Sunday, June 12, 2022

Sex, Drugs & Magick: We shall win Jackie is an ego bitch Farewell

Taken from the Kerista Commune website

Sex, Drugs & Magick: Chapter One: Overview The Brews of Aphrodite

Wilson starts us off with a comprehensive overview of the subject matter of the book using a familiar cast of backing sources. Much of the information is outdated or wasn't accurate at the time; but the gist of his argument remains strong. Indeed, we can see the seeds of the philosophy behind today's (often misrepresented and unfairly maligned) harm-reduction policies in this chapter in his arguments that people aren't going to stop using drugs and therefore accurate information and safety measures should be put in place. On the other hand, as utterly charming as the Burroughs version of Hassan-i-Sabbah and the Hashashin might be, we know that it is fantastical, to say the least. Given the benefits of hindsight, modern readers can clearly see Leary's showman shift while talking about sex and acid to Playboy magazine...we are in waters that are still muddled by decades of red tape and corpses piled up from the ever-raging Culture War. 

Nevertheless, we are in good hands as Wilson's specialty is navigating the muddle and he takes an appropriately skeptical position while relating the arguments. He builds up to this at the end when he sets up the idea that he can only present the information he has been given. Wilson cannily uses a mixture of research, sourced-ideas and personal anecdotes throughout the book, providing the audience with something more than a single research paper, prepared with amateurish enthusiasm. (I do not use the term amateur as a slight or as a belittling word choice, but rather in the true sense of the word.) 

During his foundational chapter, Wilson also begins his tour of odd peoples and ideas which proliferated in the latter half of twentieth century America. The Kerista cult is a suitably fascinating group that he passes over and has led me to research the group multiple times when reading this book. This time around I found that there is now a documentary on the group which I'll have to watch titled Far Out West. (Interestingly Kerista's free love commune introduced the word "compersion" into the lexicon. Compersion is the supposed feeling of fear/pleasure that comes with sharing your intimate partner's affections.) Kerry Thornley was a member of the San Francisco Kerista commune and it is likely much of what Wilson knew about the group came from him, along with "Tree," as it were. Kerista was heavily inspired by Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange land and interestingly, one of the "acid-cults" that Wilson chooses not to name for their privacy clearly seems to be the Church of All Worlds, which Margot Adler would later write about in Drawing Down the Moon

If one pays enough attention we can see that the article in Time magazine that Wilson cites as saying that Gnosticism is the most important idea in the modern world must be discussing the work of Voegelin's which introduces the phrase "immanentize the eschaton," made famous in Illuminatus!. It appears that the article might have been penned by that King of the Squares, William F. Buckley Jr.. The article appears in the larger context of Wilson's argument that the War on Drugs can be seen as an extension of the religious wars that have plagued mankind since Rome. It is a frustrating argument because it is convincing. Wilson also relates some sober history lessons about our country's founders views on religion that more Americans need to read today. Desperately. 

Next Up is the Story of Leonard, which I have already mentioned slightly horrified me every reread. I'll see if I can come up with something useful to say. As a editorial note: we are back to our regular broadcast schedule this week as I am finally free for the summer. It was a sprint to the finish line the last few months and it is a relief to be able to focus on my personal projects now. 

7 comments:

  1. Great to hear back from you here, Apuleius.

    On page 77, RAW talks about the film They Might Be Giants. The title comes from Cervantes’ Don Quixote, which is mentioned just before in the book, and openly discussed in the movie.

    I would advance that the George C. Scott ‘Holmes’ character not only behaves like a chaos magician, but for all his wackiness also deserves the title of Discordian Pope.

    In the film, ‘Holmes’ has what is described as a “might be” logic which reminded me of RAW’s own Maybe Logic.
    He sees clues everywhere (“half the trick with finding clues is knowing that they’re there”) and find meaning in them. This shows that he fully lives inside his Sherlock Holmes reality tunnel, which is “bigger, funnier, sexier, more optimistic and generally less boring” than his previous one, wherein he had to grieve for the death of his wife. And sure enough, Universe sends his way a psychiatrist named Watson. Talk about a sync!

    In a magickal context, I find it significant that this Watson is a woman, the duo thus balancing male and female energies. Their polarities fluctuate, the once patient and doctor won’t necessarily hold similar roles as teacher and student. Watson, with her rational approach of mind, of course has her share of emotional blocks that will slowly melt during this chemical wedding. Having successfully rewired her brain, in the end finally she can see.
    (Several prints of the film apparently haven circulated, with different endings. Mine wasn’t the same than the one described in DS&M)

    ‘Holmes’ has not only “learned to observe” - as RAW recommends to do in PR – but also appears to be a generalist autodidact, seen working his way through lengthy volumes and accumulating knowledge. An indication to the reader to go “sherlockholmesing” around, as Joyce would say? ‘By seeking, you will discover’.
    Because, despite having been raised by pygmies and learned to walk with a perpetual mental crouch, we all ‘might be giants’.

    On p.66 we find together in a paragraph Leary, Huxley, and Alan Watts. Just these three were the subjects of a beautiful 2019 animation film called Journeys To The Edge Of Consciousness, which I highly recommend.

    I cannot help but wonder if the Heinleinese “deep grokking” (p.70) was intended as a spoonerism by either RAH or RAW.

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  2. I did not know about the Kerista documentary. I just watched it, and I enjoyed it.

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  3. Nice chapter overview. I like the quote from Finnegans Wake that opens the proceedings "Hearasay from paradox lust." It could easily apply to The Logic of Sense. I've seen no evidence RAW ever read Deleuze but James Joyce plays a central part of both their writings. Lewis Carroll influenced all three.

    They Might Be Giants remains close to my heart. On my 31st birthday I arrived in California to attend a workshop at a Fake Sufi school. They had a tradition that you can ask any question you want on your birthday. I tried to think of a good one on the flight out arriving at something like, "how do you navigate in the bardos," and asked it at the group dinner on the first night. In retrospect, not the greatest question. A senior student gave the answer to watch that film. It seemed difficult to find at the time (1990). When I did see it, the ending appeared different than RAW's description, but the line about "we never left Eden," stuck with me.

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  4. I would like to watch "They Might Be Giants" again. I do like the band "They Might Be Giants", especially "Don't Let's Start".

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  5. @everyone, It is good to hear from all of you again and I appreciate you flocking so quickly.

    @Spookah: I'll have to check out both the films. I haven't watched *They Might Be Giants,* although I should have by now. I was watching another significant film the other day- *I Married A Witch.*

    Great insight into *Maybe Logic!*

    @OzFritz: I love the idea of a birthday question. Mine is coming up and it would be interesting to see what I'd ask. I really enjoyed you last video!

    @Eric: I'm going to watch the documentary sometime soon and I'll let you know what I think. The previews look great.

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  6. "Alcohol is the most widely used and abused drug in America." I tried some years ago to write an article about alcohol deaths in Ohio, and I asked the state health department for statistics. I could not get the spokesman to take the question seriously and give me real numbers.

    Wilson writes that the worthy questions on drugs are "Which drugs are most dangerous? Which are least harmful? How can the risky ones be handled with the least possible danger? Under what circumstances do the normally safe ones become unexpectedly troublesome?" I'm struck by how little discussion I see of those questions.

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  7. @Tom I'm grateful I read Wilson in regards to alcohol. I can't think of many non-A.A. sources that write so clearly about the addictive nature of alcohol. On the old Politically Incorrect episode you posted last week Wilson's abject disgust when the editor of Spin Magazine claims alcohol isn't addictive is palpable.

    I think those are questions that are handled within the realm of "harm reduction," and they are incredibly important questions. I think the idea of making a society where people "just don't do drugs" isn't feasible by any stretch of the imagination. At least no more that the Evangelical/Catholic approach to reproductive rights where they suggest we just don't have sex if we aren't willing to raise offspring.

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Sex, Drugs & Magick: while the worst are full of passionate intensity

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