Sunday, June 27, 2021

The Derpsichorean Muse: Wilson's 1989 Preface to Secrets of Western Tantra

Sallie Ann Glassman's cover art for the 1989 Editions of Hyatt's Secrets of Western Tantra and Wilson's Ishtar Rising 

Contrary to the ubiquitous adage, the cover is often a decent place to begin one's investigation of a book. We can see that the reissue of Wilson's The Book of the Breast, now titled Ishtar Rising and Hyatt's first printing of  Secrets of Western Tantra were released during the same year: a one-two punch to the stuffed shirts of the Old Aeon- a magical EpiPen to combat the anaphylaxis of patrist reality tunnels. Both issues are graced with watercolor bodyscapes from the Proprietress of Island of Salvation Botanica and Tarot artist, Sallie Ann Glassman. The volumes appear to be a set; perhaps a sign of an alliance between Dr. Wilson's Theory and Dr. Hyatt's Practice. Speculation aside, I wish to go over Wilson's Preface to Secrets of Western Tantra as it was almost certainly penned at the same time as Wilson's Introduction to the 1989 Edition of Ishtar Rising. The Preface and the Introduction overlap and compliment each other; after digging up Hyatt's volume, it seems it would be an oversight on my part to forget the former. 

I forgot to cover Wilson's mention of Graves' The White Goddess in his Introduction to Ishtar Rising. Graves' study of a supposed pre-Christian goddess religion is alluring, but, as the fantasist John Crowley (no relation) points out- entirely factitious. Akin to Margaret Murray's anthropological studies and Gardner's Wicca, the matriarchal poetess-goddess of Graves' mostly existed on the back of the skull, projected by the twentieth century's fantasia of revisionist spirituality. However, this reader will note that after years of wrestling with magic and metaphor that the shadows on the cave wall are occasionally caused by travelers in the background of the puppeteers. And just who exactly are these mummer-goalers anyways? Wilson says with uncharacteristic conviction that he knew, when he first read Graves' book of lies, that his songs came from Her- the goddess who was and is a real as Haggard's 'She' or Ida Craddock's spectral beau(s). 

I can relate. 

Like Wilson, I read Graves' The White Goddess while in high school, it was one of the few books I read in the school's library. I was enchanted and while I didn't believe Graves' line of bullshit, I desperately wanted to. When I first read the 'Binah' issue of Alan Moore's Promethea, my breath was taken away when I flipped to the splash page with BABALON looking down upon our supplicant protagonists, Dr. Dee and the City of Pyramids. After I first read Joyce's improved pater nostra in Wilson's Prometheus Rising I order Finnegans Wake and began reading it the following week and said the prayer faithfully before rising and retirement. I still say it to this day. Wilson's Preface has already become whirlwind of magical prose that matches or surpasses the Introduction to Ishtar Rising

I always admired Wilson's first essay, "The Semantics of 'God'," perhaps because it confirmed my sophistry that God should be referred to strictly as an 'it,' never a male or female. I'm also very immature and love the prolonged, contra-Jesuit spiel considering the dimensions of God's dick. 

(I would also like to refer anyone who believes that Wilson would have been amused, enthusiastic or positive about the so-called Intellectual Dark Web, the alt right or the conspiratorial thinking of the modern era to the little summation of Illuminatus! that our author provides on pg. 12 or Secrets of Western Tantra: " was the Great Goddess, in her most mischievous form as Eris (deity of confusion and chaos), who rises at the climax to strike down the neo-Nazi villains." Let us pray to the One False Goddess that the tide of shit falls down upon the fascists.

Wilson goes on to discuss a synchronicity between the first part of his Preface and George Washington. While I don't find it as remarkable as Wilson did in 1989, I had been a Deist for a few years before reading Wilson after all, I do approve of the use of "Providence" in place of "God." I believe it is a more accurate framing of our whatever-the-Creator-may-be. I will go ahead and raise my eyebrow at Wilson's hyperbolic statement that Washington may be "the" main character of Nature's God. There is no way that is true; while Washington is certainly one of the more striking characters in Nature's God, as described by Seamus Muadhen, Sigismundo's struggle with Miskasquamish/himself is the clear center of the narrative. Or perhaps Wilson's fiction has no "center" to the narratives... 

Fragments of Thought 

I used to smirk when I read about Masonic and Illuminati fears of Catholicism, the Black Brothers of Rome and the Papacy. Now I think differently. 

 I can also say, with all honesty, that I meditated deeply upon how King Kong would have sex with Fay Ray (it involved a Vaseline-covered sheet) as a child. Perhaps that should be a formal technique for liberation. 

As Uncle Bob mentions Arnold Toynbee in this Preface, I would like to take this time to recommend Ray Bradbury's story "The Toynbee Convector." It is by far my favorite of Bradbury's vast oeuvre and one of the best examples of Utopian fiction in existence. 

Wilson goes full-throttle and (to mix metaphors) the crescendo to his Preface is sudden and loud. Wilson talked up Hyatt's work in a quite a few of his New Falcon-era publications. Commercial or philosophical symbiosis aside, RAW is an ebullient and convincing carnival-barker for Secrets of Western Tantra. I look forward to rereading and reworking the book; our friend Oz has provided it with his 'thumbs up' which is a pretty good heading to follow. 

Whether made-up wholesale or a chthonian fount of femininity, Wilson's life demonstrates the worth of submission to Her. Wasn't he blessed to burn forever, in Her Ecstasy? 

"...the hour is too late for caution, hermeticism or concealment, all of which have become the habits of the Old Aeon's dying Establishment in seats of power everywhere. The only truly revolutionary act today is to tell the truth about everything." - Robert Anton Wilson, April 16th 1989

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Ishtar Rising Week Two: Children of Hermes

Inanna, Goddess of Heaven and Earth Who Descended Into Hell for God-Knows-What Reason

Wilson’s Introduction to the 1989 Edition

Dante based his famous beginning around the Biblical idea that the lifetime of humanity is 75 years. Having been born during the Middle Ages, Dante was lucky to reach his late fifties. Dante’s line is much more famous than his actual biography and as it prefaces the introduction to a book about symbolism, his poetic fallacy can be forgiven.

By 1989, and at this point established with New Falcon Press, Wilson was done with whatever opacity of purpose he had adopted for the earlier Playboy Press editions. The first part of his introduction makes it very clear that this is a book about magic, subversion and myth. I had actually read Wolkstein’s Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth  before I picked up Ishtar Rising which was at the time out of print and somewhat expensive. Alan Moore incorporates the Ishtar/Inanna myth into one of the best issues of his Promethea series, and while Moore is obviously erudite enough to have been exposed to the Ishtar myth long before reading Wilson, this reader can’t help but suggest that Wilson’s repetitive mentions of the myth had something to do with Moore believing it to have been such an important magical allegory. 

As such, Wilson begins his introduction with an explanation of why this story resonated so deeply within him as emphatically as he ever writes elsewhere. (The raw self-reflection that Wilson demonstrates in this chapter, coupled with his usual elan, makes me firmly believe that this piece of writing is a “true” Robert Anton Wilson.) The Underground Journey, he points out, is present in almost all of his work; his characters are repeatedly made to spend seasons in Hell to better understand themselves and the world. By the end of the first part of his introduction his earnestness and passion remind me of his wonderful poem, “Lawrence Talbot Suite:” 

My werewolf heart is pierced at last

By the silver bullet of the Lady’s gaze

I am the Beast the Lady rides
I am the stars that are in her hair. 

(Versions of the poem can be found in The Illuminati Papers and Masks of the Illuminati.) 

The second part of the introduction provides a solid foundational theory to the magic alluded to in part one by building upon Welles’ F for Fake. Wilson would later expand on the analysis presented here in Cosmic Trigger II (I believe, it could have been CT III) in what may be one of the most interesting writings on film that I’ve ever read. The earlier version here is just as satisfying, if not more compact. Luckily F for Fake is no longer as obscure as it was when Wilson was writing in the late Eighties. It’s been released by the Criterion Collection and is one of the few Welles films I’ve watched multiple times. (It’s a great film to watch when you’re lonely as it feels, at least to me, like one big, fucked-up party.) 

Wilson writes with more flair in these few pages about F for Fake and Welles in general than I could ever hope to. I don’t have much to add aside from how fascinating the film and its subject matter really is; Clifford Irving’s career is as bizarre as anyone could ask for and he managed to draw in two of the biggest enigmas of the twentieth century- one famous, one made famous by Welles’ film. Howard Hughes was a hugely consequential kook who will reappear in this narrative as the patron, and possible exploiter, of Jayne Mansfield’s formidable bosoms. El Mir, after my repeat sessions with Fake, might be my favorite artist of the 20th Century- I would love to have one of his Modiglianis. The theory of art presented in the second part of the introduction (which is very much in line with the movements of cubism, Dada and surrealism that Wilson uses to buttress Welles’ film and philosophy) is perhaps the grand artistic tradition of the twentieth. Wilson’s mastery of art theory is as impressive as any of his intellectual accomplishments and shouldn’t be understated. Wilson, being Wilson, also draws in Joyce and Crowley to augment his overview of Art. (The joke of Crowley’s is beloved by me not only because of its original appearance in Magick in Theory and Practice but its appearance in Wilson and Moore’s works.) 

It is surprising to me that Wilson didn’t receive any messages from magicians or truth-seekers on account of Ishtar Rising. In fact, I would hold up Wilson’s earliest titles, namely The Sex Magicians, Sex, Drugs and Magick, and The Book of the Breast/Ishtar Rising as books that still drip with magic. Wilson also does a little of the work of later interlocutors by acknowledging his bitterness against the “Women’s Lib” Movement at the time of the original authorship. He notes himself that the book was written during a time when “everyone was a little nuts” and that his views had changed by the time the New Falcon edition was published. But he notes, like other commentators, that his writing was a product of its times and opts to keep most of his original work intact. In an act of Wilsonian wit and irony, our Man uses Christ’s call to his Father as an end to his introduction to a work on the Female Godhead. 

I think we’ll reserve his 1973 Introduction for next week as there’s plenty to unpack there as well. I am looking forward to what everyone has to say! 

Monday, June 21, 2021

What Does This All Mean?

 No clue. 

Yet, we can try to conjecture along with Robert Anton Wilson and the Eternality known occasionally as Inanna, Ishtar, Persephone and even that sissy Christ as they descend into Hell and rise again. 

Join us Thursday to discuss Wilson's introductions to the 1973 and 1989 editions! 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Ishtar Rising Week One: Invisible Progress

Scan of an old Playboy paperback of Ishtar Rising, originally The Book of the Breast, provided by the magnificent Rasa and the illustrious Christina Wilson of Hilaritas Press

Howdy, friends and foes! (Stolen from Ada Palmer, but doesn’t it seem like an excellent greeting for the Internet?)

Today is the Feast of St. Molly of Dublin; the 117th Anniversary of Mrs. Bloom’s grand, ranting soliloquy after her Husband asked for breakfast. June 17th is also occasionally proposed as the date of the Wake and this day happens to be the 69th (nice) anniversary of the time Jack Whiteside Parsons blew himself to hell and the date of Yr. humble Narrator’s nativity. Hopefully an auspicious day to begin our clamber out of Hell, following the ascending thighs of She. Venus Callipyge as the guide from Inferno instead of Beatrice in Heaven, or Virgil going in the Other Direction. 

This is dovestamemoria; think of it as Rawillumination After Dark. I started this blog so this reading group wouldn’t confuse the order of the Prometheus Rising reading group on Tom’s mothership. This isn’t a competing group but rather a survey-on-the-side of another excellent RAW title; something entirely different than the slow feasting-digestion that Prometheus Rising deserves. I am your host: Apuleius Charlton, Rarebit Fiend, Logreus...the other name I don't use online anymore.

The progression of the reading group doesn’t need to be complicated- after this week’s discussion of Morrison’s foreword we’ll be reading/discussing the two introductions, then we’ll proceed to read/discuss a chapter per week afterwards. Now that I think the housekeeping has been taken care of, let’s proceed to the latest introduction, exclusive to the Hilaritas Press edition, by comics legend and magician Grant Morrison.

Foreword to the Foreword by Grant Morrison for the 2020 Edition

I’m not a Grant Morrison fan. That’s okay, they have plenty of other fans including many people whose opinions I respect and whose ideas I admire; our own Bobby Campbell and Marcus Parks of Last Podcast fame are both enamored with Morrison’s The Invisibles. Morrison’s contribution to bringing “nerdiness” and comics back to their mythological origins cannot easily be understated. A good choice to introduce Wilson’s early (book length) examination of myth and reality. I will do my best to comment, but I expect the rest of you will find more salient points to be made. Let’s get on with it: 

Foreword by Grant Morrison for the 2020 Edition 

The note by Hilaritas Press is worth...noting. I assume many readers of this missive have a beat-up New Falcon edition of Ishtar is very different from the original Book of the Breast, not only because of Wilson’s editing but because the nature of republication often mimics the original work imperfectly, if not inaccurately. Rasa, Cristina and the Crew That Never Rests have taken it upon themselves to restore the original illustrations and format. Their effort has certainly not been in vain and the Hilaritas Press outdid themselves- this is a gorgeous publication that titillates all sensibilities. If you don’t own one, you really should avail yourself of this lovely volume. If nothing else, you can use it for masturbation material after a solar flare takes out the Internet.   

Morrison’s introduction, like a couple (at least) of the other Hilaritas Introduction mentions that the title and the author’s attitude(s) were a result of its/his times. While the statement is by no means untrue, it does bring a wry smile to my lips every time I read it. Not because it is obvious, but because it is necessary. I think it is partly necessary because of the nature of Wilson’s writing. He was an enthusiastic futurist and loved making predictions based on the scientific and other trends of his day. Like most futurists and prophets, he was often wrong. This causes a bit of lag in the translation of his ideas across the tides of time: I suffered a serious hangover after I first read Cosmic Trigger when I realized that the book that had blown my mind was simply wrong about so many things. Life expectancy is going down and all that shit. That takes awhile to reconcile, especially after starry-eyed worship. Secondly, it is necessary to make statements like that in the world of recent history. I don’t know how I feel about the changing rhetoric of the day; whether it is simply rational context or irritating kowtowing. Either way, Ishtar Rising, or The Book of the Breast, is a product of its times- Morrison’s foreword and this post are products of our times. 

In short, Morrison’s foreword is Excellent. They articulate how Wilson’s text was a product of its times, something beyond its day and relevant to the readers of the nascent 21st Century. Morrison does it with style and acid (in the Hoffman sense) ink. Great Stuff. Morrison also makes the important point of the hyper-sexual/unsexy World of Tomorrow. Pornography is largely demoralizing and while we are doused with tits, slits and dicks the current sexuality seems to be contrasted between a cry for help and seeking the next fix. The foreword reminds me of Higgs’ accurate, if dismaying, chapter on 'Sex' from Stranger Than We Can Imagine; while sexual liberation began with a yearning for communion, today’s tawdry sexual market is not that different from the prudish-surface/morlockian kink underground of the past. We’re not exactly the matrist paradise of unrestrained sexuality that Wilson hoped for, the current panorama isn’t even the stylish, intellectual and deeply sexist bacchanal that Hefner desired. We’re more like the party goers in Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut- masquerading at being sexual but instead looking incredibly awkward and dumb. Who the fuck thinks a bunch of rich people and a Scientologist makes a good orgy anymore? This isn’t the late 40s. 

Perhaps the pure matrist ideals of Ishtar Rising “failed” in part because the dawn of the matriarchal age is now four thousand years in the past. According to Uncle Al, The Isian Age preceded the Osirian Age which ended around the Vernal Equinox of 1904. We are currently in the later dawn of the Age of Horus, somewhere around 8AM perhaps, when the Child comes forth. There isn’t a whole lot of Male/Female to truck with in this new and terrible Aeon but rather the Individual, the Child. Considering that the world of today does look like a giant, violent, overcrowded crib- Crowley might have been correct. I intended on ending this post talking about the end of the tunnel of COVID-19 and the hope that we are ascending with Innana to a better world. However, I have to agree with Morrison that She is probably still in negotiations. 

But, I’m a hopeless fool and will structure this as if She is ascending and We are following. Perhaps Eurydice won’t fail Orpheus. Excelsior, True Believers!

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