Wednesday, July 31, 2019

A Tracer Off Yer Gob

The following stems from a May facebook conversation, initiated by writer Jasun Horsley, on the recent decision to decriminalize the use of magic mushrooms in Denver, Colorado. Horsley's position is that the decrimalization of psychedelics is not the automatic good that many in the "alternative" community deem it to be. His view of psychedelics, although he was a advocate of their use in the past, is now mostly negative. Several people challenged his perspective and I also weighed in.

Jasun has reproduced the facebook discussion on his own site, where it continues. I find it to be a fascinating and important debate that includes not only psychedelics but many other topics dear to this blog. I present below my initial comment on facebook as it was reformatted by Horsley on his site, Jasun's response, and finally my subsequent thoughts which I have decided to release here at this time. I've added paragraph numbers to Jasun's piece, with corresponding numbers in my own reply, in order to make referencing easier. Here we go...

From Znore at Faceborg:
Eating alters consciousness. Not eating alters consciousness. Drinking water alters consciousness. Not drinking water alters consciousness. Sleeping alters consciousness. Not sleeping alters consciousness. Exercise alters consciousness. Sitting still alters consciousness.
My point here, as you know, is that there is no such state as pure and pristine, “natural,” consciousness. “Anything that alters the body chemistry to alter consciousness is, by definition, distorting the body’s natural frequency and transmission.” All of these things and many more do this, and all of them beyond a certain point will produce intoxication. But even if we were austerely moderate in all things, we would still exist in culture, would still communicate with language. Both of these alter consciousness continually and profoundly. Culture and language have both been shaped by the visionary experiences that people have had for millennia. And the “traditional” religions are founded on these experiences (the burning bush and Sinai for Moses, the night journey and the transmission of the Koran for Mohammed, the desert retreat and whatever the hell happened on and after the cross for Christ). 40 days of fasting in the desert or five dried grams alone in my room, which isn’t “storming heaven”? One person’s “psychic” experience is another’s “spiritual” experience.
I remember reading about a debate among Traditionalists at one point concerning the question if Buddhism should be considered “traditional” or actually heretical to Tradition. I think the problem that some had with it was precisely because it does not accept an ultimate distinction between the so-called mundane, psychic and spiritual realms or planes. Each of these three, for it, is marked by emptiness and suffering. Each interpenetrates the other at every point. Gods, demons and fairies are as empty of their own separate being as animals or humans. Eventually Buddhism gets accepted into the Traditionalist fold, but only after its stance of radical immanence gets blunted or twisted into a belief system in which spiritual transcendence is the ultimate goal — like a kind of Advaita Vedanta with an even more turbo-charged negative theology. To fit the Buddha into the Traditionalist script the myth of him being an incarnation of Vishnu gets emphasized, as it is in the Upton interview above. Safely Hinduized Buddhism. Not nirvana is samsara, but nirvana is Objective Spiritual Reality.

1) I get that purity can be a delusional and dangerous pursuit, in and of itself, even that it’s at the root of many dangerous delusions. But surely postmodernist sophistry isn’t the best answer?

2) To say one person’s psychic is another’s spiritual experience is to negate and ignore, rather than refute, Upton’s proposition, that the spiritual and the psychic realms are distinct, one being eternal and absolute, the other being intersubjective and temporal. That doesn’t mean we can’t have psychic experiences that provide glimpses of the spiritual; hence I would say, some psychic experiences represent genuine wisdom-insight into the eternal whereas others (and surely most) do not. This is my experience: some of my experiences might, but most I now know don’t, though I thought they did at the time. And the ones that most seem to, these days, are the least “psychic” and the most visceral or sensational (in literal sense), just as the ones I used to believe but now don’t, were the most psychic and dramatic.
3) In our podcast conversation, you expressed incomprehension over the idea of disembodiment, suggesting that every experience we have is embodied. I would say that I didn’t really understand what disembodiment is, either, until I began to have experiences of its opposite, of consciousness returning to the body, or arriving there for the first time. These only began some years after I gave up intoxicants, which I see as part of the reason for my body “waking up.”
4) The body has an optimum state in any given moment; this is going to relate not only to what we do with it, put in it, and what comes out of it in that moment, but also in the immediate and even distant past (starting with trauma-affect and corresponding toxins). Getting back to the baseline of the body means detoxifying, and that means, not only getting out the toxins still in there from years of abuse (of whatever sort), but reducing the amount being put into it on a daily basis.
5) Saying that everything alters conscious or is storming heaven—as if the fact of a spectrum makes every point on the spectrum equal and therefore the whole question irrelevant—smacks of sophistry. Would you really want to have a conversation (or be married to) a total drunk? If not, why not? Would you want to live on a diet of M & Ms and Cheetos? If not, why not? If it’s all the same, why discern at all? And if it’s not, why reject the possibility that sobriety—abstinence from obvious and observable consciousness alterants—is a means to get back to the body’s natural, toxin-free state?
6) The main reason, as far as I can see, is because we like doing stuff that alters our consciousness and don’t really care too much about the cost for the body. And the more we do them, the less we are able to refer to the body in a toxin-free state, the less we have to ever reckon with that cost.
7) For myself, that’s not an option anymore. I feel the same way about talking to cannabis or entheogen users as I would assume you do about talking to hopeless drunks. It is to less extreme a degree, sure, but for more or less the same reason: I don’t feel there’s the same opportunity for a genuine conversation-connection. Sometimes, this may be wrong (you may have been stoned when we had our talk and it was a good one; I know someone I did a podcast later admitted to have taken LSD!). But I am OK with erring on the side of caution when drawing boundaries around this, because I have to draw the line somewhere, and because, in the past, I have erred on the other side. This is all part of finding the necessary balance for myself.
8) To compare fasting to entheogen-eating misses the point rather; fasting is a means to detoxify the body and it can be dangerous, yes, and when done in a gung-ho, heaven-storming manner (as can anything), it can inflate the ego and harm the body. But as a basic practice to compare it to drug-use (and assume it’s all about consciousness alteration, per se) seems like a case of the hammer calling everything a nail.
9) I would agree that Upton relies on knowledge-based metaphors (spiritual jargon) that are therefore limited and limiting, but so do you; and in the case of Upton, I feel a genuine wisdom transmission reading and talking to him that is very rare, in my experience, and leads me to put trust in his knowing, even if don’t especially trust the knowledge set he is referring to (Islam, trad metaphysics, etc.), since I don’t trust any knowledge base.
10) My primary influence currently in this regard is my ongoing association with Dave Oshana, who has very strict rules about not working with people who use obvious consciousness alterants. This isn’t a prejudice, as far as I can see, but seems based on an experiential awareness that people who are still self-intoxicating aren’t ready for an encounter with him, and because, at the same time, he is viscerally aware of being affected by their levels of toxicity. In other words, they won’t benefit to anything like the degree they might if clean, and he will suffer from close contact with them much more than is necessary or manageable.
11) Though I relate and even feel the same way, I can’t or don’t take such a hard line, because my own history (“karma”) seems to have resulted in attracting people who have histories of intoxication and addiction. But where I do draw the line is at working with people who are still invested in defending their intoxication as a legitimate means to get closer to reality, rather than something designed to delay a full encounter with it. This sort of doublethink I find crazy-making and I lack the patience to navigate that terrain. It suggests to me that the person is too divorced from reality to even recognize the ways they are perpetuating their dissociation. That’s a problem, clearly, whether I am right or wrong, when it comes to communicating across such a divide.

A Tracer

1) “But surely postmodern sophistry isn’t the best answer.” Nor is this kind of labeling the best rebuttal. I’ve noticed the accusation of “postmodern sophistry” or the like surprisingly often recently. Usually it is given in response, as you have done, to a perception that certain categories within a system of thought, or within an argument, are being attacked non-constructively, just for the hell of it. Nihilism for the sake of nihilism.

I don’t think that this is actually the position of the sophists or the postmodernists, but I get the objection. My position is also different. I challenge categories not to leave a gaping void in their wake, but to hopefully show that the acceptance of categories, any categories, necessarily limits our understanding. This, by the way, also explains my dislike of “purity,” a dislike I’m glad to find we share.

I am influenced in this approach by Greek skepticism and by Nāgārjuna, both of which tried to achieve insight by breaking down, showing the absurdity and/or interdependence of, arbitrary categories and classifications.

2) “Upton’s proposition, that the spiritual and the psychic are distinct...” This distinction I do challenge. The distinction is historical and conditional. It accepts an Aristotelian, geocentric cosmology, which however is a powerful and often helpful myth of its own. But it’s a myth that divides the world in certain ways, like any other, and these divisions have ramifications for our understanding.

It’s interesting that Dante, the poet who beautifully immortalized this cosmological framework, also took the different realms and spheres expressed in it as states of mind. The literal sense is only one intended way to read The Divine Comedy, and not the deepest. Hell, Purgatory and Paradise are primarily differences in knowing, not ontologically separate realms.

And as subsequent poets -- like Ezra Pound -- point out, these states often penetrate one another, rapidly succeed one another, are experienced differently by different individuals simultaneously. The spiritual, the psychic, the astral, even the infernal, can all be experienced in this body, unintoxicated, at this moment. The experience does change depending on the experiencer and his or her changing states of mind.

Many thinkers and cultures have accepted this. Bruno, in alignment with the Hermetic view, overturned the traditional cosmology by claiming that there are an infinity of worlds, each its own centre, each containing the all. In Tibetan Buddhism there is the Chöd ritual which has the aim to accept even the demonic as the highest expression of the self/non-self. Shamanism throughout the world is predicated on the idea of the interpenetration of worlds/states of consciousness.

3) “You expressed incomprehension over the idea of disembodiment...” For me, embodied existence means perceptual existence. The senses, like Blake said, are the inlets of the soul for this age. If there is perception, there is a soul/body (I more or less equate the soul and body).

So-called “disembodied” experience still involves perception (and if it didn’t it would be no experience at all). This implies the senses and so a body (of some sort). But “disembodied” experiences often include a sensation of a long thin cord that is still attached to the present biological body. When this is cut the “body” dies and another body takes its place (or not?).

But I wonder about your own position. On the one hand, you stress the importance of the body and are against disembodiment, but on the other hand you seem to be promoting a spiritual and transcendent experience beyond or outside of the body. I’m assuming that you’re talking about two different types of disembodiment?

4) “The body has an optimum state in any given moment.” Possibly, but for what? How long does this last? An optimal state to receive a vision, for instance, might not be the optimal state to go to sleep or to run a marathon. The body/soul is in continual flux, and this is affected by sensations, memories, thoughts, emotions, culture, media... Which of these things are toxins? Which of these are produced by toxins? Which of these are beneficial for “spiritual” growth?

5) “Saying that everything alters consciousness or is storming heaven -- as if the whole fact of a spectrum makes every point on the spectrum equal and therefore the whole question is irrelevant -- smacks of sophistry.” I do think that everything alters consciousness -- all of the things listed above and more: food, water, sleep, other people, etc. -- but I didn’t say that everything storms heaven. Each point along the spectrum is different.

Yet there isn’t so much of a spectrum (ranging from what start to what end?) as there is a network that flashes from node to node. Perception changes constantly. There is no pure state. Certain states, though, do break thru, are experienced as glimpses of eternity. I just don’t see these as being transcendent or apart from the physical/material. They allow us to witness what is perpetually present, in this body, on this Earth.

Are these glimpses more frequent or more profound in the absence of “toxins”? I don’t think this question makes sense. Are people subsiding on a diet of Cheetos and M&Ms barred from having a vision of God? I’ve had lucid conversations with drunks (and while drunk!) and plenty of deadening, soul-sucking interactions with the absolutely sober. And of course the reverse. Grace may fall on both the “sinner” and the “sinless.”

The aim of detoxification is surely not wrong, but this in itself is no guarantee for obtaining sanctity of vision. Strict ascetics are occasionally transformed into spiritual monsters, acidhead wastrels become saints. Ego reduction rather than ascetic practice seems to be the key factor. We can likely agree that abstemious holier-than-thou posturing is nothing new.

6) We do like doing things that alter our consciousness. How could we not? This is like saying we like to live, as every moment of life involves the alteration of consciousness. But I think you mean abrupt alterations of consciousness. Rapid and extreme jerks from one state to another. Yes, many of us like that too. And yes, these alterations do affect the body. Always in a bad way? Never in a way that afterwards makes us healthier?

There is no perfectly toxin-free state of the body, as you appear to be saying, only relatively free (or differently intoxicated). We age because of toxins (entropic substances or forces outside of our physical body that disrupt its functions). Who doesn’t age? Who doesn’t die?

7) “You may have been stoned when we had our talk and it was a good one...” Hehe, did I sound stoned? I must not have had my tea. It’s difficult and expensive to procure weed here in Japan and the penalties are severe if you get caught with it. So I don’t have many opportunities to smoke a pile of it and I’m cautious when I do. These days, even when I possess it myself, I savour it and a little goes a long way. No, I could not do a podcast stoned. I wouldn’t want to try. Recently I get most high on books and the changing seasons. And yes it was a good talk!

8) “To compare fasting to entheogen-eating misses the point rather...” And you have missed mine. In my previous comment, I was not comparing general fasting with shroom-gobbling; I was specifically talking of Christ’s forty-day ordeal in the desert. This was undoubtedly a vision quest. This kind of extensive fasting has as its primary aim extreme consciousness alteration. My purpose for making this comparison is the obvious one of saying there are many roads to vision. Not all of them (any?) are particularly healthy for the physical body.

9) I’ve actually been quite influenced by Traditionalist thought (I think Guénon’s critique of “the reign of quantity,” for instance, is crucially important). I’ve read Guénon, Evola, Shuon and others, and through you I’ve become a little bit familiar with Upton. I wouldn’t criticize Upton or the rest for their use of “spiritual jargon.” That language is necessary for this field, and I use it without shame. But I am critical of certain ideas expressed by these writers.

Buddhism, in my opinion, should remain as a heresy to the Traditionalists if they are to be consistent. Unlike the traditions they revere (the Abrahamic faiths, orthodox Hinduism), Buddhism -- in most of its manifestations -- is not concerned with the transcendent. It does advocate the changing of consciousness (mostly through meditation), but it promotes this as a means to become more aware of existence in this body, in this world.

I think this is a very important difference, and this stress on immanence is also shared by Taoism, Confucianism, shamanism and other varied traditions. The central question is how to live well in this life, not a focus on the afterlife, union with the God outside of this world, etc. “Transcendent” experiences exist, and are sought after, but they are accepted as glimpses of our actual non-dual mutuality with all things.

And the point is to make these glimpses last longer and longer. Transcendence in radical immanence. God, existing or not, is synonymous with the world and our minds perceiving it. A pantheism without the pan, the theos, or the ism. The Buddha is not an avatar in this view -- or secondarily so -- but is one who has become aware and who provides a path for others to become aware.

Traditionalism, intended or not by its adherents, gets used these days by reactionary groups as a spiritual foundation for the politics of the latter. This is chiefly what I caution against. The cosmological hierarchies delineated by Traditionalism (whether or not these are held to literally exist by the religious traditions themselves), including the distinction between the “psychic” and the “spiritual,” can help to undergird and extend present and desired political and social hierarchies.

The recent popularity of Evola (and I’m aware that Traditionalists now try to distance themselves from Evola, but the positions of Guénon, etc. are not really that different) among the alt-right and others even further to the right is an illustration of this. Evola’s spiritual hierarchy, like all hierarchies, has its winners and losers, and the losers of his system nicely correspond with those targeted by the far right: the global South, the darker races, the religions of the Mother, women, the fluid and boundary-dissolving in general.

To the extent that psychedelics tend to promote the stretching and dissolving of categorical boundaries (which in my experience they certainly do), they in turn threaten those individuals and groups whose power and influence depend on the maintenance of rigid social and intellectual hierarchies. This is not to say that psychedelics and other means of boundary dissolution are not used by particular power structures in order to ideologically destabilize rival power structures, but it is true that the use of these agents is subversive to concentrated power in general. They are two-edged swords at the very least.

Guénon writes of the widening cracks of the Great Wall, the latter a barrier protecting our psyches from the predatory entities of the astral realm. Psychedelics, according to the Traditionalists, would certainly widen these cracks, inviting possession and madness. Evola directly mentions psychedelics in this regard. But in late antiquity, the Neoplatonist philosopher Iamblichus had a similar warning for the unprepared:

All those who are offensive and who awkwardly leap after divine mysteries in a disordered way are not able to associate with the Gods due to the slackness of their energy of deficiency of their power. And on account of certain defilements they are excluded from the presence of pure spirits but are joined to evil spirits and are filled by them with the worst possession. They become wicked and unholy and, being glutted with undisciplined pleasures and filled with evil, they affect habits foreign to the gods.  (Gregory Shaw trans.)

Notice, though, that Iamblichus doesn’t totally write off exploration of these middle realms, and in fact it is only through this zone that we could ever hope to reach the Intelligible. Our experiences of the highest Spirit must be mediated by more corporeal emanations. But through theurgical practice and technique -- which might include the ingestion of “simples” -- the soul guided by reason and love could make the journey.

The Traditionalists argue that without enlightened initiation and guidance -- both extremely rare in this era -- this journey is essentially impossible. To undertake it haphazardly or ignorantly is to flirt with madness, death or getting irretrievably lost in the Bardo. Only the reestablishment of traditional priestly structures and hierarchies of initiation, and thus the reactionary politics required to reinstate these institutions, would make such a journey safe enough to attempt.

But millions have and do attempt the journey. Very few are successful, but on the other hand, most are not ruined utterly. Most remain quasi-initiated, half-baked maybe, but altered in both positive and negative ways, as with most experiences.

The contrast to the metaphor of the widening cracks in the Great Wall is that of the gradual opening of the Doors of Perception, coming from Blake. Psychedelics do, at least occasionally, help to open these doors. This is really undeniable. The narrow chinks in the cavern of our sensory perception are widened. Although the doors can be traversed both ways, of course.

As we open and peer out, extending our experience of the world, mind beholding mind, things can and do enter in, but even in this benighted age we are not totally defenseless. Travel reports filter back. We find guides along the road, guides that maybe have only taken a few intrepid and reckless steps beyond our own and then retreat, but this news is sufficient to allow us to stumble forward in the dark. Pitfalls and traps and other potential dangers are marked. Rough maps are sketched out. We proceed not entirely blindly.

It’s hardly a storming of heaven. This isn’t a titanic assault on Olympus. If we’re being seduced and misled by counter-initiatory and counter-traditional powers then these are extremely inefficient. Were psychedelics designed and disseminated by these and lesser agencies to direct the course of culture in a predetermined way, as the absolutist just-so story now goes? But designed by who exactly?

It’s easier to make this case for synthetic chemical compounds like LSD, but what about mushrooms, peyote, ayahuasca? Were all these agents of “intoxication” placed in the garden millennia ago to ensnare our psyches? Yet the most archaic accounts say the opposite -- these plants are the foods of the gods. And as they “intoxicate” so do other methods -- extreme fasting, sleep deprivation, other physical austerities and ordeals -- similarly unbalancing our “normal” physical state.

I don’t think that anyone could make the case that the CIA and other agencies haven’t attempted, and likely still attempt, to control the psychedelic experience. But did they succeed? This can be by no means unambiguously confirmed. In my opinion, based on my own experience and the reports of others, there is much more evidence that they failed in their quest, and perhaps spectacularly so. And how could they have succeeded? It would be akin to fully locking down the astral dream realm. I can’t imagine how even a single trip of mine could be controlled. All within is unexpected and unpredictable.

Yet the evidence given by the usual conspiracy-monger set is that the “degenerate” changes in society subsequent to the psychedelic revolution -- and the breakdown of traditional religions, feminism, the “gay agenda,” increased immigration and multiculturalism, “socialism” usually top the list -- is somehow proof that psychedelics effectively nudged culture towards the desired course.

But all of these things (and by no means are they necessarily evil in themselves) were well in the works before psychedelics became widespread, and for not a few users psychedelic experience led in the opposite direction -- back to traditional religion and conservative politics (Upton himself is a prime example, perhaps you are also).

In the old days, psychedelics were blamed for pushing young people towards godless communism. But personally my trips escorted me to a contrary path -- away from state communist agnosticism to a kind of anti-authoritarian pantheism. All part of the Agenda? From the Reign of Quantity to the dominion of the Anti-Christ? Maybe so!

But to try to wrap this up: I’m also very wary of psychedelics -- even pot -- and I never advocate doing them these days without prior warning. They often do lead people astray and more than occasionally disastrously so. Malign possession is a very real possibility, and there is always the potential that our experiences are being monitored and directed to some extent.

Yet grace is also present here. Boldness tends to be favoured by the gods. Real wisdom can be gained. The striving for purity and order and perfect predictability can be more dangerous than a leap into the unknown. And is it hard to see how no longer locking people up for desiring such a leap could be anything other than a good thing.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Gordy Brown's Sparkling Peacock Feather Earrings

Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning?

-- Friedrich Nietzsche, "The Parable of the Madman"

Giordano Bruno's infinite worlds cosmology is neither traditional geocentric Aristotelianism nor modern acosmic nihilism.

The Earth is centre among countless centres. Each planet capable of sentient life has a sun or suns. It has wandering stars of different number, and beyond is the abiding backdrop of the fixed stars. Each centre is structurally identical yet different in all details.

On "Earth" the same four elements -- earth-solid matter, water-liquid, air-gas, fire-volatile plasma -- would be constant. As would be the right, left, back, front, up, down positionality of almost any observer.

The Sun, or suns, would equate with the "heart," the chakras mirroring or projecting the planets in every system. All cosmologies are psychic. The wanderers would invariably "move" through the local band of the "zodiac."

Blake's Mundane Egg is universal; only the heart/sun as organ of imagination bridges Spirit and Matter. Christ, Apollo, Aslan, Frith are different masks of the redeemer for different worlds. C.S. Lewis' "discarded image"  is once more taken up and adapted for each of the endless pools in the Woods between the Worlds.

Perhaps the inner wheels and lotuses always match the number and type of wanderer. Bodies themselves may be adapted in this way. Nearly endless variations of solar/microrbital clusters, constellations, chakric configurations, possible.

Yet beyond all, beyond "Saturn," through the surreal sphere of the chief of the decans, the portal of souls, is the Empyrean. Pure Spirit. Beyond substance and form.

Gods of the elements, of the wanderers, of the Sun, of the stars would have a myriad different names and appearances, as they do now. But the structure or story is the same. Infinite and meaningful. Groundless and home. Chaos and cosmos. The religion of the universe. Your eyes at the centre of it all.

It is not impossible that our own Model will die a violent death, ruthlessly smashed by an unprovoked assault of new facts–unprovoked as the nova of 1572. But I think it is more likely to change when, and because, far-reaching changes in the mental temper of our descendants demand that it should. The new Model will not be set up without evidence, but the evidence will turn up when the inner need for it becomes sufficiently great. It will be true evidence. But nature gives most of her evidence to the questions we ask her. Here, as in the courts, the character of the evidence depends on the shape of the examination, and a good-cross examiner can do wonders.

-- C.S. Lewis, The Discarded Image

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Authority Toad Void

three years away
scorched by the orange tide
drawn by the flickering allure
caught by right angles
two angels
jolt and sprung
the slow walk through the forest
forgiveness and praise
spray sparkling fish landed
the wild refreshing as it is not
over-signified by the imagination
the social will is not imposed
or less so
myths can be generated
fresh visions had
the only real source of information
anything written that is not the 
product of vision is blasphemy 
against the holy ghost
unforgivable as it cheats the word
devalues symbols
numbers as counting only
tricks with counting
the wake as n-dimensional 
crossword puzzle instead of
a cosmos of memory containing
the living all
hail saint frances!
 lines to be traced
yet absolute freedom if purely
tap and pat
ear and eye
ivory and horn
all is still blessed!
the road goes ever on
do not defile with negative
another unpardonable sin?
place faith in the motion
wherever it leads
at no time did it abandon
it can't be transcribed
tho bits of it enter
the field and record of vision
sea breathing each wave
repetition welcomed
there's no requirement for
but to merely copy is murder
dance it anew
occult duel at the memorial
sun earth moon occlusion
chants and smirks
what was released?
shadows frighten
a single word as epic
of the human tribe
image sound fragrance sigil
antithetical-primary mini-cycles
white snake twisting coiling around
black twisting coiling into white
concrete and barnacles
butt filter pine needles
juxtaposition miscegeny
gratitude for every facet
even those turning away from the light
the sun is here! on my hand!
overabundance gift of peace
meant to be here
no other place possible
each angle of the rays unique
across the day across the season
the whole works hurtling out
into space
according to one reading
each mythology a tree
a root a rhizome
like music
different tempos pitches oscillations
timbres genres moods listeners
watchers gapers exhibiters seekers
acts of will cockle-pickers
sudden surprise
papa sets in the south
the mighty wig rises in the north
front back left right
descendant ancestor father mother
the pole and axis of love and hate
forgiveness and forgiving
harp and dog
sacred explosion
spectre and emanation
the holy mountain right in
front of me!
across the sea!
calm tranquil warm gentle
lacking nothing
but how to cope with the
nature calls out of nature
casts a summons down
the beach
foam rubber bum pad
toes in the sand
another sort of release
birds or people on those rocks?
yet retreating
the inspired passage of the bard
soul and world soul
in timaeus identity
oxford london ljubljana trieste
venice and dublin?
the city also calls
highest magic doppelganger
the one always two
-- do not spit in the temple!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Hyper-Carbolating the Furtive Gates of Becoming 4: Beyond

For just so long, her face a radiant smile,
     was Beatrice silent, her eyes fixed
     upon the Point whose light I could not bear.

She said: "I tell you, without asking you,
     what you would hear, for I see your desire
     where every where and every when is centered.

-- Canto XXIX, Paradiso

Randolph Carter, in bewildering and immeasurable passage between horn and ivory, was led by the guardian -- the Master of Animals -- to the second and ultimate gate. He approached the pedestal-thrones of the Ancient Ones, sat with them and merged with their dreams and their silence. Soundlessly he was addressed:

“The man of Truth is beyond good and evil,” intoned a voice that was not a voice. “The man of Truth has ridden to All-Is-One. The man of Truth has learnt that Illusion is the only reality, and that substance is an impostor.” 

Entrance was imminent. Substance an impostor, illusion reality. This was no longer the intermediary world of the Earth’s extension, no longer the vesper realm of astral beings in constant transformation in some state between pure form and pure matter. All divisions, dichotomies, opposites would be resolved or negated here. This was to be the forward escape into indivisible Spirit, beyond both being and becoming.

The silver key turned in Carter’s hand, and by instinct he performed the ritual movements necessary to open and then float through the Ultimate Gate.

Several things happen at once as Carter crosses the threshold. He is swept up with “godlike surges of deadly sweetness” as he encounters sounds and sights that allow no comparison to anything found or imagined on Earth or in its region of space. Looking back, he is surprised to see not just one but a “multiplicity of gates,” and at some of these there “clamoured Forms he strove not to remember.

As with the First Gate, it seems, the portals opening into the Ultimate are multiple and possibly present at many locations. Possession of the key and knowledge of the opening ritual -- along with the intent to enter -- are the crucial elements. And, presumably following many stages and orders of becomings, the entrants through this gate/these gates are in no way limited to the human. Other entities are also taking this journey; shamans, sorcerers, mystics, creative visionaries of unknown worlds also make the egress.

But then a realization inspiring far greater terror than the witness of these hideous Forms struck Carter. He discovered that he himself was a multiplicity, not a unity. His very sense of self was threatened, a worse sensation than death as at least death is an event that happens to a particular individual. One can at least speak of “my death.” But here no thought of my or mine or even I is possible.

Even the First Gateway had taken something of stability from him, leaving him uncertain about his bodily form and about his relationship to the mistily defined objects around him, but it had not disturbed his sense of unity. He had still been Randolph Carter, a fixed point in the dimensional seething. Now, beyond the Ultimate Gateway, he realised in a moment of consuming fright that he was not one person, but many persons.

All at once he was a boy in 1883, a man in 1928, a transformed being within the inner-gate astral extension of the Earth, a formless consciousness in the “cosmic abyss” beyond the second gate and, most horrifying, “a limitless confusion of beings” occupying places of “infinite multiplicity and monstrous diversity.” The recognition of his “self” being fully present in all of these manifestations simultaneously, tantamount to the knowledge that he really possessed no self at all, brought Carter to the brink of shattering insanity.

 A Death Worse Than Birth

Deleuze and Guattari, in A Thousand Plateaus, pick up the thread of the story again at this point. They quote from the following section:

There were “Carters” in settings belonging to every known and suspected age of earth’s history, and to remoter ages of earthly entity transcending knowledge, suspicion, and credibility. “Carters” of forms both human and non-human, vertebrate and invertebrate, conscious and mindless, animal and vegetable. And more, there were “Carters” having nothing in common with earthly life, but moving outrageously amidst backgrounds of other planets and systems and galaxies and cosmic continua. Spores of eternal life drifting from world to world, universe to universe, yet all equally himself...

No death, no doom, no anguish can arouse the surpassing despair which flows from a loss of identity. Merging with nothingness is peaceful oblivion; but to be aware of existence and yet to know that one is no longer a definite being distinguished from other beings—that one no longer has a self—that is the nameless summit of agony and dread. 

Using this as a trip report, Deleuze and Guattari map out a continuum that leads to the final and complete dissolution of the self. Part of this was traced in the course between the gates:

On the near side, we encounter becomings-woman, becomings-child (becoming woman, more than any other becoming, possesses a special introductory power; it is not so much that women are witches, but that sorcery proceeds by way of this becoming-woman). On the far side, we find becomings-elementary, -cellular, -molecular, and even becomings-imperceptible. Toward what end does the witch’s broom lead? 

From becoming-woman and becoming-child to becoming-animal to becoming-elemental and becoming-molecular and ultimately to becoming-imperceptible, to waves and particles that resist all classification. A progression or dissolution is described, one that incrementally erases all of the categories by which the self defines its own boundaries. It is no longer an adult male human subject. It is no longer human at all, nor mammal, nor animal, nor even constructed of cells and molecules.

It -- if “it” it still be -- has become, elemental, sub-atomic, wholly intangible, holding no position in space or time and all such positions. Not the Universe become Self, but the Self lost in Universe. Yet this is no rapture of transcendent Oneness -- there is nothing left to become One. There are only wild fluctuations, spasms, flashes from bliss to horror, from the verge of grasping all knowledge and all power to the suffocating vertigo of the absolute vacuum.

Fleeting, rippling glances through every set of eyes, sounds absorbed through every possible ear, screams from all mouths -- human, insect, demon, planet -- countless lifespans, cycles, cosmoses. Worse than death; constant birth, consciousness with no fixed address. Mind become minds, Body become bodies, and all disintegrating, manifesting, interpenetrating, swapping, cross-dressing, fertilizing, eradicating, burying.

Though even at this very point of no point, even at this stage of intangibility masked as ceaseless variation of form, something external can be discerned, some “sense of entity and the awful concept of combined localism, identity, and infinity.” And, it seems, a choice is being offered.

Still Unrent

The entity -- “perhaps that which certain secret cults on earth have whispered as YOG-SOTHOTH” -- itself only “exists” as imperceptible waves, maybe particles, and communication also flows through these “prodigious waves that smote and burned and thundered.” A transmission of the intangible to the intangible.

It was as though suns and worlds and universes had converged upon one point whose very position in space they had conspired to annihilate with an impact of resistless fury. But amidst the greater terror one lesser terror was diminished; for the searing waves appeared somehow to isolate the beyond-the-gate Carter from his infinity of duplicates—to restore, as it were, a certain amount of the illusion of identity. After a time the hearer began to translate the waves into speech-forms known to him, and his sense of horror and oppression waned. Fright became pure awe, and what had seemed blasphemously abnormal seemed now only ineffably majestic. 

Terrible is the messenger, but more horrifying still is the choice given to the being once called “Randolph Carter.”

I am ready to shew you the Ultimate Mystery, to look on which is to blast a feeble spirit. Yet before you gaze full at that last and first of secrets you may still wield a free choice, and return if you will through the two Gates with the Veil still unrent before your eyes. 

Apparently it is still possible to return from the land of the dead relatively unscathed. One can still drink from the waters of the Lethe and find sweet forgetting. By some final cosmic grace we can slumber untroubled and without memory of what we beheld beyond the Gates. A sort of divine electroshock treatment. De-anamnesis.

Really? Does this happen? Perhaps it always happens. Perhaps after every death, during every deep dream, subsequent to every inadvertent slip into Faerie or the bardo (and these after all may only involve passage through the First Gate and not the Second and certainly not through the shimmering Veil) each of us chooses to forget and return, to take the blue pill. Perhaps the fact that we are alive and embodied and possessing of self proves that this is exactly what we have chosen.

Otherwise we might, at this “moment,” be Randolph Carter, be waves about to accept the waves of Yog-Sothoth’s offer. But even Carter, who surely passed through, may not have entirely accepted. The Veil only barely obscures the Abyss. But it is crucial first to understand, if such understanding is available, just where we arrive as we approach or step through the Second Gate. How is it distinct from the First, and how would we know that we have arrived at its sill?

The messenger -- the Master of Animals or whatever -- might make this demarcation clearer. But what if we somehow arrived without the messenger? Or what if -- in a marrow-quivering piss shiver of Cartesian doubt and paranoia -- the messenger only wants to deceive? Certain signs may be at hand.

While the astral realm allows for bilocation (the sense of self becomes divided between two (or more?) bodies) beyond the Second Gate the boundaries of the self are so stretched -- perhaps torn, perhaps erased -- that location itself becomes immaterial, position becomes superposition. Dennis McKenna announces this teaching three days following the Experiment at La Chorera:

He said that one could see any point in time by closing one's eyes, visualizing an eight, turning it on its side so that it approximated the sign for infinity, and then mentally sliding the two closed rings over each other to form a circle, shrinking the circle to a dot, and thinking the word "please" and the target point in space-time.

All points of space-time become immediately attainable upon request, making a mockery of the word “point.” The very geometry of being is transformed; Dennis’ experience “had catapulted him to the edge of the Riemannian pseudosphere that is the universe, in which even parallel lines intersect.

This geometry of multiplicity and discontinuity is not only reflected in the impossible and cyclopean architecture and landscapes of Lovecraft’s stories, but is a prominent feature within the non(sense)-system of Deleuze and Guattari:

In each model, the smooth actually seemed to pertain to a fundamental heterogeneity: felt or patchwork rather than weaving, rhythmic values rather than harmony-melody, Riemannian space rather than Euclidean space -- a continuous variation that exceeds any distribution of constants and variables, the freeing of a line that does not pass between two points, the formation of a plane that does not proceed by parallel and perpendicular lines.

But where is this aspatial space, this atemporal time? Perception itself is both stage and character. It desires all possible worlds at once. The ultimate goal of art, science and philosophy, according to D&G in What is Philosophy?, is to “tear open the firmament and plunge into chaos.” And this, as precisely as it can be put, is what is beyond the final gate. Pure chaos. Infinite perceptual and formative potential.

The Ghoul-Guarded Gateways

Carter may (although this may be disputed) have passed through, but did Lovecraft? Kenneth Grant, in examination of HPL’s letters and poetry, denies that he did. Only those who have gone beyond the perception of being an egocentric and separate individual, who transcend the dichotomy of good and evil, can cross the Abyss. From Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God:

Lovecraft, on the evidence of his poetry, drew back on the very brink of the Abyss. Unable to resolve his inner conflict, he was haunted by the shadows of the powers whose existence he strenuously denied in his letters. The latter reveal, unfortunately, a bigoted racialist and xenophobe, an irrational rationalist and self-contradictory materialist struggling helplessly in the mesh of his own self-engendered illusions...

Lovecraft, in the end convinced that the guides that would take him through the gate were evil, and unwilling and/or unable to perform the practices and rituals required, remained caught between the gates. As Grant repeats in The Magical Revival:

But Lovecraft seems not to have passed the final pylons of Initiation, as evidenced by his stories, and particularly his poems, in which, at the last dreadful encounter, he invariably recoiled, resolved not to know what horror lay concealed behind the mask of his most critical incarnation. He was haunted by his 'dweller on the threshold', failed to resolve the enigma of his own particular sphinx, and, because of this, no doubt, feared to use drugs in case his nightmare-vision swept him beyond the point of no recall. 

Understandably terrified of crossing the Abyss, he forever recoiled on the brink, and spent his life in a vain attempt to deny the potent Entities that moved him. Little wonder the tales he wrote are among the most hideous and powerful ever penned. 

And indeed it is in his poems where the potential shortfalls of Lovecraft’s vision is laid bare. The last two stanzas of "Nemesis":

Oh, great was the sin of my spirit,
And great is the reach of its doom;
Not the pity of Heaven can cheer it,
Nor can respite be found in the tomb:
Down the infinite aeons come
beating the wings of unmerciful gloom. 

Thro' the ghoul-guarded gateways of slumber,
Past the wan-moon'd abysses of night,
I have liv'd o'er my lives without number,
I have sounded all things with my sight;
And I struggle and shriek ere the daybreak,
being driven to madness with fright. 

And in the final sections of "The City":

I fann'd the faint ember
That glow'd in my mind,
And strove to remember
The aeons behind;
To rove thro' infinity freely, and visit the past unconfin'd. 

Then the horrible warning
Upon my soul sped
Like the ominous morning
That rises in red,
And in panic I flew from the knowledge of terrors forgotten and dead.

However, in "Azathoth," Lovecraft does seem to indicate that the author was not the stranger to Chaos that Grant claims he was.

Out in the mindless void the daemon bore me,
Past the bright clusters of dimensioned space,
Till neither time nor matter stretched before me,
But only Chaos, without form or place.
Here the vast Lord of All in darkness muttered 
Things he had dreamed but could not understand,
While near him shapeless bat-things flopped and fluttered
In idiot vortices that ray-streams fanned. 

They danced insanely to the high, thin whining
Of a cracked flute clutched in a monstrous paw,
Whence flow the aimless waves whose chance combining
Gives each frail cosmos its eternal law.
"I am His Messenger," the daemon said,
As in contempt he struck his Master's head.

In "Azathoth," "Lovecraft" is neither driven to frightened madness nor panicked flight. Instead, as with Randolph Carter, he is a willing witness to timeless and formless chaos. The "evidence of his poetry" far from showing definitively that HPL flew in terror from the brink of the Abyss, remains ambiguous. Perhaps at different occasions Lovecraft both crossed and fled from the edge.

Post-Experiment Oblivion

In any case, however, it would appear that at least in one instance he made the crossing and this experience would certainly explain why his writing, especially the Gates of the Silver Key, is so convincing, so compelling. And yet it is clear from this that he also did return to a strange territory; a continuum, however paradoxical, has been partially mapped.

Lovecraft’s hero encounters strange animals, but he finally reaches the ultimate regions of a Continuum inhabited by unnameable waves and unfindable particles. Science fiction has gone through a whole evolution taking it from animal, vegetable, and mineral becomings to becomings of bacteria, viruses, molecules, and things imperceptible. 

D&G here depict this as the movement, almost impossible to plot, along a channel or a rhizome or a fiber through which forms shift into other forms and into eventual formlessness.

A fiber stretches from a human to an animal, from a human or an animal to molecules, from molecules to particles, and so on to the imperceptible. Every fiber is a Universe fiber.

Dennis McKenna, remanifesting from post-experiment oblivion, makes this journey in reverse from cosmic dispersal to particularized and individual existence locatable in time and space. From True Hallucinations:

On the day before, he had seemed to be spread over so vast an amount of time and space that there was little to be identified out of the cosmic churning that he was undergoing. On that day, even to find our own galaxy in his mind had been impossible. On the second day, he awoke within the galaxy and his visions and fantasies remained within it....

The day after he reached the confines of the galaxy, he entered the solar system, condensing through its planets over several days until he identified only with Earth. Coalescing and condensing through the ecology of his home world, he came to think of himself as all humanity and was able to vividly relive all of its history. Later still, he became the embodiment of all members of our vast and peculiar Irish family...

After a good bit of lolling around in those environs he was finally resolved down into our immediate family and progressed from there to confront the question of whether he was Dennis or Terence. Finally and thankfully, he came to rest with realization that he was Dennis, returned from the universe of mind, restored and reborn, a shaman in the fullest sense of the word.

And, as this passage makes explicit, the movement through the Universe fiber (which the British late modernist poet, J.H. Prynne, may have called "the world tube") past the first and second gates, to cosmic dissolution and back to discreet and discernible individuality, is also the path of the shaman. The highest shaman is not he or she that merely advances through the first gate to the Earth's astral extension, welcomed or terrified by the Master of Animals, but is one who attains and becomes the intangible. Shamanism and mysticism become synonymous at this stage.

Yet also necessary is the return home. Without this return there is no confirmation, no communication, no compassion for the many that the seeker has left far behind. It would be as if, immediately after his awakening under the tree, the Buddha had heeded the tempting advice of Indra and his fellow gods, and had accepted that it was impossible to teach or even share what he had experienced and learned, and had allowed himself to enter into final nirvana.

The shaman, like the bodhisattva, returns to aid others. And perhaps those entities that we encounter along the way -- the Master of Animals and Yog-Sothoth itself -- are former shamanic seekers who have stationed themselves beyond the successive gates in order to be guides to those few worthy to make the crossing, and to thwart and terrify those who are unready and apt to harm themselves and others.

All demons, like the wrathful deities who guard either side of entrances to the temples of the East, are bodhisattvas in terrifying drag, causing doubt and even panic through ultimate compassion. Yog-Sothoth makes clear that Randolph Carter has been given a choice to proceed or to go back.

"Randolph Carter," IT seemed to say, "MY manifestations on your planet’s extension, the Ancient Ones, have sent you as one who would lately have returned to small lands of dreams which he had lost, yet who with greater freedom has risen to greater and nobler desires and curiosities...

Now with the passing of two Gates, you wish loftier things. You would not flee like a child from a scene disliked to a dream beloved, but plunge like a man into that last and inmost of secrets which lies behind all scenes and dreams." 

Yog-Sothoth tempts Carter with that which is most attractive to the occult student and seeker. Carter is being tested -- whereas in the recent past he would have been more than happy to return childishly to "small lands of dreams," he has now resolved to "plunge like a man" into that mystery "which lies behind all scenes and dreams." Or has he? One gets the sense, reading this, that this exact "choice" was once, at least, precisely offered to Lovecraft. And Yog-Sothoth explicitly frames this as a choice.

The Angle of the Dangle

To allow Carter to make an informed and truly free choice, however, Yog-Sothoth lays out exactly what is at stake, what it is -- insofar as it can be expressed -- that he is being called to experience, and just how beyond it is from anything witnessed in embodied existence.

He was told how childish and limited is the notion of a tri-dimentional world, and what an infinity of directions there are besides the known directions of up-down, forward-backward, right-left. He was shewn the smallness and tinsel emptiness of the little gods of earth, with their petty, human interests and connexions -- their hatreds, rages, loves, and vanities; their craving for praise and sacrifice, and their demands for faith contrary to reason and Nature.

Third-dimensional manifestation is but a trifle, even fourth, fifth, n-dimensional realms are tiny and stifling. The gods themselves, Olympians and Titans, Devas and Asuras, Jehovah, Allah, the Ancient Ones, the Elder Gods, are deficient in ultimate power and wisdom. These deities also subsist on particular dimensional planes that fall short of the infinite and the eternal. Yog-Sothoth attempts to explain this to Carter:

They [the waves] told him that every figure of space is but the result of the intersection by a plane of some corresponding figure of one more dimension -- as a square is cut from a cube or a circle from a sphere. The cube and the sphere, of three dimensions, are thus cut from corresponding forms of four dimensions that men know only through guesses and dreams; and these in turn are cut from forms of five dimensions, and so on up to the dizzy and reachless heights of archetypal infinity. 

Just as the fourth dimension is really inconceivable to three-dimensional beings like ourselves, the fifth dimension is entirely beyond the ken of potential fourth-dimensional beings and so on upward through the dimensions to infinity. But it is really the perspective of this infinity that Yog-Sothoth offers to Carter and, according to Grant, it is a perspective that, employing very similar metaphors, is invoked in Crowley's Moonchild.

It is a perspective through which, as Deleuze and Guattari explain, although written in "grandiose and simplified terms" Lovecraft attempts "to pronounce sorcery's final word." This final word of the sorcerer does not arrive from the vantage point of any particular dimension, but from all dimensions at once onto infinity.

Far from reducing the multiplicities’ number of dimensions to two, the plane of consistency cuts across them all, intersects them in order to bring into coexistence any number of multiplicities, with any number of dimensions. The plane of consistency is the intersection of all concrete forms. Therefore all becomings are written like sorcerers’ drawings on this plane of consistency, which is the ultimate Door providing a way out for them. 

This "plane of consistency" which cuts across all of the the dimensions is largely synonymous, differing only in nuance and context, to several related terms offered in A Thousand Plateaus, certain of which have been referred to in these essays. Enter the hypersphere.

Everything becomes imperceptible, everything is becoming-imperceptible on the plane of consistency, which is nevertheless precisely where the imperceptible is seen and heard. It is the Planomenon, or the Rhizosphere, the Criterium (and still other names, as the number of dimensions increases). At n dimensions, it is called the Hypersphere, the Mechanosphere. 

To enter the hypersphere, to take on its awareness, is to walk through the ultimate Door, the two gates and the veil enfolded into one another. From this perspective all being and becoming is meaningless. All occurs and does not. Every "when", every "where" -- though as necessarily three-dimensional terms these two designations are already wholly inadequate -- both happen simultaneously and do not "happen" at all.

Time, the waves went on, is motionless, and without beginning or end. That it has motion, and is the cause of change, is an illusion. Indeed, it is itself really an illusion, for except to the narrow sight of beings in limited dimensions there are no such things as past, present and, future. Men think of time only because of what they call change, yet that too is an illusion. All that was, and is, and is to be, exists simultaneously. 

Temporal simultaneity, which in fact negates all possible conception of time, is not a state of awareness that can be plotted linearly. There is no time when there was no time. Nonetheless, perhaps there are periods or instances in human history or prehistory in which this realization was more widely held in broader social groups.

Hans Peter Duerr in Dreamtime presents a case that at some mythical paleolithic stage tribal societies may have possessed the consciousness of the eternal as presence. The dreamtime they dwelt within, open to all manner of becomings, was essentially timeless. The categories had not yet been fixed.

At one time, or better yet, in the origins, the two worlds were or are one. Humans danced and sang with the mamae and had joyous intercourse with wild animals and the trees of the primeval forest. This side and the beyond are fundamentally the same. The death of the enraptured ones, of the shamans is at the same time also their life. Death and life are one. 

This begins to arrive at the perspective or perception that Yog-Sothoth attempts to impart to Randolph Carter. It is the perception of the absolute origin and the absolute end, sorcery's final word. Yog-Sothoth, communicating we recall through waves to Carter who is now only waves himself, goes on to explain that individual or local consciousness is produced, in effect, through varying the angle by which a higher dimensional object cuts through the experienced reality of any given dimension.

Just as the flat shapes produced by cutting through a cone change depending on the angle of the cut -- be they a circle, ellipse, parabola, etc. -- so the conscious apprehension of the hypershere changes depending on the "angle" by which it is "cut" through. The vast multitude of beings, "the feeble beings of the inner world," are confined to only one particular and respective "angle" of consciousness.

Potential Wizard Facets

Only few visionaries, perhaps those who have passed beyond the first gate but not yet the second, are able to change their assigned yet arbitrary angle of perception, through magic or psychedelics or ordeal or grace, but fewer still are those who "command all angles."

After an impressive pause the waves continued, saying that what the denizens of few-dimensioned zones called change is merely a function of their consciousness, which views the external world from various cosmic angles. As the shapes produced by the cutting of a cone seem to vary with angles of cutting... so do the local aspects of an unchanged and endless reality seem to change with the cosmic angle of regarding. 

To this variety of angles of consciousness the feeble beings of the inner worlds are slaves, since with rare exceptions they cannot learn to control them. Only a few students of forbidden things have gained inklings of this control, and have thereby conquered time and change. But entities outside the Gates command all angles, and view the myriad parts of the cosmos in terms of fragmentary, change-involving perspective, or of the changeless totality beyond perspective, in accordance to their will.

For those "outside the gates," -- and we must remember that aside from Randolph Carter only eleven entities from Earth, and only five of these human, have ever reached this stage -- the experience of "individual" existence is nearly entirely altered. 

All descended lines of beings of the finite dimensions, continued the waves, and all stages of growth in each one of these beings, are merely manifestations of one archetypal and eternal being in the space outside of dimensions. 

Each local being -- son, father, grandfather, and so on -- and each stage of individual being -- infant, child, boy, young man, old man -- is merely one of the infinite phases of the same archetypal and eternal being, caused by the variation in the angle of the consciousness plane which cuts it. 

Randolph Carter at all ages; Randolph Carter and all of his ancestors both human and pre-human, terrestrial and pre-terrestrial; all these were only phases of one ultimate, and eternal ‘Carter’ outside space and time -- phantom projections differentiated only by the angle at which the plane of consciousness happened to cut the archetype in each case.

This one fathomless "archetypal and eternal being" is precisely the hypersphere, the entire chaosmos of all dimensions, imbued temporarily with singular consciousness. The ultimate sorcerer is he or she who wields the consciousness, the perception, of the whole plane of consistency, of the hypersphere itself.

The archetypes, throbbed the waves, are the people of the ultimate abyss -- formless, ineffable, and guessed at only by rare dreamers on the low-dimensioned worlds. Chief among such was this informing BEING itself.... which indeed was Carter’s own archetype. The gutless zeal of Carter and all his forbears for forbidden cosmic secrets was a natural result of derivation from the SUPREME ARCHETYPE. On every world all great wizards, all great thinkers, all great artists, are facets of IT. 

It is the great wizards, artists and thinkers who become aware, at least for a time, that they are facets or cuttings of the supreme archetype, of the hypersphere, but this awareness only implies that other facets are always present. Every facet is a potential wizard facet.

The "map" that Lovecraft is providing, through the adventures of Randolph Carter and his silver key, becomes superfluous at this juncture. Everything beyond the second gate, we now discover, is there already before it is even approached. For it is not the case that no dimensions, no worlds, no entities, no universe, exists beyond the second gate, but that all of these are present (and absent in and of themselves) at once.

Twiddle in the Middle

The last gate, in other words, does not lead to a "space" beyond all things, beyond all possible categories, but to a realization that everything is present. A different epistemology is grasped not a different ontology, a new knowing not a new being -- or better still the simultaneity, the inter-becoming, of both knowing and being. The second gate thus "enters" into that which is already before the second gate.

And likewise, we are already, all of us, beyond the  first gate. The world is never absent of magical becoming. We inhabit -- "we" meaning all entities, all universes -- the astral, the World Soul in which, as Yeats taught in A Vision, the extremes of pure matter and pure spirit, the extremities of the antithetical and primary tinctures, are inaccessible, logical contradictions, impossible poles that are always enveloped into the vast sphere of becoming.

This is the meaning of the still shocking revelation in Mahayana Buddhism that nirvana is samsara. But how could it be otherwise? Pure spirit is entirely interdependent on the realm of becoming; form and emptiness are interchangeable.

The late Neoplatonic philosopher, Iamblichus, noted this in relation to the mathematical properties of the number two. One plus one is two, yet one multiplied by one is still one. These facts determine oneness: addition provides a higher number while multiplication results in an equivalence. With numbers greater than two, however, addition of the number with itself will equal a lesser number than that which results by multiplying the number with itself (3+3=6, 3x3=9, etc.). These are the properties of the many.

However, with the number two the processes yield the same result (2+2=4, 2x2=4). Sum and product are identical. Duality is thus the boundary between unity and multiplicity. It is what allows any contact between spirit and matter, and it truly is the sphere in which all life occurs. Duality characterizes the World Soul, and as in duality all opposites in a sense cancel each other out, are entirely dependent upon one another, duality is paradoxically synonymous with non-duality.

This is also the meaning of Crowley’s otherwise perplexing equation 0=2. Every event takes place between the poles, between the gates. The wizard is he or she who, while passing “beyond” the second gate, with mind, body and senses realizes that this “beyond” is really a “within.” The limits of the self have been erased and encompass, or are encompassed by, the world.

The portals to the ultimate are many because every instant of perception is a potential door. Identity is no longer fixed, or can be fixed at any point one desires. And this latter proved to be too much of a temptation for Randolph Carter.

It occurred to him that, if those disclosures were literally true, he might bodily visit all those infinitely distant ages and parts of the universe which he had hitherto known only in dreams, could he but command the magic to change the angle of his consciousness-planer. And did not the Silver Key supply that magic? Had it not changed him from a man in 1928 to a boy in 1883, and then to something quite outside of time? Oddly, despite his present apparent absence of body, he knew that the Key was still with him. 

Carter then knew that the “archetypal Entity” could by altering the angle of the consciousness-plane transport him within the body of any lifeform from whatever time and place he desired. He realized that he could finally, and fully embodied, visit the exotic worlds of his dreams, and even live the lives of the bizarre and improbable creatures that inhabited them. In short, he would be able to become entirely Other and “as at all crises in his life, sheer curiosity triumphed over everything else.

He felt that his archetypal ENTITY could at will send him bodily to any of these phases of bygone and distant life by changing his consciousness-plane, and despite the marvels he had undergone he burned for the further marvel of walking in the flesh through those grotesque and incredible scenes which visions of the night had fragmentarily brought him. 

Is this essentially what Kenneth Grant was getting at when he accused Lovecraft of forever recoiling on the brink, of being terrified to cross the Abyss? Was Lovecraft merely an explorer of dreamworlds rather than an embracer of cosmic chaos? Did the existential need for a sense of self prevent him from attaining full union/annihilation with the All?

Or, as Deleuze and Guattari seem to imply, did HPL understand that even this universal perspective is still a perspective and at this stage of awareness any angled slice of consciousness, any facet whatsoever is in fact the equal to the entire hypersphere? Did he understand that the perception of the particular is as great as the perception of the general and maybe more so, that the all is contained in the each? But, even if we allow this for Lovecraft, there seems to be a hitch.

Partly Squamous

Once a wizard wills to be a particular and embodied consciousness, once he travels down the universe fiber, through the world tube, through the rhizome, wherever and whenever and whoever he is and becomes, he must be sure of the symbols and rituals necessary to make any further shift in being. The silver key alone is insufficient.

The PRESENCE warned him to be sure of his symbols if he wished ever to return from the remote and alien world he had chosen, and he radiated back an impatient affirmation; confident that the Silver Key, which he felt was with him and which he knew had tilted both world and personal planes in throwing him back to 1883, contained those symbols which were meant. And now the BEING, grasping his impatience, signified Its readiness to accomplish the monstrous precipitation. The waves abruptly ceased, and there supervened a momentary stillness tense with nameless and dreadful expectancy. 

Carter’s impatience, propelled by his intense curiosity, nearly proved to be his undoing. In accordance to what he had willed he once more took on physical form. He became the clawed and snouted person of the wizard Zkauba of the planet Yaddith, his body “rugose, partly squamous, and curiously articulated.” Carter’s dreams of years before became reality. Two personalities dwelt and clashed within him: Zkauba being at first dominant, but Carter retaining a conscious though marginal presence.

After countless years of this new existence -- including space voyages through twenty-eight galaxies and time travel into the past and future -- the Carter-facet discovered that the silver key alone was not enough to restore Carter to his original human form. To do so further information was required -- yet this was in the form of a spell inscribed on the parchment which Carter had left back in his car parked at the old homestead in Arkham! Horrors!

What follows is a more or less conventional Lovecraftian tale of Carter devising a drug to suppress the Zkauba-facet, and a frantic and dangerous trip across space and time to the approximate point where Carter first ventured through the first gate. Needless to say, the mysterious Swami Chandraputra is finally revealed to be Carter himself disguising his hideous Yaddithian incarnation.

Carter’s return to Earth and to his own spiritual and physical identity bears more than a passing resemblance to Dennis McKenna’s own journey back through the spheres to his familiar self, and also to Deleuze and Guattari’s account of the progression/dissolution along the universe fiber. Whether or not the shaman or the witch or the poet makes it “home,” it becomes clear that, in a sense, he or she has never really left.

To command all the angles, to scramble the planes, to give the last word on sorcery, an adept of transformation and the siddhis is accompanied at the highest stages with the knowledge that all points are one. The vulva pylons of archaic caves, the outermost branches and twigs of the World Tree, opening in vortex-portals onto the infinite, are thresholds and conduits present during even the most mundane of commuter peregrinations.

The two gates fold onto one another; the material, the astral and the spiritual are palimpsests of a single vision; before, between and beyond are variations of a common becoming. The plane of consistency is visible everywhere. How many of those who we pass on the street, be they aware of it or not, are wizard beings from another star, time-travellers from the future or distant past, boddhisattvic guides through hidden doors, elfin tricksters, agents of cosmic subversion, shape-shifters, demons, bundles of imperceptibility?

Reality -- our cycles within the World Soul -- retains its sense of continuity and order only because an “external” assertion of will is so relatively rare. Programmed inertia apparently persists. Things continue as they have been and all is mixed. The counter-initiation, the wardens of the liminal, the saints and the Frustrators all romp in these borderlands of duality/non-duality, these hinter-passages of perception. Some have the Silver Key, some may possess it at will, some never had need of it.