|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-sinker. I 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."
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.)