even more so: intent. His expressed desire and wish is to cross into the realm of his dreams and then beyond this into the absolute.
The order of Carter’s intentions here is at the crux of Lovecraft’s whole creative project, and it has implications for all such journeys over the threshold. Carter’s primary concern, as we’ll find out, is to bodily enter the lost kingdoms of his dreams. His desire to merge into the infinite or eternal beyond both space and time is also a fundamental motivation, but is not the initial propelling force.
Carter, who is certainly Lovecraft, is driven by his dreams. It is the astral “extension” of this world through the first gate that he is really seeking, the origin and location of “dreams,” and not, at least in the beginning, the inexplicable absolute that beckons behind the second.
To really understand Carter’s intentions requires going further back into Lovecraft’s series of stories about Randolph Carter, and to show within these how the mind of Lovecraft is directly reflected in that of his favourite character.
But before going there let’s return to the cow pastures at the edge of the Colombian rain forest. This involves a leap, or an overlay, of time from October 7, 1928 to March 4, 1971, and a magical flight from Arkham to the Amazon.
The efficacy of the Experiment at La Chorrera -- an ad hoc magical working couched in pseudo-scientific terminology and methods -- was also dependent on the four preconditions pinpointed above.
The experiment itself was highly ritualized. The setting, time, motions, etc. were chosen not to conform with the scientific method, despite the lip service given to it, but according to synchronistic or magical correspondence. The crucial use of sound and vocal intonation -- supposedly activating "electron spin resonance" -- also finds a match in Carter's incantations. Finally, the ayahuasca plus psilocybin mushrooms together constituted the silver key.
The stated intention of the experiment, however, appears to have been quite different. The exploration of the dream realm was never an expressed aim of the McKenna brothers. The intermediary dimension was not the primary destination. Instead, the goal was the creation of a alchemical hyper-object that was a fusion of both matter and spirit.
This may turn out to be an important distinction as this exploration proceeds. However similar the Arkham and Amazon workings were structurally, Carter's/Lovecraft's intent was quite unique.
Homesick For Ethereal Lands
Yet Randolph Carter is not exactly H.P. Lovecraft. Carter is said to have been fifty-four years old when he disappeared in 1928. At this time Lovecraft would have been only twenty-seven, a difference of also 27 years. But it is in the inner lives of the two men -- author and character -- and quite apart from differences in age or other superficial considerations, where the deep parallels become evident.
Carter, like Lovecraft, is a writer of weird fiction and it is suspected in both cases that these stories are not as fictional as they let on to be. From Through the Gates of the Silver Key:
His career had been a strange and lonely one, and there were those who inferred from his curious novels many episodes more bizarre than any in his recorded history.
And many of these bizarre episodes occurred, for the two men, while dreaming. In both his letters and in his poetry, which give the feeling of direct autobiographical experience, Lovecraft extols the importance of his dreams. According to his letters he was not a user of drugs or psychedelic plants, as the McKenna brothers and many other inner explorers certainly were and are, but he considered his dreams to be a far superior key to these realms.
The occultist Kenneth Grant quotes from one such letter of Lovecraft’s in The Magical Revival, in which Lovecraft is claiming not to need opium, as did Thomas de Quincey, in order to achieve visions of other times and worlds.
I never took opium, but if I can't beat him [de Quincey] for dreams for the age of three or four up, I am a dashed liar! Space, strange cities, weird landscapes, unknown monsters, hideous ceremonies, Oriental and Egyptian gorgeousness, and indefinable mysteries of life, death, and torment, were daily -- or rather nightly -- commonplaces to me before I was six years old. Today it is the same, save for a slightly increased objectivity.
At some stage, however, if we continue the comparison of Lovecraft with Carter, it seems that HPL’s capacity to dream in this deeply visionary manner did nearly dry up. Lovecraft wrote a whole series of stories about the life and adventures of Randolph Carter, beginning with The Statement of Randolph Carter in 1919 on up to Through the Gates of the Silver Key in 1932-3, but it is in the second last Carter story, The Silver Key, where the process of alienation from dream is best described. This story begins:
When Randolph Carter was thirty he lost the key of the gate of dreams. Prior to that time he had made up for the prosiness of life by nightly excursions to strange and ancient cities beyond space, and lovely, unbelievable garden lands across ethereal seas; but as middle age hardened upon him he felt these liberties slipping away little by little, until at last he was cut off altogether.
Perhaps something similar happened to Lovecraft at some stage in his adult life. Certainly there is a conflict evident in his writing, in both his fiction and his letters, between the visionary awareness arising from his dreams and his hard stance of scientific materialism and skepticism. And at the age of thirty, at least in Carter’s life, the latter had for the moment won out.
Wonder had gone away, and he had forgotten that all life is only a set of pictures in the brain, among which there is no difference betwixt those born of real things and those born of inward dreamings, and no cause to value the one above the other. Custom had dinned into his ears a superstitious reverence for that which tangibly and physically exists, and had made him secretly ashamed to dwell in visions.
Although Carter strove to take an interest in scientific discoveries and in the materialist culture of his peers, invariably he was dissatisfied. Nothing compared to the incredible and extraordinary scenes and adventures of his youthful dreams.
He walked impassive through the cities of men, and sighed because no vista seemed fully real; because every flash of yellow sunlight on tall roofs and every glimpse of balustraded plazas in the first lamps of evening served only to remind him of dreams he had once known, and to make him homesick for ethereal lands he no longer knew how to find.
Science was too limited. Religion was a scam. Bohemian nonconformity was even more contrived, and thus more unappealing, than traditional conformity. Earthly travel was merely a mockery of the beautiful and sublime places he used to visit in dreams. The Great War, likewise, was a pale comparison in terms of excitement. His friends bored him with their circumscribed imaginations.
Carter began to actively seek out the bizarre and uncanny, but soon found that even popular occultism was too commonplace for him. He delved deeper and weirder, to the very depths of the esoteric and the arcane, becoming an expert in this lore. And in this he did encounter supernatural and horrible things, as told in the other Carter stories, but again these exploits fell far short of what he had known in his dreams.
Eventually, sick of his world-weariness, he made vague plans to kill himself, yet even suicide required an energy and interest that he no longer possessed or cared to possess. He wholly retreated into memories of the dreams of his youth and, to his surprise, he began to dream again. Then, as related in the last essay, his grandfather appeared and told him where to find the silver key.
And so started the chain of events that led to his disappearance in October of 1928. The account of The Silver Key is really the account of Carter’s associate Ward Phillips, who later attended the meeting concerning Carter’s estate in New Orleans. At the end of The Silver Key, Phillips presents his own theory of what may have happened:
There is talk of apportioning Randolph Carter’s estate among his heirs, but I shall stand firmly against this course because I do not believe he is dead. There are twists of time and space, of vision and reality, which only a dreamer can divine; and from what I know of Carter I think he has merely found a way to traverse these mazes. Whether or not he will ever come back, I cannot say. He wanted the lands of dream he had lost, and yearned for the days of his childhood. Then he found a key, and I somehow believe he was able to use it to strange advantage.
According to Phillips, Carter (and by extension Lovecraft himself) had returned in body to realms that he had previously visited only in dream. And this may have been the case. There is no indication in Phillips’ story, assuming that he wrote it as nonfiction, that Carter had anything further or more profound in mind. And there is no talk of the second gate.
But Phillips, as insightful as he is, also gives no indication that he has any idea of what really happened after Carter left from his car with the silver key in hand. Four years later in New Orleans, however, Swami Chandraputra did claim to possess such knowledge.
The Limited Supply of Whirling Fancy
Thus, according to this account, Randolph Carter stepped beyond the first gate, well beyond our “narrow, rigid, objective world of limited causation and tri-dimensional logic.” Once inside, the inner cave and its arched gate neither existed nor ceased to exist. He himself was simultaneously both the man of 1928 and the boy of 1883. He had entered a “space” of contradiction and paradox.
By the time the rite was over Carter knew that he was in no region whose place could be told by earth’s geographers, and in no age whose date history could fix. For the nature of what was happening was not wholly unfamiliar to him... A gate had been unlocked—not indeed the Ultimate Gate, but one leading from earth and time to that extension of earth which is outside time, and from which in turn the Ultimate Gate leads fearsomely and perilously to the Last Void which is outside all earths, all universes, and all matter.
The scenes that he witnessed, that he participated in, in this “extension of earth” were both like his dreams yet very unlike them. All was in flux, in a state of becoming. He was unsure of even his own form.
There floated before Carter a cloudy pageantry of shapes and scenes which he somehow linked with earth’s primal, aeon-forgotten past. Monstrous living things moved deliberately through vistas of fantastic handiwork that no sane dream ever held, and landscapes bore incredible vegetation and cliffs and mountains and masonry of no human pattern. There were cities under the sea, and denizens thereof; and towers in great deserts where globes and cylinders and nameless winged entities shot off into space or hurtled down out of space. All this Carter grasped, though the images bore no fixed relation to one another or to him. He himself had no stable form or position, but only such shifting hints of form and position as his whirling fancy supplied.
The familiar places and landscapes of his dreams were nowhere to found. Those places had names and definite outlines and borders. These new places, in comparison, were entirely unknown and undefined, almost as if it was from these primal locales of the imagination that all other places, both in dream and in “reality,” emerged.
He had wished to find the enchanted regions of his boyhood dreams, where galleys sail up the river Oukranos past the gilded spires of Thran, and elephant caravans tramp through perfumed jungles in Kled beyond forgotten palaces with veined ivory columns that sleep lovely and unbroken under the moon. Now, intoxicated with wider visions, he scarcely knew what he sought.
Tales Told of Stone and Stem
Carter had entered the gate into the astral extension of the Earth through a cave, and the cave has always been an entry portal for shamanic initiation. Another traditional point of entry, though, is the tree, and at La Chorrera it was after an ascent of the tree when the gate opened.
Dennis's story was the classic description of a shamanic night journey. He said that he had gone to the chorro and had meditated in the mission cemetery we had visited before. He had begun to return to camp when he confronted a particularly large Inga tree near where the path skirted the edge of the mission. On impulse, he had climbed it, aware as he did that the ascent of the world tree is the central motif of the Siberian shamanic journey. As he climbed the tree, he felt the flickering polarities of many archetypes, and as he reached the highest point in his ascent, something that he called "the vortex" opened ahead of him — a swirling, enormous doorway into time.
And from within the treetop vortex, scenes from humanity’s ancient past, of the pyramids and Stonehenge, and scenes from the even more archaic past of distant worlds were visible. These scenes are strikingly similar to what Carter beheld after passing beyond the first gate.
The German anthropologist, Hans Peter Duerr, noted in his incredible book, Dreamtime: Concerning the Boundary between Wilderness and Civilization, the sacred connection between the tree and the cave:
At the cave of Höll am Warscheneck one finds on the wall of the rock just past the crawl stone a small tree with a cross-shaped root. We are reminded how even much later the tree of the world, the axis mundi, guarded the entrance to the lower world. Representations of trees are seen quite often at entrances to caves.
It is at these points, at these sacred junctures indicated by caves and trees, that a space/non-space of transition, of in-between-ness, of rapid flux and transformation suddenly opens up. And from the earliest days of the Paleolithic, shamanic initiations have been held at these sites. The gates leading from this world to the next are found at these feared and hallowed spots, and it is clear that the Snake-Den cavern on the outskirts of Arkham was one of these.
That Randolph Carter was undergoing shamanic initiation becomes obvious with the news of his first encounter beyond the gate. His whirling visions began to somewhat stabilize and he witnessed a circle of towering stone pedestals. On each was seated an as yet indiscernible form.
But hovering lower and just before the pedestals was a similar form which began to communicate directly to Carter’s mind. Carter at once knew the identity of this terrible figure, for his long occult studies had prepared him well for this meeting. He recalled the words of the “monstrous” Necronomicon:
...all these Blacknesses are lesser than HE Who guardeth the Gateway; HE Who will guide the rash one beyond all the worlds into the Abyss of unnamable Devourers. For HE is ’UMR AT-TAWIL, the Most Ancient One, which the scribe rendereth as THE PROLONGED OF LIFE.
And sure enough this was the guard of the gateway, the lurker at the threshold, the master of all transitions:
For this Shape was nothing less than that which all the world has feared since Lomar rose out of the sea and the Winged Ones came to earth to teach the Elder Lore to man. It was indeed the frightful Guide and Guardian of the Gate -- ’Umr at-Tawil...
But in worldwide shamanic lore this personage has yet another title, the "Master of Animals". Duerr provides a fairly typical account of a meeting with this intimidating presence deriving from the Desana Indians of, appropriately enough, the rain forest of Colombia. The Desana are avid users of ayahuasca.
The Desana Indians of the Vaupés river possibly possess a similar view of the world. After aspirating the hallucinogenic vihó powder, the shaman climbs into a cave in the surrounding hills in order to meet with Vihó-mahsë, the master of animals. With him, he exchanges animals for the souls of dead fellow tribesmen who then enter into the cave in order to maintain the balance of nature, as it were.
A principal function of the Master of Animals is to bestow upon the shaman the power of becoming, and specifically the power of becoming animal. The initiate, passing beyond the first gate and not yet arriving at -- or choosing not to approach -- the more formidable second gate receives from the Master the ability, the siddhi, to transform his or her own physical form.
This ability, akin and in tandem with the mastery over dreams, suffuses the threshold realm of the “extension,” which is often also called in occultism the astral plane.
The shaman or the sorcerer, then, who passes beyond the first gate brings his or her knowledge of the astral -- the knowledge that the world is composed of the stuff that dreams are made of -- back into this physical plane. The sorcerer demonstrates that the becomings of this world are not firmly fixed by law but can, as in a lucid dream, be altered by will.
Echidnaing Thru the Interkingdoms
It is in three sub-sections, entitled “Memories of a Sorcerer,” of the plateau “1730: Becoming-Intense, Becoming-Animal, Becoming-Imperceptible...,” that Deleuze and Guattari, in A Thousand Plateaus, return to their discussion of Lovecraft. In the opening sentence of the first of these sections the duo both characterize this variety of becoming and admit their own roles in relation to it:
A becoming-animal always involves a pack, a band, a population, a peopling, in short, a multiplicity. We sorcerers have always known that.
Each one of the protagonists under investigation here, each a possessor of the silver key -- Lovecraft, the McKennas, Deleuze and Guattari -- are revealing themselves as sorcerers. Each, it seems, has opened the gate and crossed the threshold to the space/non-space of transition, of in-between-ness, of rapid flux and transformation. And each is providing clues, in his own fashion and capacity, of what this space is like.
To D&G the becoming in question is always a becoming of multiplicity. Animals always roam and howl in packs, and in the deepest circles of the unconscious -- being simultaneously furthest out into the extension, the wilderness, the “dreamtime,” -- the animal is coupled with the multiple.
The sorcerous takes us to a level far deeper than the single Oedipal animals or “pets” of Freud -- in no sense can they be reduced to the Father or the Mother -- and deeper still than the heraldic or “State” animals, the archetypal animals, of Jung. Instead, these animals are manifold, swarming, shape-shifting, bewildering and, in a word, demonic. The sorcerers, Deleuze and Guattari, quote Lovecraft:
Lovecraft applies the term "Outsider" to this thing or entity, the Thing, which arrives and passes at the edge, which is linear yet multiple, "teeming, seething, swelling, foaming, spreading like an infectious disease, this nameless horror."
It is this “nameless horror,” which passes beyond the edge, into the realm of dreams, into the astral, that the shaman-sorcerer inevitably merges into. He or she becomes many, becomes demonic (or daemonic to avoid the moral overtones of the prior), and the boundaries between him or her (or him and her) begin to blur with other demonic beings.
Each becomes less of what we think of as a thing, or a noun, and more like a process, a verb. Thus, a wolfing, a lousing, a moosing, a flamingoing. Past the gate, after initiation from the Master of Animals, identity begins to break down. Boundaries are crossed.
D&G speak of “interkingdoms,” of strange participations with other species. Fluid, many-sided, inter-penetrating, porous, furred, clawed, horned, antennaed; wriggling, twitching, droning, chirping, screeching. And at times an artist or a writer slips across unprepared, without intending to do so. Fervent imagination alone provides the key.
And for even the most equipped, as Randolph Carter certainly was, the journey is entirely dangerous, but for the unaware it is very often deadly:
If the writer is a sorcerer, it is because writing is a becoming, writing is traversed by strange becomings that are not becomings-writer, but becomings-rat, becomings-insect, becomings-wolf, etc. We will have to explain why. Many suicides by writers are explained by these unnatural participations, these unnatural nuptials. Writers are sorcerers because they experience the animal as the only population before which they are responsible in principle.
Throngs, Packs and Covens
The “unnatural nuptials” part of this is particularly unnerving. Sexual energy is the primary energy of the astral. It is what fuels all dreams, breaks down all barriers, and there is no force more powerful (especially when it is fully sublimated as pure love -- but this still lies beyond the second gate) or more fatal. Duerr comments on Paleolithic cave art:
The figures presumed to be shamans, such as the famous one of Lascaux, are sometimes represented with an erect penis... This maybe means that his flight into the other world was above all a sexual event.
The archaic significance of the cave and the tree becomes absolutely unmistakable here. Layer after layer of animals, painted one upon the other for thousands of years in the darkest depths of primeval caves, signified a force far more fundamental than mere “hunting magic.”
The womb of the Earth is the source and birthplace of all physical and imaginative forms. The sorcerer, the artist, the would-be-creator, worships and attempts to beget here, but he provides only a spark, only a match to see in the dark, just as the boy Carter strikes in the Snake-Den.
He (and in this case always “he”) is but one of a series, like Molly Bloom’s many -- actual or envisioned -- lovers, arriving in humility and cast off later. The Creator is the ultimate Cuck. The real creation has occurred long before, the song has already been sung. But even to arrive here, one must pass over the threshold, become betwixt and between, and here every boundary is erased.
Sorcerers have always held the anomalous position, at the edge of the fields or woods. They haunt the fringes. They are at the borderline of the village, or between villages. The important thing is their affinity with alliance, with the pact, which gives them a status opposed to that of filiation. The relation with the anomalous is one of alliance. The sorcerer has a relation of alliance with the demon as the power of the anomalous... the demon does not himself have the ability to procreate, he must adopt indirect means (for example, being the female succubus of a man and then becoming the male incubus of a woman, to whom he transmits the man's semen).
Yet this is by no means the occupation solely of men. On the contrary it was women who performed this role of intermediary between the worlds for far longer. It is the figure of the witch especially that is exemplary here, and Duerr briefly outlines the part the witch plays in history:
As late as the Middle Ages, the witch was still the hagazussa, a being that sat on the Hag, the fence, which passed behind the gardens and separated the village from the wilderness. She was a being who participated in both worlds. As we might say today, she was semi-demonic. In time, however, she lost her double features and evolved more and more into a representation of what was being expelled from culture, only to return, distorted, in the night.
And what followed, as we know, are the truly horrific witch hunts and trials leading to the slaughter of millions of innocent women. This mostly occurred not, as commonly supposed, in the Middle Ages, but in the Renaissance and especially in the Reformation/Counter-Reformation period when the assault on the imagination was at its most fierce.
Male hermeticists, “heretics,” also suffered during this period and beyond (most infamously Giordano Bruno is burned at the stake in Rome in 1600), but they mostly fared far better than women. The hermetic/occult tradition, to the extent that it survived, largely became dominated by men, and the sexual current within it became deeply buried.
This began to change during the very late nineteenth century and into the early twentieth. Kenneth Grant, in Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God, explains how this new current (called the “93 current” by Croweyites) was ushered in by Crowley and how he employed this in a similar way to the sorcerers of the Old Stone Age:
The Scarlet Woman, as representative of Nuit, is the gateway to the Void. She is the magical embodiment of that stellar goddess whose metaphysical symbol is Infinite Space typified as the night-sky sewn with stars. She is the "yoni strewn with flowers" imaged in the Hymn to Kali, for the stars of Nuit and the flowers of the nubile virgin goddess are identical. Babalon -- literally the Gate of the Sun or solar-phallic energy -- is therefore the terrestrial formula of Nuit, and her vulva is the pylon through which the cosmic forces sweep into manifestation when the magical seals (mudras) have been opened.
The “pylon” that Grant mentions here must have been directly taken from Lovecraft, a massive influence on Grant, and in the quote we see how the gate is opened and the passage made.
Another occultist, a contemporary of Crowley’s and the actual teacher of Grant, who applied these techniques was Austin Osman Spare. Spare, a visual artist and ceremonial magician, provided a working definition of sorcery. He is quoted by Grant in The Magical Revival:
Sorcery is a deliberate act of causing metamorphoses by the employment of elementals. It forges a link with the powers of middle nature, or the ether, the astrals of great trees and of animals of every kind. Will is our medium, Belief is the vehicle, and Desire is the force combining with the elemental. Cryptograms are our talismans and protectors. The will, or nervous energy, must be suppressed in order to create tension, and released only at the psychological moment.
For Spare, as with Crowley and Grant, this forged link with “the powers of the middle nature,” dwelling in the intermediary astral plane or Earth’s extension, was often explicitly sexual. But for Lovecraft -- Victorian as he essentially was -- the sexual element of these “unnatural nuptials” was obscured if not wholly absent. The sexual, for Lovecraft, was entirely sublimated to the imaginative.
Yet regardless of this apparent prudishness, and in spite of Lovecraft’s declared skeptical materialism, Grant was fully convinced of Lovecraft’s occult knowledge. Grant claimed (in Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God) that in fact Lovecraft’s varied and abundant occult experiences were “disguised as fiction,” and in light of Lovecraft’s admitted "literary" influences his esoteric affiliations become evident:
Lovecraft numbered Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood among his compères; this in itself is an admission of contact with dimensions outside those which Lovecraft accepted as scientifically permissible, for both Machen and Blackwood were at one time members of the Golden Dawn. The former was a close friend of Arthur Waite, whose effusions are too well known to need comment. Lovecraft deplored Machen's style, so it was not a literary influence that he acknowledged. What he really acknowledged was a magical influence that streamed, via the Golden Dawn and MacGregor Mathers, direct from the Draconian Tradition that in all its outward manifestations Lovecraft categorically denied and rejected.
In The Magical Revival, Grants devotes a couple of pages of direct, side-by-side comparisons of the work of Lovecraft and Crowley, although there is no evidence that the writer had any knowledge of the English magician.
Among the points listed in parallel are Lovecraft’s Al Azif - The Book of the Arab with Crowley’s Al vel Legis - The Book of the Law, Yog-Sothoth with Sut-Thoth, and the deep dreaming of Cthulhu in R’lyeh with the “Primal Sleep” of Crowley’s “Great Ones of the Night of Time.”
But in Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God, Grant explains that the more fundamental similarity of the magical methodology of Lovecraft with that of more open occultists like Crowley and Spare lies in his mastery of dream control:
Crowley's Aiwass Current, Spare's Zos Kia Cultus and Lovecraft's Cthulhu Cult are different manifestations of an identical formula -- that of dream control. Each of these magicians lived their lives within the context of cosmic dream myths which, somehow, they relayed or transmitted to man from other dimensions. The formula of dream control is in a sense used by all creative artists, though few succeed in bringing human consciousness into such close
proximity with other spheres.
Grant further explains that the manner by which several magicians transmitted their knowledge of these dreams realms, as shamans earlier conveyed it to their tribe through song, was through fiction. This is certainly the case with Machen, Blackwood and Lovecraft.
Fiction, as a vehicle, has often been used by occultists. Bulwer Lytton's Zanoni and A Strange Story have set many a person on the ultimate Quest. Ideas not acceptable to the everyday mind, limited by prejudice and spoiled by a "bread-winning" education, can be made to slip past the censor, and by means of the novel, the poem, the short story be effectually planted in soil that would otherwise reject or destroy them. Writers such as Arthur Machen, Brodie Innes, Algernon Blackwood and H.P. Lovecraft are in this category. (Magical Revival)
This, however, does not necessarily imply that such authors are conscious transmitters of these ideas. Often it is the case that these notions and images might slip by existing internal censors as well. An author might be fully aware of the power of his or her work, but he or she may have no idea to what extent this was granted from beyond, and even of its true worth.
In fact, Grant argues that the less a writer is aware of exactly where and how his or her work originated then the greater that work is likely to be. Genius, in other words, is -- as in its original meaning -- quite apart from ego.
It is a well-known fact that few artists, even among the great, are capable of fully understanding the true nature and worth of their best work. The reason for this state of affairs is not so well known; it is because the artist is not responsible for his work. The degree of his achievement is in direct ratio to the degree of his absence when the work is performed. (Hidden God)
From Lovecraft’s letters it seems that he also had this experience of the unconscious transmission of genius. An essay by Patricia MacCormack, “Lovecraft through Deleuzio-Guattarian Gates,” quotes one such letter in which Lovecraft confesses the presence of “some strange and perhaps terrible mediation”:
I am not even certain how I am communicating this message. While I know I am speaking, I have a vague impression that some strange and perhaps terrible mediation will be needed to bear what I say to the points where I wish to be heard.
Whether or not Lovecraft was an active shaman or sorcerer, a conscious practitioner of dream control, and/or an actual initiate or affiliate of esoteric orders like the Golden Dawn, his work has profoundly resonated with subsequent inner explorers like the McKenna brothers and Deleuze and Guattari.