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Sunday, September 11, 2022

Sickness and Health

My friends, please forgive my absence this past week. I meant to get the blog updated this weekend as I have been delayed with the start of school, but I am not feeling very well. I was able to write my final post for Tom's Prometheus Rising group which will be posted tomorrow, but that was extent of my output this weekend. I will have a blog post up later this week when I am feeling a little more clear headed and sound of body. 

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Sex, Drugs & Magick: The Way Out



Sex, Drugs & Magick: Reject: The Story of Holy Out

You wanna see violence? Close down 24 hour gas stations and let nicotine addicts deal with their shit in the wee hours. I've never used heroin, but the closest I've ever come to violence is over nicotine which has a much different chemical composition to heroin. 

As Wilson was able to name himself a nicotine addict in an earlier chapter, I will go ahead and confess that I am as well. I shake when I'm separated from it and nigh evr'y time I puff, I wish I didn't want to. This is made all the more complicated by the fact that I regularly have to discourage vaping. (I'm going to go ahead and preface whatever comes after with the fact that I despise vaping and I hate the cloud of dubiousness around it; the credulity-engulfing miasma that ping-pongs back and forth between the unreliable and the also unreliable. I would always rather be sparking up a cigarette than sucking on the glorified USB drive that has become my techno-nipple. If I die and retain any consciousness that allows me to know that the penalty for vaping is the same or worse than combustibles, I'll just die.) I have earnestly implored many people to never try nicotine, because you are rolling the dice that first time with a lifelong addiction cycle. The memory of my first cigarette is like a blown-glass bird with wings outstretched and filled with syrup. Too late, I realized the syrup was filling up my lungs. Nicotine, man. Addiction fucking sucks. 

One of my coworkers, much older and shrewder, used to make a silly remark when we'd talk about our shared addiction..."Ozzy Osbourne always said it was harder to stop smoking cigarettes than quit heroin." 

I don't know that much about Ozzy; I loved the reality show when I was a kid and like most of his music. (I also specifically hate him for his song that mangled the reputation of one of my mentors. It also spread the crass mispronunciation of his sainted name.) I'm not sure if he said that about cigarettes, but if he did....I imagine he was wrong and/or purposely being hyperbolic. 

Heroin seems like a really bum deal. I am not afraid of heroin addicts, having known a few in my life. The violence that heroin users do is not typically perpetrated randomly on the streets but against themselves and those that love them. Most are quite similar to our Joe Smith/Holy Out...people who drift and fumble through life while engendering a mixture of sympathy and, forgive me, revulsion. The glassy eyes of the opiate abuser that Wilson dwells upon multiple times during his story always get to me very quickly, along with the inability to hold a topic in their head or perform simple tasks. (If you've ever been behind someone strung out on opiates in a gas station line, you'll understand what I'm talking about. The only thing more annoying and embarrassing than that is the person who won't stop buying lottery tickets and scratching them at the counter.) 

I imagine that aversion also comes from the "there but for the yadda yadda yadda go I..." mantra that many of us have embedded. I can see specific similarities between Joe/Holy and myself. I can drawl on at length about the ills of society (though I pray I am not guilty of "dead-level abstracting") and am prone to a breed of cynical self-pity. I also, and this part always makes me uncomfortable, was hung up on the "harm" caused me by my first heartbreak and wondered for years if I was doomed to repeat the pattern of my first relationship ad nauseum. I have pondered deeply around the tragedy of hearing and saying the word "no." I can see where I would probably take to heroin pretty quickly. There but for yadda yadda yadda...

I think the saddest part of this chapter is, it almost seems as if Joe/Holy is actually going to make it out for a minute. Then the teenage girlfriend arrives on the scene and the reader knows that with those types of decision making skills, our boy isn't long for the world of semi-stability. I guess I've never strayed near heroin because I do try to retain a bare minimum consciousness of the decisions I make and heroin seems like doing the opposite. That's one other thing about heroin users, as well as most addicts, I've know; nothing is ever their fault, or at least not for long. That is to say nothing is their fault outwardly, but then it seems from their behavior and implicit guilt like everything must be their fault, inwardly. I don't think I ever touched heroin because I never hated myself quite that much. And maybe it says something about my lack of understanding that I consider self-hatred as a prerequisite to heroin abuse. (I should also mention the path to heroin that springs from a prescription that becomes a habit/relief and then leads to further abuse.) 

I don't have a lot of intelligent comments to add to the topic of these white powders. I guess I've got to draw on the immortal words of that bitch Nancy Reagan: "Just Say No." 

Stray Thoughts

- Ed Sanders is absolutely as wonderful as he appears in the description by Wilson and far more interesting than the blurb does justice to. Relevant to our discussion, Sanders apologizes in one of his memoirs for downplaying the seriousness of amphetamine and heroin abuse at times during his youth. 

- Like Arlen, my beloved wife has reminded me in conversation before that that first rejection is just as hard on girls as it is on boys. I really do wonder how many of us can trace our romantic mistakes back to the imprints of our "first love"/first rejection. 

Find Narcan Resources

- Once again, this didn't really inspire a song in me. I guess listen to The Velvet Underground or Marianne Faithful. Maybe Rodriguez or Curtis Mayfield. Neil Young or James Taylor...there are a lot of songs about heroin. 

- On the other hand; 



:Pertinent suggestions: 





Saturday, August 20, 2022

Sex, Drugs & Magick: Nothing, with twinkles

Messe Noir, Manuel Orazi, 1903


Sex, Drugs & Magick: Powders, White and Deadly

It is wildly different talking about opioid addiction in 2022 than when this book was penned or revised. In the part of our Brave Nation that I hail from, most of us know someone whose life has been affected by addiction to these types of drugs. (If you don't know someone who is addicted to cocaine, you can easily find someone addicted to meth. If you don't know someone who is addicted to heroin, you can easily find someone addicted to prescription painkillers.) This has led to a culture that is more sympathetic whilst simultaneously being more judgmental. Pity seems to be measured by the distance between you and the addict(s) you know, with love for the addicts as a corollary. There's a lot of hemming and hawing; really, it is incessant, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of progress. 

 Secondly, it is a very different milieu since fentanyl made its debut on the world stage. Warnings abound about avoiding any powder as you don't know what it is and it could be cut with something worse than talcum powder and baby laxative. Many public health initiatives have tried to make testing kits commonly available (causing the moralists to powder the pearls in their clutches). Narcan training is increasingly common and there are often initiatives to get members of the public trained in its application. Over the past weekend, I passed a car with "I CARRY NARCAN" in large, red letters on a bumper sticker. These, while indicative of our times, are also signs of progress in our apprehension of the nature of drug addictions- that we must be ameliorative, instead of wishing it would simply go away. 

Harm reduction is a wonderful thing, and I am heartened every time I see some new method adopted. I have always fancied Wilson's "solution" to the ill-effects of heroin and hope to see something like that in the United States someday. I don't care for people to die, despite unfortunate circumstances and/or choices. 

Stray Thoughts

- Diary of a Drug Fiend is as insightful and interesting as Wilson makes it out to be, and, like most of Crowley's writing is occasionally very funny. It also contains some very harrowing scenes of drug addiction, but essentially it is a romance. The love between Peter Pendragon and Lou Laleham is a central part of the novel; I also agree that modern audiences would probably find Lou's true will more offensive than the other components. 

- The poem quoted in this chapter from Diary of a Drug Fiend is "The Treasure House of Images" by Captain J. F. C. Fuller which Wilson also has Leila Waddell recite snippets from in Masks of the Illuminati. 

- I do appreciate, and had forgotten, that Wilson acknowledges the provenance of Gardener's Wiccan rituals. 

- While it could be said just as easily of many things, my experiences have taught me that heroin addiction, aside from the user and victims of theft, affects children more than anyone else. It is perhaps the most regrettable and heartbreaking part of the picture. 

- I don't really have much of a song in mind for this chapter. Be safe out there. 

:Pertinent suggestions for music: 




Thursday, August 11, 2022

Sex, Drugs & Magick: Closed Doors

 


Sex, Drugs & Magick Interlude: Behind Suburban Doors: The Story of George & Martha

I recently witnessed someone writing about how, despite the objections of cannabis users, many people's first illegal act is purchasing the drug. Now, I had the typical pothead reactions of seething anger at this old calumny, before realizing that without the caveat that drug addiction always begins with the use of marijuana, many people probably do first break the law with extralegal purchases. Another part of me would like to say that I am still skeptical; I would imagine more people broke the law the first time by sneaking a cigarette (or a vape nowadays) or a drink (followed by how many others?) This does bring up the idea that many of us, aside from jaywalking or speeding, probably first break the law indulging in something the government says we are not allowed to have. We are repeating childhood forays into the cookie jar. 

Of course, the stakes are higher in consuming cannabis than in being caught with tobacco or alcohol while underage. So, in a sense, cannabis consumption is the first thing many of us do that could realistically end up with ourselves behind bars. Much like George and Martha, I am still uncomfortable purchasing cannabis and have no desire to add any other incarcerable risks to my life. I still live in one of the more uncivilized parts of Our Great Nation and while my paranoia isn't quite to the level of our suburban couple's, I have always felt some kinship with the pair. 

I can remember wishing that I had some sort of self-destruct case when I first began to keep cannabis on hand. Over the years I have used hidden outdoor stashes, hollowed out books (I thought it was terribly clever that I hollowed out a pharmacology textbook), and forgotten access panels to rafters to hide my stash. For a couple years I kept it inside a hollow porcelain elephant statue that had a chip in the hip that could be removed and replaced, kept inside a crowded closet. While I'm no longer nearly as paranoid about a home invasion, I still try to think strategically about how to hide and dispose of my grass, if need be. 

One difference between George and I is that I hate having cannabis in my vehicle. Absolutely hate it; I don't enjoy driving to begin with, let alone riding dirty. I hate especially having to drive long distances with it in my vehicle. Perhaps in the days of coerced names George's strategy would have made sense, but in my mind you risk a lot more having it in a vehicle than in your home. (At an end of the year party one of my coworkers asked if I had weed; I was flabbergasted they thought I'd ever travel with it unnecessarily. Pretty lame, I know.) I am equally as surprised and distressed if someone thinks to smoke in their vehicle and have pled my career as a reason not to light up when I am in the vehicle with them. 

Keep it at home, folks. If you want to play it safe. 

Stray Thoughts 

- The quote from "The Book of Shadows" at the beginning of the interlude is another fabrication of Gardner's. Interestingly, it was written as a reply to Doreen Valentine proposing a set of rules for "the Craft," due to the influx of Wiccan practitioners in the late Fifties. Gardner replied that the Craft didn't need new rules since it already possessed this, previously unseen or unheard of, part of the "authentic" Book of Shadows. 

- As an aficionado of de Sade, I should point out that blasphemy and sex are one of the greatest flavor combinations in the world. 



Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Sex, Drugs & Magick: Washington's Toothache

 

"A Smoking Club" by James Gillray (They are smoking tobacco, but I liked the illustration.) 

Sex, Drugs & Magick: Chapter Four: The Mexican Weed

I don't think there's as much for me to comment on in this chapter compared to the others. We don't have the ambiguities of a personal anecdote, nor do we have the occult hints of the last chapter proper. Instead, we have a rational history of marijuana and survey of its use that was contemporaneous during the time of publication. This doesn't seem like much anymore when marijuana is a hot topic and the history of the plant is more widely available than ever before. But I'm sure it was revolutionary for many readers over the years and it was for me as well. 

As I've mentioned before, when I set out into my occult excursion (from which I have yet to return) I wanted to stay away from drugs; I wanted to work the wonders of the Qabalah and be like one of Yates' Rosicrucian mages. I failed, quickly. Originally, I did stay away from the drug literature, but I was already firmly in the hands of the Magician of Northampton and while I rolled my eyes at the pothead dialogue when I first read Illuminatus!, I knew that I needed to keep reading Wilson. So it would be that Sex, Drugs & Magick was my first proper primer on drugs. This chapter did what it was supposed to; it changed my perspective on cannabis. 

Maybe it's a cheap trick to use Washington as a way to legitimize the use of marijuana; pretty much every American has the idea that the Commander of the Continental Army was a god who once walked the earth drilled into us from the youngest age. But it is effective, even for a cynical nineteen year old whose attitude towards marijuana was akin to how he imagined Phillip Marlowe would have felt; only good for addling the mind- stick to alcohol and cigarettes. (I was and am, very dumb. Also- I'm obviously not talking about the best version of Marlowe- Elliot Gould's in Roger Altman's The Long Goodbye.) Hey, if the guy on the one dollar bill smoked weed, what's stopping me. 

Interestingly, maybe?, this wasn't the first time I'd heard that Washington had an inordinate fondness for hemp. That was a pretty common piece of lore, even in the Stone Ages before Colorado freed the djinn of civilized cannabis laws, and that piece of lore formed the basis of one of the best scenes in a Pynchon novel, which I read well before Sex, Drugs & Magick. Pynchon's Mason & Dixon contains an enchanting scene where the two surveyors meet with Washington at Mount Vernon and get uproariously high. In the mix is one of Washington's slaves Gershom (he's Jewish for Pynchonean reasons) who becomes much more of an equal as the smoke flows and a merry, snack providing Martha. Even before I ever partook of the pernicious drug myself, I loved that passage. 

So perhaps it was a combination of Moore, Wilson, Pynchon and George Washington who got me hooked. 

Stray Thoughts

- The jazz "marijuana-cult" has always been a fascinating part of this chapter. When I read Wilson's hope that a jazz historian might one day find out more about this group, I immediately thought of Eric. So Eric, have you ever came across some musician/cheeba-enthusiasts who like fanciful Hindu names? 

- Marijuana is pretty unanimously agreed upon as making sex even better. This is such a given to me anymore that I hardly reacted to that part of the chapter at all. If you haven't tried it- boy howdy, you should. 

- I hope I'll stop harping on this as much as the rest of you, but I am uncomfortable with the fate of legal cannabis in the United States with the current rhetoric from the Right. If they consolidate power this Autumn and in 2024, I think we could see major setbacks. While some libertarian-leaning conservatives might be cool with marijuana, I feel as if the segment leading this shit vanguard are not. Remember, that it was only June when Laura Ingraham was suggesting that cannabis use is to blame for the recent mass shootings. This makes Biden's heel-dragging on federal decriminalization or legalization all the more frustrating. 



Friday, July 29, 2022

Sex, Drugs & Magick: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

One of the few shots where he isn't exhaling tobacco smoke.

Sex, Drugs & Magick: Drug of Choice: The Story of Bill

I'd say this is the most straight forward of the Interludes in Sex, Drugs & Magick. It is unambiguous and tightly composed, even ending with something of a punchline. While this might be trite, I'm a huge fan of the show Mad Men and this seems like it could have been the B plot in a Wilson-penned episode of that show. (Do you think Wilson would have enjoyed Mad Men?) It has the most essential element for the show: old fashioned Mad Ave executive clashing with a changing world during the 1960s. There's enough mixed drinks, smoking, latent homosexuality, women's liberation, soullessness and longing to be free that all we need are a few melancholy shots of Don Draper as he tries to figure out something about himself that it'd be ready to film. Yet, I'd also say that this story is a lot less subtle than the show was at times. 

From the very beginning, we all know where this is going...although Wilson occasionally disparaged armchair psychology, the Freudian foreshadowing has a sense of silly inevitability to it. Unlike the other stories, there isn't much ambiguity about the ending and Bill seems to take a net-positive change from his experimentation with cannabis. Perhaps contemporary readers would have shuddered at the idea of marijuana bringing out their buried homosexuality, but in the 21st Century, I'd imagine most of us would earnestly say "good for him." (Except of course for those fervent, forked-tongued members of the American Taliban currently pushing Evangelical and Papist "morality" down our collective throats.) Wilson is also more conscious of his portrayal of Bill than his other characters, taking time to point out to the reader that while he relates the unpleasant parts of Bill's personality, the man had some good qualities. It is striking that Bill earns this circumspection in a way Jane, Leonard, Tom or Jerri did not; perhaps Wilson did not share my viewpoint that those characters seemed more distressed and unbalanced than Bill and therefore didn't require his defense. 

Bill, for all that Wilson says about his wit and help writing ad copy, seems like a very unpleasant person at the beginning of the Interlude. Would a contemporary reader have viewed his homosexuality as a just comeuppance for his earlier misogyny? I'm not sure. Wilson goes on to say that "nobody was particularly likeable as the 1960s ground toward their miserable end;" certainly, most of the characters in Mad Men carry their foibles on throughout the seasons of the show and we get to watch their lives continuously fall apart and be picked back up over the course of the show's decade, so this sticks with the script. Are people generally less likeable in times of societal shifts? Pretty much every writer I've encountered who either imagines or reminisces upon the late-Sixties considers it with an air of wistfulness that often overlaps with being haunted by memories. I believe the late-Sixties might really have been as grim as Wilson says, as it seems to be that it caused some sort of cultural trauma that echoes until this day. But that's all just this barely-child-of-the-twentieth-century's musings on things that transpired long before I was born. 

For all that the above might interest me, the most important part of the Interlude is Wilson's very clear demonstration of how to talk to someone who is paranoid because of cannabis. I have used his method of forced calm, jocularity and distraction many times before; and, for all that some will warn of the dangers of mixing marijuana and alcohol (I don't recommend doing it in large amounts! Alcohol impairs judgement enough on its own.) I have found that a snifter of something can put a stopper on the worst of green delusions with no ill-effect. I have also found that being around people who "zone out" to a large degree while smoking marijuana, or who smoke a large enough amount to be "zoned out" no matter their exposure, is not copacetic with a pleasant experience for new hands or anyone who slips into paranoia. I fall on the side that sees marijuana as an excellent vehicle for conversation and exploration of the minds' delightfully ridiculous tangents and nothing harshes my buzz like being trapped in a dirty room watching someone play video games. (Adulthood has happily robbed me of those dismal collegiate smoke sessions.) 

Wilson's capability and awareness is contrasted by the gawking ridiculousness of Danny and his party guests. After reading this the first time I was determined not to be caught unawares in the types of situations that might arise while indulging. I used to keep a bottle of niacinamide in the house until I found that its "face-warming" or hot flash side effects can cause a lot more distress, despite whatever benefits the vitamin might have. While introducing more drugs, chemicals or supplements into the mix might be a shot in the dark, talking and remaining upbeat and positively "normal" hasn't failed me on any occasion so far. 

Stray Thoughts

- After his line about nobody being particularly likeable as the Sixties ground down Wilson goes on to say: "The flower children had grown thorns; the Weathermen contingent of the old SDS was planting bombs hither and yon; movies like Joe or Easy Rider seemed to underscore the mood of genocide or civil war that was in the air just as the joyous and hilarious Skidoo and I Love You, Alice B. Toklas had echoed the open-ended optimism of the early 1960s..." While these cultural hallmarks aren't touched upon in the series, I think this augments my supposition that Mad Men echoes this tale quite nicely. 

- The same paragraph ends with the line: "As I said, Joe and Easy Rider had already warned us that Middle America was armed and dangerous." This line is all the more chilling today as we watch our rights forcibly stripped while the enemy gleefully hints at which others they plan to take away. These foes of freedom have been cemented in power by an indifferent Middle America disgusted with the admitted excesses of identity politics and new movements. They are still armed and dangerous and will watch most of us fall over with the same cold indifference of the camera recording Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper's motorcycle death spills. 

- Wilson at one points compares Bill to Claggert (presumably Danny is Billy Budd) which is a lovely reference to Bill's initially hostile homosexuality since Melville's short novel positively scintillates with gay undertones. 

- Wilson also says that listening to Danny and Bill talk was like listening to Rousseau arguing with de Sade. While posterity cannot hear Rousseau's opinions of de Sade, I'm happy to let you know you don't need a proxy for de Sade's response. Rousseau's brand of Enlightenment philosophy was a favorite target of de Sade's, and it is easy enough to find his contempt for Rousseau's ideas about innate nobility and the positive passivity of females in his works. 

- I watched Joe for the first time this week and it is a really good, hilarious and excruciating film. I would have used Exuma's "You Don't Know What's Going On" for this week's song but I didn't care to evoke the scene or film...the movie is dark. I've been dark enough this week considering my Prometheus Rising post on Rawillumination. It is worth watching, perhaps essential, and considering all the angles. Joe says a lot about our times. To an eerie extent. I hope not a damning extent. 

In keeping with Wilson's ruminations about hashish and sex in the previous chapter, in Joe, right before the most tragical denouement the audience is treated to this exchange:

"Never screwed on grass before, huh?"

"That was...that was..."

"Outrageous, right?" 



Monday, July 18, 2022

Sex, Drugs & Magick: Sayyiduna

 

This is supposedly an American newspaper's depiction on Crowley's Ordo Templi Orientis Abbey of Thelema in Sicily (November 1923)


Sex, Drugs & Magick Chapter Three: The Smoke of the Assassins 

 

Perhaps I am not subtle enough, but this seems to be the most apropos of all the Wake quotes in this volume. I always found Wilson's anecdote about being excited to see how many times "Leary" and "LSD" appeared in Finnegans Wake until Dr. Leary pointed out that his name was extremely common as lsd is an abbreviation for the pound to be incredibly charming. I love a man who laughs at himself. Perhaps that is why, no matter how I might seem to quibble with the material, I am infinitely grateful Wilson was my guide. Anyways, the quote is so appropriate I feel we must chalk it up to synchronicity or Providence. 

 

I have talked previously about the legend of Hassan i Sabbah and just how much we need to take with a grain of salt when reading modern accounts of the Old Man of the Mountain. Our culture is awash in the legend, especially within esoteric or counter-cultural circles, the widening gyre of information that is the Internet, even video games and New York Times bestseller book clubs. How much can be believed? I have wrestled, while reading the chapter and composing this post, with that question. I find that I might be too cynical in my view of history, distrusting any reports further back than this morning as untrustworthy. However, whatever truth there might be in Marco Polo's account of Hassan i Sabbah and the Assassins, he most certainly did not bring spaghetti back from China. 

 

I believe that my distressing skepticism comes partly from reading Michael Muhammad Knight's excellent William S. Burroughs vs. the Quran earlier this year. This book is a captivating memoir that I have mentioned before and I really encourage you to read it. The book contains plenty to interest people with our interests; a discussion of Burroughs' mythologization of Hassan i Sabbah, the career of Peter Lambourn Wilson and even an appearance by the RAW biographer, Prop Anon. While reading the book the weight of Burroughs' influence on Wilson occurred to me as one that I don't think about as much as others; that I should probably attribute much of what Wilson relates about Sabbah as coming from the Burroughs model, which might not be accurate. Wilson himself notes in this chapter that Burroughs held Sabbah in a place of honor, a man who honored so little in the ways of other men.

 

Indeed, it seems to be a kind of an unintentional game, Westerners trying to figure out who the Hashashin really were and their modus operandi. The Ismaili Muslims of Iran were referred to by other Muslim writers as the "Hashishiyya," but this word was also applied to Sufis or Sufi orders suspected of using hashish. The use of hashish was controversial, then as now, and there was a large amount of prejudice in the Islamic world against those who consumed it. I'll share some Sufi poems that seem to echo sentiments heard in dorm rooms all across our Great Nation:

Hashish contains the meaning of my desire.
You dear people of intelligence and understanding.
They have declared it forbidden without any justification on the basis of reason and tradition. 
Declaring forbidden what is not forbidden is forbidden. 

Preserved or written by Ibn Kathir (14th Century) 

The use of hashish is censured by all silly persons, weak of mind, insensitive,
To the censure coming from stupid and envious individuals.
Share hashish with a goodly young man firm.
In the preservation of friendship and appointments.
Is it not a relaxation for the mind? Thus enjoy
It, all you sensible men!

Muhammad bin Makki bin Ali bin al-Hussain al-Mashhadi (11th Century?) 

However, lest we get the idea that medieval Sufis were proto-hippies, they were (and are) a diverse group of peoples; the same source where I found the above poems also includes a Sufi poet condemning the use of hashish. It also seems that, far from the more colorful legend of converting the fidai, that the original belief in the Western popular imagination about the Ismailis and linking them to hashish was the belief that the fidai used hashish before battle/assassinations to give them courage. (An interesting idea for anyone who has gotten too high and tried to go grocery shopping, which quickly becomes a visit to Tartarus.) As far as I could tell, there are many historians who have concluded that Hassan i Sabbah was nothing more than a very pious Shia Muslim. But that just isn't as much fun, is it? 

Wilson says: "Hassan made modernists and even post-modernists out of his contemporaries, and they didn't like it at all." Perhaps Hassan taught us all, even if unintentionally, a centuries-early lesson in post-modernism. And if we are to be post-modern, then we can choose whatever historical quasi-fiction we wish to believe. So, if we desire a fitting narrative for Sayidunna, we need to go no further than the beginning of the twentieth century in the Balkans. In a novel called Alamut, the Slovenian writer Vladimir Bartol laid the groundwork for the modern take on Hassan i Sabbah. The novel concerns the initiation of ibn Tahir into the ranks of the fedayin as well as the recruitment of some of the "houris" to inhabit his faux-paradise. A psychological novel, Alamut concerns itself with the brainwashed devotees and the discovery of Hassan's ruse on the part of one "houri" and ibn Tahir. The novel concludes with ibn Tahir confronting Hassan where the Old Man utters his motto to him, not to Burzug Umid. Alamut also contains the incident recounted at the end of this chapter, however it is Hassan who orders two fedayin to take their lives instead of Sinan. While it might not be perfectly accurate, it is a good yarn and the speech Hassan gives to ibn Tahir concerning the watchers atop A'raf has haunted me the years since reading it. 

(And at this point I'd like to report that in Philip Farber's excellent High Magick: A Guide to Cannabis in Ritual and Mysticism, it is noted that, similar to the Hindu soma, the Zoroastrians had the drug haoma. Like soma, haoma has been conjectured as originally indicating many different drugs; yet, based on various descriptions it seem highly likely that the plant indicated by these terms was cannabis. (A far more pleasant, common intoxicant in that area of the world than amanita muscaria.) Farber notes that while some Zoroastrians and historians write about Zoroaster condemning the use of haoma, it was another drug he condemned in the Avesta, mada, which might have been the same as haoma, but might not have been. (Fun, right? Why can't people read religious texts clearly?) The modern haoma ritual of Zoroastrianism uses ephedra or Syrian rue for the substance, but Farber contends that the original psychoactive haoma was kept for the "magi" priest-class of Zoroastrians. All of this is for me to say that Zoroastrians are originally from the same Persian area that the Ismailis would inhabit.) 

Further into the chapter, closer to us than Hassan i Sabbah but prey to as much, if not more, obfuscation and confusion is the discussion of Crowleyean sex magick. This chapter is incredibly important because here, in plain enough text, Wilson reveals the operation of sex magick and provides enough information to piece together the Ninth Degree Ritual of the Ordo Templi Orientis, its most prized secret. It was from this chapter that I was able to piece together the operation in whole; when I told one teacher I believed that I had divined "a part" of the ritual, he simply replied "a part?" 

Based on my further research, my conclusion was correct. While it is dressed up in his charmingly ridiculous bombast, Louis T. Culling's Sex Magick and The Complete Magickal Curriculum of the Secret Order G.B.G. also provide the essential part of the operation as well as including "Of The Homunculus" (a secret instruction of the Ninth Degree) in his writing about "the bud-will." Granted, this is tied up in C.F. Russell's/Culling's rigmarole, but all of that is quite entertaining in and of itself. (God, I love Culling.) Much of my confirmation comes from Francis King's The Secret Rituals of the O.T.O. and various back papers in his Crowley On Christ. I should note that Caliphate partisans are happy to say that King's book, aside from being illegally printed in the first place, is devastatingly flawed. Aside from mumblings about the Third Degree Ritual, I have never been given a satisfactory explanation of how it is in any way incorrect that didn't smack of misdirecting insincerity along with unfamiliarity with the text. King himself states that his work was based on the collection of Frater Volo Intelligere, Gerald Yorke, who was as in-the-know as any of Crowley's acquaintances, even if he wasn't a member of the O.T.O.. Crowley's opus, Magick Book 4, is dedicated in part to Frater Volo Intelligere. 

Aside from spilling the beans in this manner, Wilson also reveals, as he does for us in other works, what he believes to be the incriminating poem in Crowley's The Book of Lies. Chapter 69 goes as follows: 

THE WAY TO SUCCEED -- AND THE WAY TO SUCK EGGS!

This is the Holy Hexagram.
Plunge from the height, O God, and interlock with
    Man!
Plunge from the height, O Man, and interlock with
    Beast!
The Red Triangle is the descending tongue of grace;
    the Blue Triangle is the ascending tongue of
    prayer.
This Interchange, the Double Gift of Tongues, the
    Word of Double Power -- ABRAHADABRA! -- is
    the sign of the GREAT WORK, for the GREAT WORK is accomplished in Silence. And behold, is
    not that Word equal to Cheth, that is Cancer, whose Sigil is 69*?
This Work also eats up itself, accomplishes its own
    end, nourishes the worker, leaves no seed, is perfect in itself.
Little children, love one another!

[*In the poem proper, the "69" is the astrological sign of Cancer.] 

A poem that isn't a poem and isn't usually included in the running for the poem that put Reuss in a mood but shares similar concerns is #36 which contains the original version of Crowley's version of the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram, The Star Sapphire. I can personally attest that regular practice of this ritual is transformative and comforting in many ways, especially when coupled with the theory expressed in #69. Wilson says of this: "I learned this [that Crowley could appreciate the inner meaning of mystical Christianity] directly by performing his Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram (a combination of Christian and Egyptian invocations, and one of the most powerful consciousness-altering techniques I know), which gave me an entirely new and fresh insight into the central Christian symbolism of Crucifixion and Resurrection." If you're looking for something to do, I think Wilson would echo my recommendation to commit the Star Sapphire to heart. 

Let's move away from the mysterious men and their shroud of smoke for now, though they may already have captured our imaginations. 

Stray Thoughts

- Wilson quotes Crowley's "The Psychology of Hashish," which was originally attributed to Oliver Haddo, the decidedly unflattering portrait of Crowley offered in Somerset Maugham's The Magician. "The Psychology of Hashish" is the second, and by far the most valuable/instructive part of Crowley's compendium of marijuaniana The Herb Dangerous. The other three portions of Crowley's study are composed of a dry medical report by a (seemingly real not-actually-Crowley-persona) English physician on cannabis: the other two sections are a translation of a poem on hashish by Baudelaire and an excerpt from "The Hasheesh Eater" by Fritz Hugh Ludlow. Regardie, in his introduction to The Herb Dangerous in the Sixties reprint Roll Away the Stone, compares Ludlow's work to de Quincey's and presciently calls for a reprint that would surely be (and proved) popular with the then-current generation. 

- Speaking of Baudelaire, it should be said that his and Gautier's descriptions of the effects of hashish are best taken as reports from Olympus. They are an example of what I like to call "the absinthe problem." I had always heard that absinthe was hallucinogenic because of the presence of wormwood in the 19th century recipe, which has been removed in our modern productions. However, I had also read in accounts that the wormwood's presence was negligible and that the riotous effects upon the imagination are in themselves imaginary and to be attributed to nothing more than absinthe's not-insubstantial alcohol content and romance. (I really should read Phil Baker's history of absinthe.) Both reading Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal and Gautier's Mademoiselle de Maupin can prove without doubt that each of them is capable of intoxicating the reader with nothing more than words, it goes to follow that the effects of any drug would loosen their already-tenuous grip on this dull world. I believe Wilson will later discuss how disappointed that many a hippie was to discover that opium doesn't deliver the reveries of "Kubla Khan" or The Opium-eater's visions. Alas, we are not all naturally gifted with the fervid imagination of Coleridge or de Quincey. 

- I could find nothing about Ismaili fedai wielding a flame dagger, celebrated or otherwise. 

- In High Magick, Philip Farber also writes about the ancient notations of the perhaps-mythical Shen Neng/Shennong on cannabis. Farber interestingly relates that Shennong also stated, aside from extolling the medical benefits of cannabis, that "[c]annabis...enabled seekers to forget their own consciousness and attain the Tao." Farber also notes that while cannabis was not looked kindly upon by Confucianists, some parts of Taoism have always retained a fondness for the drug and that one of the eight Taoist immortals is Ma Gu...which translates as "Hemp Maiden" or, delightfully, "Auntie Hemp." 

- I looked up Dr. Michael Aldritch, something I don't think I've ever done before this reading. I couldn't find much about him, but he is still around and evidently wrote the now-uncommon Drugs-For & Against. He also contributed to the "High Times" Encyclopedia of Recreational Drugs

- I am disappointed that after multiple rereadings of this text, I still haven't read Terry Southern's "The Blood of a Wig." The story, found in Red Dirt Marijuana and Other Tales, concerns the account of a magazine editor's outrageous drug use. Evidently the titles refer to injecting the blood of a schizophrenia patient (the "wig") and contains this bit about the Kennedy assassination: 

- I learned, through trial and major error, that it is never in one's best interest to bring up the feeding of the Red Lion or the White Eagle in their truest sense, save when under the rose. 



Sickness and Health

My friends, please forgive my absence this past week. I meant to get the blog updated this weekend as I have been delayed with the start of ...