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!


  1. Happy birthday. Nice post. Orpheus makes me think of The Sandman comics. I have a 70’s hardcover of this Wilson book. I loved Morrison’s Doom Patrol and Invisibles. - EW

  2. I reread Grant Morrison's intro late Wednesday night to prepare for this first post and found statements to agree with and disagree with.

    I do think his main point is correct -- that Playboy just wanted text to provide an excuse to publish a book with a bunch of bare breasts, and Wilson subverted both the intent of the publisher and of many of the readers by giving anyone who actually read the text something to think about.

    But I also think Morrison paints too dark a picture of how the Internet has affected sex by focusing solely on porn. It's seems like a fact, for sombunall of us, that the Internet has made it easier to get together with others and form relationships, sometimes long-term relationships.

    Why are you not a fan of Grant Morrison?

  3. @Eric- Thank you for the birthday wishes! It's been a long time since I read Sandman.

    @Tom- It's an odd hypocrisy on my part- I met my wife over the Internet and I still think that the rise of social media and pornography has harmed the romance/sexuality of the world. I never thought I'd really be against pornography- I revel in historical porn (I was reading de Sade, Aubrey Beardsley's Under the Hill, Venus in Furs and Guillaume Apollinaire in high school.) and am disgusted, or at least not titillated, with the state of pornography today. So I found myself agreeing with Morrison. While it has made long term relationships and meeting people easier, it has also made human sexual interaction into something tawdry, cheap and sometimes violent.

    The easiest answer about Morrison is that I am an Alan Moore fundamentalist and Morrison's one-sided feud with the King of the Cats irritates me. I wasn't particularly impressed with The Invisibles when I read it and I'm not much of a fan of the "mainstream" titles he has penned. He also copied off of Moorcock and pissed him off.

    Thank you both for joining me here. You're great friends.

  4. Thank you for starting this new reading group, Apuleuis.

    I am a bit further in the book already and, in the first chapter particularly, the text shows sign of its age with RAW’s frequent interjections such as "grok this, O my brother". I find it a tad forced, and unlike his subsequent writing style.

    I recently started to read The Invisibles and like it so far. It's fun to spot the numerous references.
    I totally agree that Grant Morisson foreword here is excellent, and very well written.

    I would say that a reason that makes GM a good person to introduce this particular book, apart from the connections to RAW through the interest in magick, is the fact that they identify as non-binary and gender queer. Those expressions weren't quite as common back when the book was written as they are now. Rather than matriarchy taking over patriarchy, the rise of Ishtar in our modern world seems to be translating in a blurring of the boundaries between male and female. I personally find this much more interesting, as it feels inclusive, and even in keeping with Discordian ideas. Seen from this angle at least, I'd say that in the 50 years since the publication of the book Ishtar has clearly been rising in the consciousness of western society.

    There is a transgender DJ called Eris Drew, who aims at "dissolving boundaries and models", and "find each other".

    Finally, between the Sun City Girls and Betty Davis, I can only applaud your impeccable choice of music.
    Looking forward to the following week with this group.

  5. @Spookah Thank you for joining us! I have to admit I'm enough of a Sixties/Sci-Fi nerd that whenever I hear someone use the word "grok," it might sound incongruous but it always makes me smile. I've been known to include it in my vocabulary from time to time. While I can see how it dates the book, and certainly seems purposeful, I like the flair of the times.

    I really like what you have to say about the blending of genders. I think that is an excellent way to view the Aeon of the Child. Excellent commentary.

    I appreciate we like some of the same music. I hope I won't let you down when next week's post is simply "All Star."

  6. Thanks for opening this discussion, Apuleuis. I read Ishtar Rising recently, it's a good one for putting under magnification and digging in to. I have some commentary on it in a piece I'm just finishing for the RAW Day zine. I enjoyed the opening Divine Comedy reference too.

    I liked Morrison's writing style and viewpoint in their intro. I don't know their other work.

    Arguably the most culturally significant pop music group in our times = the Beatles. Along with George Martin, they became known for their meticulously crafted songs and artistic studio productions particularly in their last five years after they stopped touring. The very last piece of music on their final studio recording as a group (Abbey Road turned up as completely unplanned "mistake." An out take piece of tape ended up on the control room floor. Paul McCartney told an assistant engineer to throw it away. The assistant disobeyed him figuring that ANY recording by the Beatles too valuable to throw away. For some unknown, logic-defying reason, this assistant decided to splice the rejected tape at the end of their Side B Master reel thinking he left enough space between the end of the last official song (called The End) and this, formerly destined for the junk heap scrap of tape, so that the mastering engineer would know where to stop. When they went to cut the vinyl, the mastering engineer either wasn't paying attention, or didn't realize where to stop. Everyone felt surprised when this little bit of music showed up after their climatic ending. They all loved it so kept it on. The original release didn't even have the title of it, Her Majesty listed on the cover making it a surprise for everyone. It reminds me of Ishtar Rising:
    "Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl but she doesn't have a lot to say.
    Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl but she changes from day to day.
    I want to tell her that I love her a lot but I got a gut a belly full of wine.
    Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl and someday I'm going to make her mine, oh yeah, someday I'm going to make her mine.

  7. I'd say that, more than the use of the word grok, I feel awkward about RAW calling the reader "my brother". But perhaps rather than just hip hippie slang it could be more of a way to put the Playboy crowd at ease before melting their mind? As if, writing nowadays, he'd say "bro"? I'm curious to see how this will evolve throughout the book.

    I used to dislike Her Majesty, seeing it as a sort of audio fart after a perfect ending for the album AND their recorded studio output. But I changed my mind over time and decided it feels like a fitting joking ending, maybe in keeping with their sense of humour (Lennon's in particular). I was not familiar with the whole anecdote behind it, thank you Oz Fritz.

  8. @Oz- I did not know that! I liked Her Majesty quite a bit as a kid. I feel we're always indebted to those who rejected artists' wishes and preserved their work. I'm glad you'll be with us.

    @Spookah- the idea of RAW using "bro" made my laugh, thank you.

  9. I purchased & read the Hilaritas Press version last year, so why not jump into this reading group a couple weeks after it started?

    I too enjoyed Morrison's intro & agree with his assessment of porn (at least the internet version of it):

    'The ubiquitous internet pornography that has rendered magazines like Playboy all-but obsolete has surely demystified the body & the physicality of sexual behavior in ways that Wilson might initially applaud, but there appears to be a cost in human connectivity-- an upswing in the general acceptance & availability of strong porn goes hand-in-hand job with a decline in not only intimacy, but sperm counts, & testosterone levels.

    'Porn's gonzo tendency towards the sadistic, & scatological where the impulse is to rejoice in degradation, rumination & cruelty, speaks more to our demonic, power-craving anal component than to the angelic aspect of our nature as humans.'(xix-xx)

    Technology has certainly cast a huge shadow over everything but also shedding a lot of light on things we might not want to see...


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