Monday, February 23, 2015

Squatting the Chapel Perilous 1
Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane
All the children are insane
Waiting for the summer rain

Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, originally published in 1899, is the account of a story told on the deck of the Nellie, "a cruising yawl, " which is anchored on the River Thames and awaiting a journey to the sea. The heart of darkness, geographical and psychospiritual, is no one particular place. The story unwinds itself deep into the Congo, but the seaman Charles Marlow, our narrator, makes it clear from the outset that it is London, the capital of Empire, which is the real heart of all existing darkness.

"And this also," said Marlow suddenly, "has been one of the dark places of the earth."

 He continues,

I was thinking of very old times, when the Romans first came here, nineteen hundred years ago—the other day .... Light came out of this river since—you say Knights? Yes; but it is like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds. We live in the flicker—may it last as long as the old earth keeps rolling! But darkness was here yesterday....
Marlow asks his listeners, all of us, to imagine the original Roman explorers making their way up the Thames. The commander of such an expedition was tasked to lead his men into unknowable darkness.

Imagine him here—the very end of the world, a sea the colour of lead, a sky the colour of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as a concertina—and going up this river with stores, or orders, or what you like. Sand-banks, marshes, forests, savages,—precious little to eat fit for a civilized man, nothing but Thames water to drink.

They become the unwilling subjects of a terrible initiation:

Land in a swamp, march through the woods, and in some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him—all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men. There's no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable. And it has a fascination, too, that goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination—you know, imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate.

And this is really the whole tale, ending in the first few pages of Conrad's novella. Did the Empire bring Light to the riverside of the Thames, to the Congo, to Vietnam, to the banks of the Potomac or the Tigris, or was it only the bearer of a much deeper Darkness? Conrad is not vague about his answer.

Near the close of his tale, after the death of Kurtz, Marlow tells of his return to "the sepulchral city." The imperial metropolis is a tomb built on plunder and murder. The perspective is flipped. Turned inside out. The "wilderness" is full of light. The Empire, which never ended, is a Waste Land, the true wilderness of pain.

Yet the heart is also a heart. An emotional sun is at the core of us all, now mostly occluded and eclipsed by the very same lead and smoke. A river also runs through this, a snake which invites us to ride. For a while, along the river, the sky clears and things begin to shimmer, locations in time and place begin to coalesce and to take on meaning.

They Never Left

Ezra Pound, a big fan of Conrad and an even bigger devotee of Confucius, used to often quote these words of the Chinese sage:

Observe the phenomena of nature as one in whom the ancestral voices speak. -- The Analects

Pound echoes this in his Cantos placing it in the context of Greek and Roman mythology:

The Gods have not returned. "They never left us."
  They have not returned.
Cloud's processional and the air moves with their living.

Gods and ancestors of West and East still await us. In nature they can be found ready to speak, happy to blow our minds, but they also inhabit, mostly undetected, the phenomena of culture. Sync is a movement up this river, observing and letting the living voices speak, portents and auguries of the mediascape.

This most recent journey, for me, began on Nov. 23rd of last year. The entry point is often unexpected. This was the day I first watched Alan Abbadessa Green's incredible video, "Suicide Kings Part 1."

The video is part of a larger and ongoing book project by Green to document the relevance of James Frazer's massive study of the killing of the King ritual, comprising the twelve volumes of The Golden Bough, to the highly charged events of our modern era. The "King-Kill," Green presents, may be the dominant subtext behind the assassinations of Lincoln, JFK and Osama bin Laden as well as the attacks of 9/11. The King-Kill is the hidden link between parapolitics and occult ritual.

This is not a "Truther" video. Green refreshingly does not reach any conclusions. He, as Confucius advocates, is only observing phenomena. And when this happens with a clear eye and with the intent to report back in good faith, intensely interconnected weirdness begins to surface. The production of this video perfectly mirrors the complexity and sheer bafflement of its themes. A facebook review (on Nov. 24th) by the sinister and sagacious Mark LeClair puts this best:

This IS the New Cinema & I phucking LOVE IT!
No easy answers, GREAT & brilliant questions & thus the essence of Life & Expression....The dramatic tension of narrative allegory plus the direct mining of a dead art form to create a new one. Goddard is trying to do the same right now, but this is better, more real, more dangerous. Positively gripping & oh so well imagined AND executed. 

There is really nothing to add here. It should have come as no surprise that embedded within a piece of media about signs and portents embedded in media was a sign for myself. A sync is a sign. And yet it did surprise me.

The video features a scene from Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola's cinematic adaptation of Heart of Darkness, which focuses on a couple of books lying on Colonel Kurtz's bedside table. One is an abridged copy of The Golden Bough, which is why Green highlights this scene, but the other is Jessie L. Weston's From Ritual to Romance (1920).

The synchronicity for me was that I had just found this book by accident, as I do, a week before at a second-hand shop. It was the same Doubleday yellow cover edition as is shown in AN. I remembered this book from the movie, and it had recently come up in my study of the Modernists, but its appearance in Green's video right after I had bought it was as if it was crying out "read me!" So I did.

Stimulating the Energy of the Vegetable

From Ritual to Romance is probably best known for being cited in the notes of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land. Here is what Eliot writes about Weston's book:

Not only the title, but the plan and a good deal of the incidental symbolism of the poem were suggested by Miss Jessie L. Weston's book on the Grail legend: From Ritual to Romance (Cambridge). Indeed, so deeply am I indebted, Miss Weston's book will elucidate the difficulties of the poem much better than my notes can do; and I recommend it (apart from the great interest of the book itself) to any who think such elucidation of the poem worth the trouble. 

Eliot goes on to further direct his readers to The Golden Bough, revealing the close relation between his own celebrated poem and the studies of Frazer and Weston. All three, he unveils in his notes, are intimately concerned with certain "vegetation ceremonies." Weston's book applies Frazer's theories on the killing of the King ritual to the myths and legends of the Holy Grail.

Weston's major thesis is that the Grail is something far more profound, more ancient, than simply the cup that Christ drank from at his Last Supper. It was through her study of Frazer that she arrived at her wider conclusions:

Some years ago, when fresh from the study of Sir J. G. Frazer's epoch-making work, The Golden Bough, I was struck by the resemblance existing between certain features of the Grail story, and characteristic details of the Nature Cults described. The more closely I analysed the tale, the more striking became the resemblance, and I finally asked myself whether it were not possible that in this mysterious legend--mysterious alike in its character, its sudden appearance, the importance apparently assigned to it, followed by as sudden and complete a disappearance--we might not have the confused record of a ritual, once popular, later surviving under conditions of strict secrecy?

And yet what is this secret and surviving ritual? Its roots are archaic. As Frazer explains it stems from the sympathetic magic of so-called primitive tribes across the globe:

They commonly believed that the tie between the animal and vegetable world was even closer than it really is--to them the principle of life and fertility, whether animal or vegetable, was one and indivisible. Hence actions that induced fertility in the animal world were held to be equally efficacious in stimulating the reproductive energies of the vegetable.

From this awareness of the fundamental sympathy of all the realms of nature (and we can question Frazer's downplaying of this) emerged rituals in order to reenact and perpetuate the indivisibility of life.

Weston traces the development and continuation of these rites from the ancient Magna Mater mystery cult of the Near East, to the mysteries of Eleusis, to the later Hellenic mystery schools including early Christianity. While, with the establishment and hegemony of the Roman Catholic Church, the fertility rites were suppressed within orthodox Christianity their essence and symbolism reappear through the medieval legends of the Grail.

In her introduction, Weston claims:

...we can now prove by printed texts the parallels existing between each and every feature of the Grail story and the recorded symbolism of the Mystery cults. Further, we can show that between these Mystery cults and Christianity there existed at one time a close and intimate union, such a union as of itself involved the practical assimilation of the central rite, in each case a 'Eucharistic' Feast, in which the worshippers partook of the Food of Life from the sacred vessels.

The form of this cult is remarkably similar across the ancient world. Again Weston refers to Frazer's research:

As Sir J. G. Frazer has before now pointed out, there are parallel and over-lapping forms of this cult, the name of the god, and certain details of the ritual, may differ in different countries, but whether he hails from Babylon, Phrygia, or Phoenicia, whether he be called Tammuz, Attis, or Adonis, the main lines of the story are fixed, and invariable.

And this is also where the basic structure of the Grail legend conforms to the larger pattern. The Grail King, either suffering from a wound to the leg or groin and/or experiencing sexual impotence, is effectively dead to the world. His infirmity, his infertility, causes through sympathetic magic the decay of his kingdom. The Fisher King and the Waste Land. The afflicted or dead king is, in the wider mythology, either revived to full power or replaced by the equivalent of his younger, more virile, self. And the cycle continues.

Always he is young and beautiful, always the beloved of a great goddess; always he is the victim of a tragic and untimely death, a death which entails bitter loss and misfortune upon a mourning world, and which, for the salvation of that world, is followed by a resurrection. Death and Resurrection, mourning and rejoicing, present themselves in sharp antithesis in each and all of the forms.

The Full Eidous

Clearly this is the turning of the seasons, of the utmost importance to agricultural societies. The new flowering of Spring ripens to the abundance of golden Harvest. The land then becomes brown and withered in the Winter cold to be followed, God willing, by the rebirth of a fresh Spring. The Waste Land is trapped in endless Winter, in decay without new growth.

This, as Weston points out, is really only the exoteric form of the archaic mystery. What close contemplation of the Grail myth reveals, however, is something that appears to go much deeper than even Frazer explored.   

Sir James Frazer, and those who followed him, have dealt with the public side of the cult, with its importance as a recognized vehicle for obtaining material advantages; it was the social, rather than the individual, aspect which appealed to them. Now we find that in the immediate pre- and post-Christian era these cults were considered not only most potent factors for assuring the material prosperity of land and folk, but were also held to be the most appropriate vehicle for imparting the highest religious teaching. The Vegetation deities, Adonis-Attis, and more especially the Phrygian god, were the chosen guides to the knowledge of, and union with, the supreme Spiritual Source of Life, of which they were the communicating medium.

"The most appropriate vehicle for imparting the highest religious teaching" -- this was the full esoteric function of these cults. Weston refers to the work of G.R.S. Mead to fully flesh out this idea.

Mead undoubtedly was an initiate himself. He was at one time the private secretary of Helen Blavatsky. He became the head of the Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society. He was the author of over twenty books on arcane subjects. And he was the founder of the very instrumental Quest Society, of which Jessie Weston was a member and lecturer. Mead was also a huge influence on Ezra Pound and, in all likelihood, Carl Jung.

Weston cites a section from Mead's translation of the Hermetic writings, Thrice-Greatest Hermes, which includes a document from the Naassene Gnostic sect. Weston quotes Mead's introductory remarks to this "secret" document:

The claim of these Gnostics was practically that Christianity, or rather the Good News of The Christ, was precisely the consummation of the inner doctrine of the Mystery-institutions of all the nations: the end of them all was the revelation of the Mystery of Man.

Weston interprets this to mean that the teaching of the Naassenes was "practically a synthesis of all the Mystery-religions." With this document, according to Weston, the esoteric aspect of the Mysteries becomes clear and the final meaning of the Grail legends is explained.

The Exoteric side of the cult gives us the Human, the Folk-lore, elements--the Suffering King; the Waste Land; the effect upon the Folk; the task that lies before the hero; the group of Grail symbols. The Esoteric side provides us with the Mystic Meal, the Food of Life, connected in some mysterious way with a Vessel which is the centre of the cult; the combination of that vessel with a Weapon, a combination bearing a well-known 'generative' significance; a double initiation into the source of the lower and higher spheres of Life. 

The Vessel and the Weapon, the Grail and the Spear, the yoni and the lingham, point to a whole other dimension of the esoteric that Weston does not shy away from: sacred sexuality. Sex is, of course, obvious throughout this entire story. We have all heard of pagan peasant orgies on the fields in order to ensure the fecundity of their crops. The journey up the river, with its inevitable Oedipal undercurrent, is also a sexual journey. But all of this is still at a lower sphere of life. It is what Leon Surette, in his study of Weston's influence on The Waste Land, calls palingenesis, rebirth.

In a palingenetic rite one must pass through death in order to reach the divine revelation -- much as Dante passes through Hell and Purgatory, or as Odysseus nearly drowns before being rescued by Leucothea. Being born again involves "dying" first and typically includes all of the fear and loathing that we associate with death. Weston distinguished between the palingenetic rite, which leads only to a lower initiation into the mystery of life, and the hieros gamos, which leads to a higher initiation into the mystery of death. -- The Birth of Modernism

Sex can lead to reproduction, to rebirth, to palingenesis, but this alone is only concerned with the cycle of life. Hieros gamos, divine marriage -- the sexual union of a god with a goddess or, even more significantly, a deity with a mortal man or woman -- both culminates and transcends this cycle. Rebirth is a profound outcome of this act, of this vision, but even more so is redeath. The Spring will bless and the Winter will curse, but this singular union initiates the lover into physical and spiritual knowledge of the entire cycle, at every scale within the cosmos, all at once.

This takes us well beyond the fertility cults of Frazer -- or at least what Frazer publicly expressed. Surette explains:

In Frazer, the symbolism of sexuality is given a positivistic, not an esoteric, reading. Sexual rites are literal and involve the transmission of political or clerical power, not of noumenal revelation of metaphysical energy. 

Sexuality invoking a "noumenal revelation of metaphysical energy" rapidly reminds one of the doctrines and practices of Taoism and Tantra, but it should be kept in mind that the light of sacred sexuality, though stomped down to a faintly glowing ember, was never entirely extinguished in the West. Ezra Pound in his Cantos called it "the full eidous" -- thus linking it intriguingly to Pythagorean number mysticism -- and also "Sacrum, sacrum, inluminatio coitu," or "Sacred, sacred the illumination in coitus."

Lines and Streams

Hieros gamos can be found throughout the Cantos -- which can be read as an epic of the flow and blockage of sexual and creative energy throughout myth and history -- and it seems clear that it was experienced by Pound himself. While confined to a tent within a U.S. military detention camp outside of Pisa, Pounds records a vision of the goddess Aphrodite, who he also equates with Isis and the Chinese/Japanese bodhisattva, Kuanon.

The story of sexual union of a mortal man with the goddess of beauty, Aphrodite or Venus, is very ancient. Anchises, the father of the Trojan hero Aeneas, was the lover of Aphrodite. Aeneas, with his divine mother's guidance and protection, was able to escape with his father from the fiery ruin of Troy and went on to lay the foundations of Rome. Julius Caesar, and the emperors who followed in his lineage, claimed to be a successor of Aeneas and thus the goddess.

According to Geoffrey of Monmouth's The History of the Kings of Britain (c. 1136), Brutus, the discoverer of Britain and the original founder of London (the heart of darkness, remember?) was the great-grandson of Aeneas, and the legendary King Arthur was the direct descendent of Brutus. In this way, through Arthur, there is a unbroken narrative from Troy to the Holy Grail. All of this results from the divine marriage with the lustrous goddess of love and beauty.

Beyond this progenitive, yet largely mythical, lineage is a very historical initiatic lineage which the line of kings appears to be the exoteric expression of. The Holy Grail is a key symbol of this underground tradition. In an earlier book, The Quest for the Holy Grail (1913), Weston writes explicitly of this tradition:

There is a stream of tradition, running as it were underground, which from time to time rises to the surface, only to be relentlessly suppressed. It may be the Troubadours, the symbolical language of whose love poems is held to convey another, and less innocent, meaning; or the Albigenses, whose destruction the Church holds for a sacred duty. Alchemy, whose Elixir of Life and Philosopher's Stone are but names veiling a deeper and more spiritual meaning, belongs to the same family.   

This "stream of tradition," with Weston's mention of troubadours, Albigensians and alchemists is practically identical to the "celestial tradition" that Pound delineates. There are slight differences of emphasis between the two. Pound celebrates the Eleusinian mysteries and the Fedeli d'Amore, involving Dante and Cavalcanti. Weston, in contrast, focuses on the even more ancient Phrygian mysteries, the Gnostics, the cults of Attis and Mithras, and the Grail literature.

Both Pound and Weston, however, had close ties with G.R.S. Mead and his Quest Society. It is plain that their varying notions of the esoteric tradition stemmed from this common source. It is also evident that at least Weston, and very likely Pound as well, believed that this tradition was still playing a crucial yet clandestine role in the modern world. In her "Preface" to From Ritual to Romance she refers to certain "agents of evolution."

I was no longer engaged merely in enquiring into the sources of a fascinating legend, but on the identification of another field of activity for forces whose potency as agents of evolution we were only now beginning rightly to appreciate.

What these forces and agents happen to be, Weston does not readily disclose in this fairly academically cautious book. But, as the poet Robert Duncan -- another great link in this chain -- indicates and quotes, even by the introduction she is openly admitting that much of her information was derived from contemporary initiates.

No inconsiderable part of the information at my disposal depended upon personal testimony, the testimony of those who knew of the continued existence of such a ritual, and had actually been initiated into its mysteries.

The rituals, mysteries and initiates still exist -- in 1920 and there is much evidence to believe even now -- and in hidden ways act as agents of human evolution. The rites of palingenesis and hieros gamos persist and influence much of what is happening. Certainly rituals of this apparent type are everywhere evident. The question is to what extent these mass media events, such as those Green spotlights in his video, are authentic rituals of the the type Weston and Mead write about, and to what extent they are counterfeits of this type, intentional inversions and falsifications?

Many streams are converging on one point. It's easy to imagine that a program is being enacted. And yet there seem to be both spells and counter-spells battling in the aether. Which are aiding in "evolution," in Weston's sense of the word, and which are designed to perpetuate stagnation, to guard and expand the Waste Land? And could there be any way in which these two could be the same?

Poured We Libations

The principal editor of The Waste Land was none other than Ezra Pound. The critic Leon Surette (The Birth of Modernism) has uncovered an interesting pattern in Pound's editing of Eliot's vastly influential poem. By observing what Pound advised Eliot to elide or alter in the poem a clear intention is discernible.

If we look at Pound's editing, we shall find that it tends to remove the esoteric of mystical elements of the original draft -- particularly the linking of eros and apotheosis implied in the hieros gamos topos. When the poem issues from the hand of Pound, sexuality no longer has a transcendent function. It is merely spiritually and emotionally barren, even when, paradoxically for the fertility cult motif, it is progenitively fertile. 

Pound's editing assures that The Waste Land remains a waste land. A particular phase of the cycle is portrayed, the decay of the land and its people, and any possible transcendence from this state is obscured, remaining illusive. The published poem stops quite short of the initiation through eros that Weston focuses on. Surette reiterates:   

Pound's editing greatly reduces the palingenetic and erotic representations of transcendence that Eliot seems to have adapted from Weston's characterization of the ancient initiation rites in Ritual to Romance. The elisions have left a poem that depicts a bleak, hopeless, and wasted world occupied by the spiritually dead.

One important example of how Pound's editing altered the tone of Eliot's poem is in the substitution of its epigraph. Originally, Eliot wanted to include a key passage from Heart of Darkness as his epigraph:

Did he live his life again in every detail of desire, temptation, and surrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge? He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision,—he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath—

'The horror! The horror!'

Kurtz, at the very moment of his death, fully awakens to the meaninglessness of his own life, to the total darkness that envelopes the modern, so-called "enlightened" world. It is a instant of horrible transcendence, and yet it is transcendence. Only in experiencing the sheer terror and despair of existence could he ever hope to move beyond it.

We are never sure that he did move beyond, and it is probable that he did not, but Kurtz's devastating epiphany reveals, at least, that there is something beyond. He had, at the very end, woken up within the Waste Land, while most still sleep. 

This epigraph, at the insistence of Pound, is replaced by a passage from Petronius' Satyricon. The quote is in Latin and Greek in The Waste Land, but it can be translated as such:

For with my own eyes I saw the Sibyl hanging in a bottle, and when the young boys asked her, 'Sibyl, what do you want?', she replied, 'I want to die'. 

The Sibyl of Cumae requested to Apollo, and was granted, maximal longevity -- as many years as the grains of sand that she grasped in her hand -- but she forget to also ask for eternal youth. As a result, she could not die even as her body became increasingly shriveled and decrepit with extreme old age.

She diminished to a point where she could do nothing except hang in a jar and speak. She was also granted the gift of prophecy, but she could foresee no escape for herself. Even Kurtz's terrifying transcendence was denied to her. She remained trapped within the Waste Land.

This Sibyl is also a crucial figure in the wider story, the story of stories, examined here. It is the Sibyl of Cumae who escorts Aeneas to the Underworld, instructing him first to gather the "golden bough" -- possibly mistletoe -- to present to Proserpine/Persephone, the goddess of the dead.

Virgil's account of this story is an obvious retelling of the tale of Odysseus's own descent to the Underworld, as relayed in the eleventh book of The Odyssey. This nekyia section of The Odyssey, which Pound considered to be its oldest, was translated by Pound and became the very first of his Cantos.

Poured we libations unto each the dead,
First mead and then sweet wine, water mixed with white flour.
Then prayed I many a prayer to the sickly death's-head;
As set in Ithaca, sterile bulls of the best
For sacrifice, heaping the pyre with goods,
A sheep to Tiresias only, black and a bell-sheep.  

The Cantos began to be published after 1922, the year of The Waste Land''s publication. As Pound's epic begins in the Underworld, in the Inferno, in the Waste Land, and only several decades afterwards is his full vision of Paradise published, it is possible that he wanted Eliot's poem to also focus on the image of this world as fallen and not yet redeemed.

It could be that Eliot and Pound intended to present a clear image of a singular moment within the greater cycle of death and rebirth, a moment which happens to encompass all of history. 1922, assuming that there was a plan or a conspiracy behind this, was not to be the time of resurrection. That was to come later. Surette explains this in terms of The Waste Land and the poem's allusions to the Grail myth and the story of Christ:

The Waste Land, of course, does not fulfil the palingenetic pattern. There is no resurrection, only death and perhaps a descent. In Grail terms, the poem stops in the Chapel Perilous; in terms of Christ's passion, it stops on Easter Sunday while Christ is, according to tradition, harrowing Hell. The reader is left in doubt, as the apostles were, with the Saviour dead, and only obscure and ambiguous messages left as a guide -- messages typified in the poem by the voice of the thunder. 

The Waste Land here is equated with the Chapel Perilous, of which Weston writes at length, and Christ's harrowing of Hell -- His descent into the Underworld to free the souls of the righteous. Northrop Frye, the colleague and rival of Marshall McLuhan (and a synthesis of these two may lead to salvation), also notes this overlay:

In the final section of The Waste Land the Chapel Perilous represents the underworld of death and burial, the tomb from which Christ rises.

Before Daybreak

The Chapel Perilous, Klingsor's castle, the Black Iron Prison, the nightmare of history -- ominous terms that circle and cackle like crows at sundown in the pages of this blog -- all point to the same point. It is the instant just before resurrection, the resurrection that is continually deferred, "to come." The righteous have not yet all been loaded onto the lifeboats. The heart of darkness is the endless obscurity before the triumphant dawn of the third day. As Frye notes, Dante is another who undertook this arduous journey:

Dante's journey through hell begins on Good Friday evening, and he emerges on the other side of the earth on Easter Sunday morning. Thus his journey fits inside the three-day rhythm of the redemption, where Christ is buried on Friday evening, descends to hell on Saturday, and rises on Sunday morning.

Surette, another cautious scholar, does not speculate on why Pound tended to pencil out transcendent elements in his editing of The Waste Land, but does it not appear that he was intent on crystallizing an image -- a freeze frame of everything "modern"-- for maximal impact?

The other option, terrible to consider, is that Pound and Eliot and the other Modernists were essentially casting a spell over culture through their art. The aim was to prolong the enchantment, to keep the sawdust in our eyes, to extend the reign of the impotent king who deceptively projects his omnipotence. 

Or could it be that both are occurring at once? The story is simply unfolding and it is not the tellers of the tale, however it seems in the thick of it, who are trying to prevent the pages from being turned. The heart beats elsewhere.


  1. What a Gnostic treasure this post provides. To navigate thru the land of waste is key. Dennis

    1. Always good to see yo hear Dennis. You spark it off.

    2. Curious if you've read Jan Assmann, leading Egyptologist who wrote a book called Moses the Egyptian, and discusses the natural occulting of the lesser and greater mysteries ending in hen gai pan. Ties into modern neuroscience as well, if all mind is matter, isn't this equivalent to saying all matter is mind? Steven Pinker's How the Mind Works and The Stuff of Thought are well worth reading for those with a linguistic bent.

  2. What an outstanding literary fractal here to read! Have you read Guenon's article, the Holy Grail? In his critique of Waite's "Holy Grail", at one point he dismisses the work of Frazer as an anti-traditionalist, but praises Waite's rejection of Grail theories "that make appeal to so-called 'gods of vegetation.'" If you have familiarity with this article, what's your take? Seems that Guenon was working out of a different esoteric paradigm, especially with him going as far as to call Jung a "black magician". Has me wondering just who's casting the spell and counter-spell here (if anyone)...

    1. A literary fractal! That's great. I have not read Guenon's article, but I will now. Thanks for the recommendation. I am a big fan of his work, especially The Reign of Quantity. In this book he clearly expresses his oppostion to what he calls the pseudo-initiation and the counter-initiation. Guenon includes all Theosophy-derived esoteric groups (and definitely Mead's Quest Society) within these categories, although these are precisely the groups that he rose through the ranks of before converting to Sufism.

      A big part of what I'm trying to do in this blog is to show how multifaceted and complex this all is. That's why I like your fractal comparison so much. Guenon, and his equally fascinating disciple, the fascist Julius Evola, are exemplary figures in this regard. No consensus seems to have been reached on Guenon. Even the absolutist conspiracy theorists are divided on him:

      Similar divisions are endemic in occult circles. Crowley became a bitter enemy of both Waite and Yeats. How many of the events of history stem from the clashes of cliques of magicians? Spells, counter-spells and counter-counter-spells.

      A mistake that's easily made, I think, is to throw our hands up in the face of this complexity and to conclude that it really is all just random fluctuation.

      Instead -- in fractal-style -- magical manipulation is just as multiform and manifold as on any other level of nature/imagination. From to the globule riot of microscopic life in a drop of swamp water, to the cosmic battles of angels and demons, to the nearly irreparable fragments of the individual psyche, a foundation has yet to be found.

  3. Reflecting further on your post, your work strikes me as a kind of cartography of noetic consciousness. You trace a subtle, breathtaking pattern going on, but as you say, any kind of foundation or origin remains elusive. The mythical Proteus somehow feels apropos here. It also seems that it's not only an absence of foundation, but a kind of seamlessness or permeable boundary, which perhaps is a threshold toward nondual, or at least a more permeable consciousness?

    I know somewhere in PKD's Exegesis, to loosely paraphrase, he writes about how we have to take thought, or discursive thinking as far as we can to approach another level of apprehending reality. The work you're doing here feels like a more mature approach, dare I say, of conspiracy work, but conspiracy work in the sense of "with breath"/"with spirit". I think the absolutist sites like makow or the Alex Jones types are stuck somehow in a more empirical framework that is uncomfortable with ambiguity and seeking to flatten the nuances with oversimplifying black/white, goodguy/badguy outlooks. I believe this approach only blocks us from going deeper into these mysteries.

    I came across a passage in Fall of Sophia, trans. by Violet MacDermot, that might have some relevancy to Frazer's notion on the gods of vegetation. This is actually a commentary by the Russian philosopher-mystic, Vladimir Solovyov who describes how human consciousness changes with the passage of time. To sum up, as he traces different phases of human consciousness, one of which he discusses would seem to fit that paradigm of "gods of vegetation", and I can't help but wonder if that's why Guenon spurns grail theories based on gods of vegetation. Personally, from a Neo-Platonic point of view, I don't see why Guenon's view (which I assume to be monotheistic) and Frazer's polytheistic orientation can't coexist as just different levels of reality.

    The passage in question starts at the bottom paragraph of the page from this googlebooks link, "Solovyov describes how human consciousness..." etc.:

    1. You have no idea how delighted I am by your thoughtful comment. I was just beginning to despair that my message was getting lost. Proteus is certainly one of the main presiding spirits of this blog. If you've got this, you've got nearly it all.

      Yes, breathing together. This is not a simple thing. I agree completely with you on the reconciliation of Frazer and Guenon. And strangely or appropriately enough, I've written about Solovyov (or Soloviev) and PKD on Sophia. Thanks again!

    2. Thanks for the wonderful link to your previous post to PKD & Solovyov. That post in turn had me reading other prior posts as well. Dazzling connections, especially what you propose with Pike's ghost as the possible host working through PKD. I'll be back soon with more remarks. Right now I'm on paternity leave with the arrival of our son, so apologies for lag time with replies. Also, have you read Tom Stoppard's Arcadia? I imagine you would enjoy this, and have a lot of insight to offer on this play.

    3. Congratulations, Anon! There is no greater passage than this.

  4. A few notes:

    (1) Although you don't mention it, the next-to-last chapter of Weston's book is called "The Perilous Chapel." And the rest of us don't have to wait until we stumble across the book in a secondhand bookshop -- it's posted at Project Gutenberg, including epub and mobi versions:

    (2) Your topic connects closely with Robert Anton Wilson's writings about "Chapel Perilous" and his speculations on the "real Illuminati" in "Cosmic Trigger 1," as I'm sure you know, but the themes of this new essay also connect well with Robert Shea's historical novel "All Things Are Lights," which is about the Albigenses, the troubadour tradition, the Templars, sex magick, etc. I've written about this book as a "dramatic prequel" to "Illuminatus!"

    (3) Dante begins his journey into Chapel Perilous in middle age, when many people are forced to think about death, when he is in a wilderness:

    When I had journeyed half of our life's way,
    2 I found myself within a shadowed forest,
    3 for I had lost the path that does not stray.

  5. (4) Forgot to mention that Odysseus' journey to the underworld is invoked in the Hades section of Ulysses, when Leopold Bloom attends the funeral of Paddy Dignam, although whether there's anything there that relates to what you are talking about I would have to leave to better Joyce scholars than I.

    1. Thanks for the perceptive and informative comments, Tom. Thanks also for the plug on your great blog. You anticipate a bit of what I include in Part 2. I'm going to try to get this out in the next few hours. I do not know Shea's book, but I'll try to find this as well.