Friday, July 16, 2021

Ishtar Rising Week Five: Oral in an Anal Land


Phryne before the Areopagus- Jean-Léon Gérôme (An obviously oralist artist- who is supposedly controversial until this day.)

Ishtar Rising Chapter Two: Tales of the Vienna Woods


I don't know if it was a joke or not, but the footnote explaining what a joint was made me guffaw. Perhaps this is another sign of the book's original times. 


Looking back at some of my email correspondences around the time I first read Ishtar Rising, I can see that I've always read this book as an indictment or diagnosis of my strong oral-personality. I feel very seen when I read Wilson talking about cathected personalities who dwell on resentment or even when Wilson, as an aside, mentions how he can't imagine men who don't perform orally being satisfying lovers. Given my diatribe earlier this week concerning the Abrahamic God on Tom's blog, that had to be at least the tenth one I've posted there, you can easily see my anger, befuddlement and resentment against the anal values in our society. (While I understand that the oral/anal personality model is simply a model that can't possibly be completely correct, I have found it an extremely useful dialectic. I will also admit that I enjoy the model because of the inherently insulting way of referring to personality types I loathe- no anal person ever enjoys being called that. Try it, it's great fun.)  


I will say this about resentment: I do not believe that it is necessarily an irrational result of a stunted personality. It would be wonderful if I could tell my boss to "get the hell out of my way" when they enforce ridiculous rules or neglect their actual responsibilities. Regrettably, I'd be fucking myself out of my source of life-tickets and that just won't do, will it?  I think for any rational or mildly intelligent person, resentment is a natural and sane response to the immense amount of bullshit being shoveled on top of us in this society. I certainly don't think positivity for the sake of positivity does much for a world that is so mired amongst withered societal structures and idiot legions. An amount of disgust is necessary to deal with the world in an honest manner. The game is rigged. Please consider any of our great authors and their attitude toward the world: Blake, Joyce and Dickens, all of whom are given credence in this chapter, had quite a bit of resentment towards this world between the angels and the apes. Perhaps becoming an artist or creator is the best course forward for a cathected oralist. Or drugs, those always help. (Let's go ahead and at least agree "resentment" can occasionally produce an unshakeable grim sense of humor that I adore.) 


As an example of the oral vs. anal power imbalance, consider the profession of judges. Perhaps the Trump years did a decent job demonstrating to otherwise uninterested Americans how arbitrarily the appointment of these people who literally hold other people's lives and freedom in their hand really operates. The idea that we must speak respectfully to a judge, even if we are the midst of an asinine situation, is one of the most infuriating hypotheticals I have ever contemplated. Imagine being hauled into a courtroom such as the one belonging to the odious Julius Hoffman's and being expected to defer to an asshole like that. Imagine being drawn into a courtroom on a marijuana charge and having to say "yes sir/no sir" while being judged on a matter with which no other person should be concerned. I hate judges, and speaking from personal experience, most of them are pricks. (I have known a couple small-town magistrates who seemed to be truly decent people. At the same time, I had the DA turned Circuit Court Judge as my scout master who was a magnificent bastard. That said, I should have never been in Scouting to begin with.)  So, if I am dragged into a courtroom, you best believe I'll most likely be the meekest, most apologetic eunuch this society ever produced- but you damn well better believe I'll be full of resentment against the whole rotten affair. My few visits to family court for divorce were some of the most existentially humiliating experiences I've had since childhood. If only I had a nice pair of tits like Phryne. 


Even now, we watch the unbelievable arrogance of Justice Ginsburg replicate itself in that of Justice Breyer- who were/are supposed to be the intelligent part of the bench- refusing to step down at the risk of our democratic society out of a sense of personal pride. We should probably round up the lawyers, but the judges should be some of the very first against the wall. 


While this post has transformed into an cathected oral personality defending the cathected oral personalities, I've been neglecting my job to talk about other parts of the chapter. Naturally, considering the title, this chapter deals quite a bit with Freudian theory. I like Freud and think that most of his ideas still hold some amount of metaphorical water. I also think that a big part of why Freud isn't taken seriously today is because the fevered academics and psychoanalysts that came after his life don't really deserve a whole lot of the benefit of the doubt. After reading the humorous/ridiculous theories of Edmund Bergler it was hard for me to sympathize with Wilson's sentiment that Bergler's reputation "is really a pity because some of his notions were probably at least partially true." Who cares? Stalin was right that Russia had problems; doesn't mean that we shouldn't disregard the man and his ideas entirely. The Freudians who pumped out Bergler's hysterically stupid ideas, or Lacan's academic sophistries, are to blame for the modern disregard for the Plumber of the Unconscious. 


Wilson's own musings on oral sex throughout the chapter gives an interesting peek into the human psyche. I have experienced one girlfriend who confessed similar hang-ups to the one Freud discussed...she confessed that she found fellatio disgusting because the urethra was also used for the passage of urine. My confusion (in my adolescent mind it was a little late in the game for such a confession considering our previous experiences) soon turned into disgust and yes, resentment. This resentment grew as she began to regret our sexual relationship as being against God. We broke up shortly after she told me she had prayed for forgiveness for "sinning" with me. I was horrified. My subsequent girlfriend, who encouraged receiving oral sex, was terrified of orgasming. Perhaps she, like Wilson's other female subjects, was afraid I would begin ripping and biting as passion grew. (A bizarre idea and one I cannot understand. Although I should perhaps be more cautious, I have never had a fear that my penis would be snapped off. Maybe this is another indicator of the strange and unbalanced relationship between the sexes.) Like Freud, I am also bewildered when people find it disgusting that they have accidently used their partners toothbrush or vice versa. Considering where else your mouth has most likely strayed, that doesn't seem like a big deal. Anyways, finding someone who is actually sexually compatible is paramount and an idea that I am grateful the modern world seems to promulgate, alongside a cornucopia of ideas that are often baffling or insipid. All in all, Wilson is correct that sexual relationships improve with time, given that the relationship is healthy. 


Stray Thoughts 


I disagree with Wilson that Dickens was probably unaware of the anal connotations of his Mr. Murdstone. As an author who is famous for characters with pun-filled names such as Mr. M'Choakumchild and Gradgrind, he wouldn't have been unware of the obvious French/"shit" allusion.


I didn't write much about Phryne because I don't have a lot to add. I'd like to note I have loved her story from the first time I read it here. The name "Phryne" was not her given name and translates as "toad." Her birthname was Mnesarete and she was given the name Phryne because of her "yellowish complexion." Curiously, "Phryne/toad" was evidently a common nickname for courtesans in Athens. There is a lovely piece of Batrachian erotica by Clark Ashton Smith in his faux-medieval French Averoigne cycle titled "Mother of Toads." Something about his pen writing about a "white and totally hairless body with curious roughness" really cranks the gears. Curiouser and curiouser, the French word for toad, "crapaud," seems to be a reverse of "Murdstone." 


The grotesque sexuality in Smith's tale recalls Wilson's last ruminations on the potent nature of werewolves and vampires. I agree that there is a strong sexual edge in the Universal Horror pictures. James Whale's The Bride of Frankenstein might be one of the most stimulating, in many senses of the word, films I have ever viewed. Shelley's Frankenstein itself is alive with vibrant sexuality that tempts and repulses which the sequel really brings to the obvious periphery, if not the forefront of the picture. I was about to write more concerning Frankenstein, but that is a sure avenue to disappearing up my own ass for a long time. I love that book- it contains a good chunk of life itself in its three slim volumes. (And she was nineteen when she wrote it, goddamn/godbless here to eternity for that feat.) Here's Wilson talking about monsters in the aforementioned "Even a Man Who Is Pure Of Heart." 


While I'd at least like to imagine I caught it before, I obviously didn't remember: the second chapter of The Illuminatus Trilogy, "Hopalong Horus Rides Again," must have come from Ira Wallach's Hopalong Freud Rides Again. (Right after writing that sentence I had the good sense to Google if "hopalong...rides again" was from somewhere else. Of course it is. I let my mistake stand for posterity.)


While this may be of no interest to anyone aside from Tom and Adie, it would seem Ada Palmer's Adolf Richter Brill must have been inspired by Abraham Brill, the psychoanalyst/translator mentioned in the chapter. 


Considering I associate Dennis Hopper primarily with his Frank Booth role in Blue Velvet, it made me laugh when he was described as an actor who always played oral pushovers. 


I'm not going to address Polanski or the slur. I have headaches enough.


I am conflicted; I feel as if my post has rambled on and that I haven't covered enough. I haven't even bothered to touch on Reich or Perls and the word "suck," of which I have much and more to say. Oh well, let it stand. As my blessed mother used to say when she'd serve some dinner: "hope it doesn't suck!"

- A.C. 


  1. I’m also certainly an oral personality. I was thinking recently about my resentment toward people who are able to “rock the boat” in ways I myself don’t or wouldn’t feel comfortable doing. Given the introduction of the idea of oral sadism, I’d divide the oral personality into subtypes, maybe called oral-passive and oral-aggressive. The oral-passive type would be the type to deny their needs, refuse to ask for help and allow their resentment to seep out in the form of passive-aggressiveness. The oral-aggressive type is the type that demands caretaking and will lash out, whether vengefully or just loudly, like an infant screaming, when denied; this type can be mistaken for an anal personality. I’m certainly the oral-passive type, but I don’t know if there’s necessarily any correlation between types and gender, as I’ve known plenty of oral-aggressive and anal women.

    Is it possible to have a phallic or other personality type? Wilson doesn’t mention cathexis at the phallic stage other than talking a bit about penis envy, but certainly it happens in the form of the Oedipus and Electra complexes. However, it also seems likely that much of the apparent Oedipus complex is scaffolded upon earlier conflicts—the desire to return to the pleasure and safety of the mother, or the desire to control and avenge oneself upon the father (or mother).

    Bergler sounds like a paranoid, neurotic mess with no right whatsoever to say what is and isn’t healthy. I’m very curious what Wilson finds valuable in his work, as he doesn’t really elaborate. He sounds just as terrible as an Andrea Dworkin in his own way. Freud himself certainly wasn’t without his own foibles, but he also had much of value to contribute (which is being increasingly borne out by the latest psychological research on trauma and attachment, whether or not anyone will openly admit that Freud was right).

  2. Interesting post. I had forgotten that Bob mentions Uncle Vanya in this chapter. In the fourteen years since I've read this book I've taught that play more than a dozen times. This reminds me of when I read Stranger in a Strange land repeatedly as a teen. I then started to read Robert Anton Wilson, and then I reread Stranger in a Strange Land. I had no recollection that Heinlein had mentioned Aleister Crowley. It came as a shock to me since I thought I knew Heinlein's novel very well.

    I really like Joyce scholar Sheldon Brivic, and he has a great respect for Lacan. I enjoyed Lacan's book on Joyce, but I don't think I really understood it.

  3. The concept of "ressentiment" plays an important role in Nietzsche's philosophy. He uses the French because it indicates resentment and then some, i.e. a greater swathe of malaise beyond resentment.

    I don't know if people remember the dominance of Freudian thought when Wilson took pen to paper for Ishtar Rising. It seemed required for any intellectual worth their salt to undergo analysis at that time. "Somewhere along the line Freudianism had passed from science to theology and found itself the proud possessor of a system that explains everything." (p.34)Freud's thought seems much less dominant nowadays.

    "...but we grisly old Sykos..." from Joyce's opening quote to this chapter conflates Psyche and Psychos with Dickens' Bill Sikes character from Oliver Twist, an anal lout who murdered murdered his oral counterpart, Nancy. Wilson indicates that allusions by invoking the "artful dodger," another character from Oliver Twist on the following page.

  4. Adie- well said Madame, you've added a lot of much-needed context. My old friend used to say I was an oral sadist since I didn't wait for my coffee to cool and loved spicy foods.

    Eric- I read Stranger in a Strange Land late in life and afterwards was somewhat convinced it was completely influenced by Jack Parsons. Parsons and Heinlein likely met each other and even if they didn't, Heinlein would have known about the mad scientist/sci-fi aficionado. At the very least, Stranger seems like a very odd novel in Heinlein's corpus and as if it wasn't drawn entirely from the same well as his other, admittedly brilliant, works. (Okay, the dude did love polyamory.)

    Oz- I didn't pick up on the reference at all. When I first read the quote I was reminded of Sycorax and Sypos but couldn't quite put it together. I also thought of the Battlefield Earth aliens which somewhat ties in with Heinlein and Parsons. After realizing I hadn't read Oliver Twist, I revisited Oliver! and realized I really need to read the book. I might even teach it this school year. Oliver Reed is one of my all time favorite actors and I can't believe I haven't actually watched the film. Him and Don Johnson. Thanks for the tip!

    In preparation for the next chapter Adie and I were talking about some of Wilson's more ridiculous claims about homosexuality in the book. I was able to articulate that I felt that at the time and certainly the place Wilson found himself while writing this book that pop/armchair psychology was The pastime. I do want to clarify that I've read Ishtar Rising plenty of times and have never found it objectionable. This is one of my top Wilson titles. While I might poke and prod, I consider Wilson a Saint.

  5. I got curious about "Josef von Sternberg's Marked Woman, which has the most painful climax in cinema history", with Marlene Dietrich. There is a movie called Marked Woman, but it is a film noir from 1937 directed by Llyod Bacon and featuring Betty Davis as the female lead (costarring with her is Humphrey Bogart).
    After doing a bit of research, I concluded that RAW was probably thinking of Dishonored (1931). I should eventually watch it to make sure of that.

    Llyod Bacon did direct The French Line though, featuring Jane Russell, a still of which being reproduced on page 11 of Ishtar Rising.

    Regarding Jack Parsons, I discovered just a few days ago that there has been a TV show about him recently called Strange Angel :
    Has anyone watched this ?

    I have to admit that I was a tad disapointed that RAW wouldn't talk much about free love or polyamory in the whole book, given the time period and subject matter.

    "It has been said that the happiest man is he who has forgiven most" (p. 49)
    There is a clip in the Maybe Logic documentary where Bob, 30 years after writing IR and getting closer to his death, says something along the lines of "I just hope I have forgiven everyone who has ever done me wrong" (I'm paraphrasing). You can tell he really means it, and I thought that was a very strong emotional moment in the docu.

  6. Rarebit Fiend, I had a role as one of Fagin's boys in a production of Oliver Twist in junior high school. I've not read any Charles Dickens yet.

    Parsons and Heinlein appeared acquainted. Fwiw, my research indicates Heinlein visited the Agape Lodge one time, probably to see a Gnostic Mass. At the time, efforts were being made to get Crowley's ideas out into the general public via Hollywood, etc. It seems Heinlein may have either received an assignment or chose on his own to write about Crowley's ideas completely removed from Crowley's personality and his system. It only mentions the Book of the Lawonce, nothing else directly about Crowley..Stranger in a Strange Land appears one of the best introductions to those ideas on multiple levels. It has much satire of different things like organized religion and free love. It has a lot to it and doesn't fail to reward many readings. One of my all time favorites, highly recommended!

  7. An old joke in Oklahoma: "Why does the Red River flow south?" "Because Texas sucks!" The joke captures Oklahomans' resentment of Texas as bigger, more famous,more rich, etc.

    A whole book could be written on references to oral sex in rock music; the Rolling Stones logo would be an example.

    "Stranger in a Strange Land" does indeed have a Crowley reference -- at one point,Valentine Michael Smith, trying to figure out humans, collects a bunch of books on religion, not just the Bible or Koran, but "even such oddities as Crowley's 'Book of the Law'."

    @Oz, Dickens is great. I love "Bleak House" and "A Christmas Carol" and "A Tale of Two Cities" has the best book beginning, ever. Curious what Apuleius will recommend.

  8. @Spookah- thank you, I was confused by that reference as well. One of my fondest memories of early undergrad was checking out the von Sternberg films from the library and watching them in my dorm.

    @Oz- That is great! I once played the King of Hearts. I have read Stranger a few times although I came to it relatively later in my reading career. I was blown away by it and Valentine's "death" is hands down one of my favorite scenes in fiction. Because I'm a nerd I've devised a fake Sixties Mysticism course and it begins with reading Stranger. I definitely feel that Parsons was a direct inspiration.

    It's been a long time since I've been able to attend a Gnostic Mass. Considering my dimmed opinion of the Caliphate, I don't know when I will again. I've toyed with the idea of trying to edit it down to a smaller/two-person ceremony for my wife and I.

    @Tom- I remember feeling like such a big boy when I understood the "let me take you backstage/you can drink from my glass" line in Aerosmith's Sweet Emotion. Lol.

    I've only read Great Expectations and Hard Times. I'm going to read Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities and decide which one I want to teach this year. Oliver has the musical but I love the French Revolution. Robespierre was right.

    Out of the two I'd definitely recommend Hard Times which is a searing indictment of education and utilitarianism. It also has some moments that are chuckle worthy. Tom, I've always wanted to read Bleak House. Like Austen, I think Dickens is an author I'll appreciate much more at this point in my life than earlier. (It seem counterintuitive to say that and turn around and teach Dickens to children, oh well!)


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