Sunday, February 18, 2024

Lion of Light: Experimental Science

score by William R. Maginnis Jr.
In 1968 John Cage assembled the book Notations with Alison Knowles a collection of experimental music scores by 269 mid -XXth Century composers including the Beatles. "The fascination of a composer's notation is the fascination of the human personality." – Aaron Copeland. The book can be downloaded here courtesy of the Manhattan School of Music.

Lion of Light: 23 Riffs on Robert Anton Wilson, Aleister Crowley, Psychedelics, Intuition, and Everyday Metaphysics by R. Michael Johnson – Part 2: p. 277 – 312.

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. 

Riff 13 dives deep into the practical with a survey of self-experimentation including suggestions for a methodology. The anacrusis, or pick-up note for this riff occurs in the last paragraph of #12: "But remember: RAW actually did tantric sex-magick. He didn't just read or theorize about it." Riff 14 provides some specific exercizes from RAW's oeuvre. I spy a nice Qabalistic jazz form coming out of Michael's horn starting with the suggestion from The Earth Will Shake for Siggy "to look, each day, for ten beautiful things in Napoli he had never noticed before." In RMJ's next verse, after name-checking the Golden Dawn and 777 And Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley we get an exercize from Masks of the Illuminati for Sir John to "see the Buddah in everyone he met . . ." He ain't heavy, he's my buddah. Tiphareth = Beauty = gold = Buddha

A couple more Crowley exercises follow then the General Semantics related practice of communicating in E-Prime, i.e. English without the forms of "be." More suggested methods for doing these practices come next then another excellent book of exercises I can personally recommend gets cited: Undoing Yourself With Energized Meditation by C.S. Hyatt. These two riffs are a few of my favorites things, Coltrane style. If we look at their qabalistic key numbers we get 13 = Gimel = G and 14 = Daleth = D; GD = Golden Dawn. Plotting these paths on the Tree: Gimel runs vertically from Tiphareth to Kether and Daleth goes horizontally from Chokmah to Binah – they almost make a cruciform cross, the horizontal bar is a little high. A great quote concludes these stanzas: "Indeed on "work," both Crowley and RAW were in love with that sort of hard work that suited them. And they want you to exert yourself to those same ends. Actually, if you're the sort they want: they demand it. You know who you are."

Riff 15 continues RMJ's promotion of psychedelic drugs. Some remarkable research is presented showing much promise and hope using  psychedelics in a responsible, therapeutic setting. A short cautionary note aiming to avert possible adverse side effects of "Magick and Psychedelics" is given a riff back on p. 278. The warning conflates the two subjects of Magick and Psychedelics as RAW does not. The initial injunction to get grounded in Philosophy comes from the list of prerequisites RAW gives in Cosmic Trigger I for Magick, a list he picked up from Crowley though I don't recall exactly where at the moment. It then turns to psychedelics advising to read about the drug, have a guide, and learn about set and setting before returning to the Magick prerequisites from CT. The psychedelic side of this mash-up sounds like RMJ paraphrasing RAW. I tried and failed to find where RAW puts it like that or where he advises anyone about taking psychedelics. Whatever its source, it presents excellent advice. The closest I found to this appears in Sex, Drugs & Magick where Wilson does give advice to specific individuals for their situations but haven't found where he dispenses suggestions for taking psychedelics to his general readership.

Due to a personal bias from having witnessed an acid related tragedy to someone I met – he jumped off a building and died the next day – I will expand upon the single cautionary sentence in the essay. First, I highly, highly (no pun intended) recommend reading or rereading the chapters on psychedelics in Sex, Drugs & Magick. RAW sounds pretty balanced between what psychedelics can give and how they can take away. In the "Introduction" he writes: "I have known the psychedelic activists and liked many of them, but my own temperament has always been skeptical. I do not have the glands of a True Believer."

"My friend novelist, William S. Burroughs, liked to say 'that anything which can be accomplished by chemical means can also be accomplished by non-chemical means.' I have personally found this to be true."

I also note that RAW makes it a point to say that no drugs were involved on July 22nd and 23rd, 1973 with the big breakthrough contact with his HGA or beings from Sirius, or Something Else Entirely, whatever it was.  It occurred after a prolonged sex magick ritual. (CT 1)

Crowley advises: "Balance every thought with its opposite. Because the marriage of them is the destruction of illusion." RAW exemplifies balance when he concludes the story of Jane and LSD in SD&M:

"I suppose most people would have a strong opinion about whether her new life is better or worse than her old life. I am not at all sure.  All I do know is that, just as you read in the anti-drug propaganda, she went from acid to a mental hospital; and just as you read in pro-drug propaganda, she ultimately appeared to be reborn as a new person." (emphasis added). Later in the book RAW tells someone: "Acid is bad for some people." 

No commentator on Magick I know of advises the use of psychedelics with ritual or related exercises. Prometheus Rising presents a book of Magick exercizes with no mention of psychedelics except in one instance where RAW gently suggests smoking a joint if it agrees with you. Not one of Crowley's rituals advises getting high on drugs. There seems a reason for this and not because they're anti-psychotropic drugs. 

As a matter of fact, a passage in the the Book of the Law explicitly says to take drugs: "I am the Snake that giveth Knowledge & Delight and bright glory, and stir the hearts of men with drunkenness. To worship me take wine and strange drugs whereof I will tell my prophet, & be drunk thereof! They shall not harm ye at all ..." Al 2:22. RAW has quoted this passage, probably several times; it starts off the "Prelude" to Sex, Drugs & Magick. Yet, this quote gives a certain, specific condition to take strange drugs: "To worship me." This is Hadit talking, what Freud and Deleuze call the vital phallic force, aka kundalini, the life force. That's the condition for taking "wine and strange drugs", to strengthen this vital force which "stirs the hearts of men ..." i.e. activates the heart chakra. 

Bruce Springsteen recognizes this in Spirits in the Night when he sings:
"Well now wild young Bill was a crazy cat and he shook some dust out of his coonskin cap
He said, 'Trust some of this it'll show you where you're at, or at least it'll really help you feel it'"

New things I learned in the second half of "23 Riffs": the Default Mode Network of the brain (riff 16) and Cladistics (riff 20). Not to mention toxoplasmosis gondii, and the order of particulates, microbes and chemicals called the expsome that affect everyone's microbiome like drugs. I enjoyed the different examinations and definitions of "self" and "ego" (riff 17). Also the point that we all use metaphysics to make sense of the world though mostly without any awareness of this. (riff 18) The most obvious example seems the use of language and all the signifying concepts, maps and models it brings.

The hot button topic of gender fluidity gets discussed, most appropriately it seems, since we live in the aeon of Horus which Crowley recontextualized as a bisexual god. Crowley called his feminine side Alice. Riff 21 looks at how Magick may have helped change the world. I agree with most of the examples except the speculation raised by others that the Discordian pranks of Operation Mindfuck (O.M.) helped fuel the "alternate facts" and outright lies of Trumpism. There seems some confusion between correlation and causation. The intentions of RAW and Trump appear polar opposites. The often humorous surrealism of O.M. intended to wake people up and raise consciousness - service to others. The MAGA bullshit appears completely self-serving – one definition of black magick. RMJ seems to agree: "Those who claim, in 2023, that RAW's actions, even obliquely, led to the January 6th coup attempt, or even Trump's election in 2016, look like idiots to me." Those commentators who suggest the O.M. pranks comprised a magickal working that worked too well fail to recognize that Magick causes change to occur in conformity with Will. Obviously the will of O.M. didn't intend the empowerment of a nutjob like Trump. It would be like blaming Timothy Leary for the Manson murders because he advocated for LSD and Manson used LSD to brainwash his followers into killing. Or blaming Marilyn Manson for the Columbine school shootings because the shooters listened to his music.

A correlation between Crowley and Finnegans Wake comes up again via The Book of Lies in riff 16. I've expanded upon this in a recent essay and am working on a follow-up piece. Qabalah key 16 corresponds with the Hierophant, a function performed by both Crowley and Joyce who definitely knew of each other. Speaking of Religion, which both James and Aeister traversed thoroughly, RMJ writes an exceptionally good account of his Religion in the last paragraph of riff 20. Key 20 corresponds to The Hermit in Tarot. That's the card Jimmy Page chose for his mystical experience in The Song Remains the Same that was filmed at Boleskine, Crowley's former house on Loch Ness in Northern Scotland.

In riff 23 R. Michael Johnson sends us home with brilliant advice for the praxis of Hermetic experimental science:  "If you've read this far, I have you thinking about such things as Intuition, simply 'cuz I brought it up so often. Magick works by invoking often, then repeating the invocation." (emphasis added).

The idea of invocational repetition got conceptualized as the Refrain. It's elucidated in A Thousand Plateaus by Deleuze and Guattari (Capitalism and Schizophrenia Volume II) in the chapter "1837: Of The Refrain." I regard this as highly advanced Magick and think it genius to connect repeated practices with music. As you consider the following little taste of this concept, remember what RMJ wrote about the positive use of chaos.

"The role of the refrain has often been emphasized: it is territorial, a territorial assemblage. Bird songs: the bird sings to mark its territory.  . . . The refrain may assume other functions, amorous, professional or social, liturgical or cosmic: it always carries earth with it; it has a land (sometimes a spiritual land) as a concomitant; it has an essential relation to a Natal, a Native. A musical "nome" is a little tune, a melodic formula that seeks recognition and remains the bedrock or ground of polyphony (cantus firmus)." (ATP p.312).  Apply this to developing True Will which is called the bud Will in the beginning stages.

"From chaos, Milieus and Rhythms are born. This is the concern of very ancient cosmogonies. Chaos is not without its own directional components, which are its own ecstasies. We have seen elsewhere how all kinds of milieus, each defined by a component, slide in relation to one another, over one another. Every milieu is vibratory, in other words, a block of space-time constituted by the periodic repetition of the component. Thus the living thing has an exterior milieu of materials, an interior milieu of composing elements and composed substances, an intermediary milieu of membranes and limits, and an annexed milieu of energy sources and actions-perceptions. Every milieu is coded, a code being defined by periodic repetition; but each code is in a perpetual state of transcoding or transduction. Transcoding or transduction is the manner in which one milieu serves as the basis for another, or conversely is established atop another milieu, dissipates in it or is constituted in it. The notion of the milieu is not unitary; not only does the living thing continually pass from one milieu to another, but the milieus pass into one another, they are essentially communicating. The milieus are open to chaos, which threatens them with exhaustion or intrusion. Rhythm is the milieus' answer to chaos. What chaos and rhythm have in common is the in-between – between two milieus, rhythm-chaos or the chaosmos." (ATP p. 313)

We're talking about alchemy here, folks, the construction of structures or bodies or milieus of higher consciousness - more permanent abodes in C5 - 8 – Leary's ET brain circuits. A milieu can be read as the whole environment affecting a state of consciousness. They borrowed the portmanteau word "chaosmos" from Joyce. The in-between is what Tibetan Buddhists call the Bardo. Magick has many rituals taking the form of death and rebirth. The space in between those is the Bardo; this represents the space where any meta-programming might take place, also called the choice-point space. With enough presence and attention, you can choose your rebirth. The I.N.R.I. signs and formula run through the death/rebirth cycle. RAW writes a very comprehensive account of this in Masks of the Illuminati. The bardo seems very chaotic. RMJ writes about psychedelics and psychedelic-like effects from reading things like Finnegans Wake bringing in a "controlled chaos" and that being needed for real change to occur. Deleuze and Guattari discuss:

"In this in-between, chaos becomes rhythm, not inexorably, but it has a chance to. Chaos is not the opposite of rhythm, but the milieu of all milieus. There is rhythm whenever there is a transcoded passage from one milieu to another, a communication of milieus, coordination between heterogeneous space-times." (ATP p. 313). "Play that funky music white boy." - Wild Cherry. "Would you like to dance with me we're doing the cosmic slop?" – Parliament/Funkadelic 

Cosmic Slop was written by George Clinton and my friend, the late great Bernie Worrell. Bernie plays the synthesizer in the following Talking Heads song, Burning Down the House. Byrne presents a fun, and very rhythmic dive into chaos.

Love is the law, love under will.



  1. Terrific post about Michael’s terrific essay. - Eric Wagner

  2. Perhaps talking heads on Magick don't blatantly endorse psychedelics due to the so-called Powers of the Sphinx: "To know, to will, to dare, to keep silence, to go." I found this Jerry Garcia quote on social media where he appears aligned to them:

    "It was a rare occasion when Jerry Garcia did anything else but sing into his onstage microphone, avoiding witty comments and audience participation like he did three-chord pop songs."

    “'I thought, if I’m going to be onstage, I’m not going to say anything to anybody or address the crowd, because it doesn’t matter what you say, sometimes just the sound of your voice might inadvertently set somebody off,” Garcia told his partner Barbara Meier in 1991. “The situation with psychedelics is so highly charged that you never know what’s leaking in. I don’t mind doing it in the music, because that’s where I divest myself of ego. It’s egoless, something I trust. If the band has something to protect, it’s the integrity of the experience, which remains shapeless and formless. As long as it stays that way, everything’s okay.'”

  3. This is an interesting anecdote and I'm glad you shared it. Not really a Deadhead, but the band seemed to have a lot of regard for its audience, as shown for example in its policy allowing fans to record performances.

    1. Most people don't realize the contribution the Grateful Dead made to the development of concert sound systems. Their soundman at the time, Dan Healy, gave a lecture outlining this when I was in audio school. He got in with Garcia when he went to a Warlocks gig circa 1965 and quickly repaired Phil Lesh's malfunctioning bass amp. Afterwards he was asked what he thought of the show. He said he liked their music but the sound sucked. Garcia basically told him to put his money where his mouth was and hired him to make them sound good. Healy went out to find a sound system and discovered they didn't exist for music. You could only get Public Address systems designed for public speaking. So he began researching and renting all these speakers and putting them together to come up with something. He connected with other like-minded, tech savvy individuals in the Bay area which included now legendary engineers like John Meyer (not the guitar player), Dan Countryman (designer of the first electronic flanger, etc) and others forming a consortium of sorts. Healy said that when the Grateful Dead started making money, rather than buying big houses, fancy cars and other expensive toys instead invested in sound system development. What he didn't mention, maybe because of the young audience and being at a school, is the role LSD played in this development. He didn't mention a key player in all this, Owsley Stanley, the Dead's primary sound engineer before Healy, and the developer of their famous Wall of Sound which can be seen in the documentary What A Long Strange Trip It's Been. Owsley, as most here probably know, was also the premier underground manufacturer of acid and other psychedelics in California in the 60's until he was busted in 1967. Profits from his chemical enterprise got invested in the Dead's sound system. I didn't know this at the time of the lecture but have since wondered why Healy didn't even mention Owsley and thought maybe they had some kind of falling out. Another student asked about the rampant use of psychedelics back then and Healy brushed off the question.

      Three years later I saw Healy again behind the board at a Bob Dylan/Grateful Dead concert in NY's Giants Stadium. Concert promoter Bill Graham was there too. The concert sound was exceptionally good, some of the best I've ever heard in a huge venue like that. Wikipedia says that Healy helped set up the Grateful Dead taper's section at their concerts and would often let them patch in directly to his mixing board.

  4. Regarding “the list of prerequisites RAW gives in Cosmic Trigger I for Magick”, did Crowley ever went for psychotherapy himself?

    Oz, you correlate some of RMJ’s Riffs with the qabalistic Paths, but I could also see Riff 14 connect with Trump 14 of the Thoth tarot, Art. This Riff is concerned about doing the work, which can be equated to the art of alchemy. Hopefully, all these different exercizes the diligent student will have tried out and experimented with would infuse together inwardly and bring results larger than the sum of its parts.

    Many people whose opinion I value (not the least RAW himself) seem to hold Undoing Yourself in high esteem. Although I like the look of the book, which is chock-full of fun pictures, I admit that it did not do much for me. Something about the general tone, perhaps, as I enjoyed most the Wilson introduction, and the last chapter which was written by Jack Willis. Maybe just a case of different strokes for different folks, and I probably will give it another chance eventually. But if anyone here who love this book feel like weighing in and telling me what I am not seeing, it might help.
    I do have incorporated the few Reichian exercizes in my daily routine ever since I read it.

    Do we not have at least one written example (possibly in CT1, or Illuminati Papers) of RAW recounting an instance of a magickal operation he did while on LSD? Maybe even with Beethoven in the background. Some entity appears and Bob decides to treat it as real enough, but without succumbing to fear. Not that he was then particularly advocating for readers to try this at home, but you know...

    Michael Johnson references Iain McGilchrist several times. I recently listened to him on this very informative podcast:
    His book The Master and his Emissary has been on my to-read list since I discovered him in Mike Gathers’ series on the 8C.

    Thank you for mentioning the Cosmic Slop song, Oz. This blog post brought it back to my attention, so I decided to include it in the DJ set I had a few days ago. You only had to invoke Funkadelic once in order to cause changes in my psyche.
    As for the Talking Heads, in my very first flat after moving out from my mom’s place, I had written ‘stop making sense’ on the ceiling right above the couch, so I could see this mantra every time I would lie down. I seem to recall that it had a soothing effect on me.

    And a big thank you to everyone for yet another enriching reading group. I enjoy those very much and always get a lot from reading about other people's perspectives. Amor & hilaritas!

    1. Thank-you for the links, Spookah, and for getting more "Cosmic Slop" out into the world. I was fortunate to help record a cover of it in the early 90s.

      The recommendation for psychoanalysis before practicing Magick originally comes from Regardie (a psychoanalyst), not Crowley – sorry for not clarifying that. I don't think Crowley ever underwent analysis, it wasn't a thing when he began his magick career in 1898. I think he kept abreast of that area of science though; he highly recommended a title by Carl Jung to Frater Achad.

      I haven't looked at Undoing for many years. The practical exercises in it explains my high recommendation.

    2. I agree with the relevance of the Art card correspondence.

  5. Crowley lived long enough that he could have had gone for psychoanalysis at some point. But I have a feeling that Regardie writes in The Eye in the Triangle that, in his opinion, AC not doing this work resulted in him not fixing some character flaws that could've been improved.
    Don't take my word for it, though, I could be making this up now...

    RMJ talks about scientists dicrediting the concept of free will. Here is Sam Harris telling us why science doesn't believe in free will:

  6. Interestingly, RMJ talked about philosophers rather than scientists denying free will (p. 299), so I got that wrong. He is then in the midst of a discussion on the True Self rather than more specifically one's True Will.

    At least with my current understanding of the True Will, I like that the concept sorts of does away with the 'do we have free will or not' conundrum. If it's your True Will, in a way you don't really have a choice, it's 'what Universe intended you to do', or it's 'your Destiny', to use another metaphor. So that denies free will. But at the same time, it's also what YOU really want to do, what makes you happy and fulfilled, even the path of least resistance, 'the Way of the Tao'. So you'd have the impression of freely and happily making those choices and following through, and be content about it.
    So if the idea of True Will allows us to get rid of one either/or polarity, I suspect there might be something to it.

    Do I remember correctly that Apuleius said some time ago at rawillumination that there is one more post planned for this reading group?

    1. I would suggest that free will comes in with the choice to attempt to align with True Will or not. Determinism, the opposite of free will, wouldn't make that decision as, by definition, it determines one path or the other. So, I don't know if the idea of True Will solves the determinism v free will debate.

      Yes, one last post is planned for this reading group.

    2. Very good point, back into the conundrum.
      What a cosmic schmuck I was for thinking I had solved Universe!


Lion of Light: It is All About the Child

"Kung walked              by the dynastic temple        and into the cedar grove,              and then out by the lower river, And wit...