Friday, January 7, 2022

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Ishtar Rising Week Eleven: The Spirit of '73 or- Not Impossible, Only Improbable

 If we are to end on a number, I would like this to be Ishtar Rising Week Eleven. Although, due to delays, this group has lasted longer than eleven weeks, eleven is a good number to end our account of the unending ascent. Certainly, eleven is the most appropriate number if we are to "seek the light and quit the dark" as we look forward to Wilson's proposed golden dawn. 

Ishtar from Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria (1916) (A volume that can be found in Alan Moore's library.)

Ishtar Rising Chapter Seven: Making A Clean Breast Of It

I have never grown out of the infantile belief that the universe was made for me to suck.  

This chapter struck me as one that had two authors, more so than the rest of the book. (Alas, my only other copy is the 1989 New Falcon edition.) It seems 1989 Bob felt a need to drop in and add notes to '73 Bob's ideas. Understandable, the mention of the AIDS crisis at the end of one paragraph is an essential update. I'm unsurprised Wilson doesn't say much more about the crises, as he would have been as confused and horrified as the rest of the world with this seemingly unstoppable disease; unlike others, Wilson seemed to prefer not to talk about things he didn't understand. Wilson spent much of his time in the eighties living with Arlen in Ireland, a country where he wouldn't have seen many signs of sexual progress. In America, the Silent Majority backed Reagan's HUAC-toady smile to the forefront of the world's stage and Jerry Falwell's simply toad-like visage to the airwaves as the grim speaking asshole of the Religious Right. Margaret Thatcher ruled as the Iron Lady and despite being a female, wasn't exactly a model of feminism. 

Thatcher's legacy is best summed up in this snippet from the often transcendentally funny Eric Andre Show

Eric Andre: Do you think Margaret Thatcher had girl power?

Mel B (of Spice Girls fame): Yes, of course. 

Eric Andre: Do you think she effectively utilized girl power by funneling money into illegal paramilitary death squads in Northern Ireland?

So, there is probably a reason Wilson saw a need to tidy up his "last words" on the subject, as the state of the world had changed so very drastically. Society had shown new ways to tamp down on Consciousness III, whether through persecution (the War on Drugs) or conversion (a la Jerry Rubin and I imagine many of that generation). While the end of the Cold War was only a couple years off, at the time many felt the world was closer to nuclear warfare than ever before. 

I know I've said this, you've said this, we've all said this on this site and Tom's: I wonder what Bob would think of Now?

Would the "big if" that we need to get past for a rosy future still be "blowing ourselves to hell?" Perhaps. The major powers still have enough nuclear devices to end our civilization; however, the concern over nuclear war is no longer as ubiquitous as it once was. Perhaps that is simply how our monkey-minds have adapted to the ever-looming threat. Yet, we have at least a couple more "big ifs" that we need to somehow hurdle if we are to leave our descendants a happier, if not happy, inheritance. 

First, climate change. While the existential threat of climate change is outside of this book's purview, one could argue that nuclear war was as well and Wilson still felt the need to bring it up. Unlike The Bomb, the red button has already been pushed in this case. If the human race doesn't collectively get our shit together, or more to the point The Powers That Be don't get their shit together, we're fucked three ways till Thursday. Jesus, Fuck. 

Second, our culture---indeed that of the world--is more unstable now than it was at the end of the twentieth century. I was born at "the end of history" and remember vividly how that sentiment came crashing down on September 11th, leading to the slow attrition of sanity that simultaneously accompanied the spread of the Internet. We're still up to our thighs in history and the nightmare isn't over yet. The rise of extremism is a clear and present danger to the welfare of all free peoples. The democratization of information and platforms isn't quite what the classical liberals expected as people are extremely stupid and have poor discrimination facilities. There are no arbiters who seem up to the task of stabilizing the boiled-over pot of our varied identities and our different demands. 

Wilson's distress over a then-recent Supreme Court ruling is completely understandable as our current Supreme Court seems quite intent on sending us back to '72. Wilson would have a bit of revenge by making many of the Puritan Justices' names slang for body parts in Schrodinger's Cat (Mr. Justice Berger's name was the equivalent of shit.)  I'm not sure if there's an ugly enough term to match the name of Barrett. 

But that's why these things are "big ifs." The future is dictated by the past, but the past has a way of constantly shifting from the viewpoint of the present. So, I'll try to look into my obsidian mirror and talk to my better angels: 

I don't see us ever becoming a purely sensualistic culture and seriously doubt that nudism will ever become the cultural norm, at least not as far into time as I can peer. Indeed, I think that some of the things that we view as signs of sexual liberation at the nonce will probably be looked down upon in the future. The Internet of the last two decades has given birth to sexual identities that seem to "harm no one" but still irritate and offend many people when posted for the world to see. Our societal emphasis on kink has led to a world where Dan Savage advised a woman to be thankful her husband was only sexting with his cousin as she needs to expand her notion of monogamy and be thankful he wasn't fucking anyone else. While I am for the LGBT movement, I see the current trend of pasting on whatever letter the new sexual identity demands being laid to rest. The harsh realities of the "real world" are going to hit the children whose sexual identities shift throughout the day like a ton of bricks. The oversaturation of students attending college, and too much academic thought seeping out into broader discourse, in our society will continue to trigger backlash across economic and societal sectors. I see our current education system as unsustainable.

This could end up yielding net positives, though, if sexuality ends up becoming more about private individualism than about a need for public validation, with the added benefit of more elasticity. While I don't think of myself as a prude, I do find myself raising an eyebrow at the public displays of what-really-doesn't-seem-to-be-any-of-my-business-and-I-don't-see-how-I-figure-in. And while I find the screeds of leftist sexuality advocates hysterical, I appreciate a sense of self-determination. Pornography will continue to be pornography. I don't really know if there's a way to put that djinn back in the bottle and I'm not sure I'd want to, despite what I see as an unhealthy influence on our population. I enjoy porn, a term which encompasses everything from de Sade to Aubrey Beardsley to Ron Jeremy to 2Girls1Cup. We all have our degrees of acceptability, and I really don't care about what happens behind closed doors. Despite the conservative movement to instate onanism as a punishable offense, I believe that most people feel about the same: what I don't know, I don't really consider. On the whole, I think my view of the current sexual milieu could be compared to the "Story of Leonard" in Sex, Drugs & Magick (the next book I believe we'll go through on this blog). 

Now, let me describe how to best use your body parts for sex. That part of the chapter struck me as amusing this time through, especially because I'm sure it was educational the first time I read it. Wilson did teach me a lot of things. I did feel that he saved that bit for last as bait to keep the Playboy readers trekking through the book- he finally threw them red meat to accompany the illustrations. 

The meshing of East and West will hopefully continue as the world continues to mesh together. Whether we end up figuring out ways to travel around the world with ease without destroying the environment or have to settle for localized communities connected simply through communication, our cultures will continue to find themselves entangled. Refugee surges will continue, and while they will surely initially lead to all sorts of depredations, as some of the world's governments and societies are forced to grapple with an unceasing tide, and those refugees begin to arrive from different, "novel," parts of the world due to the effects of climate change, the refugees will be integrated into a shifting geopolitical landscape. While I doubt this will lead to some sort of pansocietal tantric attitude towards sex, it will have major influences on our mores and ways of relating to one another, often based around attitudes towards sex and gender. Personally I feel that this will lead to a more liberalized attitude towards sex as those from more conservative societies are forced to deal with the already considerably looser sexual mores of the West. I do not believe that extremism, especially "foreign" extremism, poses much of a threat to liberal societies in terms of ideological takeover. Whether we can beat homegrown extremism and that old time religion is another matter entirely. Assuming that we do, conservative Christians will continue to be conservative Christians and a canker sore on the ass and mouth of society. 

And I think that's as much of a guess that I'm willing to hazard. So no, we probably won't live to see even the foundations of a truly "tactile, pneumatic society, sensually and sensorially oriented," but parts of that society will continue to bleed through into ours. Even now, I sit amongst "rich fabrics, incenses, psychedelic art and the general paraphernalia of Consciousness III," partly due to the author. Wilson was a vector for this particular disease of language, and he certainly infected me. "Now," as Mr. Green says at the (true) end of Clue, "I'm going to go home and sleep with my wife." 

With Wonder Where The Ascent Shall Lead,
Without Lust For Result,
With Laughter and Love, 

A. C. 

Stray Thoughts

I think it is perhaps best that we never find ourselves in the sensualist society of Brave New World, which we should remember is a dystopia. All the more attractive is the island of Pala in Island with their discipline of maithuna. However, Huxley seems to indicate that Pala is able to exist as a small miracle, a miracle that is doomed to flicker out. I try to maintain as much of my own practice of "Tantrik Buddhism" in this sea of confusion. 

I wonder if Wilson wasn't being purposefully gnomic while talking about his experiments with psychedelics, sex and kundalini energy. He gives a markedly different account of these experiments in Cosmic Triggers I and II as well as other books. 

I won't really know when we're beginning Sex, Drugs & Magick until I finish copyediting TSOG. Hopefully I'll have an update within a month. 

It's been Illuminating. Thank you Rasa and Christina, Tom, Oz, Eric and Spookah for your support and massive contributions to my reading experience. And thank you to Adie for proofreading everything for my weird ways of writing. And for your breasts. 

I read the first part of Chapter Seven last night and dreamed of a fragment of a chandelier from my Grandmother's house being very important to a magical operation. This isn't a novel idea but it is a recently reoccurring one. Happily, I have one of the faux-crystal shards with me. When I woke up from the dream I was compelled to look through a journal where I found an unexpected entry about another dream wherein I learned the alternative names of the Sephiroth. At the time I was only able to recall the alternative titles of Chockmah and Binah, respectively Tadull and Harde. Make of this what you will. 

There's a version that is somehow closer to home and my own Magna Mater: 

And, I agree with Wilson's statement in the last couple pages that no matter what else, we do need a little more tenderness in this world: 

Or, if you prefer the Green Man...

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

In Lieu of Substance...

Detail from Bruegel's Desidia

In observance of Labor Day, I did very little this weekend. (Also my daughter was ill, so we had a nice little COVID scare.) We're coming to the end of the book this week so if anyone has any grand, profound pronouncements to say about going through Ishtar Rising this time, be prepared. 

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Ishtar Rising Week Ten: (vernacular for intercourse)


Cardinal Spellman (1946) and Lana Turner (1955): Which would you rather get stuck in an elevator with? 

It's been a long week everyone, first week back in the classroom amidst the continuing COVID chaos. All sorts of contradictory directions and goals- it's good to be back. 

Ishtar Rising Chapter 6: The Breast Expressed and the Breast Possessed 

This is an interesting chapter with a few eyebrow raising ideas; while for the most part I generally find Wilson's anthropological theories in Ishtar Rising compelling, I find myself questioning many of his biological propositions. From the perspective of 2021 it is hard to imagine that there is any weight to the idea that breastfeeding "even helps the vagina return to natural size after childbirth" or that is is statistically likely that there is a real correlation between conventional attractiveness/unattractiveness and intelligence/lack thereof. 

Moreover, this chapter is all about contradictions (as indicated by the chapter's title). The contradictory adulation of female archetypes in patriarchal institutions, the role of sexuality in public and the clash of cultural attitudes are laid out by Wilson as a spin-cycle view of the world. We read about Origen who derided women as "sacks of dung," and who castrated himself, but that mad fool was much gentler in his theology than Augustine or that maniac Clement. Wilson explains how the Athenians, progenitors of democracy, were the first society to make insane sexism a social norm and shows how a few centuries later prudery was alive and well in the satirical poetry of Juvenal- Wilson later portrays the "cheerful Greeks and sentimental Romans" favorably in comparison with Christian societies. We read about how Catholicism kept the Cult of Mary, and therefore the mother-goddess, alive while the Protestants violently rejected her, and yet the Catholic Church is the great malefactor throughout this narrative. 

Furthermore, Blake's philosophy, which Wilson cheekily endorses at the beginning of the chapter, could be accurately described as ultra-Protestantism. I have encountered this paradox before as having grown up primarily with Protestants, and "non-denominational" ultra-Protestants at that, and as a child I developed a hearty distaste for Luther's spawn. And yet I agree with many of the early Protestants in their critiques of the church and even their draconian theology. While I loathe Calvin and believe he cast a black shadow over humanity that is still unassuaged, I find myself implicitly agreeing with predestination. I do believe that if either "God" is omnipotent and omniscient or if Einsteinian space-time is in fact a different dimension than the one we perceive, it is a given that our ends are writ. I adore the fiery visions of Bunyan but disagree with his Christian bigotry; I adore the idea of a Nation of Saints and shudder when I read about Cromwell. But I digress... 

Wilson's musings on Lazarus' poem and his addendum "And we'll send them right back where they came from" is especially timely as we are faced with yet another refugee crises of our own making. The United States is founded on such lofty ideals and we fail them so very often. Reading Wilson agonize over the, at the time of publication, still-fresh Vietnam war while watching in horror at the immediate legacy of our occupation of Afghanistan is all the more poignant. We really don't learn much and we ping-pong our cultural consciousness between a childish desire to be admirable (our "City on a Hill") and our natural selfish, small-minded true selves. Looking again at Afghanistan, where we should never have been in the first place, and the reimplementation of oppression by the Taliban we can see yet another form of godawful patriarchy reasserting itself with a fury that Jack the Ripper could only envy. What little good we've done, unraveled in days. 

Cycles. Having gone to brunch earlier today I was able to make some contemporary observations. (My observations were helped by a new found inability to not look around at other people while dining. I hate it but it seems to have developed over the pandemic.) I saw very little repression in anyone's state of dress, male or female. People's dress ranged from looking as if they had rolled out of bed to looking ready for a day about town. There was plenty of skin, which makes sense considering the ninety-degree weather. Our society is as contradictory as ever--witness the recent OnlyFans debacle--but clothing freedom seems to continue apace. 

So I end this chapter with a lot of questions. What are we to make of cultural breast modifications? Is it a good thing or merely another way women's bodies are controlled by societal pressures? Should breasts be exposed to venom and stinging nettles? How conscious was Eleanor of Aquitaine of the symbolic significance of her ride through Jerusalem? How consciously has any of this shadow war been fought through the ages? Are we marionettes controlled by our own preconceptions, conditions and unconsciousness? Whose doing what? Was Ovid kicked out of Rome for vegetarianism? Was the heart chakra truly repressed? Are women with breast-implants "plasticized" and unnatural? 

At certain points Wilson seems to be just as confused as I was- his discussion of discrimination and sexism seems like it wouldn't be out of place in a contemporary "intersectional" model until he throws up his hands in frustration with the Woman's Liberationists. The colors are beginning to run together. 

Stray Thoughts 

To answer Wilson's question: Blake's trees, in comparison to Van Gogh's, would have been populated by choirs of angels if his childhood vision at Peckham Rye is anything to go by. 

While I think I somewhat understand what Wilson was hitting at at the lack of accurate terminology for describing breasts, I'm not sure how much actual use Max Bartels' 48 types would actually be. Considering my wife's response was "Jesus Christ" when I read the classification system to her, I'm not sure she sees any point to it either. 

After I read the quote by Lord McCauley, I am now certain there will be a gravity denialism movement soon. We don't seem to even need a financial interest to discredit reality today.  

I agree with Wilson and have always insisted that the aphorism "in the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king" to be incredibly fatuous. The one-eyed man is going slowly insane. The one-eyed monster reigns supreme. 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Ishtar Rising Week Nine: In Defense of Melting Pearls

from Robert Crumb's The Book of Genesis (2009) A true masterpiece. Recommended. 

 Ishtar Rising Chapter Five: The Return of the Repressed

My reading experience of this chapter was mostly Wilson preaching to the Choir. Even Wilson's specifically anti-Catholic stance echoed my current concerns about papist morality in what-should-be a secular society. 

Do you want to know why I have such an animus against Christians? 

The reasons are far too numerous and subjective to go into at any length. Suffice to say, for now, that it's Christians' attitudes towards sex and the fact that they are incredibly, bafflingly bad at reading. When I was a child I was embarrassed and irritated by the "waiting for marriage" crowd, even as a virgin. When I started having sex, and realized that, to me, it was a profound, lovely and intoxicating mode of existence, I grew to hate the minions of the pulpit even more. While many people find it funny, I would be driven into a rage anytime I heard a Christian friend or acquaintance argue that mutual masturbation, oral or anal sex didn't break "God's" commandments. Foul and ridiculously silly hypocrisy. I was disgusted when I found out a Christian friend tortured himself for months trying not to masturbate (but he still found time to talk about it incessantly). I wanted to vomit every time I heard someone who was obviously gay preach the foul drivel they'd been taught. I didn't feel pity. I felt revulsion. 

That isn't very compassionate. And in my more sentimental, calm or enlightened states of mind I can feel empathy for the psycho-sexual torture these people have experienced or continue to subject themselves to- so why the anger? Christians are fucking stupid. Jesus Christ, they are dumb. 

Wilson talks at length about the late-nineteenth and twentieth century obsession with masturbation as if was something new. While many people years before didn't go so far as to produce male chastity belts...oh wait, they mutilated their genitals to reduce sexual pleasure so they could think about "God" more a thousand-or-so years before that. The Abrahamic dislike of one of the few, almost-entirely-pleasurable bodily functions is derived from the story of Onan in Genesis. While I'm not going to go into the details at the moment (you're more than welcome to consult your Gideon's Bible) it is a hyper-specific story about God wanting a guy (ole' Onan) to father a child with his brother's widow. He pulls out and "spills his seed." God waxes sorely pissed and kills him. 

And somehow that means that touching yourself is evil and that every sperm is sacred. Now, I'll confess that I've only read a little bit of the theological justifications for this leap pole-vault of logic but they were as, if not more, empty than I expected. The gullibility and the idiocy have never ceased to astound. 

While I dislike Christianity, I do love the dubious collection of late-antiquarian myths dubbed The Holy Bible. I think it is brilliant, disturbing and fulfilling in a way that at least justifies its popularity. And so as I was nodding along with Wilson I was jarred and annoyed to find myself disagreeing strongly with him. 

It's a small passage, but since this post has already become a rant, I'll persist. Wilson claims that adultery can be "beneficial" in some circumstances. I'm willing to say: this is untrue. In a speech from the last ten years, the poet and farmer Wendell Berry discussed his belief that, as a Christian, homosexuality was a non-issue. As an almost passing remark, Berry makes the observation that if Christianity should be obsessed with any sexual behavior, the one most reviled in their holy book, adultery should always take center stage. This is correct from a reading comprehension point of view. (I will grant the only translation of the Bible I've read continually has been the King James.) In this case, I agree strongly with the Bible. As someone who has cheated and been cheated on, only poison fruits come from roots fed on betrayal. (Please understand that I'm not advocating stoning, and I do believe that the bibble also says something about revenge belonging to the Lord anyways, and I admire many people who had their foibles. I am not perfect, by any stretch.) 

Anyhow, the point of all this is to say I like tits and touching myself and it's my hot body I do what I want, except cheat. 

Perhaps the Matter Above Should Be the Stray Thoughts

I have always been baffled at the idea that there is such a thing as "breast fetishism." I personally agree with Wilson and Brown that the biological-evolutionary evidence points towards the homo sapiens' breasts as being erogenous zones. I've always been of the opinion that I am not a legs, tits or ass "man," I truly hate those terms, but rather, if I have to play the shitty game I'm a "face" man. I have to think someone is pretty to find them attractive. We all have our switches. 

The Hayes Code was a bit of historical madness of which I wish I had a better grasp. In The Celluloid Closet, Gore Vidal states that Will Hayes' most distinguished achievement aside from the Motion Picture Production Code was looking strikingly like Mickey Mouse

(Typing this next sentence felt like a MadLibs.) I guess Larry David got into a pissing match with Alan Dershowitz in Martha's Vineyard. Here's a scene from Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry's natural response to Sophia Loren turns tragic: 

I really love Lenny Bruce. However, aside from passages in books and listening to his albums on YouTube, I have very few resources to engage with someone who might have been one of the greatest comedians of all time. If anyone has any biographical recommendations or other resources, I'd be most grateful. 

Monday, August 16, 2021

Ishtar Rising Week Nine

 Apologies for taking the past week off. Its the end of Summer and everyone is miserable around our house fighting allergies and getting ready for the year. We'll be back on Thursday.


Sunday, August 8, 2021

Ishtar Rising Week Eight: I Think I See God


Hilariously, one of the precepts of courtly love, taken from Ovid, is simply: "not forgetting her birthday." 

Ishtar Rising Chapter Four Part II: "Mammary Metaphysics" (Hilaritas Press edition pg. 118-138) 

My tone so far has been too cynical concerning this chapter. My dislike of a certain strain of historical revisionism blinded me to the rosy-fingered dawn of Wilson's writing. I forgot this was the chapter where he won my heart. At least, when I've read Ishtar Rising, this is where I am caught hook-line-sinkerI am grateful for our slow pace, and even for my indolence and equivocating before publishing these posts, they have given me time to digest what I once devoured. Soon, on Rawillumination, we will discuss the chapters concerning the Fifth Circuit in Prometheus Rising, and in a footnote to this chapter Wilson hints at his chapter on Marijuana from the similarly Playboy-published Sex, Drugs and Magick: there is no coincidence, only synchronicity. All of these texts echo a purer strain of delusion than the rest of our beloved author's oeuvre; all of this is the wild and raw bog of Magic we find ourselves stepping through. Wilson the Magician has drawn us into his web of gorgeous sophistries and the shadow of doubt, he has begun to cast his golden spell.  

Beginning with his discussion of Eleanor of Aquitaine and the development of Romantic Love, Wilson provides us with a secret history of oralist values in Western Civilization. Naturally, Wilson connects the European strains of this oral esotericism with Sufism, Tantra and Daoism of the East. This is the generally accepted historiography of the what some call the Western Esoteric Tradition writ small and Wilson seems to hint that all of magic, my preferred term, is connected to the oral-sexual-gentle tradition(s). Given the key appearances of occult darlings such as Giordano Bruno, Shakespeare's magicians and Thomas Vaughan, it is easy to see that there is very little difference between the oral underground and the general history of happy heretics. While uniquely European magical traditions survived through Gnostic fragments and herblore, much of what makes up the Western Tradition is based on migrations of Eastern thought. Given that most late antiquarian magical sources came from the cultural crossroads of the Mediterranean, making a distinction is all the more difficult. 

The Albigensian Crusade, along with the Battle of White Mountain that kickstarted the Thirty Year's War, stands out as an abject atrocity that is rarely acknowledged. The black marks against the Catholic Church in history are manifold. It is easy for me to be discomforted while reading and thinking about this chapter but instead I find myself admiring the tenacity and ingenuity of the troubadours and alchemists. Heresy seems to be stronger than dogma, considering the latter's fantastically obsessive and cruel attempts to destroy the latter. I think that is a heartening note and leads us into the next chapter and "The Return of the Repressed." 

Stray Thoughts 

Dante, like most authors, has a contradicting legacy in the oral/anal model; while he obviously adored Beatrice and had a strong bent for self-examination (a quality I'm claiming for the oralists), our modern conception of Hell, that most anal of ideas, is derived primarily upon his Inferno. (And some wildly ridiculous interpretations of passages from John of Patmos' dizzy little book when you're talking with fundamentalist Christians.)

Personally, I believe that Prospero was obviously based on Dr. John Dee, whose life story would have been known to Shakespeare, at least through rumor. Alan Moore makes an excellent case for this interpretation in "Between the Angels and the Apes" from Strange Attractor Journal No. 4. I believe Frances Yates also discusses this possible inspiration for the Duke of Milan, along with Bruno, and Harold Bloom mentions Dee in passing in his Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. Dee's magical experiments with Edward Kelley occasionally had a strong sexual flavor with the angels famously telling the men to share their wives between them- either that or Kelley was putting his own sexual peccadillos into the angels' mouths. Dee, a devout man despite his scientific and magical proclivities, did not benefit from these developments. 

According to a recent article from Vice, always a reliable journalistic source, sperm retention is alive and well on Reddit. I can still remember reading Eliphas Levi or Crowley, I forget which, and first running across the notion of "gymnosophists" being able to siphon their sperm back into their urethra. As an adolescent, this was a hilarious notion and I still can't take it seriously. And while I'm skeptical of the benefits of sperm retention, Vaughan's point stands and sex magic doesn't occur in three minutes. 

(A translation of Vidal's poem can be found here.) 

The Truly Dangerous Book For Boys and Girls

  Sex, Drugs, and Magick will regenerate February 28th.  8pm Sharp