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


  1. Interesting post. I love Phil Farmer’s story “After King Kong Fell”. I like Robert Graves’s ideas more than you do.

  2. @Eric- that sounds like a fun story. Is it an official part of the Wold Newton Universe?

    I agree that I come across as disrespectful towards Graves in the post, but that is the way that I talk about a lot of the writers I love. I did desperately want to believe Graves' work but my understanding of history (pre-history?) prevented me from buying in wholesale. I'm not opposed to the idea that there was/were examples of matriarchal religion(s) but the structured histories that Wiccans and academics produced before and in the aftermath of The White Goddess are ridiculous. Much too self-serious and obsessed with "historical" reality. I cringe anytime I hear the term "the Burning Times."

  3. I find it a nice synch that RAW would on one hand recommend reading Secrets of Western Tantra in his introduction of Ishtar Rising, while he suggests Undoing Yourself from Hyatt as well in chapter 4 of Prometheus Rising, where we are this month.
    Christopher S. Hyatt Rising ?
    I will probably be reading both in the following weeks, but will start with Wilson's intro just to deepen the context of IR.

    Related to both 'going to Hell' and Orson Welles, I'd like to recommend the film Malpertuis (from the director Harry Kümel of Daughters of Darkness fame). Classic 70's European arthouse, you get Welles as the puppet master in bed while the main character is going through some kind of Chapel Perilous.

    I find myself short of time to answer all the great posts here, but the discussions so far are very interesting.

  4. Well, it has Doc Savage showing up after Kong fell.

  5. Well Spookah, that film sounds like something that I've been waiting for a decent part of my life. Reading the synopsis makes it sound amazing! Malpertius, here I come. I've always read about Daughter of Darkness and never bothered to look deeper. Along with Eric's Jose Farmer story, I've got some work to do.

    Welles and Occultism go well together. Black Magic, which I wrote about for "Nature's God" and later watched was fantastic! The recent "Lives of the Great Occultists" compellation of Hunt Emerson and Kevin Jackson's strips for Fortean Times makes an entertaining case for considering Welles a dyed-in-the-wool occultist.

  6. @Eric- and The Shadow, from what I've read! Arlen Riley knows...

  7. I have always meant to read "The White Goddess." I've read a bunch of Graves' novels and his two volume work on Greek myths. I read "Graves' line of bullshit" as affectionate. There's a lot about goddess worship in the Greek myths volumes.

    How wonderful that the Wilson cover artist is a Tarot reader in New Orleans!


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